Tuesday, August 9, 2011

4 Years

Hello friends,

After more than four years of blogging, I am putting "Underpants on the Outside" on indefinite hiatus.

It's been a blast. Really. This site has been through a lot, and I loved writing here. It's a little weird to see it stop, I must say. A little weird, and a little sad.


But fret not. The reason I'm putting things around here on hold is because I'm moving over to a new, snazzy, website: "9to5".

I'm part of the founding crew, so you can be sure to see more of my comic book and movie posts, as always, along with a whole mess of other great stuff. Comic strips, pop culture, videos and podcasts. Bookmark it. Make it your home page. Visit every hour!

I'll see you there!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

First Look at Cavill as Supermann

Courtosy of CBR, here's the first shot of Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel.

Not too shabby.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Judge Dredd

FirstShowing.net has a bunch of photos up from the upcoming "Judge Dredd" movie, starring Karl Urban.

"I Yam Duh Luh!" indeed.

It's slated for release later this year.

I'm okay with more post-apocalyptic fare at the cinema, and Urban hasn't been bad in anything I've seen, so, I'm for it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Old is New

Avengers #221:

New Avengers #28
So close. If only Iron Fist was on that old cover. It's all about the call backs, people.

Monday, July 11, 2011

TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Comics Alliance has a nice little article up about the upcoming movie, as well as a flashy new trailer.

Looks fun.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shortpacked Delivers again

On the topic of overworked designs in costumes:

Whenever Shortpacked touches on Batman, it's always gold

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Game of Thrones Comic

The Wonderful folks at Comics Alliance have posted some promo art for the freshly announced Game of Thrones comic from Dynamite Comics.

Sexy Alex Ross covers. Winter is coming.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

DC Reboot: Batman and Kevin Smith

My least favourite Batman comic and my least favourite Kevin Smith work will remain in continuity in the DC Universe following the DC reboot.

Why? I cannot explain. It makes me sad, actually.

Thanks to Keith for bringing me this heartbreaking news.

Movie: X-Men: First Class

Risa and I went to see "X-Men: First Class" last night. Cheapie Tuesday movies, for the win.

The quick review; it was very good. As good as X2 in my opinion, and Risa liked it even better than that.

Spoilers may follow from this point on, so be warned, all ye who enter.

First off, director Matthew Vaughn has yet to direct a movie I don't like. His first three flicks were "Layer Cake" (which essentially got Daniel Craig the role as James Bond), "Stardust" and "Kick Ass". Are you asking how to make action movies that have strong characters and compelling drama? Talk to Matt Vaughn (I'm looking at you Michael Bay and Gavin Hood). The movie looks great, and is set in 1962 without it constantly beating you over the head with "Hey, it's 1962, folks! Look at those wacky 60's!" (The one part where that does happen is when Charles tells a woman her eyes are "groovy" while trying to pick her up in a bar, but it works.) The action scenes are bombastic, and are (thankfully) not riddled with "shakey-cam" so the viewer can actually appreciate what's going on.

The casting was pretty great for this movie. I was pleasantly surprised at this because I was not all that enthused as the casting was announced during pre-production. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender did great work as Charles Xavier and Magneto, and I both believed their friendship and their routes to different paths. Nicholas Hoult was Hank McCoy, and he looked picture perfect as a young and non-furry Beast, and really, I have no complaints about the rest of the team. They looked the part, and played it well enough for me. I did find it odd that they added Havok to the team, as he is supposed to be Cyclops' younger brother, and making him a teen in 1962 would but him well in his 60's now, but that's neither here nor there, and is mostly the fanboy in me being nitpicky. Mystique was also well played, and handled the development of being a self-loathing mutant with much more delicacy than the way it had previously been done with Rogue in the first trilogy.

Moving on.

The villains are headed up by Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw, who does play a menacing and evil character quite well. The rest of the Hellfire Club have the look, but don't add much more than their powers to the movie. Even January Jones, who I found took a choice role in Emma Frost and made her bland and a one-note character, losing her clever and catty dialogue and leaving behind only a hot body in revealing clothing. That's really a shame, but it doesn't take too much away from the overall experience. Azazel and Riptide also both looks cool, and get in on the action scenes, but don't really drive the movie forward. One thing Azazel does do, however, is show how bad-ass a demonic-looking teleporter assaulting a government institution could be. Oh wait...

If you don't know where Azazel comes from, his moronic origins were quite nicely explained over at Robot 6 last week. He's better in the movie than in the comics, it should be stated.

Look for a few great cameos/easter eggs during the film. They deliver. Also, the closing credits Saul Bass-esque design was wonderful. But there is nothing after the credits, so you don't have to sit there until the end. And lastly, this film was decidedly missing a Stan Lee cameo. *tsk*

To summarize, the movie is well written, well directed, and well acted. It was worth seeing, and is one of the better super hero movies made thus far. It exceeded my expectations, and I say, go see it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Skottie Young's Daily Warm-Ups

Skottie Young is one of my favorite artists. I bought a whole run of Cable and Deadpool just because he was doing the covers. Over on his blog, he regularly posts a selection of his daily warm up sketches, and they're pretty damned cool.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

So cool.

Movie: Conan The Barbarian Trailer

Grabbed this from Superhero Hype. I wasn't super sure about this, but seeing "A Game of Thrones" on HBO has helped win me over to Jason Momoa's side, and I think he can play a great barbarian warrior.

The Conan movie is slated for an August 19th release.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kids are Weird

I was in a restaurant a few weeks ago with my honey. It was past 10pm.

Two kids walked into the place. They were about 10 years old. They walked in the door, through the isle to the back of the place, and then back to the front door, leaving the place. The staff and clients were all left in awe, and it was obvious that no one knew what had just happened.

The kids were in costume, for no discernible reason.

One was dressed as Superman wearing a bunny mask and ears.

The other was dressed as Darth Vader Spider-man. Spider-suit, but with a full Vader helmet and chest piece. The chest-plate was making the heavy breathing sound effect.

These were the coolest kids ever.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What Is Best in Life? X-Men Arcade Game

Comics Alliance delivers this news to me today:

The 1992 X-Men Arcade game will be available for android devices.

"The arcade game's been available on gaming consoles for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade since the end of 2010, but the mobile version should be handy for those who game on the move. Android and iOS features include drop-in multiplayer via Wi-Fi for up to four mutants (all six of the original characters: Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and Dazzler), plus custom button placement on your device of choice's touch screen. Lefty's rejoice!"

Just as I'm about to begin shopping for a new phone, too.

Top Cow: First Look - Part 1

I picked up "Top Cow: First Look" last week, based on it's cover alone. The art didn't do much for me, but a 4.99 price tag was enough to entice me to give it a whirl. Actually, the rest of the cover design does leave something to be desired. It looks pretty lazily done, especially considering the goal of this book would be to entice new readers and sell them on what a great job Top Cow is doing.

The quick review: Top Cow is sort of doing okay, but not always.

I'll talk about the first three issues in the collection today, and save the next three for later.

First up is "Genius". Described by Top Cow:

"The Pilot Season 2008 winning team of Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman (The Authority) and Afua Richardson (Cyblade) returns with Genius-a story of a young African-American military genius taking over LA's gangs."

It sounds liek a silly concept, but it was a fun read with bits of cleverness peppered throughout (even if some of those clever bits illustrated how to be a better domestic terrorist). The concept is basically a young woman, raised in South Central Los Angeles, has risen to take over and unify the gangs in her city, and declares war on the oppressors of her people, the LAPD.

Bernardin and Freeman obviously take a lot of their influences from "Boyz n the Hood" and N.W.A., and the dialogue feels like it's trying to be authentic, without it actually being authentic. The plotting is solid, however, and the Origin tale of a modern day Sun Tzu is compelling.

Richardson's art is pop-y and looks good on the page, but sometimes he makes strange decisions and the storytelling breaks down. Odd halos around characters, silhouettes, and confusing camera angles made me, at times, have to go back and reread the page to try and figure out what was going on.

"Genius" was a fun, but sometimes sloppy, read.


Next up is "Sunset", tagged by the publisher as:
"Sunset by Christos Gage (Avengers Academy) and Jorge Lucas (The Darkness) tells the tale of an old Vegas enforcer on a quest for revenge in his twilight years."

I know Christos Gage from his work on IDW's GI Joe books, and I quite like the slow burn drama he's able to build. This one starts off very similarly to Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino", but there's a good twist at the end that stops it from being a heartwarming tale of the redemption of a cranky old man.

I hadn't really run across Jorge Lucas prior to this, but his art is serviceable, with similarities to Alex Maleev. I think he uses a bit too much digital processing, and it could benefit from a little more economy of the lines.

The set up was good, and I'm interested to see where Gage is taking the character, so this one was a pretty good preview. The benign beginning of the story is contrasted by the shock of the "ol' uber-violence" that jumps in at the end.

Comic Book Resources has an archived preview of the book here, if you wanna check it out.


Lastly, for today, is Mysterious Ways, which Top Cow describes thusly:

"Jason Rubin (The Iron Saint) and Tyler Kirkham (Green Lantern Corps) unveil the supernatural murder-mystery Mysterious Ways."

It's hard sometimes, I find, to review comics. This is usually true when I find a comic that I really do not like, and such is the case with "Mysterious Ways".

Right off the bat, Kirkham's art rubs me the wrong way, as it gave me a 1992 "Extreme Studios"/ Rob Liefeld vibe. Too many lines, too sketchy, and... an interesting take on the study of anatomy.

Once the art leaves me cold, it's very hard for a writer to bring me back into the fold, and in this case, Jason Rubin was not up to the task. The story, about an ex-con/former cop turned alcoholic who is possibly framed for a grisly murder is seemed in "Spawn"-like melodrama and lacks any real emotional content. The min character spends nearly the entire book drunk and that prevents the reader from ever getting a chance to relate to or engage him, and the mystery just sort of falls flat because there's no one to care about.


That's it for now. I'll review the other 3 issues in the book sometime later.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

DC Do-over?

It is being reported that DC Comics is... starting over.

All of it.

Everything you've read since Crisis in '86. That's done. Story over.DC comics will publish 52 #1 issues in September, rebooting their entire universe. I guess Superman can be an American again, now.

I dunno what to make of this. I am a huge fan of continuity, but at the same time, this isn't selective changing of the past, this is a fresh start for the entire line, and I think that can be a little bit interesting.

I'm sure I'll have more on this as my brain adjusts.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Movies: Thor

I finally went to see "Thor" this weekend, kicking off another big summer of comic book movies (next up is X-Men: First Class, with Green Lantern and Captain America to follow).

The quick review; Thor was fun. Be warned, for from here on in, spoilers will follow.

The movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh, the actor who does have some directorial experience, but mostly for Shakespearean adaptations (As you Like It, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing) and not for huge summer blockbusters.

(Two things here; the Branagh version of "Much Ado About Nothing" is one of my all time favorite movies, and if you are at all amused by sarcasm and whip-crack verbal exchanges, I highly recommend it. Secondly, on the topic of blockbusters, the Blockbuster video store in my neighborhood is going out of business. I worked there for 4 years when I was in college, and both of my sisters worked there after me, two years a pop. Internet/Netflix, this is on your shoulders, and while I do not mourn the late fees and the dusty shelves, there is something valuable in having a wisened clerk tell you that your choice is in fact an awful movie.)

Back to Branagh, he did a good job mixing the glories of Asgard with the humble American New Mexico, while at the same time, borrowing from "Iron Man" actor-turned-director Jon Favreau, and making the movie a light hearted action romp. Thematically, it is very close to the 2008 "Iron Man", in that a bad boy learns a valuable lesson about responsibility and mans up in time to save the day. (Also, SHIELD shows up to meddle a little bit.)

I'm amazed that the writing made as much sense as it did, considering this is the writing crew:

Writing credits

Ashley Miller (screenplay) (as Ashley Edward Miller) &
Zack Stentz (screenplay) and
Don Payne (screenplay)

J. Michael Straczynski (story) and
Mark Protosevich (story)

Stan Lee (comic book) &
Larry Lieber (comic book) &
Jack Kirby (comic book)

That is a lot of cooks for one broth, but they did okay. The movie also borrowed a bit from the great Walt Simonson run in the 80's, (like the Casket of Ancient Winters, amongst other things), so he should get a nod, too.

On to the casting. Chris Hemsworth as Thor was a far better pick than a)I expected, and b)the actor that played Thor in his first appearance in film. He does a good job of being both fierce and war-happy, and then softening up both to turn into a well rounded hero. He does a good job. Nathalie Portman plays Jane Foster, no longer a nurse, but now an astro-physicist. She's very good at playing a cute love interest, but it's not her finest role, and she plays it a little bit softer than she could have.

The star of the movie, for me at least, was Tom Hiddleston as Loki, who does an excellent job of playing the god of thunder's less-loved brother. He's very expressive on screen, often wearing an expression of pained resignation mixed in with just enough insincerity that makes you almost feel for him while at the same time knowing that you shouldn't and he's just faking you out. It's very subtle and it works wonderfully. Loki is the choice role of this film, and my favorite part of the script is that while Loki possesses the powers of an Asgardian and the skill of a wizard, he is at his most destructive when he is simply lying to people. The script is written so even the viewer is not certain when he's telling the truth or not, and that makes his inevitable betrayals even more devious, as the view now has to hate him for fooling him as well. It is really quite fun to watch.

The rest of Asgard is filled with great characters, and seeing Heimdall, Sif, the Warriors Three and Odin is really a treat for the fans of the comic, and shows you how a comic movie can be full of character without having them get in the way (I'm looking at you, Spider-Man 3).

All in all, "Thor" was good times, lived up to the trailer, and was worth seeing in the theaters.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Quick Links: May 17th

"Beast Wars" was often hit or miss for me. But when it was good, it was great.
Shout is offering the complete series for 50$. That's some good value for robots fighting. Ah Dinobot, you were so brave.
Comics Alliance has the new Tin Tin live action movie posters.

I am oddly enthused to see this movie.
Spinoff Online (and many other places) are reporting that the Wonder Woman pilot wasn't picked up. They submit that TV might be giving up on geeks (as Smallville also just wrapped up for good). I would prefer to think that Wonder Woman just wasn't that good a pilot, especially since the superhero movies have set the bar so high in terms of production value.
"Thor" seems to be doing well. I should get out to go see it, I guess.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Free Comic Book Day 2011: Spider-Man

I dropped all the Spider-Man books from my pull list following the "One More Day" storyline. That's a long, and completely separate story.

This year was the first year I have ever been able to participate in Free Comic Book Day. I always managed to be busy or out of town prior, so I was pretty excited. It was fun, and the atmosphere in the shops was really good. I see why it warrants all the hoopla.

I picked up a couple of free comics, and the first that I read was "Amazing Spider-Man" by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos. I figured that it would be a good test to see if Spider-Man was going to be a book I could look into picking up again or not.

Other reviewers seemed to like this book well enough, and I've never had any major issues with either Dan Slott (who I liked from his "Avengers: Initiative" work) and Humberto Ramos (who's "Crimson" is still something I like to re-read from time to time) both usually do good work, so I had a sense of enthusiasm getting into this issue. Maybe even hoping that things had turned around for the Spider-Man book, and I could hop back into it. I have just finished reading an Essential Spider-Man book, and it served to whet my appetite for more web-slinging action.

But this book? Meh.

Okay, I'll say, it's not terrible. It looks okay, and it's paced okay.

However, that's it. It's full of just being "okay", and it should have been, in my opinion, great enough to serve as a flagship for the entire Marvel line of comics.

Spoilers follow, be warned. Not in any great detail, but you know, this is the internet. I'm just doing my part.

  • Spider-Man fights the Mandrill, and he fights Spider-Woman because the Mandrill has possessed her.
The Mandrill fought them both not too long ago in "New Avengers". This seems like a cheap rehash of another book I already own. Also, "The Mandrill"? Really, Marvel? Not Doc Ock, or a Goblin, or any other of the web-spinner's iconic foes for this book, the one you're giving away to try and win new readers, but instead, the terminally silly Mandrill? For shame.

  • Spider-Man has lost his spider-sense.
Not really sure why. It's never really explained, at least not to my satisfaction. Spider-Man's powers going on the fritz is sort of a standard Spidey plot. I think that it's a bit lazy on the part of Dan Slott to trot out this old, "tried and true" trope for Spider-Man. It doesn't feel fresh, it doesn't feel innovative. I'm just going to assume he got hit by a pumpkin bomb full of strange gas, and that's what caused it. Sounds about right.

  • The Master of Kung-Fu, Shang Chi, teaches Spider-Man kung fu in order to help him compensate for the loss of his spider sense.
This little plot point, I like. It was sort of jammed into the story, but really, you'd think a guy like Peter Parker who is constantly getting his butt whupped would take a class at the Y or something. I mean, he pals around with Captain America and with Iron Fist all the time. This was a cool little idea that I liked a lot.

  • They call his new style "spider fu".
Yeah. They call it that.


Was this book arduous to read? No, in general it was okay, but I think that as a Free Comic Book Day offering, it was a failure, as this book did nothing to make me want to shell out four bucks a pop for more.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Superman: Global Citizen - (The World has Gone Mad)

Superman is no longer an American.

The internet is now ablaze.

Look at some of these comments from the Comics Alliance article:
  • robo: One more reason why I will never buy another DC comic again. Marvel is almost as bad. News flash: Liberalism is bad for business you morons.
  • Eggman: The great thing about America as of the posting, is that I can decide where to spend my money, and it won't be with DC anymore. This PC crap is enough to make me vomit.
  • Charlie X: Yet another perversion of an American institution by a group of Liberal Socialist "New World Order" turncoats who I think might find a more illuminated point of view if they moved away from this country and its freedoms. They continue to try and rot America from the inside and attack everything patriotic. Enough Already!
Wow. There are hundreds more posts like this, just on Comics Alliance alone.

Bleeding cool has collected a bunch of
comments from pros in the business. These are a few of my favs:

  • Ethan Van Sciver: I just recommend a letter writing campaign, now that DC Comics has letters columns again, demanding to see Superman carrying an American flag into space again. Let the editors know it matters to you that Superman remains an American icon. They’ll listen.
  • Stephen Wacker Got some angry letters today from people mad at Marvel about what we did to Superman.
  • Dan Lawlis: Is there any doubt the comic book industry is dominated by Godless anti-American leftwing extremists? No. And this is exactly why I don’t miss working in the comic book field.

  • Ethan Van Sciver continues to be one of the least likable people I've ever met in the comics field, and basically alienates me further as a non-American comic book reader. Steve Wacker's comment, however, was comedy gold.

    Comments on the internet are crazy and they are everywhere.

    On the LA Times Article:
    • More leftist garbage from an America-hating clown who happens to be a comic book "author"...nothing like comic books to teach kids how to hate America like punks such as him already do. Posted by: Verballistic

    USA Today:
    • Oyster P: So now the liberal pukes have their hand in one of the best comics out there. That's one way to brainwash the minds of our youth to their American hating ways.
    • Steelbird: If this happens, I will be renouncing Action-Comics. Not one penny of my money will go to ANY of their products. Leftist pigs!!!!!!

    (I'm going to say wow a lot, in this piece, I think. People on the internet are amazing me today.)

    The Washington Examiner's Christian Tappe has these...opinionated words to share in his op-ed article:

    "Superman will be renouncing his U.S. Citizenship. Because apparently comic books still exist and people still read them I guess.

    Regardless of circulation and readership, the Man of Steel, will no longer be America’s own, but rather a citizen of the world.

    As the scintillating and super realistic dialogue of the comic says, “The world’s to small, too connected—which is why I intend to speak before the United Nations tomorrow and inform them that I’m renouncing my U.S. citizenship.” Some guy who I don’t know then answers incredulously and profoundly, “What?” And then Superman responds: “I’m tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy.”

    This drastic decision was brought about because for some reason Superman was in Iran helping out non-violent protestors or something like that.

    On the one hand, whatever. It’s a comic. And, um, Superman is an illegal alien anyway, literally. And, again, it’s a comic.

    On the other hand, Superman is—or at least was—an American icon, standing up for truth, justice, and the American Way. And while America succumbs to a multiculturalism where morals and tradition are generally rendered moot, Superman stood for a code, and honor, and goodness. He represented everything great about America: strength, conviction, and unwavering principles."

    Again, wow.

    Here's the thing that gets me the most. The people who hate this story, the one who hate it the most, these are the same people that hate the current government in the U.S. They're the ones who call their own president a Commie and a traitor and say that America is going to hell in a hand basket. They spew such anti-American sentiment themselves...and when a fictional comic book character says, "Yeah, I'm not gonna represent the U.S." they lose their minds.

    Even better is the fact that there are people who demand that the president of the U.S. show them his birth certificate while at the same time hate the fact that the last son of Krypton is no longer identifying as American.

    Fox News, somehow, manages to be pretty relaxed in their reporting of the story. That's a little surprising, but it's okay. They have their comments section to balance it out.

    • patriotshammer : LOOK, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, No it's a Can O' SPAM.... What has happened to our heroes of our childhood??? Hollywood has neutered all of these Heroes, fortunately we still have Heroes in Our Servicemen and Women... I Love My Country, but loathe my Gov't, for what it has done to denigrate this Nation to the world!!! VOTE CONSERVATIVE IN 2012!!!
    • savage_eagle : Good bye superman............take all the pretenders in Californica with you please !
    • dlkyk : Superman, whose next??? Sad that some progressive writer needs to beat up any country.
    This one is my favorite comment from the Fox site:
    • john_q_militia : Superman = GAY.

    Now, I know that this is not all Americans that think this way (or don't think at all). I know that. But there are so many of you that are on the internet writing about how mad you are that you disagree with Superman that I just had to write about it. Because it's ridiculous. To those people that are writing these comments and feeling this indignation, you sound like petulant children. Stop it. Stop it an go to your room until you're ready to come out and behave yourselves. You are embarrassing yourselves, and your ancestors would be ashamed of you. Stop acting out like spoiled, rotten little kids, stop being bullies and brats, and just chill the fuck out.

    You're making your whole damned country look bad, and when you do that, it upsets me, because it inevitably spills over into mine.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    Quick Links - April 27th

    The Cool Kids have a post about why Forge is the worst of the X-Men today. They're right, Forge was a terrible X-Man. Really, fuck that guy, he's always so whiny and he has led a life of failure.

    Apparently, there is a Royal wedding motion comic app. Yeah, I knows. I knows.

    Green Lantern is adding 9 Million dollars to it's special effects budget. A little late in the game to be messing with the SFX, I think. How bad did it look?

    The first image from the Avengers movie set is out, over at Comics Alliance. I am giddy with anticipation.

    Essential Spider-Man, volume 4

    I picked this up last year at the Montreal Comicon on the cheap, and it sat on my bookcase for a few months. I finished reading it a few weeks ago, and wanted to do a quick write-up, but haven't managed to until now.

    Essential Spider-Man, volume 4 contains issues of Amazing Spider-Man 69-89, and the 4th and 5th annuals, which were published from 1969 to 1971. Stan Lee is the writer for these books, and the art is by some of the great Marvel crew of that era; John Romita Sr., Sal Buscema, and Gil Kane.

    When reading these issues, I felt that this was the "Classic" Spider-Man. By that I mean that there was such an iconic presentation of the character in these 22 issues that the character would forever be measured up against these books. Peter Parker goes through all the stereotypical Peter Parker problems and somehow manages to persevere. It's almost funny how these issues laid out Pete's life so that if ever he tried to break from this routine, his fans would never hear of it. The archtype for his "Parker luck" is just hammered home by Lee in nearly every issue, and becomes as important to the character as his web-spinning or his spider sense.

    Some of the trials and tribulations that Peter goes through include:
    • Aunt May gets sick. Peter has to fight a bad guy, and can't be there to look after her. Anna Watson disapproves.
    • Aunt May Gets sick. Peter worries about money to help support her.
    • Peter gets fired by J. Jonah Jameson.
    • Peter gets rehired when Jonah wants some great photos Peter took.
    • Peter forgets to photograph a fight he has as Spider-Man, even though he needs money.
    • Peter misses a date with his girlfriend because of his hero duties.
    • His girlfriend is mad at him, but forgives him.
    • Flash Thompson hits on Peter's girlfriend.
    • Harry Osborn is disappointed that his roommate Peter is never around.
    • Peter thinks he should quit being Spidey because of the affect it has on the rest of his life.
    It seems almost silly, until you think that it is these books that helped make this the stereotype for Spider-Man. I guess that makes it okay, but I'm hard pressed to understand why so many fans want this Spidey back. It's fun to read for a bit, but after a few issues, the melodrama gets tough to slog through.

    Volume four has some good fights, too, so it's not all drama all the time. Mysterio, Kingpin, The Lizard, Electro, The Shocker and Doctor Octopus all show up to get their licks in, and Spidey also tangles with heroes in The Human Torch, Black Widow and Quicksilver. Some lesser known baddies also show up, like The Chameleon, the Prowler, the Kangaroo, Silvermane and Man Mountain Marko, so there's a good tilt almost every issue, and that helps to keep things moving.

    My favorite part of this book is how serial the storytelling is. Everything keeps flowing forwards, and it is pretty easy to feel out the whole of Spider-Man's world, more so than in any modern incarnation of the character. The writing follows a pretty simple formula, and the sub-plots that are introduced play themselves out nicely and are tied off once they have run their course. Stan Lee keeps throwing stuff at the read, and keeps pushing the story forward, it doesn't really matter that very little of actual consequence happens (the Spider-Man in issue #69 is not very different than the Spider-Man of issue #89).

    All in all, I enjoyed these books. I liked Gwen Stacy, and I liked the non-stop parade of rogues that menaced New York. I don't need this era to be recreated though, as it's already been done, but hey, at least Spidey doesn't do much singing.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Challenger Deep

    I picked up Boom Studios' "Challenger Deep" a couple of weeks ago. Written by Andrew Cosby and Andy Schmidt, with art by Chee, I picked it up for two reasons:

    • The cover was simply beautiful.
    • I wanted to blog about something that wasn't super hero related.
    I read a lot of mainstream comics, so I end up writing about them a lot too. I try to mix it up, but sometimes that takes a little forethought when I'm in ye olde comick shoppe.

    Boom has a few preview pages of the book here. The art is at times very pretty and at others, very sketchy.

    I liked the story of the book, which is that a nuclear submarine has sunk into one of the deepest areas of the ocean, one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, and if a rescue team is not sent down, not only will the crew die, but the world will end in a nuclear chain reaction.

    I like the plot. It's dire. It lends itself to anxious moments and it has potential.

    However, I found that the execution was less than perfect.

    There are times where this book really has the opportunity to show that this is the most dangerous and isolated place on the planet, and that the world is at stake, but the writers get a little too caught up in dialogue, and tense scenes end up turning into "Tarantino-light" pages. The artist also fails to help out the mood, often zooming in when he should be zooming out to use negative space to highlight the feelings of isolation the characters (and thus the reader) should be feeling.

    I feel like this was a project designed to be optioned to film, rather than a fully developed offering for comic fans. Interesting, and not terrible to read, but never really living up to the potential it could have achieved.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Scott Pilgrim Art

    Bryan Lee O'Malley posted some new cover art for the Scott Pilgrim books and their publication in Japan.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Hyper-Active 5 Year Olds

    I originally wrote this piece nine years ago when I was writing for a webzine called Tangmonkey. You can find the original article here. I cleaned it up and edited it a little bit, but it is essentially the same story.

    This one has a little more to do with me and why I love comic books more than comics themselves. It's also a little sappy. Be forewarned.


    I still have the first comic I ever read.

    It is the Justice League of America issue #102.

    I was five years old when I read it for the first time. I was visiting my grandparents in Sherbrooke, Quebec (a smaller town, about two hours east of Montreal). I was tearing their relative peace to shreds, the way five year olds are apt to do. I was running around, banging pots and hollering, when my grandfather, a little desperate to calm his sugar-high grandson down, went into the storage closet and pulled out a box of comic books that my uncles had left behind when they moved out, decades earlier.

    That is when I saw it.

    The cover had Superman on the cover. Batman too. I instantly became the model grandchild, sitting quietly reading for the rest of the weekend. I was transfixed by this comic. I didn’t really understand it, yet this didn’t matter to me. There were words, and I read them, and there were pictures, and I loved them. There were heroes, and they wore brightly coloured costumes, and there was action enough to go around for everyone.

    Over the years, my trips to the Sherbrooke continued. My Father would drop my sisters and I off with his family often enough, and every time I went, be it Christmas, summer vacation, or March break, I knew that I would have those comics waiting there for me. I’d sit out on the patio or in the guest bedroom and read them and reread them. There were about a hundred comics in total, and a great many of them had been scotch taped to hold the covers on. My uncle Bruce apparently had a penchant for drawing beards on the Archies and the Justice League, but my issue, the beloved Justice League 102, was spared this fate. It was worn, but it was whole and unsullied.

    As I got older and grew into my teens, I metamorphosed into what most teens do, a wise-assed brat. I really didn’t see the need to have to go visit my grandparents for the weekend when there was a chance I could “hang out” with my friends. I would sulk in the car for the two hour drive over Mount Orford, antagonizing my sisters who were trapped in the back seat with me as much as possible to ensure that the entire car was as miserable as I was for this trip. I would get there and be as anti-social as I could possibly be, hiding in the back room with the comics, trying to avoid human contact and express my opposition to this oh-so-unfair punishment I was being put through using a social strike.

    Me and my sister Katie. You can see the issue in my hands.
    These trips, my grandfather would come in back to ask me to come to the Depanneur with him so he could get his lottery tickets. My Grandfather had led a hard life, one where many of his hardships were self inflicted. He had turned it all around with age, though, and became one of the most genial and gentle people I have ever known. He didn’t smoke or drink anymore, so his one vice was a few bucks a week on scratch tickets, hoping to win. He would promise me a new comic, if I came along with him, and for that thirty-minute ride, we would chat. He was a big baseball fan, avidly following the Montreal Expos beck when they still wore their baby blue road uniforms. Even in my most angsty teen-aged years, he was a man that was impossible to be catty with, and his ability to be social is something I covet to this day. When we would get to the store, I’d study which comic I wanted the most while he grated off a few tickets with a penny.I would choose the one (looking back at these comics, I’ll accept that as a child I had dubious taste), and we’d be back in the car. It was good.

    Well, My grandpa died a few years later. He had a heart attack and didn’t make it. I life lived hard is rarely one lived long, so they say. My Grandmother gave me the box of comics to take home with me as she cleaned up and cleaned out their apartment. When I moved out, and took them with me.

    I don’t really get to talk to that side of the family anymore, but I still have that box of beat up and battered comics, and reading them every now and again makes me feel like a hyper-active five year old calming down quietly in that guest bedroom, distracted and happy.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Savage Dragon Archives, vol 1

    I just finished reading my copy of the Savage Dragon Archives volume 1, by Erik Larsen. Larsen was one of Image Comics' founding fathers, leaving Marvel along with Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld to start their own studio and basically get rich and famous. They were star artists determined to make it on their own, and generally, they did.

    What they did not do, however, was bring any writers along with them.

    Now, in their defense, at that time, they didn't really need to. The comics they made sold well. Very well, and the product they were producing was exactly what the market was demanding at the time. Splashy art, sex and violence, strong dynamic page layouts. Eye candy, all the way.

    But I read this book last week, so I can only review it with my 2011 mindset. I mean, they're selling the book for people to read today, so it's not like they expect people to buy it and time-travel back to the 90's to understand where it's coming from.

    The archives format is basically the same as Marvel's "Essential" or DC's "Showcase" collections. Lots of comics, printed in black and white on newsprint and sold at a lower price point. I like this format a lot, as it is a good, cheap way to get caught up on a series, getting lots of books for a good price. This book collected the mini-series (1-3) and the first 21 issues of the ongoing series. Good stuff there.

    Oddly, the book is not broken up into issues. There are no reprints of the covers, and all the text is removed from the intro pages, so you can never really tell when one issue ends and another begins. This is a unique and confusing decision by the publisher, an in my opinion it detract from the reading experience.

    The art in the book is very strong, even in black and white. Larsen had worked at Marvel on both "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Spider-Man", and you can tell that he's got the chops when reading this book. Larsen also excels at creative character design, as you can see with this drawing of "Openface". Larsen has a great ability to make his characters look unique in comparison to each other, and they stand out as decidedly "Erik Larsen-esque". The issues do lose something in black and white (most notably characters like She-Dragon, who is supposed to differentiate herself solely by being green), but overall Larsen's art is strong enough to withstand the loss of hue.

    The main failing of this book is the fact that it is so loosely plotted that it lacks depth. In his FAQ, Larsen states:

    "My target audience is older Marvel readers who are about ready to throw in the towel on comics altogether. It's the missing link between Marvel and Vertigo. More mature than Marvel--less pretentious than Vertigo. The kind of comics I want to read. This book is REALLY self-indulgent."

    I have no problem with a book being self indulgent. That's fine. However the book is not really "more mature than Marvel" so much as it has more mature content than Marvel. Sexual content and graphic violence is all fine and good, but it does not make the book a more mature work, so much as it makes it less appropriate for young readers.

    I want to be clear, here. I like the Savage Dragon, and the few times I've traded emails with Mr. Larsen, he's been engaging and forthright.

    But The Savage Dragon Archives can barely go two pages before Dragon get's into a huge brawl. Month to month, it didn't seem to bother me, as a good slobber-knocker was a fun read in an issue. When reading them all collected into a single book, however, really highlights the lack of story, and 24 issues in a row with such mimimal plot or character development is a little off-putting. It's a little bit like reading a blow-by-blow recap of Wrestlemania, and that's not as fun as it could be. It just left me feeling a little empty after plowing through hundreds of pages of comic and not really having any deeper understand of who any of the characters are, except that they are all pretty tough in a fight.

    Dragon does team up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, though, and that's gotta be worth something.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Design: Fonografiks

    Fonografiks has been reworking the design of trade paperbacks and giving them a decidedly retro feel. Worn out, decades old, and really cool looking. Check out their DeviantArt gallery for all of them, but these are my favorites:

    There's a whole slew of them at the gallery, so check it out.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Quick Links - March 9th (Spidey Edition)

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Batman: The Widening Gyre

    (This review will contain spoilers. Be warned.)

    I like Kevin Smith. I think he's funny. (Not as funny as Scott Mosier, but that's neither here nor there.) I listen to his podcasts weekly, and watch his movies.

    Kevin also writes comics. My favorite comic work of his was his run on "Green Arrow". It was a great read, and if you haven't checked it out yet, I would recommend it, as I find it has held up well over the last ten years.

    I heard that Smith had done a Batman book. I had heard that it was critically panned, and Kevin mentioned it himself in a podcast, defending his work against the critics. And there were critics. John Barringer from A Comic Book Blog said:

    "Kevin Smith, at least for me, has pushed Batman’s character past his envelope."

    Chris Simms at Comics Alliance was less charitable:

    "Kevin Smith's Batman stories are the worst Batman comics I've ever read, and while I haven't actually read them all, I've read enough that I'm pretty comfortable in declaring them the worst Batman comics ever."

    Now, I like to think I march to the beat of my own drum, and I can get behind some projects that maybe are not the most popular. That, and since I generally enjoy the work that Smith has done, in and out of comics, meant that I would happily give "The Widening Gyre" a shot, and I ordered the hard cover and read the book.

    I came to my conclusions about this book almost immediately, and I put off writing this review for almost a month now, hoping to temper them with time.

    That didn't really happen.

    "The Widening Gyre" is the worst Batman comic I've read.

    I should have heeded the advice of the critics. It is achingly bad. As I read the book, I would audibly sigh or mutter in disapproval. It was a disappointment on every level save one, the fine cover art by Bill Sienkiewicz, and even that seems as wasted as lipstick on a pig. It also serves to remind you how poor the art inside the book is, as Walt Flanagan is often disappointing in his pencils.

    The book disappointed me on nearly every level. The writing was juvenile and wildly inconsistent. The plot devices are seeped in frat-boy humour and show a lack of research, both in the outside world and within the DC Universe. (Poison Ivy tries to stop Batman by, essentially, getting him really high on marijuana. Worse yet, it nearly works.) It is overly rife with sexual innuendo that really seems to be played for laughs rather than to add to the story in any progressive way.

    The entire book reads as if it were created by Jay and Silent Bob, legendary pot heads, and not professional writer Kevin Smith. There is nothing in this story of any substance, just an endless parade of sex jokes, drug jokes, and one instance where Batman admits to urinating involuntarily in his costume. (Kevin Smith took a hard stance defending that last point in his podcast, but it is really hard to take his defense seriously given the content of the rest of the book, i.e. Aquaman's dolphins eavesdropping on Batman getting laid in the ocean.)

    On top of the poor art and ill-advised use of humour, there are several inconsistencies in the characterization of Batman himself. In one scene, Batman is paranoid that his new girlfriend may be a robot, so he assaults her and rips some of her hair out for testing. Yet he'll invite a stranger into the Batcave without so much as plugging the guy's name into google. The whole series is riddled with gaping plot holes like this. It's all over the place, and feels a little like Smith just doesn't care. He got it done, it made him laugh and he shipped it off. The editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan DiDio should have their wrists slapped.

    If I can make one recommendation to you about comic books, it would be to avoid "The Widening Gyre". If you like Kevin Smith and you want to read one of his comics, go pick up "Green Arrow: Quiver" instead.