Retro-review Supergirl #9

I started re-reading the 1996 run of Supergirl by Peter David once more because after my recent visit to Wizard World I was able to pick up some issues which I was missing and almost complete the run (at least up until #50 which is when I stopped collecting this comic.)

If you want to finish reading this review, check it out in its entirity at my new site journalismdude.com

OK now that the shameless self promotion is done, I should say that it feels kind of good to get back to work and also to be in front of my terminal blogging. I will have a full report for you guys on the Wizard World con I attended over the weekend. I was kind of dissapointed that I wasn’t able to take full advantage of my 3 day pass, but with so much to do over the weekend and my class work, I had to bail out on saturday which was too bad because that is the day Charisma Carpenter was scheduled to appear. Well, at least I got some good pics of Brian Michael Bendis and others, so check back here for a full Wizard Con recap a little later on.

On other comics related news, I was glad to read that “V for Vendetta” took the top spot in this weekend’s box office. Well that was a no-brainer, I mean there aren’t too many other viable options out there what with “Shaggy Dog” and that silly romantic comedy where Terry Bradshaw shows us his bare butt (ew!) rounding out the top 3. I still haven’t seen it, but plan to make it out there this week, so go ahead, even if Alan Moore does not support the film, I think that we need to support it because its good for the industry. So check it out and go see “V” if you haven’t done so yet. Peace Out.

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Comics I wish I owned: the one that got away

Spidey wears black on the cover of AMS 300 circa 1988This is the one that got away.

Everybody has that hole in their collection with one special book they had the opportunity to buy but didn’t, and they’ve regretted it since, and for me it’s the anniversary Spidey #300 by Todd McFarlane.

So you say, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that it’s got a $1.50 cover price, that was the price circa may 1988 when it came out.
I remember seeing a copy of it in the racks at my local 7-Eleven (back when most convenient stores carried comics) and thinking. “Looks good, going to come back and pick up a copy of it later.” Well, later never came, and the book was long gone. Now you’ll be lucky to find a mint copy of it for under $100. I saw a really good copy of it in a shop for $85 once, but I think it was signed.

This is a watershed book in the Spidey mythos. The Spiderman editors were looking to get out of the whole “black suit” fiasco they had put themselves in starting with “Amazing Spider-Man #252” and wanted to return old webhead to his familiar red and blue duds. Well the writers came up with a clever twist on the whole symbiote storyline in which an alien living black costume bonds with Spiderman (don’t ask, or go read Secret Wars #8 for all the details) but makes him lose control of his powers.
Contrary to popular belief, ASM No.300 is not Venom's first appearance
When Spiderman decides he’s had enough, he ditches the costume with help from FF’s Reed Richards. Yet, it’s not so easy, the costume gets “jealous” and develops a hatred for Peter Parker for rejecting it. A journalist who blames spiderman for losing his job by the name of Eddie Brock mergers with the symbiote and their combined hatred for the webslinger engender: Venom! and on his anniversary issue, Spidey gets one of his greatest new villains. The comic features some fantastic art by McFarlane, cutting his teeth before he becomes the superstar artist he is today, though collectors don’t consider this the first appearace of Venom (he did make a cameo in the last panel of #299.)

Marvel went on to use Venom too much and now they’ve given Eddie Brock cancer so the character has been taken over by the old Scorpion, but Spidey #300 is still a classic. I didn’t make the same mistake twice, I bought multiple copies of Spidey #400 when it came out, though that is less popular and expensive book, as is #500. This weekend I’m getting a copy of ASM #529 where Spidey gets his new armor (again, don’t ask) but I still wish I’d shelled out the buck and a half for Spidey #300 so many moons ago.
Do you have something that got away? Doesn’t have to be a comic book, an item you almost bought, something precious you lost. Tell me, I want to know!

The Amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay


One of my favorite things to do is go to the library when they are having a sale and try to find a good buy. Usually it’s nothing more than cheesy Harlequin novels and books I don’t care about. Once in a while I will make a find though, such was the case when I picked up this novel last week for a quarter. “Kavalier and Clay” by Michael Chabon won the pulitzer prize in 2000 but what attracted me was the subject matter: the story of two jewish artists, one who escapes the Nazi occupation in Europe to come to America to live with his cousin and work on the latest novelty to hit America- the comic book. Presumably based on the great artists of the era like Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and others of his ilk, but also featuring historical figures such as Orson Welles, this seemed like it would be right up my alley. I even found a cool website with more info on it. There’s even a comics sequel to it of sorts which I had heard of called “The Escapist” based on the characters in the book.

Next week I am going to be on vacation from my job at the college due to Spring break. Usually it is closer to Easter but since the school is changing to a 16 week calendar in the fall, we are having it earlier this year. I don’t have many plans, other than to catch up on my work and there isn’t really that much which I can do in a week except look forward to “Wizard World” but it will be nice to be able to do some freelance work for the Weekly and to catch up with my reading. I might even play some chess at the west covina club. Hopefully I will get a lot further with this book during my time off. Has anyone read it or heard of it before?
That’s all for now, will post a “comics I wished I owned” a little later this week.

Wizard World con is coming!

Wizard recently unveiled their lineup for their upcoming 3-day Wizard world convention in Los Angeles. I recently blogged about how if I ever met Buffy star Charisma Carpenter I would ask her what it was like to cheer for the Chargers. Well, it looks like in a couple of weeks I may get my chance because I put in my request for my press pass like I did last year (last year’s con was in Long Beach) but downtown being so much closer, I think that I may go all three days. Like a geeky fanboy drooling with anticipation, the industry panels read like a who’s who of industry creators, which is exactly what it is. Just the though alone of getting all my Hunter Killer comics signed by Mark Waid and Marc Silvestri would make attending worthwile, but the fact IDW is promoting their Angel comics and merchandise sweetens the deal for me. Also on the bill are Andy Hallet, Clare Kramer from “Bring it On” and Buffy, Elisabeth Rohm who left Angel to do “Law and Order” Kevin Smith from “Clerks” and a bunch of other people I don’t care about like WWE wrestling stars. What the WWE has to do with comic books I fail to see, except maybe if they are selling action figures which is probably the case. But who cares? It’s cheap comics all in one huge building, it’s creators and artists up the wazoo, it’s that gay green singing demon from Angel! It’s that weird guy from “Just Shoot Me” and it’s Cordelia freaking Chase! I am so there.

More comics I wish I owned

an epic for our times indeed, The New Gods #1 by Jack Kirby is a modern comic book masterpieceIt’s hump day once again and to help you through your mid week duldrums, I have composed another entertaining edition of “comics I wish I owned.” where I tell you which comics I want and why. In the pantheon of comic book artists, Jack Kirby still burns as one of its brightest stars. If you have ever read my blog then you know how much I enjoy his artwork. Kirby’s dynamic style changed comics forever. Artists today are still paying tribute to him, most recently Image comics’ “Godland” series has a Kirby stamp all over it. The cover at right is from “The New Gods #1” a historical comic book which I very much wish was in my collection. When Kirby jumped from Marvel to DC comics in the 70s after helping to create such unforgettable iconic characters like Captain America and the Fantastic Four, he started doing more epic comics with intergallactic themes and space faring heroes. When he returned to Marvel, he created another space saga “The Eternals.” Yet, “New Gods” is his unequivocal masterpiece and I think it helped to inspire such seminal works as “Star Wars” by George Lucas. “The New Gods” is part of the king’s 4th world saga, I actually want to read and own the entire series which tells the story of the peaceful New Gods from New Genesis who are at war with Apokalips and its ruthless dictator Darkseid. When I watch Darth Vader on the screen, I can’t help but to be reminded of Darkseid who is one of the best, if not the best villains in all of comics. He would go on to match wits with the likes of Superman. Darkseid’s maniacal goal was his persuit of the anti-matter equation which would allow him to rule the entire universe. You just gotta respect a bad guy with such grandoise ambitions. Mitchell Brown puts “The New Gods #1” in his list of 100 greatest comic books of the 20th century and with good reason. When Jack “King” Kirby passed away, many celebrities including Glenn Danzig, who is a huge comics buff, came to pay their respects. I would like to own the entire 4th world saga as I said, but I’d settle for “The New Gods #1.” Long live the king, he may no longer be with us, but his legacy is undeniable.

V for Vendetta

Wow. It’s wednesday already. I forgot it was a short week. So is anyone still reading this blog out there? Well, no sooner had I complained that Hollywood took a long time to use more graphic novels such as “A history of Violence” as their source material for new films than I saw a trailer for the new “V for Vendetta” film being released this March. I guess the film’s release was delayed, as I had seen scripts of the movie based on the excellent 80s comic book by Alan Moore and David Lloyd floating around the internet as far back as 2001. Also, Superhero hype had info on their website on this movie earlier this year, though strictly speaking, this one has very little to do with superheroes. Back when I was still in my screenwriting phase I read an early script by the Wachowski brothers based on the book. It’s interesting to note that I read this comic book back in the day when my collection consisted mostly of Marvel’s “Uncanny X-Men” but I was aware how DC’s more adult oriented Vertigo line was putting out consistently mature themes such as this one. Moore’s dystopian fantasy in “V” is no more of a literary accomplishment than other seminal works like “Watchmen” or Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” created during what I consider was comics’ second golden age, but it’s good to see that these works are being given more exposure, even if it is in a different medium. Lest we forget, Hollywood first turned to non super hero DC fare when they adapted “Swamp Thing” and then went back to the well with “From Hell.” Can’t wait to see the final adaptation of this one on film. It opens March 17.

Comic books I wish I owned

I am starting a new regular feature on this blog. You can see the title above. The average comic book collector owns over 1,500 books according to the year 2000 movie “Unbreakable” I think my collection is of a more modest size but there are many books I wished that I owned and I want to highlight a few and tell you why.
Almost at the top of my DC wishlist is issue #205 of Strange Adventures (cover right) featuring the first appearance of Deadman. This is a rare gem pencilled by long time DC editor Carmine Infantino during the silver age of comics, cover date October 1967. The script was by Arnold Drake and helped to inagurate a whole new trend of darker heroes. The comic was published a year after the campy Batman tv show became a smashing sensation. The comics professionals like Infantino came up with some of the most creative covers seen to date and they created new characters such as the Phantom Stranger, The Creeper and a few other stranger ones to go along with DC mainstays Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. But I have always been drawn to Deadman, I guess because I like the mix of science fiction and paranormal his stories were endowed with. He’s one of the silver age characters which didn’t make it big (his newer series are often found in the back issue racks at moderate prices in large stocked comic stores) but which had potential. For a short while, artist Neal Adams made a name for himself drawing his adventures. I’d love to own a copy of Deadman’s very first appearance. Maybe one of you can go on Ebay and find me one someday.

Final days and final nights

I am seriously thinking of not updating this blog anymore. In the beginning, the grand experiment of blogging was to expose the world to (and force myself to produce) my writing samples. Now that I have my own domain, journalismdude.com for those of you who missed that announcement, I am going to be moving forward to updating that instead. Maybe I will link and redesign this blog to it, or maybe it has a forum function all its own. Not sure yet. I somehow naively thought that the audience for this would be bigger. Maybe a bunch of comics aficionados and media savy people all commenting on my every post. After almost a year of updating this, I now know better, of course comments are not reflective of lurkers and many more people probably read it occasionally. At any rate, unless there is a huge demand for it to stay, these are the final days and nights of this blog. I want to thank the academy

Hunter Killer #5 review



Writer: Mark Waid
Artist:
Marc Silvestri
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow

Plot: Following his first mission as a Hunter Killer where he had to contain a young girl whose powers lead to her killing all organic life around her, Ellis becomes an operative and joins the Hunter Killers but experiences a crisis of faith. Samantha is then ordered by Morningstar to bring Ellis to him.

Criticisms: As good as this book is (and it’s very good), it isn’t without flaws which aren’t necessarily linked to the story. One problem is it doesn’t get published on a monthly basis, and therefore the irregularity of publication can make for long lapses between issues and can also make getting a copy of each issue more difficult than picking up a collection in a trade format. (There is a 3 month gap between issue 4 and this issue for example.) Like a television show which has been running reruns for several weeks, the interruption in the flow of the narrative can be somewhat annoying. Another drawback is the book appears to be slowing down in terms of pacing, following the introductory pages dealing with Ellis adjusting to the Hunter Killer missions, not much significant character development happens with the exception of Morningstar meeting with Ellis and relating some of Samantha’s previously undisclosed back story.

Praise and comments: Given all this, I am still immensely enjoying this comic because of Mark Waid and Marc Silvestri’s talents and the interesting back story they have created for the principal characters. Looking at a Silvestri drawn comic takes me back to lazy summer days reading some excellently crafted X-Men comics brilliantly penned by the likes of Chris Claremont and drawn by Silvestri. His artwork seems to have only improved since those days. The Sapiens can be thought of as Image’s answer to the Marvel Universe’s mutants, and that is an element Silvestri appears very comfortable rendering. This issue also provides other interesting sapiens in action like Scryer who has a large brain (Like the Leader in Incredible Hulk, except it is not green) and who can predict the future. Ellis has not yet realized he might be a pawn in a much larger conspiracy game and the first part of the book is dedicated to showing him in action at various Hunter Killer missions apprehending Ultra Sapiens alongside Samantha. However, Ellis seems to be questioning the program’s motivations and isn’t comfortable with all the killings. His moral soul searching leads him to question if he’s the only one in the program with a soul. This leads to a meeting with the enigmatic Morningstar who in the emerging mythology of Hunter Killer controls the government and almost everything else. He relates to Ellis Samantha’s origin and her first encounter with Wolf, but the reader is left wondering how much of the story is true and how much has been embellished or distorted. Before Morningside can extract more useful information from Ellis, he is interrupted by Samantha who informs him of “a situation in North Carolina.” This rather decompressed plot leads to the book’s cliffhanger, and there is a mildly interesting bonus story, a colorful five page preview of Image’s new Warren Ellis series Down.

Final thoughts: This is the ultimate paranoid conspiracy book for the modern era. Waid and Silvestri do a masterful job of keeping as much in the dark as possible while concurrently telling a good story with superb artwork and imaginatively created characters. I like the integration of computer elements such as the pictures of U.S. Presidents at the top of page 5. The creators just better make sure to pick up the pace so readers sick of decompressed Marvelesque comics don’t abandon the book.

Congrats to "A History of Violence"

I guess the big news this week is that Alito was confirmed for the Supreme Court and Bush made his state of the union address. Also this week, Oscar nominations were announced. I was happy to see “A History of Violence” garner such critical acclaim and also a nod from the Academy. I wonder why hollywood isn’t using more graphic novels for source material since there are so many great ones such as “100 Bullets” from D.C.’s mature Vertigo line which could be thought of as good or superior to “A.H.of V.”? I usually don’t really know that much about the movies that deserve to be recognized by these annual awards, but I do know about comics and graphic novels and it is good to know they are being recognized, even if they are just fodder for screewriters looking to develop the next big script for a blockbuster. This is another current industry trend which I don’t particularly agree with, letting hollywood and T.V. writers do big comic projects just to have some star power associated with the project. If the writer is good, then it usually doesn’t hurt the book, but I think those who love comics the most really care for the material and it shows, and it makes for a better read. I don’t claim to put as much stock in them as most people do. In fact, out of all the films nominated, I only saw four of them: King Kong, Star Wars III, Batman Begins and Chronicles of Narnia. Most of these were not named in big categories but rather for technical achievements of some kind. I still want to see some films such as “Match Point” and “Good Night and Good Luck” but I find that most of my discretionary income, if any, goes to graphic novels which make me just as happy (or in some cases happier) as any Oscar award winning film. The only time I can remember being even vaguely interested in the outcome was back when I was working security at the Shrine auditorium one year as part of a temp assignment. My job consisted of taking pictures of journalists and other people who needed credentials to go backstage during the show. I think “Gladiator” won best picture that year.