Thursday, May 26, 2005

Composite Superman!

Speaking of action figures . . . I went to the comic shop today. I've been out of the loop I guess, because I was 100% surprised to find a Composite Superman figure on the shelf. One of the very first comics I owned was an issue of DC's WHO'S WHO series that was simply an encyclopedic list of the heroes and villains of the DCU. I left that thing in tatters, man--eventually I picked up a replacement copy just for nostalgia's sake. The appeal of that comic was that I didn't read any DC books, but here was a whole list of new heroes and villains to pit against Spider-Man and the Avengers in the comics I was making up myself. And the one that really blew my mind was this guy:

Composite Superman! He's got green skin and he has a costume that's a split-down-the-middle amalgamation of Superman and Batman. And if that wasn't weird enough, according to the back of the box, he has all of the powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

It's just weird, man. I'm not even sure it makes sense. He was a villain, according to my copy of WHO'S WHO, but in my six year old brain, green skin + Superman + Batman = Ultimate Superhero.

I wish the figure wasn't twenty bucks, though. I don't buy action figures these days, but I would totally set that one up on my desk. It's everything I dig about superhero comics these days.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Subway Pirates!

I haven't been to the comic shop in ages.

I might make it tomorrow.

In the meantime, the new Entertainment Weekly lists "5 Reasons We Love SEVEN SOLDIERS," and at least one of them got me thinking:

"5: Morrison stuffs each issue--each page--with myriad wild ideas, a long-evolving style he calls 'compression.' It reaches maturity in SOLDIERS. 'Most comics spread a story too thin,' says Morrison. 'I'm throwing down the gauntlet. I'm saying 'Pick up your game.'"

I've only seen one issue of GUARDIAN so far, one of Morrison's SEVEN SOLDIERS titles, but in the first few pages we're introduced to this idea of subway pirates--they hijack subwar cars and run them on forgotten tracks in the underground rail system of New York City. They're tattooed and pierced and scary, looking like a good pirate should, and I can't help but think that in the hands of other writers, the idea of subway pirates would have been drawn out for six issues--first, the mystery of disappearing cars, by issue two Our Hero finds an outdated map showing unused lines, and maybe by issue 3 or 4 we get our first sight of the pirates. But with Morrison, and with GUARDIAN, we get right to the action. There's no slow reveal of what we already know is going to happen from reading PREVIEWS two months ago--subway pirates, page two, and on page three, more adventure!

I know I've gone on about ALL-STAR SUPERMAN already, but from what I hear the destruction of Krypton happens in the first quarter of the first page, and the rest of the issue is sci-fi superheroics. From time to time I think I might want to pick up a random issue of a superhero comic, just for the pure, four-color enjoyment of it; and in my heart of hearts, I'll always be a Marvel kid. I really like Spider-Man, for example, but I know if I pick up an issue of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN I'm as likely to get a four page spread of security guards talking about Spider-Man as I am 30 pages of a fight scene that still isn't resolved by the end of the issue. That's "writing for the trade," I guess, or what the kids these days are calling "decompression," but it's just bad storytelling, to me. It's what makes the new STAR WARS pictures seem so thin. Also in a recent issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY (you see where I get all of my media news, huh?) George Lucas said that 60% of the backstory he had for the prequels is in EPISODE III, while the other 40% was spread between the other movies. That's awful! That's the worst thing I've ever HEARD from the mouth of George Lucas, including the dialogue he's written!

I'm talking about comics, man! Serialized comics, work that comes with an almost 70-year tradition of solid adventure stories, a slice of culture as Mr. Alan Moore likes to call them. I want subway pirates in the first three pages, not at the end of issue four!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

By way of introduction, Part Two

So when DID I first start reading comics, they're all asking..

So here's the thing: I read slow. I've always been a little self conscious about it, being you know, really into books and shit. I also had a hard time getting through books for school in the time we were given. High school, sophomore year: I'm at Barnes and Noble with my dad, on one of our late-night trips. The only things my dad and I have ever really been able to talk about are books and politics, and since at this point I was still interested in being pals with him, every time he asked me if I wanted to go to Barnes and Noble at 9pm I'd say "yes." One night I was looking through copies of Othello because I had to read it for school, and I found the graphic novel version by Oscar Zarate. I figured my teacher wouldn't mind, since it said it was unabridged. I was already translating my world history notes into cartoons in the margins, so I guess I knew that interpreting words and pictures together was easier for me than words alone. Anyway, I kept that comic book Othello around for years and re-read it many times..

Flash forward to freshman year of college, when I saw Chasing Amy and was like "(double take) ...people write comics about love and stuff?!" After watching it several times, I decided to write my own comic. It was loosely based on my angsty teenage adventures at home and school. I came up with a bunch of characters but I only ever wrote two pages. I drew it freehand with a pen and a tube of white-out. I think a lot of it was about my parents.

Sophomore year, when I left school and lived at home for a while and worked at Borders, a really cool-looking girl (rare in my hometown) once asked me if we sold Strangers in Paradise. So the name was familiar to me when my Summer of '00 roommate suggested I read them. I did, and I got so involved in the story that the Emma/plane crash issues gave me stomachaches. I LOVED it. A funny, realistic love-and-friendship story with great characters and a generous dose of violence. It's still the only comic I buy every time it comes out. SIP, I am your bitch.

But SIP did also turn me on to the general world of comics, graphic novels, etc. I started going to Quimby's and CC, and read some things like Eightball, which I didn't like, and My Monkey's Name is Jennifer, which I adored. I also started reading old issues of Artbabe, and a friend had gotten me into the Chris Ware comics in the Reader.

That's totally long enough for one blog.
Coming up next: The Comics Issue That Wasn't!!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Damn you Jent!

Well thanks to Mathew and his bloody riting, I uped and slummed myself into the local comic shop (one I didin't like too much) and bought Issue 3-6 of "Identity Crisis"
Damn you Jent, now I'm hooked, and looking for issues 1 & 2
Damn you and your infectious love of comics!

On a side note, VIGIL is back 100%

Juan Navarro returns to VIGIL, with a second “season” in the works and
short pieces in between, restarting May 8th, 2005. He kicks off the series with his
short “CAPES,” where reality shows meet supercrime.

After "CAPES," VIGIL will run the short “Pizza Run" and then lead into “Jackie and the Beanstalk,” plus
pin ups by Jon Morris, Jason Martin, Ramon Sierra, Serge' and Tim Kelly. And then, the second season,
as the team heads toward an inevitable showdown with their one-time mightiest member...

Get ready for more great stories of life, death and invulnerability. Stories of powers on the mean, sweaty streets. Stories of the endless VIGIL.

This can also be found on my Blog

Game Logic

Hey Juan, do you think we could get Warren Ellis to start posting here? I don't always like his work these days, or even his Bad Signal emails, but from time to time he says something in them that leads me here to write something instead of just finishing my Red Bull and getting on the train, like I should be doing.

Today he sent one out about "Game Logic." The idea is simple--when something happens because it happens, it's game logic. It can be a jokey moment or a cute moment, but it's something that's not real-world-safe. A good example he gave was from a comic I'm not familiar with, where the hero raises his fist to the audience and exclaims, "Dude!" while his sidekick is shown with a thought balloon, exclaiming to herself, "Dude!"

Warren says, and I'm not going to go into a quoting spree here, but Warren says, "There's no self-consciousness, no irony, no distancing." What happens, happens--and you either buy in, or you don't.

To me, it's a sense of play. It's comics that are FUN and exciting, both to the people making them and to the folks reading them. It's comics where coincidences happen because it serves the story, because it IS a story, and it knows it, and the author knows it, and we know it, too.

I don't like the term Game Logic, but I like the idea behind it. Warren says two good examples of it are SHARKNIFE and SCOTT PILGRIM, so if those titles are as new to you as they are to me, go to the comic shop this week and take a chance on them. And go to Warren's site and sign up for Bad Signal, if you don't mind the occasional email about how he's cranky and tired. It's worth it when one like this comes through.

Monday, May 02, 2005

"With new radiant action"

I guess I started reading comics when I was a little kid, although it was mostly the newspaper funnies.. The only comic book I can remember having was a Foofur adventure.. even though Spiderman was my favorite tv show, I remember being told (I don't know by whom) that comics were "for boys."

Action figures, though. Apparently there were no gender restriction on those mamas. I had a whole bunch of Star Trek guys (thanks, dad), a Spiderman, a Batman and a Robin.. These were not the super-cool touch-every-muscle-it's-real action figures like the ankle nippers have today; they were pretty basic and smooth to the touch. Eventually some of the paint started to flake off Spock and Kirks' faces.

When I was in high school Spiderman and Batman came back on as animated series, so the action figures came back too. Way better ones. I got a Spiderman, but I had moved on by this time to the Tick. Funny as hell, and they had some great toys. I still have mine in a secret location.... The prominently displayed figures in my apartment are the Barista and the Librarian, both purchased for me by my best friend when I was working those jobs. I expect the crazy cat lady for my next birthday.

I'm still fascinated by action figures, but since becoming a functioning adult I haven't had the money to do much more than look. But now I have a job so maybe that will change. Hmm.

PS By way of introduction I should point out that I am a chick, so the comics I read tend to be chick comics. Thank yooou.

PPS I read somewhere last week that rats are less likely to develop alzheimer's if they have lots of bright colored toys throughout their lifetime. I don't want alzheimer's.