Friday, March 30, 2007

Comics to Film: 300

I saw 300 a few weeks back, and wanted to post a few quick thoughts about it before I forget...

First off, it was awesome! Much better than the original story from Frank Miller, in fact (IMHO). While director Zach Snyder only fiddled a little bit with the source material, it really worked brilliantly in the translation to the big screen. Never have I seen a more "manly" film, but whether in spite or because of the intense violence, it was absolutely beautiful to look at. Add to that amazing performances by Gerard Butler and Lena Headey that really sold the story at the human level, and you've got an outstanding film.

All this gives me a real hope that Snyder may actually do a respectable job with the upcoming Watchmen film.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Milligan's Infinity, Inc.

Just a quick note to mention Peter Milligan's upcoming Infinity, Inc. title for DC. There's a nice little write-up from CBR here that's definitely got me interested. I quite enjoyed the Steel/Natasha/Lex/Everyman storyline in 52, so it's nice to hear that he'll be working with some of that back story. Plus, Milligan is one of those writers who gets me interested just by being involved.

Lastly, I found the blog of the artist, Max Fiumara, who looks to have a really great style.

I'll be looking forward to seeing some previews from this in the upcoming months.

Thus We Enter the Crisis Age of Comics

I believe it started at the beginning of the 21st century. Comics were changing. The fallout from the a-bomb dropped on the industry in the 90's had subsided. In plain English, comics were good again.

In the 90's, we saw a lot change in the industry. DC and Marvel felt the sting of competition for the first time in the form of Image Comics. Everyone was on board. New superheroes in new situations peaked the interest of readers everywhere. Books like Spawn, The Maxx, and others began to catch the attention of readers everywhere. It was refreshing to see new faces and new stories after so many years. Other publishers pushed books that seemed like undiscovered frontier for readers. New and old readers alike shifted their focus from Superman and the X-Men to Valiant titles and other new "independent" comics. I believe that this is was caused the mass of crap-tacular horror that is 90's comics.

My belief is that, in response to this new demand for non-mainstream superhero books, Marvel and DC went to drastic measures and made some pretty bad decisions to compensate. Thus began "great tales" of Spider-clones, Magneto monsters, and dead Kryptonians.

The Four Horsemen of the 90's Comic Apocalypse

This beast came to us in the form on Marvel's "Onslaught" crossover. I call it Famine because it's universe expanding nature caused most Marvel fan's to go broke every month. You had to buy every issue of every title, just to understand what was happening in the particular books you actually read. You could fill a couple of long boxes with the crap you had to buy to get this crossover. It was so big, that I never really understood what was happening. And I was buying books that I never read. Hulk, Cable, and more crap than the inside of a Port-a-John. This disaster of a crossover was boring, expensive, and pointless. (For shame Mark Waid. We love you now Mark, but for shame.) At the end of this mentally handicapped crossover, came "Heroes Reborn", which really was "Heroes Need Money, Buy our Variants". This 'relaunch' of the Marvel U was a waste, and caused Famine in the industry during the 90's.

"The Death of Superman" caused the greatest speculation boom in comics history. People that had never touched a comic book were buying cases of this book, thinking one day they would become rich off their resale. NOPE. Not only did the "Death of Supes" book flood the market with what seemed like 20 printings and variants, but it was complete garbage. The Man of Steel didn't fall to his arch nemesis Lex Luthor. He was killed by an illiterate grey monkey with a top knot and green Hulk pants. The story was so poorly written, that the only way Lois and Superman could have had less chemistry is if they were in two different comics.

This also spawned a demon child comeback. "Reign of the Supermen" haunts me to this day. Four variations of the DCU's most powerful hero, all with bad haircuts and die cut covers. To this day, every shop has back stock of these 'gems of crap', enough to inventory another store.

This highly infectious disease was brought by "The Clone Saga". Our friendly neighborhood Spidey was cloned, found his parents, died, and ruined Spider-man books for years. His clone, Ben Riley, was a hip hero, with a hooded sweatshirt for a costume. Not only did this story not make any sense, it was costly and pointless. We, as readers, needed this story about as much as we need the flu. It made me sick and want to puke, just like the flu.

This isn't a particular story of issue, but the state of comics in the 90's in general. Marvel and DC flooded the market in attempts to make more money, and when it becomes top priority to make as many books as possible, creativity and good writing go out the window. Variant covers and high sales numbers overpowered the need for good writers and good stories.

Another big change was how comic collecting snuck into the mainstream. Comics started to become more and more valuable. People wanted back issues and variant covers more than ever. For the first time, collecting became more important than actually reading the books themselves. This trend still continues today, (check out the value of early issues of Marvel and DC books in the first few issues of Wizard magazine, compared to today) although it isn't as bad with the multiple printings and so forth.

All of these events plague the "modern" age of comics. But out of the darkness, came a light....

The "Crisis" Age of Comic Books

As I stated above, I believe that comics took a turn for the better at the turn of the century. New writers and artists started to appear, and the stories and characters themselves once again became the reason we read and spend our hard earned money on comics.

New books, like the Ultimate line from Marvel, gave new twists on old characters, making the stories interesting again. Writers like Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Brian Michael Bendis, and Joss Whedon, started writing great stories that were not only creative, but driven by the characters themselves. The heroes we all know and love mattered to us once again. Creative teams actually researched their characters to make stories make sense. Enter now the new age of comics, where the past matters and we as fans can actually place stock and care for the heroes we love. And I am stating that this new age of comics officially started with Identity Crisis #1.

Written by Brad Meltzer, this dark and disturbing story is the beginning of continuity making sense and having a purpose in comics. In the mini-series, we find that someone has figured out the secret identities of our favorite DC heroes, and is killing their loved ones. Besides great story telling and wonderful art, we get to see a darker side (which is much more realistic) to the DCU.

We see continuity tie together really well for the first time, as well and the secrets to mind wiping, and the fact that you should never piss off a cheesy C-list villain like Doctor Light. (I know, Doctor Light!!!) I loved this book, and everything that followed it from DC.

Although the good stuff began before this issue and story, I am picking this as the beginning because I feel that this is where it became absolutely important to make a great story in every issue, at least for DC. Some other great things like Y: The Last Man, and others came before IC, but this is where I start the time line.

Marvel and Image have done some good things in the past few years too. The Ultimate books, Runaways, Astonishing X-Men, The Walking Dead, and others have all been great books that I really enjoy. I still think Marvel needs some work with the variants, and weird editorial ideas like Spider-Armor Spidey and "House of M". But they have well written books and great artists too. I think I like DC better because they made it important to have great books and stories across their universe, and chose not to put out meaningless stuff like Marvel Romance Redux and X-Men: Apocalypse/Dracula (for jgd3).

I know it isn't exactly perfect yet, for either of the big two, but it is better and a world apart from what we had in the 90's. I think it takes great minds like Dan Didio to understand what comics need, and great writers like the ones mentioned here, plus guys and gals like Grant Morrison, Gail Simone, Ed Brubaker, and the countless others to make comics special and worth the $2.99 we pay for them. Books like 52, and many others, are great consistently. That has made comics so good again. I feel like we have only seen the beginning of the "Crisis" Age of comics, and the best is yet to come.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mrkvm's pick of the week for 3/21/07

A new segment here at the Corps! Every week I'll do a quick post highlighting my favorite book from the most recent week of goodies. I know, I know, kind of an obvious thing to do, but maybe it will inspire my cohorts to do picks of their own.

If there's a better super hero book coming out right than Justice Society of America, I don't know what it is. Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham have blown my expectations out of the water with every issue. There's just so much to love here; from the development of the Cyclone character to the strange antics of the latest iteration of Starman and everything in between.

This week we get some tasty development for Damage as well as more for the new Wildcat. Plus, Power Girl rightfully claims the role of chairwoman (jeez, thanks Geoff Johns, you've made me a Power Girl much lower can I sink?).

Yeah, I'm pretty much completely invested in all the characters and their various storylines. Maybe it's too easy, but I'm also totally digging the incorporation of Kingdom Come-esque elements into the current DCU.

So, the first story arc has wrapped up nicely, and I'm completely floored for the JLA/JSA crossover (I really need to post some about Meltzer's excellent work on that other DCU team book too!).

Reading this one? Give me your thoughts, theories, etc.!

Not reading this one? Um, why not?

Monday, March 26, 2007

52 Week 46...perhaps this is also why we read comics?

Our esteemed colleague here, jgd3, was complaining to me a bit about the Full! On! Fight! Explosion! of last week's issue (week 45), but I didn't really have any problem with it. I thought it was appropriately intense and opened up another can worms in the overall story.

Anyway, there's more Black Adam smashing stuff in week 46, but what a genuinely fun read it is (and totally different from the grim destruction we saw last week). There's just nothing like the ridiculous awesomeness of the Oolong Island mad scientist enclave. I'm still convinced that this is all Grant Morrison, but I could, of course, be wrong.

Enough of me blabbing, though. Here's some downright zany (yes, I said zany!) quotes from the issue for our good readers to enjoy...

See? Super-flamable liquid plastic plus thermo-breath!

All you're doing is making him mad. And when he gets mad he makes you dead.

Time for Baron Bug to save us all! Oh God, Oh God----Where are my insectrons??
And, finally, the quote du jour:
I'll say it if no one else will...Feel free to cackle hysterically, Gentlemen!
How's that for some fine mad scientist...well, madness?!?

Loved it as always!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Superman 660....This is why we read Comic Books

Superman 660 is a prime example of why we read comics. Take a ridiculous villain (in this case, the Prankster), and put him in a self contained issue with him as the lead character.

In this ish, The Prankster has set up a racket where criminals can pay for his services when they are in need of a diversion. The Prankster masterminds this diversion in his CTU-like HQ, where he carefully plans the logistics of the operation down to the millisecond. Each plan he devises includes every contingency, including Superman.

The great turn in this story, is when The Prankster is double-crossed, and retaliates by allowing enough time for Superman to save the day.

This is WHY we read comics. The stories are fun, the writers can take a boring and lame villain, and turn out a cool story that is entertaining. I mean, who really cares about the Prankster???? If he disappeared from comics forever, I don't think I would notice. However, Kurt Busiek's tale in Supes 660 is one of my favorite books so far this year.

If you want a great read that is well written but want stories that don't require the last 3 years of continuity to make sense, pick up some DC titles. I recommend Detective Comics, Batman, Superman and Action Comics. If you pick up from the beginning of OYL on these titles, you don't have to go too far, and the stories are great. Bats and Detective have been pretty great, and they have been consistent.

Written by Kurt Busiek; Art by Mike Manley and Bret Blevins; Cover by James Fry and Rodney Ramos

This issue looks at someone who's popped in and out of SUPERMAN for months. Ever since "Up, Up and Away," he's made his presence known. Now, at long last, the story you demanded starring… The Prankster?!

Superman | 32pg. | Color | $ 2.99 US

On Sale March 14, 2007


A lot has been great in the DCU for the last few years, which began with Identity Crisis. I believe that the new ERA of comics began with that story, and thus started what I am calling the "Crisis" age of comics. There will be more on this later, but I think it is safe to say that we have finally left the Spawn dominated, pointless crossover age of "Modern" comics, and moved into an age where superheroes have a personalities and character flaws that make them more believable, and make their failures and successes more tragic and uplifting.

From the fanboy corps, I will say a big "WE CARE ABOUT HEROES!". Check out Superman 660, it is why we read comics.

P.S. More on the "Crisis" age of comics soon!!!!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rogers' Blue Beetle Pitch

Man, I should have just posted John Rogers' pitch for reading Blue Beetle in my last post. Tell me this doesn't make you want to read the book (from the same interview I just posted about):

Teenager Jaime Reyes has a spiffy, homicidal armored suit made by aliens who hate him. He has no instruction manual for the armor -- that's stuck in the brain of his mentor, who may soon shoot him in the face. His best friend's Mom is his nemesis, the other superheroes left him to die in space, and he has midterms and no date for the prom. He's El Paso's only superhero. He has no idea how to do that job, and El Paso has no idea how to have a superhero. Jokes are told, things blow up, New Gods and Batman and Green Lanterns and other superheroes visit to punch and wise-crack and occasionally weep over a bloody, tragic demise. It's old-school adventure comics drawn by an artist you can brag about discovering ten years from now. Come for the ride.
And, uh, here's a pretty picture to look at too:

Nice Blue Beetle Interview

Since I've taken it as my personal mission to pimp DC's Blue Beetle book at every possible chance, I thought I'd post a link to this fantastic interview with writer John Rogers.

Rogers frequently posts about writing techniques and process in his blog, and I always find that enlightening. In the interview he drops this bomb along those lines which grabbed my attention:

Blue Beetle is actually plotted out, both issue and arc, on a wiki page. The artists, writers and editors can all access and rewrite the page whenever they want. Joan will post a question, I'll rewrite one of the issue plotlines in response, she'll check and tell me if a villain's available or not ... and that all updates live online, so the latest version of the year-long breakdowns are always a click away. That software is idiot-proof and free for small projects (it's Backpack, if you're interested).
We use a wiki pretty heavily at my work, and I find the technology to be quite effective in enabling collaborative projects. So, I was fascinated to hear about it being used in developing a comic book. Plus, you know, I'm a huge geek, so this just set off all my usual geek alarm bells.

Anyway, this is one of the most fun and intriguing reads out there at the moment. I love the whole "outsider" perspective that's used to inform the character (go read the interview to see what I'm talking about), and it sounds like there's going to be a lot of great stuff coming up in "year two."

Read. This. Book.

Architecture & Morality

So, yeah, I've completely stopped reading the Spectre part of Tales Of The Unexpected. I've just kind of lost interest. However, how about those amazing Dr. 13 backup stories?!? This is some of the most fun comics I've read in quite some time. Who knew the master of 100 Bullets, Brian Azzarello, had such a gloriously twisted sense of humor. And Cliff Chiang might just be my new favorite artist (Anyone know what his next project is? Do tell!). I'm thrilled to hear they'll be collecting this. It deserves its own trade for sure.

Now, good readers, spoilers ahoy for issue 6...

The mystery of the Architects is revealed! Who are these mysterious fellows? Why it's a giant walking Mount Rushmore with, once their disguise is uncovered, the heads of (as far as I can tell) Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, and Greg Rucka. Actually, I'm a little unsure about the Geoff Johns part, but I'm almost positive about the others. And if Messrs. Morrison, Waid, and Rucka are there, the logical choice for the fourth head is Mr. Johns. The Architects are defeated in a most amusing away, but I'm sure they could be back. Or perhaps behind it all is the Didiosaur or the here next month to find out!

PS: Red Skies!

PPS: 11:52

Friday, March 16, 2007

"The Bottled Cities of Kandor"

This posting on Brad Meltzer's MySpace blog made me laugh out loud. Twice. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Arnold Drake 1924-2007

Arnold Drake, creator of Deadman, The Doom Patrol, The Guardians of the Galaxy and co-creator of maybe the first ever graphic novel, died on Monday of this week. Needless to say, the man's contributions to the comics medium have gone under-appreciated.

In his Lying In The Gutters column for March 12th, Rich Johnson reflects on meeting the man only two weeks prior at the New York Comic Con. This tidbit stood out for me:

We discussed his Doom Patrol and he told me that he believed only Grant Morrison ever saw in the team what he was trying to do.

High praise for what, to me, is the high water mark in the history of Drake's inspired team of misfits and outcasts. If you've never read any of Morrison's Doom Patrol run, you're really missing something totally unique to the superhero genre.

Photo © Dan Chusid '05.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

OMG Captain America is DEAD!!!!!!

Well, as CNN reported this morning, Steve Rogers, the once skinny super serum test subject for the army (AKA Capt. America) is dead. He was assassinated on the steps of a federal court house after the Marvel Civil War.

I have not yet read the book, but I am sure it will end up being as trivial and meaningless as Superman's Death in the 90's. Hey, Maybe Marvel can do a book called "Infinity Crisises", where Captain America from New York 2 can break free of the Negative Zone Prison and return Marvel to its normal balance. I am sure he is tired of hanging with Spidey, M.J., and Daily Bugle 2 Aunt May, who is still Galactus' herald, anyway. (Aunt May "forgets" her bathrobe in the morning.)

Anyway, I am sure that when the Cap movie comes out, there will be a revelation in the Marvel U, and all will be erased. Too bad Marvel was not cool enough to kill him in Civil War. I guess they didn't want to overshadow the death of Goliath or Giant Dude or whoever the hell he was.

Anyway, here is the tag from

RIP Steve Rogers 1941-2007

CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 The Story: Leaping from the final pages of Civil War, this is the *only place* readers can find out what happens next in the life of CAPTAIN AMERICA! Trust us, folks, this oversized 25th issue will stun readers and send shockwaves through the entire Marvel Universe for the next year! Rated T+ …$3.99 In Stores: 2007-03-07 - see details

Here is a spoiler link for

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

DCU Sci-Fi Rundown

Isn't it a great time to be fan of science fiction in the DC Universe?


Here's my rundown of some of the great sci-fi goodness we've seen in the DCU lately.

Green Lantern
Geoff Johns is bringing his A+ game to this book and he's clearly having a blast doing it. I love all the ideas he's throwing into this book and the GL mythos as a whole. Every issue and storyline just builds on the previous work in the same way that Johns' landmark run on The Flash did.

It also helps that Johns is paired with Ivan Reis, who is just a perfect fit for GL.

Plus, there's more great stuff to come with the Sinestro Corps on the horizon.

Green Lantern Corps
Complementing the main book is the Corps title. I've really enjoyed what Dave Gibbons is doing here, and the cast he's building is top-notch. However, my favorite moment on the book so far is the three issue "Corpse" story written by established inker/up-and-coming writer Keith Champagne (issues #7-#9). Any self-respecting GL fans owes it to themselves to read those three issues.

I'm absolutely surprised at how much this book is working for me. I'm your standard Hal Jordan fan, sure, but Ron Marz (who clearly is operating with a mandate from DC editorial) is really making this an interesting ride. Crazy cosmic madness with the multiverse and the monitors looming in the background. This one is another must for GL and DCU sci-fi fans.

Supergirl and The Legion of Super-Heroes
This is the first time I've ever read a monthly LSH title, and it has become one of my favorite books coming out at the moment. There's a huge, intriguing cast to explore and tons of downright fun concepts. Mark Waid has really hit on a great vibe with this book with the help of artist Barry Kitson (though with Kitson headed to Marvel, there's a rumored creative team change on the way).

At the moment the Legion is having a serious run-in with the Dominators, and there's even a link to 52 being hinted at. Get your Legion on!

Mystery In Space
Recommended to me by FBC's own Mike T., Jim Starlin's story of the new, improved Captain Comet penciled by the excellent Shane Davis has turned out to be a great ride. In a smart move, Starlin is using the classic space station setup to great effect. Plus it has a strange cult, clones, a talking dog sidekick, and the looming threat of current DC baddie du jour, Lady Styx. And, hey, the backup feature of The Weird has some interesting stuff as well (it certainly helps that the two stories are clearly on a collision course). Starlin's storytelling can feel a bit old-school at times, but this is still a most enjoyable read.

Omega Men
Wow, what can I say about this one? I freely admit to feeling a bit lost when I read this book, but it just has so much energy and style that I can't help but enjoy it. Looking back over it a bit today, I realize it's probably a book that will read better all in one sitting rather than month-to-month.

One of the things that's probably contributing to my own confusion is how writer Andersen Gabrych happily delves deeply into Omega Men lore without wasting any time spoon-feeding the reader. I have to admire him for that. It's nice to have a writer who assumes that I can figure out the history I don't know (what's Wikipedia for, after all?).

Finally, artist Henry Flint is in a class by himself. He's absolutely perfect for this book and completely unique. I hope we see more from him in the future.

Blue Beetle
You aren't reading this book? What's wrong with you? Quit whining about Ted Kord and see what a fun book Keith Giffen and John Rogers have crafted (Note: Rogers has recently taken over as the sole writer of the book without a blip). The series also has a new regular artist in Rafael Albuquerque who seems like a perfect fit so far

While it's not all sci-fi madness, there's been a good amount of cosmic strangeness lately. We've recently had appearances by the New Gods, and issue #12 kicks off a new storyline featuring the mysterious alien race, The Reach.

So, there it is, my not-as-quick-as-I-planned DCU sci-fi rundown. Phew! Look to the skies....or something.

"Justice League Through the Ages" cover for JLA #7

(click the thumbnail for the awesome full-sized version)

Over on his MySpace blog, fanboy done good Brad Meltzer has unveiled the cover for Justice League of America #7 and it's real a beauty. Designed by Eric Wight with artwork by Ed Benes and featuring George Pérez, Luke McDonnell, Kevin Maguire, Howard Porter, Gene Ha and Wight.

Looks like the issue will ship with two covers, one of the left half of the image and the other with the right half.

Totally amazing!