If There’s One Post About Comics Today That You Should Read I’m Talking About This One Right Here

Justice League inspects the comics (3) 

So there was a big comic book that came out today. Actually two.

I’m not talking about Flashpoint #5 or the new Justice League #1. I’m talking about this set of bagged goodies I found in my car. In the interest of disclosure, I was given this pack a while ago, but completely forgot about it.

Anyway, a company called Cards One specializes in putting together comic packs like these. Their business model is buying overstock and closeout of comics and cards, repackaging and selling them at discount stores like Five Below or your friendly neighborhood dollar store.

Today’s lunch break was time to break it open and see what literary treasures I would find.

Justice League inspects the comics (4)

So I dispatched the Justice League Desk Strike Force to investigate what was in this package.

The Question doesn't trust this mystery packageObviously the Question would be the natural skeptic of the group and would be the most hesitant to investigate a mystery package like this.

He would probably assume that it was part of some sort of trap or something like that.

After all, he’s this super hero team’s resident paranoid conspiracy theorist. I like keeping him at my desk to remind me of being skeptical, kind of like a reminder to get to the bottom of everything and find the truth. His creator Steve Ditko would be proud.Justice League inspects the comics
So what was in this value comic pack? Well first was Tales of the Teen Titans #64 which finishes up the Trigon Saga storyline and Raven sacrifices herself to stop her evil monster of a father. Wolverine #50 is wholey

Wolverine #50 was the other comic in the pack, with its special gimmick cover of a file folder of Wolvie’s secrets being slashed open. Holey promotional gimmick Batman! Story wise, the book is pure early 1990s fun. It was pencilled by some guy named Marc Silvestri. I wonder whatever happened to him…

The Question inspects the Crisis on Earths One and Two 

It also came with a trading card from DC’s first series of super hero cards from Impel back in 1992. It was about Crisis on Earths One and Two. The Question investigated, but he really didn’t believe it. Two earths? That’s crazy talk.

Spidey’s Poker Night: Spectacular Spider-Man #21

As I’ve said before, I love single-issue comic book stories. It’s great being able to pick up something and read it in one quick sitting. Writer Paul Jenkins and artist Talent Caldwell put together a forgotten gem of a single-issue story in 2004’s Spectacular Spider-Man #21. Best of all, this features a slice-of-life story that we usually don’t get to see in super hero comics.

Jenkins has put together a story about what should have been a fun evening for a bunch of Marvel’s super heroes—poker night. Little did everyone know that their game would be crashed by the Kingpin, who wants in on this game. Kingpin’s motivation isn’t that he wants a night out with the boys heroes. Instead, he spots everyone money and turns it into a high stakes tournament. If any of the heroes win, they can keep the money and do whatever they wish with it. If Kingpin wins,  he plans on using the money to buy a new yacht named Heroes’ Folly as a way to embarrass them for not being able to beat him in a card game.

Since this is a Spidey book, the game ends the way you think it will.  That’s to be expected. But what makes this such a good read is that the witty dialogue between the characters and how expressive Caldwell makes everyone. There’s a lot of little things going on the side in this book that are briefly mentioned but are expanded through the rest of the story through clever use of facial expressions and posture, like Dr. Strange and his sidekick Wong being completely bewildered by the rules of poker, or Angel and Black Cat being super flirty. After the game,  you are left with the impression that a certain winged mutant  is going to be making out with a certain burglar turned hero. Way to go Warren!

Even the wisecracking between Spidey, the Human Torch and Thing is laugh-out-loud funny. Jenkins and Caldwell deserve a lot of credit; they were able to turn a filler issue into a classic. Go read this.

Mick Foley’s Countdown to Lockdown

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Mick Foley may be the Hardcore Legend, but I'm the Awesome Legend!

One of the joys of the inclement weather this weekend was that I finally had a chance to read Mick Foley’s Countdown to Lockdown. See that picture? That was taken at an author event just a few days after the book debuted.

So what took me so long to read Countdown? I do consider myself a huge Mick Foley fan. The excuse, if you want to call it that, is that his books are rather conversational and read better in one sitting, rather than picking it up and reading a bit here and there. And unfortunately, I’ve been way too busy to devote the proper time to reading this.

This past Sunday–hurricane and all–was Countdown‘s turn to be looked at. The book tells the story of Mick getting back in the ring to fight a one-time rival from the early 1990s in Sting. Except this time, it was for the TNA (now Impact) Wrestling World Championship in a cage match at their Lockdown pay-per-view in 2009.

You can tell that having seen Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler plays a lot in Mick’s mind, as he’s afraid that returning for yet another match will propel him into the sad category of being a Randy the Ram type character. It’s less in the vein of him needing to wrestler for the financial aspects, but more so that he doesn’t want to embarrass himself. So the story of the buildup to the match is very compelling, and all the combined whackiness of professional wrestling and his family life definitely weigh on his mind through all of this, whether it be the humiliating process of him finding tights to wear for the match (and winding up getting them in the women’s section of Target) or that his sons think the other wrestlers in TNA are cooler than him.

The best parts of Countdown are his side stories, whether he’s talking about vacations with his family or all of the various charities he supports and is involved with. The sections on his helping the youth of Sierra Leone show how much he really cares about the world around him, and how he actively wants to help.

The story is also framed with his obsession and love of the Tori Amos song “Winter”, and how its influenced his life. In the book, he describes the two times he spoke in person with Tori and you can just tell how excited and how much of a fan he is.

Anyway, Countdown is a fun read and a great look into what makes Mick Foley tick outside the wrestling world. And what makes him tick? His family and making a positive impact on the world around him, both of which are cool with me.

Mick has been keeping up a blog, and it is worth reading. You can also check out some pictures from the previously mentioned author visit here.

Where You At?

It’s certainly been an interesting week. So as I said last time, I’ve been incognito due to some technological problems (that are still yet to be resolved) so where have I been?

Well on Tuesday, we had a visit from John Tenta an earthquake! I know it wasn’t that bad, but everyone was acting like it was the End of Days (not as bad as the Arnold Schwarzenegger version).

That wasn’t what I was worried about. A little earthquake wasn’t my concern. It was getting up early the next morning for osseous periodontal surgery which is just as fun and expensive as it sounds. I went in to this thinking tha I would be able to spend some time reading some of my new pick ups from the Baltimore Comic Con or even watching some television during my recovery period.

That didn’t happen. The next two days were a mouthy painful blur of sleeping and more sleeping.

And then Thursday night – early Sunday we had to deal with Shane Helms Sugar Shane Gregory Helms a Hurricane! Thankfully it wasn’t really that bad or damaging, but it made life very difficult and work very stressful. But it did give me some more time to rest and read up on some stuff so we can have stuff to talk about again.

The Baltimore Comic Con That Was…

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Galactus prowls the streets of Baltimore at the 2011 Baltimroe Comic Con (Photo courtesy Scotto Bear)

Well, Baltimore Comic Con 2011 has come and gone, and with that so has my summer vacation. So how was this year’s show?

 
Definitely lots of fun. The girlfriend and I went on Sunday and had a blast. I’ve been going to this show since 2004 and I think this might be the busiest one. That was propably due to the Stan Lee’s appearances. But I’d like to think that it was due to people liking comics. It was a very lady and family friendly comic show, which is alway a good thing.
 
The highlight of the show for me was getting to chit-chat with Louise Simonson and the Justice League International team of Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire, who were all super nice. Not to mention, all the fun I had meeting Dennis Kitchen and a bunch of other cool people in the artist alley section. I picked up two awesome sketches which I’ll post later and show my haul of goodies that I picked up!
 
I would have blogged more about the event, but a combination of my camera crapping out and my laptop going fhqwhgads (Homestar Runner reference), I would have more of my trip to share with you.

Youngblood/X-Force

Going through the comics last night I came across this little piece of awesomeness. I’m talking about Youngblood/X-Force, where we finally get to see Rob Liefeld’s two super teams from the 1990s collide in a battle for supremacy. Well not really, but this one-shot from 1996 is definitely a fun read.

This story is written by Eric Stephenson (who now currently serves as Image Comics’ publisher) and his script deserves much of the credit why this book was so awesome. Whenever you have a crossover with characters from two different publishers, the 800 pound gorilla is if you can make this meet-up plausible.

Stephenson found a perfect way to do it, using longtime X-Men and Excalibur villain Mojo (basically a grossly obese alien who controls the Mojoverse through television programming. Don’t believe me? Read his bio on Marvel.com) In a feud with the much more loved Mojo II, the two fight over who gets the exclusive rights to broadcast the adventures (or misadventures) of Youngblood.

Eventually Youngblood become captured by the feuding Mojo’s, with their leader Shaft escaping to the Marvel Earth. It’s up to him and X-Force to go back to the Mojoverse and save Youngblood. Whacky hijinks ensue.

Again, Stephenson’s script is just awesome. His dialogue and use of Mojo is superb. The spineless villain really is the star in this book. There were a few times I heartily laughed, as Mojo panned some of the not so highlights of 1990s comics history, when he took a slight jab at the Ultraverse (Malibu Comics’ line of super hero comics that Marvel purchased in 1996) for not being cool and that making too many spin offs of Youngblood would ruin the property  (Youngblood had a plethora of spin-off comics including Team Youngblood, Youngblood Strikefile, Youngblood and the Raiders of the Lost Arc [well maybe not that one, but you get the point]).

So why would Marvel and Liefeld allow this? Well, it’s always a good sign to show that you can poke fun at yourself. Self-deprecation is endearing, and that’s how it came off. Anyway, Youngblood/X-Force is certainly a fun read and you should totally track one down. It is proof that there was some really fun comics from the 1990s.

Sorting Comics Is Hard

Sorting Comics Ain't Easy
I’d like to argue with Big Daddy Kane that really it should be sorting comics ain’t easy. This weekend was the first in a long time where I didn’t have to work or have any set plans or any house work to worry about. So I decided that Sunday would be sort out the ol’ comics collection day. There were two reasons for that

  1. It’s something I’ve been putting off for a heck of a long time.
  2. It would be nice to have an accurate list of what I need to have. There’s no reason I should keep buying multiple copies of Armageddon: The Alien Agenda. No joke…I found out that I have at least three full sets of it.

This is something that I felt was a good idea to do, as I’m going to the Baltimore Comic-Con this weekend. So I wound up sorting the boxes, pulling stuff I want to get signed and what not.

Nearly twelve hours later, I got as far as I could yesterday, giving up at the letter “K”, which will take a decent chunk of time with my enormous collection of Ka-Zar comics.

So here are some of the interesting things I’ve found so far.

  1. Not only do I have a complete run of Dazzler, but I also have all the issues with variant cover prices (issues were priced differently for the direct market and at newsstands as part of a sales experiment).
  2. I had a bunch of Justice League America issues signed by Adam Hughes on the interior page. I guess I can thank the prior owner for getting that done for me.
  3. I’ve bought/read a lot of comics.

So how do you organize your comics? I’ll talk about what I do tomorrow.

Splash Page Saturday #9

 

I know this is late, so what? Last week was the fiftieth anniversary of the Fantastic Four’s debut! Hooray! Here’s a pinup by Jack Kirby featuring the Fantastic Four back in the Thing’s old neighborhood on Yancy Street.

And as usual, it’s a bad experience. You can see Dr. Doom up in the right corner, and he’s responsible for the welcoming graffiti. Happy anniversary!

Jim Henson’s Time Piece

Have you ever seen this? It’s a clip of Jim Henson’s short film Time Piece from way back in 1966. This Academy Award nominated film was Henson’s attempt at experimental film-making. Although its intentionally disjointed in its visual collage format, you can see that there is a narrative being told. To this day, I still have no idea what’s going on, but I know its surreal. And clearly there is a message about the passing of time in it.

I think I first saw this film in its entirety as a kid on PBS and I was really freaked out, especially the scenes of them painting the elephant.

Here’s some really cool behind-the-scenes footage on the project and its impact.

The Jim Henson Company has made Time Piece available for purchase on iTunes. It’s worth checking out. Henson and MuppetWiki have a bunch of information, production shots and promotional materials from the project as well.

So how does this work its way into comics?

Well in the late 1960s, Henson and longtime head writer Jerry Juhl worked on adapting an idea Henson had written a screenplay called A Tale of Sand that was never produced.

This story has been unearthed and is going to be published as a graphic novel, A Tale of Sand is being released by Archaia Comics as an original graphic novel with art by Ramón Pérez.

So what’s it about? According to Archaia’s press release

A Tale of Sand follows scruffy everyman Mac, who wakes up in an unfamiliar town, and is chased across the desert of the American Southwest by all manners of man and beast of unimaginable proportions.

 

Well that sounds like fun. Count me in! This will be available this fall.

What Your Local Comics Shop Can Learn From Borders

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The Borders in Las Vegas, Nevada is going out of business, as are the rest of the Borders nationwide. Frown. Photo courtesy BoydsWorld (http://www.flickr.com/photos/boydsworld/)

Let’s face it, the economy sucks. Falling stock prices and credit ratings are all over the headlines. Super bookseller Borders fell victim to the economy. So should your local comic shop worry?

Well, yes. I mean the economy is very volatile and getting funny books isn’t the biggest priority for many fans of late. But look on the bright side. With Borders no longer in business, this gives comic shops an opportunity to serve a customer base that’s used to getting their comics fix from a big box store. So as a long time comics shopper, here are some helpful hints that I would like to share. You can all thank me when your business goes up.

You've already got customers like the Big Bang Theory guys....lets expand your customer base!

BE NICE TO YOUR LADY CUSTOMERS- Graphic Policy estimates that at least 25% of comic book fans are women. That said, don’t ogle them when they come into the store. Don’t hit on them. Don’t be creepy. Do be pleasant to them. Ask what comics they are looking for and if you can help them. Basically be respectful. You don’t want to alienate one out of four of your customers.

SHED THE SLEAZY STEREOTYPE- This kind of goes with the last one.  One or two pin-up posters of Lady Death are tolerable, but don’t have your store look like a shrine to early 1990s cheesecake comic art. Not only does this make women feel uncomfortable shopping in your store, but it also dissuades parents from bringing their children in. And with no new readers, there goes the business.

IF IT DON’T PAY THE RENT, IT’S GOT TO GO- Having the largest selection of back issues in town is very impressive, but at the same time it’s costing you money and taking up a lot of space. Obviously, the first appearances of Cable and Deadpool will get you a nice sale, but the rest of your New Mutants back issues are probably going to sit for a long time. Lower the price on them and make them more affordable to your customers. That’s how you can move inventory. There’s no reason it should still have the inflated price that you found in a Wizard magazine twelve years ago.

KEEP IT CLEANED- No one shops in a messy store. Also, keep your inventory organized. It makes it easier for customers to find issues or trades. If someone can’t find something, you’ve lost a sale.

MERCHANDISE THE MOVIES- When there is a comics movie out, whether it be X-Men or Batman or even Ambush Bug (we can wish, right?), make sure you have their product accessible. You might have some new customers looking to get back into their favorite characters. Also, figure out how you can promote comics at movie theaters when comic adaptations come out.

DON’T JUST SUPER HERO IT- We all know that super hero comics are the 800 pound gorilla in the comics room. They make the most money. That said, you have to find a way to sell focus indie (ie not super hero) books. If the writer of Justice League has a crime noir graphic novel out, put them near each other and make some signage to let the customer know. If someone loves Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, they might be willing to try Criminal. 

What other hints do you have for comic book shops?

Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko

When I picked up Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, I figured I would learn more about the comic book creator. Instead, after finishing this book, I only have more questions. This isn’t a shortcoming of the author; his subject is just that complex.

Bell shares a glimpse into the mind of Ditko, someone who is very important in the history of American comics but at the same time is more elusive and mysterious than the Question–a character he created.

So what did I learn about Ditko?

By the time you finish Strange and Stranger, you learn what motivated Ditko. It’s not fame and fortune, or other forms of personal success. It’s following the Ayn Rand philosophy of objectivism. So what’s that?

“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Ayn Rand

So what does that mean and how does it apply to Ditko? Basically, he had his own strong sense of what was right and wrong, and he would only do things on his own terms. This strong sense of black and white in his worldview is what influenced his career. Bell shares many stories from Ditko’s peers–and excerpts from the artist–that show how they shaped his business decisions, for better or worse.

Bell does a great job of showing how the characters created by Ditko incorporated objectivist theory, like how Hawk and Dove may have differing theories on how to get there but ultimately coming to the same conclusion of what is right. I can now look back at his work on the Creeper and the Question and see how this influences the characters’ actions. I also was introduced to Ditko’s Mr. A, a somewhat more sinister and objective version of the Question, who wasn’t afraid to take a life of a criminal.

Even if you don’t agree with them, you can’t help but not respect Ditko’s decisions. He is a man who would rather lose personal success then compromise his personal values. This is evident in the tale of Frank Miller wanting to collaborate on a Mr. A project, but Ditko refusing since Miller didn’t share the same views on the character.

So ultimately, I’m more intrigued about Steve Ditko than ever before thanks to this book b y Blake Bell. Does anyone have any recommendations of where I should start?

Splash Page Saturday #8

Here’s a really cool splash page from Ron Garney’s “Captain America: Operation: Rebirth” storyline. I love the emotion of the panel, with Captain America letting Red Skull know that he’s willing to put aside his own personal code of ethics and that killing the villain is an option. Just everything about this panel works, from Cap’s attitude, to the fearful and choked expression on Red Skull’s face. Even look at Red Skull’s hands, trying in vain to get the shield off his neck.

Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D.

Spider-Woman, how I love thee. There is just so much I love about the character like her mysterious background, distinct powers and even her interesting outlook on her self which was usually self doubting..

So in 2009, when the long-awaited new series for her hit the comics stores, I was more than read. It was written by Brian Michael Bendis (who I consider a ‘friend in my head–radio/television personality Wendy Williams’ term for a famous person that you don’t know personally but would assume you would get along with due to their public persona–due to him being quite the Jessica Drew fan) and had art from Alex Maleev (who never fails to amaze me). Needless to say, this new series was quickly added to my “to read” list.

The first story arc–and sadly the last (which we’ll get to in a second)–had Jessica going off to the crime ridden country of Madripoor to track down a Skrull posing as Spider-Man on the behalf of S.W.O.R.D., a covert task force dealt with tracking down aliens on the planet.

Needless to say, this wasn’t an easy assignment, as not only does she battle with the rogue Skrull, but faces off with the Madripoor police, Norman Osbourne’s Thunderbolts team of former super villains, and HYDRA commander Viper.

Obviously, this story was enjoyable because of its action-packed plot and Maleev’s art. But what makes it stick out is Jessica’s internal dialogue. She’s a very compelling character, filled with self-doubt.

So why was this series cut short? Bendis and Maleev had intended this to be the first ever monthly motion comic, with the print copy and animated version being released on the same day. And you thought day-and-date print and digital comics was cool!

In the collected version, they explain how difficult it was to adapt the art into the motion comic format, and reasonably so. I wish this series would have gone on past its initial seven issue story arc, but the good thing is that it tells a complete story. If your interested in seeing a preview of the Spider-Woman motion comic, Marvel has the first episode posted on its YouTube page (you need to be a registered YouTube member because it has a PG13-ish rating). If you like it, you can buy it on iTunes or on a DVD/Blu Ray.

Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel

We may still be two years away from its debut, but I’m starting to get excited about the relaunch of the Superman film series. Today the good folks at Warner Brothers released an image of Henry Cavill as Superman, and I will say that it looks pretty cool. I do wish they had cast Jon Hamm as the Man of Steel instead. But, again, I’m not a Hollywood bigwig.

What excites me most about this film is that Zack Snyder is directing. I enjoyed his adaptations of 300 and Watchmen. He knows how to translate comics from the floppy to the big screen. I also like that they’ve cast Laurence Fishbourne as Daily Planet editor Perry White.

So what do you think of Man of Steel?

Untangling the web of outrage about the new Ultimate Spider-Man

So the new Spider-Man featured in Marvel’s Ultimate line seems to have created a bit of controversy. Not for killing Spider-Man, but for his replacement half-black, half-Hispanic teen named Miles Morales who debuts in Ultimate Fallout #4 today. Unfortunately, it’s very hateful.

Instead of it being the “OMG! WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!?” in 2005 when DC killed off Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) and replaced him with the younger Hispanic Jamie Reyes, reaction by internet bullies has been very racist. Bleeding Cool has compiled a list of some of the worst comments left on an article about Miles’ debut.

To these people, I say calm the hell down. They’re missing the point completely. The fact that the new Spider-Man isn’t white has nothing to do with the story. Peter Parker’s dead, and that can’t be changed. But Miles was inspired to pick up the legacy of the fallen hero, something that has nothing to do with the color of his skin.

The frustrating part is all this fake outrage. The majority of those commenters probably don’t even read the comics and only know about Spider-Man from his appearances on the big screen and television. If they did, they would know that this isn’t the main version of Spider-Man, but an alternate one.

Just when things started to die down, artist Sara Pichelli’s quote in the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail seems to have further confused people about the new Spidey.

“Maybe sooner or later a black or gay – or both – hero will be considered something absolutely normal.”

Sara said this in a recent article. This was wrongfully misinterpreted that the new character was gay as well.

So now they’re up in arms that Spider-Man is not only black, but gay.

Really?

First she never said the character was gay. Secondly, its 2011. People need to be a lot more accepting.

That said, so how did we get to this point?

Another interview with writer Brian Michael Bendis revealed that they had planned on killing off the Ultimate version of Peter for a while. By changing the ethnicity of the new Spider-Man only helps distinguish the two different characters.

Community's Donald Glover tried to use his Twitter followers to help him land the role of Peter Parker in the new Amazing Spider-Man movie. Although he didn't get the part, they made a joke about it in an episode that season.

Community actor Donald Glover played a part in this decision. Glover took to the internet in a unsuccessful bid to play the role of Spider-Man in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man.

“He looked fantastic!” Bendis recalls. “I saw him in the costume and thought, ‘I would like to read that book.’ So I was glad I was writing that book.”

 Bendis also had a bit of a personal interest in the new Spidey’s ethnicity. His two adopted daughters are an African America and an Ethiopian.

“Wouldn’t it be nice for them to have a character or a hero that speaks to them as much as Peter Parker has spoken to so many children?” Bendis says. “There’s nothing wrong with that, and I think we need more of it.”

And that’s the thing. It doesn’t matter what color our heroes are. What is important is that they inspire us to be better people, and this is something that the Miles Morales Spider-Man will do.

Heck, I wanted to grow up to be Roadblock from GI Joe.  

Anyway, all this phony outrage just drives me nuts. If this twist in the Spider-Man mythos isn’t for you, then do what your grandmother always told you: if you can’t say anything nice, then say nothing at all.