Friday, September 30, 2011

Batman: Under The Red Hood

Today Pierre gives us a review of the Batman Under the Red Hood animated movie.

I can’t say that I am a fan of Judd Winick. I don’t hate him either; I just did not read much of what he wrote. I read part of his Green Arrow run, an issue or two of his Outsiders, and probably a couple of other comics that I can’t recall right now. And I did NOT read his Batman comics where he brought back Jason Todd. But as I mentioned in a previous Blog, I am a sucker for them direct to DVD movies that DC has been producing.

So when I saw the Batman: Under the Red Hood Blu-Ray, I figured that I would give it a chance. And it was not bad, but it was not very memorable either. Heck I had to watch it 3 times before writing this review because each time I could barely remember what was happening in this film.

Nothing really stands out; nothing is really memorable about this. The most memorable scenes have to be the scenes with young Robin/Jason Todd. The scenes themselves were fun. It was fun to see the light-hearted version of the character. And the battle vs Amazo was a fun scene as well.

It was a fun action sequence that also gave Nightwing/Dick Grayson some screen time. On a side note… as for the return of Jason Todd, I can’t help but feel that DC dropped the ball big time on that one.  Once they gave us the “fake” return of Jason Todd in Hush, It pretty much took away any impact that this “real” return could ever possibly have. If it had been done in Hush as planned, It would have been a cool return. But this time it felt like, “We chickened out the first time, let’s try again.” And it was not cool.

But back to the film - The design work usually was okay… although whatever bad design I thought there was… it was more a matter of personal preference then actually bad design. I was not too crazy for the Joker design, but it has more to do with the fact that the definitive Joker to me is the Jim Aparo version of the character.

And the Joker in this film is too far from that to really work for me. It felt to me like they had cast Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of the Joker as opposed to Heath Ledger. It felt like the wrong casting in my book.

The animation was competent. Nothing bad really stood out, but nothing to marvel at either. The worst part probably was the integration of 3D/CGI elements in the 2D film. It did not clash as badly as the 3D in the Batman: Sub-Zero film, But it was not integrated as well as it should have been. So whenever there are some 3D elements like cars in a scene… I could not help but find it distracting, because it did not really match with the rest of the film. That is probably just me being picky. I would not be surprised if most people did not even notice this.

In the extra section… you get a few documentaries about Robin/the Death of Jason Todd that I always find fun to watch. I always get a kick of seeing the likes of Denny O’Neil, Len Wein, Dan Didio, etc, even if I don’t always agree with what they are saying.

The Jonah Hex short was fun to watch. I did not find it as strong as the Spectre one, but to be honest… none of the shorts made by DC so far come even close to matching with what they did in the Spectre short. Although if all you want is to watch the Jonah Hex short, Get the Superman/Shazam DVD instead.

So is this worth buying?? If you are a fan of Jason Todd, I would say, Yes. But if you are NOT a fan of Jason Todd, especially if you are one of the thousands who called and paid 50 cents to get him killed in the first place, I doubt you will find much that will please you in this movie.

Until next time.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Flashback Five on Brave and the Bold 158

 Matt brings us a new Flashback Five to show us five cool things about Brave and the Bold 158

Today's FB5 is itself is not a particularly Earth-shattering chapter for either the characters or for the Brave and The Bold series but it is an old favorite from my childhood. Much to my surprise looking back Wonder Woman was a rather frequent guest-star in the original Brave and The Bold. This particular issue would mark her last appearance in the series before it was eventually canceled in 1983. This issue stood out to me when going through the Brave and the Bold series for two reasons. One it was actually one of the earliest appearances of Wonder Woman I ever saw with the other one being an earlier issue of her own series where she fought Angle Man and the tabloid sized Superman vs. Wonder Woman special. Up to that point I mostly knew her from the Lynda Carter TV series. This issue was also the first time I ever saw artwork by the legendary Jim Aparo. So here we go with 5 things I liked about The Brave and The Bold #158 starring Batman and Wonder Woman!

1 - The cover. This cover really struck me as a kid. The expressions are great, and the overall effect leaves you wondering what could so inspire fear in our heroes.

Now in comics it is so common to have the cover simply be a somber pose or a painted pin-up but I think the strength of this cover is a case-in-point about why your cover should be reflective of the story inside. What are they afraid of? The cover makes you want to pick it up to find out. That's a covers job! Ideally and with few exceptions, every cover should be telling the reader why they should give enough of a damn to spend their money on it!

2 - Hero interaction. Bruce and Diana really feel like old friends with a genuine affection for each other.

It's subtle enough your mind could take it the romantic route or you can just take as two veteran heroes who have been through a lot of battles together who are friends and respect each other greatly. Going back to it now, it is such a nice change of pace from the constant stream of clashing egos and pre-teen level snark between heroes in modern comics. Batman is as much of a creature of the night as he needs to be without being required to be a miserable grimdark jerk.

3 - Jim Aparo artwork If Neal Adams defined (or perhaps refined) the most iconic look for Batman, Jim Aparo set it in stone.

Aparo's art is easily the strongest thing about the issue. Batman and Wonder Woman look excellent as does his take on them as Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince. His panel composition moves the story along well and his action scenes are packed with dynamic energy. Plus I just like the look of his figures in this. Aparo's Bruce Wayne is handsome but he has a certain angular quality to his features that makes him look readily distinct from Clark Kent despite being a square-jawed fellow with black hair.

4 - Flashback or Deja-Vu (oddly he seems to be referred to by both names in the comic) is a lame villain BUT at least he had an interesting weapon.

I don't mind having one shot or d-list villains around because they help contrast your Lex Luthors and Jokers to show why they are the heroes greatest adversaries. Plus think about a police officer. Not every criminal they encounter is a master criminal, gun wielding psycho, or even a capable thief. If every super villain that shows up is an all powerful bruiser or shadowy master manipulator it has less impact. However, given his basic gimmick I really have to wonder why they didn't just have Scarecrow be the villain of the issue or perhaps even having Johnathan Crane being Deja-Vu's supplier.

5 - James Bond vibe. I enjoy it when there are adventures for Batman that takes him out of his usual Gotham City environment so long as it's not happening all the time.

A vehicle like the Brave the Bold series is actually quite perfect that as is Batman being in the Justice League or having to battle Ras Al Ghul. Also given the level of wealth and influence Bruce Wayne has it makes sense that he would be involved in the kind of scenario depicted in the comics involving a co-operation between U.S. and French business interests.

The issue has some other problems. For example Deja Vu being able to sneak up on Batman and Wonder Woman *in a helicopter*.

Also as much as I enjoy Aparo's art on the book there doesn't seem to be a lot of thought actually put in to the design of Deja Vu. I think at the very least they could have gotten a decent low tier villain out of him was just a touch more work. As is though I still the think it was a fun read with some outstanding artwork and proof that you really don't need a big bloated multi-part crossover event or an excuse to get two heroes to be at each other's throats in order to make it feel to the reader like these characters exist together in the same world.

Have a great day!

- Matt

Monday, September 26, 2011

Undressing the DC Relaunch

Question for the day: Why is it that ever comic in the DC Relaunch that features WOMAN in the title also features the main character half naked and/or getting dressed at some point? Observe:

Batwoman where Kathy Kane and Bette get dressed not once but twice.

Here's the second time they get dressed.

Wonder Woman, who outside of the scene below is presented pretty well. However, the viewpoint character (also seen below) runs around in her underwear for the entire comic.

And Catwoman which starts by giving us Selina Kyle in a red bra and sort of goes downhill from there.

Now, I don't think this is due to any wank-minded agenda at DC. The timing to pull all the titles together (which sounds rushed) would have made an orchestrated T&A cabal a little unfeasible. Odds are what we are seeing here is business as usual and it's just the unfortunate happenstance that every title in the DC Relaunch is now being cross examined en masse. Unfortunate, because it does seem like this aspect of the titles is getting more attention than DC would perhaps like.

With that said, Wonder Woman was a great read and is probably going to end up as one of the success stories of the DC Relaunch.

To end this, check out today's Free Comic featuring another popular female hero from the Golden Age, Mary Marvel (who somehow managed to keep her clothes on for decades.)

Mary Marvel 16


- Jim

Thursday, September 22, 2011

High Rez Reviews 3 | Nightwing #1

Today, Caine returns with another High Rez Review - this one of the new Nightwing!

It all started on November 4th 2008.  All of the major comic book news blogs reported the following:

Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey to End in February

"While fans are still up in the air about whether or not Batman will actually die at the end of Grant Morrison’s “Batman: R.I.P.” arc, DC has confirmed three casualties for Newsarama.
According to the publisher, the February-shipping issues of Robin, Nightwing and Birds of Prey will be the final issues of the respective series.
As well as being the final issues, Robin #183, Nightwing #153 and Birds of Prey #127 will end eras for Batman-related titles, as each stretches back at least nine years." ~Newsarama

That means we went 31 months without a Nightwing comic (and BoP as well for that matter) but no more.  Dick Grayson is back in a domino mask instead of a cape and cowl.

I have to admit I was most nervous about this particular title in regards to the DCnU relaunch.  As I stated last week it seems, even to industry pros, that execution varies greatly within each title but I'm happy to report that Nightwing's first issue steps up to the trapeze and lets it fly right out of the gate.

Michael Powell, a twitter follower of mine may have perfectly summed up Nightwing #1 in less than 140 characters on twitter the other night while I was writing this:
"I haven't read an issue of Nightwing in...ever. This was a great introductory issue."~@Mpowelljr

That's the point isn't it?  Attract a new fan base while hopefully keeping the old one?  Well guess what, they succeeded.  Kyle Higgins has crafted a great new backstory that encompasses both Dick as Batman as well as being Nightwing and Robin before that (the only thing not mentioned yet is the Titans and Starfire).

Like Barbara Gordon Dick has been de-aged although it's not quite as apparent as Barbara.  He's being drawn younger, like maybe 22 or 23, but he has his own loft apartment and just finished a year as Batman (as well as filling in for Bruce Wayne in the corporate world) so in my opinion he seems a bit older still than Barbara over in the Batgirl book.

Nightwing #1 starts out strong and never lets up.  Dick is on patrol when the book opens (the climax of the first scene taking place just after all the panels I've used in this post) and the reader is filled in on the backstory through narration as Dick makes his way through Gotham city as Nightwing once again (for probably the 10th or 12th time now so he's in the groove once again) after a year break filling in for his mentor.

Eddy Barrows and the rest of the art team are doing a fantastic job.  With clean lines and dynamic colors they are using Nightwing's new color scheme to the fullest while never forgetting they are crafting one half of a visual story so narration boxes and word bubbles have been placed with care - all pointing to a well designed set of pages.

Both Kyle and Eddy are big fans of Nightwing, it shows in their work and the inclusion of little details.  In the story it's revealed that Dick wants to live on the wrong side of the tracks in Gotham, not in a billion dollar estate on the outskirts of town.  He has better access this way and he can get a glimpse of the neighborhood he's trying to save.  This is one way he and Bruce differ.

In the art Eddy shows us that there is much more to Dick's new Nightwing suit than simply looking aerodynamically cool.  The ridged or ringed lines in his gauntlets and boots aren't just for looks they are pouches like on a utility belt.  In Eddy's case the artwork is so subtle you may miss it but it's there.

This book will appeal to both old school Nightwing fans as well as Dick Grayson Batman fans.  Kyle's Dick Grayson is who he is because he did do a year as Batman.  You get the feeling from the story that Dick wasn't Nightwing for all that long before he needed to step up and take over for Batman.  Going up against Gotham's worst of the worst puts you in tip top shape and Nightwing is going to be glad he's in tip top shape as he gets back in touch with Haley's circus since the death of his parents.  You see Gotham has a way of twisting what you love against you....


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pierre vs The New DC Costumes

Today Pierre continues his look at the designs of the DC Relaunch with a discussion of the costumes.

Strangely enough, not many reviewers mentioned those. Heck on, the closest we got a mention of the NEW costumes was one of the reviewers saying:

The last few pages see Green Lantern humbled and Superman introduced. I'm sure other reviewers will have things to say about Superman's new and ugly costume, so I'll just say: gawd, it's effing hideous.

But strangely enough, none of the other reviewers even mentioned the new costumes. Many posters were vocal about not liking the new costumes, but not many reviewers even mentioned them. Not even to try and defend them. Although they had a tough enough time trying to justify how it was okay for JL#1 to be “underwhelming”, So maybe they did not want to stretch it by trying to defend their armoured long underwear as well. ;)

And that is the first problem with some of them new designs right there. For example for Superman, without the red pants, damn how it looks even more like long underwear.

And in this case, like long armoured underwear. But it was decided that having red shorts was too silly (as if the new designs don’t look silly), So the shorts HAD to go. Although, notice how Superman still has shorts, They are simply coloured the same as the rest of his long underwear. And why does he even NEED armour?? He’s the goddamn Superman!!  And will he wear it under his street clothes?? So many questions. ;)

But other than pretty much all the new costumes being some sort of weird armours with a lot of useless superfluous lines, the problem with them new designs seems to stem from Jim Lee. (yes I know that apparently he did not do all the design work himself, but he was the lead designer, whatever the other designers did, they were following his lead)

I like Jim Lee’s artwork. Heck I bought his Wolverine/Punisher prints many winters ago when not many seemed to care about his work.

But when it comes to designing costumes, he is the last person on Earth you want to ask to.
Heck just looking at his dog collared Green Lantern design should be self-explanatory.

But let’s look deeper than that. The biggest problem with Jim Lee’s design is that often, the design looks good when drawn by Jim Lee, But looks like crap when anyone else is drawing it. There are many reasons behind that.

I don’t know if you guys remember?? A few winters ago, in one of my blogs I mentioned how in order to tell if a design was strong or not, an easy way to do that was to draw the character in a neutral pose. That way you can look at the design itself and not let the pose distract you from the design.   And that sometimes, an artist would try to save a poor design by putting the character in a dynamic pose to distract the eye into looking at the strong pose, and not seeing the weak design. That is in part what Jim Lee does.

When you look at a Jim Lee drawing, often the artwork is strong enough, that any weakness there might be in the design is pretty much ignored by the untrained eye. Also, when Jim Lee designs a character, it is closely linked to the way he draws. The way his design is structured is linked with the way that he does structure his characters as he draws. So once another artist, that does NOT structure his characters in a similar way, tries to draw a Jim Lee design, It falls apart. For a Jim Lee design to work, You almost HAVE to draw like Jim Lee. And sadly, Not many can pull it off.

Also, Jim Lee adds a thousand unnecessary lines to his designs, Again that is linked with how he adds a lot of unnecessary lines in his artwork itself. If you cannot figure out why or how Jim Lee adds all them unnecessary lines to his artwork, You will have a tough time pulling it off yourself. So when an artist that does not use much lines tries to draw a Jim Lee design, it usually is a disaster. When Jim Lee takes a Kirby design and adds a thousand lines to it, the design is strong enough that it still works. But when you take a Jim Lee design and try to draw it without adding a thousand lines to it, It falls apart. 

I won’t complain about the designs being skin tight armour. I did not mind when Iron-Man had some skin tight armour, heck I miss his skin tight armour, so I won’t start complaining about it now. But, does Superman really NEED armour?? I know that they are trying to justify it saying that it is some ancient Kryptonian armour, but the truth is, that is how it was designed, and the Kryptonian thing is just an excuse to explain the armoured look for Superman. And if it is an ancient Kryptonian armour, Why does it match with Batman’s armour?? The very first time that Batman and Superman meet, and they NEVER met before, but they both have matching armours?? Does Batman wears an ancient Kryptonian armour as well??

Or why does it have the same collar as the rest of the JL costumes?? Again they never met before. The answer is simple, because they all were designed by the same guy, Jim Lee. And in some cases, it is difficult not to think that it is just Jim Lee trying to put his mark on every single DCnU characters. Look at Green Lantern for example. Thank god for his new design, he is well protected now, he has shoulder pads/armours now. Why?? Just so Jim Lee could put his mark on him. Heck I am surprise that he did not give him some kneepads as well. If all he could add to the Green Lantern design was some useless shoulder pads and some “V” collar, he should have left the design alone.

And for Batman, did they not redesign Batman like 6 months ago with “The return of Bruce Wayne”?? Did he really need a new design, again??... so soon?? I guess someone at DC (Jim Lee???) did not like the yellow Bat oval and HAD to get rid of it?? So they used up this opportunity??

And I won’t go into details about how BAD the new Cyborg design is.

It will take me about a 1000 pages to try and properly explain it, so I will just settle with saying, Damn it is a bad design. So one of the biggest challenge for the DCnU will be to see how many artists can make the new Jim Lee designs look good.

Seeing how the DCnU is a hit, we at the FBU HQ not being complete fools decided to commission Jim Lee to redesign our characters. But since he was not available, we tried to get his Earth “Replacement Killers” counterpart John Lee, but failed to locate the Flash to help us travel to that universe.

So we had to settle for some Mystery Woman who rebooted our FBU into the NEW FBnU as I was running around really fast (at least really fast compared to a turtle) almost giving myself a heart attack in the process. ;) And here is the result:

So From now on, Saturn Knight will proudly wear his brand new Uranian Battle Armour, and our comic will be available for digital download on the same day they are released. Go download our comics and buy our new Saturn Knight action figure in his new armour. ;)

But seriously, Jim (probably being tired of hearing me bitching and complaining about all them changes) asked me the $50,000 question:

“I'm curious - how would you have redesigned the Superman costume if Dan Didio came up to you and put a gun to your head (or a million dollars in your lap!)”

Since this Blog is already wayyyy tooo long already, this will have to wait for another time. ;)

Until next time.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Bozo The Robot Pitch

Because of the DC Relaunch, James Robinson was forced to cut short his tenure on Justice League of America (which seems to have come to the relief of many people who were reading the title.) I can't really weigh in on the issue except to say that in his last issue of the series, he gave us a a metatexual finalie with glimpse of some of the stories he had planned, wherein this page intrigued me (click to see the full page)

A closer look at this page reveals this caption (in black)

This is not only a reference to one of my favorite Golden Age characters, Bozo the Robot, but also it references a (thankfully) aborted idea by the team behind the last incarnation of Freedom Fighters.
First some backstory for those of you unfamiliar with Bozo the Robot (and welcome to my blog because this sure ain't the first time I've talked about him.) Bozo is a character from Quality Comics SMASH COMICS who ran on the cover of the first issue and ran in the series until issue 42. He has always been a favorite of mine, and I've featured him here several times in the past.

Being named James and liking Bozo seems to be two traits I have in common with Mr. Robinson as he once included a nice cameo of Bozo in his Starman run. The reference to Gonzo here is a wink towards a character created by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti that they had a character concept for a villain called Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard that was derived from a character proposal by Grant Morrison, which was to have been an update of Bozo.

Yeah, that's what we need.
A grim and gritty version of a whimsical robot character.

Being a fan of Bozo, and hearing people talk about Robinson's run on JLA, I am sorta glad that the only glimpse of this incarnation we will ever have to endure is limited to a caption box. Still, you know someone is eventually get around to doing something with this character. And based on current trends at DC, I suspect the words BAD ASS will be in the pitch.

You know who would be good on a Bozo Revamp? Me and Pierre! I know that sounds crazy but man, I think Pierre would perfect for sort of CC Beckish take on Bozo the Robot. I would totally use the character to tell whimsical, pseudo-sci-fi stories in a sprawling metropolis much in the same way CC Beck used to do with Captain Marvel.

Here's my Bozo the Robot Pitch:
Our story begins with Bozo being awakened after untold years of hyper-electric hibernation in what seems to be the basement of an old museum. The waker is a newspaper boy whose arms are covered with strange tattoos. The boy doesn't seem to be able to talk, but points to one of the tattoos, which is a perfect likeness for Bozo. In the boys hands is a newspaper with the headline: Bozo the Robot Found!

The boy leads Bozo up the stairs of the museum where he meets a group of street ruffians who call themselves the Holiday Hooligans. 

The Hooligans tell Bozo that he is in the city of Halcyon, and that they live in the museum, which has been long abandoned since before the start of the great war. The boy who awakened Bozo is named Quiet Quincy because he is mute. The leader of the boys is a troubled soul with a gimp leg nick-named Crabby Abby. They make their way in the world selling newspapers and in their off time patrol the city looking for adventure and solving any mysteries they encounter. As it turns out, Halcyon is indeed full of mysteries!

Bozo discovers that while this city resembles the era he was created in (1940's) it is not that time. Nor is it easy to determine what time it is, as NONE of the newspapers (or anything for that matter) have a date on them! Also, Halcyon appears to be a city without boundries, as the blocks go on forever. Strangest of all, the tattoos on Quincy's body seem to be images of events that will unfold in the future, and Quincy himself often disappears for a day, only to return with newspapers with tomorrows headlines. It was one of these very newspapers that led him to Bozo in the first place.

As Bozo joins the Hooligans on their adventures he meets other inhabitants of Halcyon:

There is an oriental homeless man Shang Rila who claimes to be the last of a mystic order that guarded a temple beneath Halcyon that can be only accessed by traveling through a deserted subway station.

Protecting Halcyon's lone library is the timid half-man, half-lion creature known as The Loquacious Mr. Leo, who knows more about Halcyon than anyone, but will only share his information in return for a favor. No one knows where Mr. Leo came from or why he is the only such creature of his kind.

A constant source of trouble for the Hooligans is the Dr. Savantus, a man who promotes himself as a brilliant scientist, but his inventions often seem to deviate so wildly in design that Bozo questions if he is actually the creator or simply an unwitting tester of some sort.

Above all these enigmatic characters is the merciless Cardiff Cadaver. A ghastly ghoul with moon-white skin dressed in a tattered tux who roams the nightime streets of Halcyon destroying anyone who gets in his way as he pursues some mad quest that only he is privy too. It was the Cadaver who crushed Abby's leg. Since that day, the Hooligans have been on the lookout for this white widowmaker in hopes of taking him down.

If I made this a 6 issue mini-series, I would have Bozo discover some, but not all of the mysteries above, while keeping a light-hearted tone to the series. By the by, I would be remiss if I were not to say that some of the inspiration for this idea and the format for this post comes from Trey Causey's ever creative Weird Adventures RPG Setting.

So until DC calls me up to offer me this dream job, (or Pierre gets tired dissing the DC Relaunch  ;) ) check out this great issue of Smash Comics which features Bozo on the cover: [ Smash Comics 26 ]


- Jim

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly review 1

With so many comic books coming out so fast right now Caine will be looking at different ways to review them - such as reviewing more than one per post.  Just so you know, we are less concerned about spoilers blogging at this speed (we are all ready a week behind), but if you still haven't read the first round of the new DC 52, there be some spoilers below.

I have to say that when reading the comics that came out on the 7th, three of them truly did fit into the following categories:

Unless you've been living under a rock you've no doubt heard that Barbara Gordon (formerly ORACLE in the old DCU) is back to being Batgirl.  There have been no shortage of blogging, social media, and message board posts on the fact that Barbara (and many other characters) will be de-aged and given the use of her legs back.  Legs she'll need as she's once again BATGIRL!

Gail Simone (who was an advocate for Barbara being the only Batgirl in the DCnU from the beginning) and crew have done an excellent job!  This was a great read and a book that I'll be picking up.  There isn't a single fear that anything in her history was removed or severely altered, if that's what you were worried about you can throw a batarang at it because it's all there.  Yes, yes, that includes the Killing Joke and the loss of her legs.  Barbara simply had far less time without the use of them is all.  Was she ever actually Oracle?  They haven't said yet one way or another, and I doubt they will hope they don't for a while.  Dish it out slowly is what I say.  Her relationship with her father, a new room mate and friend and (more than likely) the Batman is out there too.

This is an action adventure comic book staring a relatively new person in a cape and cowl to make it even more interesting.   This was a fast paced read filled with kicks to the face, characters freezing up and making mistakes, leaving black rubber all over the street, and a new villain (or two) that one could sink their teeth into.

You see a long time ago in a galaxy far away there were these six comic book creators who went to Marvel and said....then Jim Lee sold his imprint WildStorm back to DC and those books were never the same.  I kinda thought, what with Jim being a DC big wig these days, that those WildStorm titles returning to print would be good again.  I was wrong.

Dead wrong I'm afraid.  "There can be only one" kind of wrong in fact.  This book wasn't any good at all.  First of all it's not StormWatch as one might be led to believe - what with that name printed on the cover and all.  Confusing I know.  The book is actually a hybrid of StormWatch and The Authority but here's the thing: The Authority was created specifically to be the opposite of StormWatch.  How does it make sense to combine them into one book?  Won't half of the fans of each book be misled and ticked off to one degree?

This book is messy.  The plot jumps all over the place right out of the gate.  They begin introducing characters we've never seen before and have no vested interest in and leave us right where they leave us on Justice League.  The page posted is the last page of the comic, as if you couldn't see that coming.  I sure as hell Grifter is better than this.

Hawk & Dove
You see a long time ago in a galaxy far away there were these six comic book creators who went to Marvel and said....then Robert Liefeld got into some trouble, more than once.  Still, he works professional in comic books and I don't so you can't bee to hard on the guy right?  He's stated all over the place that he has been focused on turning in work on time for the last couple of years. He's tweeted art work and his thoughts on the industry.  His work seemed to be, to this blogger, looking more realistic and of better quality but like Nicholas Cage he seems to be phoning it in these days.

I could pick this apart but I don't think I need to.  It just doesn't look that good.  Not at all.  I know people call Liefeld "Polarizing" meaning everyone either loves or hates the guys work but it's ridiculous.  Early on, before they become zombies, the bad guys are dressed in suits that look just like SHIELD field agents.  When Hank "Hawk" Hall is out of uniform and talking to his father (like Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson Hank has been de-aged), both characters look the same.  Who do they look like?  Robert Liefeld.  Funny enough it would seem that Hank Hall and Dawn Granger have suffered the fate that Barbara Gordon didn't: The Teen Titans have been seemingly erased from existence like a leak in the flux capacitor.

Final Thoughts
While I was writing this I was on twitter and a famous comic book writer gave me a thought regarding the DC Relaunch: "Execution is different on different books."  I'd say that hits the nail on the head right there.  H&D and StormWatch were not good examples of "new", "fresh", or "open" in order to attract new fans to what was undoubtedly an unsustainable business model of decreasing fan bases.  Both of them are steeped in character lore and relationships that have not yet been shown to us yet and may not for some time.  Or character relationships that weren't popular the first time around and are probably not well known to the masses.  Both of them are messy and all over the map story wise.  H&D is down right ugly and doesn't feel like anything close to what it was before, or even like it should be one of the "Young Justice" books it's being released under.

This bloggers hopes lie with Batwoman and Nightwing (as usual). 


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The New Logos

Today Pierre gives us part one of a series of articles where he examines what he thinks about the DESIGN of the new DC Relaunch, starting today with the new logos. In his article he asks that I submit my opinions in a separate post, but I am far to lazy thought it would be more fun to just chime in here. - Jim

Last week  we got the first week of DCnU comics, and it seems that every one of their comics seems to be selling like hot cake ( or something like that),  And some are all actually good (OMAC was AWESOME!! Loved JLI, Batgirl and Swamp Thing). I could nitpick about how in Action Comics (everyone on that train should be dead) or how the only explanation we got for Barbara Gordon walking is that it was “a miracle”, but I won’t. All of them comics were good solid comics so far. The only one I didn’t like was Batwing. Not that it is a bad comic; I just did not like it.

But today, let’s look at some of the logo designs.

For the new logo designs, Many of them are pretty much uninspiring. Too many of them are done using an existing type,  but distorting it or adding a cool element behind it like a Bat or something. The best ones are the ones that they did not attempt to fix like “Superman” or “Swamp Thing”.

Jim: Yeah, I agree, that's a classic that echoes the feel that this comic has returned to it's 80's pre-vertigo feel. In many ways, this new Swamp Thing feels like something that could have come out 20 years ago, and I mean that in a good way. As a reader who hasn't looked at a Swamp Thing comic since the Alan Moore/Rick Veitch era, this logo feels like a Welcome Home doormat.

PIERRE: My favourite amongst the new logos that they “tried” to fix HAS to be “Omac”. Although I can’t help it but read it as “Qmac”.

Jim: As much as I enjoyed this comic, the logo has not quite grown on me. I tend to like technique (cutouts) but this design feels too busy to me what with the combined circuit board elements and gradient fills. One design I did like a lot was the new Batgirl logo:

JIM: This logo has a nice retro Broadway (or Fritz Lang Metropolis) feel to it that seems to promise us a story with more style and sophistication than your average sock 'em up superhero book - a promise that that so far has been unfulfilled IMHO. Still, the logo is very sleek and clean and fits the title better than the generic words coming at you type of logo that so many comics seem to favor. Like this one for Justice League International:

PIERRE: I understand that the design team must have been overwhelmed.  Heck I have been there in the past. I can imagine that any given month, they have a handful of new logos and stuff like that to come up with. And then someone decides they need 52 new logos and added that task to the workload of the design team with barely more resources than usual to pull it off.

It is not unusual for people in charge to decide on something,  without giving any thoughts as to who will have to roll up their sleeves and work up like crazy to make it happen,  and expecting them to pull it off,  even when what they demand is completely unreasonable. It takes about 3 seconds to decide, “Hey! Let’s have 52 new logos for our comics”. But making them 52 new logos takes A LOT more than 3 seconds.

I am sure that the “bosses” were generous enough to offer to allow some extra time for the design team. By extra time, what I mean is making sure that the studio is open late so they can stay late at night at the studio, or make sure that the studio is open during the week-end for the team to be able to come in and produce the extra work.  I can imagine their workload exploding and needing a lot of over time, and a lot of lack of sleep. So I can’t really blame them for cutting corners and not coming up with them new logos from scratch. And ultimately, I don’t think it will really matter in the BIG scheme of things.

JIM: Ha! Yeah, I have been involved in more than my fair share of such slapdash projects with companies I've worked with. so I can sympathize too. And while I can't say for certain that's what went on here, it seems likely given what we know about how quickly some of these creative teams for the new 52 were pulled together. On the flip side, giving the titles new logos in some cases helps underscore the newness of the books. (Though many of them feel less than new.)

PIERRE: Still, it feels like a wasted effort in some cases. I strongly doubt that anyone will refuse to purchase any of the new comics because it has an old logo.  In fact, up here in Canada, we  even bought comics when the logos didn't quite work as well as they did in English:

Have a great day!

- Pierre

Monday, September 12, 2011

Catman vs King Scarecrow

I've got folders of images from all sorts of projects that never made it past the initial first few pages. In some cases all I have is a cover. Here's one of my favorites from a project that was mostly based on a whim of mine to see Pierre draw more of his cool Jim Aparo looking Catman.

And while the story behind this cover will probably never see daylight, I still yearn to tell a few Catman stories using Pierre's Bob Morane style; some which might feature a few of the other Holyoke characters as well.

Which brings up a question I ponder from time to time:

Why do some of us want to create stories with public domain characters? 

Is it because we think using these characters will bring our stories some validity that an otherwise wholly newly created character might not? Or is it a desire to weave ourselves into the legacy of the character somehow? Or is it that we believe these characters are purer in some sense having escaped the ravages of shifting continuity over the decades?

For some of us, it could be a mixture of these reasons, or none of them at all, but whatever it is, siren call of Public Domain heroes definitely beckons...

With that, I'll leave you with today's Free Comic...

[ Catman 26 ]


- Jim

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pierre vs The Justice League

Picking up from yesterday, Pierre gives us his thoughts on Justice League 1 and the readers reaction to this historical first issue of the DC Relaunch. Warning: He seems rather provoked by the whole affair. ;)

Hi guys, I don’t know about you, but we had a crappy summer over here in Canada. It rained, rained, and when it finally stopped raining, it rained some more. I read in the paper not long ago how August was an historical record breaking month when it came to how much it rained over here.

So maybe the lack of sunshine is making me grumpier than usual. If so, I apologize. So finally, the DCnU is here, starting with Justice League #1.

(Editor's Note: Do you really want to see that cover again?)
So what did you think of that historical first issue?? (I will not even mention the new costumes, that will require a whole blog post on its own just for that.) But pretty much EVERYONE seems to agree; in pretty much every review you will read the following:


Editor’s Note 2: I disagree with this assessment, but Pierre seems to winding up for a tirade, so I’ll indulge him this time. I think by Everyone, he means all of Toronto or something. ;)

What drives me nut is how people who loved the comic try to convince others that those are a good thing. That it is how that comic was supposed to be. That it was supposed to be “average”. That it was supposed to be “slow” or “underwhelming”.


As an example, and she is far from alone in this, Heidi MacDonald from The Beat for whom I have nothing but the greatest respect mentioned in her review:

“So what to make of all this? More than ever I feel the conflict of knowing that this is not aimed at me. This is a somewhat uninspired introductory comic for readers 13-up.”

With all due respect, it is comments like this in reviews that are trying to defend the first issue of what is DC’s historical re-launch that drives me up the wall.

Why in the Pits of Hades would new “readers 13-up” even care about an “uninspired” comic? Who in their right mind would try to attract new readers with an “uninspired” comic? Wouldn’t you want to put out a GREAT comic for your first issue in your historic re-launch? Wouldn’t you want to put out a GREAT comic? The BEST comic you can possibly make, to attract new readers?

So far those defending the comic look like cheerleaders with a lot of enthusiasm, but no real arguments to support their defense or point of view. Now don’t get me wrong, it is not a bad comic, but it is not a good one either. It feels like a very formulaic paint by numbers type of comic.

Issue #1: Batman and GL meet. Big Superman surprise reveal at the end. (Although if we trust the cover, we already know that he will be in the League, so I fail to see the surprise here. Although WW, Aquaman and Flash fail to even make an appearance in this first issue, so maybe it is a surprise that we finally see another JL member in this first issue).

Issue #2: Superman joins them. Probably big Wonder Woman reveal at the end??

Issue #3: Wonder Woman joins them. Reveal new member at the end.

Issue #4 & 5: New character join in each issue until the BIG seven are together, then by the end of issue #5 big Darkseid reveal.

Issue #6: BIG showdown between the NEW Justice League and the forces of Apokolyps and its ruler and master, Darkseid. Of course the League will be victorious and Darkseid will flee back to Apokolips screaming, “We will meet again, Super-Friends!!” (oops, sorry, I got carried away) ;).

At least, I hope that it will only be 6 issues. If they drag this over 8 or 9 issues, I will pray the gods to be merciful and spare us such suffering. To get back to this first issue, I felt like I was reading an issue of the Brave and the Bold. Which is not a bad thing in itself, but this is NOT the B&B, this is the JUSTICE LEAGUE!! Is it so much to ask for a Justice League comic in what is called the Justice League??

Or even worse, when Batman and Green Lantern were acting like 12 year old children and Batman stole Green Lantern’s ring, I felt like I was reading issue #9 of All Star Batman and Robin once more.

I had to double check the cover to make sure that I had not purchased the next issue of ASB&R by mistake.I usually love Johns’ work, but here I can’t decide if he is trying to write like Brian Bendis, or if he is trying to emulate the beginning of the Ultimates by having a veeeerrrrrrrry slow build up introducing one new character every issue until the team faces off the EVIL Darkseid (guess I will root for Darkseid this time) ;). Heck the Ultimates was a hit at the time, so why not try to reproduce that? Right?

Either way, Damn that comic was decompressed. And that is NOT a good thing in my book. I guess I was used to see the opposite from Johns and was doubly surprised AND disappointed to see that he would kick off the DCnU and the new JL with such a slow start.

Didn’t they announce that that damnable “writing for the trade” crap was over?? That they no longer would be writing for the trade? I don’t think such an approach plays to Johns’ strength. It seems to showcase his weaknesses as a writer instead. But once again, maybe that is just me.

If you like Jim Lee’s work, you will like this issue. Although I could nitpick the art here and there, I won’t. No point really. Although I could not help but think that the artwork was, off somehow. Especially compared to Lee’s previous work on ASB&R or Batman: Hush, but I can’t put my finger on it right now.
Was Lee rushed?? Is it Williams that had to work with a broken hand somehow?? Is it the colorist that had to do the work while he was sick?? No idea, but something feels off somehow. But odds are that it is just me.

Still, despite what the naysayers might have to say, this looks like a hit, as far as sales are concerned. From what we understand so far, it seems that DC sold about 250 000 copies. And DC announced a second and third printing. Heck I had to go to 5 stores in my area until I found a store that had 3 copies of the comic left. So it seems that stores will not be left with stacks of unsold copies. Did stores underestimate the demand?? Did they order too few copies?? Maybe.

Although did those comics end up being bought by the new readers that DC are hoping for?? Or are we seeing a return of the speculators? Remember when Jim Lee sold 8 million copies of X-men #1??? How many of those sales were to new readers?? And how many people bought 10 or 20 copies to sell at a profit later on?? Is this what is going on here too?? Let’s hope NOT.

Seeing the combo pack on EBAY for $29.99 or the standard edition for $9.99, I can’t help but wonder how many copies were bought with the intent to make a quick buck. I guess we will have to wait and see the sales of Justice League issue #2 to try to get a clearer picture of how many new readers are actually willing to come back for more.

I sincerely hope that like Captain America #25, many of those who tried to make a quick buck will end up stuck with their extra copies of Justice League #1 that nobody will buy. Hopefully it will teach them a lesson and stop that kind of thinking. We shall see.

And it has been announced as the bestselling digital comic of August. So what does that even mean?? 1000 copies sold?? 10,000?? 50,000?? Without any sales number to back it up, this announcement is pretty pointless.

Don’t get me wrong, Jim and I started our little venture on the frontline of making digital comics because we knew that there were people out there who wanted to get some new content online. Who wanted to read digital comics. And any announcement that would prove us right is always appreciated.

But without any numbers to back it up, this doesn’t mean anything. If it was such a hit and they had sold 5,000,000 copies, I have no doubt that they would have mentioned that number in their announcement. But as it is, we can only try to guess what that actually means. For all we know, they sold 2000 copies.

Editors Note 3: A number that would put it in the same 1% ballpark as their other digital sales.

Guess we will have to wait and see. So in short, the DCnU was kick-started with an average comic that sold a truckload of copies. Will I get back for issue #2?? The short answer is, No. This series will be added to the list of “let’s wait for the trade”. Once the first arc is completed and we can finally have a complete story, maybe, maybe I will give the TPB a try - or maybe not. We shall see.

What would I have done differently??? Well this blog is getting kind of long, so I will keep this for next time, but I have two questions for you before I wrap this up:

What did YOU think of the start of the DCnU and Justice League #1??


Will you come back for issue #2??

Until next time.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gone in a Flashpoint

Today, Pierre continues his thoughts on the DC Relaunch with a look at Flashpoint 5. There are spoilers in this article if you haven't read Flashpoint 5, so be aware.

Flashpoint is over and the DCnU is HERE!! So how could we describe the end of the DCU???
One word. Bittersweet.

Bitter, because it was the end of an era. But sweet because there was some fun tales. Some fun and touching moments in those last comics to be part of the DCU. The Batgirl comic was especially good and sad at the same time. And this is the only Batgirl issue I ever read. and I was sad in the end. So I can understand the disappointment of the Batgirl fans to see this series end like this.

 The Emerald Warrior was a very special treat as well. And that last scene with Batman. BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!!!!! I will miss that series. But at least we will still see Guy in Green Lantern Corps.

JLA was great too. The Saturn/Thanagar War 2 pages spread made me want to read that tale. Damn that could have been a fun saga. But I guess we will never know now.

And the last scene between Dick and Donna was pretty touching as well. Although for comics like the Dark Knight. It is business as usual. The comic basically ends to be continued in the next issue.

Although, technically, the last DCU comic should be the NEW Teen Titans Games GN that will come out in September. I don’t know about you, but I am dying to read that book. I am a huge Perez fan and I was a fan of the Wolfman/Perez Titans. So this book should be pure goodness in each panel. We shall see.

I will miss the DCU. So let’s start with Flashpoint. It was a fun ride…. But I could not help but be disappointed by the final issue. The artwork is very good and full of energy… but the story is another matter. The story has a few very VERY basic flaws that are impossible to ignore/forgive. I must admit. I did not read all of the tie-ins. So it is possible that I have not read a crucial part of the story. But then again if you cannot follow the story from just reading the Flashpoint series itself. there is a problem.

First, the reveal that Barry Allen is the cause of the Flashpoint. That came out of nowhere. In the book Tools to Screenwriting: A writer’s guide to the craft and elements of a screenplay there is a small section devoted to something called planting and payoff. Essentially planting clues early in the story leading towards some sort of payoff later in the story.

A great example of planting and payoff is the film The Sixth Sense. The reveal at the end is a quite a surprise (at least it was to me), but once you watch the film again, you see that all the clues that pointed to the fact that he was a ghost were right there. Right there from the start - but in a subtle enough way that you did not realise what they really meant at the time.

But even after reading the final issue of Flashpoint and knowing how it turns out. Looking back at other issues in the series still leave me clueless as to what lead to this. The closest thing to a plant that I could see is the last few pages of the Flash (Issue 12) where we see Barry at his mother’s grave. Then we see someone whom I assumed is Zoom (although now I think it’s Barry, but him being coloured yellow in one panel mislead me into thinking this was Zoom) saying “It changes.” And then we see a BIG lightning on the last page. That’s it???

Those were the clues that were supposed to lead us to the reveal that Barry had gone back in time to save his mother?? And if he DID go back in time to save his mom, why is he surprised to see her alive in Flashpoint issue #1?? He just saved her.  Oh that’s right - Zoom later tells Barry “You forgot didn’t you?”

Although he did not forget being the Flash… Bruce being Batman… Etc… but he forgot saving his mother 3 seconds after doing it??? Really?? Come on!!

That reveal was so disappointing that it pretty much ruined the whole Flashpoint story for me. And second, the final nail in the coffin, the 2 pages spread explaining the 3 universes merging together to make the new DCnU. Once again, something that comes out of nowhere. A mystery woman that we never saw before and we have no clue as to whom she is comes by and with the help of Barry merges the 3 universes into one.

Holy *@#*#... that is as bad as One More Day or the “no more mutants” from House of M.  Might as well have had God himself come down and create the DCnU. At least we would have had a cool line like “So it is written…. So it shall be.” And it would have been a counterpoint to Mephisto rebooting Spider-man in OMD. If Spidey can make a deal with the Devil to reboot his comic, why not have Flash make a deal with God to reboot the DCU??  Makes about as much sense. 

So anyway… Mystery Lady mentions that history was “shattered into three long ago”. Really… when?? When was the Wildstorm/Vertigo and DCU ever shattered in 3?? Once more something that comes out of nowhere that we read about here for the very first time.

As for Vertigo... it was always part of the DCU. The Vertigo characters just did not interact with the DCU characters much at some point. But it was still the same universe. And DC brought some of the Vertigo characters back to interact more with the rest of the DCU not that long ago. Heck, that was the WHOLE point of Brightest Day. Animal Man, a Vertigo staple, was in 52 for crying out loud. Vertigo and the DCU was the SAME universe. Damn that 2 pages reveal is bad on so many level.

Essentially, the whole point of Flashpoint seems to be to bring the Wildstorm Universe into the DCU.  But it seemed that DC decided to take this opportunity to reboot their lower selling comics as well.
On the flipside, Flashpoint had some fun moments. It was enjoyable to see what they did with Hal Jordan, Abin Sur, Citizen Cold, heck Cyborg hadn’t been so cool since his early days in the NEW Teen Titans. But the reveal that Barry was the cause of Flashpoint and the One More Day type of storytelling device combined with a blantant Deus Ex Machina soiled what was a otherwise rip-roaring comic event tale.

But despite those 2 VERY HUMONGUS flaws, Flashpoint managed to end with a very touching scene between Barry and Bruce.

Up next: Justice League 1!

Until then,

- Pierre

Monday, September 5, 2011

Kidsville and Lidsville

Sorry for today's late post. I apparently took the Labor part of Labor Day more seriously than I anticipated and spent all weekend working on home repairs for my parents. While I was back at the old homestead, I managed to find a old box of non superhero comics (Archie, Richie Rich, Hot Stuff, Walt Disney, Star Trek) Seeing all the old children's comics made me wonder:

What do you think of the general state of comics for kids today?

My gut reaction is to say it's pretty good.

Anytime my 6 year old daughter  and I go to the comic store, she can almost always find something she's interested in. Her latest success was the new Strawberry Shortcake comic from Ape Entertainment! (Who have put out several new kids comics recently)

Ape also publishes a Kung Fu Panda and Richie Rich (an updated version) as well as several others that are not as famous. In addition to those titles, Boom! Studios has a kids line of comics called KaBoom which up until recently published several Disney and Pixar themed comics (as well as the the award winning Muppets comics) I say up until recently, because over the past few months, there has been some shifting in the lineup of titles as Marvel, now owned by Disney, looks like it might become the publisher of choice for some of the more popular Disney properties.

Disney is a wanton lady when it comes to its liscensed properties. The very successful Fairies of Pixie Hollow line of comics is published by Paper Cutz, a New York company not widely known among comic retailers, which makes finding those comics/books difficult. Paper Cutz doesn't even have a way to buy their titles directly from them, which strikes me as incredibly awkward in this day an age. Thankfully, Amazon makes finding all of these simpler.

The art and storytelling in all of these comics generally runs very high especially when compared to some of the poor offerings I had when I was growing up. (I'm thinking of some of the poorly drawn Gold Key titles from my youth.) One artist in particular, Amy Mebberson is quickly becoming a favorite of mine with her clean line work, versatility and nice eye for storytelling.

Anyway, with all the hoopla over comic continuities getting relaunched, feared up and shattered, I thought a good choice for today's free comic would be one from a less volatile comic universe. This one is from the minds of classic Saturday Morning imagineers, Sid and Marty Krofft:

[ Lidsville 04 ]


- Jim


Related Posts with Thumbnails