Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Comics & Pet Theories

Finally managing to catch up on new comics from the last few weeks.

52 Weeks 9 to 11- Seems to be losing that post-event glow/urgency/momentum. Finally get to see the debut of the new, much-heralded Batwoman. I think I would have been more excited by this if it was a little more low-key. The whole gay thing doesn't bother me, but what does is the kind of stereotypical tone that's being taken. The whole scene with the Question finding Renee in the gay bar left a bad taste in my mouth, especially in the depiction of the attitude of the bar-goers in general. Also, not really digging the whole "she's a lesbian, but she's still super hot" approach to Batwoman.

Pet Theory: Concerning Booster/Supr Nova... I think they are one in the same, somehow. Either Booster is trying to permanently bury his huckster/opportunist rep for good by replacing himself, or this is some kind of Mirror, Mirror story, where Super Nova is an alternative timeline version of himself... I don't know. Maybe it's in the way that Booster has acted so out of character and is so vexed by Nova's presence... we'll see.

Eternals #2- Moving along. More plot movement. Still compelling. Liked the dilemma at the end... a nice cliffhanger.

Pet Theory: Somehow, the Eternals have all forgotten who they were. It would be formulaic if this was the Deviants doing, and thinking that Gaiman has a curveball in here somewhere, I'm suspecting that the Eternals did this to themselves somehow, whether inetentional or not.

Superman- I don't have access to the issue number, but it's the first post-Up, Up and Away issue. Good, solid, interesting Superman story. Enjoyed Busiek's way of balancing the roles in Clark and Lois's marriage. She holds her own with a guy who can punch planets... it's nice to see what she brings to the relationship rather have her be a damsel in distress. Nice call-back to the beginning of Byrne's reboot all those years ago.

Pet Theory: That Busiek will continue to write good Superman stories. It's not really a theory.... though I suspect he will concentrate on what he does so well: grounding these fantastic, unearthly characters so that the reader will be able to relate.

Manhunter #24- Awesomeness. Good payoff to this storyline. Snappy writing and fluid art. Quickly one of my most favorite monthlies. Please don't let them cancel it.

Pet Theory: It will be cancelled... but brought back all sexed-up. That, or they'll transfer the character to one of the group titles, like JSA.

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters- Not fair... I'm halfway through it. I was just too tired. The preview for this series was one the best things about Brave New World, but this first issue wasn't holding my attention the way it should. Plus, knowing how much was inspired/dictated by Morrisson's ideas, I feel a little cheated... not that the writing is bad, it's just... you know, hold off on this. Like I said, I was tired.

Pet Theory: I'll get some sleep, and in three months, this will be my favorite book.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Call for... Something...

In a post-SDCC fog at work today, I ran accross some ideas floated about moving it from San Diego.

Call me a sentimental old fart, but I don't like the idea a bit. San Diego is an ideal setting, and over the past two decades I've seen the area flourish around the Con. It is just right, in my opinion. Sure, every year, it gets more and more crowded as it increases in general popularity, and a more diverse set of exhibitors flock to take advantage, but I can't think that a change in location would even help ease that.

The alternate locations floated were Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Both, in my opinion, would be disasters. Think of all the problems one has with driving, parking and available hotel space now in San Diego, and multiply those problems by ten... that's Los Angeles. I live here... and I wouldn't go to a Los Angeles show.

And Las Vegas... Las Vegas is the only place I can think of that is less attractive than Los Angeles. My girlfriend's mom lives there and we visit her often, so I speak from experience when I say: Las Vegas is a s**thole... there, I said it. Call me a prude, but I can't think of a less family-friendly place to host something like the ComicCon... You can't drop a majority of the geek population into a town like this. They would eat us alive there.

"But MD... Las Vegas has rehabilitated its image... It's family-friendly now." I hear you say... I say, "Bulls**t, no it's not. Go there and see for yourself." I've never been somewhere where the desperation of people hangs in the air like a smog so much as it does in Las Vegas. Never have I seen the disparity between garish opulence and abject despair so cleanly and expansively as I have in Las Vegas. It's an okay place for mature, confident adults... but not the best place for geeks, who I love in my heart, but aren't always the most sophisticated of souls, and could be easily harmed by a place like Las Vegas.


What worries me is that the thing can get bigger than it is now. I've seen the Con go from a virtual basement to the Convention Center, and then watched as that Convention Center had tripled in size. How much bigger can it get? Would that even be an attractive thing? It barely is now.

As it is now, it's a monster. The last few years, I've limited my attendance to a single day... there's only so much moshing about, elbow to elbow, all day, that I can take these days. And the payoff... well, it seems like there's a lot less actual comics around. Sure there are huge multimedia exhibits for the latest movie project and/or video game, more collectible ephemera than ever, and more panels and screenings to attend... but where are the comics? I truly miss the days where I could leisurely peruse the wares... now the experience is akin to planning the Normandy invasion, and excuting it.

What worries me is that all these big spenders are going to price the Con right out of business. I'm waiting for that downturn, and it may not come I admit, that will cause the movie studios, gaming companies and even comic companies to scale back their presence... what would happen? I can't help it, but I smell a bust coming... there's just too much floating around, vying for my dollar. How thin can a geeks dollar be stretched before it snaps?


I don't know where I was going with this. My feelings about the Con run deep, and every year it becomes less and less a pleasureable experience. This year I went more to meet up with old friends than to see the Con itself. I bought a small present for the girlfriend and a few independent comics from a friend... and as soon as the after-Con get-togethers ended, I got the Hell out of San Diego. It shouldn't be that way, but it was the only affordable and sanity-retaining for me to be there at all, and that's not right. It's frustrating... and makes me pine for the years of my obscure and weird hobby, where we would all get together in a hotel basement.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Less Comic... More Con

Went down to the big show in San Diego yesterday. Had a great time catching up with old friends.

Every year I am amazed at how much bigger the event gets and how much less it has to do about comics. The first time I went to SDCC was back in 1987, before the organizers moved it to the Convention Center. I remember it was in the back conference rooms (not the main ones) of some hotel I forgot the name of. At the time, I didn't think it was all that big... certaintly no bigger than some of the other conventions I had been to. I think the only difference was that the Big Two actually came out to represent themselves.

Things I remember from that Con:

- The generosity of Kevin Maguire. He had come out of nowhere and had started doing Justice League at the time. In the days before the internet, he politely answered my questions that nowadays would draw bored eye-rolling from less humble artists. A true gentleman.

- ...contrasted with the punk rock attitude of Bill Sienspellcheckwicz, who gleefully sneered as he ripped the cover of the comic I handed to him as he signed it. Does that make it an art object?

- Harlan Ellison taking over the PA system. Jack Kirby had received a lifetime award the night before (may have been an Inkpot... I'm unsure) and someone had swiped it from his table as he was doing signings. Ellison proceeded to exhort the crowd to essentially beat the crap out of anyone found to possess the award. Apparently, the award was returned anonymously later that day.

- The anime viewings. Long before cheaper multimedia systems were available... it was basically a darkened room with a few rows of foldout chairs around a small TV/VCR cart (like the kind you find in public schools nowadays).

I miss that ComicCon a bit. One was free to wonder around and browse the plethora of bins and wares, to discover new things and chat leisurely with creators and other geeks. Yesterday, in contrast, felt like spending a few hours in a mosh pit.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Superman Returns (Spoiler-Free)

I had to wait to see this one. It was hard to do, but I waited until my girlfriend and I were briefly in the same state. I knew that this was an experience I would have to share with someone. She's not so much a comic nerd like me, but she loved the 1978 Superman.

The new movie owes a lot to the 1978 movie and it's sequel. We both worried at times that it crossed the line between loving homage and slavish aping, but she made a great point about why it was done this way. There's no way, as long as my generation is still around anyway, that one can get out from under the shadow of the 78 version. They leaned so heavily on it in order to introduce some of the more controversial additions. The visual and storytelling echoes serve to instill confidence in the new direction that it does take. (I'm trying to write this as spoiler free as possible... there's a major development in this movie that has no precedent in previous films or comics that, on paper, sounds near sacriligious, but actually goes a long way to complete a thematic arc that runs through Superman I & II)

Just as he did with X-Men, Singer plays fast and loose with the details, yet nails the themes and characters perfectly. I especially like the way that the traditional Clark-Lois-Superman love triangle was put to rest, in a way, and replaced with a stronger one. There's just the right amount of goofy Clark, but it's clear that Lois would never love him and shouldn't. Taking Clark out of the equation and replacing him with Richard White was genius. I was worried for the actor, James Marsden, thinking he'd get the same treatment as he did in the X-Men movies, but he actually gets a strong pressence in this movie. He is made to be a true competitor for Lois's affections; midway through the movie, I realized that he is Superman, in a way, he just doesn't have the powers.

Kevin Spacey brings the right balance of humor and malice to Luthor. I especially liked the physical confrontation he has with Superman late in the movie. For all his protestations of being enlightened and cultured, his acts literally show what a thug he is at heart.

Overall, it was a richly satisfying movie. My girlfriend said it best when we left the theatre: "I wish it were real, that there really was a Superman". It was the exact same thing I thought some 28 years ago.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Life and Other Things

Skipped visit to comics shop this week. I've been busy working on SDCC and non-SDCC projects drawing projects, so I tried to limit my distractions. To the left is a quick fan art exercise for the CGS board. The goal was to attempt a redesign of Superman. As you can tell I was stymied, and fell back on the version of Kal El from DC One Million.

In other news, friend Kiyoshi has finally emerged from the wilderness of luddism and joined the masses. His self-published Drunken Master zine finally has a place on MySpace. Filled with not only with comics goodness, but also interesting prose pieces and interviews with some of his favorite bands. An unflinching look into his own interests and obsessions, including: old school wrestling, punk bands, falling in love with the wrong girls, classifying myriad forms of physical excretions and homicidal relatives. Look for him at SDCC this year.

Also, I've started a second blog Sequential Life, a place to post homemade cartoons. For the past three years, the girlfriend has travelled out of state for writing conferences and other events, and these cartoons basically narrate the day-to-day goings-on in the home while she's away. They're quick (under an hour) drawings or strips done before I go to bed everyday. I'm posting the ones that are safe for public comsumption. Over the years, I've found it's a good way to keep myself drawing even when I don't feel like it, and it also loosens things up mentally. More than that, it's just fun to do. I may try to keep it up even after she gets back this time.