Thursday, December 28, 2006

KRACKA-THOOOM!!!

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:

DC
ALL NEW ATOM 6
BATMAN 659
BATMAN 660
BATMAN: CONFIDENTIAL 1
BATMAN: DETECTIVE COMICS 826
BATMAN & THE SPIRIT 1
CHECKMATE 9
JONAH HEX 14
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 4
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA 1
SECRET SIX 6
SHADOWPACT 8
SPIRIT 1
THE WATCHMEN 5
THE WATCHMEN 6
52 30
52 31
52 32
52 33

WILDSTORM
MIDNIGHTER 2

VERTIGO
EXTERMINATORS 14

BONGO
THE SIMPSONS 125

IMAGE
CROSS-BRONX 4
FEAR AGENT 9

DARK HORSE
THE ESCAPISTS 6

MARVEL
DAREDEVIL 62
DAREDEVIL 63
DAREDEVIL 64
DAREDEVIL 65
DAREDEVIL 66
DAREDEVIL 67
DAREDEVIL 68
DAREDEVIL 69
DAREDEVIL 70
IMMORTAL IRON FIST 1
IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN 3
MS. MARVEL 10
SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN 32
SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN 33
THE PUNISHER 41
THE PUNISHER 42
ULTIMATE POWER 2
CIVIL WAR: CAPTAIN AMERICA 24
CIVIL WAR: FANTASTIC FOUR 541
CIVIL WAR: FRONT LINE 9
CIVIL WAR: IRON MAN 14
CIVIL WAR: IRON MAN / CAPTAIN AMERICA: CASUALTIES OF WAR
CIVIL WAR: WAR CRIMES 1

TRADES
DAREDEVIL "WAKE UP"
THE GOON "MY MURDEROUS YOUTH"
THE GOON "HEAPS OF RUINATION"

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: http://www.newsarama.com/NewJoeFridays/NewJoeFridays27.html ?

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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:

"comics."

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.
-duD

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

KRACKA-THOOOM!!!

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 yes...so 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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