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Monday, February 08, 2010

 
The Monday Briefing -- Haven't done one of these in a long, long time...

* I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who helped out in my Emergency Dental Book Sale to raise funds for my daughter's wisdom teeth extraction. It was done late last week, and she's recovering, slowly, but she is recovering, and I'm relieved it's behind us and grateful for the support of so many readers. Thank you.

* On a related note, all books have been sent out as of today, so if you ordered, you should have your stuff soon.

* Now, the next ordeal! You may or may not be aware that Blogger (owned by Google) has decided to end its support of FTP functionality in the next few weeks. Sadly, Blogger's platform is what Comic Book Galaxy was built on a decade ago, and continues to be the foundation of the site's blogs and some of its satellites.

If anyone out there with some tech/web savvy and understanding of what is going on with Blogger is willing to help us navigate (or at least understand) these changes, I hope you'll email me and hopefully lend us some insight. At the moment I have no idea what these changes mean for our site(s), but it doesn't sound promising. I hope you'll get in touch if you have any wisdom to share.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

 
The Monday Briefing on Tuesday -- It was a busier than expected holiday weekend for me, ending yesterday with a backyard barbecue at our house attended by some family and good friends and held in about the best weather you could hope for in late May. The sun was shining, but the humidity was low and the bugs were almost non-existent. Ate too much, talked too much, and slept like a log last night, which I almost never do.

Recently read and really enjoyed: Why I Killed Peter from NBM (startlingly good autobio that veers from Michel Michel Rabagliati-like whimsy to head-crushing reality) and The Photographer from First Second (non-fiction as well, an amazing account of one photographer's journey through Afghanistan and the life-altering experiences he had there).

Recently pissed me off: The cancellation of Life on NBC and The Sarah Conner Chronicles on Fox. Both were well-done series that I looked forward to every week, and I'm sorry they didn't get another chance to find an audience. I'm glad Dollhouse was renewed, but I hope it starts to feel more like a real Joss Whedon series and less like the network suits are going over every script with a red pencil and an X-Acto knife.

Decided not to bother: The new Terminator movie was always a "maybe" for me, but the cancellation of the TV series and the uninviting trailers combined to keep me away from the theater this past weekend. Plus, I am still riding the buzz from seeing the new Star Trek movie and I feel like seeing something so obviously inferior would spoil that. If that makes sense.

Can't believe the weekend went by so quickly. Today it's back to work, for a thankfully short work-week. Off to the salt mines.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

 
The Monday Briefing -- Took the family, as expected, to The Albany Comicon yesterday. It seemed more packed than ever with dealers, people looking to buy comics, people dressed in costume (including many Star Wars characters, which blew my son's mind -- I'm the Trekkie of the family, he loves all things Star Wars), and at least one guy who seemed to be taking pictures for (I assume) the local newspaper.

Despite quite a few half-price graphic novel bins, I didn't spend any money at all on comics -- the show is a lot of fun but most of the dealers are dedicated almost exclusively to superheroes and nostalgia (and superhero nostalgia). I was tempted by a leather-bound Complete Frank Miller Batman hardcover that I've always wished I owned (you know the one, purple, collected DKR, Year One and that oddball, early-career Christmas story?), but it was priced at $48.00 and that's too much for me to pay right now for a book that I own 95 percent of the contents already, twice over for Year One.

I did get to talk briefly to former FantaCo guy Rocco Nigro, always great to talk comics with, and Rocco introduced me to writer/blogger Timothy Callahan, who I had no idea lived as close to Albany as he does. It was fun to hang with those guys, however briefly. Missed Roger Green this time out, although a little bird Tweets at me that he was there later in the day. Next time for sure, Rog.

The only money I spent inside the convention was on some Star Trek action figures, a symptom of my growing excitement for the release of the movie, now, hello, one month and two days away. If anyone gets word of the new movie toys being sighted anywhere, do let me know, as I am hoping to score a set of those.

I really liked Tom Spurgeon's newest economy-minded comics-buying recommendations, 10 Avenues for Buying Comics as Used Books. I don't use the word "Avenue" in my post titles nearly enough, I don't think.

Oh, hey, check out my review of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life, which I posted yesterday.

Over and out.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

 
The Monday Briefing -- Didn't read much comics-wise over the weekend, as I am in the final stretch of reading the Star Trek: Destiny trilogy of novels by David Mack. It was recommended as epic and well-written in a message board post somewhere recently, and turns out that is completely true. The novels (I started the third last night) tell a millennia-spanning, post-Nemesis tale that features Captains Picard, Riker, Dax (Ezri, now promoted) and Hernandez (the USS Columbia captain from Enterprise) and their ships and crews on the eve of the worst invasion the Federation has ever faced. The story is perfectly paced, more grown-up in tone than older Trek novels, and the perfect appetizer for May's movie release. If you have any interest in Star Trek at all, check 'em out, they're terrific.

Kind of hard to believe that the finale of Battlestar Galactica is now just days away. Like some viewers whose comments I've read, I've found the last couple-three episodes a bit scattered and off-point, but hopefully Ron Moore and company are saving the best for last. Apropos of nothing, I DVR'd (as we say) an episode of the original series (the Ship of Lights episode, as it turns out), and my wife fired it up yesterday thinking it was the latest episode of the new series. "I didn't understanding any of it of who the characters even were," she told me. "All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again," I cryptically told her. She was not amused.

Comics-wise, check out Chris Allen's look at some Captain America collections, both Brubaker-written and not, as well as some comments on a new line of Marvel action figures.

Tom Spurgeon has posted his Best of 2008 list. As you might expect, it's pretty hard to argue with. I still need to read Omega the Unknown, though.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

 
The Monday Briefing -- Just a few random notes today...If you like Scott Pilgrim, definitely check out Solanin from Viz. It's more realistic (so far -- I'm three chapters in), but concerns many of the same themes, and the art is gorgeous.

If you like Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, but have always felt it needed more elderly Wolverine and blind Hawkeye, definitely check out "Old Man Logan" by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, currently running in Wolverine. I read the first three issues over the weekend and found it readable, but totally in debt to Eastwood.

Speaking of which, his new movie Gran Torino is a fantastic summation of his entire movie-making career, with lots of laughs and genuine drama mixing to create a very enjoyable film.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

 
The Friday Briefing -- And here we are, the last Friday before the Winter Solstice, Christmas and Boxing Day. Next week is packed with significant days for many people. Whatever day you're celebrating (or, heck, all of 'em), I hope you're enjoying a happy and healthy holiday season. Here are a few notes...

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry died this week; the actress who played Number One in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage" went on to also play Nurse Christine Chapel and the voice of the computer on the original series, numerous roles on the animated Star Trek and the domineering but loving Lwaxana Troi (Deanna's mother) on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I've been revisiting a lot of Star Trek this year, I guess in anticipation of next year's JJ Abrams-directed movie, which coincidentally will feature Barrett-Roddenberry's last acting performance, as the voice of the Enterprise's computer. My reignited interest in Star Trek has been more or less limited to the original 1966-1969 series, because the older I get the higher I regard what Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner and the gang accomplished in those brief years. It's caused me, too, to reevaluate a lot about the original series, and to appreciate far more the contributions of people like Barrett-Rodddenberry and the others who contributed to the genuine sense that Enterprise was an enormous vessel filled with hundreds of working professionals, Nurse Chapel just one of them.

Her two best showcase episodes were "Amok Time," in which her feelings for Spock kicked off the entire plot of one of the best episodes of the series, and an even better episode for Chapel, "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" I recently re-watched that one, and it is a real gem of an episode, in its quiet way. Barrett-Roddenberry's best acting performance in all of Trek is probably in this episode, in which the Enterprise finds her former love Roger Korby and a couple of very strange assistants of his. Added Trek-value: the episode also boasts one of the show's trademarks, a dual-Kirk scene. How Shatner must have loved those episodes.

With Majel's death, we lose yet another original series cast member, following James Doohan and DeForest Kelley's deaths. As a lifelong fan of the series, and a growingly unapologetic one, I can tell you that I feel each loss personally. An era has passed, and will never come again, no matter how successful (as art or commerce) the Abrams movie is. And I hope it's a huge hit and a blast to watch, but now it will be even more bittersweet to hear the voice of the ship's computer this one last time. Goodbye, Mrs. Roddenberry, and thank you.

---

Earlier this week, I received a copy of 1977's Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics. This enormous book collects hundreds and hundreds of pages of classic newspaper strips (Gasoline Alley, Flash Gordon and dozens more), and is something I've wanted to have my own copy of for a long, long time. It was nearly intoxicating browsing through its pages, and the combination of its size (allowing a good view of much of the art it contains) and pertinent but brief text material make for an excellent presentation of the material. There's good reason why it is considered a key anthology in the artform of comics, and I'm thrilled to finally have a copy.

---

My posting here has been light the past couple of months and I do apologize for that. I am posting regularly at iTaggit, and I definitely want to get back to a more regular and reliable schedule here. Next year represents the ninth anniversary of Comic Book Galaxy, and history tells me that even if circumstances get in the way of things for a week or a month or a few months, sooner or later I always seem to get back into the swing of things. I'm as excited as ever about comics, I can tell you that. The news about Yoshiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life this week has me positively giddy. Look at that picture. And it's coming in April, early enough that the end of the world may not get in the way of me reading it. Star Trek doesn't hit theaters until May, so that's more iffy, but I am trying to stay optimistic.

Seriously, things look very dark for the year ahead, and I have nothing funny or insightful to say about it. I wish people like Jim Kunstler had been wrong about oil scarcity and the catastrophe of an automobile-obsessed world. I wish I had been wrong about George W. Bush being very, very bad for our country and the world. I wish we could go back in time 8 years or 25 years or 50 years and tell people how their foolishness and arrogance squandered the post-war potential of America and shattered millions, soon likely billions, of lives. More than anything, I wish we had more than hope to count on as we say goodbye to 2008. And goodbye to a lot of other things. Maybe that's why I've been looking back to Star Trek so much this past year; in 1966 it was possible to believe one day mankind would overcome its own worst instincts and take to the stars, the races united and working together toward a better world, a better universe. As we stare down a very bleak 2009, it's hard to believe a year from now we'll have the luxury of doing anything more than struggling to survive; and it's impossible to believe we'll have the time, money or resources to talk about comic books, or old TV shows, on the internet.

I hope I'm wrong.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

 
The Monday Briefing -- I have a whole lot of nuthin' for you this Monday morning. Just a couple of things...

* The Fart Party. I'm late to the party in discovering the work of Julia Wertz, but who wouldn't want to be late to a fart party, I ask ya? Go visit her website and soak in her luxurious autobiographical cartoon strip archives, and order her book published by Atomic Books, The Fart Party. I love the book so much I will probably read the whole thing again tonight. It's funny, it's dirty, it's sad and it's awesome. Most importantly, it's real, and really good, in the way great autobiographical comics are. Apparently Wertz takes some shit from readers for the simplicity of her line or whatever their complaints are, but Wertz's comics are filled with energy, great observational skill, sarcasm and wit. Not what you'd expect from something called "The Fart Party," I know, but isn't being surprised half the fun?

And thanks a bunch to Alicia at Earthworld for validating my purchase with her comment on Saturday, "You're buying The Fart Party? ALL RIGHT!" Buying it I am, for life. More Fart Party now, please, Ms. Wertz.

Bonus: My two favourite phrases from the book: "Turd cutter," and "Hot dickings."

* If you ever wondered what I'm doing, thinking or fuming about in the in-between moments when I am not constructing brilliant essays and reviews, you now have access: the add lifeblog, with all the little Doaney moments you need to build an even more complete picture of why you hold me in such contempt high regard. Bonus: It's all lower-case for more ee cummings-like pretentiousness. YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT.

* Have a great Monday.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

 
The Anemic Monday Briefing -- I got nothin', I'm telling ya. Go read Spurgeon's excellent Blake Bell interview, which pretty much answers all the questions I had about Bell's excellent book about Steve Ditko, Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, which I reviewed recently and can't recommend enough.

Sorry to hear the new X-Files movie apparently was a huge flop over the weekend. I liked it a lot, and recommend you see it if you like the series, but I guess in the summer of Dark Knight and Iron Man, it's no surprise that an excellent, character-based suspense movie like X-Files: I Want to Believe doesn't blow away the competition.

Makes it seem even more unlikely that we'll ever see the continuation -- or conclusion -- of the alien invasion mythology that was woven throughout the entirety of the series. Well, maybe they can do it in comics form, like Buffy Season Eight. Which, if it was as good as that series, I would have few complaints.

Oh, one other thing to mention -- James Howard Kunstler writes about driving up Route 4 in New York's Capital District. This decrepit stretch of lost American highway is almost literally in my backyard, and I travel it a few times a year. Kunstler's description is evocative and dead-on.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

 
The Monday Briefing -- Well, contrary to the past couple of weeks, I didn't get much writing done over the weekend. In fact, here it is:

* I reviewed the first volume of Warren Ellis's Thunderbolts.

Other than that, I spent a good deal of time with my wife and kids; Saturday we dropped in to Earthworld in Albany, and I picked up some graphic novels, including the aforementioned Thunderbolts, Jack Kirby's OMAC hardcover and an independent comics anthology called Awesome, some profits from which go the benefit the Center for Cartoon Studies, which is a nice idea. The book had three or four entertaining stories but a lot of filler-type material that didn't really register. Roger Langridge has a solidly hilarious piece that seems out of place for its polish and professionalism, never mind its humour and ability to entertain. But, it's money spent and some of it goes to a good cause, so, enough about that.

I had one of the most unusual experiences of my life on Sunday; my wife asked me to go with her to a local gambling establishment because she wanted to pick up a gift card for her aunt, who likes the buffet at this place. We were hungry so we ended up eating there after my wife picked up the gift card, and I really felt immersed in the fin du monde atmosphere of this nightmarish monument to stupidity and greed.

The first thing I noticed was how the deafening cacophony from the thousands and thousands of slot machines almost immediately transports you into a dream-like state of non-reality, like listening to a concert or a marching band as you drown at the bottom of a swimming pool. I noticed the majority of the people playing the slots -- senior citizens literally throwing their futures away -- had proprietary credit cards connected to them by lanyards around their necks, each feeding into an individual slot machine. It was a disturbing visual to say the least.

I noticed that everyone seemed to be evaluating everyone else constantly, as if wondering if every person they saw was somehow stealing their good mojo, or perhaps telling themselves they are luckier and better than the bunch of losers staring for hours at the blinking lights and digital screens before them. And more than anything, once I figured out what it was, I noticed the smell of piss almost everywhere. Do people really pee their pants while playing the slots, afraid if they get up to use the bathroom someone will take their place and usurp the winnings that are obviously theirs and obviously just one more game-play away? Call me crazy, but once I pointed out the smell to my wife, she noticed it too.

I played a dollar at a nickel slot machine just to say I had the experience. It was gone pretty quick. My wife's dollar quickly turned into ten, and she was excited to have won so quickly. I pointed out that the only way to really win at that point was to take her ten bucks and leave, and we did. It was a good two hours before the smells, the sights and especially the dizzying, deliberate orchestra of disorientation finally wore off and I stopped feeling like I was going to throw up.

People seriously go to these places for fun?

I know I'm a downer with all my end of the world-watching and all, but a couple hours in a giant building filled with video gaming terminals and some of the most desperate, loathsome people I've ever seen, and it's hard not to feel that whatever is coming, we're asking for it, we deserve it, and it's long overdue.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

 
The Monday Briefing -- I hope my US readers got to enjoy a long holiday weekend, as I did. Here's what I posted here over the weekend.

* My review of Blake Bell's new bio/art book Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko.

* A review of Under the Radar's Protest Issue, which features a rather unfortunate piece allegedly about political comic books but really about the same old superhero/corporate comics crap.

* I reviewed Jack Kirby's Silver Star.

* I also wrote a bit about Charles Schulz's Happiness is a Warm Puppy.

* You can find me mouthing off about the issue of critics reviewing work by their friends and acquaintances at Blog@Newsarama, alongside other folks like Tom Spurgeon and Abhay Khosla.

* In not-me news, the best thing I read over the weekend was part one of Christopher Butcher's forward-looking examination of the evolving manga marketplace.

* Oh, and be sure to enter The Lost Ones giveaway, a chance for you to own a new graphic novel by Steve Niles and company courtesy of Zune Arts and Ye Olde ADD Blogge.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

 
The Monday Briefing -- Hello, good morning and welcome to the Monday Briefing for the last day of June, 2008. Where does the time go? I usually answer "Shushan," which is a small, small village in Washington County, New York that has a lovely little museum, a train station and not much else.

Anyways, it was a fairly busy weekend of blogging hereabouts, so if you missed it, here's what you can catch up on today:

* I reviewed Lewis Black's new book on religion and go into my thoughts on the subject.

* Coincidentally, I also reviewed the most recent run of Godland issues by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli.

* I reviewed Trains are...Mint, an autobio/travelogue sort of graphic novel from upstart Blank Slate Books. Also took a look at the same publisher's We Can Still Be Friends; two very different books, but both worth your attention. Blank Slate is one to watch.

* If you've been reading me for any length of time at all, you know I really dig the comics of Nate Powell. His latest book got reviewed here this weekend, Swallow Me Whole. It won't be out for a couple of months, so let your retailer know you WANT. Because YOU DO.

* I organized the books on the shelf over my desk yesterday, causing me to list the books on writing that I keep close to hand. Do you have any writing guides or inspirations that you find useful?

* Bonus: The best thing I read online this weekend was Tom Spurgeon's interview with cartoonist Lynda Barry. It made me want her new book a lot, but it was sold out at the closest Borders. So I bought Charles Schulz's Happiness is a Warm Puppy instead. I haven't read it since I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, but since it was Schulz's first book and is filled with (presumably) illustrations unique to the book, I thought it was worth adding to my library. I brought my son along on the trip and bought him a Spongebob-heavy Nickelodeon magazine, which he devoured in the car on the ride home.

And that's that with that, as David Paymer used to say on Line of Fire, which was a really good show.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

 
The Monday Briefing -- Hi, I'm back and feeling better. Thank you.

It was a busy weekend of posting, so I thought I'd summarize what's new here the past couple of days:

* I reviewed Mark Evanier's Kirby: King of Comics.

* I wrote about the forgotten foods of my childhood; then Chris Allen did, too.

* Finally, I wrote about the trauma of bent comics, which in retrospect I noted was my first experience with comics activism.

* Also of note today, Tom Spurgeon presents his Best of 2007. It's a good, long piece about great comics. And I agree with him about Paul Karasik's story at the end of I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets, it really does not belong in the book and takes away from its near-perfection. Well, Tom doesn't think it's near-perfect, he didn't care for the format, either, apparently, I'd guess because it looks like a museum catalog of what are essentially dog-eared old pulp comics. And he's not far from wrong, although I loved the book (and still do). But now that I've seen it, I bet the perfect format might have looked something more like Image's Next Issue Project #1? A facsimile-style effort would suit those comics just wonderfully. And since they're presumably public domain...hey, I'm just sayin'.

Before I got sick I was compiling the results of my poll on your comics retailing experiences, and I hope to wrap that up and present it to you here in the next week or so.

Enjoy your Monday.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- A quiet weekend was spent mostly at home, resisting the urge to brave the snowstorm that left over a foot of snow in our region. And winter? Not even officially here yet. Good Lord, Choke! My friend Tim came over Saturday afternoon and we spent a couple of fun hours watching shows he'd never seen before, specifically the pilots of Firefly and The Larry Sanders Show. We had tried earlier in the day to find some movies to rent, but nothing seemed worth picking up...anyway:

* A couple of very good recent comics related interviews: Tom Spurgeon talks to Joe Sacco about the new hardcover Palestine collection; Brian Warmoth speaks with James Kochalka about the American Elf makeover.

* Chris Allen reviews some recent releases, and even finds a kind word to say about the Spider-Man Clone Saga when considering 500+ issues of Amazing Spider-Man.

* Oh, look -- DC is publishing a new Darwyn Cooke New Frontier one-shot (link via The Beaucoup One). I knew sooner or later DC'd publish another comic I would want to read.

* Speaking of stuff I want to read, Fantagraphics has sent out their Spring/Summer 2008 book trade catalog, and man, there's some juicy stuff in there. A 7th and (for now) final Love and Rockets trade in the recent "manga-size" (as they call it) format , Blake Bell's promising Steve Ditko hardcover, and most excitingly of all, B. Krigstein Vol. 2, the conclusion of Greg Sadowski's art book/biography. The first volume is one of my favourite books of all time, so I am looking very much forward to picking up where B. Krigstein Vol. 1 left off.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- Thanks to everyone who sent a "get well soon" message after I sprained my wrist last weekend -- it's still sore and a bit stiff, but getting better every day.

* Congratulations to James and Amy Kochalka on the birth of their second son. Oliver Kochalka's welcome to the world happens at the same time that James has completely overhauled his American Elf website and made much more content free for everyone who stops by (and with new enticements for subscribers). Kochalka says the move was an immediate success: "On Thanksgiving, our second son, Oliver Jonco Kochalka was born. Exactly two weeks later on the evening of Thursday, December 6th, we launched the redesign of American Elf. The news of the change spread. My readership went from about 270 unique users on Wednesday...to about 200,000 or so on Friday. Page views were well in excess of 700,000!" See? Information really does want to be free. Or something like that.

* I read Jim Munroe and Salgood Sam's new Therefore Repent graphic novel over the weekend. You may recall I was blown away by Salgood's RevolveR #1 (and remain on high alert waiting for the second issue). Salgood Sam's art is every bit as accomplished in Therefore Repent as one might expect, but the story about a post-Rapture society dealing with the aftermath of 144,000 believers ascending to the heavens never really engaged my attention. I got all the way through the book, and I understand the plot, but that's the most I can say for the story. Salgood Sam draws the hell out of the whole thing, and I wish I had been more immersed in the story, but despite the obvious care taken in putting it together, it just didn't work for me.

* Something else that didn't work for me was the most recent issue of Grant Morrison's Batman. I'd been more or less enjoying the title the past few months -- the three-issue arc illustrated by JH Williams had a lot of the genius Morrison injected into his JLA work -- but the way the Ra's al Ghul crossover is intruding into the one Batman title I am still reading is enormously off-putting. Rather than conning me into picking up every Bat-title, DC has me thinking of just dropping Batman from my pull list. And believe me, there's not much DC left on there anyway.

* In fact, here's what is on my pull list as of this month (titles with an asterisk I get for my kids):

All-Star Superman
Bart Simpson Comics*
Batman
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8
Comics Journal
Criminal
Eightball
Fell
Franklin Richards*
Futurama Comics*
Love & Rockets
Marvel Zombies 2
Planetary
Punisher MAX
Scott Pilgrim
Simpsons Comics*
Simpsons Classics*
Spirit
Teen Titans Go*
Teen Titans Year One*

I'm dropping The Spirit after #12 because I'm not interested in the post-Darwyn Cooke series; Planetary has one issue to go, and Christ only knows when it will appear. Even I am shocked to see that leaves All-Star Superman and the currently aggravating Batman on my DC reading list. But I see what Tom Spurgeon had to say about one DC title (Salvation Run #1) yesterday as applying to virtually the entire output of the company these days: "There's a sadness and pathetic quality to this comic's existence that I'm unable to communicate in words, as despite liking many of the creators I could never shake my first reaction: 'It's come to this?'"

It sure has, Tom. It sure has.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- With no set agenda, here I am just typing away...

* So the cat's out of the bag with the plot of next year's Star Trek movie now online. Huge spoilers in the link, be warned. I'm of a mind to think this could be a very good movie. I do hope that all the "Shatner's not in it" talk is a bluff, though, and that he gets to play J. Tiberius at least one more time. His Shatnerverse Kirk novels are really good reading, too, if you're into that sort of thing, which I have to admit that I am.

* Currently reading Kevin Smith's My Boring-Ass Life, a collection from Titan Books of Silent Bob's navel-gazey blog postings. It's compelling reading in its way; there's no question that the guy knows how to make the mundane interesting. But make no mistake, I'm a third of the way into the book, and it is pretty mundane stuff -- what we ate and where; orgasms he had and whether they were solo or with his wife; who's hanging out at his house on any given day. If you're into Smith's movies and his sort of mega-mensch bigger-and-smaller-than-life persona, you might enjoy it too. I'm up to the point where he's acting in a Jennifer Garner movie called Catch and Release, and I was interested enough to check out the movie. It's a bit sappy, but with some sharp moments, and Smith is very good as one of the surviving friends of a guy who died an untimely death and left behind his wife-to-be and a secret or two that come to light over the course of the movie.

* I also watched, as a result of Smith's book, the Jason Mewes-leading film Bottoms Up. You might remember it as a movie that Paris Hilton "acted" in. Unlike the other movie, Bottoms up is pretty much Teh Suck. I gave up about halfway through it. I like Mewes as Jay in Smith's movies, but I couldn't sit through this movie to save my life.

* I read the new Betsy and Me collection from Fantagraphics Books over the weekend. It collects all of the newspaper strips by Plastic Man creator Jack Cole that he created in the months before he killed himself. Critic RC Harvey writes a good, informative introduction that hints at the secrets that must have tortured Cole and ultimately led him into the woods with a rifle, but far more interesting is the subtext that develops as you read the strips themselves and compare and contrast with the known facts of Cole's life. Betsy and Me is a slim collection, but it's must-reading for anyone interested in the history of comics.

* Had a great night Friday night with my wife and some mutual friends. Lora picked me up about from work and we went over to Davidson Brothers, a small, classy brew pub in downtown Glens Falls to have a quick drink with my boss and one of the radio station's salespeople. After about a half hour we had to get going because we had reservations at a swanky bed and breakfast about 35 minutes from Glens Falls. We went using station trade, since I could never afford dinner there. We got there about 5:35...we were early, but we were the only people there for dinner, so we got in right away. No one else was there for dinner the whole time we were there, although a group of sorority sisters from 30 years ago arrived late in our meal for a reunion weekend they are having, they are staying at the inn. Very movie-like, I thought.

The dinner was pretty much the best I've ever had. After we ordered, they brought out a small plate of crackers with an eggplant/fennel dip that was quite tasty. Could have used about five times as much of it as they brought out, but you could tell by portion sizes alone that the chef knows exactly what he is doing. After the crackers, they brought out Lora's french onion soup (the real thing, with expensive smelly cheese on it) and I had a chopped salad that had field greens, walnuts, blue cheese crumbles and pear slices and was quite delicious.

Lora got fettuccine alfredo for her entree, and we both enjoyed the handiwork of a chef and staff that actually cared what they were doing and did it well.

I got a NY strip steak au poivre with cracked peppercorns on top, an almond-slivered rice and a huge piece of fresh broccoli. Steak was very possibly the most flavorful and tender I've ever tasted; I'd say more, but I am starting to feel like a food perv.

Lora was shocked when I suggested dessert, but as I said "It would be insane not to see what they do for dessert here." We both got cheesecake, which was either made there or by some gourmet bakery not far away (Nuns of New Skete in Cambridge is a local gourmet cheesecake bakery, I'd guess it was from there). Presented with raspberry and chocolate sauce around the plate and one succulent strawberry sliced thin on top of each of our slices. I'm sure I didn't need it, but at least it was Friday. As I like to say, "Friday is pie day."

After dinner, on the way back home, I called my friend Tim to see if he was going on his second date with a girl he met online that Lora coincidentally works with. I had a feeling he would blow it off if he could (shy and nervous), so I wanted to give him a push. Did THAT ever work; it ended up that the four of us met at the jazz bar downtown that I have been trying to get someone to go to with me for the last year and a half. Lora and I had two drinks each, Tim and Kim had one each and mostly bickered and flirted throughout the two hours we were there. It was like Tim meeting his female equivalent and being aggravated and turned on all at once, and the same on her side, and there the two of them were. God only knows where that goes from here.

The jazz band was really good -- five guys, guitar, stand-up bass, drummer, bongo player and sax -- and they did some numbers I knew and some I didn't, and the last one they did, there was this extended jam at the end where they were just SMOKING -- the whole bar shut up and watched in wonder, and when it finally came to a close, they stood there grinning at each other like idiots in amazement -- I don't think they quite knew they had it in them -- and someone shouted out, "What are you gonna do after THAT?!?" and the whole band cracked up. It was funny and amazing at the same time. Tim and Kim left, and then Lora and I did the same maybe five minutes later, and it was kind of neat because the band was right by the front door and all of them said thanks to us for hanging out and have a good night and like that -- I guess because we were closest to them in the whole place they had taken notice of us sitting there and enjoying their work.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- In which I try to catch up on recent goings-on...

* I was really, really surprised by how much I enjoyed Buffy Season 8 #6 from last week. I was enjoying Joss Whedon's writing and dreading Brian K. Vaughan's arc, both because it was notWhedon and because Vaughan is generally not my cup of tea. But damn if he doesn't capture the voices of the characters extremely well, and the plot itself is worthy of Buffy mythology overall. The single off-note for me was Faith's anatomy on the final page, which looked just slightly inhuman, but the story itself is very, very good and gives me hope that all of Season 8 is going to be as much fun as the first few issues have been.

* Have you been checking out Christopher Butcher's amazing photos of he and his husband's Japan trip? They are some amazing shots. Here's Day One and Day Two.

* What are you doing tomorrow? Have you had enough yet?

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Monday, August 13, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- Only one piece of news worth talking about from Wizard World Chicago...

* Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch Take Over Fantastic Four in January. The Stan and Jack FF, by the way, not the Ultimate version. As of now, the claim is that Hitch has drawn five issues, while Millar has written ten. As is usual with Hitch-illustrated projects, the talk will be more about how soon the book will run off the scheduling rails, rather than what their plans are for the characters and storylines. Me? I find myself caring less than I might have a few years ago.

Millar and Hitch and company obviously created some exciting comics with The Ultimates, although Ultimates 2 seemed to lose the sense of purpose the first series had, and by the final issue I was just glad it was over. There's not a force on Earth that could move me to buy -- or even download for free -- Ultimates 3, given that the new creative team is Shitty McBadstory and Lousy McGoofyart. So I'm well and truly done with that title and those characters.

Honestly, I wish Millar and Hitch would get their way and be given free reign on Superman. I think it would require both of them to stretch muscles they haven't in a while, and I'd guess the resulting comics would have the potential to be as great as All-Star Superman and Superman: Secret Identity, to name two of the very few great Superman comics of the past 15 years. One of the other ones in that rarefied territory is Millar's own Superman Adventures work, which deserves a far better fate than the miniature digest-sized reprints it's been collected into. Despite his sometimes grandiose claims, Millar really was born to write Superman, and you can feel that on every page of his Adventures work.

Hitch's style is so far away now from its original Alan Davis/Jose Luis Garcia Lopez-inspired look that I hardly recognize it, although it remain appealing to the eye. I do wonder if the added levels of detail contribute to his scheduling difficulties, and I honestly like his work best around Stormwatch Vol. 2 and the first 12 issues of The Authority, but I'm always interested in seeing what he does.

So I'm open-minded about what comes out of this announcement, but it would be incorrect to say I am excited about it. Excited would be if Grant Morrison and JG Jones got to do Marvel Boy 2, or if Warren Ellis and Tom Raney were working together again on a monthly title, or if Garth Ennis and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez had been the creative team for Ultimates 3.

Related: ADD interviews Mark Millar; and then he does it again.

* I really enjoyed Roger's Household Hints.

* Check out Matt Brady's reviews of the new Love and Rockets collections Human Diastrophism and The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S., and please tell me you're getting these low-priced volumes of some of the greatest comics of the last 100 years. Matt's review prompted me to pull my massive Locas volume down off the shelf, and damn, "The Death of Speedy" is some goddamned storytelling.

* Echoing my recent interview with James Howard Kunstler (and thanks for the link, Tom!), it appears Peak Oil is officially here. Well, don't say I didn't tell you so.

* If you're a blogger (and these days, who isn't?), you might find this useful: 31 Days to a Better Blog. I'm trying some of these tweaks already.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- This past weekend seemed to go by faster than usual, probably because of:

* A comic book convention smack dab in the middle of it. I wish it had been one of those conventions where you come home with piles of mini-comics and graphic novels and other goodies to occupy your time, but the truth is my son spent more money on comics (and action figures) than I did. I bought three books at an "all for a dollar" table, including an Ed Brubaker Batman annual that ended on a cliffhanger (kind of aggravating) and that I soon realized I had already read when it originally came out (really aggravating). I also got a cheap copy of the Roy Thomas/Wayne Boring/Jerry Ordway Secret Origins #1 featuring the Earth-Two Superman, and a DC Millennium Edition reprint of Detective Comics #1, just out of historical interest.

* The dealer I bought those from had a huge box of Millennium Editions for a buck each, which has to be selling them at a loss, as most of them were $2.99 to $3.99. That's a shame, because that brief reprint program put some of the most significant superhero comics in history back into print, and while it's nice to be able to buy them for a buck, it's too bad dealers seemingly took a bath on them.

* I would have loved to spend more money at the convention, but I didn't have a lot to spend, frankly, and (I guess thankfully) there weren't many of the kind of things I am likely to drop coin on anyway. It was mostly back issues, and I'm not into those at all, as you might have picked up on over the years.

* Local newspapers covered the convention. Here are day-after reports from The Glens Falls Post Star, The Albany Times Union and local Saratoga Springs newspaper The Saratogian.

* What else did I do this weekend? Well, I reviewed Tyler Page's new graphic novel Nothing Better Vol. 1, and the comic whose title tells you literally everything about its contents, Martha Washington Dies. As someone once said, "I read it so you don't have to."

* Matt Brady looks at some great, silent panels in American Splendor Presents Bob 'n Harv's Comics, an absolutely essential collection. If you've never sampled American Splendor, or have read a story or issue here or there and thought it wasn't for you, Bob 'n Harv's is the one book that will make you understand why Pekar is one of the most important and entertaining writers in North American comics history.

* You know, at one time I kind of liked Alex Ross's work. Both Kingdom Come and Marvels had some real storytelling high points, and even came by them honestly. But this solicitation for an upcoming issue of JSA is enough to convince me Ross is strictly in it for the money, now, not a love of superhero comics: "Alex Ross joins Geoff Johns as co-writer for Part 1 of 'Thy Kingdom Come,' the epic story years in the making, springing from KINGDOM COME! Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! Welcome the newest member to the Justice Society of America: the Kingdom Come Superman! Coming from an Earth plagued by heroes-gone-extreme, how will this Superman react to an incarnation of the Justice Society he never knew? This Superman’s world needed better heroes. So does ours." Well, this world needs better superhero writers than Geoff Johns, that's for goddamned motherfucking certain. Isn't Ross the guy who once criticized Mark Waid for his sequel to Kingdom Come? And now here he is working with the chief perpetrator of The Fan-Fiction Age of Superhero Comics, on a storyline that could not be more fan-fictiony. Pardon me while I choke on the sad, pathetic irony.

* At Comic Book Resources, Todd Allen examines DC's public statements to date about Zuda Comics, with special focus on how to protect your rights and what sort of money you can expect to make (hint: not much, at least at first) if you decide to participate.

* Roger Green talks about Albany, New York and other issues in a new Five Questions meme; I'm hoping Roger throws five at me. (Update: he did).

*Tony Isabella looks at Comics in the Comics. META!

* Comic book retailer (and all around good guy) Mike Sterling talks about the rise and fall and rise again in value of a key Marvel comic from the 1970s. This is of interest to me both because I remember buying that issue new off the stands, and more so because of what it says about "hot" comics and their grand place in the scheme of things. Also, note to Mike: Those Punisher comics that tanked in the 1990s? That had to be in part at least because they weren't very good, like most Marvel comics prior to the Heroes Return event that briefly ushered in an era of quality storytelling in some of Marvel's core titles. Briefly. Then Chuck Austen came along...

* With Dirk on vacation this week (have fun!), I thought I'd grab some interesting comics news headlines. And here they are:

* Red Sonja Ownership Trial to Begin.

* Retailer/Blogger Christopher Butcher Rips DC's Sexist, Misogynist Batgirl Cover.

* Tintin Book Called "Racist" Sees Skyrocketing Sales.

* Graphic Novels Aid in SAT Prep.

* High Schoolers Advised to Read "Something Other Than A Comic Book".

* Doug Marlette Laid to Rest

* Nerd Know-How Required to Work in Specialty Shops.

* Sean Penn and Iggy Pop Voice Persepolis Characters.

* New Site Needs You To Sell Your Comics There; Thousands Waving Cash As They Wait For You To Click This Link.

* Read Yourself Raw July Edition now Online. Go read it.

* Star-Tribune Reviews Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds.

* Christopher Allen Reviews Invaders Classics Vol. 1.

* Tom Spurgeon Interviews Cartoonist Graham Annable.

* The Savage Critic Gets New Look, New URL, New Critics. ADD faves Abhay Khosla, Jog and Johanna are all signing on to the new incarnation of this long-running review blog. Abhay talks about joining the new Savage Critic site here; Johanna does the same here. Good luck, gang!

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Monday, July 09, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- Back to work for me today after being off since the last half of last week. We had no major family events or trips planned, but I knew there wouldn't be much to do at work, and if I'm going to be bored, I'd rather be bored at home, frankly. That's where I keep my funnybooks, y'see.

* Internet-Breaker of the Week: At Casa Spurge, Tom Spurgeon gets the first headline on DC's newest new talent showcase, Zuda Comics. Or is that New Talent Showcase? DC and Marvel never do get tired of coming up with new schemes to let idealistic and untested creators do the heavy lifting for free (or close enough so as to not make a difference). (Maybe that guy in Ohio that did that awful book for Epic Comics before it crashed and burned can revive it online for DC! Yay, comics!).

Tom Spurgeon wonders (with tongue firmly in cheek, no doubt) if DC, a subsidiary of the Time Warner international entertainment megacorporation, will let new creators keep the rights to their work. I don't wonder that at all. Ask Alan Moore about DC's generous rights policies. Then duck.

Of course, nothing will apparently be online for readers to look at until well into this fall. I can see how announcing it now will allow them time to collect material from Epic Comics victims hopeful creators, but that's a long time for a whole lotta nuthin' to be sitting there driving away people who click over thinking there'll be comics to read. It's also long enough for savvy would-be creators to talk to, oh, a lawyer or two about their "deal," so, hopefully they'll do that going in, so they can't claim later on they had no idea that an international entertainment megacorporation might have the audacity to put its own needs and profits before those of would-be creators with stars in their eyes.

You can be sure the comics will be progressive as all hell, after reading this quote from DC's Ron Perazza: "If [creators want to do] a straight-on newspaper strip, like a Doonesbury or something like that, great. If [they] want to do something a little more abstract, like a Family Circus that’s all in a circle, fantastic." That's right folks, The Family Circus is abstract. Is their no boundary to their imagination?

At Journalista, the creators rights angle and chances of making a splash in the already-established webcomics nation are vetted by keen observer Dirk Deppey. I don't normally say things like "vetted," but since the Zuda Comics people like to say it, why not me?

The funniest quote in the New York Times article Spurgeon links to announcing the new initiative comes from DC Preznit Paul Levitz, who must have been shocked to learn: "We’ve seen a real wellspring of creativity [by people posting their online comics], and it’s been a different kind of material than publishers have been putting out." Of course, Levitz means different from the kind of comics superhero publishers have been putting out, because only the direct market is slavishly obsessed with superheroes to the exclusion of all other types of stories. The internet gets out to a far broader and more diverse audience, which is why there aren't many top-of-mind superhero webcomics out there. But don't hold your breath waiting for DC to bring you the new Achewood or Diesel Sweeties or American Elf. Here's a thought: Maybe they would have brought you the old ones if they were all that smart and interested in the future of comics.

* Also at The Comics Reporter, I enjoyed Tom Spurgeon's weekend interview with comics journalist Jeet Heer. Jeet is a fine writer, and even contributed a couple of items to Comic Book Galaxy a few years back. Here is Jeet Heer's review of McSweeney's #13, the comics anthology issue edited by Chris Ware.

* Unlike most comics bloggers, I did not take the weekend off; here's what I was up to: reviews of the new MOME Summer 2007, Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics and the fairly atrocious new Thor #1, as well as my thoughts on Nine Graphic Novels to Read Before You Die.

* Christopher Butcher weighs in on the whole what-manga-sells-and-does-not-sell-and-to-whom issue. Butcher knows more about selling comics than you or I do, so pay attention.

* Chris Allen recommends Patton Oswalt's new CD, and I could not agree more. I gave it a listen after reading his review, and I am not kidding when I tell you that I almost lost consciousness, I was laughing so hard.

* The fine folks at AiT/Planet Lar have posted a kind welcome back to The ADD Blog (thanks, gang!) and a handy roundup of links to my reviews of their books.

* Tony Isabella is back from hiatus with a new Tony's Online Tips. Glad to hear he's bouncing back from recent health problems -- click over for his story of trying to take a sleep apnea test, because I just know that's exactly how it would go for me as well. Get much better soon, Tony.

* By the way, here's a reminder that if you prefer to get The ADD Blog posts in your e-mail, you can subscribe through Google Groups. Also, if you have a blog or website and would like to set up a reciprocal link, e-mail me.

* Roger Green looks at nicknames he's been called. I'll plead guilty to having referred to him as "Rog," though I may not from here on out, insert smiley face here. As for myself, like Roger I will also eschew revealing nicknames I've been called in the context of romantic relationships, but in college a friend took to calling me "Webster" because he thought I knew every word in the dictionary (hardly; I just knew more words than he did). My friend Jake used to call me "DOANE" and it always seemed to be in all-caps, a blend of affection and exasperation: "Oh, DOANE." One ex-girlfriend's nickname for me (I'll reveal just this one, okay?) was "Doaney," which strangely I didn't mind. A girl I had a huge, utterly unreciprocated crush on in college called me "Al," as did the wonderful older gentleman who was our building manager from 1995 to 2004. Other than those two, though, that's where I differ from Paul Simon: You Can't Call Me Al.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

 
The Friday Briefing -- I haven't gotten to the comic shop yet this week -- I'm hoping today's the day -- so let's see what everyone else is reading, shall we?

* Chris Allen reviews Two_Fisted Tales Vol. 1. One of the luckiest parts of my early teenage years was my mother's gift to me of the Russ Cochran hardcover, slipcased EC Comics sets. Decades later, not having those anymore is probably my biggest comics-related regret, so I'm glad to see that these new reprints are being released. Chris's take is interesting, in that he recognizes the greatness found in the book without paying automatic, reverent homage to Kurtzman and his crew. Chris's lack of reverence and respect is one of his major strengths as a comics critic.

* Rog observes the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the most important creative partnership in history. Roger's thoughts on music (or anything else, really) are always a great read.

* Rob Vollmar reviews Dragon Head Vol. 1-3 for Comics Worth Reading. This series was recommended to me by Jim Crocker of the great western Mass comic shop Modern Myths during my recent trip there with my daughter. Unfortunately, by then, my money was committing itself to buying enough gas to limp home after a great day of spending adventuring in Northampton. Jim and Rob are both people with impeccable taste (go ahead, I dare you to try to peck their taste!), so I have a feeling Dragon Head may be one to check out.

* Also of interest at CWR is Johanna's piece on adult-male-targeted manga not finding its audience. I'll be honest and say that while the manga revolution is a delight to me -- hey, I've waited all my life to find teenagers lounging about bookstores reading comics, I'm not gonna quibble about where the comics are coming from -- few manga series have grabbed and kept my attention. I like the horror manga of Junji Ito, but it seems like even in Japanese comics, my tastes tend to the artcomix fringe. My favourites tend to be stuff like Tatsumi's Push Man and Abandon the Old in Tokyo, and some of Ponent Mon's releases like The Walking Man. I do believe there's a manga for anyone who loves comics (and probably for anyone who loves to read, period), but there's probably not a manga for anyone who only loves superhero comics, and specifically North American corporate superhero comics. The core audience for those is too xenophobic, and trying to market manga to them through Previews while they lust after Geoff Johns continuity porn is like trying to sell a delicious cut of filet mignon to a vegan.

* I have a feeling there's much more hay to be made out of further exploration of the vegan/corporate superhero junkie comparison. I really do.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- And here we are again, the start of a new week. I hope it's a short one for you, if, like me, you're living in Los Estados Unidos. Some of my co-workers took today and tomorrow off and then will be off for Independence Day Wednesday (ever notice how the Fourth of July almost always falls on the same date every year? Cinco de Mayo, too, now that I think about it...), while I chose to take Thursday and Friday off as well as having Wednesday for a holiday. I found it moderately aggravating, then that people were referring to the weekend just ended as "the holiday weekend," and yet, I have a feeling they'll be saying the same thing next weekend. Society sure has a tough time with a holiday that falls on a Wednesday, doesn't it? Anyway, it's Monday, let's briefly look at some Monday Briefing sorta stuff.

* I'll admit that I'm as much of a format freak as Erik Larsen, and in many cases -- Origins of Marvel Comics and Superman vs. Spider-Man to name two -- my fetish for various iterations of comics stems from exactly the same source material as Larsen's. I miss the treasury editions, and something about the slick paper and modern art styles keep me from fully enjoying modern-day attempts at the format like those Alex Ross and Paul Dini produced, or Mark Waid and Bryan Hitch's big JLA thingy.

I shouldn't say I don't enjoy them; those stories are varying degrees of decent superhero comics, but what I mean is, I don't enjoy them as a replacement for the traditional format of treasury editions. There was something magical about the combination of the giant size, the regular newsprint, and the fact that they were reprinting stories that (at that time) were only otherwise available in the original comics. And who could afford, say, a hundred or 500 bucks for the first issue of Action Comics, or however much Golden Age comics were going for in the heyday of the treasury editions?

* One bone of contention I found in Larsen's otherwise enjoyable piece on comics formats was this quote about the world before treasury editions and other formats came along:

"There weren't dickheads out there throwing around derogatory terms like "pamphlets" or "floppies" at these four-color wonders, they were just comic books. And if you wanted to read comic books there was one format to read them in."

I don't know where Erik gets the idea that either of those terms is "derogatory." Maybe his inner fanboy remains a little sensitive from some schoolyard beating he took for reading his Wizard of Oz treasury edition while the other boys wanted to play touch football, or something. I use the term floppy because, well, they are, for one thing and also, to differentiate between monthly, floppy comics and the world's comics of preference, those with a spine and (usually) a complete story, graphic novels. What I personally hated was Steven Grant's "pamf," which always reminded me of nothing more than Nightcrawler making an exit. None of which is to deny, even for a moment, that I am, in fact, a dickhead.

* Steve Flanagan has some interesting stuff about the inspiration for some of the most interesting moments in recent Doctor Who history.

* Matt Brady looks at whether to keep buying floppies -- sorry, Erik -- or wait for the trade. I struggle -- to use an entirely too powerful word to describe one semi-affluent American's debate over how to spend his funnybook money -- with the same question myself. When I was raking in a lot more money than I am now, a few years back, the answer was a simple "buy 'em all, the singles and the collections." The budget has contracted a bit since then, so, for example, I find myself settling for the floppies on Optic Nerve's new collection Shortcomings, despite the fact that D&Q produce outstanding hardcovers, and that I have the previous HCs collecting previous issues of Optic Nerve. But it's definitely a case by case sort of thing -- I love Brubaker and Phillips's Criminal so much that I would have to be totally destitute to not buy both the floppies and the collected editions.

* One other note on Brady's post, which also includes reviews of single issues of the pamphlets he's debating continuing to buy in their monthly format: Matt seems to think a payoff is coming down the line in the "who's the homophobe?" bit in the most recent issue of The Boys (here's my review), but I think the payoff is right there in the issue, in what it says about Butcher and Hughie's offhand banter vs. their actual actions and feelings when confronted with the question up close and personal. It's a two-person character study that I found added an unexpected depth to what is generally seen as a satirical series. Ideas of the richness Ennis and Robertson are mining can't just be seen as merely satire, and that particular subplot shouldn't be seen as just the setup for a gag, the way I read it.

* Neilalien has posted his look at what he got and what he loved at MoCCA. Neil's got some of the best taste in comics, click over to read his thoughts.

* I feel like I am really "in the zone" in this whole back-to-blogging phase of my comics internet life. Not one but two pieces I originally wrote as short notes for today's Briefing actually turned into much longer pieces that I posted yesterday: Butcher, Beguiling and Early Books and Publish and Perish. With Chris Hunter's help, I managed to finally get some of my audio interviews back up online. In fact there's so much Blogospheric Energy in my house these days that my daughter is even blogging now.

* Comics and More takes a much better stroll through Previews for comics coming in September than I recently did.

* I feel like I missed the boat on Canada Day; I hope it was a good one, Jason, Christopher, d., Loren, Blake, and everyone.

* Hey, this is fun: Can you answer these six basic science questions?

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Monday, June 25, 2007

 
Monday, Briefly -- Not much time this morning, as I have to shower and run to the doctor's office for blood work this morning before I go to work. It was a busy weekend of blogging, though, so I hope you'll scroll down and see what I was yammering about if you are one of those folks that takes the weekend off from reading the internets.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- Father's Day has come and gone, and as I mentioned in a conversation last night with Chris Allen, while I don't think I am as invested in the idea of a perfect Father's Day as my wife is in a correspondingly perfect Mother's Day, it's still nice to be the family belle of the ball for one day. A joke comes to mind, but it's kind of gross and I haven't had breakfast yet.

Roger Green mentions it's Roger Ebert's 65th birthday today. After a few years of very serious health issues, I'd guess he's glad, indeed, to be here to see this day. I'm not much of a celebrity-watcher, but I have to admit I've worried at times about Roger Ebert recently as much as I do my wife or kids when they are sick. He's managed to pull through some extremely serious health problems, and I am profoundly grateful for that. Roger Green mentions Ebert's great gifts as a film critic, and I'll second all that. If you have any interest at all in criticism in general or film criticism in particular, you should really take a look at Ebert's two "Great Movies" essay collections. They are fantastic reading that will send you off on an exploration of some of the best and most compelling movies ever made, even as they allow you to get to know Ebert and his sensibilities in a manner that is direct, engaging and most importantly fun.

Roger Green also points out that it's Paul McCartney's 65th birthday, but, you know, his big landmark birthday was obviously last year. Roger runs down a good list of McCartney post-Fab Four songs worth listening to, but I'll spare you the top ten and say that all of Band on the Run holds up really well, and at least half of Tug of War is really good, too.

Not much to say about comics at the moment -- scroll down through the past few days for plenty on that subject -- but I will say the comic that surprised me the most last week was World War Hulk #1. After browsing it for free at The Favoured Store, I broke down and bought it. It's a good, old-fashioned Marvel Comic in the best sense of the word, and even manages to make Iron Man not seem like a villain. Except to the Hulk, which is kind of the impetus to the whole kerfuffle. Good, fun superhero storytelling, the kind of which you don't much see in either Marvel or DC's main universes anymore.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

 
The Friday Briefing -- Hello, good day and welcome to -- you know, I just want to say, it really does feel good to be blogging regularly again. Thanks to everyone who has dropped me a line to welcome me back. I really, really appreciate it.

Now then, as to the subject of the week -- no, not Zombie Mary Jane, although I will say I saw Chris Butcher's point crystal-clear once I saw the Zombie poster side-by-side with the original comic, which I vividly remember buying for my daughter a few years ago. I love me some Marvel Zombies as much as anybody, but for me the Suydam covers were never a part of the attraction, and I have to agree that this one goes over the line.

No, the subject hereabouts has been the future of comics retailing. I started off with a revision of an old essay on the subject, which didn't quite hit all the points I wanted to make. So I wrote more on what kind of shops exist now, and what kind of shops will likely survive in a changing marketplace. Basically I think that superhero-centric stores are living in the glorious past of the '80s and '90s, when it kind of made sense to emphasize superhero comics because that's all there were, and all they could sell. But in the 21st century, the world outside the direct market is gobbling up comics in ever-increasing numbers, just, superhero comics are not in the majority of what it is they're buying. Manga and artcomix have both made huge inroads since the century began, albeit in different manners and different numbers, but they're indisputably the comics that sell outside the insular (I always want to say "inbred," but I'm trying to be nice), misinformed (again see that David Beard piece in the new Comics Journal) and ultimately self-destructive world of the direct market.

One criticism angrily lobbed by hardcore superhero convenience store customers at me, one of the many mischaracterizations of what I wrote, is that I don't want superhero comics available at all, anywhere. Well, how would I buy my Marvel Zombies, then? Or Paul Dini's Detective Comics? All-Star Superman?

Engine member David Wynne really latched on to a point I guess I meant but kind of buried in what I wrote, and I'll confess that my distaste for dirty, disorganized comic shops that open late on a regular basis may have caused me not to see I didn't make this point clearly enough. So I'll let Wynne put it in his words. Responding to an Engine reader who implied that comic stores currently must rely on superhero fanatics to stay in business, Wynne gets it exactly right when he says:

"...but those customers are already hooked. As long as a shop continues to stock the crap they come in for, they'll still keep coming in. Which means it doesn't need to be pushed right up in the front window, making any casual passers by think that they won't find anything else inside."

When discussing this obvious fact in casual conversation, I usually say something like "You could stock all the superhero comics in a dumpster behind the store, and you wouldn't lose one superhero-oriented customer. If it's Wednesday, they know what they want, and they'll do whatever it takes to get it."

Have you ever experienced a superhero-heavy comic book store on Wednesday afternoon? It's quite a lot like watching addicts line up for methadone outside the clinic. Damn it, now I've cast another aspersion. It's like I have Aspersions Syndrome. But what I am saying is, all that space -- all that goddamned space -- retailers at superhero convenience shops devote to superhero comics? It's a total waste of their retail space. The vast majority of such shops could easily cut that space in half without dropping a single title, and devote the new space to comics other people would like. People like the wives, girlfriends, children and friends the superhero addict drags along with him to the store. What if those people find something to read? Would it really be so awful, Mr. Diamond-Centric Retailer, to get the money from both your regular superhero guy and his girlfriend?

Believe it or not, the answer in some cases is yes. A lot of retailers are extraordinarily comfortable with the established "Good Ol' Boys" atmosphere of their shop, and they would gladly eschew growing their business if they don't have to deal with women. Or kids. Or, oh my god, women and their kids!

Don't believe it? Then you haven't been in many comic book stores.

Speaking of which, yesterday I also posted about my favourite comic book stores. If you visit one or two or all of them, I think you'll see why my standards are so high for comics retailing. I mean, if your store meets most of my criteria for being a good one, then I have no problem with you. I am, in fact, not even talking about you. But if women and children feel unwelcome in your shop, if you are rude or deceptive to your customers, if you don't open on time and can't for the life of you imagine why anyone would want to read comics that you don't want to read -- or stock -- then yeah, I am talking to you. Well, talking about you.

Because, really, I am talking to people who buy comics. Not "Comics consumers," not "collectors," "fans," or little-z Marvel zombies. I am talking to people who like to read comics, who want to share their passion for the artform with their friends and loved ones, and who want to support stores that have a good chance of surviving the current transition from floppy monthly pamphlet comic booklets to the comics the whole world has said it wants to read: Comics with a spine and a complete story.

If that sounds like you, well, hello. I've been talking to you all week and haven't really said a proper hello. And what I want to say to you during this, The Friday Briefing, is this:

Please vote with your dollars. Please support the shops that work hard to present the best face for the artform we love, and who try damned hard to sell comics to everyone that wants to buy them, whatever country they originated in, and whatever format they are presented in. If your dealer presents a sloppy retail environment, or demonstrates unprofessional business practices, or worse, both, then find a better shop. They're out there. We're not really talking about stores that only exist in my imagination, they already exist right now. Some are better than others, but if you are buying from a dead-end retailer, you already know there's a problem. I've just been trying to help you put into words what the problem is, and suggest some solutions. I'm not trying to ban superhero comics, I'm just lobbying for a world in which superhero comics don't continue to alienate readers of other comics, who already exist, and who want to buy more comics -- from anyone who wants to sell them to them, in a welcoming and professional manner.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- Hello, good day and welcome to the Monday Briefing for June 11th. June 11th?!? So the year is virtually half-over? That doesn't seem possible, and yet, I know the kids are almost done with school and summer is about to begin.

I kind of felt like my summer vacation already happened with Friday's trip to Northampton. Sure it was just one day, but my daughter and I had a great time. I'm still making my way through the comics and graphic novels I picked up at Modern Myths. Which is funny, because I browsed the shelves for something like three hours and still felt like I might have missed something. MM has a lot of books. Oh, one thing I failed to mention on Friday was manager Jim Crocker's hardcover policy, which I noticed right away and was blown away by. Any hardcover graphic novel that has a dustcover is reinforced with a library-style clear plastic sleeve. Every single one. It makes the books look classier and adds protection to the book that will extend its shelf-life and even enhance its re-sale potential, if that's your thing. And how much does Modern Myths charge for this feature?

Nothing.

Since the first time I walked in the door, I thought Modern Myths represented the best possible future for comic book stores, and that feeling has only grown over the years. If you're anywhere near Northampton, Massachusetts, stop in and see if you don't agree.

The Sopranos wrapped up last night, but I haven't seen it yet, so, don't spoil it for me. Hopefully I will get to it this evening after work. Last night my wife and I re-watched the pilot episode from the first season, and it was interesting to see what's changed and what hasn't. Paulie hasn't changed a bit, but guys like him never do, do they? James Gandolfini seemed to be talking in a higher pitch, maybe invoking Joe Pesci. He was also much less dark, both because Tony Soprano was trying Prozac for his depression and because the worst years of his life were to come in the next decade. Gandolfini's acting has been a consistent joy to watch over the course of the series, and if you somehow have never seen the series, add it to your Netflix pile or keep an eye out for an eventual complete series DVD collection. The individual seasons have been criminally (ho, ho) expensive, but if they make an affordable full-series set, it would be a great addition to the video library of anyone who enjoys quality storytelling.

Except the Columbus Day episode, yes, but that's the exception that proves the rule.

Over at The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon interviews Joe Casey again. I think this is the third time? At least? Spurgeon 'fesses up to a desire to interview Casey every few years, and that would be fine by me. Their original Comics Journal interview found Casey discussing the occasional disconnect between his ideas and getting them intact into his comics. Given how many interesting titles Casey has worked on that ultimately did not quite work out, he's a great case-study for what can go wrong and right when working in comics, especially corporate superhero comics.

I think Casey's greatest creative success was probably Wildcats Vol. 2 and Vol. 3.0 before the "Coup d'Etat" event destroyed not only that title but the Wildstorm universe as a viable storytelling milieu. Casey mentions his Iron Man: The Inevitable mini-series in the new interview, and, well, I'm sure there was a good idea in there somewhere.

Speaking of Iron Man, do you think Marvel will eventually reset or redeem the character, or will he just remain the outright evil supervillain he's been since Civil War began? You know what would have been a great ending for that? Garth Ennis writing the last issue, as Frank Castle blows away Tony Stark and everyone cheers, The End. (Andrew Wheeler nicely sums up the series' flaws in this post at The V).

I've been thinking about this since borrowing the first three issues of The Avengers: The Initiative from The Favoured Store. Is there a character left in the Marvel Universe that is actually a good guy?

I talked to Jim Crocker on Friday a bit about my conviction that the current era of corporate superhero comics will one day be recognized as The Fan Fiction Age, due to the poor quality of the storytelling, which often reminds me of an eight-year-old playing in the tub with action figures: "Then Superboy PUNCHES THROUGH TIME!" "Geoff? Make sure you wash behind your ears, now!" "Aw, mom!!!"

I can't remember the last time I read a Marvel or DC story that seemed canonical with the comics the companies produced in the 20th century. I fully expect a writer to emerge in the next five years or so who will successfully kick off a new paradigm that makes Marvel and DC's characters not only viable, but appealing again.

And sure, there are creators working today who could do that: Darwyn Cooke, Grant Morrison, and Warren Ellis all come to mind. But the companies either marginalize their best efforts, things like New Frontier, Nextwave or Seven Soldiers are off to the side and don't really have an impact on the universes proper. Or, like Morrison with 52 or Ellis with Thunderbolts, these creators choose to play in the fan-fiction sandbox the companies have endorsed, with the resulting comics not quite meeting the best standard the creators have proven themselves capable of.

Back in the early 1980s, Alan Moore, Frank Miller and some other folks came along and re-energized the Marvel and DC universes with storytelling that looked at the characters and their settings in a way far different from what had been the status quo. I doubt Moore would want the job these days, and God knows Miller isn't fit for the task, but what is needed is someone with that same sort of energy, intelligence and passion for comics storytelling to come along and inject superhero comics with those very qualities. Until then, folks like Johns, Straczynski and others will continue to create comics that damage the longterm viability of the characters even as they sell like hotcakes to borderline psychotic nerds who actually think these comics are any better than the crap Marvel and DC pumped out by the metric fuckload in the 1990s.

I'm pretty far from the John Byrne "Superhero Comics Are For Kids" bandwagon -- I think there should be all types of genres and storytelling modes available for readers of all ages, genders and interests. But what I see coming out of Marvel and DC these days, their core books -- they are about as far from what they could and should be as is even imaginable. Max Lord taking a bullet through the melon on-panel, and The Elongated Man's wife getting raped doggie-style both seemed to me like superhero porn at the time, and things have only gotten worse from there.

My kids are 11 and 13, and there's not a single Marvel or DC universe book that appeals to them. Check my pull list in the sidebar to the right -- anything with an asterisk (*) is a title I have reserved for them. I guess as a parent it makes me a little sad that they can't enjoy the superhero universes that entertained me so much when I was their age, because of the poor stewardship of the characters on the part of the current management at the two major corporate superhero publishers. And if you're thinking that the publishers have all-ages titles like Avengers Adventures for kids, my response is, why should they have to? When I was 10, 11, 12 years old, Avengers was a title any superhero fan could enjoy, of any age. I've tried the Adventures titles on my kids, but somehow I think they sense the pandering and condescension that is inherent in the need for all-ages versions of characters that are, by definition, meant to be enjoyed by readers of all ages anyway. I can't think of any other reason why most of those titles fail to generate any interest in my kids. Or in me, come to think of it.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

 
The Monday Briefing -- Looks like a lot of great comics are coming out this Wednesday, and I definitely wanted to give you a run-down of titles to look out for.

MARVEL/ICON
CRIMINAL #1 (MR) $2.99 -- Ladies and gentlemen, after months of anticipation, creators Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips bring you the best new crime comic of the year, and a contender for best new series in years. Much more information at A Criminal Blog.

DC COMICS/VERTIGO
AMERICAN SPLENDOR #2 $2.99 -- Any new work from Harvey Pekar is reason to celebrate, and the first issue was a genuine delight and wonderful sampler of Pekar's gift for realism in autobio comics.

FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS
COMPLETE PEANUTS VOL. 6 1961-1962 HC $28.95 -- The eleventh and twelfth years of the greatest comic strip in history, and Schulz was in classic form. Reading this last week, I found myself highly tuned for the increasingly rare appearances of mostly-forgotten characters like Shermy and Violet, and sadly wondering each time if that was the last time they would show up. There're a lot of pre-Woodstock birds hanging around Snoopy's doghouse, and Miss Othmar returns, married and vexing Linus over his habit of bringing his blanket to school. This reprint series is in its prime now, and will be for another five years at least -- don't deprive yourself (or your children) of these classic strips, entirely worthy of the claim and as fresh as the day they first appeared.

PREMILLENNIAL MAAKIES 1ST FIVE YEARS HC $24.95 -- If you've loved, as I have, the hardcover widescreen reprints that Tony Millionaire's strips have enjoyed in recent years, you'll (like me) appreciate this re-packaging of the original softcover collection from five or six years back. That this and a Complete Peanuts volume are coming out on the same day certainly says something about the diversity and quality of the material Fantagraphics publishes -- from the most traditional, humanistic and subtly subversive strip of all time to the most perverse and nihilistic, all in two gorgeous, durable hardcovers worthy of the comics within. Gary, Kim, Eric, and everyone at Fantagraphics, seriously, on behalf of everyone who loves comics, thank you.

MQP
SWEETER SIDE OF R. CRUMB HC $30.00 -- I already posted my review of The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb, and I urge you once again to pick it up. Great stuff, recontextualized in a fascinating and genuinely charming manner.

And one more time, gang, CRIMINAL #1 COMES OUT WEDNESDAY. DO NOT MISS IT.

Enjoy your Monday.

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