Friday, July 29, 2005

The Pull List: Comics I'm A-Grabbin'

I have a pull list at a rockin' little shop in Somerville called Comicazi (link in the sidebar), and every week I'm going to post what I'm excited for, and why... Eventually I'll get around to letting you readers of funnybooks know which ones I liked or not, but for now...

These are Comics which Theoretically Rock My Socks:

- The Flash # 224;

The second to last issue of Geoff Johns' now truly essential run (no pun intended) of Wally West's Super-Hero career. The man not only made The Rogues respectable, he made them menacing. Whoever thought that Captain Cold would give me shivers (pun wholly intended)? The man also brought back not one, but two Zooms. Howard Porter's art is the best it's been since JLA #1. This and the next issue will no doubt bring a tear to my sentimental eye.

- Wonder Woman #219;

She's a wonder! WONDA-WOMAAAAAAN!

Part 4 of Greg Rucka's out-of-left-field opus, Sacrifice. Sacrifice, for those not keeping up with Big Blue, is a story that crosses the three main Superman books, Wonder Woman, and The Omac Project. Some, such as I, would argue that since three of these books retold the same fight three different ways, stretching it into a crossover was excessive. However, I'm always up for a good reason for two heroes to throw down (See: Spider-Man Vs Wolverine), and this fight where she takes on Supes looks to be greuling. I'm down.

- The Omac Project #4 of 6;

See: Above. Sadly this issue is supposed to be more tying up the Sacrifice story-arc. Hopefully there will be plenty of Omacs running around Initiating Counter-Measures and shooting those eye things and Maxwell Lord teasing Batman. "Gotcher Spy-Satellite! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!"

Maybe that last one is wishful thinking.

- The Pulse #10;

Back when The Pulse was Alias, it was the best book on the shelves. Alias is still one of the best set of trades you can pick up, and Jessica Jones is such a great character, with real emotions and problems in a world of super-men and people in tights, that she's been completely interwoven with the Marvel Universe lately. It probably doesn't hurt that her boyfriend and baby-daddy is in the New Avengers.

Sadly, the Pulse lost something when it changed over. Maybe it was the lack of F-Bomb every few words, but I like to think that since Alias artist Michael Gaydos drew Jessica Jones so perfectly, that no other artist has managed to capture the character the same way. So fear not, faithful readers, as Stan the Man would say: Gaydos returns to this book for the birth of Jessica's baby! MOZELTOV!

It's one of the last books I'm reading at Marvel, it really deserves a monthly (rather than bi-monthly) publishing schedule.

- James Kochalka's The Cute Manifesto;

Kochalka is an artist who has completely won my heart. It started with Peanutbutter & Jeremy, a story about an annoying crow and a cat who thinks she works in an office. She wears a tie! He also did the Superfriends spoof SuperF*ckers!
and the completely off the wall Fancy Froglin's Sexy Forrest. I enjoy so much of his work, I'm willing to at least check out anything he has to say. And it seems he's got quite a bit, as the Manifesto is all about his personal philosophy, his life, and where he's going. Looks to be intensely personal and a moving read.

So I think that's pretty much it for me this week. My box at the store must be ready to break under the pressure.

Clearly the next step for my broke-ass is getting a PayPal donation button for y'all to click on! I can count on you, the reader, can't I?

Can't I?
Fine, be that way.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Con Report - Boston "Spectacular"

Wizard World is coming to my little berg of Boston this September, which for people like me is like saying that Christmas has finally arrived after being in Chicago and Texas.


Despite their recent Starbucks-like move in Atlanta, I'm a huge fan of Wizard World, and comic conventions in general. I've been to two Wizard Worlds in Chicago before, with my friend and not-so-secret lover Steve, and we had a blast. I met
Kevin Smith (who complemented me at his panel one year, and jokingly called me an "asshole" the next. At least, I hope jokingly.), Greg Rucka, Bendis!, Jeff Smith, Jim Mahfood, and a ton of other people. I even got to stand a fair distance from George Perez and sort of stare and claw the air in front of me in a reaching motion for a minute or two.

The panels are so much fun, and they have them on everything. It's a great way to learn about the medium, the industry, and even interact with it a little bit. Artists Alley is a good chance to see people who haven't broken in yet, some tragically so, and to meet some larger pros who still remember their roots. And the dealer tables... The dealer tables are the closest thing to the Floating Market from Neil Gaimen's Neverwhere as we'll ever see on earth. The odds and ends from booth to booth range from fantastic (like the aforementioned author's badass leather jacket), to the shockingly mundane (It's an odd thing when you see a wall full of early-run Spider-Man comics and react with "Meh."), to the sickening (The next time I see an issue of New Avengers that's been CGC'ed and priced in the double digits or over, I may snap.). So... Yes, I like Wizard World.

So when I heard there'd be another, smaller, annual con in Boston happening this past weekend, I thought I'd check it out. So I grabbed The Lady and I attended the "Boston Comic Book spectacular" on the sixth floor of the Radison. It was run by the slightly notorious "Primate Promotions" whose site can be found
here. Fair warning, if you click it your computer may regress to the days of Prodigy and Windows 3.11. The link lacks an animated .gif of flames, but that should give you a good idea of it's contents.

The Specatular was not unlike the site; somewhat crude in design, but functional. It was what you'd expect from something on the sixth floor of a Radison. That being said, it was full of a few notable things:

- Quarter/Fifty Cent Bins:
The Lady and I must have spent most of our few hours here pawing through these treasure troves. She got, along with a heapin' helpin' of my jealousy, the KuiKuiKui issues of Giffen and DeMatiess's Justice League run from the eighties, some X-Static issues, some Birds of Prey, and a JSA trade, kind of crushed, for a dollar. There was more, but I forget what else she got, as she holds her treasured comics close to her like a child with some candy. She also holds her candy that way. I made off with a happy haul as well! I grabbed the complete minis Ambush Bug, and Son of Ambush Bug for a dollar each. Evan Dorkin's Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic, #1 & 2 for fifty cents each! They're reprinting these now, in black and white for 13 dollars for something like four issues! So the rest of this series is on my list for the quarter bins of Wizard World.

I got the complete Batman Adventures in two digests. They were priced at two dollars each, but I Scrooge McDuck'ed the guy down to three dollars, and they were worth every cent at full price. Ty Templeton had the bright idea to do a Batman comic in the Bruce Timm style, but instead of making it soley episodic, the stories have ongoing plots, and mysteries, and character development. It's a really, really fun comic. They also manage to make good, creative, use of almost every Batman villian in the span of something like 10 issues, a rare feat, seeing as Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee managed to waste all of them in 13. (Take that HUSH!)

My favorite, and wholly original, bit is that the Joker has been undergoing therapy at Arkham that's actually working, and is now polite, and kind, and full of love for Harley Quinn. Quinn, of course, will have none of this new Joker, and goes to shocking measures to get her old Mista' J back. Pick them up next time you're looking for a Batman who isn't quite as sad a sack as the one skulking around the DCU nowadays, and want something fun.

- Artist's Alley:
There were some unexpectedly big names at the con, such as Dan Slott, Paul Pelletier, and Ron Frenz. The only problem with going to cons for me, is I have no idea what these people look like! This led to two slightly awkward moments: one where I had to ask Dan Slott who he was, since he had no name tag, and another where I was espousing how much I like Spider-Girl's art to The Lady while Ron Frenz was sitting a few feet away, deep in a sketch-book. His table was set up with prints and pages from other artists as well, I didn't even catch that he was there for a minute!

We're both big fans of She-Hulk (which is relaunching soon!), so it was definitely cool to talk to Slott for a few minutes. He's exactly what you would picture from reading his work, overly enthusiastic, full of love for comics, and funny. And did I mention verbose? It was hard to get a word in edgewise, and when I noticed some promo art for his new JLA: Classified run, he proceeded to turn the 32 pages of the issue and tell us the story, panel to panel. SURREAL. But it looks like a good issue.

So that was our con experience for the weekend, now the gearing up for the big one in September starts! The coming weeks will be full of the pinching of pennies, the stomping of feet in anticipation, and the gnashing of teeth in nervousness... But once The Lady pounces Greg Rucka like Tigger, I'll both be having a great time and know that it's true love.

With The Lady, I mean.

Not Rucka...


(I think they bought it.)


Friday, July 22, 2005

The Kind of Allright Four

I know that I kick-started this weblog so that I could have a place to write about comic books, for the most part. So please forgive me this indulgence, dear reader, as I post my thoughts on the latest comic-to-screen adaptation, The Fantastic Four.

This has been a great summer for comic book adaptations. I know that other than FF, there’s only been one, but it was probably the best comic book film I’ve seen hit the screen since Donner’s original Superman. That film is Batman Begins. I saw it in the theaters three times, and while this may not seem like an epic number, given the amount of films on my list of “need to see”, repeat showings of anything is quite a commitment on my part. So in my mind, no matter what came on screen for Fantastic Four, comic fans made out like bandits this year.

Luckily that was my mind set, since so much of this film is either boring, terrible, or frustrating. Frustrating for the most part because the filmmakers got so many things dead-on. The movie became a roller coaster of “That’s brilliant!” and “Oh, GOD… that sucks!”

What’s good? They absolutely nailed so many relationships in a movie that should have been, in the end, about family relationships. The questionable hiring of Tim Story was sworn up and down by Avi Arad to be based on his views of family. So I was pleased as punch that Ben would do anything for Reed, and Reed was racked with guilt after the quartet are exposed to cosmic rays. Reed was totally oblivious and accidentally romantic when it came to his feelings for Sue, and Sue was always trying to keep Johnny in check. I was excited that they managed to capture these interactions on screen, but whenever all four characters were together, it lost something. They never seemed to gel as a group; they never seemed to really care for each other as a whole.

A big part of that, I feel, comes from the mishandling of Invisible Woman. There were many complaints about Jessica Alba in the role, but the problem was not so much the casting. I think the casting sprung from this new version of the character, which was nothing more than the "prize" for Reed to win from Doom. Unfortunately by putting her at a standoffish position with Reed, she comes off less matronly and protective and more just kind of, for lack of a better word, bitchy. I think that threw the dynamic way off.

For a movie with only one real female character, you'd think they'd have handled her in a better way. Not only was she reduced to the aforementioned trophy for Reed and Doom to fight over, but also over the course of 90 minutes, how many times did she get half-naked on screen? Twice in public, one shot of her in nothing but a towel when Reed walks into the bathroom, and then the super-ridiculous shot of her when they introduce the space-suits, with the zipper half-way down to her naval. Another female character was Ben Grimm’s wife, who not only came off as superficial when she shuns him after his transformation, but when Ben calls his wife who is waiting for him at home in lingerie, she leaves her apartment, in New York, late at night, without putting a robe on! It was all a bit shameless... There was no real need for Alicia Masters to be there at all, and the actress playing her did an abominable job. I was relieved that I went with one of my guy friends instead of my girlfriend, as she would have been fuming.

And Doom, poor, poor Dr. Doom... while I didn't really mind his general design that much (I've heard a lot of "GQ" comments and quips from people about his new trench-coat instead of a cloak), it seemed absolutely no thought was put into him after the first act. The very first shot of the movie is Ben and Reed staring up at a statue of Doom being erected in front of his building. The fact that it was 20 feet tall and in front of an already massive building was unbelievably hard-core Dr. Doom. When the pair reaches his office, he's shrouded in darkness listening, sitting above the two of them... note perfect! I loved, loved, loved the design of his office, and thought they did a good job setting up his vanity and from that his jealousy of Reed... I pretty much did flips for the entirety of this movie before they get onto the space station.

Once there, logic takes a complete field day (SPOILER WARNING)... why was Doom in space with them? Why were they the only five people there, for that matter? How does Torch just walk out of the Doom complex when they’re quarantined, don't they have security? Where does he get a helicopter for snowboarding? When the Thing causes the huge pile-up and accident, the rest of the team just HAPPEN to be on the bridge, and able to get to him in moments?

The big introduction of the four using their powers was The Bridge Scene, and oh how I hated it. The whole thing was shoddy. After the Thing and Reed save some firemen, they're celebrated as heroes, despite the fact that the Thing was the cause of the mess to begin with. People don’t seem afraid of the giant orange rock monster at all. Johnny and Sue didn't really do anything terribly visible or big that would have gotten them the same attention of Reed and Ben, but they're labeled the Fantastic Four by the press immediately. Doom continues to spiral into madness by the fact that they get all the press, and their appearance sends his company’s stock into a windfall. Why wouldn't the fact that they were heroes and public media darlings bolster Doom's stock instead of dropping it?

More things that skipped logic were to come: If you're going to change Dr. Doom to the point of giving him electricity powers and making his skin metal, why put him behind a mask? My friend James actually yelled out reflexively "NO IT ISN'T!" when they said the temperature of the Sun was 4000 degrees.

For what was one of the most original comics of its time, they stole way too much from other movies for me to let it pass. The Human Torch "Going Nova" was "crossing the streams" from Ghostbusters, to the point where the lines "but that's bad" were taken right from the latter. The power chamber taking away the Thing’s powers was from Superman 2. While I can understand giving the Thing the heroic sacrifice of going back to a rock-monster, they took all the pathos out of the character at the end when he declines Reed’s offer to change him back to human. Doom’s arc was stolen almost completely from Spider-Man, but unlike Norman Osborne, Doom had no rhyme or reason to his actions. Green Goblin was well developed, and was crazy but attacked Spider-Man for a real reason. Doom seemed to become a super-villain just because. He did things because if he didn't, there would be no big fight at the end. Seeing one of the greatest villains in comics history reduced to this saddened me.

These are all script problems, and can be overlooked if the general craft of the movie is well done, if the action is compelling, and the special effects are shiny. But I was bored for a lot of this movie. I think Tim Story doesn't know how to pace action. He hasn't directed action before, so maybe he was a poor choice to direct. I can't really forgive the fact that I was bored during a movie with a guy who was on fire.

Damn if he didn't look good on fire. The torch effect was beautiful, as was the invisible girl's look. The Thing’s rubber suit looked too much like, well, a rubber suit for me, and I didn't like the CGI for Reed as much as I liked the way they used it. The image of him writing on the chalkboard six feet away was so perfectly Reed Richards to me. There were more iconic character bits they got right through the movie, the Thing crushing Johnny's car up really got a smile out of me. I think all the actors did as best they could within the limitations of what I felt to be a sub-par screenplay. Because when the page got the characters right, the actors seemed to run with it. Iaon Guffard doing Reed exceeded my expectations on every level.

In the end, what frustrated me was that they got so many things right that I loved, and still managed to muck a few, key things up so badly it ruined the experience for me. It was like if someone had edited Spider-Man and Elektra together, where one minute I'm completely into what's going on, and the next I'm either bored or appalled. Luckily it did well it's opening weekend, and still managed to hold on behind two huge movies (New Wonka and Wedding Crashers), so maybe we'll get a sequel? Generally Superhero sequels seem to be better than the first film, mostly because they can skip a lot of exposition and focus on characters. And past the flames, the stretchiness, and the rock-monsters, character is really what the Fantastic Four is about.