Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Weekly Comics for July 22 & July 29, 2009

Aliens #2 (Nice art, interesting characters, I like this version of Aliens so far)

Avengers Initiative #26 (Wow, this was a really cool issue showing not only how the Initiative is transitioning into the Dark Reign era, but doing cool stuff with the New Warriors, Tigra and other characters who have most recently been screwed up in various Marvel issues)

Brave and the Bold #24-25 (Good to see the Milestone characters again, with Matt Wayne doing a great job on Holocaust and Static and Adam Beechen nailing the aggressive Hardware)

Dark Reign Young Avengers #3 (It's taking a while to get to the point, but the journey's pretty enjoyable. Maybe Cornell is the guy to take up the reins of Heinberg's abandoned characters)

Detective Comics #855 (I'm not sure I know what's going on with the cults and hallucinations, but it's beautiful to look at and intriguing to read)

Guardians of the Galaxy #16 (Kind of weak art, but a solid issue that brings the old Guardians and the new Guardians together, has some good cosmic action and some nice time-travel headache-y stuff)

Incredible Hercules #131 (I liked a lot of this underworld story, but I was disappointed by what seemed like illogical, out-of-character behavior for Amadeus Cho in the name of moving him off to the side)

Nova #27 (The Worldmind story dragged on a bit long, but the War of Kings tie-ins have rejuvenated the book, and I love that the Robbie/Richard Rider story has gone in unexpected directions)

Monday, July 27, 2009

San Diego 2009 Day 5

The final day of San Diego Con 2009 was the longest day of the show for me. I haven't stuck around on Sunday before, and after doing it once, I don't think I'd do it again. Not that there weren't some high points, but in general? Huge pain in the ass.

I woke up late (which in San Diego translates as 8 AM. That sound you hear is the laughter of my friends and family, who know that I usually don't wake up before 11 AM at home - usually after) and decided to get on the Internet for a bit before going down to the convention hall. Packed up my bags, got ready to go, and then checked in on Faceook, Twitter, email, etc. This meant foregoing the Spectacular Spider-Man panel, but I figured I probably wouldn't be able to get into the room anyway.

So I went over to Anthony's Fishette at around 10:15 to grab a lunch of clam chowder, and then headed out to the convention center. I had really intended to see either the Comics & Graphic Novels For All Ages panel or the Kids Write Comics panel, but a variety of things cropped up and I couldn't make the time work. I did, however, get to say hi to Carla and Lance Hoffman, which was something I didn't think I'd get a chance to do, and also got to check in and do some graphic novel recommending with Alan Sepinwall. I'd always rather catch up with Internet friends in person rather than do almost anything else at Comicon, so I don't regret the trade-off.

After that, I picked up my sketch from Chris Giarrusso for Katy's sketchbook, went and got her sketch from Thom Zahler (I would have gotten in trouble if I hadn't gotten it, and it's beautiful, she's going to love it) and then just kind of wandered for a while. Bought Dustin Nguyen's Batman Beyond print and thanked him for helping out when I was a sponsor of Project: Rooftop's Batman contest, then bought Ryan Kelly's X-Women print. I left these prints and my poster tube in my friend Paul Benjamin's room, but hopefully he's bringing it with him to the airport.

Went out to dinner at The Field with Paul Benjamin and Alan Porter, which was a delight, and we helped Paul brainstorm off the gem of his *genius* idea for one of my favorite obscure Marvel characters. It was a lot of fun. Oh, and I got the "Boxty Sampler" at The Field, which was delicious but way too much food. I definitely liked the Rasher and Cheese Boxty best.

The girl next to us, part of a couple, asked where we were from, and when we told her Austin, she said something like "I thought so. You're too nice to be from L.A." We thought that was kind of hilarious, and had lovely chat with her and her boyfriend, and found out they were thinking of moving to Austin. Exchanged some info in case they needed any help with the move.

Oh, also at The Field? Irish folk dancing on the bar to various comic/geek songs, like the Imperial March, with the girls and guy dressed up in comic book/videogame t-shirts. It was a lot of fun, and maybe my favorite meal of the convention.

Of course, as we were getting ready to pay, the power went out. It was kind of dark and the A/C very noticeably had shut down. I felt really bad for the folks working there, but our hard-working waitress got our bill divided amongst our three credit cards manually, and we headed back to the Hyatt.

Or rather, Alan and Paul did, I went to get my luggage so I could leave in in their room, which is how I managed to lose my poster tube.

Short version of the night is that I wound up going out to La Puerta for their half-price drinks night with the Spill crew, Geoff Sebesta and Tom Galloway. Long version? Ask me in person and I'll tell you a little story.

Walked a few miles with Geoff out to his place, long walk but it was a nice night, crashed out on his couch, woke up early (8 AM) and headed to the airport via bus. Figured I'd check my luggage, hang out and write using wi-fi, maybe head back into town to meet up with Paul and grab a meal before we both headed back to the airport.

Except that apparently Southwest only checks baggage two hours before a flight, and my flight wasn't until 2:45. And then some kind of fire somewhere outside or in the terminal caused them to evacuate my portion of the airport. After some hassles, though, I managed to settle into the Yan-Can asian restaurant near a power outlet and fire up the wi-fi, and catch up on various things, including writing this Con report.

It was, overall, a pretty good Con. Got to spend some time with friends I rarely see, made a couple good plans for store events with some creators, met Felicia Day (!), Jim Shooter (!!) and some of the cast of Chuck (!!!), picked up a few sketchbooks and graphic novels (much more restrained this year, though) saw a few good panels and had some good meals.

I also experienced huge frustration with the lines and the crowds and occasional dick behavior, and generally realized that when I'm not reviewing, the Con is a very different experience. It was fun, but it was expensive and a bit of a hassle, and I think that on balance, it's probably time to give it a rest for a year or two. I've been dying to go to Heroes Con, and it really sounds like I missed a great one in 2009. Of course, I've been saying for the past two or three years that I'm going to skip San Diego next year, and I always change my mind, so we'll see what happens.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

San Diego 2009 Day 4

So I went to bed, mildly drunk, at about 3:00 AM the night before. Panel for Chuck, which I desperately wanted to get into, was at 10 AM, so I had set my wake-up call for the demonic early hour of 7:15. I woke up at 6:30, decided there was no point in sleeping in for maybe another 15 minutes if I could get back to sleep at all, and got up to get showered, dressed and on my way before the wake-up call came. A quick danish and tea downstairs and I walked over to the Con.

I got in line for Ballroom 20, and it was not a small line. I figured getting there a little over two hours before the panel would get me in, but you never know when it comes to Comicon. After an hour or so in line reading Toupydoops: The Early Years and Least I Could Do Volume One, my friend Tess came to join me in line. She knows a bunch of the Chuck guys since the show she works on (Ellen) is across the lot, and she had promised to try and introduce me to Zach Levi, Adam Baldwin, etc.

After some nerve-wracking moments where we weren't sure if they'd opened the hall or not, at 9:30 they finally opened the doors and not only did we get in, we got seats about six rows back from the front. Tess was looking around for a show PA or anyone she knew, but she couldn't find them, so we resolved to see if we could rush up after the panel or maybe find the cast at their autograph session later.

The panel was fantastic. Jeffster opened with a live set of "Fat Bottomed Girls," there was a great clip reel to open and a fun skit with Chris Fedak, Josh Schwartz and Zachary Levi, and the whole panel was just a lot of fun. You can get a pretty good sense of it from looking at the tweets of TV critic Daniel Fienberg (@hitfixdaniel) or Mo Ryan (@moryan) or by checking out their recaps of the panel.

After the panel, we rushed up, Tess managed to catch Zach's eye and he seemed very happy to see her, but we were down and they were up and there was no crossing the security. So she headed for the black curtains at the back where friends, family, etc. were going back to see the cast. I followed, figuring security would stop us. They didn't. Act like you know what you're doing, apparently, and you're golden.

So I'm backstage, waiting for the cast and some of the writers of Chuck to pass through. First thing that happens is that Sarah Lancaster and Ryan McPartlin (Ellie and Awesome) come off the stage, and as he comes down, Ryan gives me a big grin and a pat on the shoulder with a "How's it going?" or something similar that was just so perfectly Captain Awesome. Then Chris Fedak came down, and Tess introduced me, and she also introduced me to Zach Levi. I believe all I could manage was "Big fan." She also introduced me to Adam Baldwin, who I already have a huge amount of love for thanks to Firefly. He was as gracious and nice (and tall!) as could be, and even extended a friendly invite to come out and visit the set. It was mostly a conversational thing, and I doubt he'd remember or that I'll be able to take him up on it, but it was definitely appreciated.

After the panel, I grabbed my re-entry pass for Ballroom 20, and Tess and I went down to The Guild signing at the California Browncoats so she could give Felicia Day her card and offer web/post-production assistance. We were waiting in line, and someone came up to tell us about buying prints to get signed, and I asked her if we could just step in and meet Felicia, as Tess was on the Ellen show and wanted to offer help. Turns out the person talking to us was Kim Evey, producer on The Guild, and she pulled us aside so Tess could meet Felicia afterward. Both Felicia and Kim seemed very interested in Tess's offer, and it was pretty much a great morning for both of us.

I knew there was no way I was getting into Hall H for Iron Man 2, so it was back to Ballroom 20 to sit through Futurama and Simpsons so I could catch the screening of the new V. The Futurama panel, made up of Matt Groening, David X. Cohen and several writers, and it was pretty clear this was a last-minute change from the planned "cast and writers" panel. It was a little stilted and awkward, and for a casual Futarama fan like myself, kind of a waste, actually.

I ducked out of the Simpsons panel after getting my re-entry ticket again. Sorry, Simpsons fans, but that show has been on way too long. Grabbed a pretzel dog (not as tasty as I'd hoped, basically just a second-rate version of Einstein's yummy bagel dogs) for lunch, then headed back in for the last twenty minutes or so before the V panel started.

By this point, my three and a half hours of sleep was catching up to me, and when V started out and was disappointing, I decided about 30 minutes in that it was time to bail on the original plan. V is co-executive produced by a writer/producer from Angel and the creator of The 4400, and I'm sad to say it's much more like The 4400. In that it's watchable (especially if you have had more than three hours of sleep), but the dialogue and moment-to-moment writing is bland and predictable. Morena Baccarin, Elizabeth Mitchell and Alan Tudyk are fantastic, but what they were being given to do was... not.

And so, I headed back to the hotel to grab a quick nap. Managed to run into my roommate, Bob Greenberger, and chat with him a bit, which was fortuitous, as our schedules had been keeping us pretty much separate except for when one or both of us was sleeping. Had a quick dinner at Anthony's Fishette of fried shrimp and headed back to the Con, planning to catch the Myth Busters and Watchmen panel.

As a side note, the first part of the day was a great success, but in retrospect, I should have bailed out right after talking with Felicia and Kim and headed back to the hotel. That way I could have seen the "Comics with a sense of history" panel that I *really* wanted to go to, and I probably would have gotten into the Myth Busters line early and actually gotten in.

Yep, when I got back to the convention center, the line for Myth Busters and then Watchmen (same room) had been capped, which was a first for me at Comicon. I've waited in lines and not gotten in, but never been told that I couldn't get into the line. Quite honestly, I prefer finding out before I line up, so this was ideal, except that it meant not getting to see the live Watchmen commentary. (By the way? 2 hours early for the Watchmen panel, which was not enough time to get in. Crowds at San Diego are out of control.)

So I went to my backup plan, the Weeds panel over at the Hilton Bayfront. The Bayfront is a beautiful hotel, and I love their bar and their Indigo ballrooms. If Comicon is smart (and every indication is the folks running it are very smart), they'll do more programming over there next year. Anyway, prior to the Weeds panel was, apparently, the Troma Roast of Lloyd Kaufman. It was surprisingly funny, even though I've never seen a Troma film.

The Weeds panel was fairly low-key, just creator Jenji Kohan and actors Hunter Parrish and Justin Kirk, but it was fun anyway. The moderator was kind of terrible, but once they opened it up to questions, the thing got more lively, and I was surprised and pleased to learn about the existence of "Andy University" shorts on the Showtime website. (Sorry there aren't any links in here, I'm trying to knock this out and get to the Sunday part of the show.)

After that, headed out to the Marriott bar to go to the Spill.com party, which was a lot of fun. Talked TV, comics and the show with a variety of people, including my friend Geoff Sebesta, who I'm staying with tonight, and who had a very cool meeting with author David Gerrold that could turn into something really exciting for him.

From there, it was over to the Hyatt to meet up with Tess, and I spent the rest of the night chatting with her and other folks. I stumbled back home, a little too drunk, about 2:30 AM and went right to bed. Miraculously, there was no hangover in the morning.

Final day of the Con beckons... have to go!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

San Diego 2009 Day 3

Woke up around 8:45, grabbed a shower and a Danish (separately, not together) and headed out to the show.
The first shuttle was full, but the next one showed up less than five minutes later and got me to the convention center a little after 10. The Brave and the Bold panel was packed, and The Guild panel had a huge line, so I headed for the Con floor.

I swung through the small press area and bought a few things, including a sketch and books by Rob Ullman and the Toupydoops Early Years collection.

Stopped by the Dark Horse booth to tell the Star Wars Adventures guys how much I liked their work and lucked out that the Indiana Jones Adventures guys were there as well. I had hoped to catch the Adam Warren signing, but I needed to get over to Jeff Smith's booth to get a signed copy of his new children's book, Little Mouse Gets Ready. I also "had" to buy two T-Shirts and the cool plastic figures of the Bone cousins.

Dropped by the Oni booth to say hi to Chris Samnee and get a quick Iron Fist sketch. Forgot to buy his sketchbook, but that'll have to buy that on Saturday.

After that, it was off to a quick interview for a documentary about Gramt Morrison, and then a break from the Con to grab a "Bourbonzola" burger at the Rock Bottom Brewery.

I headed back to the Convention center for the most frustrating experience so far, trying to get into the damn Joss whedon panels. After waiting for an hour in line and realizing I wasn't getting in, and seeing tweets from folks who had, I was feeling particularly small and annoyed.

I enjoyed the Darwyn Cooke and Wednesday Comics as an alternative to the packed media panels, and got to say hi to Robot 6's JK Parkin, though.

I spent the last couple hours going through Artists Alley and the videogame side of the hall before meeting up with some friends for dinner at a delicious place whose name I've blanked on. 

After that, through the miracle of text messaging, I managed to hook up with some friends at the Hilton bar. I talked to my friend Alice, who I haven't seen in years, then joined up with Cyrus and Leon of Spill.com. We made plans to go to a cheaper bar as soon as we could tear Boom! Marketing genius Chip Mosher away from the bar. These plans were quickly abandoned when we found out Chip was talking to Jim Shooter.

Shooter held court for an eager audience, and I basically got to spend three hours hearing comics industry stories fromthe guy who is most responsible for my even reading comics. So that was pretty cool.

Finally, tired and aware that I had to be up in less than 5 hours if I wanted to get into the Chuck panel, I took a mostly empty shuttle back to my hotel.

Note: This report was written while mildly drunk on my IPod, so any typos or weirdness can be blamed on one or both of those factors.

Friday, July 24, 2009

San Diego 2009 Day 2

Day 2 started off early. My roommate and I (who hadn't really met, yet) woke up to a 6 AM alarm. He hit snooze, we went back to sleep, only to have it go off again 10 minutes later. I flipped on the light and found the off switch, at which point I said "hi" by means of introduction. We both cracked up and then tried to go back to sleep.

Which didn't work, so we got up, introduced ourselves properly, and then played dueling laptops with the hotel wi-fi, each of us finding out what had happened in the place we were before through the magic of Facebook and Twitter and Email.

At about 8, I went down to grab breakfast at the deli next door. The special was eggs, potatoes and sausage biscuits and gravy, which sounded decent. It was pretty good, but they were very liberal with the gravy, and let me just say this: You haven't lived until you've had eggs with gravy. And after that? You don't want to. Still, my non-gravy-covered eggs and potatoes were good, and the sausage was decent as well.

From there, I tried to grab the free shuttle down to the convention center. The shuttles are running really slow this year, taking longer between trips and getting hung up in traffic, so after waiting until about 9:30, past when the hall closed, I finally gave up and started walking.

The shuttle bus, of course, passed me halfway there, but that was OK, as it got stuck in traffic and I still got there at basically the same time, if not a few minutes before.

My first stop was at the Oni Press booth, where I talked with Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt about their upcoming book, a fantasy/western that looks fantastic and is due probably next year. Bunn and Hurtt do the terrific prohibition crime/horror book Damned, and if you haven't picked that up from Oni Press and you're at the show, I definitely recommend swinging by and grabbing it. If you're not in San Diego? Get it at your comic shop. Especially if you're a fan of Hellboy, BPRD, Hellblazer and/or gangster flicks.

Next up I rushed over to the Guild booth to buy the DVDs of the first two seasons, then went up to have them signed. I got to talk for a minute with Felicia Day about Austin, and learned that her brother lives in Round Rock and plays boardgames, and wondered if he might actually shop at my store.

After that, back down to the floor to catch up with Chris Schweizer, author of the hugely ambitious historical fiction Crogan's graphic novels. It's about a family tree of adventurers, running from the early days of piracy and up into the modern age, with stops at '60s spy and French Legionnaire. The first book, a pirate book called Crogan's Vengeance, is out from Oni now, and if you're stopping by to pick up Damned, you should probably go ahead and pick that one up to. I looked at the pages Chris had for the next Crogan's book, which are terrific, and talked to him about possibly coming out for STAPLE! (the small press show in Austin) for next year.

I wandered into Ballroom 20 at about 11:15, thinking I'd get an early jump on the Entertainment Weekly and Burn Notice panels. I actually walked right in, but then realized that the panels didn't start until 1:15, which was way too long to sit in one room, and I went back out to grab lunch of clam chowder at Ralph's. Headed back to the convention center, was able to get back in and get pretty decent seats for the panels.

The Entertainment Weeky panel was Wonder Women, about women in pop-culture, and it featured Zoe Saldana, Eliza Dushku, Sigourney Weaver and Elizabeth Mitchell. Oddly, the person who was least responsible for me being there (Saldana) turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the panel, as she gave honest, smart, funny answers about women in Hollywood. It was also a joy to see Sigourney Weaver, and I was shocked to learn that she's turning sixty soon, because frankly, folks, the woman is gorgeous. As is Elizabeth Mitchell, actually. The panel's moderator seemed a little shaky and nervous (I can't entirely blame him, I'd be more than a little starstruck too) but the conversation was pretty good and it was a solid panel.

Burn Notice, however, was a great panel, one of my favorites ever in San Diego. Bruce Campbell just owned the room, you can read all about it on the Twitter feeds of @HitFixDaniel, @Moryan and @BurnNotice. Everyone was great, with Matt Nix earning that "I will follow you to whatever show you're on" thing from me. The "Spy Tips for San Diego" were fun opening video bits, too. And there were free T-Shirts! A bit garish, yellow shirts with Michael Weston's face giant and orange on the front, but still cool for Burn Notice fans like myself.

I wandered the hall for a bit after that, stopping to talk with Kazu Kibuishi, who is crazy prolific. In addition to more Flight and Flight Explorer, he's got volume two of Amulet hitting very soon (I saw a hardcover and it's beautiful), a collection of his webcomic Copper (he had a proof of that, and it's nice as well) and plenty more.

Dinner plans were with Thom Zahler, of Love and Capes. I'd tell you all about Thom and why you should buy Love & Capes, but I'll let Whitney Matheson do that instead. Anyway, Thom's a friend from a ways back, and together with Bill Williams, Paul Storrie and a couple other folks whose names I've blanked but who were spending their honeymoon at the Con, we headed out to try a Mexican restaurant called La Puerta.

While we were waiting for a table, I got a call from Josh Elder (Mail Order Ninja, Starcraft, Batman Strikes) to join us. Which is when Josh learned the all-important lesson that most of my friends learn at one point or another: Never follow directions from me without double-checking. I told him we were at Sixth and Market (it was Fourth and Market). Eventually, through the magic of cellphones, he caught up with us, and joined us for dinner. La Puerta was OK, but I think tex-mex has spoiled me in terms of enjoying California mexican food. The restaurant did have a power outlet right near the table, which let me refill my dead iPod, which had died far earlier in the Burn Notice panel than I would have liked.

I took the shuttle bus back to the hotel. There were some exceptionally annoying older know-it-all types giving a running commentary on everything on the way back, snarking on various things they saw, with the bus driver chatting it up with them, and by the time they got off, I was wanting to take an ice pick to them, or possibly my own ears to keep from having to hear any more of it.

However, the ride back to the Hyatt after a quick change of clothes, with the same tour bus driver, provided some small revenge. A couple of guys were on the bus talking and causally dropping F bombs, and every time they did, the bus driver would protest with "Hey!" They didn't hear her, but I did, and I found the idea that a bus driver was so offended by bad language that she had an almost Pavlovian response every time the word "fuck" was uttered very funny.

At the Hyatt bar/Boom! Studios party, I chatted with a ton of people, mostly Austin friends like Chris Cox, Martin Thomas, Paul Benjamin and Bill Williams but also Thom Zahler and Bob Ingersoll and Chip Mosher. I also got to meet Roger Langridge, say a brief hi to Jann Robinson, meet Chris Roberson (whose I, Zombie book from Vertigo with Mike Allred on art is getting early buzz) and also meet Mark Sable (of Unthinkable). And my buddy Joe D., who I worked with on Psycomic so long ago and who now is wheeling and dealing some Hollywood work, was there and I got to chat with him for what hopefully won't be the last time during the show.

About 1:30, mildly buzzed on Absolut Vanilla and Coke, I wandered back to the shuttle, got back to the hotel and fell into bed at about 2 AM. I was asleep practically before my head hit the pillow.

Now: Quick breakfast muffin or something and on to day three!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Comicon 2009 Day One

I didn't have internet access to tweet/Facebook, so it's back to old school blogging for my report on day one of San Diego.

Flight out went pretty smooth, managed to read Elmore Leonard's The Switch and Darwyn Cooke's Hunter as well as watch the last couple episodes of Torchwood: Children of Men on the way. Got into San Diego at 4:40, made my way to the shuttle area and found the Holiday Inn shuttle just about to depart, perfect timing.

There was more than a little traffic this year. I got to the hotel at around 5:00, though, and got into the room I would be sharing with my roommate (who, as of this writing, I haven't met, as he was asleep when I got in... I'm trying to type as quietly as possible.) The shuttle from the Holiday Inn to the Con was jammed in traffic, and I didn't wind up getting to the convention center until about 6:15. The pro/press line was surprisingly long this year, but it moved quickly, and I was on the floor for probably two and a half hours of Preview Night.

Which was crowded as hell. The show sold out faster than usual, and there's every indication that this year is going to be even more crowded than last year. But as with last year's Comicon, I managed to get a lot of my goals for the weekend accomplished on the first night. I have tentatively lined up our Free Comic Book Day guests for 2010 and set up a very cool event for November. I picked up the new buttons and Clue cards from Colleen Coover, got Darwyn Cooke to sign my copy of Hunter, bought all the Love & Capes stuff for Katy, got new Owly T-shirts for me, Katy and Aaron and bought North World and Stumptown T-Shirts for myself from Oni. Lots of money spent first night, but hopefully that was the big burst, and there won't be as much money spent over the next few days. Also picked up Nathan Fox's artbook, and probably a couple other things I'm forgetting as well.

My dinner plans were looking like a lonely affair, but I called up my friend Tess and she invited me to come to dinner with her and Kevin Altieri. I joined them, along with a couple other friends I hadn't met before, and we walked back to my hotel to eat at the Elephant & Castle Pub downstairs. Decent grub, made better because by this point I was completely starving, and fun conversation and good food was had.

This one's light on the "who I saw, who I met" because it was a bit of a blur. With any luck, tomorrow I'll be able to do a bit more tweeting.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Healthcare Reform Bill

This is one source (CNN) reporting on the bill, and of course it's still due for a lot of mark-up. But what I see here, just glancing over, gives me hope that we might actually get some kind of meaningful reform.

"According to the CBO, the bill would cover 97 percent of Americans by 2015."

That's notable. Getting the majority of Americans coverage, even if it's shitty coverage, at least moves us from "third world country" in terms of our healthcare to "poorly-run first world country."

"The bill includes tax surcharges on Americans in the top 1.2 percent of income. It proposes a 5.4 percent surtax on couples earning more than $1 million, a 1.5 percent surtax on couples with income between $500,000 and $1 million, and a 1 percent surtax on joint incomes over $350,000 or individual income over $280,000."

I can't be elitist if I think anyone making over $280,000 can spare some taxes, right? Isn't that reverse elitist or something? At any rate, I make less than $100,000 a year - considerably less - so this doesn't affect me, and maybe I'm just anti-capitalist, but it seems to me that if you're making over $1 million dollars a year, you've got money you can spare to make sure your fellow Americans have basic health coverage.

Does that make me a socialist? It does, doesn't it? Damn it!

Oh, and I'm one of those small business owners unaffected by this. I am apparently a "micro business."

" -- A Health Insurance Exchange providing individuals and small business with choices for coverage, including a government-funded public option."

Holy shit, are we actually going to get a public option?

"-- No more coverage exclusion for pre-existing conditions."

Any word on legal penalties for insurance companies that dump folks who have medical issues, like cancer?

"-- Affordability credits for low- and moderate-income individuals and families, available to those with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $43,000 for individuals and $88,000 for a family of four."

This all sounds in the right wheelhouse. Maybe even more generous than I'd expect. It'll probably be cut down.

"-- Limits on annual out-of-pocket spending."

Hallelujah. Less bankruptcies due to medical costs will have a huge positive effect on the economy.

"-- Expanded Medicaid coverage to individuals and families with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level."

Again, sounds pretty fair.

"-- Required participation by individuals, with a penalty of 2.5 percent of adjusted gross income for non-compliance."

I have to admit, I was against any kind of mandate to get health coverage, but I understand the philosophy behind it (requiring preventative care increases the effectiveness of medical care and makes it cheaper for everyone).

"-- Requirement that businesses with payrolls exceeding $250,000 provide their employees with health coverage or contribute up to 8 percent of their payroll on their behalf."

My payroll is small enough that this doesn't affect me... but I already offer health coverage for my employees, because it seems like the right thing to do.

"-- A series of measures intended to reduce costs of Medicaid, Medicare and other existing systems."

All good.

This sounds so much better than I thought it would a few weeks ago. I'm still skeptical, and worried about conservative Democrats blocking things (the Republicans seem too mired in making themselves look like asses at the Sotomayor hearings and having sex outside of marriage to be much of a threat at this point), but this looks much, much better than I thought it would.

Weekly Comics for July 15, 2009

Agents of Atlas #8 (Really liked this issue... glad to see Khanata again, liked the use of the Hulk, loved seeing Atlas team in action, and really nice artwork)

Batman Streets of Gotham #2 (Lead story is kinda meh, but the Manhunter backup is terrific)

Beta Ray Bill Godhunter #2 (It seems like I've been waiting since I first saw that Simonson picture of Beta Ray Bill in the Marvel Universe to read this Beta Ray Bill story. Cosmic, full of cool space battles and with a compelling plot and good art to boot)

Buck Rogers #3 (I liked this at the outset, but it's having the same problems I had with Lone Ranger... slow pacing. And the decision to tell two stories out of sequence was the wrong way to go with what probably should have been more straightforward space adventure)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? #1 (I really liked this book in college, and it's an interesting experiment, but I think a more traditional adaptation would have been preferable to what Boom! is doing here. The text is too often repeating what the art is showing, and the result is that it seems like I'd be better off just re-reading the book. Good for exposing new people to the literary roots of Blade Runner, not as good for folks who have already read the book)

Incognito #5 (Whoa. There's a whole world backstory here, beyond just the great lead story that Brubaker and Phillips are telling)

Incredibles Family Matters #4 (A worthy follow-up to the movie. Don't know that I can pay a higher compliment than that)

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #3 (What could have been a one-off joke story is instead a very fun adventure story tied into the Infinity Gems, and even the Bo Obama guest spot is pretty cleverly done)

New Mutants #3 (It's "just another mutant title," basically, but it's one of the better uses of these characters I have a nostalgic fondness for that I've seen. Also, beautiful artwork)

RASL #5 (I can't entirely keep track of what's going on, but I'm still fascinated. And, of course, the art is beautiful)

Unknown #3 (Another great issue, combining road-trip style adventure with supernatural and scientific "magic", terrific character work and spectacular artwork)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Down The Line for September 2009

Welcome to Down the Line, our monthly look at Previews! Each month we look at what’s coming out in comics (and manga) a few months down the road. Randy and Jason are back with another installment, this time covering the July Previews for comics due to ship out September 2009 or later.

As always, we've got different categories to slice things up into nice easy to read chunks. Without further ado, on to the first category:


Beasts of Burden #1 (Dark Horse) - page 22
I read the solicit until it said, ". . . a heroic gang of cats and dogs." Then I started kicking furniture around and bleeding profusely from my eyes.


I can fix that by having you read any one of the Beasts of Burden stories from the Dark Horse horror hardcovers. Each of those hardcovers featured a new Mignola Hellboy story, and yet the Evan Dorkin/Jill Thompson "Beasts" stories were still the highlight of each one. They're funny and cute, but they also have a good grasp of what makes ghost stories and the like work, and I'm really excited to see them finally get their own limited series. One of the books I'm most excited to read this month, actually.

OK. Fine. I'll try it. But I'm really afraid of something like 'Over the Hedge', but with ghosts.


Think of it more like something Pixar would do. It's that good.


B.P.R.D. The Black Goddess TP (Dark Horse) - page 24
Hellboy's been around for a while, but holy hell, they're really just now starting to mine every crevice of that universe. Fortunately for us (and for Dark Horse) most of it is good. In fact, most of it is great.

I don't know what I can say about B.P.R.D. that isn't repeating myself, but: Maybe the best ongoing series running, definitely some of the best art in comics, period. Just keeps getting better.

The Cleaners: Absent Bodies TP (Dark Horse) - page 26
I got a kick out of the mini. What started off as a jargon-laden procedural drama (as I've mentioned before), turned into something eerie and altogether bizarre. The layers were peeled back to reveal some nasty goings on in suburbia. The tale takes some gruesome turns that I did not see coming. While I did have trouble following it from issue to issue, I can't quite pinpoint why. In trade form, this will likely make for an outstanding, disturbing read.

I really need to catch the rest of this series. I liked the first issue, and loved the art. I guess it's a good thing they're putting out a trade.


Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai (Dark Horse) - page 28
Full color painted Usagi Yojimbo graphic novel from Stan Sakai. That's all I need to know, but for anyone who needs more, it features Sakai's rabbit ronin battling creatures of Japanese legend as they're amassing for a great raid on the countryside.

Dark Reign: The List (Marvel Comics) - page M25
Don't like Dark Reign? Tough shit. 'Cause that's what you're getting. Lots and lots and lots of Dark Reign. Truth be told, I'm a fan of many of the tangent titles so far (Utopia and Dark Avengers), but this is getting out of hand.

That's it. You just made The List.


Fantastic Four #571 (Marvel Comics) - page M41
Reed Richards is running around the universe, kicking ass and taking names. It really begs the question - why hasn't this happened already? Why hasn't any one of the big brains with deep pockets gone about to set things right in their respective reality? It's one of those things you have to overlook in comics, I suppose, but I'm interested to see the ramifications when the right guy for the job actually gets off his rubbery butt and decides to fix things.

Superman: Secret Origin #1 (DC Comics) - page 69
The only reason I have any faith or interest in this is Geoff Johns. I realize that with DC's ravaged continuity, that 'definitive takes' on origins are important, but is there any living, breathing human in civilized society who doesn't know how this goes? The 1st page of 'All Star Superman' really tells you all you need to know. It's graceful and succinct. Another retelling will only serve to muddy the waters further.

Criminal The Deluxe Edition (Marvel Comics/Icon) - page M83
My thoroughly inappropriate and NSFW reaction to this sexy as hell hardcover of one of the best crime comics ever can be found here. Any way, collects the first three trades in an oversized hardcover for $50, and it should fit nicely on my bookshelf with my Daredevil by Brubaker/Lark Omnibus and Immortal Iron Fist Omnibus. Brubaker's work is pretty much always worth this format, and when he's working with Sean Phillips, it's even moreso. Even better, this month sees the return of Criminal in a new series of miniseries format with the return of ex-military tough guy Tracy Lawless.

I don't know what kind of numbers 'Criminal' brings in, but I'm glad Marvel is backing this horse. It's some of the best, character-driven storytelling you're going to find in any medium. It's not just worthy of a deluxe, hardcover edition. It's mandatory.

Oh, and would someone get Randy a tissue?

Mister X: Condemned (Dark Horse) - page 36
My interest in this one is piqued by the strange premise alone. The architecture of a Radiant City, meant to soothe it's inhabitants, has actually plunged the inhabitants into madness. As the city council takes drastic steps to raze many of the buildings, the titular Mister X tries to get to the bottom of it.

Underground #1 (Image Comics) - page 132
A straight-up mystery/drama set in a small town, focusing on park rangers, an opportunistic businessman, and an environmentally-sensitive cave. Written by Jeff Parker, art by Steve Lieber. These guys are always good, and the first issue of this one, which I've had the chance to read in advance, is no exception to that general rule.

If it's half as good as Whiteout, this will be one of those gateway drugs for people who think comics are all about capes.


The Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh #1 (Boom! Studios) - page 214
Mark Waid's modern day thriller about a super-smart female private investigator who may or may not be dying and/or hallucinating has thus far been one of my favorite Waid stories, with terrific artwork by Minck Oosterveer, so I'm really happy to see that there's not only a second series here, but a hardcover collection of the first series. Those who dug Waid's work on Ruse or Potter's Field should definitely pick this one up, as it combines the best elements of both.

The Waiting Place (IDW) - page 269
These days, Sean McKeever is best known for his work on Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, Teen Titans and other superhero books, but this was the first book I ever read for him, and it remains one of my absolute favorites. It's basically the story of teenagers living in a dead-end town, and I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that those who dug the early days of Ultimate Spider-Man with its look at high school life would really love it.

Beast OGN (Image Comics) - page 136
Shadowy creatures? Eerie sculptures? Well, that just makes my Lovecraft parts all tingly.


You have Lovecraft parts? I told you to get that looked at. At any rate, this one's an original graphic novel featuring beautiful art from Marian Churchland, who's been doing some pretty nice stuff on Elephantmen.

Magog #1 (DC Comics) - page 80
And the award for killer vigilante with the biggest horns goes to...


Those look cool, but do they serve any practical purpose? If they're not imbued with magic or used for goring, then get yourself a new costume.


The costume is the least of Magog's problems.


Lola GN (Oni Press) - page 278
A young boy who sees dead people, monsters, demons, etc. living in a small town and trying to help. I like the idea, but what I like even more is the sepia-toned artwork from artist Elbert Orr, which looks beautiful. Fans of Courtney Crumrin, keep an eye out for this one.

Oni makes the smart decision to compare this to Jim Henson's 'Storytellers'. That's enough for me to give it a shot. Oh, and it mentions pigs possessed by the devil. WIN.

Strange Tales #1 (Marvel Comics/MAX) - page M80
Marvel makes a grab for indy cred, and it's a pretty good one. Junko Mizuno? Nicholas Gurewitch, of Perry Bible Fellowship? Dash Shaw? Johnny Ryan, of Angry Youth Comix? Finally printing Peter Bagge's "Incorrigible Hulk?" All wrapped up in a Paul Pope cover? Chances are if you're mostly a Marvel fan, you've never heard of these guys, but trust me, that is some serious, serious talent and some serious, serious weirdness. I can't wait to see these creators turn loose mature readers indy style on Marvel icons and C-listers.

Sweet Tooth #1 (DC Comics/Vertigo) - page 107
I love that Vertigo is going a little bit more "out there" for their latest story. It's going to be an even harder sell, as Jeff Lemire's work is decidedly unlike what mainstream audiences are used to, and the premise of a boy with antlers living in a world that suffered a pandemic ten years ago is not an easy one-sentence pitch, to say the least. However... it looks great, and the very thing that's going to make it a tough sell also make it pretty likely to be a complex and fascinating read. Plus, Lemire's art has looked great on his Top Shelf work, but it looks even better with Villarrubia's colors.

I almost applauded Vertigo for being so 'adventurous', but what I really meant was 'damned weird'. Despite all of Vertigo's previous 'off-kilter' titles, most of them had some sort of sexy protagonist for the reader to latch on to. It certainly doesn't seem so here. I just keep thinking of the Goat Boy from the old Saturday Night Live Sketches.

Fallout Toyworks #1 (Image Comics) - page 130
The last time a pop band member created a superhero comic, we got Umbrella Academy. I'm not entirely certain lightning can strike twice, and there are a few too many cooks in this kitchen (three writers and multiple artists) for me to be excited... but because of how great Umbrella Academy is, I can't entirely write it off yet.

Mr. Ashlee Simpson is going to be writing a comic book. Next, the lead singer of Nickelback is going to script Volume 3 of Persepolis.


Galactica 1980 #1 (Dynamite Entertainment) - page 236
I think we all have that friend who brings up embarassing stories, one who loves to tell strangers about the time Randy crapped his pants at Six Flags. Well, Galactica 1980 is the equivalent of Randy crapping his pants at Six Flags. We all love Six Flags. And most of us think Randy is a swell guy, but we'd like them both a lot better if we don't have to remember that story.

I just hope that the Cylons in this can still be stopped by microwave ovens.

For the record, I never crapped my pants at Six Flags.

But Jason totally made out with a tranny on the Cyclone. For real.

Oh, and Galactica 1980 sucked.

True story. But the tranny was actually Nick wearing a scarf. And that's the story of how I got involved with Comic Pants!


There's a similar story about how I came to guest on a LEOG podcast, but it involves Cyrus, a bottle of vodka and a convincing babushka.


Ghost Whisperer Trading Cards - page 334
Hey kids? Are you in need of a good ass beating? Then bring these to school. Nothing will isolate you from your peers like showing off your glossy card of Jennifer Love Hewitt talking to a ghost!

High Moon Vol 1 TP (DC Comics) - page 94
Wild West meets Werewolves. I don't know what else I can say to build interest here, except to say that you can check it out for free at www.zudacomics.com.


Comics really are scratching that horror/Western itch, aren't they? In a genre that's all but dead, so many of the indie publishers are bringing this demented hybrid to the public. For me, you could pretty much inject any horror or oddball element into a Western setting and have my attention. And now that the fads of pirates, ninjas, and zombies are finally petering out, I think it's the werewolf's time in the moonlight.

Mickey Mouse and Friends #296 (Boom! Studios) - page 212
You know what the biggest obstacle has been to selling Disney comics, at least in my store? Old-looking stories (classic or no) packaged in expensive $7-8 packages. Boom! has answered both problems with their continuation of Mickey Mouse and Friends and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories. Truthfully, I'd rather have new issue ones, but I understand that the big numbers are either: A) tradition or B) contractually obligated. More importantly? $2.99 cover price, and cool-looking new stories in the fantasy and superhero tradition with some of the most recognizable kids' characters ever. Boom! continues to lead the way in terms of how licensed kids' comics should be done.

Boom! continues to impress. Their Pixar line is excellent. Their more adult offerings are worthy of putting on your shelf in trade format. The proof will be in the pudding as far as the quality of this new Disney series goes, but they do seem to be aiming in the right direction for kids' comics. If they keep it up, these will go along quite nicely with the Muppets. Now bring me some Uncle Scrooge tales.

Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu (Marvel Comics) - page M52
Over the past few years, I've rediscovered the B-listers I grew up with: Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Daimon Hellstrom. . . Shang Chi has been waiting in the wings for a while now, only flirting with a re-introduction into Marvel proper. Bring on the rest of the 1970's entourage! If nostalgia isn't quite your thing, Marvel sums it up quite nicely - Kung Fu Motorcycle Race.

Nomad: Girl Without A World #1 (Marvel Comics) - page M58
I'm a little hesitant about this one. Pulling more alternate universe characters into 616 is a messy proposition, at best.


Definitely true, but I have a fondness for the female Bucky from an alternate world, I like the idea of her taking on the Nomad name and I really like Sean McKeever's writing. This probably has a built-in audience just slightly higher than the Human Torch miniseries, but I have to admit, I'm kind of looking forward to it.

The Torch #1 (Marvel Comics) - page M9
Every so often, somebody at Marvel gets the idea that the original android Human Torch is a really interesting character. Byrne brought him back in West Coast Avengers, John Ostrander used him in Heroes for Hire and now Alex Ross and Mike Carey are writing a new miniseries. Truthfully, I have some fondness for the character as well, but I question whether or not he's really all that interesting to most comics readers today.

Ultimate Comics Armor Wars #1 (Marvel Comics) - page M17
Give Ellis free reign to work out his transhumanist fetish. Why the hell not? It's the Ultimate universe. Let the guy unleash some of his futurist weirdness.


Warren Ellis is writing the Ultimate version of a '90s Iron Man crossover. Which means he doesn't get to make fun of anyone else's comic book tastes. Ever.


Ellis is nothing if not a hypocrite. And I love him for it. I just wish he'd look at stuff like this as more than 'just a paycheck'.


Wolverine Origins #40 (Marvel Comics) - page M72
Randy! Randy! They're going to reveal who Romulus is!! Finally! They . . . Randy? You're not even listening, are you?


So far in the pages of Wolverine: Origins, Daniel Way has given us Wolverine's emo son Daken and now he's bringing back Romulus, from what is quite possibly the worst Wolverine story ever.

We may need to quarantine Wolverine: Origins. Or Daniel Way. Or both.

Brave and the Bold #27 (DC Comics) - page 75
Sure, Straczynski had Norman Osborn bang Gwen Stacy and then erased the Peter Parker-Mary Jane marriage of 20 years in the two most unpopular Spider-Man stories of all time, but...

Uh... I'm sorry, I lost my train of thought.

Oh, right! Dial H For Hero! Teaming Up With Batman! For that, I'll tune in. Plus, his Thor run was pretty good.

I'll always wonder how much of Straczynski's infamous Spidey run was his fault. The first person I punch in the throat will be Quesada. Even though the wound hasn't calloused over, I'm going to stop picking at it for now. JMS' run on Thor was more than 'pretty good'. While I only read the first 12 issues, it had brushes with greatness. I don't see him as a natural fit for this title, but I'm eager to see 'Dial H for Hero'.

Spider-Man: The Clone Saga #1 (Marvel Comics) - page M23
It is a testament to how much people hated "One More Day" that Marvel is now releasing the "director's cut" of the Clone Saga as a six-issue miniseries. Because really, how pissed can you be about Ben Reilly when Mephisto presided over the supernatural divorce of Spidey and Mary Jane? We now turn you over to our "I Liked Spidey/MJ married, Damn It" correspondent Jason for some obscenities. Jason?

Holy dammit Christmas, it makes me want to fucking murder someone. It's like they're rubbing 'One More Day' in our faces. "See? The Clone Saga doesn't seem so bad now, does it?" And they're right. I think we all owe Ben Reilly an apology. You want to know what the real story here is? Quesada. Quesada is everything bad about the Bush administration.


Hear me out.

You've got some jackass in charge of everything you love and sometimes, he royally fucks up. But what does he do? He stays the course and feeds you platitudes, telling you that you'll come around to his way of thinking, that this was the plan all along. He doesn't say he's sorry. He doesn't try to fix anything. He just tells us he's right and that we just don't understand.

Well, fuck him. Fuck him up his stupid ass. Can we please get some 'hope' and 'change' in the Marvel Bullpen? Can we elect a new EIC? I'm already voting with my dollar. Now I'm ready to cast my vote with a pair of pliers and a claw hammer.

The Clone Saga? Kiss my white, fanboy ass, Marvel.

...Sorry. I'm not sure what happened there. Kind of blacked out for a minute.

And that's how my own personal Manchurian Candidate program works.

I should say that Quesada's done a lot more good than harm at Marvel, and in general is the best EIC Marvel has ever had, aside from maybe Jim Shooter, but I'm afraid that Jason might come at me with a stabbing weapon.

Trick R' Treat (Wildstorm) - page 100
This trade adapts the anthology horror film that's been floating around in limbo for at least 2 years. I've been dying to see it, as early word pegs it as one of the best horror films in recent memory. The film finally has a release date of this Halloween and the adaptation has a solid stable of creators bringing it to print.

And it should be noted that the writer/director also wrote 'X2' and 'Superman Returns'. Take from that what you will.

See, folks, this is why you need Jason. Because I saw this and I was like, "Well, it's cool that Marc Andreyko and Mike Huddlestone are getting work, but this looks like some random horror bullshit." But Jason? He's dropping horror film knowledge bombs for y'all!

Also, watch this: Hey, Jason? What do you think about One More Day?

Hey, Randy? How would you like to get raped to death by rabid grizzly bears?




I... would like to not.

Remember, especially with the indy books, that pre-ordering is your friend, and the best way to make sure you get the books you want. Tell us in the comments what you thought, and what did we miss?