August 30, 2008

Last chance to wear white

Christ there are a lot of books this week, our stack is embarrassingly huge and I've hardly made a dent. Plus there's all that obsessive reading about Sarah Palin to do, trying for my own peace of mind to make an iron clad argument for why she will backfire. Good thing it's a three-day weekend.

August 28, 2008

Sacrificial blah blah blah

Aaron is working ultra-late tonight covering the final night of the DNC, so I'm watching it at home with my computer and my cats and a very interesting selection of foodstuffs, getting moist around the eyes at everything frickin thing up to and including Rachel Maddow's white-girl booty shake to "Signed, Sealed, Delivered". Historic night, this. But there are many places you can go to read about that, so I'm going to use commercial breaks to make a note or two about Virgin Comics.*

Back in April, I walked into a panel room at the Jacob Javits Convention Center during New York Comic Con, and found it empty save two people--a photographer and Stan Lee. I was there to interview Virgin Comics CEO Sharad Devarajan about his company's Voices line, which existed to give various celebrities entree to the comics industry, with the idea to develop name-branded properties that would ultimately be adapted to film, theater, etc. I was writing a story for Billboard about the swelling crop of music-comics industry crossovers, and Virgin was theoretically a key player given their deals with Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, Duran Duran and some supposed unannounced others. Devarajan found me standing there, looking googly-eyed at Stan Lee, and said they'd just finished announcing that Stan would be developing a whole new superhero universe for Virgin, and would I like to interview him first. Needless to say I said fuck yeah, even though I knew that it had nothing to do with my assignment and would not likely see print. But I got a nice 10 minutes of Stan Lee's excited voice on my recorder, and a kind of tragicomic photo, and Devarajan's suitable enthusiasm for having made such an all-star deal.

Now, I'll admit that the first thing I thought was "huh, I'm not sure I'll be feeling a 'new generation' of Stan Lee superheroes," but the deal did give me the sense that Virgin put Stan Lee on same the level of celebrity get as Guy Ritchie or Nicholas Cage, and that was to their credit in terms of their approach to the medium. On the other hand, in grooming and manner Devarajan was sort of the anti-DiDio, so it was hard to tell the extent of his comics background--was his enthusiasm for comics themselves or for the idea of doing well with them?

Ultimately, I came away with some doubts about the viability of their multi-media model--as a comics reader I didn't feel hugely moved to collect their product, although I thought their celebrity collaboration might get some traction outside of the direct market if they effectively capitalized on the general public's heightened curiosity in comics. But one thing I did have some hope for was that they saw the comics as more than just marketing opportunities tied to a brand name. Said Devarajan about musicians crossing into comics: "There are two ways to go. There's the model of perpetuating the brand of the talent, where the actual musicians are in the comic, running around doing their thing. But the model we encourage is to just use this as another playing field to create your lyrics. Let's create something totally new—a fictional property defined by you, but like your music, will exist for generations beyond you."

So regardless of the ultimate goal for those properties, they should have an artistic integrity that rests on more than merchandising against a name. That view fit somewhat with what Rantz Hoseley had told me about Tori Amos's approach to Comic Book Tattoo--that she was treating it as her major release of the year. While it was made by professional cartoonists and comics writers, she was just as personally invested in the project as in a studio album, and marketed it accordingly. So ideally, according to Devarajan, a musician (or director or, uh, actress) would channel their existing storytelling skills into the medium of comics, even just in concept.

But of course, we know how that turned out in practice, both for Amos (great) and Virgin (not so great). And I'm not comparing the actual projects, because they're vastly different--but I thought the similarities in their publicly expressed crossover ideas were sound. It's a shame, because in theory, Virgin could have been a conduit for new, curious readers in this "comics are hot" environment. As others have said, one of the main problems likely rest in the model of creating comics specifically as stepping stones to other media. It's like dating someone to make their friend jealous--a healthy relationship does not tend to follow.

*I actually wrote about half of this after the speech, so if something doesn't make sense, blame it on awe and Chris Matthews


Awesomed By Comics is now a member of the Comics Podcast Network! We hope this means we'll get more friends, or a key chain, or annual pleas to participate in a telethon. Anyway, we are very glad to be part of this consortium of excellent shows, many of which inspired us to start our own, so please stop by and subscribe to their feed and find some new content to keep you happy on your commute. Just don't find so much that you stop listening to us.

August 27, 2008

Touched for the very first... eh, all the headlines for this are taken

I tend to end up not writing about whatever the hot issue of the day in comics is, because by the time I get settled into it, everything's been said by thoughtful people whose day jobs it is to say it. I do, however, have a few thoughts on Virgin Comics, which I'm not going to bag out on expressing just because I'm 36 hours late. But in keeping with my typical timeline, it won't be just now--when I decide to punish myself for not exercising enough, or test the limits of the metal rods in my back, I do it with crazy-ass shit that I have no business with like Bikram yoga, like I did tonight, and I need to get unconscious fucking immediately. Stay tuned.

August 26, 2008

Buy this book, it's not a comic but it has lots of pictures

My friend Sarah Brown has edited a book based on her wildly popular Cringe reading series in Brooklyn where ostensible grown-ups read from their teenage diaries, poetry notebooks and other humiliating sources. I wrote about it last year in Paste magazine, if you want to check out some shining examples. Well, the book is out today, and you can buy it here or at your favorite retailer. Almost as exciting is that Aaron was a contributor, so now the whole world can enjoy his unfinished rap opera and tribute song to a high school crush, which includes lyrics such as "I wish you could see what is in my hand." If you're looking to get your holiday shopping out of the way, I can't think of a better start.

Update--click on the widget below for a preview:

August 25, 2008


Runaways comes out this week. Also, Terry Moore's run on Runaways starts on Wednesday. Other books I'm looking forward to: Runaways, Vol. 3 #1.

August 24, 2008

ABC Podcast, Episode #11 and visual aid

This episode of Awesomed By Comics is sponsored by knock-knock jokes, because we are in the pocket of Big Fun. Aaron and Evie actually agree on most of this week's winners, and Aaron accidentally gets some of Greg Land's e-mail, which explains a *lot*. Li'l Leaguers and Layla Miller win big.

Download and subscribe in the right sidebar, and please leave an iTunes review!

Cover and Panel (actually Page) of the Week, both from Superman Batman #51:

August 22, 2008

Inspirational Message

Nice throw

So since my mind has been in too many places to come up with one nice thoughtful post, I'm going to treat this like a Tumblr for a few days and just throw crap on the wall until everything coagulates.

First up: How do you suppose Peter David gets away with giving updates on his family in the recaps of each X-Factor book? I mean don't get me wrong, it's adorable--I'm genuinely enchanted by the fact that his daughter is a high school bowling champion who is looking at colleges based on their teams, because that's a high-quality brag right there. I'm just saying that knowing how much comics creators Twitter about their families, I'm guessing the rest of them are kicking themselves for not thinking of that gimmick first. But you can't have everyone doing it, because gimme a break. Opening Mighty Avengers to anecdotes about Baby Michael Bendis we do not need.

Mother frakker

Ok, I've read exactly one and a half comics this week, and I don't even remember what happened in that half, and we're going to Rhode Island for the weekend, and reading in the car makes me barfy. So the outlook for all your favorite ABC content (including the podcast) is in the lame zone. If all goes as planned, I'll use my penultimate summer Friday (3pm release) to read like a crazy person and be inspired accordingly. I hope they've put out the fire on the train that snookered my commute this morning. Blah blah blah. Can you tell I don't like leaving the blog blank? Twit.

August 20, 2008

Hey diddle diddle

I totally just figured out who Enigma is in Trinity. I'm sure I won't be the only one by far, but I'm proud of myself anyway. He's the Earth 3 Riddler.

P.S. After a very slow, tepid start, this series is getting fairly awesome.

Spending more time with the family

Pardon the crickets around here, Aaron is entering 14-hour days of convention season hell, and I'm overseeing an extensive feature on Donny and Marie Osmond. We are the yin and yang of modern journalism. But I've given myself homework to write here tonight (and there's nothing that makes something more desirable and likely to happen than thinking of it as homework).

August 17, 2008

ABC Podcast, Episode #10

This week's episode of the Awesomed By Comics Podcast is sponsored by Abraham Lincoln quotes, which have more to do than fighting bees than you may think. Aaron anoints the presumptive Panel of the Year from Transhuman #3, and Evie makes a sad, sad Michael Phelps-Aquaman comparison. Secret Invasion is given proper credit for actually doing something.

Download this episode or subscribe to the feed (most recent three episodes also always available in the right sidebar).

August 14, 2008


You're telling me that in their years-long holy war preparations, the Skrulls didn't think to infiltrate or even monitor the X-Men, and therefore didn't know they were in San Francisco? Ok then.

Half-assed follow-up

Oh, so I read Final Crisis: Revelations, and felt that it ruled, particularly in the way where you know things that rule are coming.

Also, Secret Invasion #5 shocked me with its semblance of a moving plot, so that was nice. And Young Avengers/Runaways #2 was exactly as good as I expected, and Molly threw a Skrull nearly into orbit, which is all I really needed.

Other than that, I haven't read anything else, because my work plate is Happy Time Buffet high. It's the 50th anniversary of the Hot 100, and I have some hit songs to chronicle (two of them Roberta Flack, making this the second Roberta Flack reference on my comic book blog this week, and that's probably an internet first). I'll cram everything else in time for the podcast, where I'll just choose "C" for every category.

August 13, 2008

Together again for the first time

I won't be able to pick up any books until later in the afternoon but I just had to mention this morning* how deeply I'm looking forward to Final Crisis: Revelations, the first issue of which comes out today. Rucka + Montoya + Allen + Question + Spectre = Yes. I have my problems with the main Final Crisis series, but I am strongly optimistic that this tie-in will slalom around many of those holes. And if it doesn't, I'm sure we can all find something external to blame it on.

*Also, I don't want yesterday's post at the top of the page.

August 12, 2008

Have I Got a Rehash of a Story for You

Update: Apparently I'm an asshole, and the adaptation of a previous story has been plenty acknowledged in reviews and the bonus DVD itself, as Johanna points out in the comments. So read the post below if you like to snicker at ignorant, reactionary fan babble.

We've been Netflixing the pants off of Batman: The Animated Series for the past year or so, and got a new disc this week for the second half of the 1998-99 Season Four (or Season Two of The New Batman Adventures, whatever organizational rules you go by).

The first episode on this disc is called "Legends of the Dark Knight," and is about a group of Gotham kids who all claim to have some insider knowledge of what the Batman is really like, and try to one-up each other with stories of their own first- or second-hand amazing interactions with the Caped Crusader.

Sound familiar?

Not that I've scoured the internet for relevant discussions, but I've read quite a lot about the Batman: Gotham Knight anime film (in addition to watching it twice), and I've never seen a single person comment on the fact that Josh Olson's chapter, "Have I Got A Story For You," is a fairly direct rip-off of that 10 year-old BTAS episode. There are a variety of substantive differences of course, and Olson's story was one of my favorite on the DVD, but part of that had been my impression of its originality. I suppose it's an idea that multiple people could have independently, and stories are adapted from other stories all the time, but I'm still a little let down that there was no acknowledgment that one of the stories is just an update of an old show.

Anyway, I feel obnoxious for even mentioning it, but it kind of bummed me out, especially since I liked the anime so very much. I kind of feel like a teenage Fugees fan in 1996 who goes to college and hears Roberta Flack for the first time. Or whatever.

August 10, 2008

ABC Podcast, Episode #9

Episode #9 of Awesomed By Comics is brought to you by trains, because TRAINS ARE AWESOME. Aaron lauds the heroism of a topless Emma Frost, while Evie imagines a Cyclops v. Nightwing inter-company crossover wrestling match. Aaron presents the Crap of the Week Final Crisis #3 Read-Along What the Fuck. Terry Moore and Eternals win big, and also, trains are awesome.

Download this episode and/or subscribe to the podcast in the right sidebar.

August 9, 2008

Weekly Crisis guest appearance

I have a guest post today at Kirk Warren's wonderful Weekly Crisis, answering his question about why I buy certain comics. It's certainly does not encompass all of my answers to the question, but it focuses on one reason I've been thinking a lot about. I suspect some people might fight me on it in some way or another, especially the Spider-Man part, but that's ok. Anyway, please to enjoy.

August 8, 2008

This is gimmicky, but sometimes a few haikus, help me to wake up

Final Crisis 3
Feels like that one time in math
When you were real high

Echo is lucky
Who doesn't want a brassiere
That smites enemies

Mary Jane Watson
Eats EZ Cheez for dinner
And loves Spidey Kong

That Patsy Walker
Hangs with Inuit witches
And can drive standard

Robin, Boy Wonder
Is a better detective
Than Grant Morrison

While Cable escapes
Cyclops has an angsty fest
And gets some boobies

Brand New Drainpipe

You know (if you listen to the podcast) how my Crap of the Week was the the deaf old lady upstairs and her role in the destruction of my kitchen, because no disaster or poor editorial judgment in comics could possibly rival them? Well, the situation has escalated to a level at which I would seriously consider any offers from Mephisto to eradicate it. If I'm a raving bitch on the show this weekend, or I claim not to know who Aaron is or that I'm married to him, you'll know why.

August 5, 2008

People tell me I'm white, and I believe them, because I own a lot of Jimmy Buffet albums

As most anyone who follows comics knows, a major area of debate and speculation is the issues-vs.-collected trade/graphic novel issue. What's better for sales? How does each format affect the creators' approach? Can a series be fairly evaluated in individual issues when the reader has limited information? What's most fun to read? Would the culture of Wednesdays die if pamphlets did? And wocka wocka, etc. In general I can go either and/or both ways, as I love reading whole stories at once as much as I love the suspense and anticipation of new stuff every week. But this week, a few measly panels in Wolverine #67 convinced me of why, while some stories may lose some of their momentum and cohesion in individual issue form (coughgrantmorrisoncough), we can never let monthlies die:

If you're reading this series, you know that this is the second issue in an arc that takes place 50 years in the future--in some catastrophic event around our current time, the supervillains kicked the crap out of the heroes for good and now rule the U.S., which has regressed to some kind of Wild Westish scenario. Something terrible happened to Wolverine in that old conflict, so terrible that he hasn't popped his claws since and is now an avowed pacifist with a family in Sacramento. He's also dead broke and can't make rent, so his old buddy, a now ancient and blind Hawkeye, hires him to accompany him on a delivery road trip of as-yet-unknown purposes. Along the way, we learn in the panels above that Hawkeye has been married at least three times, and that his third ex-wife is Peter Parker's youngest daughter. And we meet her. And she's black.

This is the second to last page of the issue, and the concern is for Clint and Tonya's runaway daughter, and Tonya's race is not addressed nor would it make any sense if it were. The fact alone that she's black doesn't make a tit of difference, of course, but that one visual decision is sort of a stroke of storytelling genius on Mark Millar's part. By making Spider-Man's future daughter half African American, Millar isn't just saying "Peter slept with a black chick"-- he's saying "You think you know what happens in the Marvel Universe? You don't know shit, and I'm building a universe that you can and should have big questions about."

Now of course I'm not saying that it's some kind of crazy shocking idea that Peter Parker would have fathered a child with a black woman, after all the answer could be as simple as revealing that he manages to get together with the current object of his secret lust in Amazing Spider-Man (Harry Osborn's girlfriend Lily Hollister). And maybe there is no answer--maybe Millar will leave it open as a non-issue. But no matter how progressive or "color-blind" readers may claim or hope to be, there's no way Tonya doesn't register as a "hrr?" And Millar knows that, whether he chooses to make a story of it or not. Part of me hopes he doesn't, because then it's like "oh did you think that was going to be important? Why the hell do you care?"

But the truth is, if Tonya had been white, I probably would have assumed that her mother was Mary Jane or some other random Peter Parker girlfriend, or I wouldn't have cared or thought about it at all. Now, because I can't help thinking about it, I'm nudged to think about other things--who survived the epic battled and who died? Peter obviously didn't die at that point, where is he now? Were he and other heroes fundamentally changed like Logan? This future society seems to have regressed to an earlier time physically and economically--have social attitudes rolled back as well?

And this, to me, is where the value of releasing 22 pages at a time comes in (in case you thought I forgot what I started talking about). If written poorly, an individual issue of a series doesn't stand well out of context and needs the books on either side of it to work. If written competently, an issue in a series makes sense on its own while fostering anticipation for the next installment. And if written brilliantly, an individual issue will leave you satisfied and surprised and up to speed, while also letting you know that you potentially have a whole lot to learn--maybe everything is as it seems, maybe it isn't, but you have a nice long time to take it all in. And if you wanted to take it all in tonight before you go to bed, tough shit, you have to wait. But you'll appreciate it more when you do.

Nobody knows the trouble I see

Apologies for the spell of slowness, I was thinking about pounding away on something this morning but then had to listen to a stack of mostly hack Christian rock for an indie music competition and now I have to go convene with the other judges and listen to them again. Thankfully they give us pizza for reparations.

August 3, 2008

ABC Podcast, Episode #8

I'm not even going to lie and say I'm going to put up all the Panels and Covers of the Week, because I have so fricking much to do this week. But one of the panels is in the post below. Download Episode #8 or subscribe to the feed in the right sidebar, and keep the iTunes reviews coming!

Episode #8 of Awesomed By Comics is sponsored by the Eisner Awards, whose winners we mostly ignore again. Aaron denounces homophobia and racism, and Evie denounces the old and infirm. T & A comics covers get mixed reviews, and Marvel's True Believers #1 scores an upset.

August 2, 2008

I know you are but what am I

This will probably be one of our Panels of the Week, but just in case, this made me laugh for five straight minutes: