Welcome to the weblog of the writers and artists of Ferret Press (a publisher of fine comix) and PANEL (a Columbus, Ohio comic creators collaborative.) Here you will find our musings on comics, art, the creative process, politics, the web, and life.
Where was this guy before they decided to use Tony Daniels? I checked out the preview for Batman #684 and was floored by Guillem March's art. He looks like he would have fit in perfectly at Caliber. It's readable and has more of a rough around the edges tone to it. In my mind, slick is the opposite direction you should be going in for Batman. It's why I think Paul Gulacy's a terrible fit on Catwoman. Also why I think Alex Ross is a terrible pick for a cover artist. Gulacy and Daniels lack any sense of texture and grit. It's a part of why I never fully enjoy Batman.
I realize now that Morrison is partly to blame for the indeciferable RIP arc. That is painfully clear given the trainwreck that's been Final Crisis.
In today's Dispatch, they're talking about creating a Special Improvement District for the 161 corridor. There's already one for Downtown and the Morse Road area.
A Special Improvement District levies a charge on business owners in the area, and the money is spent on beautification, special programming and increased security. The downtown one organizes farmers markets, those neon-shirted "ambassadors" who pick up trash and help visitors, and off-duty police officers.
This is all great, but really, isn't this the job of the local government? If you have to go outside of the local government, isn't that a sign that something's not working? And is anyone else weirded out by the idea of a neighborhood contracting its own security? How many steps are there between this ...
Here’s what Xmas looks like in the Bogart house this year (please excuse the crappy cell phone pic):
Check out the star-- or the bent top branch where the star would be. This year, the missus picked out a live tree that’s actually a couple inches taller than the ceiling. Oops.
Note the lovely garland, strung along the top third of the tree. It stops before going further down so that the 1-year old won’t grab it and charge across the room, knocking over the tree and destroying half the ornaments… again.
How ‘bout those lights? What lights, you ask? The three strands of lights the new dog chewed through and destroyed. Luckily, they were unplugged at the time.
All we’re missing is Linus standing in front of it, telling everyone about the true meaning of the season.
Bud Light presents Real Men of Genius (part trois)
Yeah, I’ve got the itch again...
Bud Light presents Real Men of Genius. (Real Men of geee-nius!)
Today we salute you, Mr. 90s Speculation Fad Cover Bringer Back Man.
(Mr. 90s Speculation Fad Cover Bringer Back Man!)
Having nearly caused the collapse of the entire comic book publishing industry in the 90s under the weight of crass, ill—conceived, money-grubbing gimmicks like multiple variant covers, you’ve decided that there’s still too much money to be made exploiting dumbass fanboys not to bring back those same exact crass, ill—conceived, money-grubbing gimmicks like multiple variant covers.
(Where’s my fish scented scratch-n-sniff Aquaman #0?)
So what if you’re just fueling the same fires that nearly bankrupted the whole industry by greedily pandering to ignorant collectors? We see the method to your speculation madness, O' Hideous Huckster of the Hobby.
(Embossed metallic tits on Power Girl makes my eyes burn!)
Hologram covers? Foil embossed logos? Limited-edition leather bound books? Please. Those are so 1993. You’re all about the new digital millennium: "negative art" variant chase covers.
(I've got Photoshop, who needs to pay an artist?)
So crack open an ice cold Bud Light, Mr. 90s Speculation Fad Cover Bringer Back Man, for when it comes to repeating the mistake of history, you do it in style...with an interlocking gatefold cardstock cover.
(Bud Light Beer, Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri)
Sure, the second time out they had a bigger budget to work with, and it showed. Some really nice set pieces, good special effects, and a couple of great choreographed fight sequences. I loved most of the character designs as well.
But it wasn't Hellboy.
A war between humans and elves?
The troll market?
I'm not sure what comic book series writer/director Guillermo del Toro was reading when he wrote this film, but it sure as hell (no pun intended) wasn't Mike Mignola's Hellboy. Neil Gaiman's Sandman, more likely. Heck, the only thing missing was a cute goth girl and a defrocked angel, and you had yourself a Gaiman pastiche. Come to think of it, he did have a dark angel character in there...
Now, don't get me wrong, the first Hellboy movie wasn't a faithful adaptation of Mignola's series either. It was bright and colorful and bombastic, sharing more with superhero flicks than the subdued color palette and sensibilities of the comic. But at least it echoed most of the themes of the Hellboy comic. You had your ancient slumbering Cthulhu-esque gods. Your Nazi occultists. Your mythological monsters from ancient civilizations. And of course the whole Right Hand of Doom storyline. Add all those up and throw in Ron Perlman's likability factor, and I was able to enjoy the movie despite the fact that it was quite a departure from the comic in terms of tone and mood.
So yeah, the new movie shares the fate of many other sequels built upon the surprise success of the first movie. They got a bigger budget and got so busy dreaming up more elaborate special effects that they forgot what made the original so appealing. I wasn't disappointed, and I didn't hate the movie, but it just left me lukewarm.
Oh well, the important thing is there are still new Hellboy comics coming out, and even though Mignola's not on art duties, I'm just fine with Duncan Fegredo tearing it up in his own style.
Part of me thinks this is a joke. Another part of me thinks I'll never try to write a humor comic again-- how can I compete when reality offers this?
Rolling Stone features excerpts from an article on real-life superheroes here.
Some of the things I wish I had written:
"When Master Legend bursts into a sprint, as he often does, his long, unruly hair flows behind him. His mane is also in motion when he's behind the wheel of the Battle Truck, a 1986 Nissan pickup with a missing rear window and "ML" spray-painted on the hood. "
"Superhero — his full name — is a former wrestler from Clearwater, Florida, who wears red and blue spandex and a burgundy helicopter helmet, and drives a 1975 Corvette Stingray customized with license plates that read SUPRHRO."
"Some superheroes have joined forces in local crime-fighting syndicates: the Black Monday Society in Salt Lake City, the Artemis National Consortium in San Diego and the tautologically titled Justice Society of Justice in Indianapolis."
"the Master Blaster: a six-foot-long silver cannon fueled by cans of Right Guard that can shoot 'a variety of projectiles' "
Seriously... I have to turn to historical fiction now.
I don't know if it was that hot Markovian accent, or his flowing red hair, or the fact that he was drawn by Jim Aparo and Alan Davis, but in those early days Geo-Force had quite a bit of luck with the ladies.
Seriously, Batman didn't have that kind of luck, not even with Steve Englehart as his wingman. Geo-Force was hit on by literally every female character he came across.
Because if there's one thing you learn in those fancy European boarding schools, it's to stay away from cougars who carry their late husband's souls in their swords.
Geo-Force was a guy who was usually a gentleman, but with a bit of a dark side. He's a guy who could marry his college sweetheart, but no one's surprised when Looker finds this little purple peekaboo number in the back of his closet.
Next time: A handful of things you didn't know about Geo-Force! Be Here! It'll be good!
Over at Newsarama's blog, Columbus' own J. Caleb Mozzocco reviews the "furst ishew" of Left-Handed Sophie, by Columbus' own Phonzie Davis.
I picked up the issue this week, but haven't read it yet. I dig Phonzie's minicomics, many of which just featured his manic ballpoint pen illustrations. If nothing else, this book is weird and funky and cool to look at. I suspect the story is going to be of the "experimental" or "non-traditional" variety.
Xmas came early at casa Bogart this year; the missus was hell-bent on getting the girls a puppy, and found the one she wanted-- scheduled to be put to sleep this weekend. So Santa paid our house an early visit on Friday night. The three year old wants to name him "Doggy Dog", but I'm pushing for either "Galactus" or "K-9".
The wife & kids & dog are away at the in-laws this morning, and I've got the place to myself... and I've stepped, barefoot, in two piles of dog sh*t that were left overnight so far. I thought the smell was roasting chestnuts, but it seems I'm mistaken.
A while back I wrote a piece comparing the (then) new Gaiman/Romita Jr. Eternals to the original Jack Kirby series, but ended up shelving it because I felt it was too hard on poor Neil. I almost feel as bad moving forward with writing this particular post because it deals with what was arguably a really respectable thing Marvel tried to do that was ludicrously poor in it’s execution. I speak, of course, of Ms. Marvel.
They were trying really hard back in the day to broaden their exposure outside the bounds of their regular readership. Women readers were the prize which always eluded comic book publishers, and Marvel aimed for that niche with a superhero series with serious feminist overtones, one which addressed gender politics amidst all the mad schemes for world domination and super-powered fight scenes (back when the term Ms. was seen as a political statement). This is the kind of thing I cherish Old Marvel for-- for being so darn referential to the real world the stories were set in (there was no “Marvel Universe” back then), the very thing that made for more thoughtful, intelligent, sophisticated stories. Regrettably, they didn't do so well this time.
Check out the slogan that appeared in the trademark of the first few issues: “This Female Fights Back!” As opposed to all the weak sisters out there who just roll over and take it, I guess. Not exactly the most empowering slogan, and one of many details of those first couple issues that were eviscerated by the women writing in to the letters pages. Seems the concept did draw in a bunch of other-gendered newcomers to try out a comic… Unfortunately, it was this one.
The premise of the character is a bit of a handicap as well. Having gained her powers from the Kree alien Mar-Vell, aka Captain Marvel, she is a character who is an extension of a more powerful male figure and doesn’t have an identity that stands on its own. Speaking of identities-- her two personas, Ms. Marvel and Carol Danvers, are each unaware of the other’s existence, an attempt at a metaphor for her gender’s search for identity in society; this poor idea was jettisoned after about three issues. To add insult to injury, the same editorial which outlines the series' lofty goals in the first issue explains that Gerry Conway was tapped as writer because there were no women qualified to write superhero comics. Seriously. I’m sure they looked really hard. After a few good standard superhero comic issues by Conway and John Buscema, creative chores were handed over to noted feminist Chris Claremont and Jim Mooney, which brings us to…
Ms. Marvel #7
I’ll be brief, because this is actually kind of painful to rehash. A fresh perspective on a female character might involve casting her in different kinds of roles within the stories she appears in. This particular issue rises to the challenge by placing her under threat of becoming the mind-controlled love slave of Modok!
Read that last sentence again, and ponder just how many things are wrong with it.
My reason for dragging this issue out, if it’s so painful? These panels below, which showcase my favorite examples of what Dara calls “sweet super-villain dialogue”:
“Red alert! Super-Hero in the cargo bay!” “How did she get through our impregnable defenses?!?” Ladies and gents, I give you Chris Claremont, the most popular comic writer of his day.
One last gem this issue has to offer: Ms. Marvel busts out of an A.I.M. base which happens to be-- underneath a department store! Switching to her civilian identity, she eludes her pursuers by-- oh god-- shopping her way to freedom!
Don’t get me wrong, this series is a great read, if only because it is so often unintentionally, ironically funny. Like everything else published in the 1970’s, the character has been revived for a new series of her own. Maybe I’ll check those out to see how the feminist viewpoint is portrayed for today’s comic readers.
That's right -- I'm taking on the entire comics blogosphere. Although his appointment to the JLA was met by widespread jeers, Geo-Force can actually be a pretty decent character.
I'm speaking primarily about Geo-Force during the original 1980s Outsiders run, when he was written by Outsiders creator Mike W. Barr. He was depicted then as being hotheaded, but still willing to admit mistakes and learn from them. His primary "arc" was learning to control and grow into his powers.
He was also depicted as having an strong sense of duty, both to his team and his country. Most early Outsiders storylines include a scene where, despite incredible odds, Geo-Force pushes on and saves the team through some amazing feat of strength.
Re-reading the 1980s series, I notice Geo-Force falls off in characterization as the series goes on. Instead of growing into a competent hero, he gets kind of stagnant. Worse, he suffers from the Worf Effect. Barr established him as the powerhouse of the team, which meant he has to be somehow incapacited at the beginning of each adventure. All that jobbing really weakened the character.
But still ... in those early issues, he don't shiv. Here he is offering the ultimate choice to a cloned Nazi.
Next time: Geo-Force -- A Portrait in Pain! Be Here! It'll be good!
Sometimes I doubt my own taste. I liked the Ang Lee movie, I thought the third X-Men was better than the second, I thought Ghost Rider was fine for what it was, and I really liked Hancock.
But according to Pajiba, I'm sadly wrong about this.
I think the big problem with Hancock is that you expect one thing, then get another. From the trailers, you know it's about an unlikeable, alcoholic superhero (Will Smith) and the PR rep (Jason Bateman) who tries to clean up his image. But the movie tells a different story. For one thing, the superhero is a lot less likeable than you'd think. He has some weird chemistry with Bateman's wife (Charlize Theron). He spends a longish stint in jail as part of his rehabilitation. A bizarre origin is hinted at, but never fully explained.
The Pajiba article mentions a tonal shift in the middle -- which, personally, I thought of as a good thing. I was genuinely surprised. It's pretty rare that you're watching a movie the genuinely surprises you. Later events kind of justify the surprise. Kind of.
One commenter has a comment that I thought was illuminating: "What really is disappointing is that they didn't really seem to make an effort of expanding on anything. This move is only 92 freaking minutes long, which, as it turns out, is rather fortunate."
I'm going to again call that a good thing. Superhero origins are usually silly if you spend too much time thinking about them, and I generally think it's better to just get on with the story. Running 92 minutes is a good thing, too. Tell your story, then get the fuck off the stage.
I wasn't looking for a spoof of the superhero genre -- that's My Super Ex-Girlfriend. I wasn't looking for a real-world exegesis on the superhero genre -- that's Watchmen. I got a fun story about a superhero I'd never seen before, with an origin I hadn't quite seen before, for a $3.99 rental.
Let me check out the Onion AV Club for a third opinion ... OK, they give it a solid B+. So maybe my taste isn't as problematic as I thought.
I think we still have about five weeks of chapter one to go at the website before you'll see these beauties in color; barring any natural disasters on unforeseen calamaties, I expect chapter 2 (or maybe 2 & 3) will be in print in time for SPACE.
He's best known for his creation Strikeforce Morituri over at Marvel, but I loved the high concept mini-series Tailgunner Jo as well. Gillis was ahead of his time in many ways, usually going for a left-of-center, innovative, or just plain bizarre premise for his comics.
He dropped out of the comics biz at the end of the 80s. These days, you can catch him over at his blog.
...which happens to be really good advice for comic book publishers as well:
Over on the boingboing blog, guest blogger Clay Shirky shares his thoughts on James Gleick's essay "How to Publish Without Perishing". Gleick argues that the digital age is going to win the battle over speed, price, and ease when it comes to publishing, so if book publishers want to survive, they should make their niche the "book as object" market. Make beautiful printed books that people will want to own and have.
Shirky argues against this, saying it's a myopic and self-defeating strategy to just cater to the "older" book buying segment of the market. Because guess what? They're eventually going to die, and then where are your customers? Sound familiar?
Shirky:"In the same way the internet has forced newspapers into a 'news vs. paper' moment, the publishing world is in a 'readers vs. book lovers' moment. In this environment, the single most important choice anyone in publishing has to make is this: "How many generations do I want to be in business?" Because hawking Ye Olde Codices to aging connoisseurs is a one-generation business.
Businesses don't survive in the long term because old people persist in old behaviors; they survive because young people renew old behaviors, and all the behaviors young people are renewing cluster around reading, while they are adopting almost none of the behaviors tied to cherishing physical containers, whether for the written word or anything else. Can you imagine a 25-year-old telling a publisher "To get my business, you should stick to a single, analog format? Oh, and could you make it heavy, bulky, and unsearchable? Thanks.""
There's a lot there for the big comic book publishers to ponder, considering their entire business model revolves around catering to the likes of us: guys in their 30s or 40s who still love printed books.
The solicitation for the next issue of my Terminator Salvation movie prequel is out now, with a ship date of February 2009:
"In the African country of Niger, tempers flare between Bem, Yusuf, and Lysette, as the ragtag group of refugees finalize their plans for an assault on the Skynet uranium mine. Meanwhile, in Detroit, survivalist Jackson Parker's suicide run against a T-600 is interrupted by the Resistance, who need his expertise in carrying out coordinated attacks on Skynet's Terminator factory. But when their HQ comes under attack from new Terminator models, will anyone survive to carry out the mission? Plus, more revelations about Commander Elena Maric's past history with John Connor."
The one time I click on a link to a Steven Grant column, it's this one. It was pretty bleak at first. Only two 'best of' picks for the year and they're reprints. I get it. If anything, I'd say this was the year of 'graphic novel' adaptations to film. It's painfully obvious that Hollywood is optioning them like they're hot. It's bound to peak out sometime. Maybe when Hollywood gets an original thought for once. Later Grant sums up perfectly some of the major problems or hang-ups with creating 'mainstream' fare today. My question would be, why beat a dead horse? This year's output really depends on what you're paying attention to. If it's superheroes, I'm sorry. I'm the last person to talk about Final Crisis or Skrulltown. Personally, I only buy one series still. Batman (by Morrison). That's on life support if it doesn't get better. It hasn't been good since the Batman's son arc. I should say, it hasn't made complete sense since that arc. RIP was a real head scratcher. I didn't even bother with the tie-in stories in the second string Bat series. This year also marks my beginning commitment to the Vertigo trade. I've gotten fed up with the format that begs to wait for the trade. Why would anyone buy the singles anymore? What filled me with hope was the wonderful Skim (by the Tamaki's). Still my favorite of the year. For once a standout that wasn't autobiographical or a reprint. A tale of obsession beautifully rendered. Omega the Unknown wrapped up this year and is collected already. Don't really know how I feel about the story but Darymple's art is beautiful. It's worth noting just for the Gary Panter sequence alone. Biggest letdowns were The Three Shadows, Skyscrapers of the Midwest, and Bottomless Belly Button. Skyscrapers I couldn't even finish. BBB and Shadows: I read them in their entirety and regretted it. Especially Shaw's book. It was a by-the-numbers fit of Crumb/Ware style mental masturbation. Beautifully packaged. I wouldn't expect any less from Fantagraphics. Look at John Pham's Sublife. What was the f'ing point? High fives to the Hernandez Brothers. Speak of the Devil was great! New Love & Rockets material. What did you enjoy this year?
I walked down yesterday to take a look at Objects of Wonder, the new exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art. The exhibit shows off a few hundred objects from the various collections at Ohio State University.
OSU's basement/rummage sale is kind of a cheap idea for a museum exhibit, but they did some interesting things with it. I enjoyed looked at the natural curiosities, as well as a smattering of space exhibits, John Glenn memorabilia, and two scripts from the original Star Trek (The Man Trap and Where No Man Has Gone Before).
Of most interest to our people was a copy of Action Comics 358, from the personal collection of local collector Lloyd Labadie. Who knew Lloyd was such a patron of the arts?