Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Batman Family Album Part 3

Just call me Wong Foo. Sorry about the glare from the Barry Allen, but you can see Julie's purrty face, that's the main thing.

Which concludes my 3 part series...I realize there is a glaring omission of (baby on board, something something) Burt Ward, but unfortunately I have yet to catch up with the Bird Boy. But someday...someday...I might just write him at his website.

I got Adam and Julie at last year's Central Canada Comic Con, Yvonne Craig was a gift from a dear associate that she got at another unfortunately I never actually met the star of Kissin' Cousins, Mars Needs Women and Ski Party. But it's nice I can pretend I did. Adam and Julie I did meet, though because I'm a tall guy I have a tendency to scare celebrities, especially with that crazy obsessive gleam in my eye.

Arbitrary Captions! He woke up that morning...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Justice League of America #47: Jaded Captions and Sexy Gorilla Butt

writer: James Robinson
artists: Mark Bagley and Rob Hunter

One of the signs of the bogus maturity of comics, as I talked about in the previous post, is all the captions instead of thought bubbles, which presumably we are meant to take more seriously than thought bubbles because they are less "comic book". Yeesh! With that typical first person "jaded" voiceover. Enough already! I like James Robinson but his writing's full of them, the legacy of Dark Knight Returns, which was 24 years ago. Speaking of jaded, this ish gives us a lot of Jennifer, also known as Jade, Alan Scott's daughter, as she is rude to Donna Troy and then regrets it in her jaded caption. Everyone's got captions which are all identified by colours and symbols, because that's so much clearer than thought bubbles, right? Okay, I'll calm down. Enough about the captions, Aaron!!!

It's a pretty decent ish of Alan Scott being possessed by the Starheart along with Obsidian and Doctor Fate. If you're into bondage, there's Jay-Flash, Wildcat, and Sebastian Faust in one full page drawing and they're all tied up at the moment.

Wildcat: Alan, stop him! Come on, Alan! Come on! Fight this! You can, Al! I...We, know you can...
Jay-Flash: We believe in you, buddy. Your will is steel!

That's some fresh dialogue for ya!

Anyone with any vulnerability to the Starheart is going apesh*t. Speaking of which, the splash page treats us to a nice view of Congorilla's hairy butt. There's a wonderful blog called Green Lantern Butts Forever at least partly dedicated to its stated subject, but as far as I know there is no blog dedicated to the butts of DC Gorillas, so feast your baby blues:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reading and Reading Comics: Study From the Canadian Council on Learning

A study released last week by the Canadian Council on Learning showed what many of us have known for a while, that people who read comics are likely to read more, period. As in read books with words and no pictures. At least half the people I've ever know who collected comics were also voracious readers of novels, short stories, or fact-based books. It really has to do with the type of person who gets into any kind of reading. Generally it's a solitary sort of person, an imaginative sort of person, probably a sensitive person. At least in many cases. Despite stereotypes, comic collectors are usually fairly intelligent, though some may be high functioning in certain ways, and not in others.

I went through kind of an odd phase around the time I was university age. I was into comic books, but I was also into what is called literature, that is I liked to read books by Faulkner, Hamsun, Camus, Dostoyevsky, Thomas Wolfe, James Joyce, Hemingway, Kafka, Gide...and felt as if somehow the two things had to be mutually exclusive. I was probably operating under an impression I had unconsciously absorbed from society, that I had to be one thing or the other. I would go a few months of being a lit-buff, then I would shift to being a comic fan, read only comics for months, then sort of "clean up", go into reading rehab, and go back to reading "real books" for a while. This went on for a couple years until one day it dawned on me that if I liked both things, that in some ways they must be reconciled. If one person can like two different things, they must have more in common than is commonly realized. And so I became a guy who could have a backpack with The Stranger and Justice League: A New Beginning riding side by side. As the years went by, I realized I was not the only one who had discovered a fascination with these two sides of reading, as more "serious" authors who were apparently also comic fans appeared on the scene, writers like Jonathan Lethem, Junot Diaz, and Michael Chabon, and incredible superhero literature novels like Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible were published.

Are comic books "literature"? To me they have a ways to go before evolving into something like that, partly because of many main stream comic collectors who are not highly literate, who tend to think in terms of something being cool or sucking. It's been a while since I read a Times Literary Supplement, but I don't recall new novels being measured on a scale from "lame" to "bad-ass". Harold Bloom has probably never used the term "kick-ass". Generally the superhero books that have been considered "literature" among comic books are full of deliberately shocking situations, thin characters who are much less identifiably human than say Jughead Jones, and trite dialogue; that to me become more of an embarrassment than evidence when they are wielded as examples of how the medium has "matured". Then there are the non-superhero comics that appear which also seem to be labelled literature, but which are often moody or sentimental one-sided whine-fests, completely missing the depth, the subtlety, and self-awareness and beauty of genuine literature. Just because the characters don't have superpowers does not make them works of art. Most comics that come out that have a genuine feeling to them are overlooked because of not being cool. They don't have badass characters, or the right kind of macho posturing. Cool is the rule.

In some ways I wouldn't exactly want comics to be literature. I like that it's its own unique form that can create kinds of stories that are almost totally unprecedented in history, legends beyond the old legends. I often think the quality of comics, its value, is in the way that the imagination can be so freely transferred onto the page, and that this is one reason why they have become a permanent home of the superhero genre. The style of comic storytelling in itself is actually incredibly sophisticated, and has been for decades. It's easy to take sequential art for granted, but hey, even Da Vinci never came up with it, even if his designs would eventually help inspire the creation of Batman.

For more on the CCL study, read here.

Comic Ads: Green Machine

I had one of these bad boys from Marx Toys, and it was indeed the hottest ride in town. Other kids had the Big Wheel but I thought and still think this was way wickeder. Those controls were dope.

My Batman Family Album Part 2

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Bought This Shirt Last Week...

For $13 and I like it. I really really like it. How much do I like it? The answer is: lots.
Why do I like it? Well first of all I like that it has a DC symbol in the middle, the design symbol that says "DC Originals". It came with a label that said the same thing which I clipped from it, and taped on one of my comic boxes My plan is to do that anytime I get one of those symbols, "DC Originals", get it? It describes what's in the box!

I like the characters - first of all I like that they have a seventies look to them. The image is "distressed" as they say, and while I feel "distressed" has probably gotten to the point where it's a bit overplayed, and Zod knows I would never buy jeans that come with frays and holes - because the characters look vintage in this case it's pretty neat-o. I also like the line-up. I especially like that Robin is in it. There seems to be an insidious Robin denial movement out there, despite that fact that, if I were Batman, assuming such a concept as Batman would work, I would certainly want to have some kind of apprentice. It makes sense to me he'd want to create a legacy, not just beat up crooks for fifteen or twenty years and retire with the world in basically the same crappy shape. This is quite obviously the O.R.: Original Robin, Dick Grayson, wearing his classic outfit. You can see his legs, he's wearing the green trunks he used to have which to me seem more practical for acrobatics and martial arts than long green tights. Free and easy! Below him is the flame tressed Bat-beauty, the Barbara Gordon version who unfortunately we will likely never see again except in flashbacks because in comic book worlds, dying is like catching a cold, but becoming handicapped is more permanent. Oh, I hate the Joker!

And the rest. Catwoman's there, so this shirt's like a Batman Family minus the Batman plus guest stars. I like all the other characters to varying degrees. Green Arrow I used to love, I've cooled on him a bit, Martian Manhunter is great because he's just one of those go-to guys who always gets the job done. Plastic Man is hit and miss for me, but hey, getting him and the Big Red Cheese on one shirt is pretty cool. Wearing it, I feel like I'm some walking 100-Page Special with all these guest stars and back-up features.

I like the red, though I admit I put it through the wash a few times before I rocked it, because it was a really REALLY bright red, it's now possible to look at it without eye protection. Huzzah!
This is the first comic shirt I've bought in a long time, because at a certain point I figured I had enough. This beauty called my name, and the price was right.

Arbitrary Captions! Beware the Nazi Lumberjacks...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Don't Let Dr. Bergman Down!

It was with horror that I read about the stabbing at the San Diego Comic Con, detailed here. I wish good health and a speedy recovery to the unfortunate victim. It's a terrible thing for the geek community because I generally like to think that we may not be the best dressed, best-looking, most fit group out there, but that we do at least not get violent, despite being fairly argumentative. This really taints us as a group. We may disagree on such important issues as what sucks more, ____ or ____, but really, bloodshed...?

The late Barry Morse, who portrayed Dr. Victor Bergman in Space 1999, wrote passionately about the peacefulness of the fan community in FilmFax, Oct/Dec 2007:

"The conventions are very gentle, peaceful, and loving occasions for people of different kinds, statuses, and backgrounds, not only brought and held together by a common interest, but also by a sense of concern and affection for each other. It shows how different kinds of the human race can come together and wish nothing but good to each other and to the rest of the world."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Green Lantern Movie

Entertainment Weekly has treated us to the first look at Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, so it look like it's official. My first choice would have been James Marsden, who not only would look great, but deserves to be top banana for once after playing second fiddle to Wolverine and Superman. But Reynolds is a fine choice.

People who know I'm into comics naturally, understandably, expect that I get excited when this sort of thing hits, but not really. The first thing someone might think upon reading that is that it's because I've been "disappointed too many times" or some such thing, but this is not true. I've rarely been disappointed by a comic movie because I don't expect much. Again, let me make plain, this is not because I have some jaded cynical outlook that I'm anxious to share with anyone and everyone.

What it really is, is that I think comics are the best expressions of their subject. That is, I don't think that the comic book is some staging area for ideas that come to full development as a movie, I rather think the comic is the proper medium for superheroes, and that movies or television are secondary, and generally cannot represent the limitless storytelling potential of comic books, simply because of budgetary and technological restraints. If you get an imaginative creative team on a comic, the hero can do anything without it being a strain on the budget, where with comic movies, every time a character flies, or goes into space, I can practically feel how the studio had to work days or weeks just for the one scene, and how the amount of times a character flies has to be limited to a certain number just because of the costs involved. And no matter how good the effects, the powers and so forth will always look like effects, whereas when the characters are standing around in civilian clothes, that will look real, putting things on an unequal footing. In a comic book, both scenes would simply be drawn, giving both an equal sense of reality. A comic artist can draw a person eating in a restaurant or flying through space, and neither drawing will look less "real" than the other.

None of this is to suggest I never enjoy comic movies, in fact quite the opposite. Because I go in with no expectations that this will somehow be the ultimate apotheosis of the comic I have enjoyed, I often like a movie more than many of my fellow comic fans, who it seems expect that what they envision in their heads will be rendered perfectly on screen, or who anyway have for years developed a vision of what the movie should be like. Because of the comics ability to engage the imagination like nothing else except possibly the printed word, this feat is practically impossible. So I tend to enjoy comic movies for what they are, especially if they exhibit something of the original spirit of the comic. For instance, this is possibly my favourite scene from one of my favourite comic movies, Supergirl, which I like because of its lack of pretension, and the excellent portrayal by Helen Slater. I liked it because in spirit it reminds me of a lot of the early adventures of Supergirl, particularly her run in Adventure Comics with its femme fatales and near surrealist qualities. While not following the comic story to the letter, the scene did capture the sweetness of the classic character as she enjoys her first arrival on earth and is dazzled by its wonders in a way that is a reminder of the beauty of life. I realize it's not "cool" as a comic fan to say that life is beautiful, but f*ck it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Dude With The Ring Who's the King of Zing

And now for the comedy stylings of Mr. Hal Jordan. All selections are from issue #151, written by Marv Wolfman, perhaps the best dramatist comics have ever had, and whom I had the pleasure of meeting roughly 8 or so months ago. He signed my copy of The Judas Contract trade paperback, which was very nice of him, since I didn't buy anything from his table, though I suppose over the years I have indirectly benefitted him financially.

This 1982 issue looks like a transitional issue. It has a moody cover by Staton and Mitchell, and the title "Resolutions" (trans. ishes often have titles like "Explanations", "Whys and Wherefores", etc.) But for a trans-ish, it's actually quite action packed. This may have been one of the earlier transitional issues, that eighties animal, before such groundbreaking issues as Wolfman's New Teen Titans wedding issue in which no character wore a costume throughout the entire thing, or the issue of Uncanny X-Men that hooked me back in the day, #174, which was mostly dramatic developments and characters discussing their feelings, but in a un-girlie way. Though they did have Wolverine waving a samurai sword around just to hedge their bets.

This ish of GL has him spending 24 hours on earth, before a Guardians-imposed exile into space, during which time he is supposed to tie up loose ends, which he at least manages to do with Barry Allen and Carol Ferris. Unfortunately he doesn't get much time to talk with such supporting stars as Thom Kalmaku, the mechanic formerly known as Pie-Face, Green Arrow, or either of Hal's brothers, because Goldface and his Solid Gold Dancers make the scene. Fortunately, Hal does get a chance to leave the earth with a smile, by squeezing in as many one liners as possible. So without further Apu, here we gooooooo...

Not Hal's most sensitive line, to be sure. Trivia: Name two actors who have played the Elephant Man. Hint: Both are skinny English dudes.
That one particularly sounds like a Spidey line, but a little edgier, Hal's pissed they're wasting his dramatic transitional time.
Goldface does look a bit like a Foreman grill, come to think of it. Mmm, grease...

And you can just make out the blog title at the bottom there, so till next time, remember to always...and never...

Interior art is by Joe Staton and Frank McLaughlin.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

When Comic Stores Suck and Are Lame and Really Crappy and Run By Jerks...

A few months ago I made the mistake of revisiting a comic store which shall remain crappy. I was peeping some stuff on ebay and thought I'd check the local scene to see if I could score the items for cheaper or almost as cheap. I went to every store in town and finally to one I already avoid because of knowing that it sucks, but I went in with a fresh mind thinking I might at least find the items, which it happens were three issues I was missing of DC Challenge!, an underrated series from the eighties.

I looked around and I have to say the back issue selection was good, maybe the best in the city, but at least one reason for that became apparent as I looked at the prices. Everything was way above market value. There was not a single comic from the sixties, for instance, priced under $25, no matter what condition it was in, no matter what the title or number it was. They had clearly been priced with the mentality that because a comic is old, it must be worth a ton, no matter how little demand for that particular title there is. As it happens, some if not all of the titles I collect from that era are among the less popular, so that was a bit of a blow, but I know there's always ebay. Then I saw a sign that said, all comics were half off the price they had been marked. That brought them down to something approaching market value, so I took out a few for my collection. I found the DC Challenge! issues I was looking for, which made me quite happy, because those were actually marked very cheap. It was apparent, in fact they had been sitting in the store since roughly the time they came out in the mid eighties.

This whole process was made more uncomfortable by the fact there was a creepy, trollish worker staring at me the entire time I was looking around. Every time I looked up his beady eyes were on me. I'm in my thirties and I don't really fit the profile of a shoplifter. I can understand security concerns in a place like that, but worse was when he noticed I had a checklist, and said something like "let's take a look", as if I wanted his help. I hate being hustled.
Then I looked at action figures. I saw quite a few that I would like, but they were all being sold in sets of four. You could not buy them individually, and in several cases I already had one in the set, or else there was one that did not appeal to me, so there was no way I was going to buy the entire set. So it definitely lost my action figure business.

I got up to the till to buy the comics I'd picked out, and there is the owner, a figure familiar to me since childhood. He looks at my selection, and then he informs me that they have a sign by the till which says that because of shifting market values, they reserve the right to change the price on any comic at the till. Because of course, everybody upon first entering the store will go up to the till and look for tiny handwritten notes taped to the cash register. Sleazy!
Values are indeed shifting, and I don't fault a store that prices at the till. The very excellent store I visited while in New York did not have any marked prices, but instead gave you the price based on Overstreet's. But he let you know when you came in how things were priced. In the case of the other, unnamed, very crappy store in my city, they have a giant sign saying prices are half off what they are marked, located at the back issue bins, and then the other little doomsday note right by the till in tiny penmanship.

As if I had not been treated as enough of an ignoramus by this clown who assumes everyone who walks in the store knows nothing, he then told me the prices on the DC Challenge! were $10 each! I had found the rest of the series for about $1-3 each, and they were listed that cheap in my price guide, and on ebay. So it was nothing doing. I took a few of the other comics where they had not been ridiculously marked up, but most I didn't take. So rather than getting rid of merchandise sitting in the store for 25 years at a few dollars each, he found it more sensible to raise them to a ludicrous price. There obviously must be treasure maps written on the boards that he'd just remembered were there. Years ago he'd replaced the pages with high priced bearer bonds, assuming no one would want to buy an "uncool" series like DC Challenge!. These are the only logical explanations for the policies of this sensible "businessman".

Monday, July 19, 2010

Brave and the Bold #35: Redemption for J. Michael; and a couple random thoughts on the Legion Of Substitute Heroes and the I-5

I thought I should say that the last few issues and the new one in particular #35, teaming up the Inferior 5 with the Legion of Substitute Heroes, hs redeemed the J. Michael Straczynski run to me. As noted elsewhere, some of the jokes in this one are a little forced, but the guy's working in a vaccuum, using some of the least "cool" characters in comicdom, so uncool they, I mean the I-5, have seldom even been resurrected since their title's demise in 1972, save an appearance in Ambush Bug. Don't get me wrong, I think they're very cool, but I'm a bit like your mom - if I think something's cool, it probably isn't being thought of that way anywhere else.

This issue had the random fun craziness of classic DC. The contrast between Night Girl and Dumb Bunny is especially great. Night Girl always seems too cool for these guys, like that one cute girl who hangs out with the nerds because her hairdo is not what the popular girls are wearing. The boy Subs are almost certainly all angry she goes out with Cosmic Boy, one of the jocks.

My favourite things about this cover is Merryman's "badass" face. It's such a great mockery of the ubiquitous "badass pose" covers which fortunately are passing into history, but wow that was a long 11 or so years. This is a great time for the I-5 to return, they are much needed to mock the adolescent-level comics that take themselves seriously and consider themselves "art" and great writing and so forth.