Friday, December 31, 2010

Cut To The Chase Reviews!

No mucking about with purple prose and over-analysis.  A couple of lines on a handful of titles beginning with:

Osborn # 2 - Marvel Comics.  It might be unfair to call Kelly Sue DeConnick a star in the making, because I think she's already there.  Tightly plotted and speckled with memorable character moments, Osborn is strikingly good stuff, and DeConnick should be on your  $4 is a problem, though.

 Next Men # 1 - IDW.  John Byrne is back, and if you're a die-hard Byrne Victim, you're getting exactly what you love.  There's an intriguing story in there somewhere, but when your foundation is built upon a never-ending series of "Bobby Ewing comes out of the shower" reveals, where is the reader supposed to find footing?  Irritatingly entertaining, and extra irritating at $4.

Nemesis # 4 - Icon/Marvel.  Is it completely out of control?  Yes.  Did last issue threaten to not only jump the shark, but leave said shark a few star systems behind?  Yes.  Did the unstoppable Scottish beast find a way to make the series pay off any way?  Fuck yeah, he did.  Note to self: Mark Millar = mad genius.

 Red Robin # 18 - DC.  This is some of the best superhero comics on the racks today, I kid you not.  When Fabian Nicieza can avoid proselytizing his politics, (BOO! to the preachy and LAME old Nomad ongoing and JLA/The 99) he puts out exceptional character-driven stories.

 THUNDER Agents # 2 - DC.  The first issue had me iffy at the staple, sold at the end.  The second issue of Thunder Agents is second only to Brave & The Bold # 32 as my favorite comic of 2010.  The research, the lengths that this organization will go to in order to achieve objectives, and the art on those running scenes...sublime.

 Deadpool MAX # 3 - Marvel.  If you're avoiding this because it's a "Deadpool" book....stop it, and get over yourself.  This comic is adult, dark, funny, and challenging.  David Lapham will challenge you, and the book is challenging what mainstream comics do, which is supposed to be the point of Max, no?  $4 is a problem, though.

- Ryan

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Marvel Previews Nonsense!

Oh, Marvel.  How ridiculous you are, how consistently asinine, how stupefyingly stupid your propoganda machine has become.  I'd almost feel bad about piling on so much, but for the fact that you're so committed to ending comics as we know them in the hopes of an extra nickel this month.

So I open up the Marvel Previews and I don't even have to leave page two before heading straight to the blogger with the ol' poison pen.  There's your ad for Venom # 1.  Fine.  Rick Remender is fine, Tony Moore is fine, and if they want to turn Venom (whoever it is underneath the symbiote) into a James Bond guy, again, fine.  I don't care.

But how in the world are you going front page with this:

His first ongoing series?  Yes, it is indeed the first time that Venom has had a second ongoing series.  Did I imagine that book Danny Way was writing in 2003?  Nah, if I was dreaming, it would have been better stories than that.  Was that an 18 issue maxi-series, then?  Granted, Danny Way isn't one of The Architects, so ergot, vis-a-vis, concordantly, Marvel has erased it from their collective data banks.  But it happened.  I was there.  How do you not know that, Marvel?

So stupid on so many levels.  A) It's not his first ongoing series.  B) THIS book isn't an ongoing series, because it will get cancelled in shorter order than the first ongoing series they now don't seem to recall.  C) Who gives a shit whether it's his first ongoing series or not?

Let me save everybody the surprise, kay?  It's going to open at 35,000-37,000 issues, it will be at 20,000 issues by # 4, (maybe by # 2) and it will be cancelled within a year.  There's too much bullshit going on for this to fly any more.  Nobody cares.

And by the way, it won't have one thing to do with the quality of the book.  I have no idea how good this book will be.  Might make Ben Hur look like Showdown in Little Tokyo.  It doesn't matter how good it is, because if it did, Secret Six and Fantastic Four and Morning Glories would sell 150,000 copies a month.

All I'm saying is, when you publish 110 titles a month, and you've been psychologically torturing your readership into the false premise that the only thing that matters is The EVENT, then your Venom book doesn't stand a chance, whether it's his first or his ninth ongoing.  And the way things work now, he'll have a ninth ongoing by this time next year.

- Ryan

Chronic Review: Double Danger Comics!

Double Danger Comics & Collectibles is a nice little comic shop tucked into Uptown at 818 W Lake Street in Minneapolis.  I'm still trying to figure out how this thing could possible exist without my noticing.  Granted, I'm not a huge Uptown guy. But I am, above all things, a comic guy.  I feel a deep shame regarding my comic shop radar abilities, but now I'm digressing.

My first impression upon walking into Double Danger was a sense of....what to call it...stage presence?  Comic shops have a sometimes deserved reputation (if people recognize that they still exist at all) as low rent, dirty, hole-in-the-wall operations.  They are not perceived as inviting or accessible, and that can actually be part of a shop's kitschy charm.  It aint always supposed to be a sanitized strip mall venture, but an occult lair where the uninitiated need not apply.

Double Danger Bag
When you walk into Double Danger, everything about it pops.  It's clean, it's bright, the fixtures look new and hip.  If you want to see the entire stock of their Silver Age comics, you can ask the help to open their vault.  It's literally a vault, with a spinny dial on it.  You get your comics in an old style brown bag with vintage print ads.  Everything about the place demonstrates consideration and flair.  If presentation counts, this is the place to be.

The product is organized, easily browsed, and there is plenty of room to maneuver.  So many establishments, comics or otherwise, make the mistake of packing their sales floor with as much crap as possible to the detriment of any poor bastard trying to figure out what's actually there.  Double Danger understands the seductive power of empty space. 

You feel comfortable in there.  Aside from the aesthetics, which are superb, the people inside welcomed me in, told me about their current sale, got the pleasantries out of the way and let me roll.  Perfect.  I had a test question for the prototype comic nerd behind the counter.  This guy could not exist anywhere but a comic shop.  He is awesome.  I asked him about the Blackest Night Dex-Starr figure that should have come out right around Christmas that I can't find.  He knew exactly what I was talking about, and if he was in tune with that, I'd say you're in good hands.   

Double Danger is a place you can hang out.  There's space to move around or congregate, the people inside are approachable, there's a giant television hanging on the back wall playing Psych episodes, or at least that's what it was playing when I walked in.  The shop is consciously designed to make it inviting to stick around for awhile. 

In terms of product, the closest corollary is Big Brain Comics.  Focus is on three items in this order; trade paperbacks/hardcovers, new comics, toys/statues.  The draw for me in any comic shop is the availability of out-of-print trades. At this point, Double Danger is simply too new to provide that.  (give it a few years and I imagine they'll be challenging Big Brain for top spot, though)  I did find a nice copy of Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight/New Dawn, a $50-$60 book on sale for $16.  Ka-ching! 

The selection of new material is impressive.  They stock a lot more than your obligatory Batman/X-Men titles. There are some back issues to be had, and also some really nice Silver Age material displayed, with more awaiting inside the vault if you choose to have it opened.

I don't recall any manga, DVDs, or collectible card game type stuff, but then again, I wasn't looking for it. By the register there was a selection of neatly displayed stickers of odd things.  I almost bought one about storing dead hookers.  Like I said, there some ancillary pop culture items, but this is a comic shop, God bless it.

The only down side from my perspective is location, because I'm a coddled little suburban boy without the required hipness or direction sense to survive Uptown.  Finding parking is a distinct pain in one's posterior regions, and if you miss a turn somewhere, God help you.  You'll be in St. Paul by the time you can figure out how to turn around and get going back in the right general direction with all the labyrinthine one-ways you'll encounter.

But if you don't care about parking, and you're hip enough to thrive in Uptown, Double Danger is a damn fine place to hang out and buy comics.

- Ryan

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Coming Soon: A Very Growler Christmas!

Mike and I recorded last night, intending to complete and post the 2010 Chronic Insomnia Special.  Well....we didn't get it done.

What we did accomplish was a 7.5 minute Christmas "Growler" sketch.  Some of you may remember The Growler from my birthday special in 2009.  It's a 1950s radio serial farce, where mild-mannered scientist Dan Arkadian dispenses digestive justice by disrupting the bowels of any creature.  You can find the original bit on our website.

What happens when The Growler and his faithful sidekick Cub meet with Santa and Rudolph?  The episode is entitled "Christmas Pudding", and if you know The Growler....this could get messy.

Mike and I are back in Studio B on Monday night to complete the Christmas Special, which should be available on Tuesday as per usual.  So we'll be late.  But if Damon Lindelof can take off a couple years between issues of Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk, we can release a Christmas show on December 27.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Looking Forward To 2011!

Last year I was pretty worked up about Dark Horse relaunching the Valiant characters with Jim Shooter, no less.  That's been largely disappointing, although I have affection for the Magnus: Robot Fighter book.

This year there is no single project that I'm really salivating for.  There are some items that have me a little piqued.  Here's what the publishers are pimping right now for March releases that are at least intriguing:

5 Ronin
Marvel Comics
Friend of the show Nick sent me some teasers on this, and they are GORGEOUS.  The Aja covers in particular are absolutely striking.  Peter Milligan is planning on dropping Psylocke, Hulk, Deadpool, Wolverine, and the Punisher into feudal era Japan.

All five issues will hit in March.  This is the kind of thing that has the potential to be special, although I'm not sure how special anything can be in the cacophony of white noise that Marvel produces these days.  I like the concept, and Peter Milligan is no joke.

Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker
Image Comics
Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston will bring us the massively aggro adventures of Butcher Baker in March.  You may recall Butcher Baker as the series of confusing and extraordinarily irritating teaser images that pounded you for the entire month of November.

I can't say much for the marketing campaign, and I find Joe Casey's work to be hit-and-miss.  But here's the thing: Joe Casey tries shit.  Joe Casey is not just cashing a paycheck, he's interested in playing with the medium, and seeing what shakes out when he plays rough with it.  I don't know if this will be must reading or not...but at least it will be different.

Look for lots of violence and a subversive savaging of said violence in these pages.  That sounds like fun to me.

Godzilla: Monster World
IDW Comics
I'm not sure how long you can sustain something like this, and they're pretending this is an ongoing.  It's not.  Barring some kind of miracle, it won't make 15 issues.  There's nothing more entertaining than watching a giant lizard stomp on buildings....for five minutes.  That shit gets rote very quickly, unless you're six.

But then again, they got Eric Powell from The Goon to write this, Alex Ross will provide some covers, and doesn't Godzilla sound like fun?  I think it's worth investigating just to see if Powell can find a formula that will generate something more compelling than rubble and radiation blasts.  This is another March Release.

Batman: Earth One
DC Comics
Geoff Johns and Gary Frank on Batman Elseworlds story?  Yeah, I can deal with that.  Hey, that Superman OGN was pretty good, and that Johns kid is no slouch.  There's no real time table for this which is slightly disconcerting.  Geoff Johns is a pretty busy guy these days, so one wonders how much of his time is actually going toward the project.

Right now the word on the street is still 2011, although nobody can say for sure when in 2011 that might be.  When they create the solicitation, I shall be ordering, though.  I know that for sure.

Secret Gail Simone/Ethan Van Sciver Project
DC Comics
Nobody seems to know what this 2011 slated project is, or exactly when it will be released.  To me, it doesn't matter.

I'm a little worried about Van Sciver's ability to meet deadlines.  But the possibilities are tantalizing.  Van Sciver, while not exactly a setter of pencilling land speed records, is pretty darned good with what does come out.  Gail Simone is writing Secret Six, the finest example of comics I know of currently being published.  Both of them have a kind of mischievous quality about them, and this thing could be seriously awesome in the most scandalous ways.

Van Sciver really really really wants to do a Plastic Man series.  My guess is that this won't be that, mainly because I think Ethan wants to write that himself.  If it is a Plastic Man project, I won't be disappointed.  Gail Simone knows funny.  Gail can do just about anything.  Whatever comes from those parents, I will abscond with it.  And pray it comes out in reasonable intervals.

Frank Miller's "Fixer" Project
Unknown Publisher
Frank Miller has been working on this "Batman takes on Al Queda" project since like, 1992, which isn't even possible as we understand time and space currently.  DC took a look at it, their balls instantly retreated into a natural orifice, and then they took a pass on the project.  Or Frank Miller decided he didn't want to do it at DC, depending on who you talk to.

The LA Times interviewed Miller back in the summer, I think it was July, and he claimed that he had changed the main character from Batman to a creation of his own called "The Fixer".  He also claimed to be a month away from completing the whole magnum opus, he just needed a publisher.

As far as I know, he still doesn't have a publisher.  But I can't imagine him just throwing the work away, and I can't imagine that nobody out there wants a piece of Frank Miller.  Listen, the guy might be certifiable at this point, but he's still Frank Miller.

There's speculation that the project represents the mad ultra-right wing ramblings of a violent lunatic.  Which doesn't sound quite like Frank, but I still say it sounds like exactly the kind of train wreck we'd all love to be there for.  The guy is out there now, you know?  This isn't your father's Frank.  This is the guy who finds out that Britanny Murphy died and immediately posts on his web page that she couldn't have had a drug problem no matter what that dit-durned witch doctor found in her system, because he liked her and she was a fine actress.  You can't make this shit up, folks.

Whatever Mr. Miller has tucked away waiting to be unleashed on us, it is going to be a spectacle and a delight.  You're telling me Avatar isn't primed for this, no matter how extreme it may or may not be?  It's a match made in heaven.  Frank has not been reliable lately, (whatever happened to that All Star Batman relaunch we were promised ages ago?) but if the project was about done in the summer, there's no reason to believe it can't hit the shelves some time this year.  I want me some Fixer!

- Ryan

Friday, December 24, 2010

Market Spotlight: Captain America # 290!

Once upon a time the Red Skull had a daughter named Synthia Schmidt.  And he was so underwhelmed with her non-maleness that he just about ended her on sight.  Look, nobody said he was a good father, or even particularly balanced.  But she wasn't killed.  Instead,  she was artificially aged, imbued with a host of telepathic powers and became the desperately lame Cap foil Mother Superior.  I think.  These things do get confusing.

It gets even more confusing when she reappears later in Captain America # 355 as a much younger character, now simply known as Sin.  She's part of the Sisters of Sin at this point, and that sounds like a smashing idea.  But it's still in the Gruenwald era, so it's not nearly as naughty as most of you are hoping.  Natch.

Nobody really cared much about her until Brubaker folded her into his legendary run on Cap.  So her first appearance has just a little buzz attached to it, but it's not unmanageable.  That book can be had in very nice condition for $5-$6, maybe less if you're patient and clever.

Why do we care?  Well, maybe we don't.  But maybe we heard a whisper on the wind about how Sin is going to be a key catalyst in the whole "Fear Itself" nonsense coming down the Marvel pipe in April.  The whisper I heard on the wind was Matt Fraction on John Siuntres' Word Balloon Podcast, which is pretty credible as whispers go, since he's writing the damn thing.

Now, I think it's appropriate to experience nausea at the mere mention of yet another Marvel Event Abomination.  And betting on spikes based on events is risky business to be sure.  It's less predictable than chasing movie spikes, if you want my opinion.  And if you're reading this, you just might.

So this is no guarantee.  But it does have a few things going for it.  Much as I loathe any and all events at this point, (the Big Two need to retrain people that the regular books are important) Sin is about to get a lot more eyes on her.  Matt Fraction is an exceptionally good writer, and he's got a flair for characters.  If he's putting her on center stage for his epic piece, the odds are good that she'll be about 83% more cool when he's done, and that translates into buzz, and that tends to drive prices up.

If Cap # 290 was already in the $20 range or something more obscene, I wouldn't touch it.  Too much risk to invest.  But at $5? I might stash a nice copy away with the idea of flipping it in the summer.  Do it quick before Rich Johnston gets hold of it on Bleeding Cool and sends the thing straight to the moon overnight! 

- Ryan

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chronic Review: The Occultist!

The Occultist (one shot)
Dark Horse Comics
Script:      Mike Richardson/Tim Seeley
Pencils:     Victor Dujiniu?
26 pages for $3.50

According to the back matter, The Occultist is an attempt for Dark Horse to expand their line past the Gold Key/Valiant properties.  The issue identifies itself as a one-shot, and my interpretation is that this is sort of a "Pilot Season" audition to generate interest for a potential ongoing.  If that's the case, I would think that the Occultist failed.

This is yet another in a very, very long series of "average bloke has monumental powers foisted upon them" type riff.  Rob Bailey is a complete loser mama's boy. His girlfriend dumps him, (and her name is introduced in a really awkward piece of exposition to the right) she's cheating on him, his mother dominates his life, he works part time at a book store, and he sucks.  His book store job allows a mystical book to intersect with him, and he unwittingly becomes a focus for all kinds of arcane power/knowledge, and the obligatory band of ominous bad guys that comes with such power and knowledge.

The idea, of course, is that we see Bailey as somebody we can relate to, tap into his Campbellian Heroes Journey of "little fish thrust into scary new pond", and invest ourselves in watching him rise above the fray.  The problem with that is when the formula is so utterly well trodden and transparent, its difficult to fall prey to the intrigue of it.

I think the book could still work if there were anything to like about Mr. Bailey, or anything fresh in the execution of the plot.  The boogeyman Aiden Beck is an Evil Grant Morrison, which was entertaining visually for a few panels, but there was nothing the character said or did that justified any continued fascination.  The "Crows" weren't strictly ciphers, but they weren't particularly compelling, either.  They gathered my interest only when one of them did a spot on Vlad impersonation and said "Hrrrm.  Bad."  But of course all that really served to do was remind me that I would rather be reading Hack Slash.

No, the villains aren't great, you'll loathe the "hero" of the story, which means that the only place left to find any intrigue is with the book's unique mythos regarding "The Sword".  I don't believe that works very well, either.  I don't see how that mystery can have any draw unless you care about the people involved, or unless you do something like "The Da Vinci Code" and twist something familiar if not iconic.

I don't see where that interest would come from.  Bailey dispatches the Crow lackeys with a blast of mystical energy that he had nothing at all to do with.  Surely the plan is to get Rob more deeply ingrained in the "Sword" culture, and maybe someday there's something to the character.  But as it stands, he's a walking annoyance with the ability to make all his troubles go away with a subconscious whisk of his hand via his internal Deus Ex Machina.  Hard to imagine how it could get more boring than that.

If you want your Seeley fix, I highly recommend Hack Slash or Colt Noble.  I'm taking a pass on any further adventures of The Occultist.

- Ryan

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chronic Review: Black Panther Man Without Fear # 513!

Black Panther: Man Without Fear # 513
Marvel Comics
Script:      David Liss
Pencils:    Francesco Francavilla
23 pages for $ 2.99

This is a difficult book for me to review, because it simultaneously exhibits a host of attractive and repulsive qualities.  Almost in equal measure.  Let's start from the beginning, and be prepared for some spoilery wool, although I won't give away the whole sheep.

T'Challa is taking over as protector of Hell's Kitchen.  He's recently been getting into it with Doc Doom, and although he beat the Latverian prick, it cost him his nation's Vibranium stores and his mantle as the Black Panther.  So his country is broke, and pissed.  His daughter is now the Black Panther, and he's looking for some alone time to sort his future.  Fine.  The whole "finding himself" thing feels a little pussy for the Panther...but fine.  Whatever.

Matt Murdock gets on the phone and reaches out to T'Challa to pinch hit for him while he also goes on a completely pussified vision quest to discover the Real Matt again. I'm paraphrasing by the way, but it does read (to jaded me) with that New Agey bull excrement dripping off it.  I just want to find my totem animal in my inner sanctum and set fire to its face when I read that shit...but fine.  T'Challa agrees, and gets Foggy to set him up with a new identity as Mr. Okonkwo, humble diner manager by way of Congo.

So Black Panther fills the hero void, but there's a villainous vacuum as well, what with the Hand, and The Kingpin, and The Hood all MIA.  The Panther's main foil turns out to be a Romanian up-and-comer named Vlad, who recognizes the open power position and makes his move.  Naturally Vlad's activities and the Panthers collide, with the typical incendiary results.  Or maybe not so typical.

David Liss is obviously a smart cat with some chops, and I appreciate his ability to diagnose some cliched elements of the action/crime genre and side step them.  T'Challa doesn't go about business exactly as you'd expect, and Vlad certainly doesn't behave like his predecessors.  Everything about this new iteration of the Black Panther is a little more subtle, a little more nuanced, and a little more real, and a little smarter than most comic books.  In that way, this is a very appropriate extension of Daredevil's history for the past decade.

On the whole, I like Black Panther: The Man Without Fear.  There is clearly something there.  But I can't give it my unreserved adoration yet, either, because pieces of it feel clunky and awkward to me.  Let me give you three internal objections I felt while reading this issue, before I get to the stuff that seems like it will redeem those issues.

Why Would Matt Pick T'Challa?

This is just not a natural fit to me.  I guess if it follows that if Matt burned bridges with all of his close friends during Shadowland, then he would have to turn elsewhere to find a replacement.  And finding a replacement does make emotional sense to me.

I just...when would these guys ever cross paths?  I sort of understand T'Challa looking for a new start, but what's transpired that would ever make Matt Murdock think "Oh, yeah.  I'll just bring the Black Panther in."  Maybe they had more of a relationship during the Knights days than I remember?

If you're going to play the story as real as Liss wants to, the motivations really have to make sense, I think.  This is not a fluffy punch-out book where you check your brain at the door and just roll with the carnage and cleavage.  He's trying to do something a little meatier, which I applaud, but if you're going to do that, than the premise has to follow naturally or the suspension of disbelief falls apart. 

T'Challa Would Not Leave His Wife Behind

There's no Storm in this book, and by all indications, there will be no Storm in this book, and it makes no sense to me.  Now granted, I'm hardly the expert on healthy human relationships.  But it seems to me that if you're married to somebody, and it's working, than you don't ever go it alone.

That's the whole point of conjoining, isn't it?  No matter how deep it gets, now you're a team.  As one.  I mean, if the thing is on the rocks, maybe you separate to do the "finding yourselves" thing, although I would seriously question the efficacy of that strategy.  This just doesn't follow for me.

I'm Deep Undercover....Running Around Town In My Black Panther Suit?
OK.  You've kissed your old life good bye, you told your wife she can't enter your city limits, you're carving out a new niche for yourself, you've forsaken the name of the Black Panther....and you're running around town in your Black Panther suit?

This boggles my mind.  And its counter productive, because that suit is globally known, and it really shouldn't take a forensic detective to start piecing things together.  If Black Panther is punching faces in Hell's Kitchen and T'Challa isn't around, then he's undercover, and then that dude from the Congo who showed up the same time as the Black Panther is going to start raising eyebrows, I would think.  Unless there's a lot of African transplants popping up all over Hell's Kitchen.  I don't know how they do things there, I guess.

That's the stuff that was bugging me as I paged through the book, but that hardly tells the whole story.  When I got done with the issue, I really felt like I got a lot of story packed in there.  I recounted the pages just to be sure it wasn't extra-sized, because it took me much longer to digest BPTMWF

It's rare these days that we are introduced to new characters that matter, and clearly Vlad matters.  This is not a cipher, twiddling his moustache and spouting aggro nonsense.  This guy has a back story, an intriguing back story, it's tied into actual history in a way that makes sense, and clearly Liss has big plans that should be highly entertaining to watch.  Vlad is a worthy opponent, and his story is at least as interesting as T'Challas, and that's just good comics.

I'm trying to figure out how much I can punish this book for its awkward origins, or at least awkward as I perceive it.  If I could just set aside how we got here, I could fully embrace the book in a vacuum.  Maybe I should just let the other stuff go, and not worry about why Daredevil would bring Black Panther to Hell's Kitchen, or whether it actually makes sense that T'Challa would tell his loving wife to stay away while he works out his own personal issues, or whether he would leave Wakanda at all when clearly there are problems that need addressing back home.

In that sense, the book is in kind of a catch-22.  I might not care so much if this was a mindless battle book, but in that case I wouldn't be interested, either.  The care and subtlety that I enjoy so much in this comic also make the flaws in character/motivation I perceive hurt more than they probably ought. My feelings right now are that the good probably outweighs the bad.  There's something underneath this Black Panther that deserves a chance, I think, so I'm going to give it an arc and see what happens.

- Ryan

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Numbers Game!

I went to ICV2 and looked at the November 2010 numbers as reported by Diamond to retailers.  I've been looking at them all day, actually, because I'm just wired differently.  For every Ryan Lee and John Mayo there's about 1,000 people who look at that string of Matrix code and say "what the hell's wrong with you...that's a big boring mess!"

Well, you're half right.  It is a mess.  But it isn't boring.  Here's some of the stories the data are telling me:

I'm about to bleed half my readers. Shit.
And the Pretty Poison Award goes to....
Uncanny X-Force, which topped last month's chart at 95,639 units.  This month # 2 drops all the way down to position # 18 and 56,518 units.  WOW.  You just hemorrhaged half your circulation.  That is what we in the industry call a "catch me, I'm falling" scenario.  All # 2s suffer, but that's insane.

Did you know that X-Force was selling in the 60,000s before the Marvel brain trust decided we needed reboot number 8,367?  How's that workin' out for ya, boys?  Brock Lesnar couldn't pull me off Marvel right now.

What's Grant Morrison Worth?
Apparently, about 10,000 buyers.  Batman & Robin # 16 checked in at position # 5 for 80,343 units, and the Paul Cornell scripted Batman & Robin # 17 went for 70,600 units. I expected a slightly bigger dip.

I'm all the way in. Ouch!
The Ol' Iron Cornholing
Unbeknownst to me when it shipped, Invincible Iron Man # 32 tip-toed up to the $3.99 price point.  What's awesome about that is the fact that I go on my show, get in front of a mic and loudly proclaim "I am not an idiot!  You cannot put stuff past me, you bastards!"  And then I have to have Nick point out that in fact I am an idiot, and the House of KY did in fact put stuff past me.

Apparently, others noticed the floor lamp inching its way into their rectum, because that issue took 40,978 orders, while issue # 31 at the $2.99 price point took 45,507 orders.  And that's pretty significant.

Only One Is Actually Fantastic
Jonathan Hickman's legendary and inspirational run of Fantastic Four continues with issue # 585 coming in at position # 36 and 37,740 units.  Next on the list is the very forgettable and marginal Generation Hope # 1 in position # 37 and 37,398 units.

How does that happen?  I guess that tastes vary, and people can like what they like, and can people can buy what they want to buy.  But how in the world can the most important and consistently best-executed book at Marvel sell an identical number of copies as a paper-doll mutant mini that nobody will even remember exists a year from now?  I don't know how that happens.  When we figure that out, we might have the answer to our troubles, though.

Mark Millar is Superior
Unstoppable Scottish Beast
Say what you want about the crazy Scottish git...he sells books.  He sells creator owned books, which is impossible.  Superior # 2 came in at # 42 for 34,688, and down only about 6,000 copies from the first issue.  Hard to explain how extraordinary that is.

Consider that you don't find Scarlet # 3 until you get down to position # 70 and about 25,000 units.  Brian Michael Bendis has some clout, friends, and Millar is killing him.  And Scarlet is a far superior product, if you'll pardon the pun.  If Brubaker had an issue of Incognito or Criminal out, I think we could expect to see that in the 10,000 copy range.  Which is just a long, boring way of stating the fact that Mark Millar is a unique and powerful beast.  And if one had access to his nail clippings, you should grind them into powder and create a potion, that one might imbibe his magical powers.

OK, the guy writes a comic book that shall remain nameless (*cough*Nemesis*cough*) where the villain somehow rigs a woman's womb to collapse if her brother's fetus is aborted from it.  And we all just take it, like nothing happened.  "oh yeah, rig a woman's womb to kill her if the incestuous fetus is aborted, yeah, I can see that.  It's Millar.  Whatever."  What???  What's wrong with us?  How do we let him get away with this shit?  He's magic.  That's it.  He's a magical Scottish creature which has cast a global spell on us.  Well played, sir!

I'm not this slutty inside.  Shit, that came out wrong.
People Will Still Pay For Boobs
Dynamite pushed out yet another Vampirella book, and on the show I questioned why.  Well, apparently because if you do that, then people will buy 29,215 copies, that's why.

That's an exceptionally strong performance, I would say.  So strong I don't quite believe it.  Either my thumb is just not on the pulse, or maybe something like Hastings went crazy on it?  I just have a hard time believing that an Eric Trautman (not saying anything against him, he's just not a household name at this point) penned Vampirella (#57) could outsell a Jonathan Hickman penned Astonishing Thor # 1, (#58) but it did.  Hooray for boobs, I guess.  What's extra odd is that inside the cover, this one isn't even a T&A book.  She's just a hard-ass chick who stole Wonder Woman's jacket. 

Morning Wood?
I was very curious to see where Morning Glories # 4 would land on the list. There's a lot of people like me who spend all day with a hard-on talking about this comic, but does any of that wood translate into sales growth?
I'm the best comic you aren't reading

Sort of.  Morning Glories # 4 hit the list at # 151 and 11,292 copies.  Which is exactly 34 more copies than it sold last month.  This is actually a big win, because pretty much nothing beats attrition these days, and simply avoiding a loss should be headline news.  It really seems like the audience for this book should be a LOT bigger than 11,000 copies, though, so it feels disappointing.

I guess the big test will come in say....March.  The first TPB hits in February, and we should see a spike right after that.  By the way, that trade will collect the first six issues for a suggested retail of $9.99.

Somebody at Marvel needs to be taking notes on this.  You don't sell a guy a sell a guy 10 cars over a lifetime.  Morning Glories is awesome product.  Spencer knows that if he can just get people in the door, and they walk away feeling as though they've received value, he's got them.  That's where we need to be - in Morning Glories Town.

- Ryan

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Random Thoughts!

I Miss Brian K Vaughan

I just do.  I know that he's got other things to do.  I know that when you've got writing credits for Lost, you can earn a bigger paycheck than comics can ever provide.  I know that he's busy being Olivia Munn's best friend.  He's off hanging out with hot chicks and frolicking in his money.  Fine. These are important things, and I don't begrudge him his absence.

But I still miss him.  He's off dazzling other people with his characters and insights, and I'd rather he was still doing comics.

I got in late, you know.  Didn't read Y the Last Man until the series was concluded and it went to hardback.  Didn't find the Runaways until he was long gone.  And it seems just as I was ready to dig into his next magnum opus.....poof! Keyser Soze.

If anybody knows what he's up to, please do make a comment, and I'll make an effort to track it down and enjoy it.  But I'd rather he came back to me with the comics.  Because I'm lazy.

Christopher Priest Should Do Batman: The Dark Knight
Listen.  I love Dave Finch, and you love Dave Finch.  Nobody wants 12 issues of Batman: The Dark Knight by Dave Finch this year more than I do.  Except for maybe Jesse.  But it just isn't going to happen.  The guy is already late, and he hasn't even started yet.  That's a problem.

So when the wheels come off, and they will come off, (I think I see one of them rolling past me right now, actually) I think that DC should get on the phone and talk to Christopher Priest.  Not the guy who wrote the book where Wolverine and Batman are dueling stage magicians.  The guy who used to be Jim Owsley.

I'm talking about the guy who wrote the best Power Man & Iron Fist stories ever, some interesting Wonder Woman stuff, a hilarious run on Quantum & Woody, and a fantastic term on Black Panther.  That guy.

He's busy doing other stuff right now, but if you listened to the Dollar Bin interview with Priest he was very clear about his feelings regarding Batman.  Whatever he's doing in his life, he will come running to DC if they just say "Batman".

Hey.  DC!  When the wheels come off Dark Knight, you should call up Christopher Priest and say "Batman".  I would read the shit out of that comic.

James Earl Jones Was Preternaturally Good In Conan
I sat down and watched Conan The Barbarian for the first time in about 20 years last night. I'm talking about the 1982 one with Arnold in it.

I think it holds up pretty well, actually.  The tone is suitably grim, and it's not a paint-by-numbers action film like Conan: The Destroyer.  It's a character study and a biography with Conan's road to vengeance against Thulsa Doom as the linking thread carrying the thing forward. Barely a word is spoken for the first 20 minutes of the film.  Nobody would have the balls to do that with a big budget picture in 2010.  Aside from a speech given by Conan's father about Crom and the riddle of steel plus a little overdubbed narration, nobody says a damn word.  It's awesome.

The peak of this opening awesometude is when Thulsa Doom shows up and decapitates Conan's mother.  Spoiler alert.  I mean, the movie only came out about 28 years ago, so you had your chance to see it, folks.  Anywho.

When I think of James Earl Jones, I think the same thing you do - that's Darth Vader!  I don't necessarily think "great actor."  I think Darth Vader, and maybe I think about Field of Dreams if I'm feeling particularly masochistic that day.  Watching Conan last night, I discovered that James Earl Jones is a phenomenal actor.

Go back and watch that scene with Thulsa Doom, young Conan, and his mother again.  He doesn't say a goddamn word.  And there is nothing in the script at that point that explains that Thulsa Doom has these hypnotic/charismatic powers.  You don't need the words, and you don't need the exposition.  He just does it.

Doom takes his helmet off, dazzles this completely aggressive and not very susceptible barbarian woman with a glance.  She lowers her blade, and you know exactly why.  You've almost peed yourself looking at the glance yourself.

Then with a preternatural grace he slowly turns away from the mother, and his eyes describe about seven emotions in two seconds.  There's arrogance, disdain, a sense of self-confidence in his achievement, and a flicker of what felt to me like empathy for his victim.  It's all basically simultaneous.  It's impossible.

And then he cuts her goddamn head off.  And by the way, Jones is doing all that stuff to a camera.  I can scarcely imagine how self-conscious I would be attempting something like that cold in front of a lens.  He just nailed it.  And he's good in all of his scenes for the film, but that opener was just a jaw-dropper.  I seriously doubt that the next Conan movie will even attempt something of that subtlety.

James Earl Jones.  Badass.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Marvel: The Mighty Offender!

I got to the comic shop today and saw the first collection of Thor: The Mighty Avenger.  My first thought was:  who will avenge ME?

It's getting to the point now with me and Marvel that I have to check myself and assess.  Am I on a vendetta now?  Am I just so geared to hate every decision Marvel makes that I've wired myself to find things, things that maybe even aren't there?  What's my role, any way?  What the fuck am I, a consumer advocate or something?  Why am I so angry?

I don't know what I am.  I know that I'm not making it up, though.  And even though I am angry, I believe righteously angry, I will try to be rational when I explain why this collected edition represents the marketing savvy of a belligerent (and greedy) five year old.

First of all, let me be clear and say that my indignation is not pointed at Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee, who by all accounts are doing fantastic work.  I read issue # 1 and enjoyed it myself.  That's not what I'm wound up about.

First thing that needs to be addressed: why is this book so tiny?  And why is it so oddly tiny?  Just eyeballing it, it's about 70% the size of a regular trade paperback/comic book.  It's a packaging decision that adds nothing to the product but irritation.

Can you still read it at that size?  I guess.  But it's no help, that's for sure.  And it doesn't fit with anything else on my shelf, your shelf, or your local comic book shop's shelf.  It's not a digest size, it's not a TPB size, it's a brand new oddly sized ball of suck. It's going to look wrong on the shelf from across the room.  My guess is that if you file it between some regular sized trades it will do long term damage to the neighboring books, because there will be missing support at the top.

So why do it?  I would think the answer is simple: it's cheaper to print a smaller book.  Bam.  That's it.  And that's as far as Marvel's thought process seems to go these days - how can we make our consumer pay more for less?  How am I supposed to feel about that?  I don't know....congratulations on fulfilling your fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders, I guess, but you'll pardon me if I'm not impressed as a customer.

But it gets worse.  Thor: The Mighty Avenger Vol 1 collects the first four issues of the series for $14.99.  Now, the originals came out at $2.99, so if you'd purchased those you'd be out $11.96, so why in the world is this thing fifteen dollars?  Traditionally, buying collected editions is a way to bulk your way into some savings, not an extra gouge.  What's going on here?

What's going on is that Marvel decided that you needed reprints of Journey Into Mystery # 82-83 in the back as well.  So now you're at 6 issues for $15, or $2.50 per.  That's a bargain, right?

No, it's not.  Because nobody asked for that old material, and it doesn't make any sense.  The whole point of creating Thor: Mighty Avenger was to start a fresh take unbound by old continuity.  That was its charm.  Not only do those reprint issues add no real value to the product, they actually represent the very essence of what Thor: The Mighty Avenger was trying to avoid!

That's not just extra fluff, that's like putting 15% off steak coupons in the back of Vegan magazine.  Except they'd have to pay for the coupons.  It's absurd.

It's called knowing your product.  You know where that might actually work?  Bryan Glass is doing a mini-series right now called Thor: First Thunder.  It's an expanded retelling of the Thor origin story, and it has a direct connection with that ancient Journey Into Mystery material.  Now, my preference as a consumer would be to avoid paying up on my First Thunder trade for that, because if I wanted that, I can get it in the Masterworks or Essential format.

If Marvel were to provide some kind of DVD type extra and play around with that material, and have Bryan Glass kind of annotate that old stuff and say "This is what I stayed true to, and this is where I deviated, and this why I made page 8 of First Thunder look like such-and-such"...that might actually add a little value to the book.  Again, my vote would be against it.  But I could understand the guiding principle, and I could see where a customer might feel as though the product was better for it.

How does putting Journey Into Mystery # 83 make Thor: The Mighty Avenger any better?  If Marvel were to poll everyone interested in the collected edition, how many would respond positively to the edition of the Journey Into Mystery stuff?  I'll put the over/under at 5%, and I think that's generous.

So why do it?  They did it to "justify" upping the cost to $14.99, that's why.  Bam.  It's not trigonometry.  They killed the series at eight issues.  Given that fact, I would either release the collections in a pair of four issue chunks for $9.99, or one complete series edition for $19.99.  I'd probably go with option "B".  And by the way, that isn't much of a discount.  The price should probably be lower.

But no, they're going to try to squeeze an extra $10 out of you for reprints you don't want, and don't make a lick of sense.  And you know what?  For the next five minutes, that probably makes economic sense.  The people that are buying Thor: Mighty Avenger on the whole will not notice the chicanery or share in my rage.  Enough people will suffer that lost value without a thought that Marvel will probably be up for these collections.

But some people will notice, and they'll see through the bullshit, and they won't buy it.  And some people will be interested in the book, just intuitively understand that there's no value there, and move along without purchasing.  And some of those people will try other stuff, and some won't.  Some of them will trickle out.  The impact of Marvel's douche-baggery on this collection won't sink the ship.  But it's a trickle out, and it adds up over time, and if you don't believe me, go ahead and look at the data that Diamond is reporting and see for yourself.  We are bleeding out, and this is a big piece of why that is.

Don't make the book smaller unless you make the price smaller.  Or better yet, just don't make the book smaller, period.  It reads better and it stores better at standard size.  Don't throw in "back up" features into a TPB and then make us pay for stuff we don't want and didn't ask for.  Quit pissing on us and telling us about all the delicious rain we're enjoying.  It's transparent, and frankly suicidal.

Now is not the time to gouge, now is the time to reach out, engender good will, and grow.  Is this difficult to grasp?  Is it hard to see that gaining a couple of nickels now to flush your entire future is a bad idea?  I guess for some it is, because I can't remember the last move Marvel made that was good for the medium's future.

- Ryan

27! Is It Worth All The Hype?

Twenty-Seven #1 of 4
Image Comics
Script: Charles Soule
Pencils: Renzo Podesta

Twenty-Seven is the story of Garland, a famous guitarist in a very successful band. He’s on tour playing a big stadium and living the rock and roll dream. Sleeping with a new chick every night and not having a girlfriend for more than a week. Catching crabs from dirty vagina, doing all the cool things that rockers do. Then his left hand starts to break down on him. It starts to hurt every time he plays. It gets so bad he has to quit his band and look for help.

Garland travels the world looking for someone to help him with his nerve damaged hand. Every doctor he’s visited has told him the same thing. They can do surgery on his hand, but he’ll be living with “The Stranger” for a left hand from that point on. After spending a lot of his money on doctors and being sued by his band mates over royalties for songs they claimed they helped him write, he’s down to his last buck and on his last visit to a “doctor”.

Garland arrives at this creepy place and meets a man who’s probably not been to medical school. Garland asks him if he's a doctor and the creepy man only replies with, "I'm the one that can heal you". So yeah, he's not a fucking doctor, he's a demon or some shit.
The creepy demon doctor guy tells Garland it will only take a few minutes and tells him to go stand naked in this circular structure made out of angle iron. Nothing creepy about that, so he just does what he’s told. I guess Garland has never heard of the “size seven poop shoot” thing. I’m pretty sure I would have left at this point, I’m fond of my anal virginity, but Garland is desperate so he strips.

This is when the story gets really weird to me. I guess they have to leave a few things for later on, but this “doctor” has nine cats in this scary basement and starts talking about the number 81. 9x9 and shit like that. Overall some very insane sounding shit. After stepping into the “naked man iron ball thingy” (that’s the technical name I came up for it) Garland hallucinates’ some Hendrix type shit and passes out. This is when I thought he would wake up with a size seven poop shoot, but that didn’t happen, he just wakes up with a Darth Vader looking computer embedded into his chest. The creepy “doctor” dude appears to be murdered; you only see these burnt stumps remaining of his legs so yeah he’s probably having a bad afternoon.

Garland goes home and gets his drink on for a while. His hand feels the same so he takes off his shirt to check out his new chest computer. There’s a couple moments of “tune in Tokyo” but when he turns a certain knob, his hand suddenly feels fine. Garland launches himself up and grabs his guitar and whips out a fucking kick ass tune. I’m sure it’s something from the Depeche Mode library, but they don’t really go into detail about it so you can make up your own mind on that.

Garland then calls his manager Mac and tells him his hand feels fine. He wants him to start thinking about the reunion tour. Mac says that's great and Garland hangs up and just sits back and plays for a while. After an undisclosed amount of time, his hand suddenly gets fucked up again. Garland tries dialing in his chest computer to get back the use of his hand, but apparently it’s out of juice or something, it won’t work. After trying for a while he starts to hallucinate again. Garland sees a few people in the room with him. They tell him they're dead and the book ends.

This is a very good comic book. Charles Soule seems to have gotten the memo on making stories simple. I think we're all sick of the big bang boom stories which promise to deliver mind-altering stories and fall short on many occasions. This book isn't the next "Sandman", but it's got all the important elements for a great comic book. It's got a great hook. What did Garland give up to have that chest computer installed? What the hell is in that Chest Computer. By the end of the book you care about Garland, which is rare these days. The book gave me the creeps when it was supposed to and the artwork is wonderful. It hit on all cylinders for me. It didn't blow my mind like "Preacher" or "Y The Last Man", but I can see this book sitting on my shelf as a Trade Paperback.

Why are people going crazy for this book right now?
Well that’s a mystery to me. Twenty-Seven is not worth $30+, which is what you have to pay if you didn’t get it this morning. My advice to you is if you want to read this comic book, pick it up next month when the second issue comes out. Sources tell me the second printing of this issue will be available at the same time. I love simple stories like and so far if this only goes to the four issues it’s slated, we’ve only gotten a small glimpse of what’s to come.


About the cats and the "doctor". There's two competing energy "spirits" involved. There's a creative/inspirational force and an entropic force. (they change form and argue with each other for a few pages) The spell is supposed to offer up life force in exchange for...whatever. Well, the witch doctor substituted cats. And these entities considered that a bad faith effort, and so they negotiate to kill the witch doctor (and the cats) and make the spell work any way because the life force finds Mr. Garland "beautiful". VERY weird. Not a bad book, by any stretch, but also not significantly better than what's going on in say...Hellblazer. So while I won't say anything bad about 27, I wouldn't recommend purchasing it for goddamn $25, either. This is not a legend in the making, in my opinion. That's kind of a snap judgment having only one issue to look at, but that's where I'm at.