Thursday, July 31, 2003

Heroes Anonymous #1 - A Review

Written by: Scott M. Gimple
Penciled by: A.J. Jothikumar & Bill Morrison
Inked by: Andrew Pepoy & Bill Morrison
Colored by: Serban Cristescu
Lettered by: Chris Ungar
Editor: Bill Morrison
Publisher: Bongo Comics

This book came out last week, but I didn’t get a chance to submit a review of it then. A grievous mistake on my part, and I hope that you all can forgive me for my cruelty in having deprived you of the splendor that is Heroes Anonymous.

The concept of the book is summed up in a simple header on the cover; Super Group Therapy. Yes, its superheroes talking about their problems and working out solutions together. Sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it? “Dear John” in tights. (And how many of you out there remember that show, anyway?)

Well, it might be lame… if that were the book. Amusing as I’m sure it might be to have some vaguely redrawn Wolverine-esque and Punisher-esque characters sitting in an office and breaking into tears as they are chastised for their anger management problems, that is not what this book is about.

What is it about then? In this case, the issue centers around a guy named Toby. Toby was once Attaboy, sidekick to Gothtropolis’s protector; The Midknight. Forced out of heroism after his attack on a corrupt mayor accidentally killed beloved city duck mascot “Mr. Wackyquacky”, he wandered the world for a while trying to find himself before coming back to Gothtropolis, moving in with some friends who knew nothing of his career as a hero and got a job as a convenience store clerk.

So it’s Kevin Smith’s “Nightwing: Year One”? Is that what this book is?

Not even close, True Believer. And quit interrupting me when I’m having a rhetorical conversation with you!

Okay. The story does have something of the feel of a sequel to Clerks. Toby is told repeatedly that he is wasting his potential; both by his friends, who are trying to get him to take the SAT and get into college and by other superheroes, who are trying to get him back into a costume. But Toby is content, if not satisfied with life until a mysterious supervillain starts destroying TV transmitters across town, causing him to miss his favorite TV show. A post to a newsgroup helps him get a copy of the episode he missed from a woman named Lynn. The two quickly become friends and then "more than" that and Lynn indirectly helps Toby to realize that with great power comes great responsibility (or something like that) and that we all have a responsibility to use our talents to the fullest.

The artwork aids the aforementioned Smithesque feel, with Jothikumar’s style reminding me of a somewhat more detailed Jim Mahfood. The inks are suitable atmospheric, with the yellow on white and black coloring giving the whole story the feel of a classic comic found in an attic, despite the modern setting.

I really enjoyed this story, finding Toby very relatable. Of course this may be because I too am a twenty-something trapped in a retail job who could be “so much more” according to a lot of other people who are also wasting their lives as near as I can tell. But it is the little contradictions like that which makes the book so funny and wonderful and ultimately… true to life.

X-Men Unlimited #50 - A Review

Written by: Kazuo Koike and Kenjo Kaji
Penciled by: Paul Smith
Inked by: Paul Smith
Colored by: Brad Anderson
Lettered by: Randy Gentle
Editor: C.B. Cebalski
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Once again, somewhere in Texas…

*sound of a log-in to AIM chime*

DARKLORD69: Hello, Matt.

DBowiefan34: Oh hey… sorry for the lag. The workload for this summer class is kicking my-

DARKLORD69: I need you to do something special this week. X-Men Unlimited #50.

DBowiefan34: What? But you know how overworked I am! Ignoring the classwork I’m behind on, half the staff at my shop has taken the week off for GenCon. I’m the only experienced salesman left until Saturday!

DARKLORD69: You’re the only one who can do this, Matt. I need one of your funny intros for this one.

DBowiefan34: What? You mean, the ones where you call me, do the Darth Vader act and I produce more whine than the French countryside?


DBowiefan34: I dunno. I’m not sure those are going over that well. I mean, nobody ever writes me to say those are funny.

DARKLORD69: I think they’re amusing.

DBowiefan34: Yeah, but it’s not real. I mean, we’ve never talked on the phone! We just chat through AIM and e-mail. That’s it.

DARKLORD69: But it’s that whole comedy ethos thing! We’re tapping into an archtype as old as.. well, Peter Parker and J. Jonah Jameson. Perry White and Jimmy Olsen. Me the petty editor tyrant. You the long suffering everyman!

(Two minutes idle)

DBowiefan34: You’re still upset about Doom getting killed aren’t you?

(Two minutes idle)

DARKLORD69: *sobs* Yes… yes, I am!

DBowiefan34: And it would make you feel better if I did the “cowering in fear of the evil overlord” act for you?

DARKLORD69: *sobs* If you don’t mind?

DBowiefan34: *sighs* Couldn’t you just get your girlfriend to dress up like Jean Grey or something? Wouldn’t that cheer you up more?

DARKLORD69: *sobs* She won’t wear the wig….

DBowiefan34: Okay… fine. But I want to try something different. More truthful of how our working relationship is.

DARKLORD69: Will it still be amusing?

DBowiefan34: Oh, I have an idea that has me laughing already…

(Several hours, one trip to the comic store and one call investigating the cost of sending an escort in a Jean Grey costume to St. Louis…)

Okay. Now I know that Wolverine has some background in Japan and that some writers have made great play of his past, his roninesque code of honor and the rich and beautiful history that encompass all of the Japanese culture and the warrior tradition. Sadly, most writers have ignored this and crapped out a lot of stories with Wolverine cutting up ninjas.

For those of you who actually enjoy this kind of story, I can highly recommend this issue for you. For those of you who, like me, stopped thinking having ninjas just for the sake of having ninjas was cool about the time you discovered how wonderful girls are… I recommend rereading Birds of Prey, Outsiders, Teen Titans, Futurama, Lucifer… or indeed, anything else that came out this week.

The plot is generic and could feature any martial arts hero; not just Wolverine. Logan is walking through a village. Why? No reason.

He sees a woman get attacked my several henchman and does nothing. She kicks butt and is approached by the grand bad guy. Now Logan steps in, saves her and finds out that the bad guy is after the woman’s sword, which is a “Magical Artifact of Great Power” TM. Wolverine winds up using the sword, finds out that it traps the souls of those it slays and could be very bad in the hands of someone evil.

The bad guy shows up, Logan fights… bad guy is absorbed by the sword since he is too weak to confront his own demons (which Logan is quite adept at) and the story ends with Logan destroying the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom… er, destroys the magic sword in the fires of an iron foundry.

The artwork, simply put, is horrid…even for an anthology book with a rotating creative team like X-Men Unlimited. The pencils look unfinished at points and the inks are sloppy. Still, for a story so heavily influenced by the chop-saki world of Kung Fu movies and Manga comics, it is a pleasant surprise that they used an artist with a more Western artistic style (as I assume Paul Smith is a Western name).

I openly admit to being a bit overly harsh, but I am not the intended audience for this book. I’ve never heard of the writers involved or the artist, but what I’ve seen here makes me ill-inclined to seek out any more of their work. I’m not a fan of anthology books on the whole. And the last thing this world needs right now is more ADWS. (Another Damned Wolverine Story!) Thankfully, this is the last issue of the series and it is no big loss to the world.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Looking To The Stars: Random Thoughts

First of all, my apologies for my lack of a column last week. Those of you who didn’t notice, five points from your house. Those of you who actively cheered my absence and hoped that it was a sign of my retirement, fifty points from your house.

Yes, I did read the new Harry Potter book. Rather liked it, thank you.

Anyway, personal issues with class, work and family concerns kept me rather busy last week and I missed being able to give my two cents on a number of items in the comic news and commenting upon the writings of some of my colleagues.

To that end, here are some Random Thoughts….

  1. The Hulk

Still haven’t seen it yet. Been too busy, but I heard it wasn’t that great and the special effects were horrid. Will write a full review once I do see it.

  1. LXG

Did manage to get a night free to see it. Rather liked it, despite it being nothing like the book and totally getting the story of Dorian Grey wrong. Still, if you aren’t a total fanboy or literature geek and take it on the level of an adaptation and not a translation, you won’t find a better movie.

  1. Mark Waid’s Departure From Marvel.

Based on the writings of Paul Sebert and Jesse Baker, I am one of the few who feels that Mark Waid’s firing from Marvel will go down at the latest nail in the coffin that Bill Jemas is making for himself.

Simply put, Waid’s run on Fanastic Four has revitalized a long-dull title and anyone who says otherwise must not be reading the same comics that I am. Personally, I have no idea where this whole “Waid is a prima donna” thing came from and I’ve only heard nice things about the man. But I could care less about the personality of a writer, so long as they deliver a good story. And I don’t think any comments about Waid’s ability to deliver good stories can be taken seriously.

On that note…

  1. The DC Coup De Tat.

DC just snatched up Grant Morrison, Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale and Greg Rucka with exclusive contracts and I couldn’t be happier. Okay, so I will miss hearing all the X-Men fans complain about not understanding Morrison or the Wolverine fans who don’t like the new detective-based stories and want to go back to Wolverine slashing up ninjas. And goodness knows I’m not going to object to any more Tim Sale/Jeph Loeb team-ups.

But this isn’t enough DC. You need to nail down more of the writers with exclusive contracts. Mark Waid is free of Marvel now and is already working for you on Empire and Birthright. Give that man a contract and put him and Morrison to work on Superman, like they wanted to do a few years back. I’ve been reading Superman and I don’t care HOW radical their proposal was- it can hardly be worse than the Supergirl daughter from the future story that can be going on right now.

For that matter, give Gail Simone a contract too. I can’t keep Birds of Prey on the shelf at my comic shop and goodness knows she’s just as worthy of keeping around as Geoff Johns and Judd Winick.

And Speaking of which.

  1. The Judd Winick/DC Pimp Slap

Okay Judd. I defended you when you turned Kyle Rayner into a clone of yourself; successful artist loved by the media because most of your stories, continuity issues aside, were pretty good. I sat through all of Blood and Water, which started out brilliant and unique but degraded into another generic World of Darkness vampire brawl comic. But I cannot be silent about your turning Oliver Queen into the man-whore everyone thinks he is.

As anyone who read my recent“Your Cheating Heart” article or the last ten issues of Green Arrow could tell you, Oliver Queen may be a world class flirt but he has never once cheated on Dinah Lance. Hell, not five issues ago he was ready to propose to her! And now he’s had a one night stand with the niece of a friend for no readily apparent or believable reason other than “he’s a horn dog.”

Then again, what IS the status between them now? Birds of Prey hasn’t said anything about Dinah’s dating status. She dumped Dr. Midnite to figure things out in JSA, but nothing has been said there. And the last I checked in Green Arrow the two of them were dating and maybe back together. Smith definitely suggested they were at the end of his last story. Hester pretty much ignored it, except to show Ollie preparing to propose to her. And Winick? Canary wasn’t mentioned once until Ollie was making an excuse to cover what he was doing to Connor.

So maybe Ollie isn’t really cheating… but it sure makes me crawly thinking he might be. So could someone from DC please make a definitive statement one way or the other on where my favorite couple stands?

And as long as I’m feeling combative.

  1. Jesse Baker: The Anti-Starman

Fellow 411 writer Jesse Baker has revealed himself to be the dreaded Anti-Starman. Yes, this strange being from a parallel anti-matter universe has declared J. Michael Strayczinski’s run on Spider-Man to be “hit and miss”, Mark Waid’s The Flash run to have missed the finish line and generally shown himself to disagree with me on every major point of comicdom.

Except that Rawhide Kid #1 wasn’t funny. We both agree on that. Take that, Ron Zimmerman! Ha!

Seriously, Jesse and I do disagree on some books but we get along just fine. If nothing else, we have someone we can argue comics with and that bond goes much deeper than any disagreement over whether or not Mark Waid writing Superman would be a good thing.

Tune in next week. Same Matt Time. Same Matt Website.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Dork Tower #23 - A Review

Written by: John Kovalic
Penciled by: John Kovalic
Inked by: John Kovalic
Colored by: N/A
Lettered by: John Kovalic
Editor: John Kovalic
Publisher: Dork Storm Press

The Cover? A parody of “The Matrix: Reloaded”, about two months too late to be topical.

The Plot? Character development of a character who needs no depth… and indeed, gets little depth added to her.

The end result? Not up to the usual standard, but still amusing on the whole.

For those of you who haven’t had the good fortune to discover it, John Kovalic’s “Dork Tower” is the most consistently funny comic book to deal with the subject of fandom. Gamers (of the video AND dice-rolling variety) are the most common focus, but science-fiction TV shows and even sports are addressed through the dorks and geeks making up the cast.

The book’s continuing plot for the past few months has centered around the romantic triangle between gamemaster/cartoonist Matt; Kayleigh ( his on-again/off-again girlfriend from Hell, who mocks all his hobbies) and Gilly ( a perky Goth girl who is seemingly Matt’s perfect woman).

To make a long story short, Matt and Gilly met about two minutes after Matt got back together with Kayleigh way back in Issue #13. This after months of “almost” meeting each other. Matt and Gilly fell instantly in love but the whole thing was shelved as the two tried to avoid each other after Matt said Gilly’s name instead of Kayleigh’s at the absolute worst moment. The past few issues have focused on individual characters dealing with the aftermath of the break-up and the end result is Matt is now ready to win back the woman he lost. To the dread of all his gamer friends, the woman in question is Kayleigh, and not Gilly.

This brings us to the current issue, where we find out a bit more about Kayleigh’s past after a not-to-subtle tribute to the writings of Stan Lee and a certain curmudgeon of an editor and I don’t mean our own Daron K. We find out the specifics of Kayleigh’s privileged background (daughter of an ambassador, school in Europe, etc.), how she is unsatisfied with her job as a small town newspaper writer compared to that of her doctor siblings and how she wants to make someone suffer for her miserable life. Naturally, this leads to her calling Matt and asking him out to go clubbing that night. He accepts, and as the issue closes his friends move into action and arrange to get Gilly into the same club that night.

Kovalic fumbles the ball a bit here. Kayleigh has always acted as a one-note, shallow example of everything negative in women that fanboys put up with for in exchange for a little feminine attention and has worked well in that role. It is not impossible or unwanted for her to be developed past that but all the attempts to develop Kayleigh into a three deminsional character in the early half of the issue seem a bit pointless since by the end of the comic she is back to being the evil plotting shrew out to change Matt into a non-geek or make him miserable.

Still, many of the past “character” issues have been a bit slow on plot but built up to something very funny and poignant indeed. It is my hope, and indeed my belief, that we are building to something like that with this issue and that even though this issue was a bit light on the laughs (though I can relate to the scene of Kayleigh going to the liquor cabinet to get “important journalistic supplies”), that the next issue will be something special.

Until then, I shall content myself with the tri-weekly strips Kovalic posts at I advise you all to do the same as well. You have nothing to lose but your time and nothing to risk but the splitting of your sides.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Death: At Death's Door TPB - A Review

Written by: Jill Thompson
Penciled by: Jill Thompson
Inked by: Jill Thompson
Colored by: N/A
Lettered by: Jill Thompson
Editor: N/A
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Somewhere in Texas, in a loft apartment, several days before Summer Midterms…


Starman: (tiredly) Hello?

Daron: Greetings, Minion!

Starman: *sighs* Greetings, Dark Overlord…

Daron: What is wrong, Minion #38601? You seem displeased. Surely you are not irritated by the personal attentions of your editor?

Starman: Huh? Oh, no, no, no. Just that… well, I have midterms and term papers due this week, my acting troupe is having more problems with our theater and the upper management at the comic store I work at seem to have forgotten that we are not in the business of selling whatever crap the Japanese have convinced our children is cool this week.

Daron: Ah yes. This emphasis upon all things Japanese is certainly a weighty concerns for all of us.

Starman: No kidding! I mean, take most of this Manga. The plotting is barely coherent at the best of times, the art lacks even the basest understanding of proper human anatomy and intricate characterization is sacrificed for pointless sex and mindless violence.

Daron: Indeed. That is why I have such a book for you to review this week…

Starman: (gasps) Oh no! No way in HELL am I touching X-Men: Phoenix, Part Two!

Daron: Minion…

Starman: I mean, what is holding that costume on anyway? Dental floss? And did they make metal breastplates with strategic dents hammered into them or is she somehow denting the metal with her…

Daron: Minion…

Starman: And the book doesn’t even have anything to do with X-Men! Or Phoenix. Or anything but gratuitous cheesecake poses and tentacle-rape scenes….

Daron: MINION! Cease thy ranting for the moment. I did not wish for you to review THAT book. No. It was my intent that you were to peruse the new book “At Death’s Door”.

Starman: (long pause) The one based on Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman”?

Daron: Yes.

Starman: The one with everything done by Jill Thompson, who has done more to shape the Endless than anyone but Neil Gaiman himself?

Daron: That is correct.

Starman: (longer pause) Okay. I’m not expecting much, but at least it won’t be tentacle softcore…. I hope.


(One trip to the comic store and a 400 word essay on the ethics of modern librarians later)

There are few things I would rather do than read a new book set in the world of Neil Gaiman’s Endless. There are few things I would rather not do than read any Manga comic. It has been my experience that, as stated above, the vast majority of Manga is either mindless violent crap geared towards young boys or mindlessly violent crap with lots of big eyes, small mouths and girls in sailor uniforms geared toward dirty old men of all ages.

I’m sure there are a few Manga comics that this doesn’t describe but I am speaking only of my experience with the genre, general as it is. And I am sure that I am going to get “Endless” letters (ha!) from those of you who do like Manga-driven stories and artwork and that I will likely get slaughtered by some overweight girl in a pleated skirt who will hunt me down, do her Sailor Moon impression and “punish me” for my wickedness.

That said, let me say next… that I LOVED this book!

The plot of “Death’s Door” is a series of lost scenes from the original “Seasons of Mist” story, giving this whole comic the feel of the written equivalent of a director’s cut edition of a movie. Death popped in and out of “Seasons” three times and this story tells us what she was doing between her appearances in the original Gaiman story.

Previous experience with “The Sandman” is unneeded, but does add another level to the story as we get to see certain key moments of “Seasons” acted out in a different art-style. For example, Desire sprouts cat-ears as he/she becomes catty and insulting towards Dream. Speaking of which, I must marvel at Thompson’s ability to alter her usual style (which I love) into something more Mangaesque. Most artists are unable to perform such a trick and Thompson does it perfectly.

And artwork aside, this comic does blend seamlessly with Gaiman’s original vision of the series, with some of the original dry humor that made him famous. Consider for example, Desire’s rattling off a list of people, “who don’t enjoy a good party” after Delirium states that there’s nobody who doesn’t enjoy a good party. This takes the edge off some of the more slapstick humor, such as Delirium’s supersonic hyperactive movements, which may grate on the nerves of more traditional Sandman enthusiasts. There are even moments when the elements of both comics are mixed perfectly, such as a subplot involving a certain dead writer who falls in love with the dumpy and depressed Despair.

The independent comic snob in me is pleased by what he sees in this little volume. “At Death’s Door” is a worthy edition to the Sandman mythos, so all of my fellow indie comic snobs should take a look at this… even if it is a *twitch… twitch* .. Manga.

And for you Manga fans out there, this book is an excellent introduction to the world of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman”. The book even has an appearance list for the character of Death in the back, as well as a reading list of all “The Sandman” Trade Paperbacks. And, all Gaiman fans should take note, a summary of the stories to be told in the upcoming “Endless Nights” book is also in the back.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Kingpin #2 - A Review

Written by: Bruce Jones
Penciled by: Sean Phillips
Inked by: Klaus Janson
Colored by: Lee Loughridge
Lettered by: Cory Petit
Editor: Alex Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics

No jibber-jabber from me this time, folks. Just the pure 411 on what this book, which I highly praised last time it came out, is like this time. And in case you missed it last time (which seems likely as I recall Kingpin #1 selling out at my shop in hours), this issue helpfully comes with a summary of the last issue at the very start.

Wilson Fisk now commands two of the biggest gangs in New York City, having had to crush a few heads to do so. But he has his eyes on a bigger prize and spends most of the issue explaining his plans to an assembly of other gang members right under the noses of the heads of the biggest Mafia crime families in the city. Unbeknown to Wilson, at the same time his former lieutenant has been discovered not quite dead. More importantly, the woman who found him also has a grudge on her shoulder which could bring even more trouble upon the rising star of the criminal world.

The dialogue and plotting is dead perfect. Fisk’s main narrative at the beginning, where he speaks of the lessons to be learned by the early Christians fighting the Romans, can easily stand alongside the best speeches the character gave under the pen of Frank Miller. Phillips’ style, while a bit stylized, is neither distracting nor offputting. Rather it is beginning to grow on me and reminds me a bit of Steve Ditko’s early Marvel works in an odd way.

After reading this issue, I only have two quibbles. First, Spider-Man is on the cover of the magazine, despite appearing only briefly and not in any way relating to the Kingpin. I can understand wanting to bring in new readers to this title… but with a quality writer like Jones and a “love to hate him” bad guy like Wilson Fisk, such marketing-scheming hardly seems necessary. Secondly, is that the mysterious Portia who comes to the rescue of Rocko, is drawn much younger than the forty she claims as her age. The first time I saw her and Rocko together, I thought I had stumbled on a wounded Peter Parker waking up on Mary Jane ne Daphne from Scooby Doo’s couch.

Still, with the possible exception of the amazing Fantastic Four #500 (which is an excellent exercise in alliteration as well as an all-out amazing read), you won’t find a better look into the criminal mind this month.

Knights Of The Dinner Table Origins Special #1 - A Review

Written by: Jolly Blackburn, Brian Jelke, Steve Johansson and David S. Kenzer
Penciled by: Jolly Blackburn
Inked by: N/A
Colored by: N/A
Lettered by: N/A
Editor: Jolly Blackburn
Publisher: Kenzer And Company

A bit of explanation is in order here at the start. This is not, despite the presence of the word “Origins” in the title, a story of the origins of the Knights of the Dinner Table. Origins, in this case, refers to an international gaming expo held every summer in Columbus, Ohio. This comic is a free special that was given out to all ticket-holders at the convention for free and has now been made available to the comic-reading public. Yet despite not being a typical “origin” issue, this is still a great jumping on point into the series for new readers.

The set up of the book is simple; five friends sit around a table playing role-playing games. There are various different groups of friends, based on different RPG groups in the town of Muncie and this comic introduces us to all of them, if all too briefly. Most of the book focuses on The Knights (Bob, Dave, Sara, Brian and BA), but we also get a look at two other groups; The Blackhands (the most dysfunctional of the groups, filled with players who fight each other as much as the monsters) and The Perps (the least explored of the core characters, but no less interesting for it).

Unlike some issues of the main book of late, a lot of the humor is this issue is very accessible to non-gamers. Consider the story where the chronically long-winded Newt gives way too much information about his character when asked to talk about it. Who hasn’t been stuck in suck a situation where someone else is chewing your ear off about something that was interesting at first, but is quickly becoming duller than dirt?

This is balanced by a few strips which are definitely geared towards the role-playing gamers in the audience, such as the final strip where the merits of a new 4.25 upgrade of a paper and pencil game are debated, mocking a real debate between gamers today over whether the newest edition of Dungeons and Dragons Core Rulebooks Version 3.5 is really an improvement of version 3.0 or just a scam to make more money. Still, whether you’re a regular dice slinger or just a fan of good comedy, the Knights will come to your rescue!

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Looking To The Stars: The 411 On Leslie Culton

Model. Actress. Wrestler. All this and she’s a sci-fi geek grrrl and reads comics to boot. Who is this Wonder Woman I’m speaking of? A mythical creature, spoken of in reverent whispers by many a fan boy? The fictional fantasy of every red-blooded American fandom maniac? No, the woman I’m describing is quite real… and her name is Leslie Culton.

I first came to know of Leslie through the Internet, where I stumbled upon a number of pictures on her website while doing a research paper on superhero costumes for a class. (What can I say? Being a theater arts major gives you a lot of interesting projects.) I came to speak to her through e-mails and chats and we became quite friendly. I found that not only was she an accomplished maker of her own costumes and a popular face on the fandom convention circuit but that she had modeled professionally for the cover of Vampirella and had acted in a number of B-movies.

I originally proposed the idea of an interview to her back in the days when I still wrote for Fanzing (, thinking that her stories as a con regular and costumer would prove interesting to our comic-fan audience. Sadly, we had trouble in finishing our back-and-forth e-mailed interview due to Leslie’s busy work and travel schedule. In fact, we fell out of talking for a few months.

And then I found myself with a new writing job at about the same time I got back in touch with Leslie. To my surprise, I found that she had added yet another hat to her head: that of up-and-coming wrestling diva. This amused me to no end as the magazine I had just started writing for (take a wild guess which one) had originally begun as a fanzine devoted to professional wrestling.

We agreed to take another stab at it and the end result lies below: a thirty-question profile of an interesting lady and jack of all trades. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Leslie Culton!

About Leslie

1. Where are you from originally?

I claim Atlanta, Georgia as my home. I grew up in Florida, where I live now.

2. Tell us, as much as you are comfortable, about your early life up through high school.

I hated high school, I was very shy and quiet and weird. So at least the shy and quiet part has changed. I lived in Florida and Georgia, in big cities and a small town.

3. What is your favorite color?

A tie between purple,gold and black. Gold and Black were the color of my old Barony in a life action role-playing game, and also the colors of Purdue, where I went to school. When I wrestle I wear a lot of Red because the blood does not show as much that way.

About Comics

4. How did you get into comics and science fiction?

I started out as a Dr, Who fan and all the rest came from that really. Sci-fi conventions were my life for several years. It was all that got me through high school, really.

5. What, if any, comics do you read on a monthly basis now? If you don’t read anything on a regular basis now, what were your favorites?

Every time I really get into a comic, is seems either the editor or writer does something to screw up the product or they turn out to be a jerk when you meet them. I have collected X-Men, Vampirella and anything Adam Hughes related. He is a sweetheart of a guy, by the way.

6. Who are your favorite heroes and villains (male or female)?

For women, Wonder Woman, Vampirella and Catwoman (when she is a villain, that is). For men, Batman and Bane.

7. Who are your favorite writers (comics and other)?

In comics, Chris Claremont is my all-time favorite. Peter David’s good too. Otherwise...Bernard Cornwell, R.A Salvatore, Michael Moorcock…

8. Who are your favorite artists?

Adam Hughes, Art Adams, David Michael Beck, Dave Stevens and the late Kelly Freas and Jack Kirby.

9. Is there any artist who you would kill to have them do a portrait of you as a heroine? If so, which artist and what heroine?

Dave Stevens. I would be drawn as Vampirella, holding a blood drained Betty Page in my arms. Betty would have the sexy Klaw era lingerie on, looking very much like she did in the old Rocketeer Comics.

10, On a similar note, if you could play any super-heroine in a movie, which one would it be and why?

I would play Vampirella, but with the costume the way it should be. There are so many Vampi fans, I would be adored for the rest of my life.

As for why, Vampirella is such a powerful character. Back when they debuted her there were no other comic book "bad girls". She was the original.

(Note From Starman: If you ever have a chance to see the Vampirella movie… don’t. It’s hated by Vampirella fans like Batman and Robin is hated by most Bat-Fans. And as Leslie notes, they screwed the costume up royally.)

11. Have you ever meet the creator of a character/writer whose character’s costume you were wearing at the time, and what was their reaction?

I met Chris Claremont, while dressed as Rogue. It is funny because I had just finished yelling out "I am NOT a GREEN LANTERN! Don't any of you read the F-ING X-Men?!" I turned around and walked smack into Claremont. He looked down at me then laughed, "I read the F-ing X-men, in fact, I write them too.” I met Forry Ackerman in a very similar way.

I also met George Perez. He LOVED my Wonder Woman but told me my bracelets/cuffs were the wrong color, but he thought I really did the character justice ignoring that.

About Modeling

12. How did you break into modeling?

I went to conventions and people took pictures of me. (laughs) Those pictures were printed in magazines and it was pretty cool to have that much attention, for a skinny awkward nerd chick with bad hair and skin.

13. What lead you to make your own costumes? Did you have any experience in making your own clothes before you started going to conventions?

If you didn’t make them yourself, you didn’t get to wear them. I did not really spend much time making things for myself, though. I started having costumes made for me not too far into when I started modeling professionallyt. I just did not have the time to mess with it all after that. I never make my own things now. I may put different elements together, but I don’t make anything from scratch.

As for making things outside of conventions, I once made a lop-sided tote bag in home economics in Junior High.

14. A friend of mine makes her own costumes for conventions and it amazes her how many people (models and fans alike) don’t make their own. What’s your opinion on store-bought costumes verses home-made, if any?

It does not bug me a bit. It does not matter who made your costume. Whether it was done by a professional like Scott Crawford (who has done a ton of the stuff I have worn in that last few years) or if you bought it out of a bag; what matters is that you look your best.

I do not have the time nor the energy to put into costuming anymore, so if I want a Wonder Woman costume, I have it made. It does not matter to the fans if I made it myself or not. They just love the way it looks on me.

15. Any funny stories about costume repair emergencies? Adventures with hot glue, odd costume parts, or the costume riding on double-sided tape, etc.?

I always have people follow me around waiting for the Vampirella costume to slip. That is why I wear the double sided tape underneath. My Taarna (theheroine of the Heavy Metal movie) costume from Heavy Metal WAS only held on by tape.... Luckily i have never had any serious mishaps. One of my first costumes was a sexy Barbarian. I made the metal bra cups out of brass ashtrays that I got at a dollar store

16. Your web site mentions you being a role-player; does being in costume change your attitude at all? Do you ever act out the character you dress as at conventions?

I was a Live Action Roleplayer, and I am an actress in close to 20 movies, but I do not "play" the character at the shows. Some people can do it well but I would feel like a dork doing it. I am not a Vampire. I am a fan in Vampirella Costume.

I tend to portray the character by looking like them as much as possible and posing for pictures the way I think they would (ie. no smiling, giggly Elektras)

17. Do you have an equally large amount of female fans, or are they predominantly males?

Mostly males. (smiles)

18. Are most of the male fans at conventions and matches nice and respectful towards you?

Sure, usually. I have had bad experiences and now I sometimes feel that I can not "roam" at cons, especially at night, without some kind of male "escort" or security to keep the drunks and the mundanes away.

A few years ago at a Con, I was assaulted (literally) and verbally abused several times for no good reason whatsoever. It is no wonder that the more important female stars/guests at conventions avoid the fans at night or once the dealers room closes. It is very sad that conventions have changed so much that a woman can not put on a skimpy outfit and walk around alone with out fear of being hurt or having fans being nasty to her.

19. Is there any truth to the stereotype of the drooling nerd who can’t say three coherent words to a beautiful woman?

Yes, but that's ok. I do not understand why that happens, though. I am just a person. I’m goofy and clumsy at times. I still get excited over Dr. Who. I am and always will be a nerd at heart, no matter what my exterior looks like. Just be nice and polite and generally you will get a good response to whomever you meet.

20. What is the oddest experience you’ve ever had in costume, at a Con or at a match?

I had some one arrested for grabbing my chest. I was a guest at a con, and I had my pictures out for sale, and this little boy just stared and stared at my costume pictures. He could not take his eyes away.

21. Do you get many odd requests from fans for poses/pictures/items of clothing?

Not really, though I sold my old Vampi suit to my biggest fan,Terry Sanders. He also has the boots that I wore with it. (I have a new suit, don’t worry! Som one stole a pair of my socks from behind my table at Dragon Con one year.... but that’s the weirdest thing that ever happened.

About Wrestling

22. How did you become a wrestling fan?

I grew up watching Florida Championship Wrestling. You always knew that Dusty Rhodes would come out on top, but he would definitely bleed a lot while getting there. I got to meet the American Dream at a MLW show that I worked last year and it was sooooo cool. He bled all over my friends towel,, funny how things change, but somehow are still the same.

23. How did you go about getting into wrestling?

I initially trained with the legenday Dory Funk,Jr It was almost intimidating being in the ring with him. He was so soft spoken, but has such presence. He has done so much for the business. There is no one else like him. I then worked out for a few months with IPW school of Hardcore. I got hit with a ratan cane while managing Mideon. It is one of the high points of my career. Women a lot of the time do not take a lot of hits with foreign objects! I got to take a cookie sheet across the head while working with PPW.

24. Where are you training? What are the perks of that school?

I am so happy at my new school. I am training 4 days a week with Professional Outlaw Wrestling ( ). I have made such great head way in my training since coming here. Lance and Susan Michaels are like family to me. I love going to class and Lance is the Best Trainer I have ever had the privilege to work with. He is talented and so patient with me. I think he could teach anyone to be a great wrestler in time.

25. What's it like to be a woman in such a male dominated business?

Sometimes there are perks. People are usually less demanding on the girls. They understand that we are not strong enough to do all the power moves that the men do (or at least I am not!) I rely more on my speed. The male wrestlers can give you problems sometimes. I was hurt severely by another wrestler who was jealous I was talking to somebody else. On the whole, everyone is glad that there are women to work with. We liven things up.

26. Who are your favorite wrestlers? Anyone you'd love to work with?

Eddie Guerrero, Ivory, Victoria, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho (I love his mike work!) Steven Richards (I wish they would do more with him), Molly Holly and the Hurricaine On the Indys.... Black Knight, Low-Ki, Luna, Simply Luscious, Brian Christopher, Pat Powers, Pat McGroin and Ricky Romeo. I would love to work with any of the women!

Final Thoughts

27, What do you use to inspire yourself? Do you have any kind of preshow rituals (listen to any kind of music before a match, read anything before a con, etc)?

I hop around a lot, like a big chested Brock Lesnar. Then I take a small shot of alcohol, to stop me from bouncing around so damn much. After that I am fine. I am so busy thinking about what I want to do out there, the time flies by. And then your music hits and you are out there.

28. What do you think are you biggest strengths and weakness as a person? As a wrestler?

I am very intelligent, well read and have a huge vocabulary. But as for a weakness…I am not very patient sometimes. I can be emotional and I need a LOT of sleep.

As a wrestler, I am green but sexy as hell. I pick up the more complex things fairly easy. A wheel barrow DDT I got in no time but taking big steps in my lock-up took forever.

29. What’s in your immediate future? Where can we expect to see you?

Right now, I am in the WWE ONLINE DIVA SEARCH! ( ) It’s a contest where the winner gets a shot at becoming a Diva in the WWE and I’d really like it if you all voted for me!

Click on the South East Region and then click on Leslie (Florida) It is really easy, nothing to fill out. Just point and click. You can vote every day.

As for the wrestling in my current league, I am on the Indy scene in Florida, working where ever I can.

30. Finally, what advice would you have for anyone who wants to go into any of the businesses of modeling, wrestling or acting?

Do it. Find a good school and start wrestling. Watch wrestling tapes. You should know that you have to pay your dues. I sweep up trash after the shows, fill up the water cooler at school and help break down and set up the ring. I have worked the hot dog stand and the Gorilla Posistion and I am currently a personal assistant to Susan at POW.

As to acting, look into the low budget/no-budget independent films. They are more forgiving on newbies and willing to give new blood a chance. I had a blast on all my low budget stuff. Get whatever experience you can, or even make your own projects. Camera experience in your back yard is still worth it!

Special thanks to:

Leslie Culton, for agreeing to be interviewed and just being herself!

Ben Morse, for some good wrestling questions.

The Staff of Fanzing, for the good comic/modeling questions.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Blood And Water #5 - A Review

Written by: Judd Winick
Penciled by: Tomm Coker
Inked by: Tomm Coker
Colored by: Jason Wright
Lettered by: Kurt Hathaway
Editor: Mariah Huehner
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

First rule of writing: your main character must be sympathetic to the reader. Even if the character is a right scoundrel, the reader has to want the main character to win. Judd Winick blows this rule right out of the water in this, the final chapter of Blood and Water, with a sudden and pointless revelation regarding the past of his main character Adam.

Adam is a double victim of Hepatitis A & B; the result of, we are informed by his internal narrative, food poisoning and his mother’s drug use while pregnant with him. In an effort to save his life, Adam is turned into a vampire by his best friends. The first three issues of this comic were a delight as we heard about Adam’s promise as a student, the collapse of his life thanks to his disease and his rebirth into a world as exciting (and often times more interesting) than any Ann Rice has introduced in the last ten years.

And then at the end of issue three, it happened. Adam’s friend and “maker”, Joshua, was killed by one of “The Tribe”. This “Tribe” is a group of vampires who fed on other vampires, went feral and had to be put down. But some of these vampires reproduced and birthed mortals who, if made into a vampire, will awaken all of the hibernating members of “The Tribe” and spark a mass killing of mortals and vampires.

Sadly, this battle between vampire factions seemed derivative of the movie Blade 2. And any sympathy I felt for Adam was killed by the aforementioned revelation that he caused his own destruction and that his Hepatitis A came from drug use; not food poisoning. The nice guy who had some bad breaks is revealed as a habitual liar who has come to the point of lying to himself about his past actions. This revelation only draws away any sense of tension when Adam goes to fight the awakened “Tribe” members. I didn’t care if he made it through the fight or no.

Still, Tom Coker’s art has been above par through the series. His characters are all uniquely designed and he is an excellent storyteller through action. His inks are dark, but not overly so serving only to make the rare lights and whites of the world seem all the brighter. I hope that Coker will find himself on a monthly book… but not a spin-off of this miniseries.

Overall, this series has left me disappointed. When it started, I thought it was a nice new take on the vampire genre that would be free of the angst that fills too many of the books in the field. But halfway through, it became exactly like every other vampire story I have ever read… even ending with a typical battle royal. And yet, my disappointment comes not from what I think this story was… but what I thought it was going to be and should have been; not another tale of vampires fight vampires, but a story of a man who becomes a vampire and adapts to it like it was any other life change, with a little help from his friends.

Monday, July 7, 2003

Amazing Spider-Man #54 - A Review

Written by: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciled by: John Romita Jr.
Inked by: Scott Hanna
Colored by: Dan Kemp
Lettered by: Randy Gentle
Editor: Axel Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics

When JMS first took over the title, I cheered and praised it for he had returned something to Spider-Man long missing; a sense of humor. An actual sense of humor that felt like it came from a real person and not just a few token one-liners tossed out at random. And now as I read this issue, I find myself laughing and laughing hard. And yet I wonder if I should be laughing THIS much. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not the sort to complain just for the sake of complaining… though you’d never know it from reading my reviews. But it seems to me that there’s a bit too much comedy in this issue, and indeed the last few issues of Amazing Spider-Man.

The story thus far is that the dead bodies of several gang-bosses buried in the Nevada desert have been revived thanks to a gamma bomb test and reborn as a mass of green muscle nearly as strong as The Hulk. They have come to New York, seeking revenge on the mob boss who ordered their deaths over 40 years ago. Spidey has been hired by said boss to act as a bodyguard, over the objections of his daughter, who has been kept blind to her dad’s business dealings and is doesn’t like Spidey due to being an avid Daily Bugle reader.

And so Peter is caught between two conflicts: the fight with Digger (as the zombie calls himself) and the inner conflict over taking money for an honest job, even as he protects a dishonest man. All this, and his slow re-romancing of Mary Jane have given this book the fine sense of drama that is expected of Marvel’s flagship character.

But it is the humor that stands out this time. As well it should, as it is humor that has often separated Spider-Man from his more serious costumed cohorts. Still, a few of the gags are a bit forced, such as Spidey’s encounter with an autograph hungry janitor. And the daughter of a criminal who is unaware of her dad’s criminality is an old clichĂ© that does little to advance the plot here, other than continuing the running gag of how nobody trusts Spider-Man thanks to the Bugle. Then again, the public’s lack of trust in Spider-Man has been so long neglected a plot thread in the title, it is nice to see it mentioned if only as a throw-away joke.

Speaking of neglected plot threads, shouldn’t Peter be teaching school? We haven’t seen him at work since sometime around the late 40’s. Granted, it could be summer when class is out of session. And he could have his early meeting with Detective Lamont before going to class. But after all the early investment in Peter’s new role as a teacher, it would be nice to have a mention of it. Although we do get a nice shot of the school at the end of the issue in a scene that should quell the fears of all those who were afraid that Peter was becoming tainted by the promise of easy money from the mob.

Quibble as I may over the story, I cannot complain about the art. Romita and Hanna do their usual excellent job. Digger himself is well portrayed, looking like a patch-work Hulk that is slowly coming apart at the seams. And the cover by Terry Dodson is gorgeous; and somewhat symbolic of how Mary Jane is always in the background of Peter’s thoughts, even as he is in the middle of saving the day.

Looking To The Stars: More Reader Mail...

Another week has passed and I still didn’t get that marriage proposal. What I have gotten, however, is a few more letters regarding the columns of the past three weeks and a lot of questions and suggestions and universal praise.

Sadly, space limits the number of letters I can print here. Most of the letters did nothing more than complement me. I’ve left these out of this column since I imagine that much gushing praise, while doing wonders for my ego, would be a bit dry and dull for everyone else to read. Many of the letters raised the same questions repeatedly, so I was forced to pick between them and choose the ones who most clearly articulated or expanded on what I had written.

Our first letter comes from Mike Maillaro, who wrote me about both halves of MP on separate weeks

It’s funny, my girlfriend hated comics when we first started dating (7 and a half years ago). I worked at a comic shop, and she thought I was crazy when I would show her most of the stuff. Finally I found a comic that really appealed to her was Maxx. One of the main characters really reached out to her. In fact, I wrote her a little love note in the Maxx classified section which Sam Keith was nice enough to publish in issue 25.

She discovered superhero comics because of Alex Ross. She saw the cover for Kingdom Come and even though she knew nothing about these characters, she dived right in, and quickly became hooked. Slowly, she started getting interested in other series (especially Batman and Aquaman). Since Crossgen launched and she saw some strong realistic females, she has become a huge comic geek.

Mike’s letter was one of many I received from men about their girlfriends and from the girlfriends themselves, about how they didn’t like comics until they found a character they could connect to. This was one of the major points I made in the proposal; potential readers need to have characters they can relate to.

Our next letter is from Will Helm

The last column about how to bring women into comics was great. It’s funny, but I had to deal with a lot of it recently due to a question my girlfriend asked me. We were in a comic shop (I’m a bit of an X-freak) and she asked me what comics I thought she would like. Uh-oh. I had to do some research, knowing that she enjoyed ’50s noir stuff, I picked up an issue of the now-cancelled American Century for her. She loved it, but she also saw an ad for Fables in the issue. Now Fables is her favorite comic, closely followed by League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (she’s already lambasting the movie!). What do these books have in common? Great writing.

Now she’s in the comic shop more often than I am, although she does have to deal with the oftimes-less-than-attractive clerks hitting on her. I made sure to warn her about that, though.
Oh, speaking of great writing, one genre that seems to have totally disappeared from the shelves that I think women would be attracted to (mainly since my gf also collects them) would be the old EC-style horror comics. What ever happened to comics like that?

Short answer; Dr. Wertham and his book Seduction of the Innocent happened and the old pulp horror/detective comics disappeared. But that is a whole other story best told by others. (I highly recommend Stan Lee’s first-hand account from his autobiography, Excelsior!)

I decided to share this letter since Will reinforces my point that you cannot stereotype what women will like. I got that point reaffirmed this weekend after a man came in with his ten-year-old daughter to find her some comics. She wasn’t interested in the Powerpuff Girls books that made up the near entirety of our young girl’s comics stash, but she was, for reasons defying all convention a big fan of Ghost Rider. Not something I’d want my kids reading at that age, but daddy looked over everything first and said he thought it was okay so who am I to judge.

And speaking of reaffirming stereotypes, this seems as good a time to slide into this letter from a woman known only as Val. (Hmm...Val Cooper, mayhaps?)

Being a girl as well as a comic book fan, I have read most of my experiences in comic book shops in your article. When I was trying to find a comic to start getting into I was constantly bombarded with the usual snotty remarks as how comics weren’t for me or I was steered, as you mentioned in your article, directly to cute-sy statues and Hello Kitty merchandise. I was actually asked once if I was lost because I walked into a comic book shop on my own!

The only thing that I do not agree with you on is that Buffy The Vampire Slayer, or any comic books with strong females as the main character, a little romance and a little humor should be a model for what girls want in comics. I don’t disagree that the majority of girls like romantic stories and are usually turned off my comics cause they’re seen as such a “man” thing but I also don’t necessarily agree that it is the only way to get more girls reading comics. But then again I may just be the odd-man out. I think promoting comics such as Buffy may get some new female readers into comic book shops but I think it would leave many others out. I don’t work in a comic book shop nor do I know many other comic book fans who are girls but I would think that this idea of promoting Buffy comics to girls may also backfire. I would not want any store to assume that just because I am a girl I automatically want a comic with a strong female lead, to me that is just as bad as being pointed over to the Hello Kitty things.

When I started looking for comics that I wanted to read I ended picking up Fables, Sandman, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and American Century. I didn’t pick them because I could relate to the female characters (since I am neither a fairy-tale character nor am I a vampire [although one could hope]). And American Century’s women are usually the problem and end up dying anyway. I picked them up because their stories interesting me and/or I loved the writers, not because they were geared towards women. In fact when I had first started looking for comics I wanted to find reprints of old EC comics and Tomb Of Dracula comics. Those were definitely not geared towards women and I had a hard time being taken seriously. But like I was saying it may just be me.

Judging from Will’s letter about his girlfriend, I think I can safely say its not just you who likes old horror comics or American Century and good writing, Val.

I wrote Val back and assured her that it was not my intent to suggest Buffy was the be all/end all way to get women interested in comics. She is right and such a thing would be just as bad as pushing women towards the fairy statues or stuffed dolls. But that was not my intent.

My intent was to counteract the general consensus by society at large that fantasy/sci-fi IS a men’s only fiend by presenting an example of a multiple-media science-fiction series that had a larger than usual female audience. That’s it. Val responded thus some days later thanking me for the clarification.

Finally, a letter from Brad Muller, who wins the special Starman No-Prize for Most Output In A Single Letter.

I think the “Children” issue is easier to deal with than that of Women. You mentioned Harry Potter as a mold for creators to follow, and I agree. But another model for you would be Pixar and even Disney in general. Somehow, they manage to put out movies that, while meant for kids, adults can equally enjoy.

The question is marketability. If we want new readers, we need to advertise. Marvel should have it arranged that they get an advertisement for them and the for the Comicbook shop locator service before every one of their movies, and during any TV shows they have. The same goes for DC and every other comic company for that matter.

Brad makes an interesting point; Marvel has done little to promote their comics by themselves this last year, aside from the 25 cent special issues timed to come out close to the movie releases. And nobody advertises comics or comic book stores outside of other comic books. Why not stick an ad for the newest issue of the Hulk in People Magazine or some such?

Something else that needs to be looked at is how the current readership got reading in the first place. This issue is too spread out for me to answer with one sentence, but I have to think that in part, comic readers got other people to read comics. Specifically, for the new generation, I’m looking at parents. If it wasn’t for my dad introducing me to his older issues of X-Men (Some from the Claremont/Byrne era, some after), Avengers (Some w/ old Perez art), and Fantastic 4, I wouldn’t be reading comics today. Granted, he let me read these because I showed interest, but I don’t know how many comic readers would let their kids read their books for fear of them messing them up.

Comic readers with kids should try to influence their kids to read, or at least not shun them if they show interest. Kids want attention from their parents and often want to be like them, do what they do. And if that means sharing your comics with them, do so if you don’t think the books are too mature for them. Or go one step further, and try to find comics you think are suitable for them.

I’m embarrassed to admit that this never occurred to me, though I see it happen every weekend. Dad comes into the store to look at everything and tells his kids not to touch anything or to wander around looking. He gets a few books, a few bags and boards to protect them and then likely sticks them in a box that is off limits to his children in order to protect his investment. I wonder how many of those kids are attracted to the books and then become resentful of something they can’t have?

Another problem for kids, and I’m not sure whether you mentioned this or not, is the price. Comics aren’t that cheap for what they are. You’re talking $2.25 at the least for something that a kid might just read and throw away. I’m sure parents would be a bit discouraged from spending that amount of money on a comic, and we all know that usually with the purchase of one comes several. And then, you have to come back each month for new issues if the kids still want the comics. Thus, you’re always spending. Parents might just decide to get their kids a movie or video game, thinking the price isn’t that bad in the end.

So for that end, I’d love to see comics cheaper. Thing is, with the quality they are now, I don’t know if they can be made cheaper. Still, the price is a problem. I think the idea of coming back for the next issue might be a problem for kids. Trades are nice, but even more expensive. Especially when you think that with trades, there are multiple volumes. Still gonna have to get the next trade. I have no clue on what to do about this. Maybe more self-contained issues and limited series? I don’t think that would hurt.

Sadly, dropping the price without dropping the quality is a tricky balancing act. I’ve had customers complain about the $3.00 price of a comic, comparing it to the 25 cent comics of their youth without realizing how that price compares when adjusted for inflation. Yes, comics are more expensive but so are cars, housing, candy and pretty much everything else in the world.

Trades can help the problem somewhat, as they are more durable than single books and often times cheaper than the single issues bought one at a time. Still, the 'this is too expensive' demon rears its' head here again. I recently had a mother screaming bloody murder about a $9.99 manga collection, never mind that it did collect several parts of one story! And speaking of Manga...

Something else though, would be more non-superhero stuff. Manga has been very popular for kids, as well. Not just women. Look at DBZ to see what I’m talking about. We do need to have some things meant more for kids, but not dumb downed to the extent that adults won’t read it.

I thought of this when writing part one, but couldn’t really think of any specific manga’s outside of DBZ, Dragonball and Yugi-Oh that I had seen younger kids reading. Still, Brad does have a point, though I personally have seen a greater connection between women and Manga than children and Manga.

I can name the following women in comics that aren’t either successors or sidekicks: Wonder Woman, Cat Woman, Harley Quinn, Black Canary, Huntress, Saturn Girl, Triad, Spark, Sensor, Apparition, Shikkarri (Yeah, Legion has a ton of women), Storm, Jubille, Jean Grey, Emma Frost, Rouge (Probably more X-Women I’m forgetting), Invisible Woman, Scarlet WItch, Black Widow, Elektra. I think that covers it.

Actually, Harley Quinn did start out as a Joker sidekick. And most of the women mentioned are members of a team; not a solo hero who works on their own most of the time. Still, I did forget to add in that quantifier when I wrote the original column and make the point that there are few female characters with a solo title. Of course as Brad pointed out I missed a few people myself.

Also, you forgot some books with both Marvel and DC featuring Women. Elektra, for example. I haven’t read it, so it might not be something women want to read, but nevertheless, it features a woman. Also, I think you forgot both Harley Quinn and Birds of Prey at DC. Again, read neither, and for all I know, Harley Quinn might not even be around anymore. But I think it is. Birds of Prey is even a female TEAM book for the most part. I know we get to see the entire Bat-supporting characters, but was led to believe that Black Canary, Oracle, and Huntress were the main focus of the book. And Legion has a large female cast. So books with women are out there, but I realize that more are needed.

I did forget Elektra and I too thought Harley Quinn had been canceled recently. But I purposely didn’t mention Birds of Prey since it is a team book for the most part, despite a heavy focus on Black Canary.

You gave ways to change the comic shop to be more welcoming to women, and while they’re admirable, I don’t know if they’d work. Furthermore, I think there’s a better way around this, and it’s something I don’t like admitting, and you as a comic shop employee probably don’t like to hear either.

And that is comic companies need to star selling their SINGLE issues in book stores. And I’m not talking about newsstand additions on spinner-racks that we see at some bookstores either. I’m talking about selling comics exactly like a comic shop would. You’d have problems with back-issues, but I don’t find it necessary for bookstores to carry back issues, but just keep on the shelves what comics haven’t sold, regardless of the age (Though after a number of months, you’d probably want to pitch them.)

While I love the environments of comic shops, one of the big reasons for success of comics in book stores is the amount of them compared to the amount of comic shops, not to mention the visibility of them. Every mall usually has either a B Dalton of Waldenbooks shop, and Barnes and Noble have begun running rampant across the country. These shops have a visibility that comic shops don’t have, so it’s a lot more likely for someone to wander into one of those and drift over to the comic section than wander into a comic shop. We already know trades do fairly well at book stores, I think everyone would be surprised at how well single issues would sell at bookstores. All book stores would have to do is make a conscious effort to carry both trades, in a large number, and single issues. I really do think this would help the comic industry get more readers, not just women and children.

I have to agree with Brad here. One of the biggest things that killed the industry was when the specialty shops started carrying titles that the bigger bookstores couldn’t get. After that, the bookstores had little reason to carry comics anymore and even the ones that still do, like Waldenbooks, don’t carry the wide variety of available titles. You can’t even get the entire printed mass of everything by DC or Marvel there!

My thanks to all of you out there who wrote in to contribute, with an extra special Thank You Very Much to all those of you who didn’t get to see your name here in print. Know that it is because my appreciation for your help is limitless, but the space on the web page isn’t.

Tune in next week. Same Matt Time. Same Matt Website.