Friday, April 28, 2006

Women Who Love Comics

I recently learned of and watched a DVD called Women Who Love Comics with the subtitle "Comic Book Pajama Party." It's essentially a documentary of a group of about eight women who collect comics and their discussions about the medium.

The first thing that I noticed about the film was that the production quality isn't that high. The camerawork is from a hand-held unit, and one of the early movie clips was clearly taken from a multi-generational VCR tape. Some of the still shots of various comic art is somewhat pixelated, from what looks to be overly extreme JPG compression. Now, while those things were disappointing -- they probably would have been more irritating had I paid more than $10 for the DVD -- there was still a lot that I got out of it.

The documentary starts out in a comic shop with each woman introducing herself and giving a couple of high points about what they like about comics. They all then go to one woman's house and, in sweats and pajamas, start discussing what they like and dislike about comics. The DVD lasts not quite an hour, and most of it follows the women's discussions. It's very informal -- it's a pajama pary, after all -- and there's wine and chocolate going around throughout the event, and they end the evening with a game of Twister. But the chats range all over the comic landscape.

There's an early, seemingly obligatory, rant about all the gravity-challenged boobs that show up in so many mainstream comics. They talk about some of the books they really like, and why; Vertigo titles seem particularly popular. There was a long side discussion about manga and anime. And the general consensus was that Batman has the sexiest costume.

Personally, I found it very interesting a) as a guy and b) as someone who's interested in comic fandom. Although it's unclear how well the women all knew each other prior to filming, but they all seemed fairly comfortable enough with each other to have some very open and candid talks. I don't know if this something that's got a wide potential audience, but for anyone interested in this type of thing, it's worth at least an hour's viewing.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Four Times the Four

So this week saw the release of Fantastic Four #537, Four #29, Ultimate Fantastic Four #29, and Thing #6. Now, if you're interested in the Fantastic Four, that means that you've got to spend almost $12.00 this week on comics before you touch anything else that you might like. If you've got a monthly allowance for comics, that's probably not a big deal, but if you're on a weekly budget -- as I suspect most comic fans who go to the comic shop every week are -- then you're in for some unpleasant decision-making.

I believe I've mentioned here before that I have $20 to spend at the shop in any given week. This week, over half of that went to the FF. It also happened this week that a number of indie books I like were released. I did some quick tallying in the store, and I had $28 in new comics alone this week that I wanted to get... not counting the handful of others that are kind of backlogged from previous weeks when I wasn't able to get everything I wanted.

As it happens, a couple of recent visits to the local Half Price Bookstore resulted in my having an additional $30 in my wallet that The Wife didn't know about. I did splurge and pick up an additional $30 in comics, on top of the $20 that I normally would've gotten. And I still had to leave one book sitting in my file at the store.

* sigh *

I shouldn't be able to get frustrated. I mean, I got everything I was looking for... including a few back issues that had been on my list for a while, but it was kind of embarassing standing in the middle of the store with a calculator and sorting books into piles to see what I could and couldn't afford.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Geez, Free Comic Book Day is just around the corner! How the heck did that sneak up on me so quickly?

I tend NOT to go to my local shop on FCBD since it's supposed to be largely for people who don't already buy comics on a weekly basis, but I like to try to help promote it as best I can. I'm definitely going to feel like I'm in a scramble this year to get the word out.

Blogger Glitches

Apologies for not updating the past day and a half or so; there were some technical problems on Blogger's end. Looks like things are back to normal now, though, and I'll be putting up a regular post soon.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Free Books from TwoMorrows

I just wanted to post this tidbit here, since it doesn't seem to be getting much "air play" elsewhere. On Free Comic Book Day, you will be able to log on to TwoMorrows web site (see link at right) and order one of their back issues for free! Like the rest of the books available on FCBD, they're designed to encourage you to come back and buy more. And I must say that every one of their books -- at least all of the ones I've read to date -- have been well worth the cover price, not to mention getting one for free!

So if you've ever had an inkling to pick up BACK ISSUE, ALTER EGO, DRAW!, or WRITE NOW! this is a prime opportunity. So on May 5, be sure to hit TwoMorrows web site before you head out to your local comic shop to enjoy FCBD.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Boys' Tales vs. Girls' Tales

The Wife and I have some different approaches to some things, not surprisingly, and it occurred to me that a lot of it seems to stem from the fiction that we enjoyed growing up.

My fictions, as you probably have guessed, were largely comic books and superhero cartoons. Many, if not all of them, had the heroes defeat the villains enough to prevent their plots from coming to fruition, but the villains almost always escaped to torment the heroes again later. The functional reason for this was that both comic books and cartoons are serial in nature and need to have an easy way to continue being interesting week after week, month after month. The Wife, on the other hand, read a lot of fantasy novels -- contemporary fairy tales. I call them fairy tales not to demean them in any way, but to emphasize that they have a definite ending in which good triumphs over evil and readers are left with a happily ever after ending.

I point this out as the basic reason behind our differing philosophies. I view things as a constant struggle that need to be overcome time and time again. The Wife is waiting for a time when the struggle is over and she can live happily ever after.

Not surprisingly, she gets a lot more frustrated with life than I do. Any time life throws us a curve -- unexpected payments we need make, problems with our jobs, etc. -- she gets very tense and irate. It's not part of her happy ending, and something we have to struggle through. Meanwhile, I tend to see this as just another one of the never-ending struggles for truth, justice and the American way.

Proof positive that comics are better for you than so-called "real" literature.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Cup o' Joe

So, Dan Slott has asked people now to start writing in to Marvel to tell them how much they enjoy The Thing. Not a big deal for me; I spent some time as a letterhack and know how to figure out the e-mail address of anyone who works for Marvel. So I fire off an e-mail touching on how much I enjoy Dan Slott's work in general and The Thing in particular, and how some of us are trying to promote the book when/where we can to get others interested. I sent the e-mail to Marvel's publisher and editor-in-chief, and the editor and assistant editors of The Thing.

So I fire this e-mail off at around 10:50 am. Twenty minutes later, I get a reply from Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada. Now, it doesn't say much -- just a thank you/confirmation, really -- but this is the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel. The man earns enough money to have a stylish loft in New York City that was featured in Wired as one of "The Coolest Rooms on the Planet." He doesn't have to reply. I copied some of the assistant editors on it; they could've been delegated to deal with that kind of stuff. Or Quesada's secretary. (I'm fairly confident it wasn't his secretary just using his e-mail, since I'd gotten those types of messages from Bill Jemas before. Marvel's secretaries don't hide behind their bosses e-mails.)

This seems to be one of the core differences between Marvel and DC. Even if I could track down Dan DiDio's e-mail address, I seriously doubt I'd get a personal response from him about a comic who's sales numbers are putting it in danger of cancellation. You know, I was really irked at Marvel's snubbing of readers -- their good cop, bad cop routine -- back when Jemas was still working there, but I think Quesada is making a concerted effort to do his version of what Stan Lee did back in the 1960s and become the voice and face of Marvel comics.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Pull My Thing

Okay, I've been on the road for the past day or two, so I wasn't able to blog yesterday. Today's just going to be a quickie, too.

Dan Slott is still working to get people to put The Thing on their pull lists. I still highly recommend it, and thought I'd take a moment to share some of Kieron Dwyer's upcoming art on the book...

Good stuff, eh? Well, I'm impressed anyway. So give the book a shot, at least, before it's gone. Trust me, it will be worth it!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Donating Comics

So, here's a question: if comic book publishers donated comics to schools across the nation, would that help the industry overall? This is The Wife's idea, one that she's asked me to help explore.

As an alegory, Apple severely discounts and/or donates Macinotshes to schools across the U.S. and a number of their sales are a direct result of people who grews up on them.

So would just giving comics to schools be sufficient? Would it only be helpful if there were lesson plans available to go along with them? If the lesson plans are NOT necessary, could the comics come from individual shops? Generate local business?

Just wondering. Anyone have any thoughts? Anecdotes?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Dilution of Symbolism

I was driving on the highway and saw a truck ahead of me with a Batman symbol trailer hitch. First thought: "Hey, cool." Second thought: "Wait. Why does ANYONE have a Batman-design trailer hitch?"

It got me to thinking. If you see someone with a t-shirt or backpack or whatever with a Green Lantern or Mage or Fantastic Four symbol on it, it's a fair bet that the person actively likes those characters. It further follows that you can guage something of their character -- their likes, dislikes, preferences, etc. -- based on what characters they're drawn to. Fans of the Flash have some different qualities than fans of, say, the X-Men or the Avengers. But if someone is sporting a Superman or Batman logo, that doesn't necessarily translate to a fan of the character per se. The logos so permeate our culture of symbolism that their original meanings have become lost. Does the Superman "S" symbol still represent "truth, justice and the American way"? (Of course, what exactly the "American way" is another question altogether!) What does the Batman symbol even mean?

The problem, it seems to me, is that DC has done so much marketing with their main characters that the buying public have been too far removed from the actual characters. Marvel has a similar -- but lesser -- issue with Spider-Man.

The question, then, becomes does that actually work in DC's and Marvel's favor? It's not really raising awareness of the characters and it's not drawing more people into comic shops. Sure, the licensing generates some revenue for them but is that worth it?

I don't know, honestly. But I have to wonder if the folks at Marvel and DC have really put that much thought into it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Nick Barrucci

The first time I saw Nick Barrucci was on the Home Shopping Network. I was channel surfing a few years back and happened across a full-screen image of a Todd McFarlane Spider-Man. Being something of a comic book fan, I stopped a moment to see what it was. Turns out, HSN was doing a segment on comic books and comic-related merchandise. So I watched for a bit to see what kind of stuff they were selling, and one of the three "hosts" was bouncing off the walls like he'd been drinking coffee by the pot all day. What surprised me, though, was that he actually seemed to know what he was talking about. The couple of previous times I'd seen comics being sold like that, the folks really had no clue what they were talking about. But this guy actually did.

After a little while, they eventually mentioned that this was Nick Barrucci, president of Dynamic Forces. DF was still relatively new to the market at the time, and the comic collectors bubble hadn't entirely popped yet. I seem to recall thinking that they were going to tank in the not-too-distant future when the vacating investor types started putting significant dings in DF's financials.

But here we are, probably almost a decade later, and DF is still going strong. By all rights, I think the place should have folded years ago, but somehow Barrucci's been able to keep the operation alive and afloat. I have to give him an inordinate amount of credit. He's running a business in a niche market of a niche market. Especially with comic book creators being so much more accessible than they were even 20 years ago, it seems almost impossible to create a self-sustaining business almost exclusively on the strength of creator autographs. And yet, Barrucci is doing just that.

I suspect he works absurdly hard all the time to keep things running. He has to constantly be tracking down creators to get signatures, and working deals with Diamond to get extra copies of limited edition pieces. Or, geez, he's somehow managed to line up Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr. to appear on HSN with him on the 25th. I would be surprised to learn if Barrucci puts in less than 60 hours during any given week, and I would half-expect him to frequently put in 80 or more. But I'll be damned if it doesn't seem to be working for him!

So, even though I don't have much interest in most of what he's offering (with the major exception being a collected version of American Flagg if anyone would like to buy me a copy...) I have to hold a lot of respect for what Barrucci's been able to accomplish. Kudos, Nick! Here's hoping that you're able to take a vacation at least once in a while! :)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What's on My Plate

I had an interesting dilema this week at the comic shop. The Wife asked, for a variety of reasons, that I refrained from buying comics last week. What that means this week, though, is that I have more comics that I'd like to purchase, with my same weekly comic allowance. What was particularly frustrating, too, was that, if I had gone in last week, I would've finally caught up on all the books that I had been trying to get but couldn't because I kept hitting that same weekly limit. So this week proved to be a little difficult.

What I thought I'd do here is list what I wanted to get, whether or not I did, and why...
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #41
I'm really interested to see where Busiek takes this. Aquaman was one of my favorite characters as a kid, and I'd like to become interested in him again. Last issue was definitely intriguing, so we'll see where this goes. I went ahead and picked this one up, partially because it's not on my pull list yet, and I want to make sure I get a copy at some point.
Avengers #77
I went through all of the other books on this list and determined what could squeeze into my $20 budget. With tax (yes, I actually calculated tax in the store) it came out to just shy of $18. There was no way I could get another new book, but I knew that many of the back issues they have are $2 or less. I happened across this issue, which fills in a nice hole in my Avengers collection, and it had exactly a $2 price tag.
Black Panther #14
I initially got Priest's version of the book because of T'Challa's connection to the Fantastic Four, but his writing really won me over and I enjoyed his entire run. I've been buying this new series out of deference to that, but it hasn't really sparked for me. The additional hype around his impending marriage to Storm doesn't entice me any more either. This one's been sitting on the shelf for a couple of weeks now (again, from budget concerns). I might ultimately decide to stop getting this title altogether.
Books of Doom #5
I'm buying this largely because of the FF connection. It is somewhat interesting, but my spending limit made me hold out a couple of weeks to pick this up. I grabbed it this week because I want to make sure I get it before #6 is out.
Fantastic Four: First Family #2
Since I run, I consider this a mandatory buy. On the plus side, the first issue was good and I was looking forward to this one.
Green Arrow #61
Well, GA has always been my favorite DC character. Plus, the cover price is only $2.50, so I'll be in a little better financial position if I pick this up.
Marvel Nemesis: The Imperfects #6
This one's been sitting in the back issue bin for quite some time now. I plan on picking it up eventually, but it really wasn't that great of a series, so I'm in no hurry.
Nextwave #3
I bought #s 1 and 2 several weeks after they came, hearing good things about them. I'd like to continue buying the series, but I'm not sure if I can financially commit myself to it yet. I left this one on the shelf for now.
Planetary #25
Brilliant series. I went ahead and picked this up because I quite simply really, really enjoy it.
Thunderbolts #101
As much as I enjoy the series, it's not a "critical" one for me. Plus, this is on my pull list and I know my shop will save a copy for me next week.
Ultimate Spider-Man #92
Well, #93 came out this week so I figured I'd better grab #92 before I have to start hunting it down in the back issue bins.
Ultimate Spider-Man #93
This one's on my pull list, so I know my shop will save a copy for me next week. I'll pass for now. Besides, I haven't even read #92 yet!

So that's what I went through in the comic shop this week. As always, it's a matter of deciding which comics are most important to me, but I find it interesting to consciously work through that process.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Good Time for FF Fans

You know, for years, fans of the Fantastic Four (like myself) were limited to only one book about our favorite team. If you wanted an FF fix, you pretty much only had one choice since the team didn't even appear as guest stars in other books all that often. But today, we've got several different FF titles on the market right now: Fantastic Four, Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four, The Thing, Fantastic Four: First Family, Ultimate Fantastic Four and Marvel Knights 4.

Now, it seems to me that the "main" FF book should be the definitive one. It should be the one that all FF fans flock to and say, "This is the best FF book on the market!" There'd be dissenters, of course but, by and large, the level of quality should be higher in the main book than the others.

So why is that not the case?

Ultimate FF certainly wins in terms of sales numbers; it's currently selling about 30,000 more copies than Fantastic Four. (Of course, we all know sales numbers don't necessarily reflect quality anyway!) Personally, I've been enjoying Thing and First Family much more lately. I've not heard much from others about First Family but I don't know anyone who's tried The Thing and not thought it was a better story than what's in Fantastic Four. I haven't really heard anyone who's claiming that JMS and McKone should be thrown OFF the book, but I haven't heard anyone clamoring to keep the on indefinitely either. And, though I personally haven't tried it, I don't know anyone who's reading Marvel Adventures and not liked it.

So, why do we have what could be considered better creative teams on four books OTHER than the main one?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Layers of Fiction

You know what I realized a year or two ago that I haven't really been able to tout anywhere? Marvel's layers of fiction. Most people, when they think of Marvel comics, they think of Spider-Man, the X-Men, whatever. What they don't realize is that what Stan, Jack, Steve, et. al. built back in the 1960s actually had several layers of fiction working in concert to make an intriguing full package. Let's look at how the onion gets peeled...
  1. Reality -- This is our world where Stan Lee is still alive and making a TV show called "Who Wants To Be A Superhero." Jack Kirby's been dead for several years now, and Marvel's biggest money-makers are character licenses tied to movie franchises.

  2. The Bullpen Fiction -- This hasn't been used as much in recent years, but Stan used to tout how all the artists and writers basically sat around the Marvel offices and worked and joked with each other all day. Everyone was friends with everyone else, and Marvel was just a big, happy clubhouse. One of the more recent additions to this fiction was the creation of Artie Rosen, who supposedly developed the Sentry with Stan Lee back before the Fantastic Four.

  3. Marvel Comics -- This is the fiction most people think of when they think of Marvel. These are the adventures that you and I read about in the comics every month, and the "reality" in which the Hulk and Daredevil reside. Interestingly, there are representations of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Quesada, etc. in this fiction, but all of the old Bullpenners are still alive and well. In this level, Stan Lee once hosted Saturday Night Live and the Avengers have appeared with David Letterman.

  4. Marvel Comics Bullpen Fiction -- Similar to the Bullpen Fiction, the Marvel Comics Stan Lee also touted how everyone was part of their big family; however, like the Bullpen Reality, this was something of a distortion. The Sentry is something of a fiction here, as most of the population of the Marvel Universe would not believe in his existence.

  5. Marvel's comics -- Within the Marvel Universe, there are comics published about the various heroes running around. Spider-Man and the X-Men are treated as villains here, and most of the comic books take a number of liberties with the accuracy of information. The Sentry's comic was one of the few accurate ones and actually served as something of an archive since no one could remember through the Bullpen Fiction of his non-existence.

I want to say that there are some more sub-layers in there, too, but I just can't think of any offhand. In any event, I think this layering of fictions makes for intriguing reading, and helps make some of the Marvel comics out there more interesting these days.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

More Genres

A recent discussion on the Comic Scholars mailing list has been hitting on the over-abundance of superhero comics and how that drove away so many females from enjoying the medium. It's something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, in reality. The (mostly) male editors who ran the comic industry back in the day believed girls didn't read comics, so there was no reason to produce "girlie" books like romance comics and such. Well, girls were reading those "girlie" books -- they were just ignoring the war, Western and superhero books that were flooding the market. And part of the issue, too, was that most publishers focused on one or two genres. So just because National wasn't selling a great deal to girls didn't mean Gold Key wasn't!

Interestingly, much of the same issue holds today. Marvel and DC aren't publishing much for girls, so many people in the industry don't recognize the female portion of the market, whereas your Toykopop type publishers are.

Just a quick thought. Those who do not understand the past are doomed to repeat it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Heavy Metal

As I was working on my blog yesterday, I recalled the importance of Heavy Metal in American comics history. It really brought intelligent, adult themes into the comic medium here in the States and gave it an "official" air that wasn't generally present in underground books. I suppose Heavy Metal wasn't so important in and of itself, but it really was a type of hallmark for what was happening to the industry. It was no longer just muscle-bound heroes in tights; it was whatever story you felt needed to be told, just in a different medium.

I don't recall how/when I discovered Heavy Metal for the first time. I know my father had a collection of them that he kept on the top shelf of one of the basement bookcases, right next to his collection of National Lampoon, so I'm sure I was at least a teenager before I was tall enough to even reach them. I seem to recall pulling some down at one point, and flipping through to see what it was, only to put it back uninterested because, I suspect, it didn't have any characters I recognized. I also suspect I happened to pull down an issue or two that contained no nudity either. I know Dad's collection of National Lampoon was far more interesting to me earlier on because it occassionally had pictures of naked women.

In any event, I don't think I paid Heavy Metal any more attention until I saw the movie... which must have been in my late teens sometime. I think my father picked up a copy of it at some point, and I must have watched it unsupervised late at night. I seem to recall thinking, in my feverishly pubescent brain, that if the cartoon featured sex as much as it did, there must be some in the magazine as well. Sure enough, going back to the magazines, I found plenty of sex and sexual situations that I must have completely missed in my earlier examination.

There was definitely something more carnal about my interest in Heavy Metal when I first discovered it. It was a time when I equated "adult themes" with "sex" and any of the social commentaries and/or sub-texts were totally lost on me. That was the magazine that had drawings of naked women having sex. In some cases (notably Paolo Serpieri's Druuna) mind-bogglingly gorgeous illustrations of naked women having sex.

In the decade and a half or so since then, I've gone back and actually read some of those stories. And, yes, I'd have to say that some of them are strictly (or largely, at any rate) done as erotic pieces. Some were done to really study the human form. And some were wicked social statements and political observances. I think the editors were keenly aware that of the range of material that was getting put into the book, and I suspect that they tailored many of the issues so that there wasn't too much sex in any one issue. And there wasn't too much drugs. And there wasn't too much violence. All in all, it was an excellent magazine with a little something for everyone... provided you could get past the parts that disinterested you.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Back to Blogging

Okay, so now that plok's publicly called me on the carpet for missing a couple days' worth of updating* I figure I'll add my two cents to Jake's Hypothetical 15 meme. The basic concept is that paper shortages force the number of monthly comic book titles to only fifteen, and I have to decide what is going to be published and by whom. Without further ado...
  1. Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. "But Jack's dead," you say. Any time I play these hypothetical games, I figure that it's all just blowing smoke anyway. I mean, what really are the odds that I will ever be in a position to hand-pick the only fifteen comic titles produced in America and who's working on them? It's a total pipe dream. So, if I'm pipe-dreaming anyway, I'm going to whip out the bring-em-back-from-the-dead machine I whipped up last night. Stan and Jack on the FF forever. Nuff said.

  2. The Spirit by Will Eisner. C'mon, that's just incredible stuff; how could you not want to see more of it?

  3. The Fourth World by Jack Kirby. Okay, I'm technically breaking one of Jake's ground rules by having Jack draw two titles, but he was cranking out four or five titles a month for several years there. I figure he can handle two books easily enough. Even if he is dead.

    Fine. If Jack can't draw it, I'll have him supply plots and broad direction to Walt Simonson. Almost an editorship position. Walt writing and drawing, though, with direct input from Jack.

  4. Brave and the Bold by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams. The title would cycle mainly through Green Arrow, Flash, Green Lantern, and Black Canary stories. Some team-ups, some solo bits. Something not unlike what Mark Waid and Tom Peyer did a few years back, but with that classic O'Neil/Adams collaboration.

  5. Marvel Team-Up by Dan Slott and George Perez. First of all, we need a team-up style book to be able to cycle through Marvel's cache of characters. Secondly, we need some really versitile talent who can tackle any character with relative ease. Since Slott is proving to do such a dynamite job on Thing with all that, I'm going to put him here. (Hey, add The Thing to your pull list if you haven't already!) And by making Perez the artist, that just means we can pack in that many more heroes into one book!

  6. World's Finest by Mark Waid and Jim Aparo. You know, I've never been that keen on Superman or Batman as characters, but I think you'd almost NEED to have them in print. So, I'm taking a tip from the Golden Age and throwing them in the same book together. As for the creative pairing, I'd be curious to see what a great Superman writer would do when working with a great Batman artist.

  7. Groo by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier. First off, I don't think it'd be wise to do just superheroes. We need some humor books as well. And anyone who can take a one note gag and keep making it funny for over 100 issues deserves to keep doing it, in my opinion.

  8. American Frontier by John Ostrander and John Severin. This would be a Western book that touches on all the great Western heroes. Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Jonah Hex, Two-Gun Kid, Lone Ranger... everyone. (Hey, it's my fantasy world; I can assume that all the legal issues are easily overcome.) Ostrander has proved several times over that he writes a darn fine Western, and Severin... well, I'll be damned if he doesn't draw some of the grittiest, earthiest characters I've ever seen. I'd love to see this especially if Ostrander created a new character to hook the series on, and have him meet up with all the classics in one serial novella.

  9. Archie by Dan DeCarlo. I'm not partial to the character myself, but I think he is a necessary part of the comic book landscape. And DeCarlo... well, he is the guy who really defined the Archie look.

  10. Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassady. Need I say more?

  11. Spider-Man by Gerry Conway and John Romita, Sr. I almost forgot that, by my own thinking noted earlier, I should probably be sure to include a Spidey book somewhere. Who better to work on it than the definitive Spider-Man artist and the guy who killed Gwen Stacy?

  12. Steve Ditko Showcase by Steve Ditko. Okay, for those of you who want to complain that Ditko is "the definitive Spider-Man artist" I'm giving him his own book. Everything by Ditko. Whatever he feels like doing. Guaranteed great material.

    Crap. Only three titles left!

  13. Romance by Trina Robbins and Dave Stevens. I need a romance genre book, so that's why this is here. Robbins doing classicly inspired but modern "girlie books" and Stevens drawing gorgeous women. What's not to love?

  14. In Times of War by Joe Kubert and Jim Steranko. This would be similar to my Western book in that it would include all the great modern war heroes: Gen. George Patton, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Sgt. Frank Rock, Sgt. Nick Fury, Col. Robert Hogan (Hogan's Heroes), etc. Mostly WWII stuff, but forays into Vietnam, Korea, etc. Both Kubert and Steranko would write and draw their own stuff, either doing half-issue stories each, or alternating storylines.

  15. Heavy Metal by everyone else. Something of a cop-out answer for a finale, but this would be much like the classic Heavy Metal -- somewhat oversized and an anthology format. That way, we can still keep seeing work by all the great writers and artists who I couldn't give their own book to! We could squeeze in here a Roy Thomas/John Buscema Avengers story. Or a Karl Kesel/Tom Grummett Legion of the Superheroes one. A Fabian Nicieza/Mark Bagley New Warriors. A Marv Wolfman/Gene Colan Dracula. A Doug Moench/Bill Sienkiewicz Moon Knight. Mobius' Blueberry. Frank Miller anything. Richard Corben anything. Philippe Druillet, Paolo Serpieri, Bernie Wrightson, Wendy Pini, Roger Stern, Kurt Busiek, John Byrne, Alex Ross... The list goes on and on...

So, anyway, that's my list. With only fifteen books to work with, I obviously have to leave a lot of great material out, but I would hope my Heavy Metal would pick up some of the slack there.

* I've got a good excuse, though. I was doing some work for Marvel that will show up in an extra special FF Masterworks. More on that later, though.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Thing Pedigree

Take a look at the following covers for a moment, if you would...

All of these books were written, at least in part, by Dan Slott. As you can probably surmise from the art, there are a number of different styles and genres represented here. I don't know any of them, either, that are considered poorly done.

So my suggestion at the moment is to check to see if you've read any of these, and whether or not you thought they were any good. If it was a piece written by Dan Slott, then I suggest that you go check out The Thing because all of the great bits that you might like in these books are present in The Thing. (Well, except maybe the art. The art is all over the map here, and you might not like the styles compared to one another. But the writing! The writing is what I'm talking about here!)

So, go pick up The Thing, say to yourself, "Hmm. This is really good" and then tell your local comic shop guy to add the book to your pull list.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Creator Power

I suspect most people are well aware that popularity does not necessarily equate with quality. Unfortunately, this applies to not just comic books, but nearly everything. And also unfortunately, this means that the quality products often are pushed out of the market into oblivion because the comparitive profits are too narrow to keep them financially viable. Such is the case with comic books.

The most popular/best selling titles are not necessarily the best comics available. As you're probably tired of hearing from me by now, The Thing has only been selling in the low 20,000 range while the Fantastic Four is roughly double that. While there are certainly some things to like in J. Michael Straczynski's Fantastic Four, some people have been complaining about various aspects of the book. The only complain about Dan Slott's Thing that I've heard thus far is the premise of the character's newfound wealth -- which is, in fact, a carryover from Fantastic Four.

Now, there's certainly a question of volume when it comes to complaints. Obviously, there are twice as many people reading Fantastic Four as Thing so there are twice as many people to complain. There's also a question of habit. Many people who are buying Fantastic Four now are doing so because they've bought it for years. Thing (the comic) doesn't have much longevity, despite the fact that Thing (the character) does. But do those people account for a 20-30,000 difference in sales?

Not in and of itself. The Straczynski name does have a following to some degree, and that certainly must account for some of the sales. Not to dismiss Slott's talent, but Straczynski did have a fair amount of success with that Babylon 5 thingy, so he does have some more name recognition.

So, where am I going with this?

Honestly, I don't really have a point. I just find it frustrating that quality material isn't always able to maintain itself as self-sustaining. We're left with the same trite stories that we've seen time and time again.

But, let me end on a positive note. If you go into your comic book shop and ask the retailer to add quality books like The Thing to your pull list, then the book will stay afloat and we'll have more quality material to look forward to. (Couldn't see that one coming, could you?)