Sunday, November 28, 2010

By the Numbers – November

A look at my monthly pull list from Adventure Comics to Zatanna! These are the books I will soon be receiving for the month of November!

Total comics for the month: 66
Change from last month: -1

Company Run Down
DC: 39
Vertigo (DC): 3
Wildstorm (DC): 1
Antarctic Press: 1
Ape: 1
Archaia Entertainment: 2
Aspen: 1
Boom!: 5
D. E.: 3
Dark Horse: 2
IDW: 3
Image: 2
Oni: 1
Th3rd World Studios: 1
Zenoscope: 1

Average price I paid: $2.16

0 Issues: 1
First Issues: 8
Last Issues: 9

Ongoing: 37
Mini-series: 24
One shot: 2
Half trade thingies: 3

Batman Issues: 18
Brightest Day books: 6
Number of different letters of the alphabet my titles start with: 18

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Who’s an angry little rage cat? You are!

My favorite character to come out off all of the different colored Lantern Corps is the Red Lantern Dex-Starr. I mean look at him. He’s an adorable little blue kitty…who vomits blood and will rip your face off. But look at him. He wears his ring on his tail! He’ll probably cuddle you to death!

All great characters need exciting action figures. This was announced at New York Comic Con (here are the other figures in the series):

This is actually his second action figure. His first one was in the DC direct line and was packaged with Red Lantern Mera.

DC recently revealed Dex-Starr’s back story. Like many others I was surprised to learn that he’s from Earth. I assumed he was some sort of alien kitty cat (he is blue after all). Before he turned into rage cat, he was just a tiny kitty named Dexter. I won't spoil what turns this adorable little fluff ball into a ball of rage in case some people are interested in reading for themselves.

My favorite part of this whole thing is the origin story of how this character came to be. In a big group shot of the Red Lanterns artist Shane Davis snuck in a Red Lantern cat as a joke. It was small and off to one side (where normally group shots are done like class pictures with the short people in front and the tall ones behind them). But Geoff Johns saw it and loved the idea. The artist’s only request was that the cat be named Dexter, after his real life cat.

We’ve already been teased that there will be a Valentine’s Day special for Dex-Starr in which he may be getting a showdown with Krypto (although nothing appeared in the February solicitations ;_; ). Now if DC would just make a stuffed animal Dex-Starr I would be a very happy camper.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pilot Season wants your vote!

So yeah, I posted a while ago about the Legion of Superhero elections and hopefully a few of you went out and voted. And now I’m here to bring you another vote that wants your input.

Each year Top Cow runs a competition called Pilot Season. A crop of books are released and the readers vote for which one they most want to continue. More than one can end up winning in the end, but the first place winner is guaranteed to continue as either an ongoing or a miniseries. I’m still really pissed that I am still waiting on the last issue of the 2009 competition to ship (seriously, what the hell!) but the 2010 season came out on time and helped to quell some of my anger (but only some).

So here are the important things. Voting goes through November 30th, so you’ve only got a few days left to go and vote (sorry, I’m a bit slow lately). Also, I’ve only read 2 of the 5 titles so far, so I can’t give you a recommendation yet. Fortunately, you don’t need me to tell you what to think because you can read all five comics for FREE online at Newsarama. See, you don’t even need to spend any money! You get five first issues for free! I’m a little ticked off about that, because I did pay for them and now I kinda feel like I shouldn’t have bothered, but my loss is your gain.

So go ahead and read the books, pick your favorite and cast your vote! Once I read the other three this weekend I will update this post with my thoughts. I’d love to know what you think of the books, too! Which title gets your vote?

UPDATE: Okay, now that I've read all the books I have to make my choice.  I didn't think that any of the titles were bad, but the two that grabbed me the most were Forever and 7 Days from Hell.  Both had great set ups and I'd like to know more about what happens to the characters.  Just on reading the descriptions of the series my gut was for Forever as I like long form mysteries, but I don't feel like the issue was quite enough of a hook for such a strong premise.  My concern with 7 Days from Hell is that the very basic premise is going to get a bit monotonous after a while.  Granted, its up to the writer to be sure that doesn't happen, but the premise itself dictates that we're going to have a guy killing someone every week.  And he can't fail or the series ends so they are going to have to find other ways to keep the story fresh and exciting.  But even with all those problems, I think 7 Days from Hell is going to get my vote.  I was skeptical when I saw so many people recommending this one, as its one of the ones that didn't really hook me with its premise.  But the end product was really enjoyable and they put a lot out there in this first issue.

So that's my thought.  What about you?

UPDATE PART 2:  Well, I'm upset.  Despite being told that voting would go until November 30th, I have just gone to the poll site on the 29th (in America its still the 28th) only to be told that the poll is closed.  What the heck!  I know I was cutting it kind of close, but I still expected to be able to vote.  I'm pretty disappointed and more than a little angry.

UPDATE PART 3: Okay, so we can still vote!  Got to the Top Cow website and scroll down to the bottom of the page to cast your vote!  You have until December 8th.

Tower Prep Impressions

I recently partook of a story that involved a group of kids at some prestigious school. The kids find out that they can’t leave the school and the faculty is mysterious and claims to only want the students to fulfill their full potential or something and all the kids seem to be gifted or special in some way and there is clearly more to the school than meets the eye.

Amazingly all of the above can apply to either the amazing comic book series Morning Glories or to Cartoon Network’s new live action show Tower Prep. I watched the first episode of the show and figured I’d write up my impressions since its at least tangentially comic book related.

First of all I admit that I am very biased. I HATE the idea of a show like this being on Cartoon Network at all. Count me among those who remembers a time when Cartoon Network said they would only play cartoons “forever and ever and ever until the end of time,” and wishes the network would go back to that standard. Their live action attempts thus far have been pretty terrible, and I don’t see why they continue to sink time and money into these projects.

So when I saw that this show was going to be on Cartoon Network I was already against it. But the premise sounded interesting enough to win me over into checking it out (and the fact that Paul Dini created it helped a lot). And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s not a bad show. The first episode did its job introducing the main characters, the challenges they are facing, and the environment. It also introduced some mysteries to keep viewers coming back for more. The plot of the episode was pretty standard pilot fare and I can’t remember ever really being surprised by it.

The acting was passable, although I felt many of the characters had very flat personalities (a problem that could easily be resolved as the series continues I suppose), especially Ian’s bullying roommates. The show did a lot of telling us about what the main characters were like rather than showing us, and that’s a big no no from storytelling 101. Of our four main students I liked Suki the best. She also has the most interesting gift of those we have been introduced to and I already have some thoughts on how they will make use of it down the line.

I felt like this show was trying to give me a sort of Lost vibe, with a group of people stranded and up against something far bigger than themselves with only their wits to help them. But the problem is that this is a kid’s show. I don’t really feel the same stakes as I did with Lost. None of the main characters are going to get killed off and I can’t see the big reveal of what’s really going on being all too shocking. There certainly won’t be anything like the shocking ending of the first issue of Morning Glories (which had a similar pilot structure introducing kids, a school, and mystery). There wasn’t anything that made me feel like the stakes were high. Sure the kids want to leave the school, but why? Other than the fact that the “evil” adults are telling them that they can’t. I didn’t see any indication as to why they didn’t feel safe or what might happen to them if they don’t get away. They’ll have to go to classes I guess…the horror! I get that they are scared and being kept in the dark about details, but I didn’t feel real concern for the characters or even motivation to root for them because I didn’t have anything concrete to root for them against.

At the end of the program I was left feeling like, “Huh…well that was a show alright.” I don’t have a burning desire to see more or to get answers to the lingering questions. I’m not sorry I watched it and I suppose I could see myself watching some more of it if I’m really bored or happen to stumble upon it, but I’m not chomping at the bit for more Tower Prep.

If you like the premise of this show, do yourself a favor and pick up Morning Glories. Most of the things that are interesting about Tower Prep are in Morning Glories and for me are done much better. But if it sounds interesting, check it out. At worst you waste a little of your time, but you might find that you enjoy it.

UPDATE: Yeah I wrote this article after watching the first episode and now I think they are on like 6 or something. I’m not exactly a timely poster… But if you are interested a very nice interview with Paul Dini and a bunch of the writers can be found here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I now have opinions on Superman and Wonder Woman!

I finally got around to reading the previews of the J. Michael Straczynski arcs that appeared in the 700 and 600 issues and were released on the iPod for free. And now that I have actually read part of the story I feel that I can have an opinion!

We’ll start with Wonder Woman. I still don’t like the very idea of this story happening, but the prologue didn’t make me any more upset about it. I still think her branding bracelets are stupid, but the Oracle was a pretty cool character (not to be confused with the Barbara Gordon Oracle). I still don’t understand how this story fits in with the rest of the DCU and I’m to the point of assuming that it doesn’t. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t make me want to run to the comic book shop and pick up the rest of the arc (and this has nothing to do with how far away the nearest comic shop is). It didn’t even really make me want to read the trade when it comes out. It was just kind of a forgettable story. I’ll admit that I’ve never been a huge Wonder Woman fan to begin with, but this story didn’t change that for me. All in all it was rather meh. And that’s actually an improvement for my opinion about the book.

Then there was Superman. Oh, god, that was painful. The whole set up of this story doesn’t make any sense and it proceeds to make less sense the more I think about it.

So the whole story is set in motion when a woman slaps Superman, insults him, and then bitches because he wasn’t around to CURE HER HUSBAND’S BRAIN CANCER. I really wish I was making that up or exaggerating somehow. She cries about how she tried so hard to contact him but he was off in space doing “something important.” And now she’ll never see her husband again because he wasn’t there.

First of all, I think it’s a terrible idea to even suggest that your superheroes can cure real life medical issues. If superheroes can make it all go away it cheapens the problem somewhat. This is why a lot of superheroes didn’t go to World War II, because they didn’t want to cheapen the sacrifice of the soldiers who were fighting and dying over there. This is also why Reed Richards must spend all of his time thwarting Dr. Doom and not, say, curing AIDS.

Secondly, the way she wanted Superman to cure this guy seems kinda strange to me. She wanted him to use his x-ray vision to find the tumor and then use his heat vision to basically laser scalpel it out. She claimed that the doctors said that it was “inoperable” but that it wouldn’t have been for him. You know, because Superman is so well known for his vast medical knowledge… Wait, what? That’s pretty precise use of the heat vision. And speaking of, his vision is HEAT not magic atomizing rays. Sure he can melt metal together and can cause a world of hurt to super villains, but I’m not sure that it’s a practical tool medically speaking. Even if he could somehow laser out the tumor, he would still have to get to the tumor, and “inoperable brain tumor” usually means that you simply can’t do that. Sure he could see the tumor, but his heat vision can’t destroy a tumor INSIDE the guy’s brain without cutting through the guy’s brain (which is something I think we generally like to avoid). So it would seem to me that this lady had insane expectations of Superman and that he wouldn’t have been able to help her even if he had been around. In which case it doesn’t really make sense for him to feel guilty about it.

But let’s assume I’m wrong about that (for shiggles). Let’s assume she’s a genius and has discovered a great medical use for Superman’s powers that no one has ever thought of before. And she can’t get a hold of Superman. How tragic! It’s not like there are any other heroes on Earth who have the exact same power set as Superman. It’s not like there is a family of Super characters who should be well known to anyone who lives in the DCU. Like a Supergirl. To be fair, she was on and off of New Krypton for a while, so maybe she wasn’t in Metropolis when the lady was looking for Superman (although I would have to assume that she only looked for like one day and then sat and cried about it), and Supergirl has gotten a bit of bad publicity lately, so maybe she didn’t want her. (WAIT A SECOND! One of the things Supergirl got slammed for in the media was assuring a boy that she would save him when he was dying of cancer. Clearly she couldn’t so this just adds further support to the idea that this could NOT be done.) There’s Superboy. To be fair with him, his heat vision is the last power he got to work and I’m not sure he has complete control over it yet, so maybe he’s not the best choice. Plus he’s hiding out in Smallville and might not have been easy to contact. But then there is Mon-El. And I don’t have to be fair here, because there is no reason why she couldn’t have contacted him. He was in Metropolis. He has all the powers of Superman. He probably wouldn’t have even been that difficult to get a hold of. And let’s not forget about Powergirl. She’s alternate universe Supergirl so she’s got all the powers. She also managed to be completely untouched by the New Krypton drama, so she would have been a great choice to approach about this problem.

And while we’re looking at other DCU heroes let’s not forget that the Justice League has at least two doctors that this lady could have gone to as well. Either Doc Midnight or Dr. Light probably would have been better choices than Superman since, you know, they have all that medical training and experience. And if Superman’s powers were the ONLY solution I’m sure they would have an easier time getting a hold of him (or any of those other characters I mentioned with the same powers) than anyone else on the planet.

I’m left with only one conclusion to make here. This woman didn’t really try all that hard to save her husband’s life. I didn’t even have to think very hard to come up with the list above, and giving it some more thought I could probably come up with a few more heroes who would have been just as good if not better than Superman in this situation (perhaps the Atom or Soranik Natu). So clearly she didn’t give it any amount of thought whatsoever. And now she is blaming Superman for something he probably couldn’t even have helped her with. Superman shouldn’t be sulking about this. He should be pissed that people are now expecting him to be Dr. Superman on top of all the other crap he’s going through (like dealing with the genocide of his people by the government).

I get that the writer wanted something to make Superman take a step back and say, “Golly, have I lost touch with the people and the needs of my adoptive home?” But this was one of the worst ways he could have gone about it. I would have been more on board with this idea if the lady had hated him because a Kryptonian had killed her husband or if he had been hit by falling debris from New Krypton. Either of those things can at least loosely be blamed on Superman. It’s still a stretch, but a more believable one for a grieving person to make. But maybe he wanted to go for the whole “You weren’t here” angle more than the “It’s your fault” angle. Okay. Well, how about if her husband was killed in Metropolis by a super villain while Supes was away. Or even in something more “normal” like a car wreck or a fire. Since Metropolis is Superman’s city it is not too farfetched to see how a person could wonder if their loved one might have been saved if Superman had been planet side doing the things he normally does. Sure he can’t be everywhere, but those are places you would expect Superman to be on a normal day in the DCU. THAT would be something I think Superman could realistically be expected to feel guilty for. I admit that it still wouldn’t make a lot of sense in the story since it wouldn’t really explain why he is walking AWAY from Metropolis, and if he’s being blamed for something that didn’t happen in Metropolis the question arises about all of the other heroes in the DCU and why we’re not blaming them.

The last couple panels of the preview have a couple of kids who see Superman land in a park and start walking. They marvel at how he is walking at not flying (because I guess that’s never, ever happened before) and wonder where he is going and why. One boy comments, “Whatever it is, it must be important.” Bullshit! If it was important or dire in any way I assume he would be using super speed to get there. There is no reason to think that Superman moving at normal person speed is due to anything important at all. In fact, if I saw Superman strolling down the street I would have to assume that it was the slowest day ever and that there was absolutely nothing to command his attention at that moment.

There’s another thing that really bothers me. While Supes is strolling across the country his Super Hearing is going to be picking up all kinds of things, most notably people in danger or dying. But since Supes is set on staying grounded to “reconnect” he’s going to ignore all of those people in peril. Thanks Superman, but given the choice between you connecting with me and saving my life, I’ll take the later thank you. That’s kind of your job description. If you really want to “connect” try checking in on the people you save after the fact. Make sure they are okay and that their families are okay. Talk to them for a few minutes before you have to run off to the next disaster.

I’ve heard that Superman is going to be facing the “real problems” that Americans are dealing with right now. Why would I want to read a comic book that reminds me that the economy sucks and all of the other problems we are all dealing with? And worse, why would I want to read about Superman not being able to make it all better. I assume Superman isn’t going to sweep in and solve unemployment or some other crisis. So that means, as a reader I am left thinking, “Wow, even a superhero can’t fix our problems. We’re all doomed!” Maybe if he was working to help fix the problems (or even just raise awareness of them) as Clark Kent and making very small dents in the problem as a man and not as Superman I would feel better about things. I could say, “Wow, look at that. Superman can’t do it, but Clark Kent can. We can all be like Clark Kent and work hard to solve our own problems. I feel all hopeful now.” However this wanders dangerously close to PSA territory so there is that to consider as well. I understand that the desire was probably to tell a story that was “relevant” to readers. But the problem is that you are assuming that all of your readers have the same problems (and that you know what they are,) and you are likely seriously dating your story in the process. Not to mention alienating everyone who isn’t in America.

Also, why aren’t the super villains tearing Metropolis up right now? I know that a few are just hell bent on destroying Superman, so they would have no need to attack Metropolis when Supes is very publically not there. But there are a lot of criminals who have targeted Metropolis for other reasons in the past, and I just don’t get why the city would be perfectly safe without Superman for an extended period of time. This time he doesn’t even have Mon-El there as backup and even Supergirl is currently off world. If I lived in Metropolis I would be really pissed at Superman right about now.

This preview cemented my dislike for this premise and this story. I have no desire to pick it up in any form. I hope that it gets better than this and can provide a somewhat satisfying story for those who do chose to follow it, but I hope that it ends as soon as possible and that things can move on.

UPDATE: I just found out that JMS is off both titles and other writers will be finishing the stories with his outlines. I am now even happier that I didn’t get sucked in by the hype. I read an interview with JMS about the whole thing and it really pisses me off. He talks about how he thinks long form story telling is his weak point and how he had been considering leaving monthly comics for a while now. So why on earth did he sign up for two year long runs at all? You’d think if he was worried about the format he would have turned down the assignments or at least only accepted one of them so that he could really devote his time to overcoming his weaknesses and producing something great. I understand that things come up and plans change, but this whole thing rubs me the wrong way.

Apparently the reason he’s off the books is because DC wants to fast track the next Superman: Earth One graphic novel. So in my mind DC shares some of the blame in this situation for ignoring the fans who have committed to a story and focusing on the bottom line. I understand this is business, but I think we all like to think that the companies care just a little about the fans and its sort of a slap in the face when you are reminded that they don’t.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Comic Buzz – Chip ’n Dale Rescue Rangers

Creative Team: Ian Brill (W), Leonel Castellani (A)
Boom!, ongoing, starts in December

Sometimes some crimes go slipping through the cracks but Boom! Studios is bringing back the gumshoes who can pick up the slack. Boom! struck gold with Darkwing Duck and now they are taking a chance on another of the Disney afternoon lineup with Chip ’n Dale Rescue Rangers. I could not be more excited about this.

When I was little I had a Chip 'n Dale themed birthday party. I’m sure I saw every episode multiple times. I was in love with this show. It’s probably one of the reasons I am so in love with detective fiction. I also loved this show because the girl on the team was smart and unique and not just some sort of token female. It was easily my favorite show on TV.

The series is being written by the same writer as the Darkwing Duck comic. So far I have been impressed with the voice and the story in that comic, so I look forward to seeing what he can do here. We have three sample covers from the artist, and I must say that the style seems just about perfect.

The story is being crafted so that readers new to the characters can fall in love with them and those of us who are already familiar with them can fall in love all over again. If you enjoyed the Disney afternoon lineup you should give this one a look, because the success of Rescue Rangers could pave the way for such titles as TailSpin, Gummi Bears, or Goof Troop in the future.

So stayed tuned and check in in December when we are reminded that there is no case too big and no case too small for the Rescue Rangers!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comics on my iPod

I downloaded the comixology app for my iPod touch right after DC added their app. I’m honestly not all that interested in buying comics to read on my tiny screen. But I don’t have to since many companies offer free comics! Also I was interested in seeing how reading comics on my iPod worked and if it was an enjoyable experience.

Of course, to get the stupid app to work I had to have a wireless internet connection. And those do not exist in Japan. For as crazy future robotic as Japan is known for being, it’s silly that I can’t find an internet hotspot to save my life. I ended up waiting until I went home during summer vacation and then I downloaded a bunch of free comics to be enjoyed at a later date. And that date ended up being MUCH later than I thought it would be.

The past few weekends we had some long car trips and I was in a comic reading mood. I didn’t want to haul a stack of comics in the car. Also the trips were mostly at night where I wouldn’t have much light to read by. I grabbed my iPod and threw it in the car with my DS. After my fiancé and I decided to listen to music on his iPod I was fiddling with mine and remembered that I had comics there. And now that I’ve given an entirely too long back story about how I ended up reading comics on my iPod I’ll get to the meat of the matter.

I really like the portability of having comics on my iPod. I was able to read a bunch of comics on the go without having to drag anything else along. I like that I can easily preview some series that I would not otherwise bother to look at because I can download them easily onto my iPod and read them when I feel like it. I like that I can whip my iPod out at any point in a conversation and say, “You haven’t read The Walking Dead? Well I have the first issue right here.”

See, I have it right here.

 For anyone who isn’t familiar with the device, when you read comics on the iPod the comics come programmed in a set way to help you view them on your small screen. You don’t look at the whole page at once (although I wish that there was an option to be able to do so, since things like panel lay out are interesting to me). You read one panel at a time and swipe the screen to advance to the next panel. You can adjust your iPod at any time to be viewed horizontally or vertically so the panels fit the screen better. When you have large splash pages the app usually starts you in on a close up of the word boxes and then after the swipe it will zoom out so that you can take in the full picture.

All in all it isn’t a bad system. I actually think that it holds the suspense a little better than reading a printed comic. For example, I was reading the first issue of Chew (which I was amazingly impressed by) and there was a panel that was super shocking and came out of nowhere. I think if I had been reading the book itself my eye might have been draw to it too soon and the effect would not have been as shocking. But since I can’t easily look ahead my eyes don’t wander. However, in the same comics was a huge two page spread that I could not zoom in on at all. I was really frustrated because there was a lot of detail to that page that I was missing. I feel that the impact of that page was lost to me. (I’ve heard people mention before about how the two page spread may very well be an early casualty of the rise of digital comics since you just can’t appreciate them the same way, even on an iPad.)

This format works great for some comics, like the strip formatted Night Owls and ones with very traditional panel structures. Artists who took more liberty with layout felt a bit more forced on my little screen. There were a few comics that, while reading, I was clearly aware that I was reading something that was not intended to be read in this format. They still found a way to make it readable, but sometimes it was a clunky experience.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the app and hope to be able to download more comics in the future. I’m still not really on board with paying for pixels, but I’m happy to sample free comics and glad to share some of my favorites with others. I do recommend trying it out if you have an iPod touch or an iPhone and haven’t already. The app is free after all, and there are enough free comics to make it worth the download.

Also, I'll probably be reviewing some of the things I'm reading from the free downloads, so keep an eye out for that.  If you download it and have any thoughts on the app or the comics you read please share in the comments!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Friends, Romans, Vampyres, lend me your ears

I was browsing the January solicitations and I just really needed to share this:

Blood runs in the streets of Rome as mortal and vampyre clash. Resurrected by the blood of the Dracul, Caesar’s ultimate ambition is finally at hand. Valens is pitted against his former master as he, Brutus and Caesar meet in a 3-way battle for the future of Rome in this epic conclusion to the story of the birth of Draculus Caesar.
That’s the solicit for the sixth and final issue of a miniseries called Ides of Blood. I certainly got a kick out of it and I hope all of you did too.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pull List Maintenance – Usagi Yojimbo

In November I will be adding Usagi Yojimbo to my pull list…but only for two issues. When I was browsing the November solicits this story really caugh my eye. Usagi Yojimbo is the story of a rabbit samurai in feudal Japan who wanders about helping those in need. This two part story is about a giant taiko drum a group of villagers built to end a drought and another group threatening to destroy it.  Our hero must come to the rescue. I’m a big fan of Japan obviously, and I really like taiko drums. I like watching taiko performances, and I like playing Taiko no Tatsujin.

So I went ahead and ordered both issues of the story arc. But I don’t plan to continue on with the series in monthly issues. Usagi Yojimbo is one of those titles I’ve been interested in checking out (it really looks like a title I should love), but really didn’t want to jump into the middle of since it has so much history (coming up on 200 issues). This story line was an exception because it really grabbed my interest, but I think this is a series that I will have to pick up in trade format. I recently discovered that the first bunch of issues are being recollected in a special gigantic volume (1200 pages!). This seems like a good (though expensive) chance to jump on board and give it a shot.

I’m curious if anyone who reads this blog has read Usagi Yojimbo and what they think about it. If so please let me know your thoughts. I’ll be sure to give my impressions of the issues I am picking up after I get them.