Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fanboy Squee!

My thanks to all of you who pointed these articles out to me.

Of course I'm excited at the possibility of another The Shade mini-series somewhere down the line. And I'll pick up Robinson's monthly Superman book even though I've never been much of a fan of the Big Blue Boyscout. But the real big news is the revelation that...

1) Robinson is doing a new book that he isn't allowed to talk about yet.
2) It is going to involve Green Lantern.
3) It is going to involve Green Arrow.
4) Mike Carlin said "We should get Neal Adams to draw it" and indeed had said elsewhere that Adams was reportedly looking to do a monthly book again.

Yeah. I know it's too much to hope that they're canceling Green Arrow/Black Canary, putting Dinah back into Birds of Prey and bringing back Green Lantern/Green Arrow and that my favorite writer of all time will be doing the writing along with the greatest artist of the late Silver/Early Bronze age...

... but I can dream.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This one is for Chris Sims.

I've never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sims, but based on his writing I get the feeling we would either be old friends who just met or there would be a massive explosion of pure smart-ass geek goodness akin to the movie Timecop. And if you don't need that reference explained, odds are you are one of us too. Because we are both fans of a genre that can only be called "Cheesy Movies".

Cheesy movies, for the record, can be big-budget blockbusters, shlock-cinema B-movies or obscure Indy flicks. The common ingredient is all of these movies are entertaining if not of particularly high quality or entertaining for the reasons intended by the director and actors.

Yes, I am one of those who am more familiar with the works of Roger Corman than Orson Wells. I don't own a copy of Casablanca but I do own a copy of Hell Comes To Frogtown. I seek out the stuff that was almost made for Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic and watch it without the company of Mike Nelson to keep me close to what we will charitably call "sane".

Mr. Sims, in addition to being a fan of comics as well as a scholar and a gentleman, shares my fondness for cinematic cheese as evidenced by his reviews of such films as Cheerleader Ninjas and Yo-Yo Girl Cop.

On the odd chance you're one of the few who reads my contributions to the cultural zeitgeist and have never, despite my direct link, visited the domain of one Chris Sims, now is a good week to expose yourself to Chris's Invincible Super Blog.

Why? Because it is Bring It On Week. And lest you think this be a slam on that noble series of films which has nothing to recommend it other than positive messages and barely legal actresses playing jail-bait cheerleaders washing cars... well, you're going to be disappointed.

With that in mind, I have made a mock movie poster based on my title entry for Mr. Sims' Bring-It-Ontest! to come up with a title for the next direct-to-video Bring It On Sequel.

You Thought You They Were Done With 300 Parodies.

You Thought They Stopped Making Saturday Night Live Movies.

You Thought They Were Done Bringing It On.


This Summer... Three Genres Will Join To Bring It On As One!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fast Thoughts For 02/20/08

I think, except for the Green Lantern books and Comic Foundry, I got every thing I buy for myself this week.

BIRDS OF PREY #115 - I may stand in the minority on this, but while this book hasn't been quite as good since Gail Simone left, it's far from bad... even with some fairly fractured Superman characterization. McKeever is playing to both his strengths with this, his opening story - reviving obscure points of a character's background and tales of Teenage Angst.

On the first front, we have Lady Blackhawk dealing with her repeated stints as "Queen Shark" to longtime Blackhawk enemy Killer Shark. Much as I've wanted a story centering on Lady Blackhawk for a while, I wish we could have found something better than the just-plain-creepy stories in which a supervillain brain-washes the one female member of the team. I especially could have done without the revelation of Zinda being just a bit angry over all the things he "had her do".

The details are left to the imagination, of course, but somehow it's hard NOT to imagine some pretty disgusting things. Especially given that Killer Shark had to undress her and get her into the Queen Shark costume. :P

On the second front, we have Misfit (aka Oracle's unwitting teenage sidekick and magical teleporting girl) freaking out over Oracle's adoption of Black Alice (aka the magical goth twink girl) into The Birds, seemingly over the much more inspired and much more enthusiastic Misfit.

I think the intention is for Misfit to be coming off as an anxious and over-eager brat - which she is - but honestly, she's got a point. Granting that Babs seems to be thinking in the purely logical terms that SOMEBODY needs to keep Alice under control and that she honestly could use a magic-sniffer/stealer on her team...

a) Alice's powers are unreliable under good conditions
b) there's a lot more qualified people than Barbara Gordon to teach a teenage girl how to manage her magic powers and Babs has most of them on speed-dial
c) Alice is ... kinda insane.

If I were buying this for me, this book would be on the fence. Since I'm getting it for my girlfriend, it's safe to say I'll still be buying it until she tells me to stop. Wish I could give the book better praise than that but McKeever has yet to hook me. And - uh yeah - the whole Queen Shark thing is just plain creepy.

CONAN #49 - A standard, but enjoyable tale. Truman closes out the last lingering plot-thread from the Busiek run and the tale of a beggar-girl with prophetic powers who followed after Conan to warn him of danger only to wind up in great danger herself.

I think I can see the shape of where things are going but it's an even bet that Issue 50 will end with Conan shifting from a mostly amoral mercenary to a mostly moral mercenary. Violence and sorcery aside, the greatest conflict in this issue is between Conan's natural urges to head home and fend for himself following the defeat of the army he had signed on with versus his code to help those who have helped him or proven helpless.

EX MACHINA #34 - Another scale-back issue, similar to Issue #25's close look at the past of Bradbury. This one gives us a closer look at the past of Commissioner Amy Angotti and just why - apart from being a general law-and-order kind of cop, she seems to have such a grudge against ex-superhero turned mayor Mitchel Hundred.

It's kind of a slow-down after the last few issues with the plot to kill The Pope and the revelation that Mitchell can talk to God through his powers. Still, this kind of character work is the kind of thing that Vaughan is famous for. And Tony Harris' work sings on the page, as always.

JUSTICE LEAUGE OF AMERICA #18 - Dwayne McDuffie made me care more about Red Tornado in one back-up story than Brad Meltzer could across an entire six-issue story arc.

THAT is talent.

Still not digging the Salvation Run tie-in and the "fight" with the Suicide Squad is one of the most anti-climactic affairs in recent memory. Nice to see someone play with the history between Vixen and Bronze Tiger, though. And I did like the scene with Batman and Amanda Walker as Bruce figures out that "The Wall" is trying to distract him and Superman while The Watchtower is being attacked.

"You're wasting our time. You NEVER waste time."

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #136 - With the exception of one strip continuing the story of B.A's game, the whole of the comics are devoted to three seperate groups playing the on-line Role Playing Game World of Hackcraft (Give yourself a no-prize if you can guess what that is a take off on!)

While the game we see here has nothing to do World of Warcraft (a shame, as I'd love to play a D&D On-Line game that actually had something to do with D&D AND penalized you for being an idiot who constantly hits on "the hot chicks"), there's a lot of humor here that is fairly consistent to all walks of MMORPG. The Clan of Griefers who play only to annoy other people (Logan and Newt). The hobbyists who take things too damn seriously (Johnny, Brian and company). And the female gamers who abuse the stupidity of the men around them (Bridget and Shelia and Sara).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: best pure gaming humor comic on the stands today.

RED SONJA #30 - And so we enter an era of rotating writing/art teams and I already find it more enjoyable than the last 20 issues of Red Sonja put together. A flashback tale, told as Sonja herself is taken deep in the Underworld to face judgement for her crimes - this details Sonja's first attempt at thievery and how her mistakes got a friend and mentor killed.

Ron Marz previously wrote the Sonja Goes East one-shot and proved himself capable of writing a well-paced action story. He lets the art tell a lot of the story here and while this is usually a good idea in a sword & sorcery comic, Lee Moder proves incapable of carrying his own weight much less Marz's slack. Moder's art is serviciable but not quite as good as Mel Rubi's previous work on the title, im my humble opinion. His work looks too cartoony and that's not a good thing given the blood and gore this title usually features. There is a time and a place for Bruce Timm styling and that place is not in Red Sonja.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I know what I'm getting my girlfriend this Fall.

SOURCE: Black Canary Barbie among new dolls for Fall 2008.

Carrying the torch...

Because I don't have the stamina to mock Judd Winick books in this kind of detail anymore, my former editor has taken up the torch.

Glad to see I'm not the only one who thought Dinah looked AND sounded like a Stepford Wife this time around.

The full thing is up at:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fast Thoughts For 02/06/08 & 02/13/08

Happy Valentine's Day, all.

I took a week off from the racket, partly due to illness and partly due to some work-related busyness and business. So without a further adieu or fondue....

DOCTOR WHO CLASSIC #3 - I haven't read this one yet. I'm still waiting for my order for #1 and #2 to be filled. But when I saw this in my shop today - much to my astonishment as I didn't know IDW had the rights to reprint the old Dr. Who comics that Marvel did in the UK once upon a time... well, Tom Baker fan that I am, I just had to get it.

Expect a good word or five later.

FABLES #69 - I think I just figured out why Flycatcher has grown on me to become my favorite character. Because I have, for most of my life, been the quiet man in the background who just did the jobs that needed to be done and only stepped up and made myself noticed when that was what needed to be done. And that is pretty much what all of The Good Prince has been about - the man who became the right man at the right time because that was what was needed. And despite his power and position, he is now ultimately still the guy who cleans the floors when they need cleaning.

Of course, I may just be feeling ironic given the new position I am assuming in my personal career - which, while offering a great deal more "face-time", power and responsibility is ultimately me just doing what I've always done, because it needs to be done. But hey, what's the point of a good story if not to sympathize with the character?

GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY #5 - Someone at my local comic shop was "good" enough to give me the pertinent details. Henceforth, I have asked them not to do so as it has become too painful for me to even hear about what is going on in this book.

Suffice it to say, if you aren't happy with the butchery of Green Arrow history since Herr Winick took over the main writing chores of Green Arrow, you probably won't be pleased with his equally ham-fisted attempts to "fix" things in this issue. The short version is that 15 years of continuity and all common sense have been sacrificed in order to lend credence to Judd Winick's roommates continuity-shattering tale The Archer's Quest. The long version involves...

1. Billionaire Playboy Oliver Queen picking up random women on a street-corner in broad-daylight. (Paparazzi, anyone?)

2. Oliver Queen's year of reckoning on the island being reduced to, at most, eight months.

3. Connor Hawke's transformation from a dutiful student and swashbuckling romantic who wanted to study at a Buddhist temple to a troubled youth who was expelled from countless schools before being shipped off to a Buddhist temple's scared-straight program.

4. Moonday Hawke's transformation from an Asian free-spirit and Hippie into an African dread-locked hollaback girl.

5. Oliver Queen being such a skilled actor and liar he can bluff his best friend, who at the time was also wielding enough omnipotence and omnipresence to do DNA testing at a glance, into believing that he's ignorant as to his latest traveling companion being his long lost son.

6. Winick has apparently made it a matter of continuity that Ollie ripped off nearly everything from Batman - including his decision to take on a boy sidekick!

Incidentally, am I the only one who gets the feeling Judd really wishes he was still writing Batman?

This is - by my accounting, the third issue out of five in which Batman shows up and does a lot more actual heroing than the title characters. He apparently gets referred to by Dinah on the first page when Roy is asking why she is doing something Batman is more qualified to handle (apparently) and he shows up twice in the flashbacks, proving that he is much better than Ollie at everything and Ollie cannot hope to ever be as cool as Batman...

Ah well. I shall happily wallow in ignorance from this day forth, until such time as Andy Diggle is brought in to clean up the mess.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #21 - To The Guardians of the Universe,

Okay. I said this was a bad idea a month ago. Melding your best officers with the way-too-literal robot enforcers who turned against you once already after they concluded - logically - that all life was too chaotic to be law-abiding all the time? BAD Idea. But even I didn't think it would go south on you quite this fast.

This is going to end in another Emerald Twilight - mark my words. And not the one where it was just your best and brightest (no pun intended) getting possessed and manipulated by your two greatest enemies. I'm talking the original Emerald Twilight - the one that ends with an all out war between two factions of Green Lanterns, the rest of the universe taking sides and Intergalactic Planetary war faster than you can say Beastie Boys.

I figure your only hope is that Ganthet and Superman show up with a whole bunch of hopeful sorts and pull your pale blue butts out of the fire before the end becomes nigh.

WONDER WOMAN #17 - There is only way this issue could have been any more awesome. It would involve one of "The Circle" screaming out "This is Madness" just before Diana screamed out "Madness? THIS - IS - THEMYSCRIA!" and booting said Circle Member in the head with her stylish white and red boot.

Yes, I know 300 jokes are old and lame at this point. But if anyone can get away with it, it's Gail Simone writing a story with an actual Greek warrior. :)

That being said... it's hard to get any more hard-core than using your own blood as war-paint and still fighting even as your back is being filled with arrows and not bothering to pull them out.

And even ignoring that, there's a lot to admire. Diana routing the Nazis. Four-on-one Amazon combat. A Plastic Man cameo that makes me realize we have yet to see Gail Simone ever write anything with the character that I'm aware of and that's a mistake that must be seen to shortly. And the revelation that Etta Candy isn't quite as hard-shelled as we'd been led to believe.

Meh. It's been two weeks without a review to write. I've had a lot of bad puns to make-up for. :)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Random Thought on Brand New Day and Marvel Comics On-Demand.

If pretty much the entire 30+ year history of Spider-Man doesn't count thanks to One More Day and everything has, in fact, regressed to the point where Harry Osborn is still alive, Flash and Peter are no longer close friends and Mary Jane has moved on and is no longer even dating Peter, much less being married to him...

... then there's really no point at all in anyone taking advantage of Marvel's Comics On-Demand program, is there?

I mean, I thought the whole point of the thing - apart from creating a legal precedent of digital owners ship so they can shut down the Internet pirates who have been trading .ZIPs and .RARs of their work for the better part of a decade now - was so that new fans can legally catch up on the back-story for series that they might not be able to enjoy otherwise.

Kinda pointless for all those new readers attracted by Brand New Day to subscribe to the service now, isn't it Joey?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Looking To The Stars: The Light Of A Fading Star

It occurred to me this week that all the truly big changes in my life have always come together in sudden rushes.

In December 2002, I was unemployed, out of college and was without a regular writing gig following the final issue of Fanzing. Within two months time, I had been accepted to Graduate School, found work at my local comic book store and began doing a weekly column for - what was then - the comics page of 411 Wrestling.

Five years later I find myself in a similar state. I now hold two degrees. I stand on the threshold of a new career using those degrees. And I have decided to retire from writing regular commentary for Comics Nexus.

Now before my fans get too upset and my haters become too jubilant, let me explain something: this is going to be a working retirement. I'll still be posting random thoughts on the industry on my blog at I'll still be providing convention coverage for every Con in my immediate area. And I will, when the mood takes me, still write the occasional piece for Comics Nexus. But the days of my being the regular Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up are over.

Why? Well, there's more than a few reasons.

For one thing, it's a bit hard to be a reviewer when you buy more comics for your girlfriend than you do for yourself. And one quickly runs out of ways to describe the glory of Fables to people who are already likely aware of the book and have an opinion about it one way or the other after five years of publication.

I have also lost a lot of the fire I once had for discussing comics.

The problem with being an angry young man is that eventually you became an angry old man or you stop being angry. And for the most part, I've stopped being angry. I'm still boycotting Marvel over One More Day. I'm still unhappy that Judd Winick is continuing to write Green Arrow AND Black Canary on a monthly basis. But there is a world of difference between 'not happy' and 'angry'. Angry writers are amusing. Sad writers are not. And I'm more inclined to pity hack writers and editors who don't listen to their fan bases than to be annoyed by them now.

I had a conversation with an old high school friend - now a professional in the business - about how I was growing tired of being "just a critic" and how I wished I had his talent. He thanked me for the complement but told me not to sell myself short as a critic.

"Good critical writing is rare. You should be proud of that."

Thank you, Randy. But I think you were wrong in one respect.

When I first started in this business, comic book critics were few and far between. Now, there's a plethora of bloggers out there doing what I do and with a lot more enthusiasm and passion than I can muster right now. There will always be a need for the voice that stands up and says "This is unacceptable". That need is being filled ably enough that I can leave my post guilt-free.

And lest anyone out there think that the critic be completely powerless, explain to me how - after years of protest by feminist comic fans - Stephanie Brown was finally acknowledged as a real honest-to-God Robin in Batman's heart and mind in Batman #673?

Ultimately, the main reason I am retiring is a problem of time. It's going to be all but impossible for me to manage my new job, my column, my acting and all the other creative opportunities I have on my plate right now. Something has got to give and I need my job for food, shelter, clothes and comics. To that end, I am mostly giving up my regular weekly column in order to start creating my own comics.

I'm tired of being the H.L. Mencken of comics criticism. I want to be Mark Twain.

Naturally, once my first project is published and available I will let you all know about it here. I'm sure my friends at Comics Nexus will want the big exclusive too.

If I can leave you all with one bit of something that seems like wisdom, let it be this. While we may not like what a writer or editor is doing to our favorite character today, whatever damage they do in one story cannot be inflicted on the stories in our heads and in our hearts.

We create our own continuity and are free to ignore the stories we don't like.

You don't like the idea of Hercules being a rapist? You can ignore those myths which say that's what he did to Hippolyta. You don't like the Robin Hood stories where he's a lucky coward bolstered by his more competent allies? You don't have to count those legends. You don't like what's happening with Spider-Man right now? Peter Parker and Mary Jane live happily ever after following Amazing Spider-Man #491.

They don't own the characters. They don't own the stories. We do. And while reading a story is fun, it's even more fun to make up your own.


Before I go, I do have a lot of people I need to thank for various things.

Mom and Dad, thank you for bringing me into this world, supporting me when things got rough, for teaching me the value of standing up for what's right and for encouraging my love of reading - even when I was reading things you didn't like or understand.

Sierra Thomas, thank you for being the guiding star of this Starman.

Michael Hutchison, thank you for giving me my first big break. I know we've never seen eye-to-eye politically and that we had more than our share of shouting matches. But you were always a fair editor and a gentleman. And I really wish that DC Comics would let you write Elongated Man.

Ben Morse, thank you for giving me my second chance. I've disagreed with your career choices since you left us but - on reflection - I think those choices were right for you if not for me. And most of my reaction was born out of not wanting to lose such a good editor. And whatever disrespectful things I may have said about your employers, I have had nothing but the highest respect for you. I wish you all the happiness in the world. You deserve it.

Daron Kappauff, thank you for being my editor and my partner in crime. We created one hell of a web comic together, my friend. Shame that the artist hit it big and left us in the lurch. Still, when it came time to fill Ben's big-shoes you stepped up to the plate and grabbed the brass ring. And as an editor you never gave me a hard time about mixing metaphors.

Manolis Vamvounis, thank you for being so very, very Greek. And for - over the last year - being the nagging voice about special projects I should consider helping out with and deadlines I never actually missed.

The rest of the writing and editorial staff of 411 Wrestling, 411 Mania, Inside Pulse and Comics Nexus, thank you for being my peers, my colleagues and quite frequently my test subjects.

Gail Simone, thank you for being the first professional to write me about something I wrote and for making my work-situation a lot more tolerable.

Kurt Busiek, thank you for one heck of a half-hour chat.

George Perez, thank you for that same heck of a half-hour chat and but also for remembering me three years later.

Scott Kurtz, thank you for proving that the words of critics have power to rival any magician and for being the model of hubris I shall strive to avoid as a creator.

Ron Zimmerman, thank you for taking the time to tell me what a jealous hack I was before sinking into obscurity and for giving me another example on how a professional should not act.

All the other writers, artists and professionals - both fans and haters - thank you acknowledging my work.

And finally, I'd like to thank all of you. Thank you, my fans. Everyone who read this column. Everybody who wrote in to this column. Every single one of you who I spoke with at a Con, wrote back to on a message board or had any form of contact with. Without you, I wouldn't be a star. Just a Starman


I find it fitting to end this, as I began it, with a certain comic. A comic I wrote about a week ago.

Fast Thoughts For 01/30/07

Really fast thoughts, limited to one sentence each this time.