Friday, July 28, 2006

Looking To The Stars - The Last Of My Favorite Things

Three weeks ago, I talked about the comics that got me into this wonderful hobby.

Two weeks ago, I talked about the first autographed comics I brought into my collection as well as the first Marvel Comic I ever bought.

Last week, I talked about Clerks 2 and apparently got a mention at News Askew.

This week, we’re back on topic and ready to take a final look at my favorite things. Four comics that I number as my favorites in no particular order.

It is ironic, given that I came into reading the title on the very last issue of this period, that my favorite moments in Ron Marz’s Green Lantern run came about during the period where he was dating Donna Troy. The relationship worked on all levels with the more mature Donna helping Kyle both with finding his feet as a hero and in helping him love again after the death of his girlfriend Alex.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. And Donna was hastily removed from the comic so that John Byrne could remake her in the pages of Wonder Woman. I’ll spare you the gory details but suffice it to say, for all the heat John Byrne gets about messing around with characters that shouldn’t be messed about with, this instance gets my vote for #1 on the war crimes list.

The short version is that it was revealed that Donna Troy was a magically created clone of Wonder Woman (she needed a playmate since there were no girls on Paradise Island) and she was briefly erased from reality by a villain who, having a grudge against Hippolyta, decided to kidnap her daughter only to steal away the clone by accident.

The basic upshot of all this is that Donna was restored to life by the actions of Hippolyta and The Flash- both of whom still remembered Donna’s existence, having been outside of time when the erasing occurred. Donna was restored, but her personality was based on Wally West’s memories of her from when they were in the Teen Titans together.

This was dealt with badly in the Titans book of the time and Donna was given a whole host of powers based upon the fact that she was sweetness and light incarnate and her touch could burn demons. The fact that she only had a fraction of her memories and that her personality had regressed was, for the most part, ignored. In fact, only one book that I know of dealt with this issue in a manner that truly respected the character Donna Troy had been and didn’t suggest that she was better off as this new Wonder Girl.

That issue was Green Lantern #118.

As the issue opens, Kyle Rayner is newly returned from space and his first attempt to revive the Green Lantern Corps. He’s been dating Jenny-Lynn Scott (a.k.a. the superhero Jade) for a few months of comic time now and he’s just gotten a gallery showing for his art. Things are actually looking up in his life… and then Donna walks in the door and all the old memories and feelings come back in a rush.

Jade gets jealous, as Kyle asks if they can delay their plans for the evening so that he can settle things with Donna (who he hasn’t talked to since her return) and leaves in a huff. The brunt of the rest of the comic details Kyle and Donna walking through the streets of Greenwich Village, talking about how things were and where they stand now.

Not the most exciting and action-filled of stories, granted. But this is easily one of the most emotional and spirit-touching stories I’ve ever read because of one simple fact; this story is a literal representation of every relationship that ended because “You’re not the person I fell in love with.”

Think back to any close friendship or romantic relationship you’ve had. Think of all the private things you never told another person that you shared. Think of all the shared memories from when you were alone. Think of all the little details like which of your jokes was that first to make them laugh.

Now think about all of that being gone. And all the other person is left with is a memory that they love you. And that they were happy. But they don’t remember why they loved you and why they were happy. They can’t remember how you wound up together. They can’t remember all the quiet nights watching a movie… the lazy days snuggling on the couch. All of that is gone.

That’s pretty much where Donna is with Kyle. Because Wally West knew she loved Kyle, she does love Kyle. But because Wally knew nothing about the relationship other than that it existed, Donna can’t remember anything about her time with Kyle and why she loved him.

You don’t get much more tragic than that. And good on Ron Marz for being the only writer at the time who even thought to look at this issue and discuss it in such a skillful way much less making it into a relatable metaphor for real relationships gone wrong.

And speaking of relationships gone wrong, I’d like to talk a moment about the Oliver Queen/Dinah Lance relationship.

I know there’s a vocal bit of fandom that doesn’t want the two of them to get back together ever. Some think that Ollie is a scumbag who isn’t worthy of Dinah, but that is an argument I’ve addressed before. Some feel that Ollie and Dinah quickly becomes OLLIEanddinah whenever the two are paired in a story, which I would put down to a matter of who the writer is. Some also think that Dinah has progressed too far from who she was before Ollie died and who she is now for a relationship between the two to ever work.

This later group, I think, would benefit from a reading of Green Arrow #11.

Unique in that this was the only issue of Kevin Smith’s Green Arrow run that was a true one-shot, with no links to a larger story, this issue has little action with a lot of nice character moments all around the board. But for my money, nothing quite tops the moment where Oliver Queen struggles to pick up the phone to call Dinah Lance.

It has, according to the text, been some two weeks since Oliver came back from the dead. And while he’s been trying to take some time to get his life in order and get to know the son he never knew he had. In his heart, he still loves Dinah but he knows that things have changed and that she has changed in the time he’s been away. And as much as the indecision is killing him, he thinks it would be worse to have to deal with her rejecting him than to sit there wondering and worrying.

Looking at this moment, I can’t help but wonder how anyone who has read this issue can question the commitment that the modern Oliver Queen has towards “his pretty bird”. Sadly, the character’s fates are currently in the hands of those who are either indifferent to the history between the two characters or are in little mood to restore the status quo. Ah well. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Brad Meltzer will restore the other sacred trilogy to the JLA – Hal Jordan, Dinah Lance and Ollie Queen – and can get started on rekindling the romance and saying, in no uncertain terms, that all of Ollie’s affairs during the last four years never happened.

Finally, I can think of nothing better to end with than the best damn superhero story of all time. And I can think of no better place to start describing this story than with a song.

I’m not much on musicals, but I do have a soft spot for Man of LaMacha; the musical story of Don Quixote. For those of you unfamiliar with the musical, the first act concludes with a song called To Dream The Impossible Dream in which Don Quixote sings about why strives to “do good” for people who do not appreciate him or think him mad.

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go.

To right the unrightable wrong
To be better far than you are
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest, to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
To be willing to give when there’s no more to give
To be willing to die so that honor and justice may live

And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.

To my mind, no song better summarizes the heroic spirit. And I think this song must have been in the mind of somebody at Marvel Comics when part two of this story came out, as well. Because the cover of Amazing Spiderman #230 features a balloon reading “To Fight The Unbeatable Foe”.

Much has already been written about this story. Even Wizard Magazine in one of the few times I personally feel they got it right, declared this to be the best Spider-Man story ever. And I, for once, concur with their assessment.

The plot is basic and knowing it will spoil nothing of the story for you that the cover does not. On a day when The X-Men are out in space, The Avengers are out of town, The Fantastic Four are off exploring N-Space and even Dr. Strange is busy, Juggernaut -he of the massive strength, nigh-invulnerability and big magic helmet – goes on a rampage through downtown Manhattan. And the only hero around to do anything about it is Spider-Man.

Boy, does it suck to be Peter Parker right about now.

Peter knows he’s screwed. Everybody watching the fight knows Peter is screwed. Everybody reading this book knows Peter is screwed. Even Madame Web, who called him in to deal with this crisis, tells him that she has foreseen him getting his butt handed to him.

And yet, Peter keeps trying to do everything he can reasonably think of to stop Juggernaut. Because there is literally nobody else who can or will do anything. Because with great power comes great responsibility, even when your power isn’t great enough.

Check out both issues of Amazing Spider-Man #229-230. You’ll be glad you did. And it’s the only way you’ll find out how Peter wins.

Peter wins? Well, you’ll never know if I’m telling the truth unless you read it now, will you? ;)

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

Visit our blog at:

Friday, July 21, 2006

Looking To The Stars - Clerks 2 and Civil War #3

First, A Few Words To The Wise…

There is a Clerks 2 Review here, but this is going to be sappy, emotional and above all thoughtful criticism for the most part. So if you just want to know if it is funny or worth seeing, the short version is Yes. It is funny. Jay and Silent Bob are in it. Randall is his usual crass self. And Dante is still Fate’s Chamberpot. If you want to learn something, stick around. If not, enjoy the flick.

Last week, in case you didn’t read it, I spoke a bit about how the movie Clerks changed my life for the better at a time when I was younger, more foolish and wondering what to do with my life while being trapped in a crummy job and lacking direction.

Now, nearly ten years after I saw that film, I am a little bit older, relatively less foolish and am trying to find a respectable full-time job. I’ve also found that I also have about the same hold on the direction I am going in as I did when I was 18. Which is, ironically, very much the same situation Dante Hicks is in as Clerks 2.

As the movie opens, Dante’s future seems fairly certain. Free of the Quick Stop and RST Video for nearly a year, Dante is going into his last day of work at the Mooby’s Fast Food place. He has a fiance who is getting ready to drag him down to Florida and an easy life in a house bought by his in-laws, managing a car wash owned by his father-in-law and generally getting away from the Hell that has been the first 33 years of his life.

It gives nothing away to say that naturally, things get complicated and that by the end of the film, everything has been put in jeopardy. Comic antics ensue, of course. There is much comedic geekery, including a much needed slam of the live-action Transformers movie, a view of Fantasy Fandom vs. Sci-Fi Fandom and a hilarious dissertation upon the accidental use of racial slurs.

But underneath the “stupid humor for smart people” as Kevin Smith once said when asked to describe his movies, there is a big heart and a big message to this film. Dante Hicks, like Hamlet, is a man doomed by his inaction and indecisiveness and Randall is his Horatio. If the first Clerks taught us that we are often the architects of our own prisons, this Clerks teaches us that life is too short to spend worrying about what you should do with your life if you don’t live your life, for good or ill, in the first place.

A less mature Smith might have illustrated this point with a Star Wars quote; “Do or do not; there is no try,” could have done the lackluster Dante a lot of good about 15 years earlier. But he is past that point and so is most of Smith’s audience. Instead, Smith offers more subtle tributes to his influences – including a musical montage to “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” that hails rather than mocks Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and a black-to-white fade that suggests, much like The Wizard of Oz, that there is no place like home. And like before, the movie ends with a Soul Asylum song. And a very good Soul Asylum song, at that I should say.

In short, the movie is not just a laugh-fest. It’s got an important thought behind it as well. And you get to see a lot more of Jason Mewes than most people would want to see. If that’s not worth your six clams, I don’t know what is.

And since my review of Clerks 2 was a littler shorter and sweeter than I expected, here’s a bonus review – short version and a longer version – of Civil War #3.

Now, long time readers know that I’m not a big fan of Mark Millar. In the past, I’ve referred to him as a poor man’s Grant Morrison and as a pitiful hack who was plundering better storylines from DC Comics in order to continue his work at Marvel. His run on Spider-Man, for instance, being a poorly executed, continuity-ignoring parody of Jeph Loeb’s Hush.

It will probably be a surprise, then, for me to say that I liked the story of Civil War #3 very much.

Seriously, you don’t get better than this for sheer drama. Two groups of heroes, divided by a political dispute on the field of battle as indifferent politicians look on. And then a third party, who would benefit from the hero’s destruction, unleashes a magical, electric force that is capable of destroying them all.

Truly inspiring stuff. And I did love it… when I read that exact same story in Kindgom Come.

(Oh come on. You didn’t think I was really going to say something good about a Mark Millar book, did you?)

For the short review, I hand the podium over to my illustrious and illustrated fictional colleague, J. Jonah Jameson.

The Short Review

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

Visit our blog at:

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Looking To The Stars - A Few More Of My Favorite Things

My first job was working as a generic clerk then as a video clerk in a books/music/movies superstore that shall remain nameless. It was a cool one at first but after a switch in the management it became more and more unbearable, but ain’t that always the way?

Well, while I was working there I got introduced to a little film that wound up changing my life for the better. It didn’t quite inspire me to follow my dreams (I’ve needed precious little motivation to do that) but it did inspire me not to let my crummy job get me down and to try and stick with college so I’d at least have a chance at a better day-job while I was doing the theater thing at night.

Well, eventually I got fired from that job, anyway and on the same day, I used my last paycheck to buy a copy of this movie which had inspired me so: Clerks.

So naturally, it got my attention when I walked into the comic shop one day and heard the owner complaining about how Marvel Comics had gone crazy. They were handing over the reigns of Daredevil to an unproven writer – guy who made a few movies and written a few indy titles for Oni Press.

Nodding in sympathy (I was a DC boy, what did I care?), I asked who this horrible hack was.

“Kevin Smith or something.”

Unthinkable as this may be today, Kevin Smith was not quite a household name among geeks. Chasing Amy was just barely in the video stores, the Internet was not yet the huge bastion of rabble-rousing message boards that it is now and Mallrats hadn’t yet become a huge cult hit with every comic-reading guy who saw a little of himself in Brodie Bruce.

I knew jack and squat about Daredevil but I knew who the guy who made Clerks was. And if he was going to take a hand at writing comics, I was going to give it a shot. So that leads us to #4 on our Top Ten Chronological Countdown…

The First Marvel Comic: Daredevil #1

Ironically, I didn’t wind up getting this book at the comic shop. In a blunder worthy of Walt and Steve-Dave themselves, the former owner of my first comics-shop ordered too few of the first issue. He expected it to be a critical flop. Instead, he sold out in an hour. Of course the reason he expected this was because of all the people who will buy a #1 anything… until the demand kept coming later in the week, as word of mouth spread among the small comic-reading community of that town.

Thankfully, I was able to get the last copy from the Waldenbooks in the mall.

Chagrined, the store owner wound up tracking down a line on some other things by this Kevin Smith guy, who it seemed was selling some things on that new-fangled Internet. And so it was that I was able to get…

The First Autographed Comic: Clerks: The Comic Book #1

Years later, I would get a book autographed by Kevin Smith in person. That’s a rather prized collection piece right there. And if a picture is worth 1000 words, then this is worth quite a bit.

(And for those of my friends who have commented upon my slight resemblance to Mr. Smith, just so you know- I’m the one in the back wearing the goggles).

What? I was cos-playing Jack Knight!

Anyway, as personally noteworthy as that comic is to me out of all the books I got autographed, simply for the way Kevin Smith indirectly influenced my life, it is not the first book I ever personally got autographed by a creator. No, that distinct honor goes to…

The First Autographed In Person Comic: JLA/Avengers #1

I had the good fortune to run into Kurt Busiek first thing in the morning, just as he was about to leave the DC Comics booth. I later got to spend a good while hanging out with him and George Perez in a signing room and got him to sign the book as well. Sadly, the first issue of Busiek’s Conan was just a few weeks away, so I didn’t have an issue of that to sign yet. But, there’s always the next convention.

Of course it is fun to look at all the significant first-time comics as a collector. But as we all know, a comic is only truly worth something if you read it. So the last four comics in my top ten are going to be books that all touched me in some way or another. They aren’t signed. They aren’t worth much on e-bay. But I won’t trade my copy of them for anything.

And I’m going to talk about them all next time, right?


I’m going to take a break on the reminiscing for a week. Take some time to really do some deep, soulful writing of the prose.

Besides, Clerks 2 comes out next weekend and I’ve just gotta speak my peace about that. ;)

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

Visit our blog at:

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Looking To The Stars - Some Of My Favorite Things

It’s something that every fan must do sooner or later. Maybe you need the money. Maybe you need the space. Maybe you just don’t want that complete run of Animal Man as badly as you once thought. Whatever the reason, we all eventually have to weed the comic box.

It’s not all that bad though. Because as you’re digging through all those comics, you find the lost treasures. The books you read once, put aside and forgot that you had all these years. All the old favorites you haven’t read in forever.

With that in mind, I’d like to take you all along a walk down memory lane with me as I share with you my ten most favorite comics of all time. They aren’t all necessarily classics. In fact, I expect one or two of them to inspire laughter and questions about my taste. But they all mean something to me, for one reason or another. Maybe you’ll find a memory or two as well. Or you’ll discover an old classic worth hunting down.

The First Comic: Nintendo Comics System #1

This was the very first comic I remember making an active decision to remember. There were some Batman and Green Lantern comics I remember from when I was a real little kid. But this one was grabbed up during the first and only time my mother ever took me into a comic book store. And that was only to kill time as we were waiting for a delayed movie to start.

Like most kids in the late-80′s/early-90′s, I was a Vidiot. I kept a home made scroll on my wall with an active tally of how many video games I had beaten. I took photos of myself with the end game screens and tried several times to get my name printed in Nintendo Power magazine. Good thing I eventually matured and moved into a much more sensible hobby like comic collecting.

Still, this comic… which collected a spattering of stories staring the Mario Brothers, Link from Legend of Zelda and Captain N The Game Master (ah for the days when cartoons were openly commercials for the coolest toys), while not fine art, was amusing enough for its subject matter. I still get a chuckle thinking about the comic where Mario keeps getting knocked out and starting his day over and over as the monsters around him are having a tea party, totally oblivious to Mario’s efforts to beat them senseless.

The First Serious Comic: Green Lantern Vol. 2, Issue #90

I’ve told the story before about how, as a young man of 19, while working at a book store, I first got into comics formally. In brief, Green Lantern had been my favorite hero when I was a tyke watching Superfriends. So one day, as I was unpacking magazines for the bookstore, I came across some new comics and noticed a Green Lantern comic among them. I also noticed something strange…

That is NOT Green Lantern on the cover.

I read the issue and was enraptured by the story, which luckily enough had been written as a sort of jumping-on issue for new readers. I read about Kyle Rayner, who has been given the last Green Lantern ring after a chance encounter in an alley. The story showed this in flashback and I would later find out there was some question as to why he had been in this alley in the first place – a question this issue neatly answered while delivering one of the few non-preachy anti-drug abuse messages I’d ever seen in any book. It also hit me kind of hard since Kyle had a lot in common. We were both artists without work (me an actor, him a graphic artist) who were coming off a relationship we were unsure about (him with Donna Troy, me with a girl who is best not discussed)

Before too long, I was looking at other books and trying to figure out what happened to Hal Jordan. That search for answers led me, eventually, to pick up…

The First Series I Put On Subscription: JLA, Issue #8

I shouldn’t need to tell anyone here about the glory that was Grant Morrison’s JLA. But if Ron Marz was the man who brought me into comics, Grant Morrison was the one to keep me in them.

This issue, which started off with a tableau of alternate realities – Superman as a Green Lantern – an older Batman watching his son fight crime as the new Robin – Aquaman playing Kevin Costner in a world full of water – was cool in of itself for that alone.

What really hooked me was a relatively new character: Connor Hawke. He had just come onto the JLA base as an honest new guy and he quickly found himself over his head, facing off against a telepathic bad guy with no weapons but his own body, base cunning… and eventually a whole lot of his father’s old trick gadget arrows…

It was a little corny, but it was enough to get me to buy issue #9 and to eventually start picking up Connor’s solo adventures just months before its’ cancellation. It also inspired me to start reading up on his dad, the original Robin Hood Hero, who I had only known as having had a Super Powers figure with easily lost pieces and having been in ONE episode of Superfriends.

I was strictly a DC Fanboy at first. Apart from Spider-Man, who was always a favorite even though my exposure to him was limited to the old Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends cartoon as well as the occasional tape of the old late-60′s cartoons at my local videostore, I knew nothing of Marvel Comics and from what I heard from my new friends at the comic shop, I wasn’t missing much.

But within a year, someone I was already a fan of would get me to jump ship and (gasp) read something from the Marvelous Competitor.

Who? We’ll talk about that next time.

Until then, two short films you all might enjoy as well.

I’ve mentioned the Flash movies of Mr. Matt Gardner before. This new one, I think, may be his finest yet. The title isn’t much but the story is greatness. So please. Give a view to: Fantastic Four: Doomsday

And for you DC Fans, or anyone who likes gratuitous Solomon Grundy cameos, why don’t you give a look-see to Power Girl: Classified?

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

Visit our blog at: