Thursday, December 28, 2006


Merry New Year!! ©Billy Ray Valentine

On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: A new jownt for the prep time posseeeee....

As this monff has been ridiculoid and I have been devoid of much extra wompum, my comic collecting has suffered. All that changed, however, last Saturday as I strolled on in to my LCS and asked for the "long box of love" that was my saver bin. The fine fellow behind the counter promptly heaped two piles in front of me: one pile was comprised of my regular weekly pulls, and the other was comprised of even more of my regular weekly pulls. I really had no idea of how long it had been since I was last in the shop and emptying out said saver bin until I noticed the 4 copies of the superbly published DC comic "52". Perhaps you've heard of it? If so, you'd know that it is, indeed, a weekly comic. And as any good little ptp'er is aware: 4 sequentially numerated weekly comics doth a month make. Yes friends, it had been a full month since I was last in there purchasing my babies. I was taken aback...surely I hadn't let a month go by without reading anything new to tide me over.

No, actually I hadn't.

I had bought a couple books here and there each week, just a quick little fix here and there to tide me over. I bought the Russian Vor crime-drama trade "Red Warrior: Assassin For The Thieves World" a few weeks back because it looked decent. I also picked up a Daredevil trade, the first one of the recent run that featured Echo, to help me with my Matt Murdock addiction. There was also that splendid Metamorpho 4-issue limited series that my good brother Phenompyrus hooked me up with, all Kovert Kristofer Kringle style. Good look. So there was definitely some comic reading going on in this past hectic month but the heftiness of my purchase last Saturday clearly illustrated to me that I am waaayyy behind and in serious need of catch-up.

Here's what I got:

52 30
52 31
52 32
52 33








The Goon trades went to my man lonesome as part of the aforementioned Secret Santa but the rest are sitting right next to me, along with a set of current-sized boards and bags, just begging to be read. And then read again. As a personal challenge to myself I'm going to try and review every single goddamned one of those son-of-a-bitching cock sucker motherfuckers as a Holiday gift to you guys, me prep-time bredren. I haven't followed any COTW post closely for fear of ***SPOILERS***, so I'm big in the dark on any major developments in the MARVEL U. But seeing as how I'll probably be 46 by the time Civil War #6 comes out, what do I really have to lose?!? OOOhhh...burn!!!

As a discussion piece, what do you guys think of what Joey Q. had to say here: ?

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Javits Center Screw Job Redux: The New York Comic Con

It's that time of year again. Grown men are getting into fist fights over the most coveted gifts of the season, credit card companies are laughing all the way to the bank, I've developed a borderline unhealthy fondness for the Scotch in the liquor cabinet....and the organizers of the NYCC are filling my inbox with advertising wrapped up in shiny little bundles of hype.

The great question of Life, the Universe and Everything, is this:

After last year's debacle should I bother going? Or will I be left standing outside again, because incompetent event management still hasn't mastered basic math and will be leaving the local fire inspector to pull an Earl Hebner?

I'd like to say I'm hopeful, but considering that I lost a good 6 hours of my life (2.5 of which was spent staring at the costumed patron ahead of me in line's spandex clad back fat, try to gouge that visual out of your cerebral cortex) , the cost of those 2 useless preregistrations and $200 in travel expenses, that solitary free ticket and a small box of promo materials I was sent just seems like the fanboy/girl equivalent of Vince Mcmahon's infamous "Bret screwed Bret" speech.

I'm leaving the decision to you, fellow PTP-ers and random net surfers:

Should I stay or should I go?

Trying to weigh the options without some outside perspective has made me need some more of that Scotch.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

comics in college?

Hey, Kids.

In August, as I looked through my school's schedule of courses, I stumbled upon a word that I never expected to find in a class description:


Yes, in the fall semester of 2006, the University of Missouri offered a class called "Art History 1105: How to Read Comics."

Now I'm a senior, I only need a couple more classes to graduate, and at the time I hadn't taken one class that wasn't required. I needed to fill up 12 hours anyway, so I signed up. After the first day of class (despite finding that the syllabus was written in comic sans) I decided the class would be worth taking just to see how studying comics would even work. I've been reading and drawing comics for as long as I can remember, so I figured a new perspective on graphic storytelling would probably be a good thing for me.

Overall, the whole experience was kind of... strange.
For once, I only had to buy a couple of the required texts because I already owned or had read most of them.
I've been in a lot of classrooms, but before this semester, I had never been one of the most well-read people in any of 'em.

The main textbooks were Scott McCloud's"Understanding Comics"
and Will Eisner's "Comics and Sequential Art."
If you haven't read either of these, I highly recommend taking a look through them. Both McCloud and Eisner have a very calculated way of looking at "sequential art" that manages to break down comics without tearing them apart.
After reading those, we went through other graphic novels such as Maus, Steven Seagle's "It's a Bird," "Ghost World," and whole heap of others. The strangest thing I found about the class was how much the professor liked Frank Miller. We spent about half the semester discussing Sin City.

The class demographics were pretty weird, too.
Most of the students fit into one of three categories:

1. Art school kids
mostly female. majority came to class with half-finished paintings in tow. liked to talk about color and composition.

2. Comic book geeks
95% male. majority had long hair and came to class with Japanese phrasebooks. liked to talk about Batman.

3. Slackers looking for an easy class
Shit, most of them didn't even show up half the time, and when they did they slept.

I like to think I'm a comfortable mix between 2 and 3.

But anyway, yesterday I took my comic class final. We were given two comics to analyze, an American Splendor comic called "Pre-dawn Ride," and a Kurtzman story called "Corpse on the Imjin."

To give you an idea about how we approached writing on comics, here is my final paper. While reading, keep in mind that I forgot we even had a paper, and i wrote this in its entirety 20 minutes before the test started.

Realism in the Fantastic Four

"After the classic era of the Golden Age comic came to a close, a new style of comic storytelling emerged. This new era built upon the groundwork laid by the Golden Age and developed more intricate artwork, themes and characterization. Lead by writers and illustrators such as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, this new style of comics took the subject matter and characterization of comics to places that the medium had never previously tread. Known as the Silver Age, this new style of comic brought an element of realism to the fantasy world of superheroes. While there are several differences between Golden and Silver Age artwork, I feel that the most profound divergence between the two eras is the Silver Age’s use of realism.

While the Golden Age of comics depicted a world purely of fantasy, the Silver Age attempted to bring all the elements of Golden Age superheroes into a realistic setting. Issue No. 51 of The Fantastic Four exemplifies Lee and Kirby’s use of realism, both through it’s physical setting and its characterization. In most Golden Age comics, the settings were fictitious cities such as Metropolis or Gotham City. In the Silver Age, however, most stories took place in actual real-world settings. In the case of The Fantastic Four and most other Marvel comics, the story takes place in New York City. By using an actual city as a setting, the landscape and surroundings of the characters are already defined. These Silver age stories utilize a world with which many readers are already familiar and creates the potential for more dynamic landscapes. Golden Age panel backgrounds tended to be flat, primary colored scenes of generic city backdrops, but The Silver Age’s pre-defined setting gave artists the opportunity to elaborately recreate preexisting scenes in their panels.

I feel that the main method through which Lee and Kirby incorporate realism into the story is through the characterization. Unlike superheroes of the Golden Age, The Fantastic Four were once ordinary people. Instead of being super powered beings from another planet, or wronged citizens vowing to fight crime, Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben were unwillingly exposed to gamma radiation and given amazing powers. While this event is pure fantasy, the fact that it happened to ordinary people creates an interesting dynamic for both the reader and the story itself. The amazing transformation that The Fantastic Four underwent could have potentially happened to anyone. This captures the reader’s imagination and allows him or her to say “what if…” and easily imagine him or herself in the place of any of Lee’s four characters, playing into the role of comics as pure fantasy.

Contrarily, writer Stan Lee also makes the Fantastic Four characters appear to fit into the realistic setting of New York, by having them deal with realistic problems. Even though the story of The Fantastic Four could never actually happen, Stan Lee was able to make his characters relatable by giving them real life problems. Because they were ordinary people before gaining their powers, the characters of The Fantastic Four had to do more than just fight crime, as many Golden Age superheroes did. These characters instead had adjust to their new abilities while carrying on life in normal society. This is especially hard for Ben Grimm, who is transformed into the gigantic orange creature known as The Thing. Issue No. 51 entitled This Man, This Monster, deals purely with Grimm’s difficulty to cope with his new appearance, changing the character into somewhat of a tragic hero. For the first time in comics history, the Silver Age created a sense of sympathy in the reader for superheroes.

The realism in this story almost plays a dominant role over super powers. Reed and Sue never use their powers once, and most of the action in the story is merely dialogue. While there are fantasy elements involved in the story, the majority of the story takes place in normal New York society, and forces its characters to try and adapt. The Thing is shown lumbering around in the rain feeling sorry for himself while Johnny, the Human Torch is trying to fit in on a college campus. While Johnny does encounter conflict during the story, it is not with a supervillain, but instead with a jealous jock who feels The Human Torch might take his status as Big Man on Campus. There is no physical fighting involved in the story and instead focuses upon the emotions of the characters. The main villain in the story does not even attempt to fight any of the protagonists. Instead, he thinks to himself about the errors of his ways and sacrifices himself to save Mr. Fantastic.

This attempt to include realism in this issue of The Fantastic Four exemplifies the changes that were seen in the Silver Age of comics. Though the story was fantasy, the realism included within its pages makes the story more relatable. By building upon the foundation laid by the Golden Age, comic creators such as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were able to totally transform the comic medium into an entirely new storytelling medium."

I could go into a lot more detail about the class, but I'm putting off studying for a final that actually matters. Comment away, and I'll let y'all know anything else you want to find out.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006


I haven't bought any books in 2+ weeks.

I haven't written nary a thing about comics, nor have I written any original comic story ideas in that same time span of at least 14 days. I occupied 20 or so of the previous 20,160 minutes by a rough and loose doodling of random characters, none of which I liked, or kept for any further reference, during a "state of the business" conference call. Those 1,200 seconds, out of a possible 1,209,600, comprise the sum total of my comics-related drawing during the past fortnight. I haven't even picked up a book to look at. That's what strikes me as the most odd. I haven't been tempted to grab one and go over an old favorite storyline. There has been no want to review a great splash or a perfect rendering of Superhero X taking out the nameless faceless goons of Badguy Y 's clone army. There hasn't even been a moment recently in which I've staggered, clench-cheeked and tip-toed, over to my shortboxes, and with furious anxiousness scoured them back to front for the absolutely quintessential example of "A Book To Pinch Loafs By". Easily a 2,700 second gig for a book or three.

Could this be the end of the unrequited comic book addiction I have been living with these past 6 months?
Is it possibly true that the brilliantly white hot burning of my collecting fervor has begun to cool itself off?
Is it really about the comics, or is it about having something to collect and to buy?
Should I no longer consider legally changing my name to Comicbook Jones?

I don't know the answer to these questions my friends, but I do know that I am afraid. Oh very afraid.

**horrified screams and shock-filled gasps erupt from the chorus**

Its not like I don't have any books that I haven't read and that I'm just tired of re-reading all the stuff I've already poured over. That may be true of approximately slightly less that half of a quarter of a third of my collection, but its definitely not indicative of how I view my "read already"s. The books that I happen to read that don't happen to impress me, I get rid of. They're either left in a box for my nephew or they're left by a mailbox or a newspaper vendor that I happen to stop at. In the Summer I had gotten into the habit of leaving books I had no interest in keeping in the lobby area of our neighborhood rec center when I would pick my daughter up from ballet. I was always jazzed whenever, while walking to the room my daughter was in, I saw a couple of kids plunked down on the couches crowded around the one kid with a THING or EXCALIBUR held up in front of his face. For a book to be kept in my collection, it needs to be considered pretty special by me and have serious replay value. I don't view any of them any different now...I just have little-to-no interest in spending the time reading them.

That brings me to the books I have in my collection that I haven't read yet. The majority of these are collections of a series of which I am at a stopping point, or am way ahead of. For example: I have Y: THE LAST MAN 1-24, 26-29, 32-37. I have stopped and have been all Jack Bauer and stuck on 24 for about 2 months now. I would love to know the rest of this compelling story, but not at the expense of missing even one step along the way. It is anathema to the way I think to willingly drop a hole right smack in the middle of storyline. This has been an issue for me in starting books that are about 2+ years into their run. (That's 31,536,000 seconds for all yall sleepers out there). I have collected various THE PUNISHER issues from 16-35, and then 38-40. I started reading this book at 38 and really, really liked it. So I picked up back issues when I could find them during 50% off sales. So now I have nowhere near a complete set and one or two issues from about 4 different story arcs. I know I started out at 38 and am way behind but for me that means that I will have to get everything complete and in order before I can even think of filling in this book's history. It would be a frustrating and nonplusing endeavor.

I'm weird like that about story arcs and series' runs, I guess. I think there's something in there that if I examine deep enough I will understand a little bit more about whether I'm more of a comic book fan or a collector of things. But as I sit here and think of just why I haven't had that same compelling urge to stop by the shop on the way home or at lunch, plopping down $15 here and $9 there, eagerly getting inside the door and slipping the scotch taped bag off some new mysteriousness...I would have to honestly say I think its one half where I'm at in my various collections. Another half knowing I have many other monetary obligations this month. Still another half is convinced that this is just a temporary phase that like all things will too come to pass. And yet there are still a couple more halves that just has actually been enjoying the other things around me that had taken a smaller role in the last 5 months, 3 weeks, 6 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59.9 seconds : work, children, work, food, sleep, work and sex. And work, too.

Oh yeah...this blog took me 1/4,380 of a year to write it, so maybe its coming back?

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Flash Thompson: Nerd Revenge Fantasy

Some guys just can't win. In 1962, Peter Parker was one of those guys. Bullies bullied him and girls ignored him – with the exception of his elderly Aunt, and that really doesn't count. Puny, broke and lonely, young Peter was the kind of guy you could relate to. I assume this was either because the men writing him could relate to him too, or they just knew their audience really, really well.

"The 'T' stands for 'Talk to the HAND, Parker!' Haw Haw!"

Then, in an ironic twist of fate, young Peter is granted superpowers; He goes from zero to hero, starts hanging out with the FF and The Avengers, and marries a super model. Oh, and that bully who used to torment him in high school becomes his #1 fan. And people say superhero comics are just adolescent male power fantasies!

That bully had a name, and a pretty badass one at that: Flash Thompson. He is the subject of this blog.

The thing about Flash Thompson is, back in High School, he was kind of an asshole. Now, nevermind the fact that back in high school everyone was an asshole (this is to prepare you for the real world, where everyone is an asshole). No, Flash was more like THE asshole. Girls, cars, popularity, football, etc. – everything that guys like Peter Parker spend their tormented youths hating and envying. And poor Flash Thompson has been paying for it ever since.

What follows Flash Thompson's Big Man on Campus years is a comeuppance of ridiculously epic proportions. He goes to war and is haunted by mystic assassins. He suffers serious bouts of depression and becomes an alcoholic. In love, he can only manage to pick up Peter's sloppy seconds. He gets in a drunk-driving accident – two of them, in fact – and ends up brain damaged to the point where he forgets what few redeeming qualities he'd managed to muster up over the years. Oh, and as it turns out, his father was an abusive alcoholic, so high school probably wasn't all that great for Flash Thompson after all. At least Peter had a decent home life. As if all this wasn't enough, it turns out all this time his first name is actually Eugene. I mean, seriously.

Daaaaaaaamn, homie! In high school you was the maaaaaaaan, homie!
...What the fuck happened to you?

You know what, I get it. I really do. These are superhero stories, and the golden rule of superhero stories is good guys win, bad guys lose. Somewhere very early on in life Flash Thompson must have fallen into the 'bad guy' category, and has been awarded his just deserts time and time again, despite many desperate grasps for redemption. But there's a line between justice and torment; it's actually quite a broad one, I think. And I can't help but wonder if the Peter Parker types reading and writing Spider-Man comics throughout the years don't derive just a little bit of pleasure out of making a whipping boy out of Flash Thompson. It's kind of sick, when you think about it.

You know, there was a brief period in the early 90s or so where Flash and Peter were actually pretty good friends. I always liked that development. Beyond just being a cool twist on the status quo, I think it showed a real willingness for growth. Not only in the characters of Peter Parker and Flash Thompson, but in superhero comics in general. Finally, we were ready to let go of all of the adolescent anguish we'd been harboring in our hearts and move on. You know, forgiving those that trespassed against us and what not. It didn't last. The nerds were still angry, and somebody had to pay. So once again Flash Thompson was reverted to his adolescent state, dragging us all down with him. He is currently a recovering alcoholic/functioning retard teaching a gym class at his old high school.

Some guys just can't win.

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Monday, November 27, 2006



Written by: CHUCK DIXON
Illustrated by: DEREC DONOVAN

I picked up this book on a whim yesterday, purchased solely because I was in a comic shop killing time while waiting for a prescription to be filled. I'm unfamiliar with the character and the character's history. I am assuming that Connor is Arsenal, right? Going on that assumption I purchased this time-filler so I could brush up a little on Arsenal, seeing as how he's a new JLAer. It's a breezy and enjoyable little book, basically the set up for the limited run which is supposedly a gathering of the greatest archers in the world to have a throw-down commemorating an ancient Chinese legend of a lone archer who blah blah me, the whole reason behind the gathering of all of these archers is most definitely NOT going to be the reason they were all given. There will no doubt be some nefarious and diabolical goings on in Shanghai by issue 3 or so, and look for Connor Hawke to be the one taken most by surprise.

While that brief summation may sound glib, please don't think I am in any way disappointed in the story progression so far. Its quite the contrary, actually. Mr. Dixon once again shows he ha s a mastery of the comic book format in setting the stage succinctly and with clever devices in this issue. The whole re-telling of the Chinese legend smoke screen was a great excuse for the artist, who we'll talk more of later, to let loose with a great splash page of ancient Chinese warriors getting their full-tilt sword swangin boogie on. There are magics both black and white; there are dragons a blazin; and it is a great little story within a story that serves up a good 5 pages of candy for the eyes.

And speaking of those eye sweets, the illustrator Derec Donovan, a name I was previously unfamiliar with, has an obvious talent that is on display on some pages, and still on other pages implies the underdeveloped hand of a novice. While the previously mentioned battle scenes were lush and fully developed, there are instances in which his draftsmanship is faulty and his ceilings and floors vanish into horizon lines that are strikingly mismatched. I assume he is of a younger age because he has not mastered the correct drawing of a business suit, usually a clear indicator of age range. Most notable, however, is that Connor Hawke is shown as being markedly Asian. As I stated when starting off, I am unfamiliar with this character so I may be int he wrong but...he's not Asian is he?

Anyway, the books a fun little kick in the po-po. If you got 3 bones to waste ga'head.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Missteps of the Week

Prep Time Posse

I have been following this book from the very first title just because of how neat it looked. I am a fan of the polarizing John Romita Jr. and his blocky characters, and I think his style is really well suited to the design of this book. It's just this book isn't really doing it for me. Even though this month's effort was better than the last 3, I can't really say its moving anything forward because we're now 5 issues in on a 7 issue release and Makari, the main character of the first 2 releases, has been stuck in stasis for the last issue and a half. Once Sprite was revealed as a the bad guy heavy, he is now suddenly the foil for the real bad guys, the Deviants, who had been played as fools before this. Grotesque fools, but fools nonetheless.

I'm torn on whether or not to stop collecting this title because I'm $20 in now and it'll only cost me $8 to ultimately decide on how I feel about this run. Or...I could wait 6 months and then it'll cost me $0.50 to find out if I liked the last two issues.

This book fell off farther, and harder, than anything I've seen in a while. I cannot express just how much appreciation I have for a mind that comes up with a demonic organized crime story. Some ideas just speak to you, and that is one that just hollerates at my ass in loud clear tones. However enamored I am with the idea cooked up therein, poor execution between the first two books will demand that I thoroughly noodle through any purchase of a third.

I feel bad for how much I pumped up this book now. Not that I think the first two are any less than I originally said, but this recent release failed to incorporate any of what I liked so much in them. Which is odd because I am of the understanding that all the books are pretty much done right now. I don't understand why the first 2 books of a 4 part series to look so entirely different than the 3rd, and why the 3rd doesn't contain the overwhelming positives of those previous 2. To be completely honest, I was just lost with this issue. What happened with the spooky cliffhanger at the end of 2 with Det. Aponte and all the moths? What's with the Aponte's partner jackin scumbags for dope? Some of the best moments in the first 2 issues was the banter with these guys and now we get an issue where they don't even share a panel. Neither the storytelling devices nor the action sequences used in this issue did much to advance the story along. We've seen the avenging angel of justice kill people locked up and freaking out in squad cars. We've seen Det. Aponte struggle with his faith and his cultural identity as he's attacked on both fronts. The talk-radio arguments, while being a clever way of dealing with exposition and revealing that what's going on the neighborhood is being noticed by the residents, didn't offer up any viewpoints that weren't illustrated previously by the cops, crooks, victims, and family members. I highly anticipate this release after being knocked out by the first 2 books, and I was woefully underwhelmed.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Comic of the Week: Annihilation #4

What are you holding behind your back?

I was already to give Grant Morrison's Batman my vote for comic of the week but then I read this bad boy.

This is how you create tension in a comic book.

The first three issues have been hit or miss for me. You definitely get a sense of all the destruction going on and, unlike Seven Soliders, you can see how the mini-series tied into the main series (Seriously, how did Morrison think he could tie 7 miniseries into one 40 page comic book?).

But Giffen gave me the one thing I wanted more than anything this series.


It's no secret that he is my favorite Marvel villain of all-time., especially post-Infinity Gauntlet. When he's written correctly, like he is here, he comes across as a cool character who has done it all and now is just bored. He knows (or at least believes) he's the smartest person in the galaxy and that his only Achilles heel is his love for Death. Everyone is beneath him.

This issue we find out what Thanos' motivation for following Annihilus down this path of destruction while simultaneously Drax makes his way through countless armies to achieve his one goal: Kill Thanos.

Remember when Drax The Destroyer was a complete buffoon?

That moment has passed.

He is a unstoppable killing machine. To watch him make his way through the Annihilus Wave is nothing short of amazing.

This was a well-written and well-drawn affair and now it will be interesting to see how the rest of the mini-series works out.

Besides, tell me that is not one of the best covers of 2006.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Prep Time Posse

Prep Time Posse

I finally figured this batch out!

Alright, I've decided to write at least weekly about all things comic-bookish. I've got a couple of things ready and they kinda run the gamut: reviews (spoiler and non), editorials, one essay so far, and even an original story I'd like to turn into a book. I'm still unfamiliar enough with blogging to not be aware if I'm going to get feedback on any of this, but I assure the entirety of the Prep-Timers: If you check back in every week, there will be something new here for you. I have decided to title my weekly offering "KRAKA-THOOM!!" because no other word, not "SHAZAM" nor the repetition of "SNIKT SNIKT", embodies everything I appreciate so much about comics as the wonderful display of those large letters jostly displayed across a stormy sky. I must have seen that word used in books a couple of dozen times before I realized that I had found a book that actually used it correctly. Eric Powell, the creator of the brilliant THE GOON series, did a small, yet beautifully evocative, story I found in a MARVEL Strange Western Tales book a year or two ago. The opening panel was of a torrential downpour on a wide open prairie, completely dark and damp. The next panel featured the same shot yet there was a blisteringly bright whitish-yellow steak of lightning stretching through this gargantuan sky, no lettering at all. The next panel was the original panel again, the lightning bolt had since disappeared, but there was this huge block lettered KRACKA-THOOOOOM rumbling the sky. And it hit me like a thousand Wildcat gut punches...thunder follows lightning. It was such a small simple thing, as so many epiphanies are, but it was just the greatest example of just what comics can do that other media can't. I took what might be thought of as a limit of the sequential art medium and absolutely used it to an advantage in the pacing and manipulation of the panels. Fantastic.

So anyways...on with the show.

You need to be reading REVERE.

I'll stress the urgency because the book's publisher, ALIAS COMICS, has decided its going to solely do Christian books from here until the second coming and this book might not sit well with the more pious amongst their reading audience. However, those readers might very well enjoy the book immensely as all the main characters, both the good and the morally bankrupt alike, seem to be devoutly religious. At least on outward appearances. Indeed, this is a small example of what I find most redeeming about the book. I've long been a fan of books that are set in various locales and in various eras dealing with any number of circumstances, with the one unifying theme in all of those varied books being the adherence to authenticity the creators displayed. This book drips with that adherence. The verbiage and the wardrobe of its time period and locale, the Northeastern American Colonies just before the Revolutionary War, is alive and well represented in this title.

The book does a fine job of showing us that what we now know hold dear official US History was very much up in danger of turning out drastically different. We're given slices of various different lives to view. Rag-tag rebel guerrilla inhabitants were scattered and discouraged. They were facing an uphill battle against an overwhelming and polished enemy who was at the time, the one and only Superpower the world knew. But just as the people of the country these days possess differing opinions on the state of affairs, so it was then. Not all the characters depicted in the book are of the revolutionary ilk. There are the loyalists, those comfortable in their station and not eager to see their way of life be threatened or obliterated by the ouster of England from the colonies. They are protected by, and subservient to, the British soldiers arriving on the American shore in large numbers by orders of the Monarchy back home. Amidst all of this there is a delightful adherence to that authenticity I spoke of and its refreshing to enjoy a book that doesn't dumb itself down for mass consumption. This is a niche book and it knows it and it celebrates it.
People speak to each other in the vernacular and syntax of the time and I am not embarrassed to say I often found myself reading balloons a few times over to fully set myself into the pace of the story. This was not always due to ignorance on my part, however and it is another fine feature of the richness of this book. There are several instances in the book in which characters speak in a code or utter an accepted an understood phrase, which would be greeted by a specifically prepared response allowing both parties to know that they are in the company of friends and can speak freely their revolutionary mind. I wondered if any of these were actual codes or messages used by the Revolutionary generation as they gathered in hidden cellars and bootlegger basements and plotted treason over 200 years ago.

This book conveys all the pomp and pageantry of the British soldiers as well the stoic bravery and ragged stubbornness of the Revolutionary forefathers with the beautiful artwork of Grant Bond. His hyper-realized style looks as if it jumped right off the screen of a Disney film, but with a freer looser line. It serves the book expertly throughout, but best in the fast-paced chase scenes with characters scared out of their wits and running around willy-nilly. The close and impending doom is felt on the page. the battle scenes are jarring and contain just enough gruesome gore to be effective. The coloring is unabashedly computerized and while this style is not really my favorite, it is used extremely well here as the colors they employ are broad and not commonly used. The eerie mood is set with the purply and brownish tones they employ. The creepy night skies are darkened and rainy, illuminated by occasional lightning streaks and wickedly full moons ready to burst. All of it works wonderfully with the creepy horror vibe of the monsters and the carnage they leave in their wake. What's that? Oh yeah...didn't I mention it? Well then, I guess I should get to it. The main focus of the book is the threat to the colonist posed by the Monsters. Yeah, that's right...MONSTERS.

It seems strange things are afoot in colonial New England and I'm not referring only to soldiers of the British Commonwealth. Creatures of the night are on the hunt and the hero named in the book's title, PAUL REVERE for those of you who were reading X-FORCE during US History, is just the man to fight them. He's also apparently the only one aware o the danger and just how, well, dangerous it all really is. So not only do the Sons of Liberty have to worry about Redcoats, they have to worry about their own coats turning red as Were-wolves and Zombified Human Crows of prehistoric size make meals of their vitals. Now, I know I made a strong point of how much I enjoyed this book because of its adherence to realism in its tone and language, and I really do admire that part of the book the most. But dammit it is awesome to see a man from the pages of history, a figure who was nothing ever more than a name, ride high in the saddle wielding his paper-load revolver and solid steel sabre and take down devils and demons with righteous revolutionary zealousness.

I love what the creators have done here. They have set us so firmly in a long-lost time and place and tweaked it on its ear by giving a timeless threat to it. They've done it in a beautiful and intelligently creative way. I am saddened to see that we only have one issue remaining but then that just means that all of you can enjoy a completely original and extremely well told story for $15 measly bucks. I can't express enough to you how much I have dug these 3 issues, and all I can really say is: KRACKA-THOOOOM!!!

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Spider-Man 3 trailer

It's on!

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Monday, October 30, 2006

City of Heroes

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first four episodes of Heroes

The writing is kinda bad (which anyone who has read a Jeph Loeb comic since Batman "Hush" knows that's not a surprise).

Some of the actors are annoying (Milo Ventimiglia and Ali Larter).

The theme of the season is kinda lame ("Save the Cheerleader. Save The World." Seriously? That must have been some writers' brainstorm).

The characters act questionably (Hiro jumps into the past to an exact time and place Peter is on the subway, but doesn't know the cheerleader's name or address? Mohinder gets called crazy by Nathan and all of the sudden, he's ready to pack his bags and quit?).

So why do I (Well, "we" considering the ratings) love NBC's Heroes so much?

I remember when I downloaded and watched the pilot episode with a friend and we both agreed that it was okay but I could easily see myself being disinterested after a while.

Then I saw the second episode and I was all-but-ready to tune out and watch Monday Night Football and then we realize that Hiro teleported weeks into to the future and the day of the explosion that Issac foretold in his painting from the first episode.

Holy shit.

Then the third episode was equally suspect but then the train froze and there was Hiro with a ponytail, a sword and speaking perfect English to Peter "My hair won't stay out of my eyes" Petrelli.

Holy SHIT!

Clearly, the writers went to the Whedon School of Cliffhangers.

And now here I am hooked on yet another TV show.

The fourth episode didn't live up to the cliffhanger of the previous episode but seeing Nathan take off like a rocket and make a sonic boom in the sky made up for it.

Even though executive producer and creator Tim Kring says he has no background in comics, he has made the ultimate fanboy show.

It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination (People who are comparing this favorably to the first season of Lost need to slow their roll and compare to the first season of The 4400*) but I'll be damned that every time someone uses their power, I don't smile like a little kid.

*Hopefully this won't turn into The 4400 where we're three seasons in and still don't know what the purpose of bringing them back.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Civil War: The Bigger Picture

If you have not read Civil War #4 yet, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. I have been waiting just as patiently as everyone else for this, especially after the way #3 ended. How cool was it to see Iron Man beating the hell out of Captain America? And the scene in the restaurant with the secret identities was cool too. When I first read #4 however, I was unhappy with what I was seeing.

I mean, that's not really Thor? The big death was Goliath? I felt let down by Marvel after waiting for a month.

But when I re-read it, I realized a few things. First off, this was no where near what I had been expecting after the end of last issue and with subsequent issues of FF and Spider-Man that took place after CW#3. Sure, it set up things like Spidey swapping sides and the FF splitting, and even had me thinking that Falcon was the one who bit the dust. But everything gets better with age. I like that it is not Thor. It gives Tony's faction something of a villainous side. Since when do heroes clone other heroes to fight other heroes? The last page also adds to this (btw, I know I saw Songbird, Taskmaster, Bullseye, Lady Deathstrike, Jack O'Lantern, and the new Venom, but who was the other dude in the back?). It would of course make sense if Marvel had the Pro-Reg heroes being controlled by a powerful villain, but that is the easy way out (and something that I may not forget for a while, so Marvel, if you are reading this, you better not dissapoint). This issue really showed us as the audience as well as the characters in the book what was at stake: This really is WAR, and Marvel is making a stand. The new Thor saw it that way, as did Cap, who was a bloody, pissed off mess the whole book. It costed Goliath his life because of his point of view. I think this issue really hit home when Sue Storm and Torch split the FF though. It was something that could have been predicted, just as the unmasking of Spidey was, at least for me. And the single coolest part of this issue? When Falcon picked up Cap and started flying away, he says 'Fall back and regroup! We've got to get out of here or we're all going down!' And what does the faux Thor say? 'You ARE all going down'. I had to crack a smile with that one.

Marvel seems to know what they are doing with this, as the post CW world is shaping up to be something completely different, but also something completely new and exciting. So far, they have revealed Spider-Man's identity (which we know will somehow be revoked, probably because they are setting him up as the 'traitor' to Iron Man, but damn it was a jawdropper anyway), killed an entire team in the first issue, and seemingly tore apart the Fantastic Four as we know it (another moment that will eventually be revoked, but I have been waiting for something different in FF for a long time, I just hope they can do something astounding like they did with the Avengers). I am really into this event. Usually, most endings and big shockers are easy to guess in this day and age because it seems that everything has been done before, but Marvel has managed to snag me, and I am on board. You all may say DC rules the world, but I am still screaming 'Make Mine Marvel'!

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Go, Stagger Lee!

Or, Q&A with the creators of the new graphic novel

A few months ago I walked into Showcase Comics and saw a cover: an old fashioned pistol, a Stetson hat, and the clincher - the words “STAGGER LEE” - above. I had to have it.

I wasn’t let down, of course, and it turns out that Stagger Lee, by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix, will end up being one of the most critically acclaimed comics projects of the year. Product of careful research and even more careful invention, unlike most versions of the famous song Stagger Lee doesn’t stop with Billy’s shooting or Stag's hanging; it goes on to discuss the ins and outs of Stag’s trial, St. Louis politics and race relations in the 1890s, the probable process of the song's creation, recorded versions, American archetypes, and how song acts as a societal mirror.

The book was published this spring to excellent reviews, and somehow between promoting the book, attending the big Con, and in Shepherd’s case recovering from a collapsed lung, the two authors found the time to correspond with this fan and answer a mess of questions for the Posse.

Your bios indicate that for both of you, Stagger Lee is a return to comics after perhaps a decade long hiatus. What was it about this story that made you want to tell it in this medium, and badly enough to draw you back to comics?

Derek: I think my last published work in comics before Stagger Lee was in something like 1991 or 1992, so in my case it’s been an almost 15‑year break. I did try to put other projects together in that period, but was always pretty lackadaisical about it. It’s not too surprising I didn’t get anywhere.

Stagger Lee was one of those intermittently-pursued projects (as was Displaced Persons, the one I’m writing now, for publication by Image in late 2007), but I think several things set it apart to make me just a little bit more persistent in getting it done. One is that it’s really different from most everything else you see in comics in a really fundamental way – in the structure, the subject matter, the general approach – and it’s kind of exciting to feel like you’re doing something unique. Another is that in Shepherd I had a very enthusiastic collaborator who was as drawn to the story as I was and was as committed to seeing it told – that’s a value-add that can’t be overstated. A third reason has to do with how we hooked up with Image in the first place, and I’ll talk about that in question #9.

Shepherd: Well, in my case, that’s not entirely true. I did indeed leave comics back in the mid 90s but I actually had done another comics project before Stagger Lee.

Back in 2004, I’d published a graphic novel with Image called Shangri La, written by Marc Bryant. I don’t really talk much about the book—not because I feel that it was a bad book but due to the distraction of juggling other work commitments—coupled with the fact that my comics work was really rusty--I didn’t put my full effort into it. I thought I could have done much better. If Shangri La were to be reprinted I’d definitely redo certain parts of the book.

In regard to why Stagger Lee, Derek and I had tried for years to get a few other projects off the ground but for some reason or another things fell apart. Derek and I had known each other for twenty years. I’d worked on a few short stories that he had published back in the 80s but nothing really substantial. Until Stagger Lee, that is.

Obviously, a lot of readers will be most familiar with the classic Lloyd Price version of the song. Do either of you recall the first time you heard this song, or the first version you heard? What were your reactions?

Derek: I had what’s maybe the lamest possible introduction to Stagger Lee. I first heard it when I was a kid on an American Graffiti soundtrack. Not even the American Graffiti soundtrack, mind you, but an American Graffiti soundtrack. After the monster success of that first double album, they pumped out a couple more albums filled up with oldies that weren’t even in the movie. One of those oldies was the Lloyd Price version of Stagger Lee. I can’t say I really knew the song well then, but the title always stuck in my mind. Probably the next version I knew after that was Nick Cave’s, and I was kind of baffled how they could be the same song. When I finally came across the basics of the story in a book by Greil Marcus, I was hooked, and that set me off on the path to writing my own book.

Shepherd: I heard Lloyd Price’s Stagger Lee as a track on a cd I’d received from I don’t know whom. With the way Lloyd was cheering Stagger on, I thought the song to be peppy yet weirdly sadistic.

You list about 35 versions of the song in the Appendix. What are your favorite versions? Are there any you DON’T like? What influenced which renditions made appearances in the book?

Derek: My inclinations tend to the old-timey, so my favourites are all early blues versions, particularly Mississippi John Hurt’s and Furry Lewis’. I also really like the very comprehensive (but hard-to-find) proto-rock ‘n’ roll version by Archibald, which was faithfully covered and maybe even improved upon (certainly improved upon in terms of recording quality) by Dr. John. I also really like Ma Rainey’s version, even though it doesn’t really have much to do with Stagger Lee. Professor Longhair’s version is really great too. Oh, and it took a while to grow on me but I ended up liking Bob Dylan’s gargly voice on his cover of the Frank Hutchison version.

Of course, there are versions I don’t like, but I’d prefer not to rag on them since I’m sure they all have their supporters. After collecting more than two hours’ worth, though, I can say that there are way too many covers of Lloyd Price’s version. It’s testament to how solidly Price constructed his version that so many people have covered it, but it gets a little repetitive on the CD mix after a while. Of all the Price covers, I think I have the softest spot for Johnny Otis’ version.

What influenced which versions went into the book and how they made their appearance was mostly copyright law. Every version is significant in its own way, and I’d have loved to quote more extensively from later ones, but I figured I was on safest ground using only those whose authorship is credited to “traditional” and/or which are old enough to be in public domain. Hence, a fully quoted treatment of ‘Bama’s extemporaneous work-farm ballad, but only a single panel glancing at the Clash’s take on The Rulers’ “Wrong ‘em Boyo.”

Shepherd: I’m not sure I really have a favorite. They all mean something different. The Lloyd Price version, to me is the most familiar. The Nick Cave version is a definite stylistic standout in comparison to the others. The Ma Rainey version is sad and almost plaintive.

Derek, you’re a white guy writing about race relations, black history, folklore, black on black crime, etc. Do you think this (consciously) affected how you chose to tell the story? Did it ever lead to any awkwardness?

Derek: I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an intimidating project from that perspective, but if I wanted to do it right – and I did – I knew I had to have no fear. To achieve that level of confidence, I had to be certain I knew the material thoroughly—backwards and forwards—and I had to be wholeheartedly committed to the value of truthfulness. I didn’t sit down to start writing until I honestly thought I could meet both those criteria. It’s been a few years now since I finished the script, and every now and then I find myself looking at this or that piece of dialogue and wondering where I ever got the balls to put it down on paper, but I’m glad I did. No punches are pulled, and it makes the world the characters inhabit a real and believable place.

The history in the story is obviously carefully researched, courtesy the academic world. Image-wise, all of the historic musicians pictured are immediately recognizable to fans; other than the explained exception of lawyer Nathan Dryden, was Shepherd able to research likenesses for the novel’s historic characters’ physical appearances? Likewise, were historic images of the St. Louis neighborhood at the center of the story used in constructing the scenery?

Derek: I think the only historical characters we ever had actual likenesses of were Nathan Dryden (after that likeness was irrelevant); the judge in the first trial, though I can’t remember whether or not Shepherd made use of that likeness; and I think I might have come across one picture of Ed Butler, though again I’m not sure if Shep used that when designing the character. A couple of cameo appearances did make use of real likenesses – Tom Turpin, who’s seen playing piano at his Rosebud Bar a few years before the place was built; and Frank James (of Frank and Jesse), who make an uncredited cameo at Butler’s vaudeville house, the Standard Theatre, where he really was employed for a time as a doorman.

Shepherd: The character likenesses were rather general. As a work of fiction based on fact, I felt the likenesses of the characters didn’t have to be exactly spot on. In Nathan Dryden’s case, Derek requested that he resemble Roscoe Lee Brown.

Derek’s research extended beyond mere facts and figures; he did extensive online searches for relevant characters and places. In fact, his script was laced with all the hyperlinks I needed to get such visual references. Derek also sent me a couple of books, one of which featured prominent St. Louis locales as they appeared long ago and as they appear now. Much of the remaining research I did was for everyday things common to that time period; household items, clothing, furniture, etc.

Speaking as an artist: when drawing a graphic novel based on factual evidence-- Derek is the guy to work with.

I noticed that you have commentary from Greil Marcus on the back cover, and the comments on Amazon as well as my own experience show how well this book speaks to certain music fans. How has the music community responded to the book? Have any of the artists who’ve recorded the song reacted?

Derek: As you might guess, the quote from Greil Marcus was a particularly big thrill for me, since it was his book, Mystery Train, that first introduced me to the myth and history of Stagolee. He was incredibly supportive of the book, and went out of his way to fix it so that we could quote his piece from Interview on our jacket. We’ve also had very good response from the blues fans who’ve read it – one guy posted plugs on what looked like every blues bulletin board in the world. We were also recently talked up on Bill Wax’s blues show on XM radio. It’s a challenge getting the book in front of music fans, though – it’s not a traditional distribution channel for comics, and we’re kind of figuring it out as we go along.

As for artists who’ve recorded Stagger Lee, we haven’t heard much. I sent a copy to Johnny Otis, but haven’t heard back from him. Several different friends have told me they showed the book to musicians who have Stagger Lee in their repertoire and got very enthusiastic responses, but this is all filtering back to me second- or third-hand.

Your book explains how the race of Stagger Lee (along with the plot) has come into and out of focus as the song has shifted among audiences, locales, and traditions, and cites Stagger Lee as “the spiritual father of the ‘gangsta,’” one of the dominant images in hip hop today. Are you familiar with the contemporary (well, maybe has-been or also-ran) rapper Stagga Lee?

Derek: I’m pretty pig-ignorant about rap, though I do think the historical arc from Stagger Lee to gangsta is pretty clear. Cecil Brown certainly thinks so. I have heard of Stagga Lee, though I haven’t heard any of his music. Somebody told me that 50 Cent did a version, but I haven’t heard it myself.

Did you ever consider serializing Stagger Lee, or was it conceived as a novel from the start? It makes a fantastic novel, but I can’t help imagining how it would have broken down monthly...

Derek: I always thought of Stagger Lee as a novel. The narrative structure I decided on seems to me inherently novelistic. I think if I were to have done it as a monthly serial it would have been very different in both concept and execution.

Shepherd: As a reader, I couldn’t imagine Stagger Lee as a serialized piece of work. It’s like watching a movie: you have to fold yourself up within the story and follow it through to the end.

That said, it seems an odd type of story to be published by one of the largest comics companies. How hard was it to sell the story, and how has Image been?

Derek: Compared to all those years of abortive attempts to get comics projects off the ground, selling to Image couldn’t have been easier. Stagger Lee was very lucky to find an early champion in Charles Brownstein, who now runs the CBLDF. I used to talk to Charles about the book when he lived in the Bay Area in the early oughts, and he would always cajole me about working harder to sell it somewhere. I was more interested in self-publishing and was still sticking obstinately to that path when it occurred to Charles that Eric Stephenson, Image’s Executive Director and a huge music fan, would have a natural affinity for the project. Charles introduced us to Eric, and here we are today. Image has been great. They’ve seemed from the start to really believe in the artistic and commercial potential of the project, and have been behind it a hundred percent.

Shepherd: I was pretty surprised when I first heard that Image was interested in publishing Stagger Lee. But I praise them for doing so and for supporting us with getting our book out to the public. I think comics can be a larger and grander medium of communication and education than a lot of people give it credit for.

During the course of the novel, you also touch on two other well-known St. Louis murder ballads from the same era and neighborhood (Frankie & Johnny, and Duncan & Brady). With the abundance of source material, do either of you hope to undertake another project similar to this in the future?

Derek: It’s hard to imagine that I could ever again come up with anything as singular as Stagger Lee, but yeah, the thought of a sequel has once or twice crossed my mind. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but all of the projects I have in mind for the near future could be said to fall under the broad heading of “historical fiction” — some more fictional than others. I don’t have any plans for anything with quite the same confluence of historical/mythological/musicological elements, but you never know. I’m told there’s a compelling story behind that Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini song.

Shepherd: I would like to. I’d also like to know that there are those out there who would appreciate and support such material. Please let us hear from you! I don’t want to be preaching to an audience of crickets!
If by any chance you’re not familiar with the song at the center of the book, click the following link to download a primer with some of the versions referenced in the book, recorded over the past 80 years and arranged here in (I think) chronological order.

1. Frank Hutchinson (1927)
2. Mississippi John Hurt (1928)
3. Bama (1947)
4. Lloyd Price (1959)
5. Ike & Tina Turner (ca.1965)
6. Taj Mahal (1969)
7. The Grateful Dead (1978)
8. The Clash (197 9)
9. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (1999)


Plug: For more news and info, be sure to check into Derek’s blog at, and thank the creators for their time and thoughts by moseying over to and copping their book for a ridiculously low price.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

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Loyal readers: We interrupt your regular programming to alert you to the truth and hip you to the realness!

Bloggers and blogettes, rappers and chickenheads:

Okay, so you're feeling the blog and you crave for more of that PTP goodness right, Junior?! Don't fret, join our team on! It's real easy and FREE! That's right, Jimmy, it's FREE! Rejoice! All you have to do is go to, register after clicking on BOARDS, and you're in. Once there, mosy on over to the "Pass The Popcorn" board and join in on our huge, in-depth, chair-throwing, politically-charged, reality-checking and hilarious discussions. Buck all that distraught fanboy bullshit you get when you hit up other comic-sites; we are the only comicbook crew that is tolerant of each other and real. Don't believe, me? Fine go check for yourself, Jack! See you soon...

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nothing Else To Say But This

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Clark, Bruce, Diana, and Rory: Thoughts on JLA #0

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As much as I enjoy making fun of Identity Crisis and its big noses, I’m a relative apologist for Brad Meltzer and Rag Morales’ earnest portrayal of DC’s heroes as a Ya-Ya Sisterhood. In Identity Crisis – even though the point of the story was to drive home the importance of secret identities – all our usually stuffy heroes run around calling each other by their real first names. Clark, Bruce, Ollie, Diana. Everyone is everyone else’s BFF. Sure, this happens in other titles as well, but the amount of namedropping that Meltzer peppered his script with was enough to make even Jayceon Terell Taylor shake his head in embarrassment.

It was a little grating sometimes, but it worked perfectly for the story. Driving home the fact that these caped and cowled titans were actual people - with names, feelings, families, insecurities and life-histories with each other - made the tragedy of death within their ranks all the more tragic. Meltzer’s interior writing style was so successful it was later used by other writers in the fantastic Countdown to Infinite Crisis #0, which as a result was chock full of insightful intimate reflections such as when we learned that everyone is in love with Diana, and also when we learned that everyone thinks Koriand'r is really fucking hot. Man, these heroes felt so damn real. *I* think Kory is really fucking hot too!

Meltzer is back now, penning the new Justice League re-launch. Post-Crisis, Meltzer’s League feels a lot like Gilmore Girls. Yeah. Justice League. It’s Gilmore Girls with less dialogue, really. It has that small-town everybody-knows-everybody sensibility, and people talk over each other and complete each other’s thoughts and sentences. Clark and Diana are Gilmore and Gilmore Girl, and Bruce is that cranky dude who runs the diner. Why Alan Heinberg isn’t on this title, I have no idea.

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As I said, I dug this approach in Identity Crisis. In the new JLA book, however, I don’t think I’ll be able to stand it for very long. Now, I’m not really up to date on the inner-workings of the JLA…but a yearly meeting between Clark, Bruce and Diana? Does this exist? Because don’t they see each other all the fucking time? I guess it’s just pencilled in as guaranteed bonding time, where they can playfully swing sticks at each other and swap novels. For real, I’m all for portraying the softer side of the Big 3 and their relationships, and I guess it’s only normal for them to have inside jokes and stuff like that…but in scenes like the one where they make fun of Guy Gardner, I just don’t feel it. It feels forced, and it reaches the point where the camaraderie between the heroes doesn’t just feel awkward, it feels downright phony. Which I’m guessing is the opposite of what Meltzer is trying to accomplish here.

And don’t get me started on this, after Clark realizes Bruce and Diana stood him up:

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I’m willing to write this book off as a weightless issue #0, not a part of the series and therefore not indicative of where the book is headed quality wise. But in the preview pages of issue #1(***), the cheese continues. I couldn’t tell if the Big 3 were choosing a new JLA or America’s Next Top Model.

Not to mention all the (hopefully) unintentionally funny close-ups of Diana’s breasts. Oh, and issue #0 had the funniest out-of-context comic quote I’ve come across in awhile: “he’ll be great. really great. like dick.”

I think the problem is that while even though Infinite Crisis made way for less brooding, less angry, depressed, dysfunctional heroes, we’re nonetheless left with an approach that still takes itself extremely seriously. And frankly, the earnest bastardry reads a lot better than the earnest we-are-one-big-happy-family stuff. At least when it’s written by Brad Meltzer, it does. Maybe Meltzer - who was so good at raping, murdering, and emotionally torturing DC’s characters - shouldn’t be the same guy to remake them into shiny happy people?

Preview Page 1
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Preview Page 3


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Monday, July 10, 2006

Slanted Perspectives

Hello, True Believers. Come join me in a tour of recent Asian representations in the Big Two, yes?


Week 6 of the highly enjoyable 52 series brought on "China Syndrome", an introduction to Grant Morrison's new team of Chinese superheroes, The Great Ten. My initial reaction wasn't very enthusiastic, though hopefully that will be assuaged as the team is fleshed out more (I believe they're playing a sizable role over in Greg Rucka's Checkmate?)

For now though, I'm giving the screwface to a dude whose superpower is...well, being a Tibetan buddhist...a Tibetan buddhist who incongruously works for "the preservation of China", and also to a woman whose power is to...well, give birth to a lot of babies and send them off to fight for the country (and I'm assuming die for it as well, since she still has an active function on the team). "Mother of Champions" is a kickass name though, I'll give them that.

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Morrison's shown a strong interest in Eastern philosophy and mysticism and all that jazz, and I'm a big fan of Vimanarama, but I'm reticent to let him off the hook on hokey racial/cultural representations just because, well, he's Grant Morrison. The Great Ten might end up falling on the wrong side of hokey for me, but as I said, I'll give DC some time to hopefully flesh out the characters and develop them further from the cheesy communist-border-patrol-against-American-heroes they've been portrayed as so far.

Also from the brain of Grant Morrison comes the All New Atom, a book I've been anticipating for a long time. There's been quite a few Asian female characters in the mainstream comicverse, but, as in other forms of media, the Asian male is usually relegated to stereotypical side roles at best. The All New Atom, along with Firestorm and Batwoman, is one of DC's attempts to diversify their universe by taking less-popular characters and turning them into minorities.

Judging a book by its cover could prove disastrous in this case, as I'd say the cover for The All New Atom #1 is a failure on several fronts. Firstly, the Atom doesn't look Chinese to me, but that's highly subjective and nitpicky on my part, so I'll let that slide. Secondly, on the cover the new Atom looks damn near forty-years old, with a receding hairline, body rippling with muscles. No such character appears anywhere in the book. It's as if the cover artist had no more info other than "draw an Asian dude. Shrinking. Yeah. No. More Asian-ish. Yeah."

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The tagline reads "Size Isn't Matter!" I'm not well-versed in all-things-Atom, so if this phrase existed before this issue as some sort of catch phrase please let me know. As it stands, the phrase sticks out to me for two offensive reasons: 1) The play on the phrase "size doesn't matter", usually used in reference to men with small dicks, a nod towards a stereotype that has played a big role in the effeminization of the Asian male in pop culture; and 2) The play on words - "size" and "matter" being terms of physics - is unsuccessful, which leaves me wondering what the punchline is supposed to be about. I'm left feeling that it's not a pun or a joke, but merely a purposeful mangling of language in the vein of bad Asian "engrish". I don't see how else that phrase could be thought of as clever.

So what you end up with is an Asian dude using poor English to defend his small size. That sucks. Plus, Atom is only flexing his right arm. It just looks weird, like he's trying to take a shit but his left arm fell asleep so he can't flex it (I hate when that happens!) and he can't undo his belt because it's too high up on his chest.

The interior of the book is much better fare. John Byrne's rendition of Ryan Choi is much younger and less earnest. While I'm not a huge fan of John Byrne's recent work, it's not bad per se. As for the story, I won't get too much into plot recaps, but Simone does well; it's quirky and fast and establishes character quickly. Random quotes pop out of nowhere in relation to what Ryan is thinking, showcasing his geekiness and wealth of knowledge. I dig it.

It's the first issue so there's the requisite "first-shrink" scene. We've seen it a million times before but it's not bad. The important thing is that it's out of the way, plus it's only the first issue and Ryan has already told everyone he found Palmer's belt. It's onwards and upwards from here. I'm not quite digging the Foggy Nelson-fat-jokey-sidekick thing, but I can live with it, especially knowing that Simone is good with the quips.

There's an obvious effort to address the Asian-guys-aren't-sexual thing, with a bunch of female students following Ryan around and making ga-ga eyes at him. The problem is that so far Ryan seems pretty oblivious to the opposite sex. Even if the girls think he is hot shit, if Ryan shows no particular interest then we still have a desexualization problem. It's only the first issue though. I'll give him a couple issues of prep time, but eventually he better start getting some and not in any tee-hee passive way either.

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In other Gail Simone Asian goodness, Birds of Prey #95 saw Black Canary ending her little sabbatical in SE Asia. I love this book to death, but I'm glad that story is (more or less) done with. With Batman Begins, I got my final fill of white people going to Asia to train in mysterious fighting arts, only to then reject their inscrutable Asian masters and their unscrupulous Asian ways (kicking a bunch of Asian asses in the process). By the book's end, Black Canary pulls an Angelina Jolie on an Asian kid. Could be interesting, but child characters have the potential to get real cloying real fast. Simone does a great job of writing believable adult females, let's see how she does with little girls.


In one of the more bizarre Asian spottings in comics, Civil War Frontline #1 had a short sidestory of Spiderman reflecting on the Japanese internment camps. I have to say, I stood this story a lot more before Spiderman unmasked.

Pre-unmasking, Peter's reflection at the end, "...with great power, huh?", seemed to me a condemnation of the US government's abuse of their power. In the same panel, a Japanese father tells his daughter that they must acquiesce to the interment camps in order to help the American war effort, "because it is our duty, because we are Americans." An image of the Statue of Liberty separates the image of the family from Spiderman, and Peter's reflection seemed at the time a sad response to the Japanese man's assertion, a reflection on when power and responsibility can go wrong.

Post-unmasking though, we know that Peter is on the side of the government, so the reflection reads differently. Instead, I see him as empathsizing with the Japanese family, doing something against his personal wishes because it is what's best for the country. It's his responsibility to give up personal freedom for his government.

That's a load of bullshit to me. Politics aside (Iron Man's team still has valid arguments on their side), to use the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII as a parallel to Spiderman and Iron Man taking off their masks is ridiculous and trivializes what the internment camps meant.

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Paul Jenkin's preamble reads:

"In the interests of fairness, it can be noted that while they provided very sparse accommodation, these relocation centres had the highest live-birth rate and the lowest deathrate in wartime United States. The Japanese in the centres received free food, lodging, medical and dental care, clothing allowance, education, hospital care, and all basic necessities. The government even paid travel expenses and assisted in cases of emergency relief".

*Italics mine

OK. If that ain't a steaming pile of white-washing bullshit I don't know what is. In the interest of fairness? Even paid for travel expenses? As if you pay the bus fare when you get shipped off to jail. And oh wow, free food. Lowest death rate? Shit, I'm starting to wish I was Japanese in 1943. Those motherfuckers had it easy.

Anyways. The preamble is followed by nice poetry captions that illustrate some of the negative aspects of the Japanese "relocations". But the whole thing is bookended by that horribly apologetic introduction and by Spiderman saluting the patriotic responsibility of the Japanese Americans. The story is unnecessary and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

In more pleasant news, let's talk about my favourite Runaway, Nico. Runaway fans have been waiting and speculating over issue 18, when it is promised that yet another Runaway will be murked. Well, at the end of issue 17 Nico gets shot through the chest. I still don't think it's her that dies though, seeing as it's not yet issue 18, and I really don't think they'd off another minority character after the death of Alex.

I'm guessing someone sacrifices themselves to save her or some other magical business. Or who knows. She just might bleed slowly to death for the duration of the next issue.

I hope not though. Nico's grown to be not only my favourite Runaway, but one of my favourite recent characters overall. I love the way she's drawn and the complexity of her character. Lately she's been going around making out with a bunch of different people, male and female, and to writer Vaughn's credit, Nico doesn't come off as a floozy but as a girl who's going through shit. But the best part (and this goes for all the Runaways), is that even for a girl who's going through shit she doesn't read as a self-absorbed depressed emo kid. Which is more than I can say for half of the X-Men these days.

Nico's power is also one of my favourites. In order to summon her magical Staff of One, she has to cut herself and draw blood. I love the idea of a teen goth hero who has to cut herself in order to access her power. I got a little choked up during the story arc where Nico couldn't do it and yelled "I don't want to cut myself anymore!" Also, the staff shows up at inconvenient times, like during her time of the month, or when she brushes her teeth too hard. That's dope.

Let's hope that Nico makes it though the next issue, and that we see more characters like her in the near future.


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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Dear DC

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I stood by you during the fantastic build-up and inevitable letdown that was Infinite Crisis. I have high hopes for 52; it's been spectacular so far... One Year Later has been hit-or-miss. It's about time you face the facts though!

Step away from your collective crack pipe and fix your faces; you're fucking up!! How? You are literally letting shit slide by with ease while leaving quality titles to rot into non-existence. First, you desecrate my favorite character with a bullshit, yet hyped-up relaunch (see: The Flash). Then you went completely bat-shit insane and brought back The Monitors in the stinking fish grease stain that was Brave New World...

Now, I can go and on about all your recent missteps but I won't. You know what they are and I'm not going to waste my time clowning you, fools!


It is hands down the rawest, most innovative and consistent book in your stable. Each issue has rained genius and astoundingly brilliant individual creativity down upon the masses i.e. the minority of fans that see the light.

As far as single issues go, nothing in the past four years, is touching Darwyn Cooke's issue. And don't even get me started on Sergio's soon-to-be considered classic piece of work, Damion's perfect marriage of two highly sylistic artforms and Allred's pop culture masterpiece.. This book contains the rawness and innovation that can, and should be found in world-renowned museum exhibits.

Now, I know people aren't picking up enough copies to warrant it going on BUT if you had gotten behind it as much as you did on your bullshit (shock and awe) titles you'd have a TOP 10 book each month. You could be bathing in dollar signs like there was no tomorrow. But no, you fucked up.

So on behalf of those readers that are smart enough to recognize and embrace quality in our beloved medium that is comicbooks: I shout, "FUCK YOU!"

And shit, you're only giving Manhunter a five issue stay of execution? You muffuckas are high! I'm mad and I know I'm not alone, bastards.

Who's with me?

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Superman Returns...To Star In A Chick Flick

I wish I knew how ta quit you

What if Jesus was a superhero? What if the devil, bald? What if you combined Superman with The Notebook?

Ok, there was a lot of things to love. The special effects were great. The reverence for Richard Donner's Superman and Superman II was appreciated. But there was just something...missing.

After I got over the feeling of a watching a new Superman movie in 2006 that didn't involve Richard Pryor (R.I.P.) or Nuclear Man, I felt very detached from the movie.

I enjoyed all the scenes of Superman being...well Superman. Saving people, cheering crowds. The plane crash scene was amazing and I can't wait to see that in IMAX 3D but then it lost it's way and became a chick flick.
  • Brandon Routh was Clark Kent. His Superman was okay. He wasn't bad but he lacked the earnest humor than Christopher Reeve brought to the role. Don't feel bad, Brandon. Reeve is an impossible act to follow - we're talking the best comic character brought to life ever. When there are enough comic book movies around that there are comic book movie awards and there is a lifetime achievement award, it will be called The Christopher Reeve Award of Excellence (or something like that). You know who would have made a great Superman...
  • So there's the scene where Clark is back at the Daily Planet and Lois introduces him to her boyfriend, Richard, who was played by James Marsden (For the guys, Cyclops from the X-Men films; for the women, the guy Rachel McAdams wrongfully cheats on in The Notebook). As the camera turns to him, I was like "Wow, he should have been Superman." The right build, he's tall, he looks like Christopher Reeve so it wouldn't have been a weird transition, and he's pretty good at playing morally uptight square guys. Major blunder to cast a guy who would be better suited to play Superman, Mr. Singer.
  • This is probably the best acting job I've ever seen Kate Bosworth do...but she still wasn't right as Lois Lane. I mean, she got the reporter thing down but she lacked Lois' spunk. If this is a direct sequel to the Richard Donner films, Lois was a "I don't take shit from anyone" woman and Margot Kidder played it perfectly. This is the same woman who hit the gun when her and Clark were being mugged, snuck into the Eiffel Tower to spy on terrorists by hanging on the bottom of a elevator and jumped into a river because she was so convinced that Clark was Superman. I didn't feel like Kate Bosworth's Lois would have done any of that.
  • Welcome back, Kevin Spacey. How I've missed you. These are the kind of roles that we fell in love with Kevin Spacey for. Not that The Shipping News/Pay It Forward crap. I want Spacey the mean funny sardonic asshole that blew my mind in Swimming With Sharks. I hope this is a good sign for the future and not a blip in the current spiraling of your career.
  • Frank Langella sucked as Perry White. He had some great lines but lacked the energy and fire an editor of the number one paper in Metropolis should have.
  • Why cast Kal Penn (Kumar from Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle) and give him one line and just have him be a nameless henchman? What a waste. Maybe he's friends with Bryan Singer.
  • The movie was way too long. I'm almost getting tired of saying this about movies. It was King Kong too long. It dragged like a busted muffler. Why is Hollywood afraid to make a 90-105 minute movie? Seriously. Is there some sort of research I missed that said America likes it's movies dragged out and as long as possible?
  • I don't like this Superman as Jesus shit that seemed to be implied in the movie. The term 'savior' got thrown around too much. Superman is not Jesus. Superman, at least in my opinion, is a alien who was raised as a human with a good moral code who is just doing "the right thing" because he has the ability to. He's not here to "save us", just here to help.
  • I don't think they can (or should) do a sequel. It's hard doing Superman stories (which is why the comic has sucked for quite some time). There's three types of successful Superman stories (all of which have been used in the movies): 1) Superman faces off against someone equal in strength to him (II, III, IV), 2) Superman faces off against Lex Luthor or a villain with Kryptonite (I, III, Returns) or 3) Superman is put to the limits of his power by trying to be in two places at once (I, Returns).
  • I find it hard to believe that Superman would just up and leave for five years. Sorry, someone with THAT strong a moral code would not do that. Of course, he also wouldn't make a move (however slight) on a woman with a boyfriend so what do I know?
  • Before I talk about the spoiler stuff, the whole Clark Kent works with a bunch of reporters and is in love with the best reporter in the city and no one can put together that Clark Kent and Superman returned on the exact same day (only Lois's kid kinda caught on). It would have been one thing if Clark came back and a couple of days later, Superman showed up or vice versa. But THE SAME DAY! C'mon.
Okay on to more spoiler-ish stuff.
  • Ok, at the end of the movie, Superman lifts the humogous crystal city that Lex Luthor created and threw it into space. Not into the sun but into space. Um, I'm not scientist but won't that huge landmass become a meteorite that will destroy one of our neighboring planets. Way to think it through, Kal-El.
  • Also, won't those remaining crystals be a problem?
  • By giving a Superman a kid, Bryan Singer has taken the mythology of Superman and Da Vinci Code-d it.
  • I'm not mad about the whole kid thing. It was a cool twist. I wish DC had the balls to do something like this in the comics. The Superman story is legendary. You have to create some twists and turns to keep it fresh. But still, Superman has x-ray vision & super hearing, he didn't know she was pregnant before he left.
  • How do you end a Superman movie without him bringing Lex Luthor to justice? That was just lame.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dear Marvel Zombies

I despise you. No, this isn't a rant about D.C. vs. Marvel. No, this isn't about how you give Joey Q more time than you give your mother on the phone. No, this isn't a rant about how you'd pay to toss Bendis's salad. Shit, I WOULD TOSS BENDIS'S SALAD, TOO. I prefer syrup.

No, this is a rant about the shit you're giving Marvel over the Spidey unmasking. Among all of the internet crying I hear about how Spidey outing himself to the world ("OH MY GOD! Spider-man's GAY?" was my fiancee's reaction when I told her) the number one argument I hear against Spider-man putting it on himself to do the one thing he fears anyone doing to him is this:


Now, anyone that as been reading Spidey in the last five years should know that this decision has been a long time coming. And let's be honest with ourselves, people. Green Goblin knows Spider-man is Peter Parker. All of Green Goblin's kids, bastard and otherwise, know that Spider-man is Peter Parker. The Scorpion (who now has the Venom symbiote) knows Spider-man is Peter Parker. One of Jerry's Kids that sits in his wheelchair on a rooftop all day until his family wheels him back inside for dinner knows who Spider-man is. Aunt May knows. Mary Jane knows. All of The Avengers know.

Mary Jane has been hinting for years that she would prefer Peter to go public. This is proof that comic fans have no long-lasting interaction with women. If we did, then we would ALL know that a broad that hot could get Dr. Strange to take up pulling Batman's giant penny from behind kid's ears at birthday parties. A broad that hot could get a Watcher to come down on the field, throw a flag, and demand an instant replay. Hell, A broad that hot could make Electro heterosexual again.

But lemme get back to the point. It's against character? I didn't hear any of you fuckers that tought Cap was acting against character by going underground complaining then. You thought it kicked ass. By the way, Cap wasn't even acting against character. Know how I know? Because Cap always kicks ass.

You guys need to draw the difference between a favorite character of yours making a decision you don't like and someone "acting against character". If you haven't noticed, Spidey has been slowly changing for a few years now. But that's a whole 'nother blog. (Editor's Note: Stay tuned for Invisiblist's blog on JMS's Spidey run coming soon!) He's a teacher. He's an active Avenger. He has fuckin spikes coming out of his arms, a robotic costume, and he's Tony Stark's fuckin doughboy. And that's just fine by me. Know why? My favorite part of how Marvel Comics has done things since I've been reading is their character development.

Ah, yes. Character development. You might define character development as "the catalyst to fanboy's anger; usually involving a character doing something that no fanboy predicted on any message board anywhere". I like to define it as "OH SHIT!" Whether I like how a character develops or not, I like to see characters I love grow. I have no desire to see any comicbook character that I mess with stay stagnant in their views or attitudes for too long. You know what my favorite parts of "The Other" were? First, when Spidey killed that robot guy in Stark Tower. (What was his name? Tracer?) Sure, the guy turned out to be a robot, but Peter didn't know that. It showed the state of mind that Peter was really in. The other was when he ATE MORLUN'S FACE. Why were they my favorite parts? Because they showed how serious the situation was.

If comic characters never "went against character" as you guys call it, they wouldn't be worth reading. Cap woulda never had one of his most important arcs ever. You know, the Nixon one. Daredevil woulda never became Kingpin. (Y'all didn't complain about that one, either.) Serious situations that showed the true nature of the characters.

I don't know what you people want. I don't envy Bendis, Millar, JMS, Quesada, Whedon or any of the other guys at Marvel that worked on Civil War. From the reactions I'm reading to Civil War #2, you guys want to be able to figure out what's gonna happen with your favorite character before all your internet buddies do. Is that what you drop three bucks every month for? To see if you're right? BOOOOOOO. I drop my three bucks every month to see what happens, to be amazed, to be surprised, to jerk off to how McNiven draws She-Hulk (and how Frank Cho draws Mary Jane and Black Cat, and how Jim Lee draws Psylocke, and how Quesada draws Black Widow.....but that's a whole 'nother blog*), and most IMPORTANTLY, to check in with my friends Peter, Steve, Tony, and Nick to see how they're doing. If they don't make a decision I like, it was their decision to make.

But hey, if you guys want predictable, you should just go read D.C. Or House of M.

(*Editor's Note: The Prep Time Posse will not be allowing a future blog on Invisiblist's masturbatory habits. It hits just a little too close to home for most of us.)

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pocket Change

"The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be."
- Isaac Asimov, "My Own View" in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

Congratulations, Joe Queseda*.

You have finally torn the internet in two.

If you go to any comic book forum, you'll see people doing the internet equivalent of rioting.

I am going to try to talk about "it" without talking about "it".

Greg Hatcher over at Comics Should Be Good wrote a great piece regarding Spider-Man and the two types of fans:

Here'’s the thing. There'’s two groups of fans reading superhero comics right now, the illusion-of-change fans and the real-change fans, and each one is absolutely convinced that the other group is going to destroy their beloved superheroes. And it terrifies them, because they both love comics fiercely, and neither can stand the idea that they might get taken away. So each group is constantly yelling at the other to for Christ'’s sake STOP it, d'you have any idea what you're doing? I suspect that this underlies a lot of that free-floating fan anger out there. This is why so many comic book message boards have the social niceties of Mad Max'’s Thunderdome.

The illusion-of-change people are looking at it this way: I discovered DC and Marvel at ___ age and it changed my life, these characters are great, timeless icons, new readers need to be able to discover them the way I did, why are they so hell-bent on ruining them when they do stuff like make Spider-Man an armored Avenger or marry off Superman to Lois Lane or… (fill in your own premise-altering Real Change here)… comics are already practically incomprehensible to new readers, the base is going to keep shrinking, pretty soon there’s only going to be about six people reading DC and Marvel, they’re KILLING COMICS!

The real-change people, on the other hand, probably came into comics sometime in the late 80’s or so. Post-Crisis, let’s say. Real change is what they’re used to. It’s what they have come to expect. Their tastes were formed by Chris Claremont on the X-Men, or Peter David on the Hulk, or Alan Moore on whoever. These were guys that specialized in real changes that often completely changed the premise of whatever strip they were working on. So the real-change people think: Damn, why is it that superhero publishers are so cowardly! Quit with the retcons already! Dead is dead! Show some guts! Comics are finally starting to Grow Up! They’re not for kids any more! We don’t need to worry about some mythical eight-year-old coming into the comics store, you idiots, there’s no one under twenty in any comics store I’ve ever been in! You let these old-school geezers hit the reset button all the time like they want to and they’ll be KILLING COMICS!

Now, lately I have found myself in the "real-change" ilk. I like when the status quo is thrown out the window and we get to go in a completely new direction.

Think how huge it was when Gwen Stacy died (shortly after dropping off her twins she had after a booty call with Norman Osborn to Canada) or Jean Grey died (the first time) or when Superman died (you think we would have figured out he was coming back when they didn't cancel any of his titles) or when Jason Todd was killed by The Joker (Stop punching the fabric of reality, Superboy Prime!).

No, she's okay. Tis' but a scratch

These are things that changed our favorite characters forever.

I like change.

It seems to be comic book canon that nothing can happen to change the status quo of Spider-Man, Batman or Superman. They are the untouchables.

Or things can happen, but they can always been undone.

Only Spider-Man seems to have lasting changes but that's what we (or at least, I) love about Spider-Man as a character.

Granted, you want them to remain the same so future generations will know what you loved about them.

Well, that's what the trades are for.

I just don't want to spend however long I read comics to be spent seeing the same stories over and over again.

Superman defeats Lex Luthor, he goes to prison, gets out, rinse, wash, repeat.

Batman and Robin defeat The Joker/Penguin/Two-Face, send them to Arkham, they escape, rinse, wash, repeat.

For the last time!!!
(Until the next time)

Spider-Man faces the Green Goblin/Dr. Octopus/The Vulture, loses the first time, contemplates on a rooftop, defeats them (they never really go to prison in Spidey books), rinse, wash, repeat.

Look! It's Spider-Man unmasked!
Why isn't anyone looking up!?!
Oh, World Cup is on. Did Brazil win?

I think the big reveal of Civil War #2 could have been done better (If you didn't read Amazing Spider-Man #533, it really makes this whole thing go down Pepto Bismol), but I'm glad it happened.

Because now I don't know what the future holds and I like it that way**.

Now, if Lois would just get pregnant already. What an unsatisfying marriage this must be for her. At least, Spidey's boys can swim.

* For all the trouble Marvel went to protecting this secret you think you would have kept a copy of this comic out of the hands of the newspapers. Or at least issued a press embargo like they do with TV shows like Lost and 24 where secrets and surprises are everything.

** Unless, of course, the second Queseda's tenure as EIC ends (or by the end of
Civil War knowing Queseda), they find a way to undo Marvel and DC always seem to do. I think the funniest thing and the biggest sign of how the fans see Marvel and DC these days is not that people are up in arms but that they are already thinking how they will "undo" this.

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