Friday, December 29, 2006

Weekly Comics to Come - January 4, 2007

All Star Superman #6 (Yay! A burst of Morrison/Quitely goodness to start off the New Year!)
American Virgin #10 (The beginning of a new story arc, I believe... possibly my favorite new Vertigo series, tied with DMZ)
Irredeemable Ant-Man #4 (Sales are dire... enjoy it while you can!)
Manhunter #27 (The first issue back was terrific, I'm enjoying this whether it's the last story arc or just the latest one)
Superman Confidential #3 (If not for All-Star, the Darwyn Cooke/Tim Sale version would be my favorite current Superman... as is, it's still pretty close)

52 Week #35 (Each week, something I like and something I hate... but nothing that pisses me off like Civil War does every time)
Brian Keenes Fear GN (New graphic novel adapting the horror tales of Brian Keene, by Austin writer Nate Southard)
Fear Agent #10 (More of Remender and Opena's science-fiction/action book)
Kane Vol. 6 TP (I'm actually one trade behind on my reading of Paul Grist's quirky cop book, but I'm still glad to see a new trade)
Iron Man Hypervelocity #1 (Mildly interested because it's Adam Warren, although I'd rather have more Livewires)
Manhunter Vol 2 Trial By Fire TP (Now that I know there's a second trade, it's time to go ahead and buy the first one as well. Hope there's more!)
Naoki Urasawas Monster Vol 6 (Fantastic suspense manga)
Newuniversal #2 (Ellis and Larocca's first issue was pretty good... I didn't know I even *had* any New Universe nostalgia)
Other Side #4 (Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart's Vietnam era closes in on a finale)
Scalped #1 (Jason Aaron's new Vertigo ongoing... the preview hasn't wowed me, but I still want to give it a shot based on how much I enjoyed Other Side)
Scarface Scarred For Life #1 (A weird new book, with a weird but good creative team - John Layman and Dave Crosland)
Uncanny X-Men #482 (Brubaker's weakest book... but there's still plenty to recommend it, including Billy Tan's art)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why Randy Has Been Slacking On This Blog

Being a series of excuses in ten parts. And also a way for me to keep track (beyond just in my head) of where all my free time is going.

1. Top Secret Project - This occupies a relatively small amount of my time, but most of my mental anxiety is derived from it. I expect it to slowly shift to occupy just as much headspace and lots more real time in the next couple months. No, I can't tell you what it is. No, it's probably not exciting to you. I'm not writing a comic or anything like that. All will be revealed in a few months, at which point most of you reading this will go "Oh, I can see why that was so stressful. But I don't really care."

2. The Family - I do like to occasionally spend time with my wife and daughter. I probably still don't spend enough time with them. And the new baby is due in June. We've had some minor issues, which fortunately still look like they're going to result in healthy baby and mama. This accounts for too little of my time, really, but I do try to spend as many hours with my daughter as I can, when she's not sleeping and I'm not working.

3. Gaming - I'm running an Eberron game for one gaming group, playing in a Call of Cthulhu/Ravenloft game with the group when I'm *not* running it, playing in a Warhammer Fantasy RPG game with another group and planning a Champions game for that group when I'm not playing WFRP or running Eberron. Net result? I only spend maybe 8-10 hours a week on gaming, maybe 2 hours or so planning for future games... but when I am gaming, that's pretty much all I'm doing.

4. Watching DVDs - I got a lot of DVDs for Christmas. Which is cool. But the piles atop my DVD case make me feel guilty, like I'm not properly using my leisure time (I know, I'm a sick man), and so I try to make a point to watch at least some of them every night.

5. Reading - I'm really trying to read books again. Just finished Phil Gordon's Little Blue Book, want to finish up the Fletch series, read the Swords of Lankhamar book and finally read through the Harry Potter books. I don't think about it at all when I'm not reading, but it takes up the time that was previously allocated to graphic novels. Although I am going to try to resume Graphic Novel A Day in January. Maybe with Book A Month as well, if I'm feeling overly ambitious.

6. Sleeping - Despite really bad sleep habits like staying up too late, I get to sleep in five days a week thanks to late shifts, so I tend to get enough sleep. Maybe more than I actually need.

7. Working - 40 hours a week, more or less.

8. Writing - Both here, on Comic Pants and (probably the most time-consuming and least consequential) at various comment threads and emails around the Internet.

9. The Internet - My gigantic time sink, as I've spent four hours on this damn electronic box tonight alone, when I had three other things I meant to accomplish relating to #8, #4 and #3.

10. Everything Else - Doing a mental checklist of the above, I should still have plenty of free time. Which means it's probably a variety of other little things keeping me busy.

So in case you're wondering why I've written so little for Comic Pants or Inside Joke lately... that's why. Holidays really screwed up my schedule, especially when I was sick for a week or two, and constant anxiety (both real and imagined) has kept me distracted from getting back to the routine. I am planning on resuming Graphic Novel A Day in January, and Comic Pants writing sooner than that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Weekly Comics to Come - December 27, 2006

Batman And The Mad Monk #5 (More Matt Wagner Batman goodness)
Bprd Universal Machine TP (Love the BPRD series, looking forward to re-reading this one)
Daredevil #92 (Daredevil in Europe, far from Civil War... as it should be)
Killer #2 (First issue was amazing, can't wait to read the second)
Okko Cycle Of Water #1 (New series from the publishers of The Killer, so looking forward to this one as well)

100 Bullets Vol 10 Decayed TP (I only read this in trade anymore, but I still enjoy it in that format)
52 Week #34 (I think I'll go ahead and keep reading, at least for a while)
Age Of Bronze #24 (New issue of Shanower's fantastic story of the Trojan War)
Batman #661 (Part three of the Ostrander/Mandrake run, which was weak in the second issue but still interesting enough)
Crossing Midnight #2 (First issue was interesting enough to get me back for a second)
Hack Slash Slice Hard (New standalone from Tim Seeley, always an enjoyable read)
Hellstorm Son Of Satan #3 (Decent horror/actioner in New Orleans)
Immortal Iron Fist #2 (Mixed feelings on the first issue, but leaning toward the positive, so I'll check in on two)
Jack Of Fables #6 (The conclusion of Jack's first story arc, I think?)
Lankhmar Book 1 Swords & Deviltry Novel (Have a copy of this, want to give it a read at some point)
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #13 (Still a favorite)
Spider-man Loves Mary Jane Vol 2 TP (Looking forward to the re-read)
Uncle Sam And The Freedom Fighters #6 (I don't even remember what's happening... but I'll check in and see if I care)
Usagi Yojimbo #99 (I'm a couple issues behind on this one, but I always enjoy it when I read it)
Winter Soldier Winter Kills One Shot (Curious about this... don't much like the character, but I really like the creative team)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

ABC is perilously close to dead to me as well

Daybreak Cancelled

I had mostly forgiven them for the early cancellation of Cupid, and for recent quick cancels like Eyes... but they've now killed two of their serialized dramas for the season without giving the viewers a satisfactory ending. I'm not completely sad to see The Nine go, as it was a lot of talented actors and writers on a concept that only kept my attention about 50% of the time (but it was still better than most of what's *left* on the network), but Daybreak... damn, man, I was into that show. And worse, it was only 13 episodes and then out. It seemed like a perfect thing. I would get all the answers, and if it didn't fly, then ABC could stop pouring money into it. But they couldn't even bear to suck it up for 6 more episodes and air the finale for the many viewers who had gotten caught up.

Long-term, that kind of thing is going to bite them in the ass. I know that with the death of Kidnapped, The Nine, Daybreak and Smith, I'm a hell of a lot less likely to invest in shows with serial plotlines in the future. And since I *like* those kinds of shows better than the episodic one-offs like Law & Order, that means I'm less likely to watch new shows on the networks. I'll do like my friend Dave and start waiting until they hit DVD, so I can be assured that I won't get caught up in stories with no endings.

But really, two lines from the Variety article say it all about the state of american television:

"ABC has decided to yank the Wednesday drama from its sked, effective immediately. It'll be replaced by repeats of unspecified comedies."

and, in reference to yanking Shatner's new quiz show:

"It'll be replaced by "America's Funniest Home Videos."

While that's probably a lateral move in terms of intelligence and quality, can't you just see the day when that sentence becomes a euphemism for cancellation? Seriously, how better to show the depths of lowest common denominator programming than saying that *anything* will be replaced by "America's Funniest Home Videos." Maybe Mike Judge was right in Idiocracy, maybe "Ow! My Balls!" will indeed be the top rated show sooner than we all think.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


So I haven't written any of my Graphic Novel A Day reviews in the last couple days, or really done much of anything. That's because I've had a particularly vicious cold, which has been bugging me for about two weeks but came back with a fury yesterday. Hopefully it'll go away in time for me to enjoy time with the family on Sunday and Monday. If nothing else, I hope it'll be gone by the time Christmas rolls around.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Weekly Comics to Come - December 20, 2006

Action Philosophers Vol 2 Giant Sized Thing Tp (Affordable trade of fantastic stories... the first one was great)
Criminal #3 (One of my top five favorite ongoing books)
Fables #56 (Another of my top five favorite ongoing books)
Fables Vol 8 Wolves TP (This trade has a number of interesting extras, as well as some of my favorite stories)
Y The Last Man #52 (After reading Escapists #6, my faith is shored up that Vaughan can do good endings, so Y is looking good)

52 Week #33 (Recently read #1-32 to prepare for a podcast, and now I'm intrigued enough to keep reading)
Bakers Meet Jingle Belle (Love the Bakers, lukewarm on Jingle Belle)
Black Coat Call To Arms Tp (Revolutionary war adventure title with supernatural flavor, glad to see this traded)
Elephantmen #5 (More gorgeously illustrated sci-fi)
Lone Ranger #3 (Enjoyed the first two issues, I'm onboard for a while longer)
Love And Capes #2 (First issue was a lot of fun)
Maintenance #1 (From Jim Massey and Robbi Rodriguez, two guys whose work in the indie world I've very much enjoyed)
Pirates Of Coney Island #3 (After two issues, I'm very intrigued by this one... great art, unusual story and characters)
Previews #27.1 (Down the Line may be delayed, both by Christmas and by minor site issues)
Shadowpact #8 (Growing disinterested in the last couple issues, but #4 and #5 were so good, and Fables is so good... I'll try at least one more issue)
She-Hulk 2 #14 (She-Hulk, Agent of SHIELD begins!)
Union Jack #4 (The action spinoff of Cap comes to a close)
Warhammer 40K #1 (Looking forward to Boom!'s take on this dark world of future war)
Wasteland #5 (Been a while, but I'm glad to see another issue)
Wonderful Wizard Of Oz Gn (After recently finishing Shanower's Adventures in Oz, I'm interested in this translated painted GN of the original novel)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Graphic Novel A Day: Fashion High - Breaking Up

Writer: Aimee Friedman
Artist: Christine Norrie
Company: Scholastic/Graphix
Price: $8.99 ($9.99 at Amazon)

In reading the solicitations for this book from Graphix, I was pretty sure it wasn't for me. And in reading it, I discovered I was right. Aimed squarely at teenage girls, telling stories of four friends whose friendships and other relationships are suffering as they grow up, all four girls were damn near impossible for me to relate to. Not a failure on the writer's part. In fact, the writing is good, keeps the story moving, weaves subplots in nicely, builds up the melodrama effectively. I believe she accurately captured the teenage existence, but give me teenage girls more like the unrealistic but interesting Veronica Mars. I was a teenage guy, and not a popular or hot one, and so I can't really relate to the trials and tribulations of cute, popular, fashionable teenage girls, who all came off a bit flighty, dim or mean. However... I still bought it, and might buy future volumes, and here's why: Christine Norrie's art. Norrie's art impressed me when I first saw it on Hopeless Savages, and it has only improved with each subsequent project. Her work here features fine, expressive cartooning and exquisite storytelling along with surface attractiveness to make it some of the finest cartooning I've seen all year. I'm not the audience for Fashion High, and I selfishly wish that Norrie was doing work that was aimed at me... but I like her work enough that I'll pick up almost anything she does, even if the story doesn't connect.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Top 10 Most Played in 2006

I'm not real good at the Top 10 music thing, because I just don't buy enough music to really put together much of a list. But Entertainment Weekly's online Popwatch recently featured the Top 10 most listened to in 2006 feature. That I can do. I don't think I've even *heard* more than one or two of the most-played in 2006 overall, but I have a "Play Count" on iTunes that will tell me how many times I've listened to a song. Now, technically this is for as long as I've had iTunes, but it's the same general idea. So, my current Top 10 Most Played List:

1. Funny Little Feeling - Rock 'n' Roll Soldiers
2. Pistolero - Juno Reactor
3. Jerk It Out - Caesars
4. We Used to Be Friends - The Dandy Warhols
5. Struggle - Ringside Rock
6. Everyday I Love You Less and Less - Kaiser Chiefs
7. Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand
8. Are You Gonna Be My Girl - Jet
9. What I Got - Michael Franti & Spearhead With Gift of Gab
10. Such Great Heights - The Postal Service

This probably means little to anything, given that it's based on random plays as well as playlists, but all 10 are favorite songs for me.

Graphic Novel A Day: Punisher First to Last HC

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artists: John Severin, Lewis Larosa & Richard Corben
Publisher: Marvel
Price: $19.99 ($14.19 at Amazon)

This is the hardcover that convinced me to go back and buy the other two Punisher hardcovers. And it's the best of the hardcovers thus far, even with it being the smallest. It collects three one-shots - The Tyger, The Cell and The End - that represent the beginning, middle and end of Frank Castle's life. The legendary Severin illustrates a tale of 10-year-old Frank first learning about mob violence and vigilante justice in his old neighborhood (along with interesting glimpses of Frank's parents), the legendary Corben illustrates a dark and amazing story about Frank Castle loosed in a post-nuclear exchange to seek revenge and justice on a scale he's previously never attempted. And the not legendary, but still exceptional Larosa, illustrates a tale of Frank infiltrating a prison to get at some very big mob bosses and soldiers. Gorgeous art, compelling and dark stories, this is basically the underpinnings of Ennis's view of the MAX version of the character, and I like it. The only shame is that they didn't include Born, the Vietnam era tale that represents the other underpinning of the character, as well. Guess that ought to go on my reading list next.

TV To Watch Out For

This is mostly a note to myself on four TV shows to keep an eye out for, recommended by one of my long-time readers Karl Ruben Weseth. Hustle, the fourth show he recommended, is already on my Netflix queue. Life on Mars will be as soon as its released on Region 1 DVD, which probably won't be too long. The one I'm really excited about, though, is Black Books, a show by the creators of Spaced, one of my all-time favorite shows. Which will also probably be the hardest to find, since I don't have a region-free DVD player. Same with State of Play, a political drama/newsroom thriller that Karl calls a "must see" and which sounds pretty interesting to me.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Dozen Christmas Songs

Skipping the familiar standards or even some of the more modern standards, here are a dozen of my favorite holiday songs this season. Note that three of them are from Santastic, a terrific mix album done last year. Not sure if that's still available, although there is a new Santastic II this year which is not quite as good. At any rate, a dozen holiday songs that I like:

Elf's Lament - Barenaked Ladies
Dance of the Sugar Fairy (Red Baron Remix) - Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Last Night (I Went Out With Santa Claus) - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Turbo Sleigh Ride - DJ Bc
The Christmas Massacre of Charlie Brown - DJ John
Baby It's Cold Outside - Ella Fitzgerland & Louis Jordan
A Great Big Sled - The Killers
Pennies from Heaven - Louis Prima
Let It Snow/The Last Christmas Medley You'll Ever Need to Hear - Riders in the Sky
Frosty DMC - samflanagan
Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses
I Pray on Christmas - Harry Connick Jr.

Graphic Novel A Day: Curse of Dracula

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Gene Colan
Company: Dark Horse
Price: $9.95 ($9.95 at Amazon)

An attempt to basically "relaunch" Tomb of Dracula with all-new characters but in the same vein and with the same creators, Curse of Dracula is, like most of Claremont's post-1990 work, a good example of how you can't go home again. Curse of Dracula does read a lot like Tomb of Dracula in some ways, with a cast of unusual hunters trying to take down the lord of the undead, but in the harsh light of modern comics, the approach looks a bit dated. Wolfman's self-aggrandizing intro, wherein he makes claims of writing horror and scary and that crime fiction and superhero fiction, no matter how good, can never reach such heights, doesn't help. The lead characters are interesting but a bit over-the-top, often featuring characterization that boils down to weird accents, and they don't have the likability or the depth of a Blade or Hannibal King. This Dracula is a sketch compared to the richly developed supervillain of Tomb of Dracula, where the book was as much about him as it was his hunters. And you'd think getting one of my favorite artists (Gene Colan) with one of my favorite colorists (Dave Stewart) would be fantastic, but instead it's merely adequate, and the "digital inking" style just really doesn't suit Colan's work. I'm sounding harsher than I feel, because I did actually read the whole thing, but my general feeling is that you're better off going back and reading the Essential Tomb of Dracula, when these concepts and their creators were fresher.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Graphic Novel A Day: Monster Vol. 5

Writer/Artist: Naoki Urusawa
Translators: Agnes Yoshida & Hirotaka Kikaya
Company: Viz
Price: $9.99 ($9.99 at Amazon)

I really need to write up a review of the Monster series for Comic Pants. The first volume is kind of slow, but after volume two, when the basic premise and characters are laid out, the thing gets going like a rollercoaster. The high concept is that a surgeon saves a young boy who turns out to be a serial killer, and then he goes on the run (accused of the boy's crimes) trying to find the kid and deal with him. There's a lot more to it than that, though, including eugenics experiments, conspiracies, psychological warfare, murders and mysteries and plenty more. To use a clumsy comparison, it'd be a great TV show, introducing guest stars and recurring supporting players while providing satisfying plots with closure each week. This time out, Dr. Tenma (the lead) meets up with a criminal psychiatrist he knew in prison. The story follows this psychiatrist's personal journey, including a story with his own current case that ties into Dr. Tenma's, as well as ongoing tales of Johan's sister, his followers and a clever federal agent who is tracking Dr. Tenma and doesn't seem entirely mentally balanced himself. Great suspense storytelling.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Graphic Novel A Day: Mail Order Ninja Vol. 2

Writer: Josh Elder
Artist: Erich Owen
Company: Tokyopop
Price: $5.99 ($5.99 at Amazon)

This book has received some relatively harsh criticism from friends like Johanna Draper Carlson and Don MacPherson, and while I can see where they're coming from, I kinda liked it. It's true that Elder's concept was at its best in its shorter form with its debut at Rising Stars of Manga, as the additional depth of backstory mostly takes away from the fun of the book, but that doesn't mean there's no fun to be had. Elder and Owen present a number of grade school archetypes, from the bully to the rich entitled girl to the bratty younger sister, and mixes in ninja clans and mind control for a story that reads like a younger readers' version of 1984 crossed with a Saturday afternoon ninja movie and a good war movie. Some of the pop culture references are a bit strained (the Pink Floyd one was a groaner), but some are genius (the Saturday Night Fever riff was a favorite). It's light reading, definitely skewing towards the younger side of all-ages, but there are some laugh-out-loud moments and a lot of fun ideas at work in Mail Order Ninja.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Graphic Novel A Day: Lone

Writer: Stuart Moore
Artists: Jerome Opena & Alberto Ponticelli
Company: Dark Horse
Price: $14.95 ($10.17 at Amazon)

The Rocket Comics line was pretty short-lived and, for my money, didn't really provide a lot of comics for me. But... Lone, the post-apocalyptic/western action comic by Moore and Opena, is a decent read. Opena has a really cool, Euro-influenced art style and as someone with a soft spot for both westerns and the post-apocalypse, I enjoyed the premise. Moore's story isn't quite all I'd like it to be, a little too straight to be over-the-top and a little too goofy in places to be serious and gritty, but there are a lot of neat ideas and some beautiful art that make it a good read. It reminds me pleasantly of the world of beloved computer game Fallout (although there are as many differences as similarities) and provides a solid read if you're in the mood for something in the post-apocalyptic vein.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Graphic Novel A Day: Adventures in Oz

Writer/Artist: Eric Shanower
Company: IDW
Price: $39.99 ($26.39 at Amazon)

I've never read the original Oz books, but I think I need to, if Shanower's original stories based on those books are any indications. All-ages reads, but not without a sophistication that I liked, and with a ton of imagination and fun. Adventures in Oz is essentially five graphic novels collected into a new, swanky oversized collection which really shows off Shanower's beautiful full-color artwork. Dorothy and friends get involved in adventures featuring Ice Kings, a war between trolla and wood nymphs, hidden islands, the lost Good Witch of the East, the Wicked Witch of the South and plenty more. It's like high fantasy meets kid lit, full of wild visuals and cool characters. Very highly recommended, and I wish I'd know how much I was going to like it, I would have ponied up the extra cash for the limited hardcover.

Weekly Comics to Come - December 13, 2006

Batman #660 (First issue of the Ostrander/Mandrake arc was good, and Mandrake's art looks especially great)
Damned #3 (Very much enjoying this tale of Prohibition-era warring demon gangs and their unkillable investigator)
Escapists #6 (Can Vaughan wrap the series strong? Let's hope!)
Punisher Max From First To Last HC (I've read The End, and looking forward to reading the other tales in this hardcover)
Spirit #1 (Darwyn Cooke's relaunch of Will Eisner's classic... I wouldn't trust anyone else with it, but after reading New Frontier and Batman/Spirit, I trust him)

DMZ #14 (The second issue of a new, very intriguing, story arc)
Essential Off Handbook Marvel Universe Update 89 Tp (Not as good as the original stuff, mostly due to the characters covered, but still good stuff)
Ex Machina #25 (New story arc for the political/sci-fi series)
Exiles Annual #1 (Don't remember the solicited plot, but I know it's got a good creative team)
Fantastic Four The End #3 (Second issue weakened a little, but still beautiful art and fun story)
Fear Agent #9 (Always late, always a fun read)
Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #19 (Arcade vs. the FF with art by Kano and an all-ages vibe... better than the JMS FF)
Outer Orbit #1 (New outer space adventure with art by Sean Murphy!)

New Wrinkle on the Comics Advertising Debacle

Fans and retailers alike have been complaining about the number of ads in both DC and Marvel's books over the last couple months. Now I'm not generally one to take sides in the "DC vs. Marvel" debate (they both have their share of strengths and faults), but it's been accepted wisdom in the retailer community that Marvel is less retailer-friendly. That's not *always* the case (Marvel did get FOC before DC did), but it's generally true. And here's an example.

DC and Marvel have both overloaded their books with ads for the last couple months, with weighty extra pages and even (in DC's case) bound-in 3D glasses. Retailers pay for that increased weight with freight costs, but don't see extra profits from it. DC has now begun issuing freight credits for their overly heavy books... Marvel hasn't.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Graphic Novel A Day: Runaways Vol. 2 HC

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artists: Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa, Skottie Young, etc.
Company: Marvel Comics
Price: $24.99 ($16.49 at Amazon)

Runaways is one of my favorite series, and hardcover is definitely the format of choice. This one, collecting #1-12 of volume two, had a lot to live up to, because that first hardcover was a thing of beauty. 18 issues collecting the entire first series, tons of extras including a series proposal by Vaughan, etc. Volume two isn't as good, but only by comparison to that first volume. In all other ways, this is a great read, and the perfect package for it. The stories include the introduction of Victor Mancha and the revelation of his super-villain dad, the introduction of Excelsior (former teen heroes trying to convince others to stay out of the game) and a road trip to New York to help out Cloak & Dagger. The extras are sparse compared to the last one, but they do include a script to volume two #1 by Vaughan and a few pages of sketches from Alphona. And that sweet original cover by Alphona, packed full of references to the stories, is so good that it matches right up there with the level of cover quality I've come to expect from usual cover artist Jo Chen.
Kids Do Read Comics:
There's a little discussion going on right now (and by right now I mean perpetually, but it's flared up lately from Larry Young and Jason McNamara) about whether or not kids read comics. And if not, why not. The accepted wisdom is that kids don't read comics. That comics passed them by, that they don't read them anymore, that only 20 and 30-year-olds are still reading comics. And to some extent, it's true, in that kid readership of comics is not as widespread as it used to be.

But the scenario Larry posits in his column is, quite honestly, just bullshit. I'm kinda surprised to see it coming from someone who has worked on the front lines of retail. Because I do work on the front lines of retail, every day, and kids *are* buying comics. Kids are *excited* about comics. They'd be more excited if there were always comics for them when a movie gets them excited about a character (There was no Daredevil for kids when the movie came out, and generally there isn't one for X-Men either). But I sell a pretty decent number of the Marvel Adventures digests, the Tokyopop Cinemangas, the Bone Scholastic editions, etc.

Here's the thing, and nobody wants to hear it: Kids don't want black and white, and they don't want new characters. They want characters that they recognize. They want Spider-Man and Batman and the X-Men and Sonic. Good lord, do they want Sonic. I didn't even know the character was still around until I started working retail, but every month we sell tons of Sonic comics, and thankfully Archie Comics has *finally* gotten around to doing some Sonic digests, which also are selling gangbusters.

So that's the sad truth. It's not that Colonia or Continuity aren't fine comics, but they don't have the shiny to attract the kids. Likewise, I love Clan Apis, but I have a devil of a time selling it to kids or their parents, even though it'd be perfect for some of them. And as for why Jason hasn't heard of a graphic novel by "KURT [expletive deleted because we’re still on the main blog page] BUSIEK?" and whether "comics journalism hit the Plado Ceiling?" Well, The Wizard's Tale is about 10 years old, and much as I loved it (I reviewed it and gave it a 10/10 when it first came out), it's long out of print (although available used at Amazon, and recommended) and, more to the point, it's not really what the kids are looking for either. Now, if someone were to get the Harry Potter license and do it right, that book would sell gangbusters. But the truth of the matter is, today's kids, from my observation, want characters that are familiar, they want full color and they (and especially their parents) want it cheap, or at least cheaper.

I won't deny that DC and Marvel especially could do with a wider selection of all-ages material, but this whole notion of "There's all this great kids' material and nobody knows about it" and "Kids want fancy new stuff nobody is providing them" are both pretty much dead wrong. The industry did fuck up in deciding to skew older and leave all-ages behind, but that decision was made probably 20-some years ago at the dawn of the direct market. These days, the reason kids aren't reading comics has more to do with the kids than with the comics.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Graphic Novel A Day: Robotika HC

Writer/Artist: Alex Sheikman
Company: Archaia Studios
Price: $19.95 ($13.57 at Amazon)

I already wrote a full review espousing my love of Robotika at Comic Pants, so I won't repeat too much about the substance of the book, what it's about, how great the art is, etc. here. What I will say is that, as usual, Archaia serves up production values that are worthy of the high class, beautifully-drawn comics that they've published. A nice hardcover, for only $20, reproducing Sheikman's future samurai/cyberpunk epic with two forewords, one by Ron Marz and one by Ted McKeever, plus a nice little sketch section in the back. Best part of all? The last page is a black and white image that promises more Robotika in 2007. Can't wait.

By the way, Amazon says it ships this within 1 to 3 months, which is an obscenely long time. I always recommend supporting your local comics shop when possible, but in this case I especially recommend it, or maybe seeking any of the number of fine graphic novel purveyors online if you don't have a local shop. Otherwise you might be waiting months to get the book.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Graphic Novel A Day: The Expendable One

Writer: Jason M. Burns
Artist: Bryan Baugh
Company: Viper Comics
Price: $11.95 ($10.16 at Amazon)

Action-comedy-horror about a guy who can't die, his hapless sidekick/scientist best friend and a sexy, kinda slutty FBI Agent (or is she?) battling a werewolf (or is he?) serial killer. A bit of a mess, quite honestly, too many concepts, not enough focus. The sophistication is about at an all-ages level, but there's a ton of cursing and mostly un-needed sexual innuendo and sexy imagery, thanks largely to fantasy object Agent Armstrong. It's a solid enough book to read, and Bryan Baugh's artwork is nice, especially for those who dig on Viper wunderkind Josh Howard, but it's got various issues as well. Nice production values, as with all Viper books, a neat little full-color digest package for $12, and I think it's been optioned for movie development, which means it's gotten the right attention from some folks at least.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Blog Template Update for November
This is the latest monthly update to the left column of the blog, updating my favorite comics and TV for the previous month. The listings are alphabetical, not by rank of how much I liked them in comparison. My criteria for what makes the list is when I read them, not necessarily when they were published.

November was an interesting month (in the Chinese curse sense of the word), but most of it is stuff I either can't or don't want to discuss publicly. So just take my word for it, various shit went down in November, but life here at Casa de Lander is generally pretty decent, if occasionally stressful. But then, what else would you expect from the holiday season? As I write this update, we're coming out of the first weekend in December and I've gotten 80% of the Christmas shopping done, which is a minor miracle itself and lets me check one thing off my constantly growing to do list. Thanksgiving was a great time with the Hardie side of the family, and Katy had a blast playing with all her cousins. Wizard World Texas was a little slow, but we had fun anyway, and I definitely see doing it as a one-day show in future years if it keeps on going. Anyway, the tree is lit and decorated and we're fully into the swing of the Christmas season here. All I need is to pop Elf into the DVD player at some point in the next couple of weeks and mix in some Christmas music to my iPod playlists and it'll be officially 'tis the season and all that.

There were first issues in November, but not many made my top 20 cut. In fact, November was generally a pretty disappointing month for comics. I still came in at over 20 when trying to pin down comics I enjoyed, but mostly it was the usual suspects, and there weren't any cool new surprises like The Killer, Other Side or Damned. Still, Star Wars Dark Times kicks off the newest Dark Horse Star Wars tale in fine fashion, Batman #659 is a good opener for the Ostrander/Mandrake art and Batman/Spirit was one of my favorite single issues of the year. Actually, November was probably Darwyn Cooke month for me, since this also saw the publication of Absolute New Frontier, which is a gorgeous, amazing hardcover.

Breakdown on publishers in my top 20 this month: I read the most of Marvel, which is weird since I tend to hate Marvel these days. But 2 of those books are Brubaker, 2 are Vaughan and the other two are out-of-continuity, an interesting MAX miniseries (Hellstorm) and one of the best all-ages reads in comics, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. Vertigo and Image tie with four each (the return of Godlands and the move of True Story Swear To God helped bump things up for Image), DC has only three (all Batman, all more or less out of continuity - maybe Infinite Crisis and its fallout *did* suck more than Civil War. Or maybe Marvel just has more books crowding the shelves), two from Dark Horse (another Vaughan and a Star Wars book) and one from Oni Press. I'm honestly a little disturbed at how mainstream my comics reading has become (in some respects, although none of my favorites tend to hit the Diamond Top 20 or even 30)... is it me, or are the indie publishers producing less these days? Maybe they're all going straight to graphic novel, since half of my top ten graphic novels are what I'd consider indy (Oni, Gemstone, Adhouse, Top Shelf, IDW).

On the TV front, the big news is the addition of Daybreak, which I expected to like OK at best, but it's turning into one of my favorite new fall shows. Love Taye Diggs ever since Go, and he's making a pretty good run as a new action hero. The premise about a cop re-living the day, trying to work out a case, is being written and directed really well, and I'm as jazzed to watch each new installment as I usually am to watch 24. OK, maybe just one notch lower. But at any rate, 24 junkies looking for a pre-January fix should probably give this one a look, and it's worth noting that the show, at 13 episodes, is more likely to serve up a satisfying ending than long-running serials like Lost and Heroes. Both of which I'm enjoying, the former more than the latter, and I'm bummed that the big "Save the Cheerleader" episode was so lame. But the "Six Months Later" episode that followed it was pretty strong. Also uneven: Doctor Who, which has mostly been disappointing and Veronica Mars, which has mostly been good, occasionally disappointing, occasionally great. Still better than most of the shows that are making the big ratings and being championed by Entertainment Weekly, which is pissing me off more and more with their slobbery love for Grey's Anatomy and constant bashing of Studio 60, which is uneven but always smart and usually funny. The Office has also been hilarious, at its best when the merger episode happened. I'm also generally enjoying Battlestar Galactica, although that last episode (the boxing one) mostly served to remind me how little I care about boxing. Ever since they lifted off from that fantastic Caprica story, the series has been on a bit of a downward slide. Still good... but rarely great.

New links added this month were the blog for Comic Foundry, which was an online magazine for comics and will in 2007 be a new print magazine for comics. I also found, usually through links from The Beat, new artist websites for Jen Wang and Dan Hipp.

Graphic Novel A Day: Banya The Explosive Delivery Man Vol. 1

Writer/Artist: Kim Young-Oh
Translators: Taesoon Kang & Derek Kirk Kim
Company: Dark Horse
Price: $12.95 ($10.36 at Amazon)

This is one of the new offerings in Dark Horse's manwha (Korean comics) line, translated by fan-favorite creator Derek Kirk Kim and his mother, Taesoon Kang. I should state right up front that Banya, despite the title, does not deliver explosives. Instead, that's more of an adjective describing him. How to describe Banya? Well, it's sort of Kevin Costner's The Postman meets Berserk with a little bit of manga-style slapstick humor for good measure. In what is either post-apocalypse or fantasy, there's a big war between men and monstrous Torren (think mutants), and delivering in these dangerous times and desert landscapes are Banya and his ilk, of the Gaya Desert Post Office. This is played for laughs, but it's also played in such a way to make Banya and the other two members of his Post Office look pretty badass. Really nice art, some great action sequences, an interesting premise, neat monsters and good characters, Banya is fun, stylish and action-packed.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Graphic Novel A Day: Pathfinder

Writers: Laeta Kalogridis & Marcus Nispel
Artist: Christopher Shy
Company: Dark Horse
Price: $19.95 ($15.56 on Amazon)

The first in my graphic novel a day series that I couldn't finish reading. This is a weird graphic novel, an adaptation of sorts of a movie (which either has already come out or is coming out) about a Native American tribe that battles Vikings. The artwork by Christopher Shy is in the Ashley Wood-Ben Templesmith style, which is to say it is occasionally evocative but almost completely unsuited for sequential storytelling (in my opinion), and it also doesn't really get the readers emotionally engaged. The story is built up from concept art and storyboards done for the movie, with dialogue that comes either from the director, the writer or the "producer" credited in the graphic novel. I realized it was time to stop reading when I got to the part where the vikings slaughtered the lead character's family in front of him and I just didn't care at all what happened next.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Graphic Novel A Day: Meathaus Vol. 8

Company: Alternative Press
Price: $14.95 ($10.17 on Amazon)

A collection of short stories from a variety of talented indy cartoonists. As with many of these small press anthologies, a lot of the stories are just way too weird for me, but there's some great artistry throughout. My particular favorite cartoonists working on this volume are Becky Cloonan, Brandon Graham, James Jean, Jimm Rugg, Scott Morse, Jim Mahfood, Tomer Hanuka, Nate Powell and Farel Dalrymple, but there's just a ton of talent onboard. I'm particularly amused (and disturbed) by the contribution of Mickey Duzyj, who offers up a tale of giant naked old women fighting it out in a city using laser guns. Seriously. I don't care who you are, that's just awesome.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Graphic Novel A Day: Punisher MAX Vol. 2 HC

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artists: Dougie Braithwaite & Leandro Fernandez
Company: Marvel
Price: $29.99 ($19.79 at Amazon)

Volume two of Punisher MAX is better than the first in some respects and lesser in some others. Either way, it's still a pretty good read. The gem of the book is the first story, which finds Punisher on a special ops mission for Nick Fury in Russia. It's Punisher as military adventure, with a great, hulking, almost Frankenstein-like Punisher by artist Braithwaite. Fury is the MAX version of Fury, and I think that I'm starting to like the idea that the MAX versions of these characters are in fact an alternate universe version of the characters... it makes it a lot easier to swallow stuff that I'd hate if it was in the Marvel Universe, like a lot of Ennis's take on Fury. The second story, with great art by Fernandez, calls back a lot of the characters from the first story arc and the Russia story arc, and it's got a lot I like, but it also has a few of the worrying signs of mutilation-as-funny that I don't like in Ennis' work. I think in general I prefer Punisher MAX to not have a lot of continuity between stories, to work more like a series of standalone movies or novels than serial comics.
Weekly Comics to Come - December 6, 2006:

Looks like a pretty good week. Had a hard time cutting my top five down from seven or eight.

Beyond #6 (This is probably my favorite miniseries this year, I'm really anxious to see the conclusion and all the answers)
Manhunter #26 (Marc Andreyko's series gets another arc to prove itself in sales, with big gun guest stars)
Other Side #3 (Creepy Vietnam-era miniseries continues)
Runaways Vol 2 HC (Finally, a second hardcover volume of Runaways... the first one was terrific)
Superman Confidential #2 (Good opener, and I'm a big fan of both Cooke and Sale)

Agents Of Atlas #5 (Losing interest a little, but I still think I'm going to want to read the trade)
Batman Confidential #1 (Expect to be disappointed by the art, hope the story can survive it)
Doctor Strange Oath #3 (Despite a couple complaints, in general I'm really enjoying this)
Invincible #37 (I really wish this would get back to being a monthly. Maybe I should just stop reading until the trades come out)
Irredeemable Ant-Man #3 (Unpredictable and different, I like this one a lot. Great art by Phil Hester, too. Almost makes the top five this week)
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #22 (The black saga/Venom costume continues in the all-ages book)
Meltdown #1 (Solid first issue about a superhero whose powers are killing him... great art by Sean Wang)
Midnighter #2 (Not expecting a lot, but my recent fondness for Ennis's Punisher has me onboard for at least one more issue)
newuniversal #1 (Curious to check this one out. Immonen's art is always good, and Ellis basically starting from scratch with a sci-fi superhero universe *could* be like his work on Apparat... if he doesn't fall into autopilot anti-superhero mode)
Official Handbook O/t Invincible Universe #1 (This should be a lot of fun)
Robotika HC (Beautiful and action-packed sci-fi series, can't wait to see the production values on this hardcover from Archaia)
Spider-Man Reign #1 (Wary of the grim and gritty vibe for this character, but curious to see what Kaare Andrews will offer)
Star Wars Rebellion #5 (Probably my second favorite of the current crop of Star Wars comics, behind Dark Times)
Tranquility #1 (Gail Simone and Neil Googe on superhero retirement... too bad it's part of Wildstorm's lame relaunch, but it could still stand alone)
Uncanny X-Men #481 (Losing interest, but still just enough to keep reading)
Walking Dead #33 (Kirkman has four or five books coming out this week)