Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Editor-in-Chief of DC Deleted his Twitter Account, Possibly Because the Harassment Scandal-Messes Going On

"Screw you all, I'm getting off Twitter!"
Dan DiDio is the Editor-in--Chief (or EIC) of DC Comics. DC comics has been having some issues lately with people protesting their, shall we say, "Gentle," treatment of employees who displayed harassing or outright predatory behavior of a sexual nature. To put it bluntly, DC has some people who've done some really questionable or outright unethical things in an effort to get their rocks off, and DC seems to have often looked the other way or given them a slight rap on the knuckles followed by asking, "You aren't gonna try and sexually harass anyone now, right?"

Well, DiDio has a lot to do with the people who harassed not getting fired or even getting promoted, and DiDio has been getting a lot of tweets about the harassment business. He has deleted his Twitter account completely, possibly in response to this. These two things may not be linked--after all, correlation is not cause--but methinks they might be. Basically, DiDio did the equivalent of sitting silently at a press conference, and when that looked too bad, got up, flipped the table, and left. The last thing/image he tweeted? This:
I don't get whatever joke is being told, but imagine with all this controversy going on DiDio is the one who needs a drink. It is pretty sad when one of the more important people at a company shuts-down a means of communication as opposed to actually, you know, answering questions. It shows a refusal to engage with the very people who keep your company going (the fans) and have some honest concerns. Oh well, at least that rabbit seems to be having a fun time.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Marvel and Two of Its Quirkier Comics--"Hellcat," and, "Mockingbird"

Different--in a Good Way
Not too long before it announced its upcoming, "Rebirth," DC had a promotion called, "DCYOU," where the idea was to make comics a bit more offbeat, fun, and otherwise quirky. It resulted in some quality comics, but they did not seem to actually sell that much, so off they go into our faint memories as DC gets ready to retool yet again. The thing is, Marvel has been making some quirky books for awhile now too, with some outright huge successes such as, "Ms. Marvel," and plenty of stellar books that deviate from the norm of what you might think about when you hear, "Super-hero comics." You've got the stellar, "Squirrel Girl," of course, and some other books including two I wanted to discuss a bit today--"Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat," and, "Mockingbird."

What Makes Them Interesting?
Having worked retail at one point,
I can agree with Patsy it feels this way sometimes.
First off, I'm going to just call the comic, "Hellcat," because the full title is way too long. So, "Hellcat," and, "Mockingbird." Both are comics with female leads (who get respect), have storylines that are interesting in a variety of ways, and have solid artwork. Let's break those three elements down a bit...

Female Leads Getting Respect
Besides the Kamala Khan version of Ms. Marvel,
female-led books can struggle to gain marketshare.
Quite often comics with female leads seem to get less attention. By that I mean the books get unimpressive writers and artists, minimal promotion, or suffer low sales. I'm not sure how these offbeat-books have been selling for Marvel (besides the previously-mentioned, "Ms. Marvel," which of course does gangbusters), but I hope they are doing pretty well as these aren't just, "Female super-hero comics," as they are superb comics that happen to have female leads. The writers are artists are indeed impressive and with their skills have given us some cool story-elements. It is sad that books with women at the forefront seem to get less props, because as these two comics show, stories with female leads can be great!

Unique Storylines
"Hellcat," has been telling a good story in that it is not too far removed from some of the other, "street-level," heroes as instead of having Patsy/Hellcat save the planet Earth or something, she is just trying to live life and fight some crime. An interesting element that writer Kate Leth has implemented, however, is how the old romance comics from back in the day that Marvel actually published about Patsy Walker have been made in-canon somewhat, by having the story go that Patsy's mother made those comics, and now grown-adult Patsy is a bit haunted by all the people with a love for nostalgia reading about teenaged-Patsy (and many of us would rather forget chunks of our teen years). It is a bit meta, and a very clever way to make a fictional character's history all the more fascinating by taking the very nonfiction fact of her having had other stories made. Oh, and Patsy creates a temp agency for people with powers who want jobs but don't want to be off fighting crime--now that's really clever!

Mockingbird deserves mention because--as the writer Chelsea Cain admits at the end of the first issue--a whole lot doesn't make sense after the debut. Cain discusses how the comic is a five-issue, "Puzzle box," in that the first issue shows us bits of Mockingbird's life every few days, and issues #2, #3, and #4, will show three whole separate incidents before we enter the present/end of issue #1 with the fifth issue. It's strange, creative, and I love it. Plus, the comic is absolutely hilarious while at the same time having an air of sadness and foreboding in the first and second issues that have come out. After all, the main idea is Mockingbird has all sorts of strange super-serums in her normal body and things aren't quite reacting well in her due to that. If someone hadn't recommended this book to me with their discussing of how the issues are designed uniquely and the comic has a bit of that Matt Fraction-Hawkeye-vibe I would have missed out on a great book!

Awesome art
The art in, "Hellcat," has a bright and free-flowing style and compliments the comic perfectly. Brittney Williams gives us something fun that, "Pops," with energy and has a wonderful mixture of being realistic at times, and over-the-top cartoony at others. Kate Niemczyk also is amazing on, "Mockingbird," drawing some gorgeous action scenes, such as in the 2nd issue where we have a full-page spread of our heroine jumping around and knocking-out foes. There has been discussion of how sometimes companies will feel like they have a, "House style," and I really like it when books feel like they're going against that concept with art that is impressively varied.

Will The Books Last?
As I stated, the more, "Different," kinds of comics seem to either strike a nerve and then hit it big, or suffer as relatively unknown (yet critically beloved) cult-hits. I'm not sure what is going to happen with some or most of these latest Marvel titles, but I sure do know that I appreciate when Marvel takes a chance on making something less cliche and more, "Out-there," than some books.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Tales From the Dollar Bin--Secret Wars: E is for Extinction #1-#4

There are comics which are worth incredible sums of money, but so many of the most interesting, tragic, or just downright weird can be found for a simple dollar or less in a store's "dollar bin". There, comics that never gained much popularity can be found alongside those that sold so much as for a copy to be worthless. "Tales From the Dollar Bin" aims to explore these comics, be they a single issue or an entire run of a series. From the great to the miserable, some of the best treasures and worst nightmares can be found in those infamous boxes. Let's have a "tale" now...
One of Many Unique Series (if That Statement Makes Sense)
Marvel's event, "Secret Wars," brought with it many unique series. I know that almost sounds like an oxymoron, but the paradox did occur that many books came out with most being surprisingly odd and interesting. Be it Law-and-Order-styled, "Thors," comic, or the dollar-bin title I'm going to discuss today, a slew of strange and intriguing comics were released to tie-in with, "Secret Wars," that varied in how much they actually related to the event or just were a fascinating surreal read. Stores also ordered  way too much of the, "Secret Wars," comics so I was able to find all four issues of the mini-series, "E is for Extinction," in the same dollar bin.

"E is for Extinction," draws its name from one of the story-arcs that occurred during Grant Morrison's amazing, seminal, and just plain spectacular run on, "New X-Men." In this run he introduced all sorts of characters who were positioned as being the next generation of X-Men, gave us surprising twists such as mutants becoming more of a common minority as opposed to feared and hated freaks, a genocidal and outdated Magneto who learns the idea of him is more powerful than his actual self, and otherwise completely re-vamped and changed the concept of X-Men in the Marvel Universe.
Such a good number of issues came from Morrison and his artistic collaborators.
So, of course once he was done Marvel basically undid all of his efforts through events that lowered the mutant population, altered major twists (he killed Magneto and Marvel said, "Nevermind,") and otherwise ignored all that Morrison did besides keeping Cyclops and Emma as a couple, and using the wild plot-point about Charles Xavier having a twin sister as a story aspect Joss Whedon picked-up and ran with for his also-great stuff on, "Astonishing X-Men," that I remember fondly despite its many delays. Still, even if Marvel shuffled almost all the characters Morrison introduced to the side, spat on his story ideas, and ignored everything awesome, it still was a stellar run of stories, kicked-off of course by his, "E is For Extinction."

Here We Are
So here we are now, in a, "Secret Wars," influenced Universe that draws immensely from Morrison's time on the comic, taking some plot-points to the conclusion he hinted at (the former X-Men are now old and useless in this new world) while changing some others in fascinating ways (Xorn had been a fake mutant created by Magneto in Morrison's comics, here he is real, and characters such as Sublime show up). The young mutants that Morrison introduced to us are now indeed the X-Men, with everyone from Beak, to Quentin Quire (thank God Jason Aaron brought Quentin back for some X-Men works as he is a good character, I forgot to mention that aspect of Morrison's run eventually sticking around), Martha the floating brain, and everyone else popping-up. Heck, they even got Ramon Villalobos to provide Frank Quitely-like art (Morrison had Frank Quitely often on his run) and Chris Burnham to write (who can also draw and his own art-style is a bit like Quitely's too).

The entire four issues really read as one big love-letter to Morrison with its usage and alteration of concepts he brought us over a decade ago that still feel fresh today. Because these things continue to have a new vibe, that makes this comic seem just as much ahead of its time as Morrison's stuff and like a reverse time capsule from an alternate universe--"Hey, this is what comics are like where the X-Men did get older and stories evolved in the way Morrison plotted."
Magneto is revealed to be evil, but that's only the start of problems.
The plot  itself involves the younger X-Men coming into conflict with the newer ones, as a Magneto who seems to have reformed himself after the death of Charles Xavier of course turns out to not be that innocent, but in the greater scheme of things is actually a lesser threat than many of the villains who emerge. There is some discussion of the, "God," Doctor Doom and the alternate worlds play a role, but one really would not have to read, "Secret Wars," to be able to enjoy this--I would say that it actually is more important to be familiar with  Morrison's, "New X-Men," to get maximum enjoyment out of the references and allusions than anything else.

A Bit of a Shame How Things Worked Out
Reading this comic from the dollar bin is a tad bittersweet as it shows all the better ways things could have worked out. Marvel absolutely flooded the market with some good, "Secret Wars," comics but there were so, so many, and some stores ordered too much that they can be bought incredibly cheaply. Grant Morrison's X-Men comics were amazing but Marvel chose to undo nearly every single thing he contributed. A comic series like this shows the directions Marvel could have gone with their works but chose not to--and many people may have ignored a mini-series this great as there just was too much in the way of, "Secret Wars," books that seemed to matter little in regards to the main storyline.

From reading a comic such as this and considering the history it draws from--as well as the possible future, one can wonder what could have been to the same degree as what could be. "E is For Extinction," deserved more respect from Marvel the first time the comics used that title, and a fascinating blend of homage, remix, and original ideas such as the, "E is for Extinction," we got in 2015 as a part of, "Secret Wars," deserved more respect from readers as opposed to being just another of the surprisingly solid tie-in comics that suffered due to the sheer amount of books and the horrendous delays the main comic faced. It is sad, but in all honesty you can generally expect a mixture of joy and sorrow when it comes to telling....a tale from the dollar bin!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April's End List of Links

May Approaches!
April is about over, here are some links and news stories for you to consume.

Read These and Get Edumacated!
I really did enjoy the, "Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2000," game from Neversoft. It seems I'm not alone in that regard.

Dear God, Donald Trump is most likely going to be the Republican front-runner and I pray he doesn't get elected President. Should such a thing happen we are probably doomed.

These efforts to make abortion illegal through increasingly awful excuses for laws are just an embarrassment. I guess some people won't be satisfied till abortion are only for the rich who can keep it quiet or people who go into dirty back-alleys and risk their health.

Prince's death continues to make me feel very sad. His family has my sympathy during this trying time made even more complicated by the fact he did not leave a will and there will be plenty of vultures descending to try and get piece of his estate.

DC must really not be enjoying all the negative press about their continued promoting of a known repeat offender of sexual harassment. Correction, at least two sexual harassers/borderline predators.

Speaking of DC (and in a less embarrassing story), I always enjoyed reading, "The Killing Joke," and am astonished they actually are going to make an R-rated animated feature based on it, featuring the voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy, and the best Joker-voice (Heath Ledger wins for live-action), Mark Hamill. I'm excited!
Cracker Jack, considered by many to be the original junk food (a dubious honor, but an honor nonetheless) has announced they are saying good-bye to offering any physical prizes in their tasty bags or boxes. They will now be throwing in a little piece of paper with QR codes or other ways to get digital goodies. I mean, it'll save them money in the long so, so well played, Cracker Jack--it just makes me feel a little sad as I recall getting prizes back in the day. So goes the march of time and all that.

Hearthstone's latest expansion, "Whispers of the Old Gods," is out, bringing with it some changes to the game via a number of cards being, "Retired." I've been fiddling with it and am impressed so far.

As someone who has enjoyed visiting the Disney theme parks and learning bits of trivia (Club 33, anyone?) this article about the Haunted Mansion and its twisty history made for a good read.

The Links that Were
Those were some links, I hope you enjoyed them. I'll try and do some more in the future as its always fun to share.

This is Not a Drill People, We Are Gonna Get an, "Animal Crossing," on Mobile!

I just read that this Fall we can expect to get, "Animal Crossing," for mobile devices. My immediate reaction upon reading this was to loudly exclaim, "YESSSSSS!" and pump my fists in the air joyously. I've played multiple entries in the Animal Crossing series, from the consoles to the Nintendo DS, and it is basically tied with, "Harvest Moon," for my favorite life simulator. Of course, one big advantage it has over that stellar farming title is that the, "Animal Crossing," series in fact takes place in real-time, using its clock to simulate the actual day and season. It's good stuff, and now we will in due time be getting it for our phones to enjoy countless hours with!

Some articles are a bit snarky, commenting how Nintendo should have mobile apps with its most popular characters seeing as how the company is having more and more money-troubles, but those articles can take a long walk off a short pier, because, "Animal Crossing," on iPhone has me absurdly excited. The only worry I have is if they try to implement some kind of obtrusive micro-payment system that makes that old loan-shark Tom Nook like a good guy in comparison. Time will tell.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I'm Serious, Frank Cho, It Honestly Isn't Funny

Yet again, here we are.
I talked about Frank Cho back in September of 2015, discussing his propensity for drawing cheesecake-style art and acting like he was making a political statement at the same time. As always, I'm fully for well-drawn cheesecake art or political statements, but when you're just being a sarcastic jerk it ain't that appealing. Well, because that famous pose (butt in the air while the lady crouches) brought Cho so much fame after he made fun of the Spider-Woman controversy with Milo Manara's initial art, he now has yet another drawing he's making bank on. The thing is, this time it is an actual, official cover for a, "Street Fighter," comic.

It is like the comic's publisher thought, "We want to do a post of a woman with her butt in the air, how about we get Frank Cho seeing as Manara might be busy?" So now we have an homage of an homage. It's Frank Cho paying a cynical tribute to his own cynical tributes and laughing all the way to the bank. The one saving grace is that the image itself doesn't have something annoying to hint at Cho pretending to be political as he has done with characters popping-up in the background and yelling, "Outrage!" At least this is just a straightforward cheesecake image to folk who don't know the background story about the pose. For those of us who do know the story though, Frank Cho is just kind of being a stinker.
"You'll never stop me!
The saddest thing about this is some of the creative team behind the comic itself didn't know there would be this Frank Cho cover causing a hubbub, so now they just get to feel embarrassed without having actually done anything. Honestly though, Frank, if you just go back to making some of those funny, "Liberty Meadows," comic-strips all will be forgiven.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Our Long National Nightmare is Over--Marvel Is Killing Their, "Inhumans," Movie

I don't care about the Inhumans, but I've been told by Marvel I love the Inhumans. Between their concentrated effort of killing-off the popularity of the, "X-Men," through culling books and desperately trying to wedge Inhuman-themed books into their place, the effort to ret-con mutants as Inhumans, the introduction of the concept on the, "Agents of SHIELD," television show, and so forth, Marvel has spent these last few years really trying to make, "The Inhumans," happen. The thing is...well, let's have this clip from, "Mean Girls," sum it up:

Yup, Marvel is Gretchen and they are desperately trying to make, "Fetch/Inhumans," popular (thanks to House to Astonish for stating this metaphor in one of their podcasts), but people don't want it, damn-it, so quit trying. I've enjoyed the Inhumans in small doses in other books, but the last time I found myself substantially intrigued by a book featuring a bunch of the characters was that mini-series written by Paul Jenkins and with art by Jae Lee from, let's see here...from the late 1990's (and it was reissued in 2013 to an overwhelming shrug, it seems.

Well, Marvel has given-up and removed, "Inhumans," from their movie slate, possibly/probably forever. Then again, depending on who/whom you ask much of the folk at Marvel quit wanting to do a movie about the Inhumans some time ago, but it took the shifting of power within the company for it to become possible to say, "Screw it," and drop the Inhumans from Marvel's film slate.
People have pointed out Marvel may just be moving dates around, considering what to do with the property, etc. etc. Let's be honest though, this movie is most likely dead and in a few years Marvel will have the Inhumans back to being the relatively obscure characters they've generally been, with any newer Inhumans of note having something happen where they are quietly revealed to be actually mutants--if someone wants to bet me a crisp dollar bill that by 2020 Ms. Marvel won't have somehow been turned into a mutant do please send me an email, cuz' I'm positive they're gonna try and change it.

The, "Inhumans," movie is dead and nobody cares because the only comic of note currently coming out featuring an Inhuman is only interesting because Warren Ellis is doing his usual weirdly-awesome work on it (seriously, "Karnak," is pretty good). It's a shame because I've always found the concept of the Inhumans a bit interesting, and enjoyed reading about the adventures of Black Bolt (the king of the Inhumans whose voice is so incredibly loud a whisper can destroy cities). On the plus side, we get Iron Man in the latest re-launch of, "Spider-Man," so that's good.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Review of the "Trashed" Graphic Novel

Derf Backderf got a ton of critical attention for his autobiographical comic that then grew into a graphic novel, "My Friend Dahmer," which discussed how he actually knew Jeffery Dahmer before the serial killing began. Derf has done other work before, and, "Trashed," is his revisiting and re-doing a smaller comic he did about his days as a garbage man but now as a full-length graphic novel. Released in 2015, "Trashed," is a mixture of storytelling and all-to-disturbing-real facts about how much garbage we as a populace create. As the comic often points out, we put out our garbage and feel like it magically disappears by the time we return home. Reality is of course far more complicated however.

Throughout reading the copy of, "Trashed," I picked up at my local library I found myself moderately interested in the lives of the characters in the comic, but utterly fascinated by the facts about garbage in the world. Derf's illustrative abilities combined with his writing about garbage collection results in some startling pages of refuse-filled landscapes that look almost disgustingly beautiful. These otherwordly patches of land stacked to the brim with ton upon ton of junk are terrifying.

The everyday lives of the main characters sadly aren't as gripping, if still intriguing enough to follow in-between the alarmingly scary facts about trash and recycling. Dirk. J.B., Bone, and everyone else get up to some interesting shenanigans, encountering all kinds of nasty foodstuffs, dead animals, and the occasional large appliance. Still, I almost wonder if instead of quite liking the book I could have loved it if Derf had gone more in the direction of just sharing the horrifying history and current events of garbage as opposed to also working in some vaguely-autobiographical-and-somewhat-fictional tales about his garbage collectors.

"Trashed," is a book that is at times fascinating and at other points a bit less impressive but still a good read. Fans of Derf's work will surely enjoy this, as well as anyone who has ever wondered just what happens to garbage after we put it out by the curb. Even if the book at times drags, it still is overall a very good read.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

"Suicide Squad" Movie Observation

In regards to the, "Suicide Squad," movie, it is really saying something about how dark your, "Batman VS Superman," movie must have been where there are even a hint of rumors (true or false) that your flick about a team of dangerous and/or psychotic killers is doing reshoots to be the, "Funny," film.

The idea that a movie about a group of serial killers and criminals will be the lighthearted option in your film slate really says something about, "Batman VS Superman," and I'm one of the few people who actually liked the movie!

Monday, April 18, 2016

The "Madballs" Comic--Review of the New Series

Back in the 1980's there was a popular toy/ball/fascinating and hideous fad known as, "Madballs."A funny collectible, they actually had a multi-media impact, appearing in cartoons, comic books, and otherwise filling the market with their trademark ugly mugs and pun-based humor. I recently found a copy of one of the comics, and it was moderately funny if definitely a product of its time with some really racially insensitive jokes about Asian-Americans in a story that involves a Chinese restaurant being tormented by a gangster to change their fortune cookies for...some reason. The lead story with the evil Dr. Frankenbeans making a female Madball to try and trick the other ones into killing themselves for her affection was cute though.

The old series, has not aged that well.
Anyways, thanks to Roar Comics (an imprint of the previously discussed Lion Forge) the series of, "Madballs," is coming back with a new comic available this April 20th! I had the chance to read a preview copy which featured the start of a few stories. As this preview discusses, there is the tale of an Intergalactic Bizarro Bowl where the Madballs compete in various challenges, as well as some other cool stories.
The new series, pretty funny.
I'm happy to say that if you are familiar with the Madballs and liked them due to the puns and gross-out humor, you will be quite happy with this re-launch. I mean, just look at that cover up above! That is disgusting and also illustrated extremely well (and a bit funny). The contents of the comic follow that routine, with a variety of solid drawing, gross-yet-funny jokes, and a great deal of creativity (seemingly nice-yet-possibly-evil Madballs found via time-travel, anyone?)
Even if someone doesn't know the Madballs--I only had some familiarity with them before seeking out the old comics and reading the new one--if you like good art and are either a kid or have a youthful sense of humor (yeah, my humor can be a bit immature and gross) this should be a title you quite enjoy. I would recommend picking-up a copy of, "Madballs," first issue this Wednesday, April 20th for sure!
4 out of 5 stars.

Note: A digital copy of this comic was provided for the purposes of review; I'm on a press-list so I get promotional emails and such, it seems.