Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This Is Not Christian

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone went undercover at a three-day Christian retreat in Texas (and I *think* it's in San Antonio, which is *way* too close for comfort for me). The megachurch in question is run by McCain endorser John Hagee, a vastly influential pastor who believes that the Rapture is coming any day now, that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment on everyone in New Orleans for an upcoming gay pride parade and various other batshit insane kind of things.

I know that these folks don't represent all religious folk. I have friends who are religious. I have family who are religious. But late at night, when I can't sleep, my fear is that these reasonable religious people that I know are the minority, and the freaks described in Taibbi's story are the majority. How freakish was this experience? Well, they were all asked to describe the "wound" that had shattered their "normal" and Matt lied this up:

"Hello," I said, taking a deep breath. "My name is Matt. My father was an alcoholic circus clown who used to beat me with his oversize shoes."

The group twittered noticeably. Morgan's eyes opened to tea-saucer size.

I closed my own eyes and kept going, immediately realizing what a mistake I'd made. There was no way this story was going to fly. But there was no turning back.

"He'd be sitting there in his costume, sucking down a beer and watching television," I heard myself saying. "And then sometimes, even if I just walked in front of the TV, he'd pull off one of those big shoes and just, you know — whap!"

And nobody blinked an eye at this story. And then there's this, from the grand commencement ceremony:

"In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, I cast out the demon of the intellect!" Fortenberry continued. "In the name of Jesus, I cast out the demon of anal fissures!"

It's a great story, an excerpt from an upcoming book by Taibbi, who remains one of my favorite writers at Rolling Stone. Take a look, it's a fascinating, occasionally funny and occasionally horrifying read.

Retroactively, I Was Against the Bush Administration

Y'know, I thought I was disgusted by the folks who still support the Bush Administration, given their absolutely shitty record, but there are some folks I hold in lower regard, politically speaking... and that's guys like Scott McClellan.

McClellan, in case you don't remember, was one of those guys in the revolving-door-post of press secretary after *Ari Fleischer* found the administration to slimy to stump for and resigned. Now, in his book, McClellan is blasting the Bush Administration for the same things he defended them on at the time.

Sorry, Scotty, I call bullshit. Yes, there's such a thing as learning more later and changing your mind. Yes, there's wisdom that comes with age. There's also the cowardice of trying to retroactively change what you did and said so you don't get lumped in with the bad men, and that's what this is. McClellan is trying to say he didn't know, he "had allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood."

Well, yeah, every one of us watching you on the news (OK, the Daily Show) knew that at the time. And we weren't sitting in the White House seeing what was going on. You knew, you slimy fuck. You knew exactly what you were doing, but you did it for the money, the power, the attention, whatever.

If you were still supporting Bush at this point, I'd probably think you were an idiot. But at least I wouldn't think you were a coward *and* an idiot.

We're seeing more of this as time goes on. Folks trying to distance themselves from the administration now that it can't help them. Remember these people. Remember their political opportunism. Remember that they had the chance to do the right thing, and they f'ing failed, and if they're not even going to offer up a "Sorry, I f'ed up" before lying about how much they knew, then they need to be held accountable.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Weekly Comics to Come - May 29th, 2008

All Star Superman #11 (After last issue, I can't wait to see what the Morrison/Quitely team comes up with next)
Fables #73 (Huge goings-on in this story arc, this book somehow keeps getting better)
Jack Kirbys Omac One Man Army Corps HC (Yay! Now if only we can get a Kamandi hardcover in the same style)
Starman Omnibus Vol 1 HC (Double yay! I'm really looking forward to re-reading all of these stories)
True Story Swear To God Archives Vol 1 TP (Triple yay! Long delayed, but finally out, and really looking forward to re-reading these as well)

Caliber #2 (First issue of this King Arthur meets western was beautifully illustrated and interesting)
Final Crisis #1 (I'll give the first issue a shot... maybe it'll hook me)
Firebreather Series #1 (Glad to see this one back, hope it stays on a regular schedule)
Hellboy Vol 8 Darkness Calls TP (Beautiful art, and one of my favorite Hellboy stories in a while... but now I'm holding off on the Library Editions)
Hercules #2 (I liked the first issue, but not as much as Caliber or Incredible Hercules, so it's sort of a mild interest)
Immortal Iron Fist #15 (One-shot story, solid but not great, especially in comparison to the greatness of that last arc)
King Size Hulk #1 (Here's hoping for more gems like "A-Bomb Hate Giant Betty Birdface!")
Northlanders #6 (Last issue was my favorite of the series so far, looking forward to seeing the story progress)
Proof #8 (I've been digging this second arc)
Teen Titans #59 (The Terror Titans story... concludes, maybe? Anyway, it's been good reading)
Uncanny X-Men #498 (Has become kind of fun, and I love the relocation to San Francisco)
Usagi Yojimbo #112 (This has been really good lately)
Wolverine First Class #3 (High Evolutionary and Knights of Wundagore... old school guest stars)
X-men First Class Vol 2 #12 (I miss the fancy covers and the last couple issues haven't hit with me, but it's still good reading)
X-men Legacy #212 (This issue's a bit of a continuity morass, but in general I'm digging the conspiracy/man on a mission vibe of this book... really nice art, too)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Do NOT Go See Indiana Jones & The Crystal Skull

Trust me. Just don't do it. It is to the Indy Jones franchise what Phantom Menace was to Star Wars.

It makes The Mummy 2 look like Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Do a search for Harrison Ford/Shia LaBoeuf slash fic on the Internet and you will probably find better plots and characters.

Costumes, set design, plot, script, acting, directing, editing, even music... the movie fails on every conceivable level. And it doesn't even fail in an interesting or easily mocked way (OK, maybe when Shia is swinging monkey style through the jungle), just in a boring, plodding, oh my God is it over yet kind of way.

Don't go see it. You'll regret it. Trust me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Weekly Comics to Come - May 21, 2008

Batman And The Outsiders #7 (One of my favorite superhero team books at the moment)
Dynamo 5 #13 (After last issue's superteam slugfest, I'm looking forward to seeing where Faerber and Asrar go from here)
Grendel Behold The Devil #7 (Closing in on the end, I'm going to be sad when there's not a regular Wagner Grendel fix again)
Pigeons From Hell #2 (Great first issue, spooky and with fantastic art)
Robin #174 (Really digging what Dixon has going on Robin right now)

Brave And The Bold #13 (One-off with Batman, Golden Age Flash and Samurai Robots. Nice.)
Captain America #38 (Annnd I'm back onboard. Again. Nice use of Cap continuity, and the usual excellent craft)
Damned Prodigal Sons #2 (Love this series, but I'm really looking forward to the trade so I can read it all at once)
Incredible Hercules #117 (Gods going after the Skrull gods? Now that's a Secret Invasion tie-in)
Jim Butchers Dresden Files #2 (Enjoyed #1, have since read the first novel and now I'm anticipating #2 even more, since I know the character now)

R.I.P Rory Root

I first got the news via an email, but it's been confirmed at Blog@Newsarama, among other places.

There have been a lot of sad obituaries amongst the comics scene and satellite recently, the latest being Will Elder... but this is the first one that kinda knocked me on my ass. I'm honestly just kind of in stunned sadness as I write this. Rory Root was not someone I knew well, but I'd met him a few times at various retailer gatherings, and seen him posting on the retailer forum, and I was always struck that he was a good businessman and a charming and nice man. It never occurred to me that I should have taken the time to get to know him better because he might be gone, because I honestly didn't expect Rory to be gone any time soon.

The comics industry is a poorer place today.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Goals 2008

Over at my friend Nate Southard's blog, he's posting ten of his goals for 2008. He's invited others to do so. Now Nate's goals include lofty achievements like writing short stories, announcing secret projects, etc. Mine are a bit more... well, lazy is the right word, but let's say modest. So without further ado, my goals for 2008:

1. Clear out the credit card debt and keep it gone for at least the rest of the year

2. Average out to reading at least one prose book a month

3. Average out to doing at least two reviews a month

4. Resist the urge to rub it in the face of every Republican I meet if Obama wins.

5. Resist the urge to throw rocks through windshields with McCain stickers if Obama loses. (I resisted this urge with folks who have Bush/Cheney '04... I feel confident about this one)

6. Get in better shape (this one is thoroughly unlikely)

7. Cut down my cola drinking (see #6 - both parts)

8. Don't die

Really, if I can just achieve that last one, I'm going to consider 2008 a great success.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Republicans Want Change

There's something almost pathetic in the GOP reaction to their loss of three Congressional seats in special elections. Do they take a long, hard look at years of convergence of religious fanaticism, financial darwinism, bending America over for corporations and basically giving in to the worst of cynicism and greed that folks expect of politicians?

Yeah, right.

No, they start throwing around the "change" word, figuring that "it worked for Obama." They start talking about how they want to fix America by making sure women don't have to work (there's a subtextual message that Dave Sim could be proud of). They talk about taking care of military families (without acknowledging that the best way to take care of them would be to not send their family members into a pointless meat-grinder serving a Neocon agenda). They try not to acknowledge that the change this is needed is a change away from 8 years of a mostly corrupt, often incompetent Republican administration and its cronies in the judicial and legislative branches.

Here's my favorite part from the article:

"Former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Davis, a congressman from Virginia, says Tuesday's loss could lead to a devastating finish come November.

'The Republican reputation is just in the trash can, and if this were a brand of dog food, you would just take it off the shelf, because nobody is buying it,' he said."

OK, actually that's my second favorite part. Here's my actual favorite part:

"And so Davis handed out a 27-page memo to his colleagues Wednesday in a closed-door meeting. In it, he says the party needs to revamp its image because Republicans face the worst political atmosphere since Watergate.

'If this isn't a turning point, we're the airplane flying into the mountain. ... If we don't veer off to the side, we're gonna crash and burn this November,' he said."

I say: Fly into that mountain, you gloriously stupid bastards! BOOOOMMMM!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!

Hey Warner Brothers... fix this... maybe right fucking now

This is deplorable. A blogger named Thomas organized a charity auction for his nephew, Ben, who is sick. He had friends in the comics industry who donated original art. Some of that art featured Superman, Thomas's favorite character. This caused Time Warner to call up eBay and cancel those auctions, citing intellectual property laws.

Problem being, artists sketch these characters *all the damn time*. It's a common practice, commissions and sketches, sometimes free, sometimes paid for, sometimes done at the official DC booth, sometimes not. It's a harmless, non-infringing way to spread awareness and positive impressions of their characters. My guess is, some douchebag in legal saw it, didn't realize this and decided to shut it down, never mind that the message being sent was "DC Comics, publisher of Superman and other comics about superheroes, doesn't care about your sick goddamn kids unless we get our cut!"

I know that some comic creators read this blog. I hope that possibly somebody at DC, maybe even Time Warner, is reading it today. If they're not, I don't have too much worry, because I'd bet this gets picked up by Newsarama or at least by Rich Johnston soon.

This is ridiculous. Time Warner needs to issue an apology and reverse this decision. They've already got so many holes below the waterline in their comics publishing right now, the last thing they need is a PR black eye to go with it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Go Speed Racer Go

I was really looking forward to the Speed Racer movie, but when the Rotten Tomatoes reviews starting rolling in, the movie was getting a critical drubbing. Not just a "some folks don't seem to like it" but a "Every right-thinking critic hates it" kind of thing. Currently, it stands at a pretty brutal 35%.

I don't know what movie those critics saw, quite honestly. Because after reading reviews by Heidi MacDonald and Chris Sims, I decided to go ahead and take my daughter to it, and we both loved it.

Yes, the dialogue is a bit hokey and the plot is completely predictable. Yes, it probably should have lost half an hour somehow. But the ideas, the visual style, the sheer fun of the movie is undeniable, the racing and fighting scenes are imaginative, fresh and *great*, and the story and characters are perfectly fun. I suspect that a lot of the critics were expecting it to be either: A) Wildly inventive bizarre storytelling from the Wachowskis or B) Wink-wink nudge-nudge self-referential pop humor about how lame Speed Racer cartoons were.

Instead, what they got was a sentimental (at times melodramatic), funny (at times goofy), action-packed straightforward story. It's the "one man against a corrupt system with his family behind him" story that we've all seen dozens if not hundreds of times, but it's backed by some truly outlandish and ground-breaking visuals. It's got more in common with the visual style of Tim Burton's Charlie & The Chocolate Factory or ABC's Pushing Daisies than it does with The Matrix or V For Vendetta, and maybe critics were unprepared for that.

Or maybe, as Sims suggest, they actively hate joy. I know that Lisa Schwarzbaum's review in EW practically drips with contempt for the source material, and she's definitely reviewing the movie they failed to deliver (that she was clearly expecting) rather than taking the movie on its own terms, and I suspect a lot of reviewers brought that baggage with them. Certainly the deflated expectations of The Matrix sequels will dog the Wachowskis in all future reviews, just as the diminishing returns of M. Night Shyamalan's movies have made him a target for critics.

But if you go in expecting a fun, candy-colored pop action movie like the one promised in the trailer, I can't imagine being disappointed. And for the record, I enjoyed the trailers, disliked The Matrix sequels and was not even remotely a fan of the original Speed Racer cartoons, so there's my prejudices laid out right up-front.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Weekly Comics to Come - May 7th & 14th

Buffy Season 8 Vol 2 No Future For You TP (Holding out for a swanky hardcover to match my retailer edition hardcover... but I don't know how long I'll hold out, because this series keeps getting better)
Guardians Of Galaxy #1 (Awesome with a capital A. Full review at Comic Pants)
Life Sucks GN (Interesting vampire/slacker graphic novel. Full review of this one too.)
Serenity Better Days #3 (Concluding the all-too-brief, but pretty good, return of the Firefly crew)
Warhammer Condemned By Fire #1 (A really great opening issue of pulpy dark fantasy. Full review on Comic Pants.)

All New Iron Manual (I love tech specs and I love Iron Man, and I'm pretty sure this is Eliott R. Brown work too)
Amazing Spider-Man #559 (Growing bored, quite honestly. Nice art by Marcos Martin, it's inoffensive enough, but it's kind of plodding for what should be a fast-paced weekly book)
Booster Gold #9 (A combination of nostalgic love for the character, an appreciation for time and alternate world travel and a pretty damn good comic has made this one a reading favorite)
BPRD 1946 #5 (Concluding the excellent look into the early days of the BPRD)
DMZ #31 (Election story continues to impress)
Green Lantern No Fear TP (Three years later, the first volume of Green Lantern is *finally* in trade. Two and a half years ago, I might have cared. Great planning, DC.)
Soleil Sky Doll #1 (Euro-comics from Marvel. Probably doomed, probably a bit on the dull side, writing-wise, but sure to be beautiful to look at)
Thunderbolts #120 (Some great stuff with Norman Osborn, some weaker stuff and a few godawful moments as Ellis hasn't gotten the memo of never, ever talking about the stupid Gwen Stacy-Norman Osborn story so we can pretend it didn't happen)
Tiny Titans #4 (My daughter fell in love with this book on Free Comic Book Day)
True Story Swear To God Image Ed #11 (I'm like three issues behind on reading this book, and really need to catch up)
Walking Dead #49 (Dark as hell of late, but also a fascinating read. Kirkman is *merciless* to his characters)
Wonder Woman #20 (Simone's run on Wonder Woman has been fun so far)
X-Men Legacy #211 (Kind of digging this, despite it's huge '90s X-Men influence and unclear mandate... I like it at least as well as the Uncanny stuff right now)


Buffy The Vampire Slayer #14 (Fantastic issue, although if that cliffhanger is what it looks like, I'm going to be so f'ing pissed)
Gemini #1 (Great concept, strong execution, nice art)
George R R Martins Wild Cards #2 (Dug the second issue more than the first. It's tweaking my Wild Cards nostalgia, only to realize that I sold/gave away the novels at some point.)
Nova #13 (Possibly the best issue of Marvel's best series, as Nova takes on Galactus)
Question Vol 2 Poisoned Ground TP ('80s pulp at its best... so lives up to the hype)

Abe Sapien The Drowning #4 (I've lost the plot, need to read it in trade at this point... but it's gorgeous to look at)
Batman Death Mask #2 (Not as strong as the first issue, but a pretty decent issue that recalls the Night of the Ninja episode of the animated series)
Cable #3 (Three issues in, not much has happened, and I'm growing bored. Fast. Swierczynski is *not* filling me with confidence about his Iron Fist takeover)
Dead Space #3 (Still creepy, still great art, starting to think I'll enjoy it more as a trade)
Dynamo 5 Annual #1 (Mixed reaction on the art, but there's some great Noble Causes/Dynamo 5 backstory here)
House Of Mystery #1 (New Vertigo launch, feels more like '90s Vertigo than modern... nice art, intriguing premise)
Invincible Iron Man #1 (Nowhere near as good as The Order or Iron Fist, tons better than almost any Iron Man in the last 10 years or so)
Iron Man Viva Las Vegas #1 (Fun, lightweight, has its issues but is readable)
Nightwing #144 (Slight recovery from last issue's slump, still not as good as the earlier issues of Tomasi's run)
Secret Invasion #2 (Shock! I didn't hate it, and the return of Mockingbird is a big deal for me, if it turns out to be true)
Suburban Glamour Vol 1 TP (Looking forward to checking this out at some point... first issue was good, and McKelvie's art is great)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Blog Update for April 2008

This is the latest monthly update to the right 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. This is basically also my own records of what I read/liked for the inevitable "End of Year" lists I feel like making.

Since it was a five week month, and a pretty good month as well, I went ahead and bumped to Top 25 comics for April. And I still had to leave a few out, including two debuts from new companies, Radical's Caliber #1 and the Dabels' George RR Martin's Wild Cards #1, plus the latest issues of Booster Gold (#8), Teen Titans Year One (#4), Nightwing (#143) and Wonder Woman (#19) from DC, Marvel Adventures Iron Man (#12), X-Factor (#30) and Uncanny X-Men (#497) from Marvel, Proof #7 from Image and Serenity Better Days #2 from Dark Horse. Of the ones I did pick, 8 were Marvel (one of them Criminal, but the rest Marvel Universe), 6 were Dark Horse, 4 were Image, 3 were DC, 3 were Vertigo and 1 was from Oni.

After reading through 10 good graphic novels this month, I decided to take a break and read the first Dresden Files novel, which I found pretty good reading. I'll probably do the same each month for a while, stop after I've read 10 so that I can read some actual books.

TV is pretty thin right now, but what I'm watching, I'm generally enjoying. That means seven shows, half NBC comedies plus one comedy on CBS and two genre dramas on ABC and SCI-FI. Plus the new Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon, which I've been watching with my daughter, and it's really good. It "gets" Spidey as well as the Batman Animated series got Batman and his universe. This means I've had a lot of time for DVDs, and I've seen a bunch of those I really liked lately, including Juno, 3:10 to Yuma, Brick and the BBC miniseries State of Play. Also picked up Casino Royale used (and cheap) from Netflix.

Added a couple items to the RSS feed this month, including Keith Baker's blog, the blog of cartoonist Mitch Clem, the production blog for the upcoming Trickster comics anthology and the retail/comics blog Snap Judgments. I was very pleased to discover that Kerry Callen has a blog, and added that one as well. Oh, and I finally added a gaming section for Critical Hits, Mearls, Baker and the Wizards of the Coast feed.

Free Comic Book Day thoughts

We had a pretty good Free Comic Book Day at the store this year. Last year was only two months after I bought the store, and we had a huge event, with two writers and two artists in attendance, and we had the best day of sales the store has had since I bought it, not to mention having (I'd estimate) about 600-700 people walk out happy with handfuls of free comics.

This year, with CAPE getting bigger and bigger, both the writers decided to head up to Dallas, and one of the artists had moved, but Scott Kolins was kind enough to come in and sign and sketch for us for more than three hours. We had him set up at a table up front, and there was always a big crowd, as he sketched, signed and showed off super-cool prints of his covers for Rogues Revenge #1-2, upcoming Brave and the Bold issues and other stuff. He sold a few prints, signed several comics and did lots of free sketches, and that was great.

At the back of the store, as always, we had set up two tables and broken up the comics into categories of "All Ages," "Ten and Up" and "Mature Readers." I was kind of pleased that this year, the Mature Readers section was less than a half-dozen books, but the "All Ages" section was near overflowing. We had ordered heavily, as always, but we started off with a three per person comics limit (more on that later in the post). At the store manager's suggestion, we bumped to four later on. And we weren't diehards about it. If someone found four or five they liked, they were welcome to take that many. Nobody got greedy and asked "Can I just have one of everything?"

It was a busy day, finally slowing down at around 5:00 or so, at which point we condensed what was left onto a table up front so that the decreased number of employees (we were down to two, and occasionally one) could make sure everybody heard the deal when they came in.

One of the high points was having a young girl come in who used to shop with us buying Crossgen. She had dropped out because Crossgen went under (a fear we'd always had), but now that she was a back, and a little older, we suggested Mouse Guard and Fables and a few others, and it looks like she might find some comics to like again.

We didn't hit the heights in sales that we did last year, but we still had a very good Saturday. We had also made flyers with "What's Cool in Comics," one all-ages with Iron Man, Mouse Guard and a couple others and another with Fables, Walking Dead, Buffy and Dark Tower, which we gave out to everyone, and I'm hoping that'll lure some new readers back in.

I worked a 15 hour day, from 9 AM to midnight (since we do all our reordering on Saturdays), and although I was tired, I felt like we'd put on a pretty good event. I was pleased with the turnout, pleased with how everyone seemed to be happy.

Then I get online a couple days later and find folks complaining about how they *only* got three comics at their local store (happily, nobody seemed to have that reaction to us, but they easily could have, since three was our general limit). One even went so far as to gripe that he went to Austin Books (one of the best comic book stores I've ever been to) and was unhappy with the treatment there, where he was allowed to pick 10 books. Somebody else posted rather proudly (although he disingenuously claimed not to be proud) that he had stolen 20 books rather than stick to the limit of three at his shop. There's even a well-known blogger and retailer who is griping about how so many stores "fucked up" Free Comic Book Day. I know he's not talking about me in particular, I know that he's not entirely wrong, but seeing it from someone who understands the pitfalls and balancing act was just... draining.

I thought I'd gotten to the point where Internet stupidity and the sense of entitlement that often comes with it doesn't bother me, but the aftermath of Free Comic Book Day online has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I'm still pleased with how it went for us, but it makes me sad and angry to see folks complaining because they didn't feel that a few free comics were enough, and that somehow retailers owed them a free copy of each book, a sale on everything in the store and maybe a free pony too.

Friday, May 02, 2008

It's Official: Bush Worst President Ever

CNN has a poll that indicates Bush has an approval rating of 28%, lower than any President before him.

This makes me feel a little bit better about the American people. Why only a little bit?

Because there were still enough people to elect him to a second term!

Saying "Whoops, we fucked up, guess you guys were right and we *should* have elected Kerry" doesn't make me feel that much better about my country. Especially when there are plenty of indications that we've learned nothing, and McCain (representing many of the same political interests that make the Bush Administration a blight on the country) has a shot at getting elected in November.

Huh. Maybe it doesn't make me feel a little bit better after all. Maybe it instead makes me feel like a lot of people abrogate responsibility rather easily.

"Man, that Bush is the worst President we've ever had."

"But didn't you vote for him? Twice?"

"Well, yeah, but gas prices weren't over $3 in 2004. And I thought we were *this* close to winning that war in Iraq and getting rid of all the terrorists."

(sound of baseball bit hitting face)

Just Got Back from Iron Man

Holy shit.

That was as good as the trailers promised. It may in fact be my favorite superhero movie ever. And I include both The Incredibles and Batman Mask of the Phantasm in that calculation.

Stay until the end... the post-credit teaser is great.

Just a great, fun movie that is laugh out loud funny but doesn't make fun of superheroes, has great action, great characters, great acting... Favreau has just showed everybody how it's done and raised the bar. Give that man a blank checkbook and let him make the Avengers movie.