Thursday, December 22, 2005

Looking To The Stars - And To All A Good Knight



Well, Uncle Starman was going to give you all the gift of a special holiday poem. He got inspired to write a parody of Twas The Night Before Christmas that was going to be a tribute to those bravest of fools; the small local comic shop owners. And about two days into this task, ol' Uncle Starman remembered why exactly he got into the business of writing comic book reviews and not poetry.

To wit, his poetry stinks.

So no matter what holiday you celebrate, know that you are not going to have to suffer reading the Vogonesque poetry parody that might well have made up the column this week had Uncle Starman been less kindhearted or had time to write something else before hitting the road to visit his parents.

Instead, we offer a much nicer poem than we ever could have hoped to receive from Uncle Starman. It was written by Brandon Blatcher and posted to the rec.arts.comics.misc group in 1998. We hope that you enjoy it and will be back here next week for the 4th Annual Starry Awards.


Twas the night before Christmas
and all throughout RAC,
not a creature was stirring,
and that was an odd little fact!

All the stockings were posted
to the chimney with glee
In the hope that they'd be filled
with comics for free!

The posters were nestled all snug in their beds,
While the Crisis graphic novel was delivered, but only in their heads;
And mamma in her thong, and I in my mask,
Had settled down for a muli part epic in which to bask.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I boomtubed from the bed, to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like the flash,
snitking open the shutters and clobbering the sash.
The moon colored real kewl, as was the computerized snow,
Giving more cheesiness to objects below,

When, what to my masked eyes did appear,
A miniature embossed sleigh and eight Photoshoped reindeer,
Pulling a costumed old driver so lively and quick,
I screamed in a moment "Take it elsewhere, you're off topic!"

Down the chimney he 'ported,
like a good mutant© should.
He was so garishly attired,
I knew he belonged in this 'hood!

He spoke not a word,
it was essential to the plot,
at least till the editor changed it,
as you knew they would, those silly crackpots.

Yet he finished his work,
Just beyond the deadline,
with a nifty panel transition,
That would probably leave the artist in a bind

But I saw him letter
before he 'ported outta sight
"Merry Christmas to all
and to all a Good Night"



Tune in next week. Same Matt time. New Matt Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Looking To The Stars - The Week In Reviews



I'm a bit spoiled for choice about one thing in particular to write about this week. Can't make up my mind, so we're going to cover everything I've read this past week. But just to make it interesting, I shall once again challenge myself with a self-imposed limit on words. One sentence; that's all.

ACTION COMICS #834

Nice to see the Queen of Stories back.


AQUAMAN #37

I think the only Aquaman villain we don't see here is The Fisherman.


AUTHORITY THE MAGNIFICENT KEVIN #5 (OF 5)

I miss Garth Ennis' Hitman... but this helps stave the want a bit.


FABLES #44

Still one of my favorite books, even if the ending this time was a bit of a cop out.


GREEN ARROW #57

No comment until next month.


HAWKMAN #47

I thought Rann/Thanagar was over?


JLA #123

Note to Judd Winick - HERE is how to write Oliver Queen!


NIGHTWING #115

Man, that Deathstroke does get around.


SUPERMAN TRUE BRIT SC

Brilliant!


TEEN TITANS #30

The Captain Carrot comic is the best bit of satire in a comic page in forever.


BOOKS OF DOOM #2 (OF 6)

Sadly, this is ten times better than anything being done with Fantastic Four elsewhere and the best treatment Doom had in a while.


GHOST RIDER #4 (OF 6)

For that matter, I miss Garth Ennis' Preacher too.


GLX-MAS SPECIAL

Worth getting even without the official Marvel Legends action figure promotion.


MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN #21

Turns out he was only MOSTLY Dead!


PUNISHER SILENT NIGHT

For those of you offended by silly comics like GLX, try this!


SECRET WAR: BOOK FIVE (OF 5)

It's finally out, so we can all go back to forgetting it ever existed.


SON OF M #1 (OF 6)

Peter Parker Pimp-Slaps Pietro.


ULTIMATE IRON MAN #5 (OF 5)

See SECRET WAR #5


WHAT IF WOLVERINE

So basically, this is "What if Wolverine Were The Punisher?"


Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Looking To The Stars - Crisis Of Infinite Linkage!



Got a bit of ground to cover this week, so let's get right to it, shall we?

1. Luke Ski, Eskimo Spy

I got introduced to this by my friend John a few days ago and I'm amazed I had never found this before. Luke Ski is a parodist singer in the same vein as Weird Al and Dr. Demento. Indeed, the good Doctor hosts Luke's website which is full of various geek-rock song parodies.

Personally, given that Mystery Science Theater 3000 is my favorite show EVER and that I perform in a Rocky Horror cast as a Floorwalker (loud guy who yells at the screen, ala MST3K), I'm now kicking myself for not trying to combine the two in some way. Luke Ski has done so with a wonderful little song to the tune of Science Fiction Double Feature.

And before anyone questions the relevance of my discussing this in a comic book column, rest assured there's plenty of favorites relating to comics, including the Peter Parker rap, House Party at Arkham Asylum and It's A Fanboy Christmas along with all the songs about Star Trek, Star Wars and even a song about Al Bundy from Married with Children to the tune of Eminem's My Name Is. So all manner of subject matter is covered, in order for you to get your geek on.

It's all at http://www.lukeski.com

2. Matt Gardner, Eskimo Spy

I've mentioned him before, but someone needs to hire this guy to write something somewhere. Forgive the cheap animation (it's Flash, for crying out loud!) and this is some of the best superheroic satire anywhere.

Here is a complete list of all of Matt's comic related work, so far. Including his latest comic – a tribute to the Countdown to Infinite Crisis.


Justice League: Countdown, Part One
http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view.php?id=272710


X-Men: Death Becomes Them
http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view.php?id=218160


X-Men: Dark Phoenix Rising
http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view.php?id=219810

X-Men: Revisiting Profit
http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/257930


House of M: Part One
http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view.php?id=251383


House of M: Part Two
http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view.php?id=273812


And my favorite: Marvel Villains ASSEMBLE!
http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/273218

3. A New Way to Look To The Stars

Because I think my non-comic reading friends (yes, I do have some) are getting sick of me clogging up my personal journal with my writings here, I've decided to follow the example of Dani from Fangirl Ramblings and start LJ-casting my column. So those of you who wish instant updates on my latest writing linked right off of your Livejournal Friends page, head on over to http://www.livejournal.com/users/looking2dastars/ and add it to your friends list.

That's it for this week. I've got some shopping to do this weekend when I'm not selling everyone else their presents, so we'll have to make this short and sweet.




You've read it. You can't unread it.

Got something to say? Hit the Comment button.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Is She Really Going Out With Him?

Another week has passed and despite the dire predictions of Mein Editor, I have yet (as of the time of this writing) to receive a deluge of mail challenging me on my contention that Birds of Prey author Gail Simone is the only person at DC Comics truly capable of writing the character of Oliver Queen of right now. This is a matter of great import to me, since Green Arrow is one of my favorite heroes and his portrayal of late has been somewhat inconsistent.

I did, however, get some rather surprised mail from someone wondering how I could then say, last week, that Gail Simone has " made my life as a Green Arrow enthusiast much more difficult". Because me saying anything uncomplimentary about Gail Simone is like seeing any other Nexus writer saying positive things about the new Supergirl book; it just does not happen!

Well despite the above language, my love of Simone's writing continues unabated. So those of you hoping to read a scandal-ridden bit of author-bashing, I'm sorry. You'll just have to wait for the Jesse Baker review of Secret Wars #5. The fact of the matter is that while her writing is still top-notch, the most recent issue of Birds of Prey did completely obliterate a theory I had penned regarding the Green Arrow/Black Canary relationship.

As I wrote way back when in Your Cheating Heart, the common wisdom among some comic readers that Oliver Queen is a hound of a man with the morals of an alley cat is hardly accurate. While Ollie was a ladies man during his college years (the time during which Connor Hawke was conceived) and most of his pre-superhero days, he was nothing but loyal to Dinah Lance when they were going steady. All of his famous incidents of infidelity occurred either while he was on the outs with Dinah (as it was with Catwoman and his former sidekick Marriane) or while he was drugged out of his gourd. While it can be argued that he was spiritually unfaithful to the woman he truly loved, Ollie never cheated on Dinah in a technical sense before his death.

Now as a fan, this is an important point to me. Part of the reason I like Ollie is because he has never been portrayed as being totally perfect. He was a flawed man who knew full well that he had done bad things in the past but had turned himself into a hero in an effort not just to make amends for his past misdeeds but to better himself as a person. He may face temptation but he does not give in. His will and his love make him stronger than that.

Ollie's story is one of redemption. Once a spoiled-rotten, happily hedonistic Enron executive who could listen to the Weird Al song "This Is The Life" and not realize that it was meant to be funny, he had a spiritual awakening that led him to fight against everything wrong in the world especially the evils he once helped to spread as a munitions manufacturer.

His attitude toward women changed as well and the good man he had become was as chivalric as his costume suggested. He was still a flirt but while he could still woo a lady when needed, nobody could seriously pull him away from his Pretty Bird and heaven help any other man who got between him and his lady.

This is why Dinah sticks with him despite his bullheaded stupidity and flirtatious ways. And for that matter, it is why he sticks with her despite her need to constantly show her independence but still wanting a shoulder to lean on at the end of the day. They know that despite the flaws, they are damn lucky to have one another and that they can trust each other with their lives.

Mike Grell understood this and his stories showed two people so in love with one another that they were willing to cross ethical lines that they would never consider crossing before in order to save the other. This point has been ignored in recent years, but both Ollie and Dinah killed in order to save the life of their lover during Grell's run on Green Arrow. And the knowledge that the other was willing to change so greatly only served to strengthen the bond of love and trust between them.

That trust that would eventually give way to suspicion but the love remained as strong as ever despite Dinah's worries about what Ollie may have done during his travels around the world. The greatest tragedy of their relationship is that a lack of communication on both their parts. The two are both passionate, emotional introverts given to voicing their emotions but not their motivations.

And now that the psychology lecture is over, let's talk history.

In Cheating, I discussed the development of the GA/BC relationship before Ollie's death. Until recently, there wasn't much to discuss of their relationship after Ollie's death for the good and simple reason that it had never been stated that the two had ever officially gotten back together as a steady couple.

Don't believe me? Let’s go down the timeline, shall we?

Green Arrow #1 - Dinah's remembers her days living with Ollie in Seattle. Her internal monologue shows that while she remembers the bad times with Ollie, she remembers the good times more and still loves him.

Green Arrow #6 - Upon hearing of the news that Ollie is alive and well, Dinah is on her way from Gotham to Star City within hours. Her first response is to throw herself into his arms in relief. She then grills him upon their past, discovering that he remembers nothing of their time in Seattle. While he claims he still loves her, that it's obvious that she still loves him and that wants to be with her, she says she doesn't think it can be that simple.

Green Arrow #11 - His memories restored, Ollie is struggling to work up the courage to pick up the phone and call Dinah. He muses on the irony that with everything else courageous he does on a daily basis, he is scared silly of getting rejected by her.

Green Arrow #12 - The two go out to dinner. Ollie lapses into his old habits, calling Dinah "his girl". She repeatedly says that they are just out as friends and that he should not be saying things like that. Ollie agrees and apologizes but explains that she was the only thing he missed about Earth in the afterlife and that he is willing to wait as long as it takes. The two wind up having a wild night of mad adrenaline-fueled love-making after stopping The Riddler from robbing the restaurant they were eating at.

Green Arrow #13 - Ollie tries to sneak out in the middle of the night, afraid that Dinah will say what happened was a mistake if she sees him the next morning. He is caught by Hawkman (they were staying in her room in the Justice Society headquarters), a fight broke out and it ended with Dinah saying that nothing was going to happen between them for a long, long time. Meanwhile, Connor Hawke (Ollie's son, the new Green Arrow) is ambushed by a mysterious super-villain who only speaks in onomatopoeia.

Green Arrow #14 - Dinah gets the news of Green Arrow being shot in Star City. Thinking it is Ollie, all that happened is forgotten as she demands an immediate JLA teleport to Star City. Despite her protests of the night before, it is obvious she still cares deeply for Ollie.

Green Arrow #15 - As they are visiting Connor in the hospital, Ollie blanks out for a second. When Dinah asks him what happened, he says that he was just distracted by his favorite sound; the sound of family. She doesn't contradict him, but just pulls him closer.

Green Arrow #21 - The final part of Archer's Quest, Ollie uses two of the artifacts he was traveling around the world to retrieve (the diamond tip of the arrow he used to save the JLA and a ring Barry Allen made him) to create an engagement ring for Dinah. We learn that the two have been hanging out a lot together, but that they are apparently not dating exclusively or indeed seeing each other as anything but friends the way Dinah talks about it. He takes her to dinner in the Space Needle planning to propose, but aborts the plan after she tells him not to do anything drastic as he talks about how much he loves her.

Green Arrow #28 - Ollie has a one night-stand with Joanna Pierce; niece of superhero Black Lightning.

Green Arrow #31 - Joanna dies because of her involvement in helping Ollie with a case.

Green Arrow #34 - Dinah shows up and asks Ollie how he is holding up about Joanna's death. Her dialogue suggests that she is sensing there is more than he is telling her about why he is so upset, but she lets it go. The tone seems more friendly than romantic here.

Green Arrow #40 - Dinah and Ollie break up. Ollie says nothing, but it is suggested that Mia and/or Connor told her everything.

Birds of Prey #68 - Dinah goes through fighting practice with Wonder Woman. She internally refers to Ollie as the "stupid cheating archer".

(It gets a bit rocky here, what exactly happened in what order and what is considered hard continuity, so bear with me)

Justice League Elite and the Joe Kelly JLA run - Ollie joins a more extreme superhero team. While on it, he flirts a little with Dawn, wife of teammate Manitou Raven. Apparently the two slept together off-camera.

The Kurt Busiek JLA Run - Ollie and Dinah are openly hostile to one another. They are barely capable of working together in the field.

The Bob Harras JLA Run - Ollie and Dinah are on speaking terms and almost friendly. The affair with Dawn IS discussed, but Dinah seems oddly calm about it.

Birds of Prey #88 - Ollie and Dinah finally have a much needed talk about where they stand. The basic upshot is that while Dinah is not ready to get involved with Ollie again,though she misses how things were and she still loves him and forgives him everything. He apologizes for everything and agrees that he misses how things were.

It should go without saying that I, as well as most of the Green Arrow fans out there, found his portrayal in Justice League Elite to be HORRIBLY out of character. The only trait of Ollie's personality present was his flirtatious nature. Despite this, Ollie has never gone after married women even in his worst days and it flies in the face of everything he stands for as a romantic to do what Joe Kelly depicted him doing.

This is doubly odd, considering that the story had Manitou Raven being rather annoyed at what Ollie had done, despite the fact that he offered his wife and her "use" to his fellow Justice Leaguers back during The Obisidian Age. Then again, I guess Joe Kelly forgot that little detail. Lord knows I tried to forget Obsidian Age...

Ignoring that storyline, I was able to create an explanation of what went wrong. Something that can explain away everything while maintaining the dignity of the characters and the continuity of the stories.

Consider this; Dinah has always longed for independence from her man and traditional women's roles but she gave Ollie the same freedom reluctantly. When he spent a year traveling abroad without her trying to find himself, she told herself it was fine but she really wished she could be with him or keep him with her. She has matured to the point where she recognizes this conflict within herself and has wisdom enough to keep him at bay where he can't color her emotions- much as it hurts her to do so. She wanted to go out and save the world, but expected her white knight to keep waiting for her. She never let Ollie know (at least not recently) that she did love him but that she still wasn't ready to settle down even if he was.

Ollie, for his part, went to extremes as he is wont to do. He was ready to propose to Dinah and she shot him down, encouraging his deepest fears regarding how she didn't want to be with him. So thinking that she didn't want something serious, he turned to other women who showed him the emotion that she was trying so hard to repress. Her time as one of the Birds of Prey made Dinah a lot tougher, emotionally and physically and it was jarring for her to have to once again deal with the only man who made her feel good about going weak in the knees.

In short, he assumed she didn't want a relationship and she assumed that he did. She assumed that he would wait for her no matter what and he assumed that she had moved on. Once again, it all boils down to Ollie and Dinah's biggest problem - the lack of communication regarding their wants and needs.

THAT is what I mean when I say that Gail Simone has made my life as a Green Arrow enthusiast more difficult. Because by having the two talk about "the break-up" in the most recent Birds of Prey it completely destroys any ideas of explaining this all away by saying that the two were never really involved but instead misinterpreted their relationship.

But then again, it's not really that difficult, is it? As I said, the biggest problem the two have always had is that they rarely ever talked about where they stood in a straightforward manner. But then again, how many people REALLY do that with their significant other? The fact that they are finally doing so now shows a good deal of progress and I for one am glad to see it.

Besides, it will all be a moot point in six months anyway when Infinite Crisis changes everything around again. ;)

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Looking To The Stars: The Future of DC

Just when I try and get out, they pull me back in.

No, I'm not still going on about my job with the comic store. I'm talking about DC Comics. My abandonment of most of Marvel Comics is well known by this point. And with all the upcoming news about bold new directions and characters dying and bland non-specific hype coming out of DC recently, I wasn't seeing myself buying much more from DC either.

And then came the good news. A whole spattering of good news, in fact. Good news that has assured me that I won't be completely turning into an indy comics guy anytime soon.

1. Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns writing Superman.

I've never been a big Superman fan. As a kid, I always preferred the more cerebral heroes who didn't punch their way through everything. And back then, Superman didn't do much but punch his way through every little thing. More recently, but rarely, many writers have been able to balance the simplicity of Truth, Justice and the American way with more complex storylines that tested Superman's spirit as well as his muscles. And with two of the writers who are the absolute best at maintaining the mix of Silver Age sensibility with modern storytelling at the helm, it looks like Superman will be a very good book to recommend to new readers when the new Superman movie hits the big screen this summer.

2. James Robinson on Batman.

My favorite Batman story of all time is a little story called Blades. Barely a story about Batman at all, the focus is upon a new Gotham vigilante dubbed The Cavalier who winds up teaching an inexperienced Bruce Wayne something about good intentions and heroism. It was the first thing I ever read by a writer who would quickly become one of my favorites and the indirect source of my nickname.

So it is with a good deal of joy that I can note that Starman author James Robinson, after an extended stay in Hollywood, is apparently returning back to DC to write not one, but two titles; Batman and Detective Comics. Batman has suffered from some truly horrible writing in the last two years and I haven't bought a Batman book since the time when Jean Paul Valley was still up and kicking because of it. So yeah... I'll be giving both these titles a shot.

3. Ron Marz on Ion.

Longtime readers will know that it was Green Lantern, and Kyle Rayner in specific, that got me into reading comics as an adult. Now as much as I am loving Geoff Johns bringing the GLC back, and what he is doing with all the characters... I've been kind of sad seeing Kyle shoved to a supporting role, even if he does hold a post as teacher in The New Corps. And a lot of people, who STILL can't get over the fact that Kyle still draws breath even though they have Hal back in a position as a respected hero AND a Green Lantern, are still insisting that Kyle will die during Infinite Crisis.

So here, in order, is my news for anyone who is a fan of Kyle Rayner.

GOOD: Kyle will be surviving Crisis.

BETTER: Kyle will be getting his own solo title under the nom de plume Ion.

BEST: Ron Marz is coming back to write it.

In short: Eat it, H.E.A.T.!

4. Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes.

On that note, not only is the new, non-confusing REAL Supergirl going to survive Infinite Crisis...

Not only will her book be continuing...

But she will be getting a second title, apparently paired with The Legion.

Hmmm... come to think of it, isn't Superboy Prime still alive and kicking and just begging to go to a place where heroism as an ideal is very much needed?

I'm not suggesting anything here... save that this may be a very good time to be an old-school Silver Age comics fan.

5. Keith Giffen on Blue Beetle.

Rumored for a while, but now confirmed. Glad to see there's still some room at DC for a little levity. I'd hate to have the only thing I see from Giffen be the amusing, but impossible for me to get at my store Defenders.

So yes. I'll be around a while longer. Much to the chagrin of El Editor Grande Daron, who will be quite disappointed to know that despite his predictions of doom last week, I did not get a single bit of hate mail in the past week over my statement that Gail Simone has the best grasp of the Ollie Queen/Dinah Lance relationship of any writer at DC and that anyone who dares disagree with me is arguing against solid fact, not opinion.

Hey that wasn't Daron, that was ME, your most vertical editor, Kevin S Mahoney! I write in a thick blue font, very unlike Daron's!


But more on that, and how Gail has indirectly made my life as a Green Arrow enthusiast much more difficult, next time...

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Snap Shot Reviews

Robert Burns once said "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Well, that's what happened this week. No sooner do I say farewell to my life as a professional comic book guy am I informed that my refusal has been rejected... at least until after the holiday season is over. Apparently they are a bit more willing to work with my schedule having realized how hard it would be to train someone new in the middle of the busiest shopping time of the year. So for a while, I shall be librarian and comic book guy.

So much for a smooth and graceful exit, eh?

Ah well. While my occupational transition has proven less peaceful than I had hoped, I can promise a much smoother and more amusing bit of reading for you all this week. Though I haven't had the time to start the first special project I promised I would start once I had more free reading/writing time, I did manage to read quite a few of the hot and new titles this week. And for the sake of brevity, I shall handicap myself and limit myself to two sentences to describe each book. All the better to speed you along to reading the good stuff for yourself.

All Star Superman #1 - Superman as he should be. All the classic elements of the character are balanced evenly with a wacky Grant Morrison plot, wrapped in a Quietly shell that makes the whole thing one sweet piece of candy.

Books of Doom #1 - Finally, Dr. Doom done right! If this is any indication of the future quality of his work, I can't wait for Ed Brubaker's Daredevil.

Birds of Prey #88 - While I'm still a bit hazy on the recent timeline involving the Ollie/Dinah relationship, Simone is the only author who has accurately captured the dynamic between the two since Kevin Smith's run on Green Arrow. That is fact, not opinion, and I will gladly explain why to any who dare challenge me on this point.

Do you REALLY want to challenge the hate mail gods in such a cavalier fashion Matt? Are you SURE? -Editor K.

Fables #43 - So good I got my girlfriend into regular comics fandom on this book alone. Worth the price of admission just for the joke on respecting the customs regarding the treatment of slaves and the treatment of slavers.

Fantastic Four #532 - JMS continues to be the only writer at Marvel who can deliver a consistent level of quality across multiple books. A notable issue, if only for being the first time I think it was outright stated Reed Richards uses his powers in the bedroom.

Green Arrow #56 - The good news is that we only get to see Winick mangle Ollie's character for two pages. The bad news is that he and the editor STILL haven't been corrected on the fact that Killer Frost's powers absorb heat (so fire arrows won't hurt her) and they spend the Ollie-Ollie-free rest of the issue screwing up Mia and Connor.

Green Lantern #5 - Johns is building things slowly here and I wish he'd speed up a bit. This issue is amusing superhero fare, but hardly as filling as his usual works.

Hellblazer #214 - The beginning of the end for Mike Carey's run as he takes away a major part of the Constantine mythology. I can't wait for next month to see what else goes up in smoke.

Jon Sable Freelance #5 - Why must every other book I read this week torment me with images of the days when Green Arrow was under the hands of a competent writer and artist? If you aren't already reading this series by old pro Mike Grell, do yourself a favor and track down the back issues.

Supergirl #3 - For fans of old school comics with a sense of fun, this is one of the best books on the market. Ignore the haters on the message-board who dismiss this as fluff.

The Thing #1 - Leave it to Dan Slott to give me some brief hope that there may be someone else besides JMS at Marvel who gets it. This book is a treasure, with a sense of fun that is all but dead at Marvel and starting to be revived at DC.

One final review, but not a comic book one. If you were planning to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but haven't or if you weren't planning to see it., go see it. Now. Um, sorry to butt in again Matt, but as I work in a movie theatre, I must advise people to hold off seeing HP:GoF for at least a few days. Most theatre workers are coming off three days and four nights of double shifting just to keep up with the demand for the nearly three hour film. If you viewers put off seeing the movie until say Wednesday, the theater will be quieter, cleaner, and its staff will be more helpful. And the film won't get pushed to the slightly smaller theatres until Friday at the earliest. Sorry to barge in again M-Money... -Editor K. If the fantasy isn't your thing, it's worth the price of admission just to see the trailers for Superman Returns on the big screen. Of course if you can't wait that long... check this out.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Comic Book Guy No More!

It's been quite a week. Got a bit to discuss, so let's get to it.

First; regarding the appraisal of Liberality for All #1, written last week by this author. Despite expectations of the greatest outpouring of hate-mail in recent fan mail, I got not one e-mail, heated or otherwise, regarding the aforementioned review. I can only conclude one of three things from this.

1. The comic book industry really does cater to a liberal elite who would never consider such a book worth reading.
2. All of you out there reading my column trust my judgment and opinions well enough to take me at my word that the book was not worth picking up.
3. All the conservatives who would argue the point about the book being a poorly-drawn, badly written waste of a tree are too busy trying to get the drink holder on their computer fixed to trade angry flames with me right now.

I did, however, get an e-mail asking why I hadn't written a thing about Wizard World Texas when said convention occurred within my backyard; this author being a Dallas boy.

The sad truth is that I didn't go for two reasons. The first was that a recent death in the circle of friends that week left us with little desire to go cavort and make merry in the geeky fashion. The other is that aside from Summer Glau of Firefly fame, there was nobody at Wizard World Texas I wanted to meet for any reason outside of giving them a good-size boot to the head and none of those in attendance were worth doing time over.

Sorry, Rob Liefeld. I hate and despise you but I ain't going to Huntsville over the likes of you.

So for those of you who enjoyed my last few convention reports (both of them), my apologies for not having another one for you. There's always next year, though.

Finally tonight; the biggest bit of news and one that inspires quite a lot of nostalgia on my part.

As most of you know, I got my start writing with the late and lamented DC Comics fandom site Fanzing way back in 1999. That came to a close in early 2003 when Fanzing published its' last issue. It was not too long before the last issue was to be published however, that I got a faithful e-mail.

A guy by the name of Ben Morse wrote me and several other Fanzing writers, saying that he liked our work and that he was inspired to start his own fandom magazine. He said that there were posts waiting for us if we were interested. Well, I was just starting up graduate school and trying to find a job so I had a lot more concerns on my mind at the time. But given that one of my few complaints about working for Fanzing was that I read a lot of independent titles I never got to discuss because of the magazine's focus, it occurred to me that I had nothing to lose by giving it a try.

I've been here ever since. Ben Morse has gone on to fame and fortune (well, as much as you can get as a guru for Wizard Comics anyway) and I've had the chance to work with a sleigh-load of talented folks ever since. But something funny happened that same month; I got my other dream job, working as a salesman in a comic book store.

It is now nearly three years later. Three years ago, I was just starting graduate school. Three years ago, I was just starting a new job. Three years ago, I was just starting a new magazine.

Now, I've got my Masters. And now, after months of searching, I'm starting a new job. To hundreds of people in the DFW area, I shall no longer be the comic book guy. I won't be there every Wednesday morning, ready to offer poly-bagged goodness and the word on whether or not you really need to buy Nightwing if you are reading Villains United. I will no longer be the happy uncle, passing out free comics at the library and the movie theater.

Does this mean I'm quitting the magazine too? Make a complete circle on all those changes three years ago? Not on your life!

True, without that discount I once had and without having all day to read comics when things are slow, I won't be covering quite as much material as I once did. In fact, this new position is going to give me a lot more free-time but a little less pay. The list of what I actually buy on a regular basis is going to cut back considerably.

So in the coming weeks, expect a lot more look-backs at classic material. More reviews of classic trade-paperbacks. Maybe even an episode guide or two akin to what I did with my Green Arrow Reading Guide and The Green Lantern Reading Guide Part One and Part Two.

But that's the next few weeks. This week, I'm done. So let's just end it by saying thank you all. For the last three years and the next three, it was and will be memorable.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Liberality Defined

Think back to a simpler time. You were a child. You had a bad day. The bully got your clothes dirty and took your lunch money. All the popular, pretty people laughed at you. And the teacher gave you a bad grade. You were mad. You were upset. And you needed to vent.

So you fantasized. You created a story. One where there was a vast conspiracy against you. How all the pretty, popular people formed a unified front; all part some evil group dedicated to keeping you down. The bully was their main assassin and the teacher their insidious leader. But you were stronger. You were faster. You were able to beat them all in a horribly bloody and ironic manner that would make Quentin Tarantino vomit.

We all have had these fantasies before. The more artistically inclined of us may have taken up pen and tried to make our fantasies more substantial. And nearly always, these written or illustrated fantasies of persecution are discarded embarrassedly by the artist. This catharsis can be cleansing, but a serious belief in the underpinnings of such a fantasy suggests an attitude that is childish at best and insane at worst.

Why do I bring this up? Because the above analogy is the best way I can think of to describe what reading Liberality for All #1 is like. In terms of art and writing, it seems like the sort of thing that Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) would have created, only with G. Gordon Liddy on a Harley instead of a dinosaur flying a fighter-jet.

The plot is pretty standard alternate history science-fiction, like a Harry Turtledove novel but not nearly as well researched. In another world where Al Gore wound up in the White House in 2001 and the Democratic Party gained control of United States Senate and House of Representatives, 9-11 happened with very different results.

We find out that in the course of 20 years, Usama Bin Laden has become a United Nations ambassador, conservative talk-radio has been outlawed and the United States is almost entirely under the control of the United Nations (a move facilitated, we are told, by President Chelsea Clinton and Vice President Michael Moore). The only thing that has any chance of saving the world from Usama's latest plan to destroy New York City with an Iraqi-designed suitcase nuke, is an organization known as F.O.I.L. and the cyborg-limb enhanced trio of Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North.

Honestly, I find myself hard pressed to describe the book past being a childish persecution fantasy. There are several different ways I could take this book apart, but none of them seem particularly constructive.

I could pontificate on the irony that this book, meant to be the first attempt to create a neo-conservative comic, was delayed until this week, when the neo-conservative movement took some serious hits with several prominent conservatives being investigated or indicted on various charges ranging from insider trading to money laundering to obstruction of justice and perjury.

I could focus upon the fact that the three big heroes of this book include two convicted felons and one of the most unashamedly biased talk-show hosts in any media.

I could discuss the author's complete inability to grasp global politics past an elementary school level. Because the book does seem to hinge upon the fact that nobody in the world outside of the conservatives in the United States would ever have a problem with an anti-Western terrorist becoming a respected world leader. (Israel? United Kingdom? Spain? Never heard of them.)

I could even dissect the entire book and pick apart every single factual inaccuracy and questionable conclusion. One particularly glaring example I noticed came during one of Sean Hannity's radio broadcasts, in which he says the country started going downhill after "God" was removed from our money and the Pledge of Allegiance. As any student of American history can tell you, "In God We Trust" and "under God" were not added to either our money OR the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950's during the height of McCarthyism. In other words, we did just fine without "God" on our currency for nearly 200 years and "The Pledge" in its original form was written by a Socialist with no mention of God and meant to be used by all nations.

Yes. I could do all of these things. But I won't. Because this book isn't worthy of such consideration. It isn't worth anything.

If you are a fan of quality comics, it is not worth reading. It's not even worth buying to laugh at.

If you are a liberal, it is not worth getting offended over. This may be insulting to your intelligence if not your beliefs, but if you get pissed off over this and try and lodge a protest, then the conservatives will laugh at you. So will I, for that matter. It's just a comic book.

If you are a conservative, it is not worth citing as a justification of your viewpoint. One might venture that if you're using science-fiction to justify your political views, particularly a work such as this which is as poorly thought out as it is drawn, you might need a reality check.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Trail-Blazing to Hell

On this All Hallows Eve, as I rest from one of the busiest weeks in memory for my acting troupe (We've been doing The Rocky Horror Picture Show at a local haunted house all week), I can't help but notice how well the comic book publishers have timed some of their releases.

You see, there's a good number of horror-themed comic-tie ins that came out this week. Land of the Dead. Haunted Mansion. Trailer Park of Terror. And several others as well. But I won't be talking about any of them tonight for the good and simple reason that as busy as I was with my acting troupe this week, work was even busier and didn't allow for any of the usual perusing of the new weird titles.

Besides, as interesting as these new books may be... I know that they can't hold a candle to the best one there is. A title that manages to be horrifying, amusing and everything that makes Halloween my favorite holiday all year round. I speak of Hellblazer; Vertigo's longest running title and one of the longer running comic-titles anywhere.

So in honor of this, my favorite time of year, I have a gift for all of you who have yet to be exposed to the world of John Constantine. A list of ten stories, multi-part and not, that I recommend to anyone and everyone interested in a fine book or learning about the real JC and not that cinematic abortion with the guy from The Matrix.

1. "Dream A Little Dream of Me" - Sandman #3
Available in The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes TP


The first story I read with John as a main character and as good an introduction to the character as anything else. His appearance here was meant to get Vertigo readers to try the new Sandman series, but I think more readers were introduced to John Constantine through the Sandman trade-paperbacks. It's a good read, either way.


2. "Newcastle: A Taste Of Things To Come" - Hellblazer #11
Available in Hellblazer: Rare Cuts TP


A good straight horror read and a historically important story as well. We learn of John's first major battle with the forces of Hell and of what started his chronic nightmares.


3. "Hold Me" - Hellblazer #27
Available in Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days TP


Another one-shot by Gaiman and the only thing with JC he ever wrote as part of the regular book run. This is one of the few one-part stories that ever managed a true balance between the humor and the horror that make up the quintessential Hellblazer story.


4. "Dangerous Habits" - Hellblazer #41-46
Available in Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits TP

The first story Garth Ennis wrote for Hellblazer, many would argue that it was his best and probably the greatest Hellblazer story of all time. It's indisputably one of the best, as John finds himself trying to trick a way past the one thing he can't magic away; cancer.

5. "Lord of the Dance" - Hellblazer #49

Forget some shirtless Irishman dancing! This story is probably the closest thing we'll ever get to a John Constantine Christmas special. And thank whatever gods are listening for that, because I don't want to see anyone trying and failing to top this tale about John actually doing a good deed for once and curing the depression of the Spirit of Revelry.


6. "Critical Mass" - Hellblazer #92-96

The greatest crime Vertigo's Powers That Be ever committed was green-
lighting the "trading" of whole of Brian Azarello's run on this book while leaving the far superior Paul Jenkins run unbound. This tale, Jenkins first big multi-part storyline, details John's no-win situation trying to save the son of an old friend at the price of his own soul.


7. "Last Man Standing" - Hellblazer #120

Most of those readers vaguely familiar with the whole of Hellblazer history know of John's long-running conflict with The Devil Himself. This lesser known story chronicles John's battle with an equally legendary mythological character. Manipulator faces manipulator as JC fights for the soul of England itself against Merlin.


8. "Desperately Seeking Something" - Hellblazer #110-114

The 10th Anniversary special that actually proves to be just what the world "special" suggests. Worth a look just for the writer/artist cameos in the background as well as one of the few times we ever see someone get the best of John Constantine with a simple prank.


9. "Telling Tales" - Hellblazer #143
Available in Hellblazer: Setting Sun TP

While most of his dialogue for JC sounded more like Spider Jerusalem, Warren Ellis did manage to get it right with this one-shot where John tells the secret "true" history of London to a reporter eager for dirt on the Royal Family.


10. "The Gift" - Hellblazer #213

Figure I may as well do one comic that your store probably still has in stock. But seriously; this month's issue is one of the better self-introspection one-shots the title has ever had.


Of course if you're low on funds to go back-issue or trade-hunting right now, there's quite a bit of freebies for anyone wanting to learn more about John Constantine, I would be remiss if I did not mention the invaluable Straight To Hell website; easily the best Hellblazer site on the web.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Flu Season

Due to the author having contracted the flu, there will be no Looking to the Stars column this week.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Crisis of Infinite Confusion!

We have much to discuss and so little time, so let's get right to it.

Infinite Crisis #1 came out this week. And it was good. But it occurs to me that some of us are still a wee bit confused regarding some of the particulars of how we got to where we are now.

Understandable. There's six months worth of mini-series, tie-ins that directly built upon the title to say nothing of twenty years worth of backstory and maybe more for some characters.

Now, I can't cover everything you need to know in one column. Thankfully, I've written enough in the past to clarify some of the background to the major players...

The Possible Ending...

It's short, but six months ago I did consider what the major theme of Infinite Crisis would be given what we were seeing in the books then. I offer this merely as an opportunity to see how close or far I was to calling the shot.

No, really... Who IS Donna Troy?

This old column of mine covers everything about Donna Troy up until the recent Return of Donna Troy series. All you need to know past that is that Donna is apparently a nexus between several multiple realities and is now playing a role similar to the one Harbringer did in the original "Crisis".

Powerful Headaches: The Origins of Power Girl

More about Power Girl than anyone could ever hope to comprehend. Read JSA Classified #1-4 to catch up on what has come past this.

Anything past that... well, there's a lot more to cover and I don't know quite where to start. Why don't you all tell me? Drop me an e-mail (the link is below) and tell me what things about Infinite Crisis and the tie-ins you'd like to see explained in greater detail. Anything. From Nightwing's romantic life to how Killer Frost's powers work. Sky is the limit.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Looking To The Stars: The Ten Terriffic?

Am I the only one who finds it mildly ironic that Marvel Comics announced the end of last years "Marvel Next" line the same week they make a big deal about "The Ten Terrific"?

See, it's this kind of inane marketing hackwork that led establishing my "Thou Shalt Not Purchase Any Marvel book not currently being written by JMS" rule. I'm sickened by how Marvel Editorial is unable to simply put new books out and let them find an audience. Unless something is part of some big gimmick movement, it might as well not exist. That's why well-written, original series like New Thunderbolts and Runaways wither and die on the vine while crap like Young Avengers is hyped into oblivion.

So, really... how terrific IS "The Ten Terrific"? Let's take a look at "TTT" in order and see, shall we?


1. Allan Heinberg

Who? Hold on... let me check Wikipedia.

Huh? Oh. THIS is the guy who writes Young Avengers.

See the above comments. NEXT!


2. David Hine

Haven't read District X, but I did read Mutopia. And in the whole pointless, drawn-out mess that is House of M, that book was the most pointless mess of them all. NEXT!


3. Reggie Hudlin

If the CN message boards are any indication, I may stand alone on this. But I've actually enjoyed what works of his I have read. I've heard several people savage his command of Black Panther's history so I'll take their word for it. But his arc on "MK: Spider-Man", while a bit heavy on the Superman parallels managed to actually surprise me with its' twist ending. More, it was actually fun, which few comics manage to be these days.


4. Robert Kirkman

He's good, but he's a bit of a cheat. As I understand it, the whole point of this movement is to promote hot new writers and... Kirkman has been at this a while. Still, his Marvel Team Up has been one of the few decent books Marvel has published in the last year, so good on him getting some press.


5.Sean McKeever

It took an Eisner Award for him to finally get some attention, but he's the only "New" talent who deserves to be on this list.


6.Greg Pak

If you need a book that is a shameless B-list sequel to a much better work, here is the man to write it. Most famous for "That Phoenix Mini-Series that spun out of Morrison's X-Men" and an unnecessary sequel to Gaiman's 1602, his best original work thus far has been the comic book adaptation of the Marvel Nemesis video game. And I say this only because his writing managed to capture the dull monotony of the game perfectly.


7.Roberto Sacasa

Why hasn't this guy been sent back to Off-Off-Broadway yet? His MK: 4 book was abysmal, trying to force realism and real-world concerns onto a book that has always thrived on... the FANTASTIC! I stopped reading after he put forth the idea that Reed Richards couldn't find work. Right. Like there's NO American company unscrupulous enough to hire an alleged world-conquering despot if he can improve profits. His Nightcrawler series, while better, is merely readable.


8.Dan Slott

In a fair and just world, HE would be writing "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man" or SOME Spider-Man title. Sadly, this is not a fair and just world, so we must content ourselves with the occasional GLX, She-Hulk and Thing series. Oh well...


9.Daniel Way

He was responsible for the Tsunmai Venom title. 'Nuff said!


10.Joss Whedon

Again, a cheat. He's been at this comic-writing gig a while now. And quite honestly, he needs the hype like a bird needs an airplane. He managed to create a readable X-Men title, so he deserves praise for that. Still, here's hoping that someone decides to bring back "Firefly" and he goes to devote his energies to that instead of trying to run a flag up the Marvel mast.

In short, "The Ten Terrific" is anything but. Unlike last years "Young Guns", there's a little bit of talent here... but sadly, this is your typical Marvel announcement with JoeyQ at the helm. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, October 3, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Whole Bunches Of Reviews!

This past week was, according to many sources, the biggest week for new comic releases in the past two years. Now, I know a lot of us didn’t have the time or the money to pick up everything and not everyone is as fortunate as I am to work in a comic shop where I get a chance to browse through almost everything on a weekly basis. So in order to keep you all in the know, here’s some quick thoughts on what comics were worth getting and what comics should be avoided at all cost.


Action Philosophers #3

One book everyone should be reading that has, thankfully, been renewed past its’ initial four-issue engagement. This is the “Self Help for Stupid Ugly Losers” issue, detailing the lives of psychological philosophers such as Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. You can read some free previews at http://www.eviltwincomics.com/ap.html

Score: 8 out of 10.


Adventures of Superman #644

Superman and Zatanna team up to take on Toyman, whom it turns out was also altered by Zatanna’s magic when the League was “fixing” villains. Not essential to the on-going plot of Infinite Crisis, but a good story nonetheless.

Score: 6 out of 10.


Amazing Spider-Man #524

A Spider-Man comic with very little Spider-Man, we take a break from the action to set-up the next big storyline and resolve the plot with Mary Jane making the tabloids. JMS continues to be the only writer on a regular monthly title who seems to have ANY idea of how to write Peter Parker in the wake of his joining The Avengers.

Score: 8 out of 10.


Batman #645

Okay. So Leslie Thompkins is a murderer. Alfred has apparently been killing people for years to protect his young master’s secret. Dick Grayson has gone to the dark side in a rather vague timeline that continues to defy easy classification. Hush was teamed with a brand new Clayface. And Jason Todd is back from the dead. Is there any way the Bat books could become any more convoluted? I’ll save you the money on this one: Jason Todd was never apparently buried in the first place. Drawn out, pointless and more confusing than Chinese algebra.

Score: 4 out of 10, and that’s only for the art.


Daredevil #77

Ever read Stan Lee’s Spider-Man? How about Frank Miller’s Daredevil, particularly “Born Again”? Apparently, Brian Michael Bendis hasn’t. Spare you the fine details but the plot in the book right now handily ignores a good deal of back story involving The Kingpin and his criminal record and is pushing the idea that despite countless people who could easily send Wilson Fisk up the river, the Feds have NOTHING on him and are ready to set him free so they can put away Matt Murdock for vigilantism.

Score: 3 out of 10, again only for the art.


Defenders #3

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Hulk am… exhausted! Starman am… amused!

Score: 8 out of 10.


Fantastic Four #531

Scratch my earlier statement. JMS is the only writer on a monthly title at Marvel who seems to have any idea of how to characterize ANYONE.

Score: 8 out of 10.


Flash #226

I miss Geoff Johns already. Blah on all fronts.

Score: 3 out of 10.


JLA #119

Leave it to Geoff Johns to be the one writer to come up with a truly credible reason why Batman would fly totally off the handle regarding the JLA dabbling with mind-alteration outside of the generic “I am the dark and moody knight” spiel that keeps getting hammered and hammered and hammered into us. The secret ingredient is love, kids!

Score: 9 out of 10.


JLA Classified #12

Worst book all week. The art’s crap and Warren Ellis either has no clue how to write the Justice League or has no interest in doing so properly. The whole thing reads like a rejected Authority script with all the personality and humor sucked out, which, given that Ellis reportedly had more than a few of his scripts rejected during his run, is not too far out a suggestion.

Score: 0 out of 10.


Legion of Superheroes #10

The plot thickens. A generation unites. And a Legionnaire dies! The best Legion in years.

Score: 8 out of 10.


Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere #4

With Mirrormask out in theaters this Friday and the new book Anansi Boys also out, it would be easy for this Mike Carey adaptation of the famous Neil Gaiman TV series to get missed. That would be a crime, because even if the master didn’t pen this one himself, it is a worthy tribute to the original.

Score: 7 out of 10.


New Avengers #11

Aside from one page of artwork suggesting that somebody with a MAJOR father complex (wink wink) is the mystery ninja, there is nothing to suggest that the mystery ninja is anyone BUT the person that we all knew the mystery ninja was supposed to be. Either way, I can’t be bothered to care. Go reread the first few issues of The Tick instead of this “Ronin” storyline. At least that one was MEANT to be cheesy and funny.

Score: 2 out of 10.


OMAC Project #6

A rushed, clichéd sci-fi cop-out ending. So we’re supposed to believe that when they were designing the OMACs, it never occurred to anyone to make the Nanites EMP proof? Given the number of heroes who could generate an EMP that seems a little unlikely. Then again, so has most of this series. Still, we get to see Hal Jordan verbally pimp-slap Batman again, so it’s not totally worthless.

Score: 4 out of 10.


Plastic Man #18

The greatest book in the world that nobody is reading. Shame really, as this issue boasts one of the best bits of superhero satire in months. Pick it up before it disappears.

Score: 8 out of 10.


Red Sonja #2

The only book to come out this week that was over a month late and worth the wait, if only for the expanded page-count. I’d gladly sacrifice the alternate covers (a gimmick this book does not need) in order to get this out on a more regular basis. Incidentally, for the intellectual sorts out there who refuse to buy any book with multiple-covers of pin-up art? Don’t judge a book by its’ cover; this book is a fitting companion to Dark Horse’s Conan book.

Score: 9 out of 10.


Sentry #1

While Romita Jr.’s art continues to degenerate into a dark sloppy parody of Frank Miller, at least we can depend on Paul Jenkins to write a decent script. I wasn’t a big fan of the original Sentry series well written though it was, but at least this book stays true to the form of the original.

Score: 6 out of 10.


Spider-Man:House of M #4

I’m still not sure what the heck happened to Peter in this book, but I still think this is one of the better things to come out of House of M. And I love the irony that Peter’s alternate life is being saved by the three people whose lives he failed to save.

Score: 6 out of 10.


Superman/Batman #22

Me am so not confused by Bizzaro and Batzarro dialogue. Me am not loving shameless mockery of team who is NOT The Ultimates.

Score: 7 out of 10.


Ultimate Iron Man #4

You know, as charming as Orson Scott Card’s soap opera villains were when I was a kid reading Ender’s Game, they just don’t do anything in a book that is aimed at older readers.

Score: 4 out of 10.


Ultimate Secret #3

What if they threw an alien invasion and nobody cared? Saved from being the most pointless book of the week by two things; the decent art and the fact that as boring as this book is, at least everyone sounds somewhat in character as they sit around talking and not doing anything. Well, everyone except Thor who is now buying beer for minors and talking about the true warrior spirit despite being a peace-loving hippie in the Ultimate universe.

Score: 3 out of 10.


Finally, if you haven’t seen Serenity yet, go forth and do so! I was just introduced to the amazing universe of Firefly this weekend by some friends and this sci-fi movie is (for once) actually accessible to someone who knows NOTHING about the TV series. So you have no excuses, apart from not being able to afford the ticket, to not give this movie a shot.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Denied!

To my beloved readers:

My apologies for not having a column this week. Having spent the week insuring my family and friends in South Texas had a place to come in the event of Hurricane Rita hitting them, I’ve had little time to write.

Please return next week when, barring any more unforeseen events, I will have much comicy goodness for you to read about.

Best wishes,
“Starman” Matt Morrison

Monday, September 19, 2005

Looking To The Stars: EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW OF ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN #3

The following pages were sent to us by a source who would identify themselves only as “Nancy”. If accurate, the text that follows are pages taken from the upcoming All-Star Batman and Robin #3. We are very excited to bring this exclusive preview to you, our beloved readers, and hope you will enjoy what we present here.


Episode 3

FROM: Miller, F
TO Lee, J

Hey Jim

Let me say once again what a pleasure it is to be working with an artist of your caliber. I know it may be empty prose and many a critic has said, but I really do think we’re going to be the true Dynamic Duo on this book.

As I write this, we just got the projected sales figures on the Sin City DVD, so I’m feeling pretty hyped right now. Despite all the energy I have right now, what I’ve written here is a little bit more sedate. But even though this a little more low-energy than the first two, but I think you’ll be able to pull this off magnificently.

As always, call if you have any questions or thoughts. I think my notes are vague enough to allow you some creativity, but specific enough to explain the pictures in my head. I’ve limited the panel numbers when possible, but have indicated which pages are splashes and which aren’t.


PAGE ONE

BIG SPLASH. BATMAN WALKING DOWN A DIRTY ALLEY.

Batman (V/O): Walk down the right back alley in Gotham City, and you can find anything…


PAGE THREE TO FOUR

BATMAN LAYS IN A BED, WEARING ONLY HIS COWL AND A BED SHEET

Batman (V/O): The night’s as hot as hell. It’s a lousy room in a lousy part of a lousy town – I’m staring at a goddess. She’s telling me she wants me. I’m not going to waste one more minute wondering how I’ve gotten this lucky. She smells like catnip and squeaky toys, the perfect woman… the Goddess. Selina. She says her name is Selina.

LONG SHOT OF SELINA IN DOORWAY FROM BEHIND, SHOWING HER WEARING NOTHING BUT A PURPLE THONG WITH A CAT TAIL COMING OFF THE TOP. THINK WHAT THOSE CATGIRLS AT THE CONS WEAR.

Selina: Rough night?

Batman: I had to fight some cops.

Selina: Oh, that’s lovely. You didn’t happen to kill any of them, did you?

Batman: Nah, I don’t think so, but they know they been in a fight, that’s for sure.


PAGES EIGHT TO NINE

BATMAN ENTERS THE ICEBURG LOUNGE, AND GRABS A WAITRESS

Batman: I’m looking for Barbara Gordon?

Waitress: Eyes to the stage, pilgrim. She’s just warming up.

SEVERAL BIG PANELS OF A GORGEOUS REDHEAD GODDESS WEARING NOT MUCH GRIDING AWAY ON A STAGE

Batman (V/O): Skinny Barbara Gordon. She grew up. She filled out.


PAGE THIRTEEN

BATMAN IS HOLDING DICK GRAYSON UP WITH ONE HAND, LOOKING HIM RIGHT IN THE EYES

Batman: It’s time to prove that you’re worth a damn. Sometimes that means dying, sometimes it means killing a whole lot of people.


PAGE FIFTEEN

BATMAN PLOWS THE BATMOBILE OVER A WHOLE LINE OF POLICE CARS

Batman (V/O): I love corrupt cops. No matter what you do to them, you don’t feel bad.


PAGE SEVENTEEN

BIG SPLASH. ROB GETS A RAZOR SHARP BATARANG THROUGH THE CHEST


PAGE EIGHTEEN

ROB: See, Don? It’s right through me.. Nuke me radical! Is Nasty!

DON: Hope Rob don’t say balls nasty.

ROB: Balls nasty!

DON: Eye it, leader! Something wrapped around it. Some kind of pipe.

HARVEY: Give it to me.

ROB: Don, this nuked me radical! Just look at it. It’s right through me, Don!

HARVEY: [reading the note] Batman, you fool.

ROB: Don, maybe somebody get pipe to medic for me or something? Can’t close the lines on this one, Don!

HARVEY: Out back. Everyone. Bring the women.

ROB: Don?


PAGE TWENTY-FOUR

BIG SPLASH OF BATMAN LOOKING DOWN ON THE CITY LIKE A PAGAN GOD.

Batman (V/O): What if I’m wrong? I’ve got a condition. I get confused sometimes. What if I’ve imagined all this? What if I’ve finally turned into what they’ve always said I would turn into? A maniac. A psycho killer.

EDITOR’S BOX

NEXT TIME; THAT WHITE BASTARD



Looking To The Stars is a critique/satire published by 411mania.com, and is not intended maliciously. 411mania.com has invented all names, words and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures and fictional works are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). 411mania.com makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceding information.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Looking To The Stars: A List of Grievances

First things first; if you missed last week’s column regarding the whole Katrina situation, read it now! Just because a week has passed and I’m finally taking some time to *GASP* write about comics doesn’t mean you get a pass on trying to do something. Hell, go out and do something for SOME good cause. Be a hero yourself in a small way instead of just reading about them.

Now, with all apologies to George Carlin, here is a list of some things and people in the comic book industry and comic book fandom that are just plain pissing me off!

First thing I could easily do without; the adults-only crowd. We need to get rid of every writer, artist and marketing executive hoo-hah that insist that it is a waste of time and effort to try and market comic books to kids anymore. There is a market out there. Trust me; I have seen too many kids who watched Spider-Man 2 over and over and over, have a Fantastic Four T-shirt or dress up as Batman at Halloween to believe that there is no market out there for safe but enjoyable comics written for younger readers.

Which leads to me to something I’ve written about in depth once before; let’s have a few more books like The Stardust Kid, The Thief of Always and Gus Beezer and a few less books like Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man. You wonder why kids don’t want to read all the comics you make for kids? It’s because most of them suck! Get Stan Lee to come back and write a Spider-Man title instead of publishing some half-assed, third-rate rip-off of his best works. Get someone to help punch up the dialogue if you MUST have cool modern slang but let that man spin the plots if nothing else.

And we could easily do without the comic fans who complain about kids in their store. Yes, it happens. I had one customer ask me once why we had the Hentai Manga sealed up and declare, after I explained it was to keep children from reading it accidentally, “What are you doing letting children into a comic book store?” Sadly, he was being serious.

So if the presence of children bothers you that much, come in the middle of the day while the kids are still in school or during the middle of the week when they are less likely to come in. Or use a mail-order comic service. Your need for creepy Japanese tentacle porn does not exceed the rights of all the parents out there.

And while we’re on the subject of parents and protecting the children… let me say a few words about clueless parents who don’t do their jobs.

My comic shop goes through a lot of effort to make sure that books that aren’t for children stay out of their hands. We put them up on high shelves. We seal up the particularly nasty issues in laminated bags. One of the higher-ups reads through all the preview comics and makes a list of which new titles should be kept out of reach. And all the employees are expected to keep track of this kind of thing and inform parents when they are about to get their kids something inappropriate. A lot of comic shops use the same or similar safe guards.

So it really chafes me when I have someone come in with their five-year-old and then proceed to buy 20 bucks worth of Spawn comics and I tell them that it’s probably not appropriate for them and they start screaming about how they have the right to decide what their children read. Well, you know what? I have the right to cover my ass and say that you were warned before Timmy becomes a chronic bed-wetter and you decide it would be a really great idea to sue me for selling you the evil comic book that scared him so bad. So pardon me for trying to protect your children from things they probably aren’t ready to deal with. Maybe if you did your job as a parent, I wouldn’t have to.

But let’s not forget the flip-side on this. The over-protective nuts. The people like the woman who complained to me at length, using some most unfriendly words, about how Betty and Veronica’s bikinis made them look like “sluts”. These were not thong bikinis or something like that; just regular, full-bottomed two-piece swimsuits.

You know, Betty and Veronica have been drawn rather sexily and scantily for some time now and apart from sparking several disturbing drunken bar talks about which fictional characters a group of friends would like to fornicate with (I was always partial to Cheryl Blossom myself), I don’t think that a drawing of a girl in a bikini does anyone any harm. Well, unless a guy stares at it while trying to drive and has a car wreck… but that’s besides the point.

And while we’re on the subject of parenting, here are a few more folks we could do without…

Every parent who brings their children into a comic store and devotes all their time to trying to get a bored son to pick out something to read, while discouraging their daughter who is looking at everything, saying that it is “boys stuff”. I say “parent” instead of father because I’ve actually seen mothers do this too! And people wonder why there are so many girls who fail to get into reading at a young age.

Every parent who, while getting their own comics, discourages their children’s curiosity over something they enjoy and tells them “not to touch” the comics for any reason other than “your hands are dirty” or “that book isn’t good for you”.

In fact, let’s go one step further and call out every parent who comes in looking for an “investment” for their children. God forbid your kids should actually be reading the comics.

There’s another thing that’s been annoying me; comics as an investment. Is anyone besides the publishers and a few of the middle-men comic shops actually making money off of the special edition variant covers? I don’t think so! Aside from inflating order numbers and providing work to artists who lack the drive or ability to do a monthly title, what purpose do they serve?

And whatever marketing weasel came up with the idea of alternate-cover hard-cover collections (like with the upcoming Identity Crisis HC) should be strung up by the ankles and lashed with a rolled-up copy of X-Men #1.

Is it safe to say that we’re all sick of overly-hyped, disappointing mega-crossover events with book tie-ins that really have no connection to the mega-crossover? Just checking.

But enough generalities. Here’s a few more specific examples of people I can do without.

* Judd Winick fans complaining about nobody else following Judd Winick’s continuity – you lost whatever sympathy I may have had for Devin Grayson ignoring what Judd was doing in Outsiders and Batman had you shown me any when I said “You know, Black Lightning would never use his powers to kill,” and wrote me off as an old-school Silver Age shill who was trapped in the past.

* Brian Michael Bendis fans complaining about some of the House of M titles not working with his “grand vision”. Blame Marvel’s editors for screwing the pooch; not me for being the one to point out that the story timelines don’t match up.

* Everyone who is going to purchase the reported deluxe HC of Frank Cho’s Shanna The She Devil with the original nude artwork restored. You can find pictures of real bare-naked women for free with a simple Google search; be thrifty AND less creepy!

* People who complain about how Writer A can’t make a deadline but then excuse away Writer B, who also can’t make a deadline, but is a much bigger jerk about it. (I don’t need to name names. You’ll all just fill in the blanks anyway. ;))

And finally everyone who has a negative opinion but doesn’t bother to listen to the other guy’s point of view? Forget them.

Speaking of which, if anyone out there has any comments or has issue with something I said, my e-mail is always open.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, September 5, 2005

Looking To The Stars: More Important Than Comics

Last week, I asked everyone for your thoughts on whether or not I should publish a list of things that were making me angry about the comic book industry and comic fandom right now. The unanimous response from all the e-mail I received was that those of you reading this like my work no matter what the tone and subject matter. Everyone who wrote in wanted to see my list.

And you will. Eventually.

This week though…I have just one thing bothering me about comics fandom; all the people who have nothing better to do right now than sit on their ass complaining about comics when there are more important issues to worry about! Yes, I’m talking about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. So here, in no particular order, is a list of people and things in the current situation that are annoying the piss out of me.

1. BLAME-SHIFTERS

This covers a LOT of ground on both sides of the political fence. There are too many people who are trying to blame the slow response time and lack of organization concerning disaster relief on one political affiliation or the other. Right now, it does not matter that the Mayor of New Orleans is a Democrat. It does not matter that the President is a Republican. It doesn’t even matter at this point when the States asked the Feds for help.

What matters is that there are a lot of people in danger of dying from disease and famine and trying to assign blame for why things are so bad is not doing a damn thing to help them. So to every politician, reporter and jerk in a chatroom with too much free-time on their hands; get off your ass and do something to help!

2. PSEUDO-PATRIOTS

This goes along with #1. While it doesn’t do us any good at this time to start playing the Blame Game, that doesn’t mean we can ignore the fact that things are being badly mismanaged at the Federal level. Naming names helps no one, but failing to keep an eye out for people exploiting the disaster hurts everyone.

Would you wait until after the surgery was over to point out that the doctor was cutting off the wrong leg? Of course not! You’d say something while it was still possible to fix things before they got worse. That’s why I have lost all patience with the people who are pleading against blame-shifting purely as a means of protecting whatever interests they think will be endangered by people trying to think about how things got this bad. The most common excuse against this is because it’s Un-American.

Case in point: while we knew this disaster would cause gasoline prices to go up, the jump started BEFORE the oil supplies along the Gulf Coast were trashed. It seems probable that some of the oil companies are gouging the consumers and using the disaster to cover their tracks. Well, rather than be one more voice complaining about the gas-prices, do something useful and report it. There’s a handy dandy on-line form at US Department of Energy Website. You might also try calling the Attorney General for your state; many of them have started investigations into the illegal price-fixing. And even if you don’t do something to fight the gas-pirates, shut up about the gas prices. I don’t care if they really hit home; just be thankful you still have a home.

3. LOOTERS

Let me clarify first of all that I am not talking about people stealing food or medicine that is seriously needed for the survival of their families. I’m not a religious man, but I’ve read enough to know that most religious dogma agrees that while stealing is a bad thing, forgiveness can be warranted for good causes. St. Thomas Aquinas once said that if a man’s family is going hungry, it’s no sin for him to steal a loaf of bread. And even ignoring the spiritual arguments, I have a lot more logical sympathy for the woman stealing baby formula than I do the jackass who is taking advantage of the disaster to get an X-Box 360. Sure, I can’t play it now… but once the water goes down… oh baby!

4. PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT ALL LOOTERS

Okay. It’s technically criminal. But you’d be breaking windows to get some canned peas if you were in their shoes too. You may deny it, but you would. So get off your high damn horse and do something to help these people.

5. SUBTLE RACISM

While I don’t buy into any of the theories going around about how the slow Federal response to the disaster was part of some mass conspiracy by the power elite to racially cleanse the Gulf Coast by allowing the poorest, minority-filled areas to be hit the hardest and denied aid, anyone who denies that there is a subtle form of racism going on in depicting the current situation is just naive.

Don’t believe me? Check out these photos and the accompanying blurbs.

Remember kids: Black people are looters. White people are finders.

I’ve also had it with all the ignorant people making snap judgments as to why the people stranded in New Orleans chose not to leave. Most of them chose nothing. I can’t find the statistics to confirm this, but I heard on the news that 1 in 3 people in New Orleans don’t own a car. Even removing the children and the infirm elderly, that still leaves a sizeable number of people who had no direct way to take action for themselves. And these people need help right now; not some jerk telling them they should have helped themselves and asking why they should be bothered to do anything?

6. DENIALISTS AND THE WRONG MEDICINE

According to Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step to overcoming alcoholism is admitting that you have a problem and that you need help. This is actually good advice in dealing with many bad situations; you can’t start fixing it until you admit things are broken and that you need help.

It seems to me though that our Federal Government is refusing to admit that we need help. With a lot of the National Guard units of the states affected overseas in Iraq, there is a serious lack of manpower to move in and deal with the few people in New Orleans who have turned to violence. And trust me; the people who are rioting are a minority. The LA Times has a good article about this and how we sent in soldiers who were expecting combat who found only a lot of hungry and sick people desperate for a way out.

Sadly, it says a lot about the mentality of the people running the show right now that their first thoughts are of punishing the wicked and not saving the needy. This is not blame-shifting or finger-pointing. I just honestly want some things explained to me.

Explain to me why we are refusing the aid of other countries? There have been countless stories of this going on in the past week. A Google search will bring up a lot of them but the first one I saw involved us refusing the aid of the the Jamaican government.

Explain to me why we are turning away volunteers? People are showing up and being turned away by the forces surrounding the city. Even the Red Cross has been denied entry to start distributing food and evacuating the sick. Now obviously, if things are that big of a war zone (which, as we saw earlier, they probably aren’t) we aren’t going to want to send in civilian volunteers. But why can’t we have doctors and nurses who want to help outside the city ready to treat the people getting moved out?

7. GOD’S WILL

This sort of goes along with #1, but I’ve heard enough of this it deserves to be mentioned separately. To everyone who is dismissing this tragedy because of New Orleans being a wicked, sinful city: please shut up, for the love of whatever thing you call God.

This may escape your notice since most of our media coverage of Katrina’s aftermath has centered upon New Orleans, but Mississippi and Alabama got hit really hard too. All of downtown Mobile Alabama, not a bastion of permissive behavior by most standards, is completely underwater. As I said before, I am not a religious man but I’d like to think that any god interested in trashing a wicked city would have better aim.

8. PEOPLE TO ADMIRE

Finally, because I have vented my spleen so much this week… let’s end on a happy note and talk about some people who, in the middle of a bad situation, have actually been showing some exemplary behavior.

There’s 18 year old Jabbor Gibson, who took an abandoned school bus in New Orleans and personally drove it and about 100 people out of the city to the evacuation center in Houston. Sadly, with a Vogonish approach to protocol that is proving sadly typical for this disaster, his people were turned away from the Astrodome at first and Gibson himself may be facing criminal charges for stealing a vehicle. To his credit, Gibson said “I dont care if I get blamed for it, as long as I saved my people.” No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.

And I must acknowledge New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who was the first person in power honest enough to say that not enough was being done. Regardless of what he may have done or not done before the disaster, he has earned my respect for being man enough to say that he doesn’t care if he keeps his job or not at this point; so long as the people he was elected to serve are helped.

And thank you everyone around the world who has tried to help deal with this a little bit, even if your help was refused.

Speaking of helping, here’s a list of places you can check out to find out what more you can do. Donate blood. Buy some extra groceries and donate them. Pitch in a dollar to the charity at the supermarket. Even if you’ve already done something to help, it can’t hurt to see if you can do more.

Personally, as far as charities go, I suggest The Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation. This way you can be sure your donations are going directly to the people in Louisiana who need it.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get going to the grocery store. For some odd reason, I seem to find myself curiously short on canned goods right now.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Wither Looking To The Stars?

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!

Okay. Would you believe the show that is mildly delayed but continues on a semi-weekly basis?

I still have a steadier schedule than Warren Ellis.

Regular readers of this feature will probably remember that my writing time was somewhat limited over the summer due to my balancing a full time job with a full-time volunteer gig, full-time classes and having to do my final thesis work. Still, it’s all over and done now and I have a nice new Masters of Science degree to flaunt around at all the job interviews.

To those of you who are new readers or forgetful, that’s probably why we haven’t met yet. In the digital sense, that is. You are owed a quick explanation.

This is my personal soapbox upon which to rant upon all things related to graphic literature. This is, I say in all modesty, home to some of the more insightful commentary and biting satire the Comics Nexus has to offer. (To say nothing of the most pompous, self-serving diatribes this side of Stan Lee. – Tim Stevens)

This is Looking To The Stars.

All settled? All introduced? Good. Now, to new business.

A few weeks back… I wrote a list of people who keep me coming back to comics despite my occasional annoyance with the hobby, some of the writers, the artists, the trends and some of our fellow hobbyists. And I got very little in the responses from you all. This marks a rather disturbing trend I noticed concerning the amount of mail I receive and the correlation to the subject matter discussed.

Simply put, whenever I talk about something nice and wonderful which I think everyone should be reading I rarely get much in the way of mail back. No “thanks for pointing me toward this” or “I agree this is great”. But whenever I go off on something… oh boy, do you let me hear about it.

Now I don’t rant and rave about the evils of various people all that often. I think venting is healthy for the spirit but it makes for pretty dull text to hear someone ranting about the same stupidities over and over again. Just as sure as the same sugary prose gets pretty dull to read. It gets pretty dull to write, too. That’s why I asked to stop being given Lucifer to review. I can only think of so many ways to say “This book is brilliant and everyone should read it.”

The thing of it is… while I prefer not to be the angry young man of Comics Nexus, (Ha! He’s the oldest one on staff and Jesse Baker has him beat on sheer anger – Tim Stevens)I do believe that some of my best work does come out of negative commentary. So before I publish something I wrote last night in a bit of catharsis… a list of everything in the comics world that is annoying me to the point of making me ready to quit the hobby complete with some observations that the friends I’ve showed it to find quite humorous… I want some honest answers from all of you.

So go. Read my old work. Tell me what you’d prefer. Should I publish the list or shouldn’t I? Do you think I’m at my best and funniest as a destructive force? Or would I be better off writing about that which I think is worth reading and ignoring the bad stuff?

Send your responses to starmanmatt@yahoo.com I await your e-mail.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Random Thoughts at 2 AM.

Salutations, gentle readers! May I deliver my apologies once again for the rather sporadic rate at which my usual ranting have been released. Would that I had the excuse of some of my colleagues of having spend that last few weeks partying down in San Diego.

Sadly, real life is being even more difficult at the moment than I had feared it would be when I embarked upon the mad course to finish all my Masters degree studies over the summer. Between that, a full time job, looking for a new job for once I get my degree, financial difficulties stemming from class fees and some other personal business that I shan’t go into here… I’m swamped. It has gotten to the point that I’ve canceled my comic subscription.

Yes, I know. The Seventh Seal has broken and the end is nigh!

Don’t worry. I’m still picking up a few titles. I just no longer feel the need to reserve anything for myself, save Red Sonja and Fables. And that’s mostly so my girlfriend can have a copy, those being the two books she reads. The fact of the matter is I have precious little time to read lately.

And honestly? The vast majority of what is published today holds little thrill for me. I’ve already written off Marvel Comics completely, as far too many of their books possess the same dull tone. And this was before everyone was dragged into the long-drawn out abyss that is House of M. DC is somewhat better, though they have far too many books promising tie-ins to Villains United or some other mini-series but failing to deliver. Still, the quality level on the writing is still high for the most part and so long as Gail Simone and Geoff Johns continue to write their respective titles, I’ll still have the occasional DC title gracing my hand.

More and more, I find myself reading more independent works. The gamer in me continues to revel in Dork Tower and Knights of the Dinner Table, as well as the new Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink. Hellblazer, Lucifer, Fables and any Sandman-based Vertigo title are also sure to be snatched up. Ex Machina continues to be the best book published today, because of Brian Vaughan’s writing and Tony Harris’s pencils. And I continue to pick up Conan and Red Sonja; devout Robert E. Howard fan that I am.

On a side note, I recommend that all fans of the fantasy comics head down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of “The Coming of Conan”. All of the original Howard Conan stories, uncut and unabridged with no rewrites or additions as often happened in some of the reprints of his work.

And of course; my favorite web comics continue to give me a little amusement a few times a week. I may not be able to pick up a book every week now, but I can always click a bookmark. I’ve sung the praises of all these titles before, but because I need to do this every once in a while for the new readers who don’t check the archives, here’s links to every web-based comic I think is worth reading.

Something Positive
Midnight Macabre
New Gold Dreams
Queen of Wands
8-Bit Theater
Penny Arcade
The Order Of The Stick
Punks and Nerds
Nice Hair

And finally, I’d like to do a very special recommendation for Halloween-Man. Long published as an independent title through a number of smaller companies (most recently through Across the Pond), Halloweenman. With grotesque, monstrous heroes and even more disturbing villains, this title is a screaming love-letter to the good ol’ days of Lee and Kirby. There’s a little something for everyone; humor, monsters, superheroes, romance. The whole gamut of the human condition, in other words. And, for those who care about such things, a whole lot of social commentary that is hidden behind damned engaging action stories.

I’ve been a fan ever since I met writer and creator Drew Edwards at a Con a while back. And I think you’ll all be fans too if you give it a shot. You can see a few sample comics at Halloweenman.com and order more from the on-line store. I highly recommend the latest ash-can: Raw Meat. It is worth picking up, if only for the story involving the elemental spirit of Fandom. It must be read to be believed.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.