Friday, February 29, 2008

My Special Birthday

It's almost my birthday. My very special birthday. For those of you who listen to the show, you're going to get a different dose of Chronic Insomnia next week. I can't promise you it will be very I can promise you it will be very Ryan.

Mike has decided that I will dominate format and content for my upcoming birthday episode.(next edition will be recorded March 3 when I turn 36) He's going to be ruling the next one with an iron fist. Buckle up, buttercups!

I learned a lot during my 35th year. Some of what I learned was fucktastically horrid and depressing. I choose not to dwell on that, my friends.

Let's talk about some good shit I picked up over the last 12 months:

#1: I touched Aphrodite IX

Jealous? You should be. She was radiant and sublime tromping through FallCon, all sex and guns. I was a morbidly obese caucasian, drowning in seven brands of sweat from the 113 degree temperatures inside the barn they called a showroom.

It didn't matter. I humbly begged a goddess for a moment of her time, and fate smiled upon me. Am I loser? Undoubtedly. For a brief flitter of time, however, I was the Lord of Losers.

# 2: We are 100% smack dab in the birthing stages of the great TPB revolution

Every few thousand years mankind shifts thinking, and a new epoch is born. We are now living in the great TPB paradigm shift epoch.

Have you ever wished you could go back in time and drop a few dollars on a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle or Fantastic Four # 1? Well, I don't have a time machine for you, but I have the next best thing. Start buying trade paperbacks. Now.

#3: Chipotle is really goddamn good.

I don't even care what you get. Chicken, pork, steak, barbacoa, it's all ridiculously delicious. Fire some salsa on there if you want to be an asshole about it, but the flavors involved do not require more spices and heat.

Does my barbacoa burrito contain more than 1,000 calories? You bet your ass it does. Go fuck yourself and let me enjoy it in peace, what are you my mother the dietician? If aliens came down to judge our planet, they would stop at Chipotle and decide we were worthy to continue.

#4: Peter David is the most underrated writer in the history of comics.

I want you to open up your Wizard if you're unfortunate enough to still be reading the magazine and look at their top 10 writers. You won't find Peter David on there, because Wizard is ruled by very silly fuckers.

You can make a case for Grant Morrison and Joss Whedon in my presence. Peter David is leagues above everybody else on that list.

The problem is that his greatness is so consistent it numbs you to it. He is the most clever writer in comics history. If you pick up a comic book written by Peter David and aren't in an intimate relationship with your sister, you will enjoy it. Guaranteed.

#5: D.O.A.: Dead or Alive might be the best pure T&A flick in cinema history

Sarah Carter is key here, but the nubile quotient is at critical levels pretty much everywhere. No, this is not Ben Hur or Chariots of Fire. It's a damn T&A flick. If you're the sort of person who enjoys breasts but finds raw porn to be a bit soul-chaffing, this is your Citizen Kane. It is the Citizen Kane of breasts and bums.

#6: David is at the height of his game-running powers

Who knew that all it would take to inspire greatness from Dave was to simply deny him work? I would have crippled him years ago if only I knew.

Would somebody please hand this kid a winning lottery ticket? I don't think this is Europe, so he may have to go back to a job at some point. In the meantime, we will sup from the wine of Story and be glad of it while we can.

#7: I love doing the show

Once a week, I get to sit in a "studio", be creative and perform a character loosely based on me. I laugh until my face hurts and my eyes weep.

We do the show on our terms, with no quarter asked or given. And occasionally people actually enjoy it. The show is like comics - Christmas (or a birthday) every week.

- Ryan

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tribute to Gerber

As we mentioned on the last show, the great comics scribe Steve Gerber has shuffled off the mortal coil. Sad that it took the man's death to get me thinking about and looking at his body of work again, but so it goes.
Right now I'm plowing through his Man-Thing stuff via the Marvel Essentials Man-Thing Volume 1. If you haven't discovered the Essentials yet, what is wrong with you? They're the best bargain in comics.

No, they aren't in color. Yes, that does matter. But consider that the book costs $17 (not that a clever person would pay full cover) and there are 40+ issues of material in there. That works out to less than 43 cents per - are you kidding me?

Man-Thing is interesting on several levels. When you think about it, the character is so simple that he's actually very difficult to write. Even Hulk at his worst has a rudimentary intelligence. The Man-Thing is just kind of...there. No language to speak or understand, no real character.

He's basically just a disgusting misshapen mound of crap that shambles around attracted by any emotional stimulus that presents itself. It's kind of like Britney Spears only Man-Thing sets those who fear him on fire instead of doing a bunch of blow off their stomach.

So there's no communication and no motivation, just a thing wandering a bog. How the hell do you sustain that and keep it fresh?

What Gerber decided to do was make the Man-Thing a kind of non-judgemental observer on any damn thing Gerber felt like talking about. The bog is in Florida, so you've got some people to intersect with. And then he plopped this magical dimensional portal in the mix - "the nexus of all realities".

So now anything could happen, and did happen. Demons, check. Magic, check. Spaceships and talking ducks, check. And those are the sci-fi fantasy elements, which are fun. But then there were the social elements that Gerber was obviously most interested in exploring. Family problems, check. Substance problems, check. Race problems, check.

Adventure into Fear # 12 is one of the race problem issues, entitled "No Choice of Colors!". The premise is that a black fugitive escapes the custody of a racist lawman and heads into the swamp to lose his captors forever. Naturally that sort of emotion attracts the attention of the empathic Man-Thing, who actually strains what is left of his brain to help nurse the convict back to health.

Some of the rhetoric is cliched and familiar. Sheriff Corlee is a Jackie Gleason type with a badge, part of a lynch mob ready to accuse an innocent black man of any crime to avoid seeing him pursue a romance with a white woman. It feels a little played out, but then again these people aren't hard to find, either.

Where the story gets very interesting to me is toward the end when Corlee induces Jackson to admit that he stabbed a man to death when he could have escaped without harming anyone. Man-Thing feels betrayed by Jackson, who had sold him a sob story of innocence and persecution.

The plant creature stops shielding Jackson at that point, and then Corlee drills him full of holes. Of course all that hate brings the Man-Thing closer to the sheriff, and you know what happens then. Time for the ol' fire bath, my friend.

Nobody wins. And doesn't that ring true? I think it was a brave story to tell, one that probably wouldn't get printed at mainstream Marvel in 2008.
It's very easy to say that bigotry is a bad idea - we've heard this before, sometimes even with sincerity. It isn't very controversial, though. What's rare is that Gerber claims that the persecuted are not off the hook ethically. And that is controversial.
It isn't like this is propaganda from "The Man", either. Gerber was Jewish, and I'm told that the Jews may have had some first hand experience with bigotry and persecution. He's not telling us that Whitey Is Bad. He's telling us we're ALL screwed up - Man-Thing says to hell with all of us. I like that.
Go read some Steve Gerber stories. It's worth it.
- Ryan

Friday, February 22, 2008

Shadow Hunter and Jennas Vagina

Is this one big smelly vagina? Well I read it a few minutes ago and my hands don't smell too much like sushi. I wanted to hate this comic book badly. I wanted to be able to review it and rip it apart cause it was written by porn star. Well happily I can do just that.

To start with I have to say it's not as bad as I thought it would be. I need to mention that I thought this would be a huge cottage cheese filled vagina with terrible warts lining it's outer lips. It turned out to be more like a well used, fairly clean, rotten porn star vagina that's been screwed by giant trolls all too often.

The story is REALLY simple. On the first couple of pages I thought it was going to be actually good. The dialog was far from the sixth grade mentality I was expecting, but after reading a few more pages into the comic I realized I was right. It turned out to be more like an eighth grade reading level, but it was still pretty terrible. This woman, Jezzerie Jaden, (I would have named her Jizz-erie, I think that would have been more appropriate) has had visions her whole life of some war between Demons and Monsters. When she was young she thought these visions were cute and fun to look at, but as she grew older she realized these could be bad things to keep seeing all the time.

The whole comic and story line move along at a very stuttered pace. It speeds up and slows down all over the place with no real semblance of meaning. I was having a hard time following the story because of this. I assure you this was not because Jenna was writing above my head, it was more her writing style, which was like something my son mutters while he's sleeping. Incoherent and segmented.

Jizzerie just walks along slaying Demons throughout New York City talking about her doctor and how he was unable to help her with her visions. She's covered in blood and talking smack to Demons the size of small skyscrapers, which she calls old "friends" and it just seems all to unreal, even for a comic book. Oh yeah to make this drooling vagina even more unappealing, we get to see Jizzerie change from a hot blond woman to a black haired veiny demon slayer for no real apparent reason while slaying across New York. There is a "surprise" ending, but it was so telegraphed by the eighth grade story, that it was hard to miss. I won't ruin it for anyone out there who wants to torture themselves by reading this comic book. But I warn you that you may become stupider by reading this. Don't worry about me though, as you can clearly see I am already stupid enough for buying this comic book.

Ryan spoke of wanting this to be written by Garth Ennis or even Warren Ellis, but I'm sure they wouldn't touch a story idea this thin. Honestly we don't even get to see that much skin, which one would expect from a porn star of her magnitude.

As a side not, not quite relating to the comic book story line I need to mention a couple of things. Jenna has changed her look lately and now she resembles a crack whore rather than the normal next door neighbor. I am not sure what she is suffering from in her life, but the change she is making is so drastic that they chose to use her old image to sell this comic. I don't want to turn this into a porn star review rather than a Comic Book review, but obviously this comic will sell just on Jenna's older looks rather than her new look, which is so bad I think she might have lost her mother fucking mind. She was probably too damn cute to be a porn star before, but now she looks like a huge whore who guys are going to have to think of someone else to be able to perform with.

Artwork - 3 1/2, it looks pretty good. Nothing special, but I find certain parts of the comic to be decent looking. The artist knows his womanly hips.
Story - 2 stars, it starts out decently, but ends up being rushed and a very immature reason to show bad blood and gore.

I am a virgin no longer, the "Shadow Hunter" has taken my cherry and I want it back. On second thought after looking at Jenna now, she can keep it.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Can't a Virgin get some love?

I’m sometimes amazed about 2 things regarding the Virgin line. A) How are they still around selling maybe 3K per issue? B) Why are they only selling 3K an issue with all of that name brand talent and quality production value?

We’re talking about Garth Ennis, Mike Carey, Guy Ritchie, Jenna Jameson. This is a unique and strange phenomenon, and I just can’t fathom why more people aren’t trying it out just as a circus attraction. And the books seem to come out on time, too.

What’s most promising about the whole thing is that many of these properties and players are inclined toward the film industry. Nothing says “pop!” like a movie property. I’d like to say that what we’re seeing here is equivalent to pre-unity Valiant, but really it isn’t. This isn’t even CrossGen. Valiant ended up toe-to-toe with the big boys, at least for awhile. CrossGen never made it up to the Big 2 level, but they were in the zip code. You knew somebody who was reading a CrossGen book. But there just appears to be no audience for the Virgin brand at all.

I’ll still tentatively put a Market Spotlight stamp of approval on any and all Virgin material. At the top of the list I’ll put Stranded, Game Keeper, Ennis’s 7 Brothers. Down from that stratum I’ll place Voodoo Child, Dock Walloper, Dan Dare. You want to know about rare? How about those India Authentic TPBs. Are there even 1,000 people ordering those books? I can’t see it.

Virgin is also producing limited edition HCs for some of its more high-profile books. (high profile here means somebody in your state is actually collecting the book) Those are destined for super-stardom if Virgin ever sees a renaissance. And a couple of hit films would definitely produce one.

Friday, February 15, 2008

X-Force #1

"The X-Men don't kill: These aren't the X-Men!"

With a intro like this, who couldn't resist this title. One thing I am still getting used to in this Comic Book market is the length of time between when you hear about something and when it actually arrives in your hands. As I stood in my local Comic Book shoppe it didn't really occur to me that this was one of those comics I loved the idea of when I first heard about it, five months ago. I barely remembered being handed the free mini-poster, or the constant ads in CSN. But once I cracked that cover I remembered why, at one point, I really wanted to get this Comic Book.

This is a title that either excites you or pisses you off. You either love the idea of a special forces X-Team that believes in getting rid of problems permanently or you hate the idea of another reboot. Honestly in the last year, well since I really started collecting Comic Books again, I have been subjected to limited amounts of reboots, so this doesn't bother me like it does others.

The story is pretty simple. Logan is recruited by Cyclops to form a deadly team to wipe out another force called the Purifiers. A sect of humans who want to wipe out all Mutants. When Xavier's school is attacked and 42 students are murdered, Cyclops asks Wolverine to take them out.

To a lot of you out there, X-Force is not exactly a new idea, but to me this was the first time I had heard of it. The idea seems cool enough, and the writing is decent. It won't win any awards for the story, but in my book it would win hands down on it's artistic merit alone.

I am a huge fan of Alex Ross and honestly I think Crains stuff looks better. For this type of comic Alex Ross wouldn't do it justice, it would look too clean and happy in a manner of speaking. Crain uses shadows and limited lighting to get a very dark "feel" to this book. I am not sure of Crains other work at this point but you can be sure I will be looking for other things he has drawn.

Story - 3 1/2 (The story is a little thin, but it's just a 6 part mini-series so we have yet to see)
Art - 5 (I know 5's are not easily given out, but there it is. I like this stuff as good anything I have seen before)


Monday, February 11, 2008

Analyzing the Mayo Report OR: Damn, My Nipple Hurts

John Mayo is the lord emperor of market data in the comic book industry, and he recently wrote an essay which amounted to a “State of the Union Address.” You can access it here:

I too watch this data monthly looking for trends and hiccups, looking for angles to play, looking to see where titles really stand in comparison with each other, etc. The difference between me and Mayo is that one of us is willing to mix in news on the size of his prostate along with the data. You're welcome.

Mayo comes to the same conclusions I have about the market. If you simply look at the pure dollars generated and issues sold, comics are on the upswing. Particularly trades. Comic book companies generated more revenue and sold more issues in 07 than they did in 06, and that’s been a consistent trend for the past 4 years or more.

But there is cause for alarm. While overall sales are up, essentially every regular title loses readers each month. It’s not debatable and it’s not a fluke. Barring a major shake-up, crossover, creator change, or massive marketing push, each regular ongoing book sells fewer books this month than it did last month, and it will sell even fewer books in the future. It’s scary, frankly.

So that being the case, if every regular book loses readers each month, how are overall sales up??? The answer is new #1s, new one-shots, and new specials. The industry is absolutely saturated with “Newer-Bigger-Faster-Stronger-Sure-To-Change-The-World-As-We-Know-It” junk. And I think you’ll agree with me, that most of this is JUNK. And the comic book companies have become junkies for this junk, and it is costing us storytelling big time.

Rather than put energy into producing quality books with a forever diminishing return, the economic realities of comic publishing in the 21st century basically mandate that Marvel and DC shove increasingly sensationalistic DRECK at us so they can stay afloat.

Can you blame them? Telling great stories month after month is a losing strategy in this era. These are business people who must make a profit or stop feeding their children. Do you want to know why we have disgusting mutant shit babies like “One More Day” infecting the racks? Because we, the comic book cadre, have demanded sensationalist garbage for years.

Exterminators is fantastic. But we don’t buy it, we don’t reward it, and we let it wither away. The Order is a breath of fresh air – a mainstream Initiative spin-off that dared to tell personal stories, attack relevant issues, and take an approach off the beaten path. And it did it all with panache and humor. And we pissed it away.

It’s very easy to rage against the machine, as it were. Damn you Marvel and DC for handing us this filth. But when the do sneak a diamond into the mix, damned if the core audience doesn’t wipe its arse with the gem and then buys a copy of World War Hulk Aftersmash Gamma Chronicles Variant.

Comics are in a precarious state and I place at least 2/3 of the blame on the consumers. We need to buy more responsibly, reward quality, stick with a good book for more than three issues.

The other 1/3 of the blame goes straight to the comic book moguls for gross negligence when it comes to generating new readers. Rather than go through the trouble of adding new teats to the mix, these sadistic pricks are dedicated to chafing the nipples that are already there until they are raw, red, and fixing to fall off. My nipple hurts, Marvel. Find another tap, please.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dock Walloper

I wanted to love this comic. I really like Ed Burns and his writing style, but to me this comic fell short of my expectations. I know if you build something up in your mind you can be easily disappointed when you finally see or read it. This could be the case with Dock Walloper.

One of the things that really bothered me about this comic is it's simplicity. I know often times one of my delights is reading a simple straight forward comic that doesn't expect you to research on Wikipedia to understand it fully. I thought this was even simple for my tastes. The one thing that Ed Burns is good at is Dialog and well in this comic he doesn't disappoint. When the characters speak they seem awfully really. It's just unfortunate that they don't really have much to say.

The story takes place in a version of 1920's New York city. Smith (later to be Dock Walloper) and his friend "Bootsy" (yeah we'll get to that later) are standing in a line for work at the docks. The dock worker who is doing the hiring realizes Smith is with Bootsy, who is African American and well Smith and the man get into an altercation where Smith punches him through a cyclone fence and smashes his face in.

Meanwhile a Mob member has been watching the proceedings and sees Smith punch this guy through the cyclone fence and nicknames him Dock Walloper. He approaches Smith, now Dock, and asks him if he wants a job. Dock of course says yes and says that if he works, so does his friend Bootsy. The mob guy doesn't give a shit so he hires them both to help distribute booze to the local speak easies. So Dock and Bootsy now work for the mob.

During a routine drop they are intercepted by Diamond Jack and his gang. Jack kills the driver and comes around to the back of the truck to check the back where Bootsy and Dock are riding. Dock and Bootsy are ready for him and open fire with their Tommy guns and kill Diamond Jack. When they get back to the mob boss he is understandably impressed with their ruthlessness and hires them on permanently.

I also read the second issue but I will leave that to anyone who might want to read this five part mini-series. One of the major problems with this comic, at least in my mind is Ed Burns uses the race card throughout the whole comic. Bootsy, what a terrible name, is always called names and harassed throughout the book and Dock has to beat the crap out of them or threaten to beat the crap out of them. This to me seems to easy, yeah you can use the race card cause it would have happened in real life, but don't use it so often.

The story in this book is awfully thin for something written so well. The dialog is spotless and flows realistically throughout the book. One thing that Ed Burns can do is write dialog and it shows here. However he falls flat with a simple storyline. It's a five part series and I have read the first two without much happening. I could be wrong but they better get to something big soon or it's going to be a pretty boring series. The artwork is done very well for the times it is trying to portray.

Artwork - 4 (looks really dirty and dark like it should from 1920's New York, cause I was there)
Story - 3 (the dialog is excellent, but the story is simple at best)


Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Winter Soldier, Cap #34

I don't claim to be the smartest person alive and or the most well read, but this comic was a little on the disappointing side. I was looking for a good replacement for Steve Rodgers and I am not sure that we got one. Bucky is a strange character to a comic book novice like me. He questions everything he does and realizes he is no where near as good as Steve was. I know this is to satisfy those fan boys that originally didn't want Steve to die in the first place, but it still makes for a questionable first storyline.

I was expecting a confident, bad ass replacement. Instead I get a worried, almost pathetic, whiney little bitch. I was expecting something different that's for sure. I don't claim to be an expert on all things Captain America, but Bucky seems an incompetent replacement, at best.

I am not in the business of giving away anything so this will be no different. Bucky fights a generic enemy and all the while we get to hear his doubts and concerns about taking over the role of Captain America. This is fine, it's just we get no real resolution of this. We learn that he is like four times weaker than Rodgers was, and that he can barely control the shield with which he was given.

I just don't think it was a good idea to start him out being so unsure of himself. Doubts are fine, but taking over one of the greatest icons ever should be coupled with some confidence. It seems that Bucky is reluctant to don the outfit and take over the roll. It would have been better if he was more honored than he is.

Some of you out there might love this kind of comic book but I didn't. I thought it lacked that certain heroic element that it needed. The main story was weak, it was more like a basic introduction rather than a continuing epic which a new Captain America should enter into. However that doesn't mean I don't recommend it, all that means it wasn't right for me.

Story - 2 1/2 Very simple and thin if you ask me.
Artwork - 3 not really very good and VERY shadowy.


Friday, February 1, 2008

I'll Take The Rapists For $400, Alex

Conan is a rapist. Or he is when he's starring in Savage Sword of Conan, a magazine sized book Marvel published from 1974-1995. Savage was also unique among Marvel's Conan material in its black and white format and its unabashedly adult content. Hence the rapist bit.

Dark Horse owns the rights to Conan now and just started collecting this classic material in (regular sized) trade paperback form. I've always been curious about these "Conan Uncensored" tales, so I picked up Volume 1.

I couldn't help but chuckle to myself when I got to the panel you see above this column. Conan bumps into the pirate warrioress Valeria and declares his intentions to bed her.

"But that's enough talking for one day...

I want you, woman...

And I've not come this far just to turn around and ride off empty-handed. So be sensible, wench. I'm not going to harm y--

Keep back, you barbarian dog--or I'll spit you like a roast pig!"

Like I said, I started to chuckle, and then I thought twice. Is it really that funny that Conan won't take no for an answer? It seems pretty clear to me that if Valeria were a little less handy with her blade, she'd end up being a sheath - whether she liked it or not. Conan is a rapist. How should we feel about that?

For those of you ready to rail about this sort of material appearing in comic book format, might I recommend you get over yourself. Wertham is 50 years gone now, and he wasn't in the right when he was in the now. Savage was constructed and marketed to adults. So I won't find fault with these comics showing us a sexual predator without further contemplation.

One massive and correctable problem we have in this country is our mistaken belief that representation = endorsement. The cute and fuzzy bunnies have taught us that if we show anything unpleasant (death, violence, rape, Paula Poundstone) that we are automatically saying that these are good things.

We need to get over this, please. We need to be deeper thinkers as consumers of the arts. What is the comic really telling us about Conan's behavior?

I can think of a couple of reasons not to like this portrayal. It appears to be just another drop in an all too large bucket of male heroes who like to make women behave properly by giving them a good rogering. I distinctly remember one Clint Eastwood western (somebody help me here)where he turned a feisty woman who didn't know no better into a love struck submissive with a little bit of the forced in-and-out. It was like a magic tonic. It made me want to throw up.

There are several other stereotypes in this particular tale. Conan ends up physically carrying off Valeria to escape a dinosaur at one point. (Too helpless to keep up with a real man) And damned if Valeria didn't end up chained up by a witch at one point so that we incorrigible males could have our lesbian and bondage fix satisfied on one stone altar.

The feminine does get short changed here and there. It's lazy thinking and lazy writing. But life is never simple, and neither is Savage. Let's look at everything before we pass judgement.

In the first place, this is a piece of ficition and not reality. These stories were not created as guides to morality, and it would be foolish to read them as such. Also, Cimmerian culture is not the overly sensitive wussland that America has become in 2008. Conan is a barbarian, a well-documented uncouth bastard. So it's difficult for me to say that Conan's courting behavior should be read as a "how to" guide. He's a goddamn caveman.

But he's also the hero of the story. He may not be perfectly moral, but his actions have weight. We are rooting for him, aren't we? We are being asked to take Conan seriously. So making him a rapist can be slightly problematic.

There are a few more items to add to the scale, though. For one, no actual rape occurred. If Conan had his way, there was certainly one in the forecast. But Valeria was too strong. So that's one positive.

And while I did cover some of the minuses of Valeria's depiction in this story, she does have some plusses as well. She's a certified formidable warrior. She talks back to Conan, has a mind of her own.

She does need to be rescued from time to time, but she is also shown fighting successfully on her own while Conan is off taking a nap during parts of the story. And a funny thing happens at the end. While wrapping up the big "boss battle", it's Valeria who saves Conan from an untimely death.

The story actualy closes with a Conan monolgue essentially declaring Valeria an equal, and they go off to plunder the world together as one. Very romantic.

So yes, we have some less than ideal notions about womanhood in Savage, but we also see most if not all of those ideas subverted in the book as well. Life is complicated, and so are comics. It's why me like them.

In case it matters, I'm enjoying the living hell out of these Savage reprints. I highly recommend picking up Dark Horse's Savage Sword of Conan Vol 1. It's a smarter, sexier Conan than you're used to. And the art is gorgeous. 544 pages of rape-hungry Conan for $17.95??? By Crom, how could you pass it up?!