Sunday, November 27, 2011

Extending The Break

For various reasons, some professional and some personal, I will have to extend my Thanksgiving Break for an indefinite amount of time.

Thank you,

- Jim

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Break

With deadlines looming and this being a short work week, I'm going to take a week off from posting to get caught up on projects and try to enjoy the holidays.

I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

- Jim

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pierre reviews The DC Universe Online

Sometimes Pierre is hard at work on an animation project for a Canadian studio. Sometimes he is working on artwork for people like the recent horror story he worked on. Then sometimes, he is just playing games to relax. Today, Pierre tells us what he thinks about the DC Universe Online which he recently just started playing.

When DC Universe Online was first released, all the signs were pointing towards that it would be free to play before long. Heck even BEFORE it was released. For a MMORPG, there is no way that it had enough content for people to pay $15 a month. Also, the options to customize your character was limited at best.  As more details about the game leaked out, it soon became obvious that only extreme DC fans would pay $15 a month to play this game.

I know a few full time gamers (I used to say professional gamers,  but their lack of skill made me realise that although they were playing 80 hours a week,  most of them weren’t very good),  and for full time gamers,  they would go through DCUO’s content with multiple characters in 2 weeks,  maybe 3 weeks at most. Even casual gamers would take about one month to go through DCUO’s content. So how could Sony/DC expect people to pay $15 a month for DCUO??

If they had released new content on a regular basis,  maybe people would have stuck around,  but their first new content (War of the Light) was just released not that long ago.  There is no way that people would pay if there was just that little content added.

So since November 1st, DCUO has been free to play. And like many, I was curious about it. So I did download it to try it out. I downloaded both the PS3 and the PC version of the game. But I mostly played the PS3 version so far. Why both?? I prefer to play on PS3 nowadays, but none of my PS3 friends are playing DCUO, and I have a few friends who play or will play on the PC.

No, I did not download it November 1st, I waited 2 weeks. I did not really have the time to try it out. And I expected that a LOT of people would try it out that first week, and I was pretty sure that Sony would never be prepared for the rise in traffic that DCUO would get. And even more when two weeks later,  they still have a tough time adjusting themselves to all the new players that they have now. From what I read, it seems that they had 1 000 000 new players the first week they went free to play alone. I wonder how many more they got since then? And now, I am one of them new players. I don’t have much time to play, so I only played a few hours to get a feel of how the game works.

What I mostly did so far was play around with the character creator. In my book, the more options you have to customize your character, the better. DCUO is lacking a little in that department. It is somewhat limited and is missing some key elements.

I wanted to play as Batman, or Batman from Earth 53 or something, but that was not really an option. It seems that they went out of their way to try and prevent people to make their own Batman or Superman characters. But I will get back to that.

So I created the next best thing, Le Fantome (The Phantom in French).
And I made something that looks pretty close to the character.

Then I played around with the character creator and created Spider-man (either the 616 or the Ultimate version), Cyclops (his original costume and his “all new all different” one), Angel (at least 3 versions of his early costumes), the Punisher, Moon Knight, Colossus, Hawkeye, Storm Shadow, the Spectre, Invincible, and I have seen many Deadpool, Hulk, Iron-Man in the game,  and despite DC’s best efforts I have seen many Nightwing, Robin, Green Arrow, and Superman,  and others that I fail to mention. Somehow, it seems easier to make Marvel or other non-DC characters.

So after playing with the character creator,  I tried the game itself,  and it was fun. It is a game of button smashing, so if you guys expect a game with lots of strategy or with a deep story, you will be disappointed. But so far,  it is a fun action game. But I only played a few hours, so maybe later in the game things are different. We will see.

It is fun to visit Gotham or Metropolis and see Superman,  or to get a call from Oracle. If you are like me and miss the DCU already, you will get a kick of seeing them characters once more. And it is fun to fight the DCU villains like Brainiac, although early on what you see are actually his drones, but still you know that Brainiac is in there somewhere. ;)

The environments look nice, and it is fun to climb building or to jump from building to building. If you make yourself a Spider-man character, you will have lots of fun.

Lots of action! Sometimes,  it is overwhelming when you get caught into a crowd of henchmen. But you will not run out of bad guys to fight.

Not being able to play as Batman or Superman or any other DCU characters (unless you manage to create yourself a Nightwing645 with the character creator).

When I first heard about DCUO, not being able to play as a DCU character made NO SENSE. Why play DCUO then???  If you are going to play a generic character, why not play Champions or City of Heroes instead?? Why bother with DCUO then??

The argument is that it would be silly to have a 1000 Batman running around.
Really?? As opposed to Batman Inc?? Heck early on they go out of their way to introduce players to the multiverse and that there are infinite Earths. Why not allow players to play Batman from Earth 666 or something?? And if DC were worried that there would be too little diversity,   you already see a LOT of the same characters over and over. So you might as well see a lot of Batmen.
Although now they have added the Green Lantern, Red Lantern, and the Sinestro Corps that you can be a member of as far as I understand. So that is a step in the right direction.
  • How about adding other DCU factions that you could be a member of??
  • How about being able to play as a member of Checkmate?? Or the Darkstars??
  • Heck you could have a thousand of those and it would not matter.
  • Also, there are only 2 cities,  Gotham and Metropolis.

Did they really expect hardcore players to have enough of them 2 cities?? Even for a casual gamer that is not that much. You have to wonder what they were thinking. If they were adding one new city every month, Maybe that would make sense, but it took what, 6 months?? More??? For them to release their Green Lantern add-on.  Ouch! (And I don’t even think that it adds a new city. Or does it add Coast City?? I could not find any info about this.)

Sometimes you have to wait 10 minutes,  20 minutes,  as much as 45 minutes to play. It is not a problem at 3 AM,  But between 5 PM to 10 PM,  the waiting time can be long.

On the PS3 there are sound glitches - A lot. Too often,  I lose the sound completely,  or sometimes only a few sounds remain. It is not game breaker, but it can get annoying. Especially if Oracle gives you a call to explain to you your next mission and you can’t hear her. I hope they fix that soon.

Getting stuck in doorways - Sometimes, characters remain standing still right in the middle of a doorway blocking the way for everyone else. That can be annoying. There even was a time when one character was blocking one doorway, and two others blocked the other doorway trapping tree of us. Not fun when that happens.  I hope they manage to find a way to fix that soon too. And as far as I can tell, there is NO Daily Planet in Metropolis. I have no idea why this was omitted,  but that seems,  odd to me.  Although maybe it is there and I just did not see it yet??

So overall,  it is a fun action game that will allow you to do a lot of button smashing on the PS3 or a lot of mouse clicking on PC. I might pay $10 for the Green Lantern add0on at some point. I would love to play a member of the Sinestro Corp.

So if you pass by Gotham and see Le Fantome prowling on a rooftop, come by and say “Hi”. ;)

Until next time.
- Pierre

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Dubious Return of The Twelve

So, last week it was announced that Marvel were planning to finish The Twelve the J. Michael Straczynski grim and gritty Golden Age revival book which he abandoned in mid story so that he could go to DC and revitalize Superman and Wonder Woman (which he also abandoned.)

For those of you new to this blog, I have a love/hate relationship with Straczynski's writing. He seems determined to match every good idea he has with a worn out *shocking* idea from the 80's. If you have ever seen the final episode of M.A.S.H., that's pretty much how every JMS comic runs - hoary TV tropes served up with a dash of 60's pop psychology, but without the charm or humor of M.A.S.H.

A friend gave me the first Twelve graphic novel, which again, had some good ideas about it, but the scene with Rockman was one of those camel/straw moments, so I won't be picking up the new issues.

And thinking about it, I wonder about the wisdom of continuing this series anyway. Check out these numbers on from when the series was coming out regularly and JMS still had the glow of Spider-man and Thor about him...

12/07  Twelve #0 of 12 - 20,218
01/08  Twelve #1 of 12 - 40,199  (+98.8%)
02/08  Twelve #2 of 12 - 32,403  (-19.4%)
03/08  Twelve #3 of 12 - 32,729  ( +1.0%)
04/08  Twelve #4 of 12 - 29,729  ( -9.2%)
05/08  Twelve #5 of 12 - 29,876  ( +0.5%)
06/08  Twelve #6 of 12 - 29,303  ( -1.9%)
07/08  ---
08/08  Twelve #7 of 12 - 27,585  ( -5.9%)

Here is the sales numbers on The Twelve Spearhead

12 Spearhead 13540

Spearhead was a single issue spin off that came out May 2010. It was written by Twelve artist Chris Weston, whose artwork on the series has been great the entire time and proved to be an excellent writer on this one shot.

If you average out the last issue of The Twelve and Spearhead, you get 20K - which some people are calling Marvel's new cancellation point. Are retailers going to do that math? Or will they go check back on their old orders of the series to see how many they sold 4 years ago? Probably not. It's just a very different marketplace now. Today, The Twelve has to deal with readers that are a little bit disenchanted with JMS and a lotta bit more interested in the DC 52. Still, for some reason, Marvel felt like revisiting the Twelve was a better bet than continuing Alpha Flight. Go figure.

Anway, with all that said, today I'm revisiting another team up tale from the Golden Age: Prize Comics 24 which features the Prize heroes (Yank and Doodle, Green Lama, Doctor Frost and the Black Owl) vs Frankenstein.

[ Prize Comics 24 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

10 Things About: Giant-Size Spider-Man 2

You gotta love those Giant-Size Marvel comics! Check out the first time Spider-man teamed up with Shang - Chi, Master of Kung Fu!

1. Hello Karate Kraze! Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting back in the 70’s weren’t they? That was a special time when martial arts still had this cool factor about them. During the 80’s and 90’s, with the overuse of Ninjas in every comic, martial arts became less of a neat character attribute and more of clichéd afterthought.

2. Ross Andru – we miss you! One of Marvel’s workhorses, I don’t think  Ross Andru has really gotten the recognition for his work on Spider-man in the 70’s.  Check out how well the action and storytelling unfolds on this page.

3. Bronze Age Fu Manchu While I’ve always liked the idea of Fu Manchu in the Marvel universe, he never seemed to be as much of a mover and shaker as Dr. Doom or The Mandarin. He was more on the level of Kingpin in that his appearances were usually confined to the pages of Master of Kung Fu. Still, it's cool to see him here.

4. Shang – Chi’s costume When using characters with martial arts skills, artists have the challenge of having to find a way to make the classic Gi interesting on a comic book page. Sometimes, you end up with less than interesting costumes (like Karate Kid’s first uniform.) Not so with Shang-Chi’s costume. The use of red and yellow make it stand out while still keeping it from looking too much like a superhero costume.

5. Chapter Two – Cross and Double Cross Remember when comics used to have chapters in them? That was great because dividing a story into chapters forces the writer to have something happen in each chapter. You can bet a comics not going to be a slow decompressed multi-issue snoozer when it’s divided into 3 chapters in one issue. 

6. Shang Chi vs Spider-Man Starting on page 15 till page 20 we get 5 pages of awesomely choreographed superhero fight scenes as only the bronze age could do it! Both Len Wein and Ross Andru outdid themselves here with this fight scene. And for those of you keeping track, this is the THIRD fight scene we’ve had in this comic so far! Imagine THAT in today’s slow moving, talking head comics. Even when modern comics do have a lot of fight scenes they have devolved to using generic ninjas and robots most of the time.

7. Chapter 3 – The Deadly FEET of Kung Fu Observe out the fancy footwork on this page. Of course our heroes realize they need to team up to defeat Fu Manchu. Together they storm his inner sanctum which leads us to our 4th fight scene in the comic.

8. The Imposing Figure of Black Jack Tarr! This is a guy who is really needs his own mini-series!

Wikipedia has a full rundown on him: but he’s essentially a sort of Dum Dum Dugan for Denis Nayland Smith’s Nick Fury. Smith is straight from the Fu Manchu series but Tarr was created for the Marvel series to provide a colorful supporting character.  He apparently appeared recently in something called Ultimate Human by Warren Ellis, but since my eyes bleed dark ooze anytime I read anything written by Warren Ellis of late, I avoided it.

9. Falling Down! More evidence that Ross Andru was the man. Notice the interesting use of perspective in the side panel.

10. Fu Man Who? Something intrinsic to the Bronze Age is that moment when characters sort of get shook up by some revelation that what they thought was a fictional world or character is indeed a real one (Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster, Captain Marvel) Here Spider-Man deals with is post-modern existential dilemma when he discovers he shares the same universe (for now at least) as Fu Manchu.

And so ends another great Bronze Age classic!
Have a great weekend!

- Jim

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What's Pierre Been Up To Lately?

I asked Pierre what he's been up to while I've been busy on other projects and this is what he said:

A couple of weeks ago, we had a screening where we saw on the big screen a few scenes of an animated 3D movie with them 3D glasses that I worked on last spring. Although I fail to see the appeal of seeing movies in 3D, the movie should look nice visually, and I really liked the music. But there is still a lot of animation and post production work to do. So we will have to wait and see for the final look of the film.

This will be my second feature film. Hopefully, it will have more success than the first film I worked on (Heavy Metal 2000).  ;)

Sadly, I can’t really talk about it yet. I don’t know when the film will be in theatres yet. It will be in theatres very late 2012 at the earliest, but odds are that it will be released in 2013.

But one project that I can talk about, is some comic book work that I did recently. It’s a short story for some horror anthology that was released around the time of the All Hallow’s Eve. ;)

But it is in an arcane language, so sadly for most of our Flashback Universe readers, you guys may have a tough time reading it. ;)

You can see the cover here;

And if you click on the cover, you will see 3 pages from the story that I drew.  It is a nice short story that has some fun moments.

I always find it strange, because when I think of my style, the last thing I think of is “horror”. But this is the second time I get asked to work on some horror comic, so maybe there is something that I don’t see???  ;)

There should be a second issue in December. I will give you guys more info when I can. I also did a Commander X pin-up that you should be able to see also in December.

Commander X is the type of project fans of the Flashback Universe will enjoy! You can get more info here:

Being asked to make the Commander X pin-up made more sense to me since it had a very retro feel/flavour to it. Although Jay Piscopo does some nice work on his own, . So I fail to see why he needed me.

But what can I say, I never say no when people offer me money.  ;)

But seriously, it was a fun pin-up to make.  Can’t wait for you guys to get the chance to see it.

And to end this blog on a Halloween related note, for Halloween this year, I decided to try out the movie Twilight, to see what all that “Twilight” phenomenon/craze is all about.

And that picture that I saw on Facebook pretty much sums up my thoughts on the film;

Hope you guys had a fun Halloween. ;)

Until next time.  ;)


Monday, November 7, 2011

The New King of Comic Sales

What a difference a few days makes. Last Monday, I was talking about Marvel's Day and Date Digital announcement. I thought that news would keep Marvel in the spotlight of the comics blogoverse for a while, but Friday DC stole Marvel's thunder when Bleeding Cool revealed  DC outsold Marvel for October.

And for the most part, the comments (over a hundred so far) are very positive and congratulatory to DC. It seems that most readers are glad to see DC succeeding with the relaunch.

Some naysayers are talking about how things will return to normal (ie: Marvel going back to the top sales spot) in a few months, but I wouldn't count on that.

For one thing there are quite a number of new DC projects coming up in the 2nd wave of the relaunch including these titles:
  • A new JSA book
  • A new Captain Marvel book (spinning out of the Justice League back up series)
  • Watchmen 2
  • Grant Morrison's Multiversity
  • Batman Inc. (Which I was really enjoying until the hiatus)
  • World's Finest (or some Batman/Superman team up book)
With those titles on the horizon and the current line doing so well, I think Marvel will have a hard time dethroning the new king of the charts. Marvel's usual strategy of countering with new versions of Avengers, Spider-man and X-men have all been played out. This current overturning actually takes place in a month when Marvel released their new Wolverine and the X-men 1, which came in behind Incredible Hulk 1 (which just goes to show how much clout that franchise has lost due to overexposure.)

Here is a chart of the top ten for October. Looking at it, the number of $3.99 comics is a little dismaying. Also, if you know someone who paid $4.99 for Fear Itself 7, please give them my sympathy. :D I've heard nothing but disappointment about that series. It appears to have been a Toy Pitch gone bad.

2 BATMAN #2 $2.99 DC
5 FLASH #2 $2.99 DC
6 DETECTIVE COMICS #2 [*] $2.99 DC
9 FEAR ITSELF #7 $4.99 MAR
10 SUPERMAN #2 [*] $2.99 DC

With that, I present today's Free Comic, featuring another sort of King. The Boy King! from Clue Comics 5

- Enjoy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Comments on Marvel Going Digital Day & Date

Yesterday, Gizmodo (a tech blog I follow in my google feeds) had an exclusive article that broke the news that by April, Marvel will make all of their published superhero titles available digitally on the same day as they hit the retail shops. 

Now, to be honest, I suspect this move doesn't surprise anyone who is a regular reader of this blog. Once DC did it, we all sort of knew it would only be a matter of time (months) before Marvel followed step.

What I've found the most interesting are some of the comments from comic fans on the news. For the most part readers seem to be very happy with this news (as expected) and the usual Greek chorus of people screaming they will never read digital comics seems no where in sight. There are a few people who have posted some interesting thoughts:

From the iFanboy comments:

WeaklyRoll says:
[ What's next? A ] digital only series...?

gobo says:
Now hopefully Marvel will start doing a wait one 1 month/$1 off price drop

Jdudley says:
Marvel really needs to pull the “drop prices after 4 weeks” move. As of now, it’s completely unclear when the digital price of marvel’s books will go down to 1.99.

I have to imagine it’s a man-hour issue. Going full-line day and date requires quite a few new employees and/or shifting job descriptions. I’d wager that the recent staff layoffs at marvel have something to do with this momentum shift. Still, this is a good milestone for digital. I think that the digital marketplace will HAVE to ultimately force marvel to smaller price points, but that won’t necessarily happen immediately. Once the company is settled into digital releases and slightly less reliance on the sales of increasingly expensive printing… the prices really SHOULD come down.

Nerd_Raaage says:
“…now Marvel have crunched the numbers, and protection of the direct market has given way to desire for more revenue.”

It’s not Marvels responsibility to protect the direct market. Nor do I believe that it was ever their intent. Their responsibility is to maintain their existence and profitability. The best way for them to do that is to maintain their customer base by providing a quality product, at a reasonable price, in the manor that best meets the needs of the customer.

I fully support small businesses…when the relationship is mutually beneficial. The closest ‘local’ comic shop is a two hour drive for me. There is no benefit for me in making that drive to purchase comics or to pay extra and wait a few days on a delivery service.

My thoughts are, yeah, the next step will be a Digital Only comic much like how Marvel had three Direct Sales titles back in the 80's (Micronauts, Moon-Knight and Ka-Zar.)

I also think that we will some eventual price competition between both companies in the digital realm. Eventually, someone is going to figure out how to keep track of the stats of  how things are selling on Comixology - or Comixology will offer up the stats themselves.

Finally, I keep seeing people saying it's silly that digital versions are the same price as the paper versions, and while I too doubt the economics involved in production in both areas could result in similar pricing, I don't think $2.99 is too much to pay for a digital version. For one thing, you don't spend any gas getting it. Also, I'm paying a little bit to avoid the disappointment of going to my comic shop and discovering they didn't order enough copies so I wasted a trip.

Have a great weekend!

- Jim

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pierre Speaks About Thor Books

Today,  Pierre gives us his thoughts on two recent collections of Thor comics

I had fun watching the Thor film when it first came out in theatre. The film was far from perfect,  but it had some fun moments. Whenever I watch it again,  I still get Goosebumps when Odin whispers to the hammer “Whoever holds this hammer,  . If he be worthy,  shall possess the power of Thor”. That or Loki calling Thor “The Mighty Thor” with all the disdain and venom in his tone that only Loki could manage. Those have to be my favourite moments in the Thor film.

So while I had a good time watching that film,  I can’t say that I am a big Thor fan. I enjoyed his appearances in the Avengers comics,  I liked the character well enough,  but I rarely bought the Thor comic itself. So I pretty much ignored the Ultimate Thor comic when it first was released.

Not being one to usually buy a Thor comic, and not much of an Ultimate fan, I saw little reason to even check this comic out when it was first released. But then some time ago,  I saw the Ultimate Thor HC for $12.99 CAN. So I figured,  “What the heck,  at worse I will have some Pacheco artwork to look at”.

I usually am a fan of Pacheco’s artwork, but was not too thrilled since he has been back at Marvel on the Ultimates. But I kind of like some of Hickman’s work as well, so I was curious to check out how well they worked together.

And I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised.

Despite knowing where the story leads to, there were a few nice twists and turns that I did not expect. There were a few nice surprises in this tale that I enjoyed. And I liked Pacheco’s artwork despite his attempt to be Bryan Hitch sometimes. I prefer by far the approach he had when he was drawing Avengers Forever.

But overall, it was worth it. I would never have paid its original cover price of $19.99 US/$22.50 CAN. But at $12.99 CAN?? It was worth it. To me, the Ultimate Thor HAS to be the one we find in The Mighty Thor Omnibus by Walter Simonson and Sal Buscema.

Yes there were some great Thor comics by Kirby,  by John Buscema/Tom Palmer,  or by DeFalco and Frenz/Breeding,  but the Omnibus by Simonson and Sal Buscema HAS to be the ultimate tale with the character.

No, not the ultimate tale,  that is wrong somehow,  the Ultimate SAGA with the character. Heck they even did a pretty kick-ass job recoloring the comics for the Omnibus itself.

I wonder why that omnibus was recolored and not the Wolverine Omnibus or the Secret Wars Omnibus  or the upcoming John Byrne FF Omnibus?? Although they have recolored the upcoming X-Men Omnibus by Claremont and Jim Lee.

So will Marvel start to recolor all of their Omnibuses?? Or will it be a once in a while occasion??

When Simonson started his Thor run many winters ago,  I was not too crazy about it. I thought his work looked weird, especially compared to some John Buscema/Tom Palmer Thor comics that came before that. It took me some years to get used to Simonson’s work. Heck it’s only when I first saw some black and white artwork by him in various publications that I started to appreciate the graphic approach that he had in his work.

The same thing happened with Mignola. I had to see some black and white artwork by him before I was charmed by his work and could start to appreciate it.

So I pretty much missed Simonson’s Thor run initially and would only later start to get some TPBs of his work. And only once I got the Balder the Brave Marvel Premiere HC would I realise that Sal Buscema had worked with Walt on this run.

So once the Thor Omnibus by Simonson was announced,  you can be sure that no force on Earth would keep me from getting my hands on it. ;) As you guys probably know by now,  I am a HUGE Sal Buscema fan. So it is a special treat whenever I find some tales by him that I never saw/read before.

But this Omnibus is a wonderful book not only because I was able to read more stories drawn by Sal,  but for many other reasons as well. The new more modern coloring fits well with the artwork from past decades. So each page is beautifully drawn and recolored to have the best of both eras. It includes the first appearance of Beta Ray Thor and the Balder the Brave mini-series.

And there are some nice extras at the end. Some nice character sketches,  some promotional artwork,  and some pin-ups.  It is truly a great book. And it is HUGE!! It is like 100 000 pages thick,  okay,  okay,  it is more like almost 1200 pages,  but that still is a lot of Thor pages. I can tell you,  you will give yourself a tendonitis lifting the darn thing.

So the ONE drawback is that you will need to read this at home on some sort of table. There is no way you can carry this around and read it on the bus,  or read it in the bathroom while doing your business. You will need some proper support to comfortably read it. But each pages, each panel will be 100% worth it.

It is a Mighty book that any Thor fan, any Marvel fan or, heck, any comic fan should own. So if you want to be pleasantly surprised by a recent comic, give a try to the Ultimate Thor. You probably can get the TPB for fairly cheap by now.

But if you want to read a Mighty SAGA of EPIC proportions,  then you MUST read what is truly the Ultimate Thor SAGA in The Mighty Thor Omnibus by Simonson and Sal Buscema. You will not regret it. I guarantee it.

Have a good day.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Paper Comics Walking DeadWatch

This weekend I was shocked as my Sister-in-law, who has not set foot in a comics shop in over 25 years, explained to me how the Comixology website works! Here's what the deal was:

She's been watching Walking Dead on TV
Gina (my wife) loaned her the first Walking Dead Graphic novel.
A friend on facebook (someone from her high school days who still reads comics) told her how to get more issues on Comixology

Since then she's bought over 80 issues of the series from the website and is currently caught up on the entire run.

AND because she was buying her comics from the site, she found out about the DC Relaunch and is now buying Aquaman, Justice League, Animal Man, Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps.
She asked me to recommend some other titles, so I suggested Y, The Last Man and the new Wonder Woman.

I mention all this because whenever I post one of my sidewalk rants about how paper comics are going to practically disappear soon, my critics always like to counter by suggesting that the process will be a slow, steady decline which might take decades. What those naysayers always forget is that sometimes things happen, like a Walking Dead television show, that causes a huge tidal wave of interest in digital comics. These unexpected (by my critics at least) paradigm shifts in turn cause other jumps in the process (like DC making a Y, the Last Man movie) which perpetuates the accelerated decline.

That may seem like an awful lot to extrapolate from the random buying habits of my Sister-in-law, but as card games go, Marvel/Disney have yet to make a grand play, so let's keep watching.

With that, I present today's Halloween themed Free Comic:

Weird Terror!

- Enjoy!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

High Rez Review | Daredevil

Today, Caine brings us another Hi Rez Review. This time of the first story arc of the newly relaunched Daredevil.

The man without fear (Daredevil) is bringing fun back.

Let me just get this out there: I wasn't a fan of the Bendis/Maleev 4 year run on Daredevil and I'm happy to say that Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera's run hits the ground running 180 degrees in the opposite direction story wise.

Mark Waid has done an excellent job of taking everything that's happened to Matt over the last six or eight years: quantified it; keeps what he likes; and respectfully leaves everything else alone like a sleeping junk yard dog.  Those story elements haven't been thrown away or removed from cannon they are just no longer the focus of the book and are clearly in Matt's (and the supporting characters) history.
The first issue opens up MacGyver style where Daredevil ends one mission and starts another as Matt Murdock in Matt's own corner of hell's kitchen: the court room.  He takes on the legal defense of an innocent man that only Matt believes to be innocent but he'll need more than Foggy Nelson and a good honest judge to prove it.  Don't forget the world still feels as if there may be some truth to the rumors that Matt Murdoc is Daredevil - who recently went insane and might be responsible for several deaths in the Shadowland incident.

Matt's powers and abilities as well as Matt's personality under the Daredevil mask, are put to good use in the story.  Mark Waid has re-established Matt as as solid individual dedicated to a mission.  Mark has captured a Matt Murdock that's not been seen for a decade or more, he's shed a lot of Matt's darker pshycological aspects (I don't want to label them as I've not read DD in a few years because of them).  There's a lot more dare than devil in DD these days.

While Mark has shed plenty of what's been done to Matt as of late, it's not been forgotten or dissapeared completely.  That would be cheating (like a reboot or relaunch of sorts huh DC?) so Mark embraces it and those elements serves to enhance the story.

The second issue (as well as the third) is structured very similarly to the first with Daredevil having to answer for his crimes of the past via a unique pop quiz delivered to him by another superhero and only once he's passed it (sort of) can he be allowed to move forward and continue with the legal case that consumes his mission for justice.  Let me just say that Mark Waid is the master of the one page character introduction and he uses the technique in all three issues.

While Daredevil is slightly put off guard at the start of the test he's not helpless and it doesn't take him long to figure out who's testing him.  It's a man in the Marvel Universe "with a heart beat like none other in the world". ~Mark Waid

Mark is able to use the test to share new aspects of both the characters and instantly remind us the reader that Daredevil has a large history of doing good in the Marvel Universe and is interconnected to several of the heroes of the even though he's never been a mainstay of any particular team book.

As the issue rounds out to the end Mark again finds a way to keep Daredevil of guard in a very unique fashion, if this keeps up I imagine it to being similar to Ron Marz's promise to never have Green Lantern craft the same thing twice while ring slinging.

This is an awesome scene, easily one of my favorites.
Once again as issue three opens the single page intro (or recap - or both) is used really well here.  Mark infuses a single page with enough dialogue to remind us of who Daredevil is, why hes currently in the perdicament he's in, how much history he has with the Marvel Universe, and how much lighter his outlook on life is now a days.

The true villain is finally revealed, and we the readers see how this villain's actions effect both the street crime Daredevil is dealing with as well as the court battle tangling up Matt and DD's lifes on all sides.

This issue has a lot more action in it.  The court room/ street battle ratio is flipped with issue three in that the street battle is favored and it's moved to the front of the book so that the court room can be in the back.  Like an ending of sorts.  A happy ending?  We'll you'll have to read it to find out.

I can't recommend this book enough.  It's a light read, but one not done in five minutes (I always hate that).  It's a fun read that will leave yo laughing.  It's an action packed adventure captured very effectively in 2d and not surprising it's just damn good.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kickstarting Comics

I am continually intrigued with Kickstarter, that site where people post details about an upcoming project (comic, movie, book, etc...) and implore strangers to contribute to the costs of the project in return for some a perk (your name in the credits, original artwork, ect...)

It sounds almost too good to be true. If you make your goal, you get your money. So, after months of begging your facebook friends to contribute, if you asked for $5000, and you end up with $8000, you're golden. Like the project by Travis Hanson who is working on a graphic novel called Travis the Bean which looks like the sort of thing I would really enjoy:

The flipside is if you don't meet your goal, the people who pledge don't get billed and you end up getting nothing. For contributors, it's sort of a no lose situation and I've contributed to quite a few projects myself. Still, there are plenty of projects that don't meet their goal. Like this one Pierre sent me via email. This guy was was trying to get a set of Bronze Age homage called Magnet Comics funded.

He was asking for about $20K and only got $637 (which because it was short, means he didn't get anything.)

I think the key is to set a low goal, but then if your goal is too low, how do you publish the project?
Anyone out there have any personal experience with Kickstarter? Either as a creator or a contributor?

Also, I'm not really interested in making paper comics or graphic novels, so I wonder if people contribute to digital comic projects? I'll have to search the site some more and see if I can't get some meaningful statistics.

- Jim

Monday, October 24, 2011

Marvel - All Winners or All Losers? case you haven't been following the comics news-a-net lately, Marvel seems to be showing signs of what I like to call, Ef Upedness lately. It's that point in a company's lifespan when you start to see the writing on the wall that indicates you need to get the hell out of there because it might not be around for long.

First, they have been laying off an alarming amount of staffers even after reporting a profit for this quarter.

Second, among the layoffs were employees in the Digital division? (Yeah, that's a smart place to trim, cuz that whole digital comic thing is just a fad.)

Third, and less harrowing, but still telling, they cancelled the All-Winners Band of Brothers mini-series in mid run

Over at, this commenter summed up my feelings pretty well:

Hawk_Fan Says:

I am annoyed by any of these titles being cancelled, but it doesn’t surprise me. The one that REALLY gets my goat though is ALL-WINNERS SQUAD: BAND OF HEROES There are 7000+ people that are reading that mini And enjoying it) with more waiting for the trade.

If Marvel cannot complete a commitment to the fans (they comitted to a mini-series, its not like anyone expected an on-going!) by producing just 8 issues then they should not be in business. I understand low sales causing an on-going (or what was thought to be up-graded to an on-going) to be cancelled but to canceo a mini-series is both lazy and un-professional.

As noted, there are 7000+ fans who want to see the story completed asnd, for a mini-series the sales figures have not been bad!

Now, I'll be honest, I wasn't buying All-Winners Squad because, well, y'know (Modern Comics Suxors) but I have to agree with Hawk_Fan. There is something particularly suspcious about Marvel pulling the rug out from under a mini-series that only had 3 more issues to go.

I've gone on record on the net several times about having my doubts with this whole Disney/Marvel thing. Disney just doesn't strike me as a company that see the value in owning a comic book company. Disney comics sell very well all across the world but even then, Disney just liscenses out the characters to other publishers. When I was a kid, I read Disney stories published in Gold Key Digests

More recently, Disney comics have been published by Gemstone and Boom! My daughter read the Fairies of Pixie Hollow published by PaperCutz

I know a creator who works on Disney comics who has told me face to face that Disney has no interest in the comic book business. And why should they? Disney makes more money off of Movies, Toys and Theme Parks than Marvel could ever imagine. A comic that sells 100K is a big deal to the comic world, but to Disney, that's not worth getting out of bed for.

So, at the end of the day, when Ike Perlmutter has to explain to his new bosses how Marvel missed their quarterly expectations, I can see how he might end the explanation with..."But we are looking for ways to trim costs..."

Perhaps I should start a Marvel Comics Deathwatch?

Anway, as far as All Winners Squad goes, none of the old Golden Age comics are in Public Domain, so for today's Free Comic, I present All Good Comics 04.

- Jim

Friday, October 21, 2011

DC Retroactive Sales

Because the internet issues, I have to post with my phone today, so this ain't gonna be pretty.

Last week Pierre sent me this email:

Hi Jim,

I just saw the sales on the Retroactive comics from DC at the Beat.

Guess DC won't publish any more of those. :(

DC RETROACTIVE: THE 70S 07/2011: Batman -- 14,340 07/2011:
The Flash -- 12,098 07/2011:
Wonder Woman -- 11,462 07/2011: Green Lantern -- 13,587 07/2011:
JLA -- 12,582 07/2011:
Superman -- 12,264

171/180/185/193/198/202 - DC RETROACTIVE: THE 80S 08/2011: Batman -- 12,534 08/2011:
The Flash -- 10,446 08/2011:
Wonder Woman -- 10,079 08/2011: Green Lantern -- 11,398 08/2011:
JLA -- 10,583 08/2011:
Superman -- 11,072

179/183/195/208/210/214 - DC RETROACTIVE: THE 90S 08/2011: Batman -- 11,609 08/2011:
The Flash -- 9,512 08/2011:
Wonder Woman -- 9,290 08/2011: Green Lantern -- 10,527 08/2011:
JLA -- 11,205 08/2011:
Superman -- 9,443

My Thoughts: This makes me a little sad, because I really enjoyed the Retroactive books, but  looking at the sales, I don't think DC is gonna try something like this in a while.

Which begs the question why didn't you do well? Was it retailers? Lack of marketing? Apathy from comic buyers? An unfortunate combination of all three?

I am going to place the bulk of the blame on retailers, because in my local comic shop most of these comics sold out. Marketing seems less guilty as generally the comics got a good bit written about them on the internet before they came out and then more buzz about them as they were reviewed by bloggers and podcasters. To me, this feels really feels like a case of retailers not gauging the audience very well.

As further proof, I would present the amount of reorders on the DC 52 which were all returnable. The fact that so many of those sold out multiple times shows retailers are just not paying attention.

Have a great weekend!

- Jim

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Games: The Last of the DC Universe

Today Pierre gives his review of the New Teen Titans Graphic Novel: Games

As the NEW DCnU started, I came to realise that we had not seen the LAST of the DCU yet. That there was still ONE DCU comic left. The NEW Teen Titans: Games Original Graphic Novel.

It was one of those happy accidents that are not really planned as such, but somehow that is how it happened. Games ended up being the very LAST comic set in the DCU (before Flashpoint).

I first became a fan of the New Teen Titans in 1984 when I bought the first issue of the series. It seems that the series in French was about 4 years behind the American version of the series. And I LOVED every seconds spent reading that first issue. Actually it was the first 2 issues since in French, the series was bi-monthly and we had 2 stories per issue.

Damn how that was good.

I loved all of the Titans characters. Other than Robin and Kid Flash, all the characters were new to me, but all of them were strong characters. There was no weak character in the bunch. So no wonder it was such a hit. Everything about that book was very strong. Although later I was not crazy about Wonder Girl becoming Troia, or the addition of Jericho or Danny Chase, it did not change the fact that the first 50 issues of the New Teen titans were one of the strongest run in DC history.

So like many others, I was thrilled to learn that there was still one hidden gem by Wolfman and Perez that we had not seen before. And although it got a few false starts, The NEW Teen Titans; Games OGN is finally here. And it is all kinds of AWESOME!!!

Heck even seeing Troia, Jericho and Danny Chase once more was fun, despite the fact that I never really cared for them. So can you imagine how FUN!!! It was to see the characters that I loved like Nightwing, Starfire, Cyborg, Changeling, Raven and Donna Troy (yes I count her separately then Troia)??

It is difficult to describe the joy I felt to see those characters once more. It was not unlike when I read Formerly Known as Justice League, or more recently the Retroactive Justice League of America. It was like seeing old, dear friends that I had not seen for years.

It was so good, so sweet that words fail me (what can I say, I am not a word guy, that’s Jim’s job.  ;) ).

“Sweet” might be the wrong word, “Bittersweet” is actually more like it since as you read the tale in Games, you cannot help but think that this is IT! This is the last time that you not only read about those characters, but this is the very LAST time that you read a tale set in the DCU. This IS the end of the DCU. So even small moments like seeing Roy Harper as Speedy or Wally West as the Flash were charged with emotions that was not originally intended when this tale was first conceived. 

Was this book perfect?? No. Not even close.

The story was a bit of a mess. Heck I thought I had a copy where the pages were out of order since the story is all over the place. And once you read the behind the scene stuff, you quickly realise why. Wolfman and Perez did not have a clear idea themselves where they were going when they first started that tale. Perez started drawing the book when they did not even have finalised every point of their tale

And they later tried to fix the story multiple times, while trying to use as much of the artwork that George had already done. So it did create some confusion that is obvious while reading the story.

And the villains are pretty forgettable. And again, once you read the tale, you realise why. They needed villains that would appear in that story only. What you could call “one shot” villains, or disposable villains if you wish. So they created a bunch of villains that they needed to tell their story that we never saw before, and that would be dead by the end of the story. So they did not waste too much time creating the most awesome villains of the universe. They just created villains that would serve the story they wanted to tell.

And I am sure that many will poke fun at Nightwing with his “disco” collar (although I like that design myself).

And despite all those flaws, that comic stand above pretty much any comic on the stand right now. The artwork by Perez alone is worth the price of admission, but even with its flaws, the story is a fun and intriguing story.

And somehow, There seems to be little buzz online for that comic. I barely saw a few reviews, and did not see any reviews from some of the comic sites like ComicsBulletin or Newsarama. Heck even the DC message boards barely has a few comments for this comic.

Did it get lost/ignored amidst all that 52 craziness?? It breaks my little heart. If you are a Titan fan, or if you are a fan of good comics with strong storytelling, you must get yourself a copy of this comic. So unless DC decided to publish any more of their Retroactive comics, this is IT. This is the last DCU comics EVER.

Farewell DCU, We will miss you.  :(

- Pierre

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Curse of Shazam

It was announced this weekend at New York Comic Con that Geoff Johns will be writing a backup in the new Justice League omniously called The Curse of Shazam. which promises to reluanch the Golden Age Captain Marvel into the newly revamped DC Universe.

My initial reaction was a bit like this:

..but the more I thought about it, the more I'm convincing myself it might work.

Johns did a great job with the Billy Batson character in JSA. The scenes with Billy and Stargirl was some of the nicest teenage romance writing I've seen in DC comics in the last decade.

And while it is typical of fans of the Golden Age Captain Marvel Character to decry any take on the hero that doesn't smack of the lighthearted whimy from the bygone days (myself included) but in Alter Ego 75, noted Fawcett Historian PC Hamerlinck makes an impressive case for updating the character.

One of the accursed judgment calls from the early planning stages of the revival was that, instead of going with their initial gut instinct to develop an updated Captain Marvel for the modern 1970s audience— one that would fit snugly next to a Curt Swan Superman (“Make Way For Captain Thunder!” in Superman #276, June ’74, reveals that such an approach would have stood a good chance of succeeding)—DC chose instead to travel down memory lane. The nostalgia crowd was going to pull this book … so they thought … and hopefully grab new readers along the way with a funny, light derivative of the Captain. (The majority of readers at that time—small children to college students—had no idea what Shazam! meant or stood for.) The decision not to mature Cap after all those lost years, but rather to keep him as a throwback from another era, waiting to be plucked out of “suspended animation,” ultimately became the foundation that cemented a curse for
future generations.

The entire article is fantastic, so feel free to wander over to the Twomorrows website to pick up a copy (either in paper or in pdf format)

So, even if the mention of Geoff Johns' name does make me think of comics with people exsploding everywhere, I'm willing to give his new take a try. Even it if can't match the magic of the original Golden Age versions, it may be enjoyable.

With that, I present today's Free Comic - Marvel Family 45!


- Jim


Related Posts with Thumbnails