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.
The last season of Lost starts in 4 days, and I simply can't wait!
In the meantime, here's a very interesting theory on the nature of Jabob, and what the show may be all about. I'd say spoiler warning, except that like all things speculative about Lost, this is just that: another speculation.
There’s really nothing wrong with donuts. In fact, if you were to ask any nutritionist, dietician, or physician, they would almost certainly tell you that it’s completely fine to eat donuts once in a while, in moderation.
And there is the key. Moderation. Once in a while. Maybe some donuts on Wednesday after the weekly staff meeting and Sunday after church. Whatever. But…moderation.
And this is my problem with the film “Avatar” and, really, most of what is commonly called “pop culture” in general. There is absolutely no moderation. At all. Ever. It’s donuts, every day, all the time, without end. Bad enough in itself, but then these “donuts” are followed by hoarse and increasingly impassioned defensive statements justifying the all-donut diet.
Take, for instance, any blog post or web site article about, oh, say Power Girl’s massive and barely covered breasts. Or Mike Deodato’s Wonder Woman, running around in a thong. Or Batwoman as a lesbian. Or company-wide crossovers like “Civil War” or “Blackest Night” or “Siege” and so on. Regardless…and I do mean REGARDLESS…of what the articles say, what cogent and thoughtful points they might make, what intelligent content lies in each, these will be shouted down by the unending collected screams of fandom bellowing “It’s just entertainment!!! It’s not supposed to be serious!!! It’s fantasy!!! It’s not supposed to be like the real world!!!” And so on. Ad nauseam.
First, those defenses ring true. Comic books, and movies, and television shows, and nearly all popular media really are, for the most part, entertainment oriented. And (this is a very important point here) there is nothing wrong with mindless, enjoyable, fluffy, pretty-colors entertainment like “Avatar” or Power Girl or “Firefly” or Halo. But it’s like donuts. In moderation.
Think about that.
Because I am really very curious about how many of those that post comments to web sites and blogs defending Power Girl’s ridiculous rack or “Avatar’s” completely insipid and uninspired narrative wrapped up in pretty candy-colored special effects or Call of Duty 2: Modern Warfare (or whatever the hell it’s called) murder simulation disguised as a videogame ALSO fill out their reading and viewing diet with more complex, nuanced, challenging novels and films and poetry and art. I really am.
Because, really (nothing personal, Dara) I’m fairly confident that an awful lot of those who contributed to the billion dollar plus box office gross of “Avatar” haven’t seen, and have no interest in seeing, “Citizen Kane.” Or “Apocalypse Now.” Or “The Big Sleep.” Or “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Or…well, you get the idea. But I bet nearly all of them saw gems like “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Which is, incidentally, the worst-reviewed film ever to earn over $100 million at the box office. And I bet a lot of them have played the fuck out of Halo 3 and Mass Effect.
So that’s my biggest problem. With “Avatar.” With pop culture. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING wrong with liking “Avatar” or “Transformers” or “Lost” or “Firefly” or WWE wrestling or “Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose” comic books, or Jonas Brothers or “Spongebob Squarepants” or “Blackest Night” or Halo. Those are, probably, all very entertaining in a mindlessly enjoyable way and we really do all need that, once in a while.
But it seems like that’s becoming all any of us consume anymore. We don’t want challenges. We don’t want anything different. We don’t want anything unexpected. We want donuts over and over and over again. And now the donuts, all of them, come with product placement and vast multi-platformed marketing and merchandising tie-ins to monopolize even more of our mental real estate.
I find it a little strange, and honestly a little disappointing, that on a blog like this where so many of us are quick to attack “Blackest Night” or “Civil War” or fandom in general for being bland, predictable, catering to the lowest common intellectual denominator and the highest possible profit lines that we are so willing to swallow swill like “Avatar” with the defense “The story was lame but it was just so entertaining.” Is that all we expect anymore? To paraphrase Duncan Jones, director of the film “Moon” and one of the few intelligently dissenting voices on “Avatar,” was there really ever any instance in “Avatar” where you didn’t know pretty much exactly what was going to happen next?
If this post offends any of my good friends in Panel, I sincerely apologize. I am not a tastemaker, a critic or a final arbiter of intellectual worth. I have been, probably fairly accurately, called a pretentious douchebag hipster elitist. But man, I just can’t fathom this constant 24/7 diet of donuts Americans are gobbling down now, in every medium possible.
So I gave in to the hype and went and saw the much-talked about movie, Avatar. Despite my aversion to over-hyped “blockbuster” movies, I have to say I was very impressed and thoroughly entertained. Not that the story is that deep. It’s not. Take any historical story of what we did to the Native Americans (or any other European colonial power did to any other indigenous people) and you have the basic story of Avatar. And given how widely this joke has circulated on the Internet, I'm obviously not the first one to make that call:
But the amazing vistas, well-done 3D effects, and the movie’s visuals as a whole overcame its many flaws to make it a very entertaining and satisfying movie overall. The jungle scenes were truly gorgeous, and I give him props for going with that crazy color pallette of neon blues, purples, and orange. While in some spots it was so colorful that it looked like a video game, for the most part I was easily able to suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in the world created in the movie. I also thought the voice acting, particularly by Zoe Saldana, was strong. And Stephen Lang was cast perfectly as the main bad guy, Colonel Miles Quaritch.
But speaking of the bad guy, that's one of the areas where Cameron's writing fell way short of the mark. He's written as such a one-dimensional "jarhead" character; one you've seen in dozens of other movies. And Cameron’s political allegory was really ham fisted. There’s really no need to actually use the phrases "preemptive strike", “shock and awe” and “we’ll fight terror with terror”. Yes, James, we get it.
This isn't a "deep" movie, and it doesn't deliver subtle political and social commentary. But it does entertain in a big way, and didn't insult my intelligence at every turn. Movie studios like us to believe that “you have to see it on the big screen” applies to every piece of crap they churn out. But this is one of the very few where I’d agree with that sentiment. Definitely see it in 3D, preferably IMAX.
My brother asked me if I wanted to catch a movie at the El Cheapo theater last week, and needing a break, I said yes. So all I lost was 1.5 hours of my life (he paid the $1 for my ticket). But...
Q. What do you get when you have a movie written by the creator/writer/producer of Babylon 5, directed by the guy who directed V For Vendetta, and produced by the guys who wrote/directed/produced The Matrix trilogy?
A. One of the worst movies ever made: Ninja Assassin. Horrid mess of a story, cliched dialogue, cheesy special effects, and about 15,000 gallons of computer generated blood. If you took the plot of a 1980s straight-to-video ninja flick, added in 1990s computer generated special effects, and then presented it all with third-rate, Quentin Tarantino-wannabe violence, you'd get this flick. Supposedly it cost $40 million to make this ridiculous exercise in anime violence done in live action. Honestly, they could have made it for $40 and gotten the same results. (According to Wikipedia, JMS re-wrote some other writer’s first draft script in 53 hours, as a favor to the Wachowski brothers. Still no excuse, but it goes a long way to explain the hot mess.) Avoid at all costs. Seriously.
That "Eighth Deadly Sin" story has an 18-page backup story, "Blacker than Black," written by Mandy McMurray (who?) with art by Kelley Jones(yay!)
The story's workmanlike -- it shows an aspiring vampire-themed serial killer called The Stygian getting obsessed with Barbara Gordon. Naturally, she calls in Looker, an extremely powerful telepath-turned vampire. There's some kind of subplot with a wrongfully accused man, that really ought to fit into 18 pages, but it doesn't quite get across.
Caleb's given me a new appreciation of Kelley Jones, though, and he doesn't disappoint here. I think Jones deserves some kind of special Eisner for making Looker look cool.
Andy was talking about Eric Canete's work at a recent PANEL meeting, so I thought I'd post the link to his blog. There's so much gorgeous eye candy there, it's hard to pick just a couple of samples to post here...
I really like Eric's art; it has a Ted McKeever flavor to it, but he's definitely his own artist. I absolutely love his crazy perspectives, and just the sense of motion he infuses in every piece. He's done a lot of work in animation (Aeon Flux, The Batman, Justice League Unlimited, etc.), but it's nice to see his decidedly un-mainstream style on some mainstream Marvel books, like Spider-man:
He'll be doing a Luke Cage 4-issue limited series with writer John Arcudi:
Like a nerd, I watched just about everything on *Green Lantern: First Flight (thanks CML). Including the short explanation of Blackest Night that saved me a kagillion dollars in following it in the single issues. I'm puzzled as to why DC picked the Free Comic Book Day book to be the lead-in to their mega series. The series clearly rewards people who already know the continuity while losing any new readers who go in baffled. I thought the point of FCBD was to attract new readers, not scare them away. This year is the War with Supermen arc, while a better pick than last year's book, still somewhat defeats the purpose of FCBD. It'd be smarter to go away with a simple 'done-in-one'.
Not to totally hate on Blackest Night, I thought the concept was strong. Not strong enough to follow it in the singles. Then again, I know enough about the DC back story to enjoy it. I'm the kind of reader that hates crossover series. Example: I liked Superman until it began to lead into the Death of Superman arc. (haven't picked it up since then)
*Green Lantern: First Flight was pretty good... for a library dvd.
We now interrupt this comics-related blog for an unsolicited endorsement for a shoe retailer:
I have a heck of a time finding shoes that fit me, due to my girly feet (size 7.5). So, when I couldn't find a pair of hiking boots after visiting half a dozen different stores, I decided to order a pair online from Zappos. Found a pair I liked in my size, placed the order, and got it in the mail today.
One problem: despite being the right size, they're a bit too tight.
Needless to say, I was pretty annoyed. So I called them up to see how to return my order and exchange it for a bigger size, fully expecting an aggravating 20 minutes of navigating a convoluted voicemail system, arguing with a customer service rep, and then having the privilege of standing in line at a post office.
But I'm here to say I had one of the best customer service experiences that I can remember in a long time. I got through to a rep right away, they put in my exchange right away, upgraded me to next-day shipping (their shipping is free, by the way), showed me how to print out a pre-paid return label (again, standard) and refunded me $20 because the boot had gone on sale since last week when I originally ordered it.
Now that's how you take care of customers!
So. Zappos.com. Great selection. Free shipping. And awesome customer service.
Once again, PANELista Craig Bogart supplies this edition of 7 covers. Craig writes:
"Next to Steve Gerber, my biggest influence in writing the Ineffables: Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot. In searching online for covers to select, I was pleasantly surprised to see there are a handful of appearances by the character I missed the first time around-- the hazards of collecting in the dark days before the internet, I guess. Sadly, I did get the TMNT crossover with the MacFarlane cover when it came out... Included here also is the Carrot's first appearance in Visions #1, the one with the Neal Adams cover."
I have to say, a lot of comics would be made more enjoyable with the cover copy "This Flame, This Carrot".
The 90s brought us ridiculously popular Image team books, and ridiculously unfunny send-ups of those team books. Exhibit A: Petworks vs. WildK.A.T.S.
First of all, I'm not sure how much demand there was for a parody of Wetworks and WildC.A.T.S., but at least try and make it look funny. Nothing about that covers tells me this is going to be clever or humorous in any way. I have a feeling even Cracked magazine would have turned this down.
I've recently been accused of being somewhat undiscriminating when it comes to Batman comics. I think I'm just good at finding good Batman comics, but to prove I have some standards, here's a Batman story I didn't care for.
"The Eighth Deadly Sin" was a two-part story running through Batman Annual Detective 27 and Detective Comics Annual 11. It shows Batman (Dick Grayson), Robin, Azrael and the Question tracking down a 7-Deadly Sins-themed cult trying to sacrifice children to raise an Eighth Deadly Sin. Story is by Fabian Nicieza, with art by J. Calafiore and Tom Mandrake.
So, first off, there's the whole attempted child murder thing:
Then the spirit of Lust tries to seduce Damian Wayne (who is, like 11, right?)
Zombie Dr. Wertham is all like, "I told you so."
But the part that irked me the most is how ineffectual Dick Grayson is. First, he calls in the Question to solve the mystery of the cultists. Then, the Question's friend Aristotle Rodor basically googles them. Maybe there was more detecting that got cut for space, but still.
But then, here's Dick Grayson staying with the shaken-up victim, and letting the Question go down into the sewers to fight the cultists and rescue Robin.
Generally, I like Dick Grayson as a character, and I think him in the cowl equals basically the Denny O'Neil Batman. I'm open to that. But if he keeps this up, Batman's going to crawl up through time and kick his ass.
I feel a Ditko fixation coming on, so it's time to start looking up some of those old Charlton Watchmen templates and oddball series' he made for DC in the late 60's and 70's. Of course, I've read most of his work at the House of Ideas from the 60's and from his return to Marvel in the early 80's, but that decade he spent bouncing around the other publishers is as much a mystery to me as, well, Steve Ditko is to anybody. This is the sort of thing that makes swearing off new books to go live in Back Issue Land so damn rewarding.
Like Kirby, Ditko is a genius who can crank out an endless series of bizarre and captivating concepts coupled with arresting visuals-- then demonstrate just how crucial Stan Lee was to the creative mix at Marvel by producing a series that is brilliant but remarkably short lived. As Spider-Man is more about Peter Parker than superheroics, both these artists needed Stan to put a human heart at the center of their cosmic vision. Seperately they each turned out numerous great concepts of which all but a couple of Jack's died within a handful of issues. For us Ditko fans that means we'd better enjoy the hell out of those eight issues of Shadethe Changing Man, as well as the six issues of the series which brings me here today...
Beware The Creeper #1
I'll have to revise my list of favorite comic book covers, because I'll be damned if this one doesn't crack the top ten. The visual presence of the title character is a treat, as well; the artist who gave us the best superhero costume design ever with Spider-Man pulls off another visual gem with only yellow skin and a pair of red Hanes briefs. Lord knows I'd hate to see that coming after me in a dark alley. If there's a flaw to be found on the cover, it's with the question posed by the copy: "Where Lurks The Menace?" I've read the book and I still don't know, because the bad guy inside is called The Terror. Steve may have got the greater creative freedom he craved at DC, buy maybe he still should have called his editor once in a while.
The story is a very densely written murder mystery plotted by Ditko and scripted by a "Sergius O'Shaughnessy", which the internet tells me was a pen name for Denny O'Neil. There are plenty of characters zipping in and out of the panels as possible suspects and as many names to keep track of as in a Miss Marple mystery, but who cares? It's the Creeper bounding through a gaggle of thugs we want to see, and we get plenty of that, too.
Ace TV reporter Jack Ryder is as involved with the case as his cackling alter ego, which may be the only problem I have with the book. The guy is a square jawed bareknuckle brawler himself, leaving me to wonder why he didn't have his own series even before the Creeper came along (the character's origin is only briefly alluded to here, having been covered in a single issue of Showcase before moving on to his own first issue). The secret identity is supposed to be the reader's gateway into the fantastic world inhabited by the costumed persona, but Jack Ryder seems just as idealized and distant as his alter ego.
Nevertheless, this comic rocks. Those six issues will go by too quickly, but I have my sights on Ditko's Etrigan the Demon back up series in Detective next...
So it's been a busy few weeks, between the holidays, a much-needed vacation, New Year's, and Hanna's birthday. Add to that the old "when it rains, it pours" factor: after nearly a year of not having any big writing gigs in '09, I ended the year with 2 minis for IDW. Not that I'm complaining - far from it - but it's made for a very chaotic end of the year.
So now we're starting a new year, and I think I've got my deadlines under control. And news related to those projects is what I wanted to briefly share with you guys and gals. (I'll keep them nameless for now, since neither has been officially announced yet, but I think you know about the sci-fi one...)
So on my latest project, I recently found out that the editor I'd be working with is none other than Bob Schreck. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about this, and at the same time a bit nervous. But whatever happens, I have a feeling it'll be a great learning experience.
The second bit of news is in relation to that aforementioned sci-fi book. After many tries to bring my fellow PANEListas into one of the books I'm doing at IDW, I finally succeeded. I pitched Andy's work for the cover artist on the book, recreating the look and feel of old movie posters, and Chris Ryall dug it. So Andy will be providing the "variant" covers for that 4-issue mini. (Yeah, I'm not a fan of the whole variant cover thing either, but so it goes.) I'm sure we'll get sneak peeks at his work at upcoming Panel meetings.
Looking forward to the new year. Hope it's been off to a good start for everyone here.
It's the first weekend of 2010, and for our weekly feature, I present to you Xena Warrior Princess vs. Callisto:
Topps, better known for baseball and other collectible trading cards, made a brief foray into publishing comics. Most of their books were licensed properties, such as Zorro, The X-Files, and Xena. Who is Callisto? Um, I don't really know, since I never watched that show. Young Dara would have probably loved it, what with its potent mix of boobs and a fantasy setting. But alas, by the time that show made it to the airways, Young Dara had grown up and while still interested in boobs and the fantasy genre, he no longer had the patience or suspension of disbelief necessary to sit through such a cheesy show for his fix.