Saturday, July 22, 2017

Maybe They'll Fly Around In A Terrificar?!?!

If you do something stupid long enough, eventually the competition is going to troll the living hell out of you.

I've complained about it enough enough here, so you know that, in a fit of pique over Fox continuing to make Fantastic Four movies, Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter demanded the cancellation of the Fantastic Four comic, and their removal from all merchandising. Man, I bet that's really hurting Fox, Ike.

Anyhoo, it's now been over two years since Marvel has published an FF comic. TWO YEARS.

And now DC has purposely tweaked the House Of Ideas. Yesterday, at SDCC, they announced a new team:
Jeff Lemire, having just finished his exclusive deal with Marvel, is back at DC, and writing a team named The Terrifics. Consisting of Mr. Terrific, Plastic Man, Metamorpho and Phantom Girl. Or, as that Newsarama article linked to above said, "That's right: a scientist, a stretching man, a brute with physical disfiguation, and a woman who can become intangible."

No, that's not an accident, as Lemire said his goal is "recapture the feeling of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four."

Others have noticed the similarities to the FF, too, as news/satire site The Outhousers noted: "a team with a smart guy, a stretchy guy, a guy who may look monstrous to some, a girl who can become intangible, and a jokester sounds a little like a fantastic family book, that might not be a coincidence."

So congratulations, DC, on some exceleent master-level trolling. And thank you.

Of course, the downside is that this news maybe implies that DC's "plans" for the Legion Of Super-Heroes are still on the back-back-burner of Geoff Johns' mind--if Phantom Girl is here on a 21st century teams, she's not on the famous 31st century team. It's not necessarily disruptive--Legionnaires have been lost in time before, and the main team continued (and, of course, it could always be a different character named Phantom Girl...).. But given that in the 14 months of Rebirth, the "Saturn Girl is in Arkham" sub-sub-sub plot hasn't advanced one iota, it's pretty clear that nothing substantive (other than one-shot crossovers with Bugs Bunny or Batman '66) will be happening anytime soon.

So--thank you, DC, for poking Marvel in the eye with a sharp stick. They needed it. And frak you, DC, for apparently continuing the shelving of the Legion.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Night Fights--Losing Your Head Style!!

One of the reasons I started this carny sideshow of a blog is because I wanted to participate in Friday Night Fights.

So, it's only fitting that for my 10th Blogiversary, I present the grandest Friday Night Fight EVER.

It's a hot summer in the North African desert--it's always summer in the desert--and Easy Company has been beset upon by German troops, German APC's, and a British Spitfire that thought they were Germans. Rough day.

Too rough, as Sergeant Rock seems to flake out a little bit...


OK, so now it's ON!!

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Don't worry, Rock didn't have to take on the whole platoon by himself with only a sword and shield...

Easy showed up to take them out...

Spacebooger would likes how they set up a sequel story that never happened...

Full-on actual beheading courtesy of Sgt. Rock #373 (1983), by Robert Kanigher and "Trebuk etc." GCD informs us that's a pseudonym for the Joe Kubert School...

Now is the time for you to go and vote for my fight. Why? BECAUSE SGT ROCK JUST SEVERED A NAZIS HEAD WITH A SCIMITAR!!!!! Now go vote!!

REPOST--Let's (Not) Kill Hitler!!

For some reason, this 2013 ditty was by most popular post ever, at least in terms of continuing number of hits.

Well, for some pretty obvious reasons, I guess, as Mental Floss and TV Tropes linked to it in time travel articles.

So, anyway, here again is...Let's Kill Hitler!!


Let's say that, for your birthday, you get a laser rifle and a time machine.

Well, it's pretty obvious what most of us would do, right?

But people never think past that first step...

Well, still, he died saving millions, right?




So now someone else gets to be the hero by killing you...

Except, of course, it becomes a never ending chain...

There was an awful big pile of future bodies backstage at the Nuhremberg Rally...

Time Travel: leave it to the professionals, OK, kids?

From Mystery In Space #114 (1980), by Gerry Conway & Tom Yeates

Repost--It's Still Not Too Complicated!!

I originally posted this back in 2008, and I feel even more strongly about it now.

I think the "you couldn't understand this show/comic coming in the middle" is some serious gate-keeping bullshit. And yes, I've been guilty of it, too.

It works as self-aggrandizement, even if not on a conscious level--"I was into this before you were, so I'm better and smarter." It works as clickbait--"Here's everything you need to know about Character X who was just announced," which implicitly tries to make the reader feel insecure for not knowing every single thing ahead of time before watching/reading. (It also is a sub rosa accusation that the creators can't do their job and explain this stuff to the audience themselves). Our obsession with creating "jumping on points" tells newcomers that our media is just too damn tough for them under normal circumstances.

The bottom line? Get over ourselves. We figured all of this stuff out in our day, and that was before Wikipedia and digital archives made it pretty damn easy for newcomers to catch up. Let's give a little credit to those coming after us, and not discourage newcomers by telling them that they wouldn't like X because it's too complicated.

Or, as I put it back then...


You hear it said that by some that comic book continuity is a barrier to new readers...that the long, complicated back story on some titles is too impenetrable to the newbie, and drives them away.

How true is this?

Obviously, continuity can get ridiculously over complex. In any given X-Title, you might encounter 3 or 4 different heroes from different alternate futures, or alternate pasts, or heavens knows what. Ye gods, thanks for the migraines, Chris Claremont.

However, other forms of serial fiction have multi-decade back stories that, alternate futures aside, makes Spider-Man look like Richie Rich. Yet somehow, The Guiding Light (for example) seems to pick up viewers every year who manage to navigate the complexities of who is really whose daughter.

And even when Marvel creates a whole new line featuring old characters in brand new continuities, ostensibly to become a better gateway for new readers, eventually that continuity gets complex, too. As someone out there said (forgive, I forget who it was, let me know and full credit will be extended), once you have Ultimate Cable and Ultimate Stryfe, haven't you lost the mission for a simpler entryway?

Here's another way to look at it--were the comics of ye olden days really less complicated? Let's take one personal anecdote--me.

One of the very first non-kiddie comic books I ever owned was Marvel Triple Action #10, a 1973 reprinting of Avengers #16, from 1965. My recollection is that my grandparents purchased it for me at some flea market. It had no cover (which is just as well, because it turns out to be one of the more hideous and misleading covers ever...Sorry, Gil Kane).

This was my first exposure ever to even the concept of the Avengers, let alone an actual story. We all know this was the first big Avengers line-up shakeup, ever. Here's the original cover:

Much better than the Skrull version, or Zombie version, or Ape version, or...Now, just look at that...look at all those characters on that cover. Obscure villains, villains and characters from other comic books...and look at the inside:

Best. Comic. Title. EVER.No recap, no roster page, no introduction...just a "hey, if you weren't here last issue, you'll catch up. C'mon!"

The first two pages of the comic present you with the heroes, only one of whom is identified by name, and the Masters of Evil, only one of whom is identified by name. The reader was expected to know who all these cats were. And if not, follow along and figure it out!

Meanwhile, we take a quick visit to Captain America:

That's how cool Cap is...he buries his fallen foesA scene entirely based on something that happened in a previous issue, which I hadn't read...with absolutely no background on Cap. or why his battle with Zemo (whoever he was) was so important, no introduction of who the heck "Rick" is...what any of the back story was. Yet somehow I kept reading.

Then, back in NY:

Damn these company-wide crossovers!Thor leaves, off-panel (!), for some unexplained crisis. Go read his book if you want to know!! Then Hawkeye shows up out of nowhere...

Cue flashback panel style!!We get a decent flashback to his past appearance in Tales of Suspense...Then the Avengers go and try to recruit someone called Namor...who?

How dare they not stop everything to give me the complete history of this character!!Then two weird looking people in hideous costumes show up, requiring us to know X-Men history...

I tremble at those costumes...And then we see a collage of villains, most of whom are a complete mystery to a new reader:

Jack Kirby's Parade of Evil Faces!!And yet...despite the fact that the issue was almost entirely based on past events I hadn't read; even though to truly appreciate everything going on you had to have a working knowledge of the Avengers' history, and the X-Men, and Iron Man, and Thor, and who those villains are---none of which I had ever encountered; even though the issue was as "hung up on continuity" as anything could be in Marvel 1965...I still enjoyed it, and wanted to read more.

Did I understand everything? Hell no. But it was a good tale, entertainingly told, and Stan and Jack did a decent enough job filling me in, so as I went along I was never lost--just curious. Oh, at 10, I was no Amadeus Cho, and I didn't 100% understand everything that was referred to. But I figured out enough to enjoy the story, and the characters, and to want to know more.

Sometimes, I think, we underestimate newbies. I think people are a hell of a lot more willing to come in media res into a storyline than we give them credit for. We assume that if they don't know as much as we do, they can't possibly enjoy and appreciate what they're reading--at least not as much as we do.

And for some people, sure. But those same people would likely have been as put off by Avengers #16, from "simpler" times. As for the rest? The human mind, especially kids', are amazing things, and are capable of filling in blanks on their own, and wanting to know more about a universe. People did start watching Dallas in season 5, and somehow survived not knowing every detail of past seasons, and even became fans. People did start reading Robinson's Starman, one of the more continuity-involved series ever, and their heads didn't explode.

Sometimes, I think, we latch onto "too complicated a continuity" as a convenient excuse to explain why comics don't sell more. And it's true, some creators make their stories far, far too complex for newbies to easily jump onto. And some creators are overly obsessed with continuity navel-gazing. But somehow, those seem to be the books that sell the most, year after year.

Far more important than "too complex" is "is the story well told" and "are the characters any good" and "does this intrigue the reader enough to want to read more?" You don't need to know the history of the Golden Age and the first Crisis and Zero Hour to enjoy a JSA story, if it's done well. But sometimes, I think, we ourselves do just as much to scare newbies aways, with our "oh, the back story is too complicated for me to explain, so you wouldn't enjoy it."

As a 10-year-old I got thrown into the deep end of an Avengers story that referenced at least 20 other comic books and didn't try to hold my hand by dumbing everything down for newbies. Let's give other newbies the same benefit of the doubt, instead of assuming that they're incapable of figuring things out as they went along. I figured it out, and so can they.

The Real Comic Book Revolution Of The Past Decade!!

There have been a lot of changes to the comics world since I started my blog. But for my money, the most significant change is this: soon, every comic book ever may be available to us.

Consider the days of my youth. You could find the current month's comics at virtually any newsstand, book store or supermarket. But if you were looking for older stuff? Or if somehow your preferred stop didn't get Amazing Detective #1527 that month? Good luck finding it!

Finding older stories was a scavenger hunt at best--flea markets, garage sales, clearance bins at K-Mart, whatever. No matter how much house ads you saw in the back issues taunted you with fantastic looking comics that you had to read because OMG those covers, well, your chances of finding those particular issues were virtually nil. If you were lucky, the local library had copies of Superman: From The Thirties To The Seventies and Batman: From The Thirties To The Seventies, so you could constantly check them out and read the hell out them. And there were the reprint titles Marvel published, and the reprints DC would run as back-ups in some of their titles.

The advent of the local comics shops helped, of course. But it was still haphazard--your access to all of the legendary old stories was constrained but what collections they had bought, and how big your wallet was because Quarter Bin aside, these old comics cost actual money!!

The real revolution started around the time I started this blog, when Marvel licensed GIT Corp to produce CD-ROMS (and then DVD-ROMS) of their older comics. Talk about manna from heaven--suddenly you could own every issue of of Amazing Spider-Man *ever*--for only $50!! Sure, it wasn't necessarily the same as owning the physical comics, but come on--500+ comics, right there on my hard drive, a click away? So, yeah, I snarfed those suckers up.

And the internet soon proved to be the aficionado's greatest friend. Sites sprung up with scans of thousands of public domain comics that you could read or download--for free! Marvel ended their deal with GIT Corp (boo!), but created their own internet buffet, letting you read as many comics as they put online for one yearly fee. Comixology came online, and yes, you had to pay for individual issues, but lots of stuff that had never been available before except as pricey collectors' items were suddenly available for a couple of bucks. That hot new series you missed out on that everyone is talking about now? You can get caught up pretty damned easily.

And now, the companies cannot seem to pump out physical collections fast enough, to feed the voracious appetites of libraries and bookstores (and their corporate bottom lines)--Omnibus and Absolute and Epic and Masterwork and whatever other labels they want to slap on these collections. Whatever the name, these suckers collect lots of classic comics at a damn reasonable price (usually). And the beauty part is, they can't stop publishing them, or their books department will show a decline in sales versus last year, and man, you can't do that at a big mega-corporation--so find more stuff to publish!!

Look, I know all is not perfect. There are many issues/stories that have been lost to the ravages of time. There are issues of creator rights and compensation that must be dealt with, and issues of licensed characters that have gone to other companies mean that there are some stories we just may never see (then again, we got Master Of Kung Fu reprints, and I thought that would never happen...). A lot of stuff, even some relatively recent, is lost in the byzantine bankruptcies of various companies that are no longer with us. Releases can be haphazard, and too often focused on popular or hot characters, while some of the fringier books/character get ignored (I'm especially looking at you, DC!). And few seem interested in doing complete, cleaned up versions of many of the brilliant but orphaned public domain stuff out there, and the lost classic horror comics, and romance comics, and western comics, and war comics, and...

But look at what we do have. The next volumes of Golden Age Omnibus for Superman and Batman take us into 1946!! Soon enough, every single Batman and Superman story from the Golden Age will be in print, and available! Every single one!! And it's not completely insane to think that, by my 20th blogiversary, every single Superman and Batman story will be collected, in print and online. Take that, Superman: From The Thirties To The Seventies!!!

I've always joked that I wanted to read every single comic book ever. But now, thanks to industry trends, there's just the slimmest chance that that might actually be possible before I shuffle off this mortal coil. And that is revolutionary.

So What? Big Deal!

Well, today is the 10th anniversary of this cow-town puppet show of a blog.

I can't say that I disagree, big guy.

I mean, we humans love our round numbers and arbitrarily important dates. But really, this is pretty much the same blog it was yesterday, and pretty much the same blog as it will be tomorrow. Love me or hate me, an anniversary shouldn't change that.

Still, it is a good opportunity to thank my 10 or 12 regular readers, or perhaps suggest that they have their sanity checked.

There will be a few more posts today, a couple of original things, a couple of reposts of pieces I think are important, and the single greatest Friday Night Fight ever.

Otherwise, just the same old same old. I've still got about a trillion comics to read, and I'm sure I'll keep finding things that I want to share.

So stick around, foolish fish.

Goddamn, I love comic books!