Thursday, October 21, 2004

Blast from the past

Apparently someone at DC has (a) a long memory and (b) the same taste as I. How else to explain this:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

This is an upcoming action figure of the Composite Superman, a villain who first appeared in World's Finest #142, and then again in #168. Yep. Twice. I'm guessing he was as difficult to write as Superman himself sometimes became, simply because there wasn't much he couldn't do: He possessed the combined powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes, including Superman himself. (Well, Supergirl.)

How did our heroes defeat a threat so powerful? Well... They didn't. They got their rear ends handed to them. Really. Will Pfeifer has the details. Or you could just read the original here. (Note: The previous/next links at the bottom of some pages are miscoded: Use the individual page links at the top.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Wednesday funnies

At least I'm not alone. Some think it's outrageous, some think it's just a dumb idea, but nobody seems to like the turn of this plot.
Howling Curmudgeons | So, about Amazing Spider-Man 512...
Okay, uhm... Is this for real? These guys seem to think this is for real. Are they right? Jeff Lester over at The Savage Critic is treating it like this is real and not a gigantic hoax. Is this an actual, honest to God J. Michael Straczynski storyline in Amazing Spider-Man?

...I've always wondered that Norman Osborn got anyone to sleep with him in the first place in order to create Harry: if the story was really about how Harry was in fact an artificially-aged clone of Norman that came out messed up because the cloning process didn't work right, I could believe that a lot more readily than the idea that a middle-aged Norman Osborn could get someone to have sex with him without rohypnol or some Goblin version of it. Add in some teenaged kids born from the illicit union between Gwen and Norman and we're in full-bore lunacy land.

Part of me is thinking this has to be some kind of clone scam. It has to be J. Michael Straczynski poking fun at the Clone Saga in some sly fashion by having Norman have spent his time in Europe raising clones made with his DNA and that of Gwen. Maybe he even teamed up with the Jackal... he knows how to make clones and fast-age them, that might make some kind of insane sense.

What does it say about this comic book that I find the idea I just postulated as more plausible than the one supposedly being introduced in the book?
Hey, JMS just got through telling us that it wasn't the radioactive spider after all, that Peter got his powers from the Great Spider-Totem. No, really. (See Amazing Spider-Man #506-508.)
Brian Hibbs' Savage Critic | Spoiler, Spoiler, Spoiler / I Made You Out Of Clay...
I really, really, really hate what JMS has done here. Retconning things so that Gwen Stacy slept with Norman Osborn and then produced genetically shaky offspring obsessed with killing off perceived shitty parent Peter Parker is just ass, plain and simple. I can understand the hook's allure for Straczynski, and don't think it's simply cynical gamesmanship on his part. The idea deepens and justifies the emnity between Pete and Osborn; it makes Osborn much more of an evil calculating prick; it makes for a high stake story; and it closes up any question that Mary Jane isn't the best woman in the world for Pete, destroys the perfect gleaming image of Gwen Stacy that makes the marriage between Mary Jane and Peter seem a little off or wrong or second-best. From the point of view of a writer with a wicked hook and a checklist of story objectives, the idea makes sense.

From every other point of view, however, it is an awful and shitty decision that makes absolutely no sense.
And, so far, we still don't know who raised these kids. But Gwen didn't seem too worried about them a couple of months later, when she was running around Antarctica in a bikini. No, really. (See Amazing Spider-Man #103-104.)
postmodernbarney | Thank You Marvel
I really enjoy having to tell parents that they may want to inspect a Spider-Man comic for content before buying it for their four year old. I don't want to have to be the one having to explain to a little kid what the Green Goblin is doing to Spider-Man's girl-friend in that panel, do you?
I thought we'd established that kids don't read these things any more. Funny what a movie tie-in will do.

For the record, I was getting a little tired of Saint Gwen, too, and it wasn't fair to Mary Jane to have her memory haunting her relationship with Peter, but Gwen boffing the Goblin wasn't what I had in mind.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Do they lunch together, or what?

Proving once again that in comic books no idea ever strikes only once: Two months ago in Identity Crisis #2 it was revealed that Sue Dibny was raped by Dr Light, and Saint Barry (er, I mean, the Flash) cast the deciding vote to mess with his mind. Now, in Amazing Spider-Man #512, we learn that the father of the children of the silver age's other saint, Gwen Stacy, was Norman (the Green Goblin) Osborn. (Well, okay, it wasn't really a comparable situation. Gwen wasn't raped, she was seduced by the sheer power of Osborn's personality. Something else I really didn't need to see happen on-panel.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

"Don't bring the 'real world' into the ACTUAL comics."

While I'm waiting to be retrieved by my great-to-the-fifteenth-or-so grandson, Brian Hibbs is saying what I meant to say about Identity Crisis. Since I seem to be incapable of saying it myself (or so I must conclude), I'll point you there. Excerpt:
Execution, skill, craft, passion, this is clearly Very Good, but because the absolutely wrong set of characters were picked to tell this story, I also think it's Awful. I think both things at once.
I would only modify this to say that I am withholding final judgement until the miniseries concludes, just as David Welsh says I should:
You’re trying to judge the comic based on individual chapters: Obviously, this is madness. Sure, DC is publishing IC in a monthly format, but that doesn’t entitle you to evaluate it on a chapter-by-chapter basis.
(I should point out that Welsh intends this as sarcasm.)
Be reasonable. Spend $4 a month, just in case it might make sense later. It’s the least you can do. Then, after you’ve shelled out $30, you can say how much you hate it. You’ll still be wrong, but you won’t be hamstrung in this manner.
Tell you what, DC: Publish the collected trade first, I'll buy it, and then we'll both be happy, right? (At San Diego Comicon, DC said the trade is scheduled for November 2005.)

Maybe not. They keep claiming they don't--can't!--make money on the trades, that they only way the business model works is with regular monthly sales of 32-page pamphlets for $3. Or, in IC's case, 40-page pamphlets for $4, since Meltzer is a Real Author.

This needs some further thought.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Who's buying these things?

I'll never be as interested in comics as I was twenty years ago. There was a time I bought everything on the stands (much of which is still in my attic getting brown and brittle: it might be time to sort through it and hit eBay). These days, I'm much more selective.

You have to be. Batman alone, for instance, carries four monthly titles (about to be five, when the tie-in to his new cartoon show begins) and his "extended family" of books account for four more (not counting peripherals like "Birds of Prey" and numerous limited series). For Superman the corresponding count is 3 and 0, having been scaled back since his supporting cast is not currently considered strong enough to carry their own books.

This also doesn't count team books. Teen Titans (currently a three-title franchise, thanks to their cartoon show and "The Outsiders", which features most of the founding Titans under new names) could be considered a Bat-book, since Robin or Nightwing is the central character in all of them. Justice League (also with a second companion monthly based on the cartoon) features both Superman and Batman.

(I won't even talk about Marvel's EIGHTEEN X-men books.)

But DC's big success story, and it's current best seller, is Superman/Batman. For purposes of editorial jurisdiction, it's considered a Superman book, but Batman drives it, both dramatically and in sales. The fact that it's written by the popular Jeph Loeb doesn't hurt. (I'm dating myself when I wistfully wish that they'd called it "World's Finest", but that's a topic for another day.)

So, how well does it sell? Diamond International (comics distributors) doesn't like to say. Their monthly sales numbers aren't raw sales, but an index of how well a book sells compared to Batman (which is deemed for these purposes to be a rock-hard consistent seller, an assumption that raw numbers, when available, don't seem to justify). That is, Batman's index is always 100: Superman: Birthright's index this month is 49, meaning they sold forty-nine copies of Birthright #12 for every hundred copies of Batman #630. Or, put another way, about one copy for every two.

Could this be any more obtuse?

Anyway: Superman/Batman #11's index is 208. (S/B's numbers were always pretty good, but at the moment fan-favorite artist Michael Turner is drawing a six-issue arc featuring the introduction -- re-introduction? return? -- of Kara, the Supergirl from Krypton. I've mentioned it before. It's an eagerly-awaited story, and sales are through the roof.) But how many copies is that, exactly?

Fortunately, you only need hard numbers on one book to throw the whole chart into Excel, crunch the numbers and get sales for the industry. (I shouldn't have to do this. What other industry makes their sales figures so difficult to get?) Equally fortunately, icv2.com has already done this, and Comicon.com has generated sales and trends for DC for the last year (possibly Marvel, too, but I couldn't find that).

Superman/Batman #10 (the most recent for which this calculation has been done) sold an estimated 178,865 copies in its first month of release. Since DC does subsequent printings (Marvel doesn't: that too is a topic for another day), sales can continue past that point, bringing S/B's total to 192,570.

That's a phenomenal number for comic books these days.

Batman sold 72,020: Birthright sold 34,829. Batman Adventures (the cartoon tie-in) sold 12,042. Batman Adventures is #152 of Diamond's top 300 selling comics for the month. Can you imagine what sales must be like for the other 148?

In light of these sales figures, comic books achieve a disproportionate amount of media awareness. There's not a schoolkid anywhere in the country (and not many grown-ups) who doesn't know who Batman is. You'd think these books would be selling in the millions. They once did.

Elsewhere in the AOL empire, TIME magazine's circulation is about 4 million in the US, 5.5 worldwide.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Trivia

Just in case you were under the impression that comic books were anything other than disposable entertainment for the kiddies.
Tampa Tribune | Comics Fans Entertain Fantasy At Convention
Kay Henderson knew she had something valuable among a stash of old comic books.

The 10-cent Dick Tracy comic, and a stack of Little Big and Big Big books were never going to interest her grandchildren.

"They don't know who Dick Tracy was," she said.

On Sunday Henderson collected about $200 for the Dick Tracy, which pitted Chester Gould's rock-jawed detective against a mysterious villain with no face. Paul Dyroff, a collector and comic book vendor from Lake Mary, said the vintage Tracy might climb to $300 on resale.

...Ethan Van Sciver, who was at Sunday's event, will also return. Van Sciver was chosen as the artist for "Return of Hal Jordan," a new Green Hornet comic. It is expected to create significant buzz among collectors, said Tim Gordon, the convention's organizer and owner of Tim Gordon Comics in St. Petersburg.

"This is a new Green Hornet story that brings Hal Jordan back to life," he said.

Oh, by the way, Ms Reporter Person: You've badly misquoted Mr Gordon. "Return of Hal Jordan" is not the name of the book: It's Green Lantern: Rebirth. It's not about the Green Hornet, and he wouldn't have told you it was.

I realize this must look pretty trivial to you, and on some level it certainly is. It's only a comic book. It's the kind of mistake you make when you aren't really paying attention to the person you're talking to. People do it all the time.

But these days, comic books aren't something you buy with the dime you save by skipping the milk with your lunch at school. The people who buy them are also the people who buy other things. Maybe even the people who make the decision whether to subscribe to a newspaper. And these people, people who'll spend $200 for a Dick Tracy comic, people who know the difference between a Hornet and a Lantern, well, they aren't going to subscribe to yours if they see this. If you got something this simple wrong, they'll ask themselves, what else do you get wrong?

It's hard to sell subscriptions: It's easy to lose 'em. How many subscribers can you afford to lose?

Friday, July 30, 2004

While I wasn't paying attention...

I've been so distracted by recent events in DC's Identity Crisis that I haven't been paying attention to the big summer event over at Marvel, Avengers Disassembled.

Marvel.com realizes that you can't tell the players without a scorecard, so they've created one: A bingo-card grid with pictures of the thirty characters affected by the "Disassembled" storyline, coded for dead, missing or "just plain nuts" and a note explaining how and in which comic. (Sorry, I can't link to it: You'll have to look for the "Disassembled Watchlist" at Marvel.com.) "Balder: Tagged and Bagged"? "Iron Man: Hissy Fit at the U.N."? "Jack of Hearts: Blowed Up Real Good"? And the card is headlined "Who Gets It Next?"

"Identity Crisis" looks downright sedate by comparison.

A new issue of Spider-Man is out, so now we know, or think we know, who those masked figures are: They're (spoilers ahoy) Peter's children. See, Gwen Stacy disappeared for a few months back before she was killed, and it turns out she was pregnant when she left and had twins while she was gone. (She never had a chance to tell Peter about them before she was killed by the Green Goblin.) They are grown-up and resentful now and looking to kill both Spider-Man and Peter Parker. And lucky them, they've just learned that their targets are the same person.

But wait a minute. It's been well established that comic book time isn't like real time, since characters age much more slowly than they should. If Peter has adult children (and for all Pete's shock, he doesn't seem to question the possibility of the timeline), that raises a question: How old is Peter Parker?

Okay, I understand. Comics are currently undergoing a transition. It might be birth throes, it might be death rattles, but it's definitely a metamorphosis. It's pretty clear that it's been years since comics were written for kids, but with both of the Big Two companies having instituted a form of reader classification, and both publishing comics that actually are intended for kids (Marvel has a "Marvel Age" imprint and a formal rating system, DC has a reborn "Johnny DC" mascot who appears on comics for younger readers), they're also formally tweaking their "mainstream" line to cater to the high school and college-age readers (and older, emotionally stunted readers like me, I suppose) who are their primary audience.

Of the two, DC seems to be handling it better. Two mini-series in current release are bookending and redefining the "Silver Age" of comics: One, DC: The New Frontier, is set in the late fifties/early sixties, as a new generation of heroes works to serve, protect, and earn the trust of "normal" people: The other, Identity Crisis, happens "now" but flashes back to an traumatic event at, or near, the end of that "Silver Age". The two could not be more different in tone. "New Frontier" is written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, in a style that compares favorably to Milton Caniff (Steve Canyon), strongly influenced by Harvey Kurtzman (Two Fisted Tales), Carmine Infantino (The Flash) and Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, Challengers of the Unknown): "Identity Crisis" is a post-Frank Miller (Dark Knight Returns), post-Alan Moore (Watchmen), post-James Robinson (Starman) deconstruction by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales. But the fact that they are both being published, simultaneously, shows that DC is now prepared to take chances, even with their cash cow characters. We may even find out that DC has quietly introduced something approaching Real Time.

And unless events in Amazing Spider-Man play out dramatically differently than how writer J. Michael Straczynski appears to have laid them out (which is always a possibility), Marvel may be doing the same thing. Which is fine. As surprising as it is to think that Peter Parker has adult children, I'd rather he had kids than clones.

(Yes, I know that Spider-Girl is Peter's daughter. That doesn't count: It's an "alternate reality" set in the future, an improbable bubble in continuity. Amazing Spider-Man is about as mainstream as Marvel gets.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Interview with Tad Stones

Who? Why, the man responsible for Darkwing Duck. There's a long interview with him being serialized in Animation World Magazine.

Part one and part two. (Part three comes next month.)

Thursday, June 24, 2004

I've been reading comic books lately.

That requires correction. I've been reading comic books for as long as I can remember. But there are a handful of comics I've been reading recently that I intend to talk about now.

Doing so requires a certain amount of predictable old-fogy complaints about today's comic-book storytelling--including questioning the word "storytelling" as applied to an endless series of exquisitely-reproduced, lushly-colored, overdrawn pin-ups that, somehow, appear to have advanced the plot by some infinitesimally small increment over the course of 20 pages yet, on closer inspection, defy me to find an example within those pages of something, anything, having actually happened.

For purposes of comparison, see Action Comics #252, May 1959, cover-featuring "The Supergirl from Krypton", the first appearance of, well, you figure it out. Eight pages, written by Otto Binder, art by Al Plastino. In the course of those eight pages, we go from "What's that rocket in the sky?" to meeting Kara, verifying her bona-fides, creating a secret identity for her, placing her in a nearby orphanage (well, it wouldn't do for bachelor Clark Kent to live with a teenaged girl, now would it?), and setting up her situation for her ongoing series in the back of Action Comics. Also featuring a lead Superman feature and a Congo Bill story. Cover price ten cents.

Then see Superman-Batman #8-13, May-October 2004, featuring "The Supergirl from Krypton", featuring the revised first appearance in current continuity of, well, you figure it out. 120 pages over six issues. written by Jeph Loeb, art by Michael Turner. Currently three issues into the arc and we still haven't established that Kara is who she says she is. Total cover price $17.70.

While I'm complaining: Superman-Batman #9 ends with an attack and attempted kidnapping of Kara by (as we see in a Stunning Last-Page Reveal(tm)) Wonder Woman. Superman-Batman #10 opens with Kara on Themsicyra (the new name for what old fogeys like me remember as Paradise Island, where the lesbians Amazons live). We learn in opening exposition that what appeared to be an attack was actually cooked up by Wonder Woman and Batman to test Superman's reaction. The conversation in which they explain this to Superman happens between issues, since it apparently didn't involve beating anybody up. (Although had I been Superman, and a teenaged girl dependent on me had been roughed up to test me, I would certainly have considered booting up the old heat vision and "testing" my colleagues with a little second-degree sunburn. How's the Bat-Sunblock, old buddy?)

And this is one of the good books.

Then there's The Amazing Spider-Man #509, Aug 2004, featuring part one of the five-part "Sins Past" story arc, written by J Michael Straczynski (yeah, the Babylon 5 guy), art by Mike Deodato. It looks like JMS has something in mind for Gwen Stacy (an old girlfriend of Peter Parker's, killed way back in #121 [31 years ago!], over whom he has never really quit pining). It's hard to tell. Pete is attacked at Gwen's graveside by two masked figures, and although one of them eventually unmasks (another Stunning Last-Page Reveal(tm)), and we are obviously meant to recognize him, Deodato's inability to draw clearly recognizable faces undercuts the reveal so badly that, even with the face fully exposed, we can't be sure who it is.

I could guess, I suppose. Best guess among the fan community on the message boards is that it's a double of Peter Parker last seen in the hated Clone Saga of several years ago. And thanks to online trade solicitations, we've already seen the cover to #511, on which the masked woman is revealed to be... well, again, it's hard to tell. Although if the setup means anything, it's probably meant to be either Gwen Stacy or her double (she is known to have a double, again from that Clone Saga). Deodato had to give her the same hairband she wore in the early seventies (which she is, improbably, wearing under her mask) to create any resemblance to Gwen at all. Possibly we'll find out that it was the double who died and the real Gwen is still alive. That's just the kind of trauma the now-happily-married Peter Parker needs to return his life to the eternal angst fans seem to expect.

I should tell you that the revelation that turned readers away from Spider-Man by the thousands, from which Marvel backpedaled after the damage had been done and quickly rewrote the story to establish that it wasn't true, was that the Peter we'd been reading about for the past twenty years was the clone. The character we'd known as the clone, who traveled under the name "Ben Reilly" and believed himself to be the clone, was the real Peter. As I said, that particular twist was undone, and the clone was apparently killed, but then this wouldn't be the first time he's returned from apparent death. Apparently JMS, or his editor, feels the time is right to revisit this, this, dare I use the word, quagmire and see if there's anything left after the swamp has been drained.

So, we've now reached the point where everyone who has a costume has to wear it all the time, or else the readers can't tell what's going on.

Which leads us back to DC:

Identity Crisis #1-7, Aug 2004-Feb 2005, written by Brad Meltzer, art by Rags Morales and Michael Bair. The final nail in the coffin of the Silver Age, as a beloved (if now minor) character dies, horribly, heartbreakingly and (probably) irrevocably. (In comics death is not a sure thing even when you've seen the body.)

This is DC's Big Event for the summer. (Well, at the moment DC is in the midst of several Big Events, but this is the one that's getting real-world press, because Meltzer is a real author.) It has just begun, and they're keeping an unusually tight lid on it to preserve the surprises, but it appears to involve a serial killer who preys on superheroes' loved ones and a dark secret that five Justice League members share.

In order to talk about Identity Crisis, I have to at least mention Kingdom Come, an acclaimed limited series of a couple of years back in which the superhero population, having grown less responsible with succeeding generations, is now indulging in its pet battles with little or no regard for those affected, sometimes tragically, by their presence. As a commentary on a trend, it was brilliant. But now mainstream comics resemble the nightmare world of Kingdom Come, and the cautionary series has helped to create the situation it was warning us about.

Leading directly to Identity Crisis #1, in which a non-powered, just plain human loved one of a costumed adventurer is killed by someone who knew (spoiler pronoun) her well enough to call her by her first name. Someone who was able to enter her apartment despite the combination of Kryptonian, Thanagarian, Themiscyrian, Martian, and Apocaliptic technology that protected it.

Being a hero has a price. And it's not always the people who Knew The Job Was Dangerous who pay it.

There is no Stunning Last-Page Reveal(tm) in this story. It proceeds with all the (if you didn't like it) predictability and (if you did) inevitability of Hitchcockian suspense. You know what coming. You just don't know when. And all the while you're hoping you're wrong.

(Spoiler follows.) If you didn't know the history of Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny and his wife Sue Dearbon Dibny, Meltzer sets the stage as painlessly as possible--although if you get past page two and still don't know who's going to die, you probably shouldn't be reading murder mysteries. Some have said that this death is over the top, and as much as I love the character of (final warning) Sue Dibny, I want to think so too. This is not just another comic book death, and Meltzer had to make that clear.

And he does. We see her broken. We see her killer turn a flamethrower on her. We see Ralph find her blistered body. We see the anniversary present she had prepared for him (an antique magnifying glass). And we see the extra detail that elevates this from "mere" brutality to epic tragedy, the reminder that the future that she represented, the moment when Ralph would have opened that present and seen that detail, the surprise and joy and happily-ever-after that would have followed, have been cruelly stolen from him, and from us all.

It's just a comic book.

No, it's not. It's a damned good one.

Death matters. Even that of a supporting character of a third-tier inactive superhero. Even that of someone who never wore a cape and mask. The double-page spread of the mourners at Sue's funeral is an indication of just how big a difference the death of a Normal Person is going to make before this story is over.

I can't judge the whole series on the basis of one issue, but I'd call it a memorable start.

(More information at Newsarama and at Brad Meltzer's own site. OH, and at Comicon.com PULSE, and Toon Zone Forum.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

All in Color for $3.95

I'm trying to remember if four dollars seems like any larger a chunk of my change than ten (or twelve) cents did back in the day. Memory fails: I have no idea.

The second issue of DC Comics' Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer is out, and apparently being beaten to death and the body burned isn't indignity enough for Sue Dibny. Now we learn (spoilers ahoy) that, some years ago (thirty years ago in real time, but probably no more than five in comic-book years), she was attacked and raped by Doctor Light.

I liked this kind of story when I saw it in Alan Moore's Watchmen, and I may yet like it here, when it's finished. But the characters in Watchmen were created for the purpose of telling that story. Reading Identity Crisis is like watching Laura Petrie get raped.

(There was, in fact, an episode of the Dick van Dyke show in which the subject of wife-beating was addressed. The guilty character was a never-again-seen guest star, the unsavory acts were safely off-screen in the guest's back story, and the episode simply didn't work. Wife-beating doesn't belong in TVLand. The jury is still out as to whether it can belong on Earth-1.)

Dr Light broke into the JLA satellite and was discovered by its only occupant at the time, Sue Dibny. She had plenty of time to sound an alarm, did so, and in fact told him that she had done so. He could have escaped. Did he figure he still had time to do what he came for? Then why didn't he do that? Or WAS attacking Sue what he'd come for?

So, while Light's on the floor on top of Sue, the first of the heroes arrives: The Flash. He takes one look at the scene and throws Light across the room (and who wouldn't?). The rest of the current League follows soon after and, in response to continued hostility from Light, beat the tar out of him.

And this isn't even the part of the story that the author intended as the Big Wham.

After Ralph has taken Sue to the hospital, while Light is huddled on the floor imprisoned in Green Lantern's beam, Light taunts the League, saying he's going to find ALL of their loved ones. He uses his light-based powers to create a holographic replay of what he did to Sue, bragging that his fellow prisoners in whatever jail they send him to will enjoy the "show", "My Date with Sue." (Why did he provoke the heroes so severely? What did he hope to accomplish? What was he thinking?)

After a few minutes of this, the League got so sick of it that Zatanna (the resident magician) put Light to sleep. He could have been maintained so indefinitely. Light could have been held in solitary, and would have been on the League's say-so, to prevent the "show" he was threatening to give to his fellow inmates. The need wasn't immediate. There was no hurry.

But Our Heroes were deeply affected by the crime they'd witnessed. "How many times are we going to go through this with Light?" Lock him up, watch him escape, catch him again, lock him up, watch him escape, where does it end?

All they wanted to do was, as Hawkman put it, "clean him up a little", when they sent Zatanna into his head, magically. And she screwed it up. She scrambled his mind. She changed him into... a joke. A pathetic loser who was just as much a criminal as he ever was, but incompetent. He went from being a Justice League-level threat to a clown that any randomly-chosen Teen Titan could handle without breaking a sweat.

A super-villain on training wheels.

And then, while relating this incident to today's Flash and Green Lantern, Green Arrow drops one more grenade: Light wasn't the only one they "fixed". To be continued. (This is #2 of 7.)

So, what did I think?

Brad Meltzer's story is provocative. It's got my attention, and I'll keep reading. Rags Morales' art is first-rate. I just wish, as with Watchmen, they'd created new characters to kill off.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Mark your calendars

Anime News Network | My Neighbor Totoro, Nausicaa, Porco Rosso Release Announcement
Walt Disney Home Entertainment and Studio Ghibli proudly present three animated masterpieces from Hayao Miyazaki, the genius filmmaker of “Spirited Away,” the Academy Award? winner for the Best Animated Feature Film of 2002. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, NAUSICAƄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND and PORCO ROSSO will each be available for the first time on a 2-disc DVD on August 31. These remarkable films each include a brand-new, stellar English language voice cast and on DVD also feature the original Japanese language track; complete storyboards; featurettes that go behind the microphone and more, presented in a pristine digital picture for the best possible viewing experience. With a unique blend of entertaining storytelling, imagination, compelling characters and stunning artistry, each of these magical and mystical worlds will enchant and delight audiences of all ages.
Porco Rosso is the one that will blow you away.

The press release lists some of the cast, but not who's reading what. IMDB to the rescue. Michael Keaton is Porco Rosso, the Italian aviator who has "resigned from the human race" and become, literally, a pig. (Jean Reno did the French-language release: If only they'd got him for this one.) Susan Egan (Megara in Disney's "Hercules", Lin in "Spirited Away") is Gina, the woman who loves Porco, if he'd only let her. Cary Elwes ("The Princess Bride", "Robin Hood: Men in Tights", "Liar Liar") is Curtis, the rival American pilot who also has eyes for Gina. David Ogden Stiers is Grandpa Piccolo, who owns the shop where Porco's plane is repaired after his first run-in with Curtis.

But then, the disc will also include the original Japanese with English subtitles, so if you don't like this cast you don't have to listen to them. You'll want to see this either way.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Which is not to say...

That the Jack Schiff-edited sci-fi Batman was without merit. "Robin Dies at Dawn" (Batman #156, surprisingly psychological for a comic book) and "Prisoners of Three Worlds" (Batman #153, a rare Batwoman/Bat-Girl book-length epic) were definitely keepers.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Julius Schwartz, 1915-2004

One of the founding fathers of science fiction fandom and comics fandom, and a longtime editor for DC Comics, Julius Schwartz, passed away early Sunday morning. If you have no idea who he is, Mark Evanier can tell you.

At great length.

For me, the following is the transition that defined what separated Schwartz's comics from anybody else's.



To the left is Detective #326, the last issue edited by Jack Schiff. It was Batman's 300th appearance in Detective Comics, though no mention of this landmark is made. It is fairly typical of the run over the preceding ten years: Situations that wouldn't have been out of place in the Superman comics of the time, and some of the wonkiest aliens you could hope to see. If memory serves me, illustrated by Sheldon Moldoff (whose own rarely-seen style, when he wasn't ghosting Bob Kane, wasn't half bad).

To the right is Detective #327, the next month's issue, and the first edited by Julius Schwartz. As you can see, about the only thing that stayed the same was the presence of Batman and Robin. Illustrated by Carmine Infantino, making no attempt to imitate Kane.