Friday, June 30, 2006

JKC #47

Just saw the cover of Jack Kirby Collector #47, due out this fall. The theme of the issue is super teams, and I stretch that notion a bit by taking my column's space to talk about Herbie the Robot.

Herbie was actually designed by Jack for Hanna-Barbera's Fantastic Four cartoon. The Human Torch was under another license and couldn't be used for the series, so HB asked Jack for a new replacement character, suggesting that it be a cute, little robot like that R2-D2 guy that was so popular at the time.

Legend has it that Frank Welker, who voiced Herbie for the cartoon, developed the character's voice and then some of the sound engineers put a metallic twang to it to make it sound more robotic. When Frank heard they were doing this, he said that it was entirely unnecessary and he altered how he used the character's voice to include that metallic twang, and no one could tell the difference!

Frank later met Jack and Roz Kirby at some party, where he was evidently able to mimic Jack's voice so perfectly (and so quickly!) that even Roz couldn't tell the difference between them!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Spidey Trailer

I just watched the first trailer for Spider-Man 3 and... Well, let's just say it's done nothing to make me more excited about the movie. That's not to say I think it's bad or anything, but it simply hasn't whet my appetite any more.

I know Tobey Maguire does well as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I know James Franco and Kirsten Dunst will do well in their respective roles. Sam Raimi has proven that he can do a good job with the franchise. I've seen all that. I know the basic story of the black costume saga from the comics, so there's no real surprises there. The only really new things for me would seeing how Thomas Hayden Church and Topher Grace fit into the story and how well they do.

Now I have a lot of respect for both those actors. I think they are both extremely talented and extremely under-rated. But the trailer does almost nothing to showcase their roles in the movie. I think both have a combined screen time of maybe 2 seconds. (There's a little more time with Church's character, but it's mostly CGI and not actually Church himself.) Ever since I first heard he was cast, I thought Church was an excellent choice for Sandman, but Grace as Eddie Brock strikes me as an odd casting choice. Again, Grace is supremely talented, but he doesn't strike me as the not-terribly-intelligent, body-building antithesis of Peter Parker that we've known from the comics.

Interestingly, I can easily visualize Grace portraying a sort of dark mirror to Maguire's Parker. And, given some of the imagry in the trailer, it strikes me as a likely direction Raimi will have taken. But it's still a significant departure from the comics, I think, and I'm wondering how well or poorly that might work on screen.

It could be that works very well; there are certainly a lot of story and character angles to work in that direction. But my point here, though, is that the trailer does not show that and, thus, does not entice me any more than I already was.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Spidey, the Icon

Okay, due to some clerical errors -- with no small thanks to myself on this -- I just got my check from Marvel for the work I did on the FF Masterworks. Below are two images of what I was sent...

On the left we have Marvel's stationery. An envelope to be precise. On the right is the check itself. (I've blurred out some of the information for security reasons.) Notice anything?

The image of Spider-Man in both cases is one from a previous "incarnation," if you will, of Marvel. The envelope sports a "classic" Spider-Man drawn by John Romita Sr. It was used heavily through the 1970s and '80s as the definitive way Spider-Man looked. On the check we see a Todd McFarlane Spider-Man from the 1990s. It was emblematic of the direction the company was taking at the time and, to fans such as myself, still stands for a different Marvel than the one we have today.

Now, interestingly, the check also sports a Marvel logo underneath Spidey. It's not as clear in the picture (this is why most of my imagry for this blog is taken from other locations) but it's one of Marvel's logos from, again, the 1990s. The lettering is outlined and open at the bottom. I don't think I've seen that in publication use for, what...? Five years, certainly. Maybe ten?

My first thought with something like this would be that they just had a TON of these printed up back in the day and are still trying to use them all to clear out some warehouses. But, if you'll recall, Marvel moved offices a few years ago and both the check and the envelope sport the newer mailing address. Which means that these were printed up within the past couple of years.

Now it's a minor point, certainly, and one that doesn't have a significant impact on much of anyone. But for company that is now officially a character licensing corporation, one would think that they would want to ensure that the characters that they themselves are using and are in fact licensing around are used in a manner most reflective of how they would like the characters to be portrayed.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Kleefeld Comic Situation

So, my job situation got wonky a little while back. A new boss came in, and moved me from salaried to a contract position, and is now choosing to not renew the contract. Which leaves me out of a job at the end of August.

Now I've known for a little while, so I got my resume together and started looking for a new full-time position. Nothing's materialized yet, though. So The Wife and I are, to be on the safe side, clamping down on extraneous spending and such.

Sadly, comics fall into the extraneous spending category.

I've kind of been going on with life, ignoring the possibility that I'll be out of work come September.

See, comics are my one bulwark for the crap of life. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't go to movies. I don't do sports. I don't go to concerts. When life starts to really suck eggs, I can open up a comic and become absorbed into the world of space ships and super powers and dragons and whatever.

Yeah, my blog today is particularly self-absorbing, but comics are the one thing that I can look forward to. Comics are the one passion I have in life. And to give those up... well, that's my signal that I've got nothing left to give up. I've hit as low as I've ever hit. I feel like total crap and I'm fully aware that it can still go downhill even further.

The never-ending battle, indeed.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tank Girl

You ever see the movie Tank Girl?

It's not that good in and of itself, but what I found interesting is that watching it suggested to me what the comic itself was like. I kept thinking, "You know, this isn't very good, but it looks like the source material was excellent." I don't know why/how I was able to discern the quality of the comics based on the movie, but it was enough to pique my interest.

Anyway, I didn't pick up much new stuff at the comic shop this week, so I went ahead and grabbed Tank Girl 2 -- the one Tank Girl TPB they had in stock. I haven't read it yet, but flipping through it, it looks like I was right to think that there was a vast improvement in quality from the movie to the comic. (I suppose, technically, it would be a vast decline in quality from the comic to the movie, but I saw the movie first.)

When I get a chance to read it, I'll be sure to pass along my notes about whether or not it holds up to my expectations.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Swimming Heroes

So, every other day or so, The Wife and I head down to the gym and work out for a while. I usually do some upper body weights to start and then go swimming for a half hour or so. Now I bring this up on this blog because I use a comic book hero to motivate myself to continue swimming after I've started growing tired. Curiously enough, it's NOT Sub-Mariner or Aquaman or any water-based hero. No, my motivational hero of choice while I'm swimming is...

Green Arrow.

Odd, I suppose, but I have this very, very clear vision of Oliver Queen having to swim laps in a pool for some kind of rehab. Some villain's really kicked his tail, and he's using the swimming to re-build his muscular strength or something. And while he's doing it, he's pushing himself through his pain by cursing something like, "Damn it, Arthur! If you can do this, there's no reason I can't!"

Don't know why that imagry pops into my head every time I go swimming, but there you go. The influence of too many comic books over the years, I suppose.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Cheap Classic!

I was looking at a local consignment shop for a birthday present for my father. There was the prerequisite comic boxes, which I naturally had to go through. The comics were all marked either 25 cents, a dollar, or two dollars. Most o fthe issues weren't worth a quarter, but I did find a copy of Green Lama #5 for two bucks. The issue was coverless, but otherwise complete. For a 1946 comic book, I have to say that I still think it's quite a bargain.

Goes to show that those old boxes still hide some decent treasures!

Monday, June 19, 2006

More Upcoming Work

Groovy news! I just learned that my proposal for an upcoming book was accepted. The book -- as yet untitled -- concerns how trauma is depicted/portrayed in comic books. I just got a copy of the preliminary copy of the book's outline and the Marvel Universe is heavily represented. It's not surprising, really, since the Marvel stable of characters were built more directly on how they dealt with a traumatic origin. Sure, Batman's parents were murdered (and that is being discussed) but there's really not all that much trauma in the DC Universe by comparison.

For my part, I'll be looking at the traumas of the Thing and Dr. Doom and, specifically, how each character -- having undergone a series of similar traumas throughout their lives -- reacted to them differently. Then, those differences in character help to identify each as a hero and villain respectively. Naturally, I've got crudloads of examples to draw upon, so I should be able to get up to my 5,000 word limit with no problems!

My deadline for the first draft isn't until August 20 (coincidentally, I might add, my birthday!) so I expect this book won't see print until 2007 at the earliest. We'll see how things progress, and I'll be sure to post updates here as I hear about them. Then, you'll all have the privledge of paying to read what I write!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Temple of Atlas

There's an upcoming book, Agents of Atlas, that brings back some of the old charaters from Marvel's days as Atlas Comics. I had been largely ignoring any news about it, but Marvel recently introduced this "scavenger hunt" idea to help promote it. There's a series of clues dropped online by a "Mr. Lao" -- who's evidently an agent of Atlas in some capacity. Those who successfully decipher the clues get "promoted" as Atlas agents themselves.

And you know something? With this new promotion, now I'm interested in the book.

My thinking is that a marketing program like this is invariably going to take more work and effort on Marvel's part to keep going for any period of time. Creating an ad campaign and just throwing out a lot of press releases and house ads is mostly just a matter of throwing money out to promote something. But if the folks at Marvel are going to spend their time on a program like this -- one that requires more effort over a longer period -- I figure that somebody at Marvel thinks this Agents of Atlas must be pretty good. This is the type of thing we SHOULD be seeing from the small press and indie books -- it's generally a low-cost, community-generating, high-interest approach that is typical of the emotional investment indie creators put into their work. But to see this from a corporate level, that says something to me.

Now, obviously, I'm not 100% sold on this yet. The book's not out yet, after all, and I'm not going to fully commit to it until I at least read the first issue. But I'll give Marvel credit for putting forth a lot of effort to see that this book does well.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Civil War #2 Press

**** CIVIL WAR #2 SPOILERS BELOW ****

Okay, so there was apparently this BIG news in Civil War #2 this week and it "leaked" out to the popular press just as the issue debuted. My shop -- like so many others -- got inundated with phone calls and rubber-neckers and the issue is selling like hot cakes.

***** LAST CHANCE SPOILER ALERT *****

The big "reveal" at the end of Civil War #2 is that Spider-Man announces his secret identity to the world in a press conference. I haven't actually read the issue yet (my shop -- again, like so many others -- sold out before I got there) but I saw this coming a mile away. The lead-up in Amazing Spider-Man made it fairly obvious to me that that's where the story was headed, and all the hoopla around it seems rather over-blown. To a degree, I can understand that the popular press who might not read comics regularly find this surprising, but within the comic community as well...? This should NOT have shocked anyone who's paid much attention to the "Civil War" storyline at all, much less those who've been reading Spider-Man specifically.

See, this is why I'm so cynical. It was so painfully obvious that it should not have been a big deal. I think Marvel figured this as well since they were clearly under-prepared for it making national headlines. But because so many other people DIDN'T get it until the actual unmasking, that just suggests to me that Hollywood and the government are right in talking down to the American public on just about everything. We're a nation of fools, either unprepared or unwilling to think for ourselves and only accept that which is carefully spoon-fed to us, regardless of what it actually is.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Curse the Calendar!

The Wife gets paid on the 1st and 15th of every month. I, on the other hand, get paid monthly on the last day of the month. Since my paychecks go to pay the bills for the following month before hers, that means we tend to be low in the cash flow department just before the 15th. Which further means that having a New Comic Day falling on the 14th is generally a pain in the butt -- I can't get my new comic stash until tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Look! Up in the sky!

I just watched Look, Up in the Sky - The Amazing Story of Superman -- a documentary on, obviously enough, Superman. I'm not a huge Superman fan, personally, but Superman's history parallels comic book history rather closely, so I feel I know a lot about him considering I don't really like the character.

Okay, that was Bias #1. Bias #2 is that, even without seeing it, it's fairly evident that this was made in no small part to help promote the new Superman movie coming out next week.

Both those items out of the way, though, I will have to say that I was fairly impressed overall. The documentary covered A LOT of material. They dug up footage from nearly every incarnation of the character (I didn't see anything of the late-1980s pre-Dini cartoon) and got interviews with a wide range of people involved in the Superman mythos. There were some standards -- Paul Levitz, Mark Wade, Margot Kidder, Noel Neill, etc. -- but they also pulled in Jack Larson, Ilya Salkind, and Lesley Ann Warren (none of whom I think I've ever seen interviewed previously).

I don't recall anything that was expressly wrong or misleading, which is a pleasant surprise for a comic book related documentary; however, there were some things that got glossed over. Like the fact that Siegel and Shuster would rather have done Superman as a newspaper strip initially. Or that they spent most of their lives destitute because DC shafted them out of the character's royalties. The legal battles that occurred when everyone and their brother tried to copy Superman. Granted, there are time limitations and you can't touch on each and every aspect of the character's 70-year history, but some of that seems more relevant to me than, say, an interview with Adam West.

What I found very interesting is that the documentary focuses on Superman the franchise moreso than Superman the character. There's very little mention of what happens in any of the stories (comics, TV, movies, radio, whatever...) unless it's told in relation to cross-marketing with other media. The premise of the film seems to be that Superman is the global icon that he is precisely because he was marketed extremely well in the late 1930s and early 1940s. That, sure, there's something to be said for him being a great creation, but that wouldn't matter if he wasn't sold to the consumer public.

I might be coming across as cynical -- which I probably am -- but it really was a well-done documentary on the whole. Even after seeing it on A&E, I'm considering buying the DVD when it comes out later this month.

Monday, June 12, 2006

ComicBookDB.com

About two years ago, I hit upon the idea of how to do a proper comic book database. At the time, no one really was putting anything out that was really as effective as it should have been and, further, no one was doing an online version... which meant that every user had to do their own manual updates all the time.

I was in the process of trying to put together a bona fide business out that hole in the market when I came across ComicBookDB.com. At the time, he had just started the site but, whereas my idea included doing all of the data entry within the "company", Chris opted to go more of a wiki route and let the users enter their own data. He put in some key differences from other databases, though, in that much of the data entry was starndardized (so "Vince Colletta" and "Vinnie Colletta" are treated as the same person) and what one person enters is accessible by anyone else. So if I uploaded the info on Fantastic Four #536, everyone else would be able to just check it off into their collection as well. It was a great set-up, but I doubted at the time whether or not the wiki-style of data entry would work.

Well, here it is, several months later, and there are now nearly 45,000 individual issues entered into the database. There are still plenty more to go (Comics.org has 85,000 entries and they're still going strong!) but I want to go on record finally as saying that this is THE best comic database I've ever seen, and I fully back Chris in his work on it.

I'm irritated, of course, that I didn't beat him to it, but he's still put forth such a fine effort that I can't help but be impressed. If you've got a collection of comics you'd like to keep track of, I heartily suggest you head on over and sign up for a free account.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Steranko Issue

I'm trying to gear up for an interview with Jim Steranko. There's stangely little written about him, so doing background research involves finding little tidbits here and there.

But thanks to my father, the magician, he's loaned me perhaps one of the most intimate recorded looks at the man.

"The Steranko Issue"

It's actually the November 1962 issue of Genii, the conjurers' magazine. It's very clearly labeled on the front: "Steranko Issue!" (Including the exclamation point.) Most of the focus is a series of articles Steranko himself wrote on about a number of card tricks, but it does have a few other pieces about him as well. Certainly, this will be useful background info since it predates any fame he garnered as a comic artist.

I was talking to my dad on the phone and he explained that it was amazingly unusual for a magician to appear on the cover of Genii more than once. Siegfried and Roy only made it once. David Copperfield only made it once. But he had this strange recollection that the first time he saw "The Steranko Issue" it had a silverish cover. But when he dug up his copy, it was just a headshot of Steranko.

So I did some searching online here to grab a shot of the cover for whatever I was going to blab about tonight. I couldn't quickly find a copy of the book I'm holding in my hand, but I did find another issue with Steranko on the cover. (Shown at right.)

Apparently, he was just THAT good of a magician that he did make it to the cover of Genii twice.

And you thought he was just THAT good of a comic book artist! Whatever ego he may or may not have, it's little wonder where it may have come from!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Super-Computer

I'm generally not keen on senseless marketing. What does a box of Corn Pops have to do King Kong, you know? I'm not going to buy M&M's just because they have "Pirates of the Carribean" slapped across the front of the bag.

That said, though, I'd be tempted to buy one of Alienware's Superman laptops if I had enough extra cash to throw away. What this might have to do with the movie, I don't know, but I think it'd be a hoot to hve the Superman emblem emlazoned across the front of my laptop while I was hanging out at a Starbucks or something.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Thing Mask

Hey, check out the latest "Marvel Heroes Hotspot" -- that kind of new-style Bullpen Bulletins that show up in lieu of letters pages in some Marvel books. There's a photo of a supposed "Civil War planning session." It's an obviously staged shot with Tom Brevoort two other folks that I can't identify; they're all "fighting" using some iconic Marvel weapons. The guy in the middle is wearing a Thing mask that looks like a buddy of mine, Matt Geuther, made.

Congrats, Matt!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Thing About Steranko...

Okay, so you're coming to my blog here -- you probably know something about Jim Steranko. Great comic book artist, great magician, very talented man in general. And one thing that makes him stand out as a talent is that he's always been very concerned about how he's marketed. I remember my father, himself a magician, talking about how Steranko was very keen on getting interviewers and people who published anything about him to portray him in a very specific light.

Well, I just got to witness that first-hand.

A little while back, I had turned in my column for Jack Kirby Collector talking about Mr. Miracle. Not surprisingly, I referenced Steranko as a source of inspiration. As a courtesy, my editor sent a mocked-up copy of it over to Steranko... which led to an e-mail exchange between the two of them about some inaccuracies and misleading statements, much of which was prompted by a byline my editor added at the last minute. It gave something of a mis-leading impression of the point of the column.

In any event, Steranko was very careful to note that some of my phrasing gave a somewhat skewed perspective of events and made some suggestions that he felt gave a more accurate representation of his involvement in the creation of Mr. Miracle. My editor and I complied, and I've been making some last-minute re-writes as the magazine is going to press tonight.

But what I noticed in particular was that Sternako was very keen to make the point that he was indeed THE source for Mr. Miracle, alluding to some connections that I personally feel are somewhat tenuous. Making the column more difficult to write, as I certainly don't want to offend him by neglecting to mention those aspects, but at the same time, I don't want to sacrfice my personal integrity just to cozy up to Sternako! But the thing of it is, unless I really want to make a point of pissing him off, he has some degree of control over how is portrayed in my column.

And THAT, my friends, is one of the reasons why Steranko is as legendary as he is.

Don't get me wrong. He is a VERY talented comic book creator and I have a lot of respect for his work. But I don't know that he'd still have AS big a name for himself if he weren't able to keep very tight control on his professional image.

Monday, June 05, 2006

FF Masterworks

So, about a week ago, Marvel released their tenth volume of Fantastic Four Masterworks. There are a bunch of features that go above and beyond the normal Masterworks books -- additional written pieces by Roy Thomas, Joe Sinnott, Dick Ayers, Mark Evanier, and Greg Theakston. Then, John Morrow presents Jack Kirby's version of FF #108 -- not the hacked together montage that was originally published.

Lastly, there's a listing of of all the characters that appeared in every one of the first 100 issues. That was me. :)

Anyway, I just got my comp copy in the mail today, and I have to say that it looks even more impressive that the description would suggest. If you have ANY interest in the FF, this book is worth picking up. I don't get any compensation for additional sales, so my only bias is that I enjoy Jack Kirby and the Fantastic Four.

My portion of the book is actually pretty miniscule, as well. I would bet that my contribution to the book took less time than anyone else's. But I have to say that I'm still thrilled to have been a small part of it.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Comicons

This weekend is Wizard World Philadelphia and it got me thinking about comic book conventions in general. Like most comic fans on the Internet, I'm well aware of many of the larger cons. They're generally well-reported these days and it's not at all hard to find out the news from the big shows. I've only attended a handful of different conventions personally, though, and only two of them are really worth mentioning: Wizard World Chicago and Mid-Ohio-Con.

There are several reasons to attend any convention. 1) Lots of dealers gives you a huge selection of items. You can find all sorts of hard-to-get treasures to round out your collection. 2) The bigger cons are attended by comic professionals, which allow you to meet and talk with them, get sketches, and have books autographed. 3) Many cons have a variety of panel discussions that often provide first-hand information that's not always easy to come by. There are often how-to type panels, pro roundtables, and news conferences. 4) Lots of independent creators attend shows to try to promote their creations. Often, it's one of the easiest ways to learn about new books. 5) Many people attend cons to have fun and simply immerse themselves in comic book culture for a weekend.

When I was a kid, before the days of the Internet, my primary interest in cons was to buy things. I could find all sorts of goodies that weren't available at my local comic shop, and I used shows to fill holes in my collection. As I grew older -- and the Internet began to allow you to buy pretty much anything any time you wanted -- the other elements came into play more significantly. But several of those hold less interest to me than they did even a few short years ago.

Most of the pros are online these days and provide a wealth of information on their own web sites and through e-mail. Indie creators are getting more press attention on the comic news sites and through blogs. So one of the greatest draws of a convention for me is the immersion factor.

What's interesting, I noticed at the end of last year's Mid-Ohio-Con, was that I got done what I wanted to get done. I shopped for some specific things I wanted, I talked to some creators and got their autographs, I attended some panels and indeed learned a few things... but I did it all by myself. It was interesting and immersive, but it wasn't particularly fun. I think it stood out fairly poignently for me last year because there were a couple of people who I had planned to meet at the show who weren't able to ultimately make it (through no fault of their own, mind you). I was left trying to enjoy the experience without anyone to share it with.

One strange problem I've had, too, is meeting people at shows. I mean, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people milling about with a relatively common set of interests, and I find it nearly impossible to just strike up a conversation with them to make a new friend.

I think, in the future, I'll skip out on conventions unless I'll be able to hook up with someone I know. I just don't know that it'd be worth it to me, otherwise.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Blackbeard Legacy #1 Review

As I mentioned yesterday, I picked up Blackbeard Legacy #1 this week. I read it this afternoon and...

I wasn't very impressed.

I did scan through the interior before buying it, so I was fully expecting the interior art to be different than the gorgeous cover. The story was reasonable enough -- basic character introductions and whatnot: getting the basic plot underway. And the actual artwork was kind of cool. The problem was in the storytelling itself. The illustration style, while interesting, got in the way of the story itself. There were several pages where it was very difficult to tell what was happening. In one case, I had to stare at the page for half a minute to figure out where to start.

See, as I see it, a comic book that's trying to tell a story should tell a story. Anything that gets in the way of that is a detriment to the overall quality. I had much the same problem with Steampunk. I liked the illustrations, I liked the concept, I liked the story -- but the artwork got in the way of telling the story. I feel pretty much the same way about Blackbeard Legacy -- I like the illustrations and I think I'll like where the story's headed, but I'd like to actually read the story.

Needless to say, I won't be picking up #2.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

What I Bought...

Let's play another round of "What Sean Bought This Week!" That's where I don't have anything particularly interesting to talk about here, so I just rattle off what I picked up at the comic shop this week...






Amazing Spider-Man #532
I still get this as my only "real" Spidey title. I've actually been rather enjoying Straczynski's work here, and I have to admit to being curious about how he handles the Civil War tie-in.
The Blackbeard Legacy #1
I'm a sucker for a good pirate story, even though I really shouldn't be picking up a new title right now. But how can I pass it up with a cover like this...?
Books of Doom #6
A decent series, but I'm glad it's over. Very useful from a historical perspective, but not really one that grabbed me.
Godland #11
I have to admit that I'm beginning to lose interest here. I think there were a lot of great ideas thrown in at the start, but I find myself wanted to see that continue instead of just expanding on what the initial issues.
Local #5
Still early in the series, but Brian Wood hasn't disappointed me yet.
Thing #7
C'mon! It's Dan Slott! What's not to love?
Ultimate Fantastic Four #30
Eh. I'm still buying this for my web site, but I haven't really enjoyed the series very much. Especially the issues concerning the zombie creatures. What an asinine concept...