Monday, June 30, 2008

Disappointed in Obama

I hate to even write this post, because I hate the notion of having anyone be able to say "See? Even Obama's supporters are calling him a flip-flopper!"

So let me be clear. That's not what I'm doing here, and if I never hear the lazy, media-coined bullshit "flip flop" term again, I'll be ecstatic. I've been an Obama booster from fairly early on. I remain an Obama booster. But I am close to becoming an Obama booster in the same way as I was a Kerry booster, in a "Well, he's the better of two choices" way. I honestly believed that Obama was going to bring some real change to politics, not just a shift back to the Democratic policies that tend to sit better with me than Republican rule.

But it's becoming clear to me that, though he's an infinitely better choice than McCain, Obama may in fact be just a politician, the same way his opponents have been saying he is.

The first hint came when he opted out of public financing. This was a smart political move, because the 527s on the Republican side are going to hit him, and he needs money to fight back, and I can understand that this was sort of a "way the game is played" move. I was disappointed, but realistic.

But in the last few days, Obama has said or done three more things that increasingly disappointed me. I'm reminded of how I felt about Bill Clinton by the end of his term, where he was compromising so much that I felt like he might as well be a Republican. I'll still never entirely forgive him for failing to come out strongly for gay rights... at least Obama has gotten that right, talking in forceful language about repealing the asinine "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and allowing for gay marriage.

Problem is, I don't know if I can believe his tough talk. Because for all his talk of change, he still voted for the FISA cave-in (along with the rest of the spineless Democratic party). Again, I'm sure it's a political thing, gaining favor, but it's not the change we were promised, and I don't think he's really doing the will of the people so much as the will of the corporations, and that just makes me angry. I've joined the Anti-FISA group on Obama's campaign website, and he still has time to reverse his decision. I hope (though I doubt) that he will.

Then Wesley Clark (my personal choice for VP) came out and blasted McCain, noting that maybe his war record didn't necessarily qualify him to be President. That maybe his experience, while perfectly noble and heroic, didn't really have any direct bearing on his potential role as Commander in Chief. It was well thought out, and it was a criticism that could only come from someone with as much military experience as Clark.

So what does Obama do? He publicly distances himself from that, and at the same time, blasts Move in a speech about his patriotism.

Look, I get it. Politics is all about having as many friends and as few enemies as possible, and doing what you feel is right comes a distant third or fourth, if it enters in at all. But seeing Obama kowtow to the right so much before he's gotten the Presidency doesn't give me any confidence that he's not going to fold his principles one almost every issue, just like Clinton did in his second term. And that's not what I want.

Then I see that he's talking about faith-based initiatives, and I get nervous. Because I know his faith is important to him, I know that only a Christian is going to get elected in America, as an atheist I've made my peace with that... but that doesn't mean I want my tax money going to the untaxeable churches, who are all too often getting involved in the political process. To quote George Carlin: "Tax them! Tax these motherfuckers! If they want to get involved in politics, let them pay the admission price just like everybody else!" And giving money to faith-based initiatives is such a Bush thing to do, it makes me nervous.

Again, I get it. Not all faith-based outreach is bad, in fact there's a lot of good done there. But I can't help thinking that some of that money is going to go to crazy people who shoot abortion doctors or threaten their families, who picket gay funerals, who push a scorched Earth policy of war and environmental callousness because they believe that God is going to take them all up and leave the heathens behind anyway.

It just... combines with the rest to make me nervous.

However, here's the thing: There's pretty much no way Obama can lose me. His positions on all of these things are less right-wing than John McCain, and most of his positions still line up with mine. However, I've given money to the campaign three times, and I'm less likely to do that again, unless there's a reversal of direction in the decisions he's making while he's still a Senator and Presidential candidate.

I'm disappointed that now that the general election race is gone, issues that matter to me like the economy, gas prices, the Iraq War and universal healthcare have been dropped out of the discussion to focus on whatever craziness the media or the Republican party have decided to make a talking point of the day. Once again, it looks like the Democrats are letting the enemy control the tone of the conversation, going on the defensive.

And I start to wonder, is this the reason why the Democrats lose so often? Is it because (like I'm doing here) we're willing to question our candidate rationally, to poke at his foibles and really examine if he's the right man for the job? Meanwhile, the Republicans basically get behind their candidate with a blinding devotion, promoting him as if he were ten feet tall and bullet-proof, and every crazy thing he says is completely rational and only a simpering liberal would debate it.

Maybe as liberals, our own self-analysis and intellectualism is getting in our way, and what winning politics requires is a little fanaticism and blind devotion.

Which is a terribly depressing thought, given what it says about politics and this country. But I'm not convinced I'm wrong here.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Weekly Comics to Come - July 2, 2008

Astonishing X-Men #25 (Bianchi's sketchbook has me kind of enthusiastic for the Ellis/Bianchi run. It looks like X-Men via crazy European comics style, and that could be fun)
Fables #74 (Another fantastic story arc for Fables started last issue, and they're leading into something big next issue)
Manhunter #32 (Returned strong, and even my worries that I might not enjoy Gaydos' art were misfounded)
Usagi Yojimbo Vol 22 Tomoes Story TP (I've read all or most of these already, but they're really good, and a new Usagi trade is always a treat)
Walking Dead #50 (Big status quo shakeups continue, I expect... I'm back on the edge of my seat with this book)

Billy Batson And The Magic Of Shazam #1 (Mike Kunkel follows up on Smith's Shazam take... that's pretty genius creative casting by DC)
Buffy The Vampire Slayer #16 (A new story arc, or maybe a one-shot... after that last arc, I'm excited for more)
Dynamo 5 #14 (Continues to be one of my favorite superhero books)
Hellboy The Crooked Man #1 (Mignola and Corben on Hellboy again... woo!)
Jonah Hex #33 (Darwyn Cooke art, which makes this one of those rare single issues I'll probably buy)
Noble Causes #35 (I had advance copies of #32-34, so I've been anticipating this one for a long time)
Northlanders #7 (Closing in on the end of the first arc, and I've been enjoying the book more and more with each issue)
Station #1 (Sounds like Whiteout on a space station, with a murder mystery in an isolated locale... I'm intrigued)
Storming Paradise #1 (Dixon and Guice on an alternate history World War II story)
Wondermark Beards Of Our Forefathers HC (Malki's crazy-cool webcomic gets a swanky hardcover... I saw a friend's copy that he got at MOCCA, can't wait to buy my own)
Zombie Tales #2 (Dug the first issue, I'll definitely check in on this one)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Weekly Comics to Come - June 25, 2008

I've been so busy, I keep forgetting to do these. So again, this is after having already read my books for the week. Or at least, some of them, as I forgot to nab some of them at the store, and haven't had a chance to read some of the others. It's a *huge* week.

Bprd Ectoplasmic Man One Shot (Gorgeous artwork from Ben Stenbeck, an intriguing look at the "secret origin" of psychic Johann Kraus)
Conan The Cimmerian #0 (A terrific opener for the new Conan series, as good as the #0 from 2003)
Immortal Iron Fist #16 (Fantastic finale for Fraction and Aja... frustrating that they're setting up a really intriguing status quo, and then somebody else is going to follow up on it. I'm crossing my fingers that Swiercynzski and Foreman can deliver, but I'm not optimistic based on Cable thus far)
Umbrella Academy Apocalypse Suite TP (Liked this in single issues, *loved* it as a trade, and now I can't wait for more. Gorgeously produced trade, too)
X-Men First Class Vol 2 #13 (After a couple lackluster issues, an issue guest-starring Machine Man and starting a two-parter reinvigorates my love for the series)

Captain America #39 (As always, this is compelling, noir espionage stuff with a great use of Cap's supporting cast)
Demo TP (Nice trade from Vertigo... back matter text not there, though, glad I have the single issues)
Final Crisis #2 (Surprisingly, I kinda dug this second issue. It's got the death/mutilation fetish of Didio's DC, the occasional incomprehensibility of Morrison's in-continuity DC stuff and lame villains, but it's also got some really great moments and a nice epic sense of scale)
Hulk #4 (This really is stupid, over-the-top fun... and McGuinness's art is gorgeous)
Indiana Jones Adventures Vol 1 TP (A fun adventure starring Indy Jones with terrific artwork, I look forward to more of these)
Jim Butchers Dresden Files #3 (A solid companion to the books... nothing stellar, but solid)
Madame Xanadu #1 (Man, did I want to like this more than I did. Subject matter and approach just bored me to tears, though)
Mighty Avengers #15 (Of course, I didn't hate it and want to throw it across the room like I did with this book. Haven't Hank Pym and the Wasp had enough character assassination? I had hoped that Skrull Hank was going to reverse that, instead Bendis uses it to heighten it further, and turn the Wasp into a slutty alcoholic to boot)
New Avengers #42 (This one, on the other hand, was only mildly annoying, as Bendis continues to rewrite recent continuity to fit his stories)
Pigeons From Hell #3 (Beautiful art, creepy story, I'm really digging this)
Previews #18.7 (Down the Line coming soon... unless I forget that too)
Secret Invasion Runaways Young Avengers #1 (Nice art from Takeshi Miyazawa, kind of meh story)
Superman #677 (James Robinson's return focuses on the Science Police, Atlas, Krypto and Hal Jordan... not terribly inspiring)
Teen Titans #60 (Running out of steam for me... I'll give the next story arc a try, but I think a few issues was all the interest I had)
Thor Ages Of Thunder Reign Of Blood (Loved the first one of these, was kinda bored by this one... maybe there was just too much other good stuff this week)
Thunderbolts #121 (Nice finale to Ellis's Thunderbolts... can't help but feel that there was so much more story if only Ellis's attention span wasn't so damn short)
Uncanny X-Men #499 (Decent, if somewhat uninspired, finale to the San Francisco story. I'm not loving any of the X-Men books at the moment... but I am finding them casually readable for the first time in many years)
What If Fantastic Four Tribute To Mike Wieringo (A fun, beautiful looking book)
Wolverine First Class #4 (Kind of fun... not as engaging as X-Men First Class, but still kind of fun)
X-men Legacy #213 (I should hate this book, given that it stars the worst of the '90s X-Men detritus, but nice artwork and Carey's ability to weave a compelling conspiracy/thriller narrative is working for me)

Avengers Initiative #14 (I want to see how Gage explains the Hank Pym situation, and I'm digging his use of weird third- and fourth-stringers on this book)
Caliber #3 (Wasn't wowed by the second issue of this fantasy/western, but I love the concept and really enjoyed the first issue and I want to keep up with it)
Ex Machina Deluxe Edition Vol 1 HC (Probably won't buy this, as I've got the trades, but I'm hoping to read the extras from a friend's copy)
Gantz Vol 1 (Curious to check out this new manga)
House Of M Avengers TP (Not sure I'm going to buy this, but it was such a fun use of some of my favorite Marvel characters, I think I will)
Jack Of Fables Vol 3 The Bad Prince TP (Competely spaced picking this up, but I've switched to reading in trade, so this will be all new to me)
Love And Capes #7 (I think I'm actually two issues behind on this... I need to catch up)
Proof #9 (Given how into this book I am lately, I can't believe I forgot to read it... hope we didn't sell out)

No Death Penalty For Child Rapists

The New York Times had the rather startling headline of "Justices Bar Death Penalty for the Rape of a Child" on this article.

I've always struggled with my thoughts on the death penalty. So many people with whom I agree politically on so many things are vehemently against it. There's ample evidence that it's unfairly applied, that it costs more money to kill someone in our legal system than to imprison them for life, that innocents have been killed by the State, etc. I've come to believe that my own instincts and over-developed sense of revenge are wrong, and that the death penalty is wrong.

The fact that this decision was opposed by right-wing Justices Scalia, Roberts and Thomas only further cements my decision.


I do think it's right that The State not have the right to kill someone who has been convicted of the case of child rape.

That right rests with the parents of the child. In my world, if someone is convicted in a court of law of raping a child, it should be absolutely legal for the parents of that child to kill the rapist by any means they see fit. I'm pretty much with Ed Harris's character in Gone Baby Gone on this one. "You gotta take a side. You molest a child, you beat a child, you're not on my side. If you see me coming, you better run, because I am gonna lay you the fuck down! Easy."

So maybe I'm not *quite* over the idea of capital punishment just yet.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Procrastination Post

I used to do these every now and then when I was writing regular reviews on The Fourth Rail, as a way to provide sort of a checklist for myself as to what I was doing next.

Now, with the irregular reviewing I'm doing on Comic Pants, it's more of a public admission of my inability to get anything done. But I'm gonna post it anyway. Here we have my list of reviews I've been planning to get to somewhere between a week and two months ago. These little capsules may in fact wind up being all I write, although I hope not.

X-O Manowar HC (Sent by Valiant, it reads very much like '80s comics, which is both good and bad - Made me want to dig out more Valiant back issues, though)

Flight Explorer (Loved this one, an all-ages adventure anthology without a bad story in the bunch)

Superior Showcase #1-3 (Dug these out after reading #3 recently)

Proof Vol 1 TP (New Image series that really deserves a review of its $10 intro trade)

Starman Omnibus Vol 1 HC (Actually wrote notes for this review, back on Father's Day... that may be as far as the review gets)

True Story Swear to God Archives Vol 1 (This series held up beautifully, and I'd really like to give it a comprehensive review)

That's the short list. There are any number of other books I had hoped to review, including Boom!'s Warhammer output and maybe a retrospective on Chuck Dixon's Robin, which I've been reading, but I'll be lucky if I manage to get one or two of the above reviewed.

Bit of a Rollercoaster Night

Man, my emotions have been jangled up all night. Started off good, having dinner with my family, putting Katy to bed, watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with my wife. I hadn't seen it before now, but it's definitely my favorite of the movies so far, and I'd say it's the first one where I liked it as much (and in some places, more) than the book.

Then, after Suzanne went to bed, I watched Gone Baby Gone. Which is from a Dennis Lehane novel about a 4-year-old girl being kidnapped. It's a good movie, every single one of the cast is amazing in it (neither Monaghan or Ryan really have a lot of screen time, but they make the most of what they have), but... damn. If you have kids, you probably spend a good chunk of time worrying about what might happen to them. It's one of the reasons I stopped watching CSI and Law & Order: SVU... things happening to kids is one of the easiest ways to do drama in a crime procedural, and... I don't need help thinking up nightmare scenarios.

It's also a mother-fucker of an ending, about as dark and bleak as you get. Or at least, that's how I interpret it.

So I was in kind of a bummed, reflective, sour mood, and then I picked up the mail, and found that we had gotten our stimulus check (right after paying off our bills, so we can actually afford to spend it!) and a letter from the Saturn dealer about possibly trading in my car, and I start pipe-dreaming about that...

Then I flip on my computer and find, quite shockingly, that a friend I didn't know was sick has pretty severe medical problems. Which is kind of overwhelming me now, and that's why I decided to vent the entirety of my night onto my blog.

Friday, June 20, 2008

So Very Angry

I've managed to get myself into a place where I can view the utter corruption of our government by the Bush Administration with a sort of detached cynicism and dark humor. I don't spend every minute of every day angry, frustrated and wishing nothing more than for some kind of exploding deadly ball cancer to befall G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their numerous corporate and neocon overlords.

Only rarely. Like when Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath was going on.

Or when I see pictures like this.

All this young soldier wanted was to see his daughter. Who was born 11 days after he died in a pointless, ill-advisable war in Iraq that we never should have been in in the first place.

Next time you hear McCain say "It doesn't matter when they come home," think about this picture. And think about how many more dead soldiers it represents.

I wish I believed in Hell, so that I could believe the men who created this situation were going to burn there.

Attention Heroes Con goers

Due to a confluence of factors (no money, no time, Free RPG at the store, family in town) I can't get to Heroes Con this weekend. This makes me sad.

The fact that Jim Rugg will have a new mini-comic and sketchbook at Heroes makes me even sadder.

If anyone who is going is reading this blog and willing to snag me a copy of each (I'll pay for both, plus shipping!), I would be eternally grateful. Drop me an email, please.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Obama Smacks Down McCain's 9-11 rhetoric

"Well I refuse to be lectured on national security by people who are responsible for the most disastrous set of foreign policy decisions in the recent history of the United States. The other side likes to use 9/11 as a political bludgeon. Well, let’s talk about 9/11."

Damn. And there's lots more.

Guess what, guys? 9-11 9-11 9-11 ain't gonna work this time. You played that card too much... it's old. And it reflects badly on you, if someone is smart enough to make the argument against it.

The "Clever" Humor of the Far Right

The Texas GOP (like Texas doesn't *already* have enough of a knuckle-dragger rep, guys? Really?) disavows any knowledge of this button being sold at their convention:

Looks like the GOP ought to have the ignorant racist vote sewn up. And while that might *seem* to be a healthy demographic in the United States, I'm not sure there are enough of them to grant an electoral victory.

Or, y'know... figure out how to work something that requires thumbs.

I'm trying not to get cocky here, really... but with the Obama machine talking about a 50-state game and raising voter participation, involving three or four different electoral maps that could carry them to victory, and McCain talking like a guy who has early stage Alzheimer's...

Well, it's hard not to be a bit optimistic.

Weekly Comics to Come - June 18, 2008

Huh. Forgot I hadn't done this, so now I'm doing it after reading a lot of this week's books.

Atomic Robo Vol 1 TP (Packed extras pages, plus all the great stuff from the miniseries... one of the best new comics of 2008)
Battle Royale Ultimate Ed Vol 3 HC (With all the Tokyopop kerfluffle, my biggest worry is that we won't get the last two volumes of this in hardcover)
DMZ #32 (The election story has been amazing, and this issue is no exception, with just a ton of great moments)
Warhammer Condemned By Fire #2 (Badass loner hunts chaos cultists... this series is by far my favorite Warhammer book yet)
Y The Last Man Vol 10 Whys And Wherefores TP (The home stretch and that great final issue, finally collected)

Batman And The Outsiders #8 (Dixon's gone, but he's got three more issues of story... this is another good one... here's hoping for some sort of conclusion, even though this book getting cut short just plain sucks)
Blood Bowl #1 Killer Contract (Violent parody fantasy football, done exceptionally well... another great Boom! Games Workshop licensed book)
Brave And The Bold #14 (The return to shorter stories has done this book a lot of good, and Waid is going out with a bang... this two-parter features one of my favorite DC characters, Green Arrow, along with another weird favorite, Deadman, and art by Scott Kolins, and it's great stuff)
Dead Space #4 (Strange little sci-fi horror story with great art, continues to unfold in an interesting way)
Drawing Words & Writing Pictures TP (Jessica Abel and Matt Madden's new how-to book looks fantastic... I can't wait to read it)
Dynamo 5 Vol 2 Moments Of Truth TP (Yay! More of Faerber and Asrar's fun new superhero team!)
Gemini #2 (Whoops... forgot to grab this one at the shop... but I'm looking forward to reading the next issue... tomorrow, I guess)
George R R Martins Wild Cards #3 (Not digging the art, which is hurting the storytelling quite a bit... but there is a lot I do like about the story)
Grendel Behold The Devil #8 (Didn't like the big reveal of #7, so the series ends on a bit of a down note for me, but it's still a pretty good, dark ending and the series as a whole has been terrific)
Guardians Of Galaxy #2 (One of my weird favorite Marvel space characters shows up, and the book is as good as everything else Abnett & Lanning have been doing at Marvel)
Incredible Hercules #118 (A truly strange idea about gods going to thrown down with the Skrull gods, with gorgeous artwork)
Kill All Parents #1 (Weird little one-shot, a little quiet for my tastes but interesting and with great art)
Naoki Urasawas Monster Vol 15 (More of the most twisted suspense manga I've ever read)
Pilot Season Genius #1 (Pretty fun story about a girl with a military mind organizing the gangs of Compton... I'll vote for it to get a series)
RASL #2 (Jeff Smith's long-awaited second issue is another joy to behold... the wait between issues on this book is going to kill me, as I'm super into it)
Teen Titans Year One #5 (Beautiful art, cute romance story, some nice bits... I've gained a real appreciation for Amy Wolfram's storytelling skills off her Teen Titans Go episodes too)
Wolverine #66 (Surprisingly solid first issue with stunning artwork by Dillon. I don't know how long my interest will last, but for right now, it's piqued)
X-Factor #32 (Another big status quo change for the book, another good single issue... but the book really does need to settle down and stay out of the crossovers for a while)

Monday, June 16, 2008

DC: Ouch

Y'know, I'm no fan of Dan Didio's version of the DC Universe, but I've often felt that he gets unnecessarily personal attacks from a segment of fandom. "Dan Didio Must Die" was, and is still, an over-reaction to not liking the dude's work in comics, even if it is meant to be a riff on the stupid "Jimmy Olsen Must Die" promos that Didio's DC cooked up.

However, as a fan and a retailer who would: A) Like to enjoy more DC Comics and B) Like to sell more DC Comics, I think it's pretty clear that Didio's guidance is driving DC into the ground. I mean, if you just look at this:

Chuck Dixon gives Didio both barrels

Well, that's one thing. But when, on the same day, you get this:

May Sales Charts

Which show that Final Crisis #1 was outsold by a pretty large margin by Secret Invasion *#2*, not to mention Marvel continuing to absolutely *dominate* DC in terms of dollar share (43% to 28%, rounding generously) and unit share (47% to 30%, again rounding generously in DC's favor), well...

I'm just saying if I were Didio, I'd be more than a little bit nervous about how much more rope they're going to let me have before they use it to hang me.

From a link by Heidi on The Beat, we've got this rundown of possible replacements, along with the news (well, it was news to me) that Didio's contract expires in a year.

None of these candidates look particularly great to me as a replacement (except Schreck, who is a, no pun intended, dark horse candidate. I'd actually *love* to see what Schreck would do in the big chair.) And a lot of the speculation is pure crazytalk, even in the insane industry that is comics. Other than Schreck, not one of the "in" comics crowd looks even remotely realistic, as they either wouldn't want the job or aren't likely to be offered it for political reasons, and the rundown of past talent seems to ignore how much comics companies *never* give their older talent a leg back up. Shooter? Even if he hadn't just left/been ousted from Legion, does anyone think he's someone the suits are going to pick to run the company? Len Wein? Marv Wolfman? Gerry Conway? These guys, however talented and probably suited for the job given their experience, are the old guard, and the last thing DC wants to do is continue to promote the image of "old man DC" in contrast to "hip young Marvel."

Heidi notes that one of the names she's heard isn't on the list. I'm very curious what name that is.

Is Karen Berger an impossibility? Vertigo may not be a sales juggernaut these days, but Berger is a proven talent magnet and a smart editor. What about John Rogers, as another dark horse candidate? True, his comics experience is limited (but Didio's comics experience when he got the job was co-writing a Superboy book with Palmiotti), but he's a TV guy and a newly crowned showrunner... which might put him in the "would be a pay cut" position. But the thought of Rogers bringing the planning and storytelling magic that he brought to Blue Beetle to the larger world of the DC Universe... ah, now that's a dream casting.

Going to be some interesting gossip at San Diego this year.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Graphic Novels for Kids - Part One

An irregular series of posts on graphic novels and comics for kids.

Tiny Titans - Not yet available as a graphic novel, but this take on the Teen Titans as elementary school aged kids is a cute, fun take on a set of young superheroes. It's got simple artwork and is light on the words so that a kid who can't read can still memorize it and feel like they're reading it. My 5-year-old daughter loves it. There are four issues out so far, cost is $2.25 per issue. There will almost certainly be a digest-sized collection of four to six issues at some point, maybe late summer. In a similar vein, there are super-cute versions of Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batman and other Justice League favorites in Super Friends, which is of a similar age bent but in my opinion, not quite as enjoyable reading for parents as Tiny Titans.

Owly - The story of a kind-hearted owl, his best friend (a worm) and various other forest friends. Each volume teaches a lesson about sharing, or overcoming your fears, or something similar, but it's not done in a preachy way. It's one of the cutest comic books ever, and it is done entirely without words, using only pictures and occasional punctuation like question marks and exclamation points, so it's something that younger kids can read and enjoy. It's in black and white, which some kids might shy away from, but it is without a doubt my biggest recommendation for kids' graphic novels. $10 a volume, each one a complete story, there are four available.

Korgi - In the same vein, but with only one volume available so far. Very lush, elaborate artwork with a vaguely fantasy vibe (think Lords of the Rings illustrations meets Norman Rockwell) that tells the story of a young fairy girl and her dog, a Welsh korgi who happens to have the power to breathe fire. There are monsters and meanies, but not much scary... usually the threats involve stealing cookies and such. Like Owly, there are no words here, just beautiful artwork.

Ages 6-8 (Early Reading)
Keep in mind, I have a 5-year-old daughter... I'm guessing here based on loose experience, not first-hand parental experience.

Marvel Adventures - Marvel Comics has a whole line of all-ages graphic novels featuring their fan-favorite characters. Sadly, your average issue of Spider-Man, Hulk, etc. these days tends to skew a little bit more to the late teen/early college demographic in terms of subject matter, and while a lot of it will fly over kids' heads, you're definitely better off going with these all-ages versions. Here's the good news: They're generally pretty awesome, with some very talented writers and artists doing work on them. Marvel Adventures Avengers is the highlight, a team featuring a lot of favorites (Wolverine, Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, all together, along with Giant Girl, Storm and others) and a very clever sense of humor that will appeal to kids and adults alike. You will not be bored or annoyed reading these to your kids, or helping them learn to read them. There are also books for Iron Man (my second favorite), Hulk (a very close third, and written by Austin local Paul Benjamin, who does a ton of signings and is great with kids), Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. The digests tend to be about $8 and contain four or five stories, and though they're numbered with volumes, you can pick them up in any order... each story is complete on its own.

Free Comic Book Day this year presented us with Marvel Adventures Superheroes, a Spider-Man/Iron Man/Hulk team-up book that also features other Marvel heroes, written by Paul Tobin. The first issue has been read and reread to the point of falling apart by my daughter, and she can't wait for the first issue of the regular series to come out. Which should be very soon.

Bone - The story of three cousins (one greedy, one dumb but charming, one sweet and noble) who find themselves in a strange valley with dragons, cow races, and rat creatures. It starts out very funny and adventurous, kind of like Walt Disney taking on Lord of the Rings, and ends in a slightly darker place, not unlike the progression of the Harry Potter series. But I've seen any number of parents buying this for their kids, who become completely addicted to the series. It's a series of 9 graphic novels, of which seven are out, one is expected in late summer, and the last should be out before the end of the year. Originally a black-and-white indy series (which is how I know how long it is and that it ends pretty well), it's now being expertly recolored and published by Scholastic in $10 graphic novels. Highly recommended.

Teen Titans Go, Legion of Superheroes in the 31st Century, Batman Strikes and Justice League Adventures - The DC Comics equivalent of the Marvel Adventures books, these are all based on DC's animated series. Lots of characters, both familiar and not, for the superhero-loving kid, and the talent on these is generally pretty good as well. Often not as entertaining to all-ages as the comparable Marvel books, on occasion they do feature stories that will thrill superhero-loving adults as well as kids, and they all feature solid stories. These used to be available in the $8 digests, but of late DC has been putting them out as $14 full-size collections instead.

This is a start. There will be more.

A Bit of Quick Political Snark

Hilary Pledged Delegate: I'm Backing McCain!

""No self-respecting woman should wish or work for the success of a party that ignores her."

Wait... is she talking about the Republican Party? Because that's the one that seems to fit. I'm confused.

Oh, no, wait. I'm not. This woman is an idiot. Spite voting is retarded. It's safe to admit it now, I would have voted for Hilary if she'd been the Democratic candidate. Because anything is better than four more years of Republican rule.

Obama: They Bring A Knife, We Bring A Gun

"The McCain camp was quick to object: "Barack Obama's call for 'new politics' is officially over."

Not at all, folks. Obama's from Chicago... and *that's* the Chicago Way.

New Obama campaign advisor:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Smoking and the Fascist Left

Y'know, I got as much hatred for the tobacco companies as anybody. And yeah, I totally get how dangerous and bad smoking is, and I don't smoke, and I will do my best to make sure neither of my kids smoke.

But this whole anti-smoking Nazi shit from the left has got to stop. There's fighting the good fight, and then there's taking it so far that it becomes a nonsensical crusade.

Demanding that comic book characters don't smoke is a good example of this. Quesada's "No Smoking" edict remains, while well-meaning, a stupid edict that does minor (but real) damage to characters like Nick Fury, Jonah Jameson, Wolverine and the Thing. It's a character trait, and a relatively harmless one, and I'm sorry, I understand the whole "kids and role-models" thing, but you show me a kid who started smoking because he wanted to be cool like Jonah Jameson. Or the Thing. Or even Wolverine. It doesn't happen.

Then you get the AMA Alliance taking Marvel to task over having Thunderbolt Ross smoking a cigar in the new Hulk movie (spoiler alert!). They even go so far as to act as if it's some kind of error, pointing out that Ross didn't smoke in the first movie. Guys? Did you see that movie? If the Incredible Hulk is better than Ang Lee's piece of crap, they can put a cigarette, pipe, hookah or cigar in every character's mouth in Incredible Hulk.

Anyway, I know nobody's changing their mind on this. But this kind of thing is just patently ridiculous. There are plenty of real issues surrounding smoking and the tobacco industry to tackle... taking time out to send a press release because a fictional villain in a new movie smokes? Well, that leads me to think your press arm has been smoking something itself.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

D&D 4th Edition: Early Thoughts

I know, it's almost a whole week since the game came out (and gave my store the best sales day of its existence, not to mention a hugely successful launch event) and I haven't talked about D&D 4th Edition yet.

Others have, though. Smith Michaels over at Blurred Productions is often sympatico with me on comics and politics, but our thought trains diverge a bit on D&D 4th Ed, which he seems a mite displeased with. You can read his thoughts on the Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. I don't agree with everything, but I don't entirely disagree with his criticisms either. These are well-written think pieces on the game.

Wired has a fascinating article on D&D Insider, the not-yet-launched online component, and correctly nails Wizards on a too-high price tag, although they're softer on the criticism that I think is more important, namely that D&D Insider hasn't launched yet. They've also got a wildly positive review of the system.

I fall somewhere between Smith Michaels and Wired on this one. Overall, I'm very pleased with the new D&D books and system and very excited to start the new campaign on Friday. I love the look of the books, I love the new powers-based system, I love the streamlined feel of the rules, and I cannot stress enough how much I love the new Monster Manual. Easily the best monster book D&D has ever had.

However. Michaels is right that the focus has been put pretty squarely on the combat side of things. The skill system is streamlined, but the cost of that streamlining is to make it more simplistic. Same for spellcasting. Little things make me sad, like anybody can track now instead of just the rangers. Magic items have been depowered so much as to be almost impotent in some respects. No damage reduction means anybody can just hack off a vampire's head, which feels mythologically wrong. While the grab rules are greatly simplified, they also make any kind of wrestling or grabbing more or less pointless unless you've got some kind of specific follow-up power. The relatively small list of classes and powers to start with makes every early character look very similar.

However, those little things are all done for good reasons, namely taking out the frustrating elements of the game (50-50 miss chance, gone. Can't hurt the thing because we don't have magic weapons, gone. Four hours of figuring out the grapple rules, gone.) and reducing the amount of die-rolling to make the whole thing move quicker. As a system, this is a lot more elegant, and while it doesn't encourage role-play as much as a list of skills and a variance in skill levels, or any of the number of other smaller things we've lost, it opens the door for players and DMs who *want* to roleplay to focus on that instead of min/maxing the rules.

I'm quite sure we'll see more races, classes, spells and feats introduced quickly enough. Hell, Warforged have already shown up on the WOTC website, and I'm allowing my players to use them in the first campaign if they want.

Michaels is pretty much dead-on when he talks about the DMG. It's great if you've never run D&D before, it contains a lot of great theory about players, running a game, etc. This is a necessary book... for beginners. But it really should have been combined with an easier-to-read character generation chapter and released as a "Beginner's Guide" or something for $10. The DMG is mostly filler for the experienced DM, and notably thinner than the other books. Though I respect tradition, given how much tradition was thrown out the window in the name of logic and streamlining, it would have seemed better to produce a slightly bigger "Rules Guide" and "Monster Manual" rather than keep the DMG, which reads at this point like something of a vestigial organ. Especially at $34.95 for a much smaller page count than the exact same price for the larger Player's Handbook.

Overall, though, while I have my quibbles, I love the new system. I love that I could pick up on the changes easily, that they fixed any number of minor things (counterspells, identify, grappling, criticals, etc., etc.) and made it much easier and quicker to build a character, plan an adventure and (judging from my quick demos and from reading the books) play the game.

Have Marvel and DC Both Lost Their Minds?

Look, dealing with employees, especially creative talent, can be tricky. We all know this. But two news stories emerging today in the world of comics and comics-to-film are just mind-boggling.

First, and probably more notable to a wide audience, is that Marvel reportedly thinks Iron Man 2 will be just as good with or without Jon Favreau, and they don't want to pay him more to do the job.

To any studio nimrod holding this point of view, I say this: Favreau delivered on your biggest gamble *ever* and served you up a foundation for Marvel movies going forward in the next few years. Pay the man. He knows what he's doing. He combined comic fan passion with movie-making skill, he knows everyone already involved in the movie, knows the characters, knows the story.

It is possible, although highly unlikely, that you could get someone just as good as Favreau. It is impossible that you will get someone better. It is very likely you will get someone worse and tank your suddenly brand new, shiny A-list money-making licensable property.

Remember X3? Learn those lessons well.

Edited to add: David Maisel. Remember that name. That is the name of the guy who might well tank Marvel Studios' promising start at the theaters.

Secondly, more important to guys like me who have been digging Robin and Batman and the Outsiders and the general resurgence of Dixon at DC, comes the terse announcement on Dixon's message board that he is no longer employed by DC.

As his work was one of the very few glimmers of hope that I could enjoy DC superheroes right now, this was a pretty crushing disappointment. I hold out hope that it's over some crazy right-wing political thing so that I can at least have some modicum of respect for DC, but I'm guessing that it's some stupid ass editorial thing, since they seem to have a remarkable capacity for those these days.

Market share's not getting any bigger, DC. Might be time to start thinking about turning that ship around before all the creators jump off.

Tailgunner Joe

No, not the *actual* Tailgunner Joe. Ethan Van Sciver aside, everybody knows that guy was a douchebag.

Instead, this post is about Joe Lieberman, someone whom I've never liked, and who I like increasingly less with each passing year. So why is he still in the Democratic caucauses when he's all but signed up as John McCain's attack dog against Obama?

TPM (one of my new favorite sites, thanks for the recommendation, Jim!) has it covered in this quick six minute sequence:

See, that makes sense to me. I'm quite sure Lieberman (I may dislike him, but I don't think he's stupid) knows full well all of this, and is doing his best to curry favor with the Republicans for when the heave-ho comes. Me, I can't wait for that day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Few Political Thoughts

I was reading over my RSS feed for politics, and I spotted an interesting pattern. There were articles about McCain and Obama talking about the economy and their plans to fix it, and articles about Congress being unable to agree on a way to deal with high gas prices, and then there was "Bush says Iran can't be trusted with enrichment."

I'm sorry, but honestly... who the fuck cares about Iran right now? Stop trying to beat the drums for another war, or even economic sanctions, against a country that is about as big a threat to us now and in the near future as, say, Iraq was. It's pathetic that even in the last, lame duck months of his Presidency, Bush and his administration continue to be completely and wholly out of step with what the American people care about, instead trying desperately to ram their agenda down the public's throats.

On a semi-related topic... anybody got any good political RSS feeds to recommend? I've got a small spread of stuff, but mostly I find interesting political articles through links from John Rogers or Rolling Stone politics. I subscribed to Huffington for about a day, until I realized that when I left my computer and came back, there were about a hundred unread posts. I don't have that kind of time. I need something that updates maybe a half-dozen, dozen times in a day at most. An item every couple of days, especially if it's good, is even better. I'm also looking for something with a bit of wit to it. Suggestions?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Weekly Comics to Come - June 11, 2008

Amazing Joy Buzzards Vol 1 Here Come The Spiders GN (Re-released in one volume, one of the best comic books ever. Fans of Venture Brothers, and I know there are a lot of you, should not miss this book)
BPRD War On Frogs #1 (Flashback to poor, doomed Roger at his most interesting)
Local #12 (So where does Megan wind up? I can't wait to find out)
Secret Invasion Who Do You Trust (Best Secret Invasion issue yet... likely to be the best one, period. Great Wonder Man/Beast tale by Christos Gage and Mike Perkins, and an even better Agents of Atlas story by Jeff Parker & Leonard Kirk)

Batman Confidential #18 (Kevin Maguire's art alone would keep me reading, but Nicieza's story of Catwoman and Batgirl's first meeting is kind of fun so far)
Booster Gold #10 (Love the character, digging the book, excited to see Chuck Dixon come aboard later on)
Captain Britain And MI 13 #2 (Still a bit rough, but has characters I like a lot and very nice art)
Chuck #1 (I like the show quite a bit... not sure I'll read the comic, but I might)
Freddie & Me Coming Of Age Bohemian Rhapsody GN (Mike Dawson, of Gabagool! fame, releases his much-buzzed-about autobiography/tribute to Queen... look for this one in the Eisners next year, based on what I've heard)
Hack Slash Series #12 (Always entertaining)
Invincible #50 (Not wild about the new costume, but I am looking forward to the culmination of a lot of stories, especially given how well Kirkman is doing something similar over at Walking Dead)
Skaar Son Of Hulk #1 (Greg Pak and Ron Garney do barbarian adventure with superhero/sci-fi overtones... good first issue)
Superior Showcase #3 (Adhouse's occasional superhero series is always a treat)
Tiny Titans #5 (My daughter is excited to be getting this this week)
Trinity #2 (I'll give it another issue or two to hook me... but every time Morgan Le Fay shows up, my interest wanes)
Vaistron Vol 1 TP (Loved the first issue of this book, so I'm picking up the trade to see where it goes)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Obama/Clinton '08?

I take issue with the reporting on this poll. It seems like CNN is trying to either prognosticate or actually influence choices here, rather than just reporting. In the Gmail Home ticker, the abbreviated headline was "Dems want Obama-Clinton ticket" and I had to look at that. The expanded headline, slightly more accurate, is "Poll finds majority of Dems want Obama-Clinton ticket."

However, here's where I take issue. Majority in this case is 54% for, 43% against. And in male recipients, it's actually 51% against. Even the majority that creates the average, women polled, is only 60% for. I realize that technically speaking, this is a majority. But the report acts as if it's some great mandate from the voters, and I'm sorry, it's not as focused as all that.

I honestly feel like having Clinton on the ticket could lose us the election as easily as it would win it. Yes, Clinton would probably bring with her some supporters who might vote McCain, independent or just not vote out of spite for Obama, *but* I think it's just as likely she'd cost a lot of moderate or Republican crossover votes that Obama has shown the ability to get, if he had a different running mate. Clinton is a polarizing figure, and those who don't like her *really* don't like her.

Me, I'd be OK with an Obama/Clinton ticket... I wouldn't feel betrayed by the Obama campaign, but I can't help but admit I'd be a bit disappointed. I would much rather see Wesley Clark or John Edwards on the ticket.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I Still Have Hope

A lot of folks were celebrating about the Obama nomination in the past couple days. I was glad to see it, but more from a "Thank God it's over" point of view. The enthusiasm that led me to stand in the streets of Austin with a bunch of strangers, waiting for hours to see a politician speak, had dimmed quite a bit with the long primary fight.

But when I read the accounts of Frank Sesno and T.D. Jakes, that hopeful feeling returns. I remember that Obama, flawed as he may be as a real person, represents something. Win or lose, this is a momentous event in our country's history. I'm still cynical enough that I don't believe entirely in the one America Obama is selling. There are some Americans who I do not wish to share a country with. Our worldviews are too different, they hate too much that I love, for me to be able to think of them as true countrymen. But I remember, when I read pieces like the ones above, or see Obama make one of his speeches, that maybe, just maybe, there are more of "us" than there are of "them." And maybe that will only continue to get better as time goes on.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Uh... You Guys Understand What "Change" Means, Right?

McCain says he's the candidate of "right change"

"The American people didn't get to know me yesterday, as they are just getting to know Sen. Obama," he said. "They know I have a long record of bipartisan problem-solving. They've seen me put our country before any president, before any party, before any special interest -- before my own interest."


I'm sorry, maybe he's referring to the history he had *prior* to 2004, when he let the Republican party treat him like their whipping boy so that he could still have a shot at the nomination in 2008. Ever since 2004, McCain has been rubber-stamping Bush doctrine, avoiding the hard calls and basically looking for all the world like another Republican stooge.

I used to respect the guy. If he had made this statement prior to 2004, I might have bought it. But now he wants to position himself as a candidate for change? I call bullshit.

Here's what you need to know: McCain wants to stay in Iraq. McCain folded even on his objections to torture and civil rights, in order to be a party loyalist. McCain's idea of healthcare is to give tax refunds to insurance companies and cut out the incentive for employers to provide healthcare. The only way McCain is a candidate for change is if you're talking about things turning even worse.

Blog Update for May 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.

It was another pretty good month for comics reading, at least for me. In addition to my top 20, there were another dozen books that easily could have been my picks of the month. First issues that almost made the cut include Firebreather Series #1, Dynamo 5 Annual #1 and Invincible Iron Man #1, and continuing series that fell just below the Top 20 included Proof #8, Uncanny X-Men #498, Grendel Behold The Devil #7, Incredible Hercules #117, BPRD 1946 #5, George R R Martins Wild Cards #2, Batman Death Mask #2, Dead Space #3 and Nightwing #144. In terms of publishers and single issues, my tastes were pretty varied this month. 4 Marvel, 4 DC, 3 Vertigo, 3 Dark Horse, 3 Image and then one each from Dabel Brothers, Oni Press and Boom! Studios. In terms of writers, I had 2 from Brian Wood, 2 from Jay Faerber, 2 from Abnett & Lanning (and one from Abnett & Edginton) and 2 from Chuck Dixon. I guess that's probably pretty close to my top four writers of the moment.

I decided that I liked the "10 good graphic novels a month" rule enough to keep it, and so after I read my 10, I read the first novel of the Song of Fire & Ice, Game of Thrones. I really liked it, more than I expected to, and will probably return to book two after I've read my 10 graphic novels for June.

If TV was thin in April, it was even thinner in May and will damn near vanish in June. However, I was really pleased with the season finales of 30 Rock, Lost and The Office, and I'm hoping that both How I Met Your Mother and Scrubs will come back stronger now that they don't have a strike to interfere with them (unless a SAG strike happens.) At this point, I have two shows left on the air: the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon, which continues to be a lot of fun to watch with my daughter, and Battlestar Galactica. That one I'll watch until the end given that I've invested so much time on it and the end is relatively near, but I'm increasingly worried about the erratic quality of the episodes and the direction the show has gone in, and I doubt very much I'll be picking up the rest of the DVDs unless the ending is better than I'm expecting. June should bring the return of Burn Notice on USA, and I'm not sure when, but sometime this summer, we should get more Always Sunny in Philadelphia and maybe (?) the final season of The Shield.

No huge additions to the RSS feeds this month, just two artist blogs for Cameron Stewart and Thom Zahler and fun, borderline goofy post-apocalyptic comic based on Rock Band called My Name Is Might Have Been.

With Apologies To The Hilary Supporters...

I know there are some reading the blog, but I found this sports parable by Chris Orr just too funny:

"Once you abandon the artificial four-games-to-two framework that the media has tried to impose on the series, a very different picture emerges, with the Celtics leading by a mere 549 points to 539. Yes that’s right, the margin between the two teams is less than one percent—a tie, for all intents and purposes. This is probably the closest Conference Finals in NBA history, though I will thank you not to check on that."

Hilary Clinton has not officially conceded her Presidential campaign, but the writing is on the wall, and it seems 99% certain that this week will see the end of the campaign.

I'm of two minds about this interminably long, historic primary season. One is that all it cost for Hilary to lose now instead of months ago when it was pretty clear she was going to is a drop of about ten percentage points in Obama's match-up with McCain as a result of a hard-fought battle between the two candidates.

But the other, more realistic, more reasonable, view is that whatever I might feel about the Clintons' political tactics, they didn't do anything wrong in competing for as long as they could. And I don't want to hear *anybody* bitching in November if Obama loses that it's somehow Hilary's fault. That kind of "Blame Nader" BS is what makes the Democrats look so pathetic, and it just helps the Republicans beat them, year-in and year-out.

Would it have been nice for Obama to go in with a 10-point lead against McCain in the polls, like the one he had months back? Sure. But every campaign has its challenges and difficulties to overcome, and pointing out how things could have gone better and than you would have won is the kind of spin I'm used to from the Bush Administration, and I hope we don't see it from this campaign or from its supporters.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Weekly Comics to Come - June 4, 2008

Fables Vol 10 The Good Prince TP (A long wait, but worth it, as this might be my favorite Fables story to date)
Manhunter #31 (Very glad to see this book return, even if I'm not entirely sold on their choice of artist and think they should have relaunched with a new number one)
Nova #14 (Very good issue of Nova vs. Silver Surfer, weakened only because it wasn't as good as the previous issue, which was one of the best issues of the run)
Proof Vol 1 Goatsucker TP (Bigfoot... FBI. Well, there's more to it than that. At any rate, one of the most imaginative new books out there from Image, and a $10 trade to try it out. Nice.)
Robin Spoiler Special #1 (I'm about ready to campaign to put Chuck Dixon in the top spot at DC Comics, based on his work on Robin and Batman and the Outsiders)

Abe Sapien The Drowning #5 (I've lost interest as the story goes on, but I love the art and I'm hoping for a strong finish)
Batman Death Mask #3 (Much more interested in this manga Batman than I expected to be)
Buffy The Vampire Slayer #15 (Please let it be a fakeout death... can't wait to see what happens next.)
Contract #0 (Promising new sci-fi action series from a new publisher)
Criminal 2 #3 (I've been digging the second volume of Criminal, I like the one-off stories that combine to form a larger tapestry)
Haunt Of Horror Lovecraft #1 (Richard Corben does Lovecraft, in black and white.)
House Of Mystery #2 (I was only mildly intrigued by the first issue, but I love this creative team, so I'll give it a few issues to hook me)
Invincible Iron Man #2 (Same as House of Mystery, really)
Nightwing #145 (Tomasi's got a good groove going on Nightwing right now... it's a little less consistent than Dixon's Robin, but comparable)
Noble Causes #34 (Coming to the end of the advance issues of this I've read, and now I can start waiting with everybody else to see what happens next)
Salem #1 (Condemned by Fire has put me in a Puritan witch-hunting mood... but this can't be as awesome as Warhammer witch-hunting, because it can't be as over-the-top)
Scream Queen #1 (Premise doesn't interest me, really, but Boom! Studios usually does)
Secret Invasion #3 (Yep, I'm still reading it, coming on three issues, a record for post-Alias Bendis)
Wormwood Calamari Rising TP (Quick collection of another twisted Wormwood tale)