Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pierre vs the New 52 - One Year Later

Pierre recently was able to catch up on a lot of the DC 52 storylines as his animation work starts to wind down. Here is what he thought. - Jim


That one word sums up perfectly the OMAC series that was released with the new 52. If you find it cool, you will love the OMAC comic. If you find this stupid, the NEW OMAC is definitely not for you.

Since it was cancelled after what, 8 issues?? My guess is that most people found this stupid.

And I assume that sales must have been pretty bad since all we got was the softcover TPB as opposed to the hardcovers that other series got.

Oh well.

Which is sad... because for me, the OMAC series was pretty much the only series out of the new 52 that I really enjoyed when the new 52 was brand new.

But not being a complete fool, I did not really expect a series that was made up of faux Kirby artwork ...and filled with Kirby concepts from the 70s to be a hit. Odds are that it was too dated or not edgy enough or some such crap.

But if you are one of the unfortunate souls who did enjoy the OMAC series, I would suggest that you get the Essential Hulk volumes that cover the era when Herb Trimpe was working on the series (Essential Hulk volume 4, 5, and 6 I believe.)

My favorite issue from that run HAS to be HUlk 204... which is sadly pretty much the end of the Herb Trimpe era of the Hulk.

So I guess that I HAVE to agree with those who called OMAC DC's attempt at creating themselves a blue Hulk.

But it was pure fun from page one to the end.

But what of the rest of the NEW 52??

Well, from what I can tell, it started with strong sales over all... but a few months later it was pretty much back to square one.

Series with characters like Batman that sold well BEFORE the NEW 52 still sold well, but for most new series... sales took a dive. So series like OMAC were cancelled. Heck at some point it seemed like all DC were doing was cancelling new comics that were not performing well. And from what I can tell, their second wave pretty much went by unnoticed. Other then the hype around stuff like a gay Green Lantern or some such thing, no one really cared about the second wave of the NEW 52.  I guess people were too busy being excited about the new Before Watchmen comics to even notice that second wave.

I had pretty much given up on the NEW 52, but once in a while, I would give a NEW 52 series a try.

I tried the Demon Knights TPB.

Loved the artwork, but did not care one bit about the characters or what happens in the story. The NEW 52 formula seems to be to put as much gore... sex, and vertigo elements as possible. Demon Knights has plenty of blood and gore to satisfy the most bloodthirsty fan, but I was surprised that they did not have a scene with a splash page with Etrigan and Xanadu doing the wild thing. I guess they did refrain themselves from going there.

I guess they had a hard time establishing properly the setting and all the character for this series. So you never really care about the characters and don't give a rat's ass whenever they are facing some sort of peril. But being a foolish fool, I gave other series a try.

The next one I tried was the Batman.

I love Batman... despite the fact that there hasn't been a good Batman comic in more than 10 years. I think that last time I bought a regular Batman comic monthly was when I was buying the comic of the Bruce Timm animated version. But there seems to be a lot of praise around the Court of the Owl story... so I was curious and decided to try the TPB. Of course this being Batman... the TPB is a HC. But still I gave it a try, and I kind of liked it.

I remember really liking Greg Capulo's artwork on Spawn, but it was strange to see his work without Todd McFarlane inking it. Took me some time to get used to it. And I am always amazed at how Batman is often seen as a more realistic super-hero... but how we end up with holographic masks and computer contact lenses, since those do exist in reality, right??

The tech in this comic is so advanced that it shatters any hope of ever being able to call this comic realistic. I have the same problem with the latest Batman movies. They are labeled as being more realistic... but the tech in those movies is so advanced... it makes Star Trek look like the Stone Age (yes I am exaggerating).

But let's get back to the comic. Even ignoring the advance tech out of Total Recall, this tale is far from perfect. Right from the start... we can see some of the confusion around the NEW 52. It seemed obvious that the NEW 52 was some last minute thing. That very little thought or planning had been put into this NEW 52. And that they had some pretty piss poor communication or did a piss poor job at coordinating the whole thing.

The best example of that in Batman is how they took the time to establish that Tim Drake was a former Robin and how he was a member of the Teen Titans. Heck even in Teen Titans we saw a photo of Tim as Robin swinging on a rope next to Batman. But now it seems, DC are saying that "No... No Tim was never Robin".

Now that comes from either piss poor planning, or piss poor communication between the editors/creators. But despite the magic tech and the poor continuity... this has been a pretty enjoyable/intriguing tale. The Owl seemed like a cool villain... but it was quickly revealed as one of many... which was still pretty cool.

Although it was convenient how Batman knocked out the ONE tooth that was required in the scene to reveal... something hidden in the tooth (am trying not to spoil too much). He knocked out the ONE tooth with the evidence he needed. Not several teeth and one of them being the one he needed. He knocked out the ONE tooth required, and no more.

Sadly... the HC ends on a cliffhanger... but I was intrigued enough by the tale to try out the next HC TPB.

Next up was Action Comics.

People kept on raving how great this book was and how Morrison was a genius in his telling of the tale. So I said... "F it, let's try out this sucker."( And in HC no less.)

My dictionary must be outdated because... the word genius describes nothing that is in this comic. Heck I can't even call it a good comic. Nothing in this comic is established properly.

When the comic starts... you are left wondering, when is this comic supposed to be happening?? From the Superman jeans with them patches and the police cars at the beginning, you would think that this comic is set in the late 30s. Are they trying to set the NEW 52 Superman in the late 30s once again??


From whatever info we could get online, this comic is supposed to be set 5 years in the past. But looking at Superman's jeans, I haven't seen jeans patched up like this since about 3 decades ago. The same with the police cars. But at some point we see a blackberry to remind us that this comic is supposed to be set in modern times.

Although turning the Superman comics into a period piece could have been a good idea. But that is not what they did. I could go on all day about that comic... but I will try to keep it short.

When you see new characters like the Legion of Super-Heroes, or the Anti-Superman, or the K-men, or the guy with the moustache at the end (no idea who he is)... the comics makes no effort to try and introduce them. The writer counts on the reader already knowing who those guys are.

The writing in this comic is so amateurish... it stands on a level all of its own. If there was some Olympics of amateur writing... this would win the gold, the silver and the bronze all at once. Damn that was not a good comic. And as far as being a retelling/update to the Superman origin, it was freaking pointless.

What pisses me off the most is that we had Superman Secret Origin like what? 6 months before the reboot? It was a nice retelling of the Superman Origin that should have been the definitive Origin for at least the next 10 years.  But noooooo. DC had to have their reboot.  Damn!

Next was Justice League Hardcover

I already mentioned what I thought about the early Justice League issues, but I tried the HC hoping that it would change my opinion once I would have read the whole story. It did not change my opinion.

Damn how that was a bad origin.

The characters act like immature children... which is to make them "cool" I guess. As I feared the comic is pretty much done like a paint by numbers painting. And I would complain that Darkseid has the worst redesign in recorded history, but sadly that title goes to Cyborg.  As much as I usually like Jim Lee's artwork, damn he is a piss poor designer. He has to be the worst designer in the multiverse. And now that we know how Superman got his Kryptonian costume, the question stands.

Why does Batman have the same costume?? Is he wearing a Kryptonian battle armor? Did they retconn Batman as being Kryptonian?

I know that the reason is that both costumes were designed by Lee. The same with all them matching collars. But damn how that is poor design and planning. What is most disappointing is that this comic should have been good. Geoff Johns is a good writer and he usually has good ideas... and Jim Lee is a good comic artist in general. But the pairing of those two titans of the comic industry gave us something that is not worth reading.

Very disappointing.

And last... the last NEW 52 comic I have tried, Aquaman, also in HC.

And this comics settles the issue... Aquaman is nothing more then the guy who talks to fish. And the more they try to convince us that he is more than that, the more they convince us that that is all that he is. Sorry if you are an Aquaman fan. At least the art is gorgeous... but the story is pointless.

And it uses the NEW 52 formula with some horror/vertigo injected in the comic, some blood and some guts. All that is missing is some sex, which I am surprised they did not put in this comic. Is it because Aquaman is married to Mera and once you are married, you no longer have sex?  ;)

But seriously that was a boring comic with some great artwork, so not a total loss.

So what of the NEW 52 after a year has gone by? Some good stuff that was cancelled. Some intriguing stuff, but a lot of piss poor stuff that was not worth it. All in all, the NEW 52 was the perfect jumping off point for me.

I guess that if I want my DC super-heroes fix, I will need to keep on watching the Young Justice cartoon, or keep playing DC Universe Online.

We shall see.

Until next time.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Classifying Bad Comics 2: Jarring Outlandish Ideas

Continuing my discussion of bad comics from last week -
Last week I introduced my series on classifying bad comics by giving examples when a writer doesn't care about the character. Today, I'll bring another group into the classification: Jarring Outlandishness Ideas.

Now, let me just say for the record, I AM a fan of outlandishness in comics - when the context supports it. That is to say, in a continuity where the Flash can be turned into a human puppet...

...I'm pretty much cool with whatever you're gonna hit me with.

What I (and other readers) object to, is when the outlandishness of an idea is so poorly executed that it disrupts the tone of a series. That is to say, while it would be disconcerting to see aliens from X-Files show up on an episode of CSI, it is possible to incorporate those elements into CSI in a way that might work. However, if you are just throwing in aliens without any thought to how they should work in the CSI framework,, then you are creating a story no one will ever take serious.

Case in point Spider-man vol 2 and the entire Gathering of Five storyline

  • Undoes the death of Aunt May (who readers had accepted as dead for 3 years at the time of the story.)
  • Mary Jane has a still born pregnancy
  • Norman Osborn becomes obsessed with magic
On their own and given some natural build up, there is nothing wrong with any of these plot points. However, all of the above was hastily dumped on readers in the course of a month in 4 separate Spider-man comics. So, what should have come across as powerful moments in Spider-man's life instead feels more like a bad imaginary story.

Let me be clear, it wasn't the haste that made the Gathering of the Five a bad storyline - It was the execution. In Anatomy Lesson Alan Moore was able to find a way to tell us everything we knew about Swamp Thing was a lie while organically incorporating his new truth into the story. Also Moore's changes didn't violate the intrinsic nature of the character (he is still a moody swamp creature.) The Alec Holland side of the character was always more of a story pivot than a character focus, IMO.

However, since then, many writers have tried to duplicate the success of Anatomy Lesson with dismal results. Case in point: when Jeph Loeb in the pages of Wolverine 55 tries to explain to readers how Wolverine isn't a mutant, but rather was descended from Maximus Lobo a wolf-like race also known as Lupines. This story was met with great deal of backlash and has been pretty much resigned to the Continuity Penalty Box.

In the hands of a better writer, it's possible that readers might have taken to this concept. I could see an Alan Mooresque approach with callbacks to Werewolf by Night, the Darkhold, Moonknight and Man-wolf. That is to say, if Loeb had found a way to weave Wolverine's new origin into an existing fabric of continuity, readers might have taken to the idea. As it was, the Lupine origins were met with the same sort of dismay you might expect if you were to suddenly say Batman is actually a mutant.

Speaking of Batman, just so you don't think I'm picking on Marvel here, DC has their fair share of jarring cringe worthy moments. Check out this clumsy bit of outlandish behavior from the Batman in Justice League vol 1 #84 

Not one of Batman's better moments.
Sadly, 40 years later, it seems history would repeat itself with another instance of this scene that was just as jarring:

As with the Spider-man plot points mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is nothing wrong with a Batman/Black Canary love connection in a story - as long as it is introduced with some care and consideration. However, modern writers seem less inclined (less patient?) or maybe are given less time to develop their stories appropriately.

Which means we will probably see more jarring outlandishness the future.

- Jim

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Classifying Bad Comics: Part 1

Today's post was originally going to be about the worst comic I've ever read, but as I put thought into it, I realized that trying to nail down one singular comic as the all time worst was not possible. The truth is, there are many reasons why comics might be classified as BAD. So, instead, I present the first in a series where I examine the reasons comics go bad.

Comics where the writer doesn't care about the character

The first really bad comic I remember reading was the black and white Rampaging Hulk number 8.

However, it wasn't the Hulk story that I disliked, but rather the dismal treatment of main character in the back up story in that magazine - a character by the name of Ulysses Bloodstone.

For those of you not familiar with the man with the ruby studded chest, Bloodstone was a immortal monster hunter - sort of a mix between Doc Savage and Vandal Savage. While the character first appeared in the pages of Marvel Presents 1, I only knew him from Rampaging Hulk. With his arcane origin and mythic history this shotgun weilding monster slayer seemed new and exciting to me.

The b/w series was written by John Warner, who along with Len Wein and Marv Wolfman helped create the character. As one of the creators, Warner had a vested interest in the series, but somewhere around issue 6 of Rampaging Hulk, Warner left Marvel to write Flash Gordon for Gold Key.

This left the Bloodstone storyline dangling, so for two issues of Rampaging Hulk, Bloodstone didn't appear. When he finally did return in issue 8 in a story penned by Steve Gerber, the results were...ahem...not to my liking.

For whatever reason, by the end of Gerber's first Bloodstone story, the character in a left in a rather unusable state:

I remember reading that ending and being devastated to the very core of my being. I can only think that Gerber was brought in to wrap up the story in some fashion and given his affection for morbid themes, he choose to kill Bloodstone in the finale. That the last line of dialogue is a groaner didn't help sell it either.

Sadly, we've seen a lot of characters revived over the years in comics, but alas, the savage Bloodstone has not been one of them. 

Another classic example of this type of story is the ending of Warren Ellis' Dr. Druid series from the 90's.

Apparently this was supposed to be a series which would help Marvel build their version of Vertigo. Yet, from what I can gather, Marvel was a bit afraid of what Ellis was putting into the series and on that, all I can say is if this is the guy you've hired to write your D-list superhero story...

...then you sort of get what you deserve, don't you?

 Unfortunately, sales were so low that Marvel downgraded the run to a 4 issue mini-series. This prompted the ever classy Ellis to take out his ire on the character. In the final issue (with the subtle title of Sick Of It All) Dr. Druid is beaten, depowered, shot, killed, burned and finally shoved into a garbage can.

If you were a fan of Dr. Druid (and I'm sure they exist) it's hard to imagine that comic not ending up on one of your All Time Worst list. ;)

I'll pick this up next week with the next category, but until then, can you think of a time when a series went bad because writer stopped caring?

- Jim

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pierre Reviews Young Justice

Editor's Note: For those of you just tuning in, Pierre is the co-creator of the Flashback Universe and a seasoned Animator for many studios in Canada. Currently, he is working around the clock on an animation project (name?) but he occasionally finds time to post his thoughts about other animated series/movies he's seen. Today, he gives us his thoughts on Young Justice. - Jim

What do I think about Young Justice?

I will start by saying that I LOVE that show. I was a little disappointed when I first heard about it. I was hoping for more of a classic Teen Titans series inspired by the Perez/Wolfman series. Some announcements were made at some point of a direct to DVD movie with the classic Titans, but alas like too often it is the case in animation, the project never saw the light of day.

Anyway, I watched the pilot when it aired and realized this was sort of a weird mix of Peter David’s Young Justice with random Teen Titans stuff thrown in. I LOVED it.

For starters, the animation in general is pretty strong. They had a few weaker shows, but even the weaker shows were pretty strong compared to, let’s say, the Avengers cartoon. And the funny thing is that the design work is pretty busy. They have some very detailed designs, but seem to have found some strong animation studios that do top notch work.
And the characters are fun.

I know that some are annoyed over Miss Martian and her "Hello Meggan" line, but I like her. Heck I have a bit of a crush on her, but don't tell Superboy. ;)

The characters act for the most part like the characters we read about in the DCU comics. Sure this has an Elseworld feel to it sometimes, but it is a lot closer to the classic DCU then the DCnU can ever hope to be.

Superman looks and acts like the classic Superman. The same with Batman.

Or Captain Marvel. You read that right. Not Shazam, Captain Marvel. Damn how that character is great in that show. And they made him great without turning him dark and grim and gritty. Can you believe that??

So overall, the characters are similar to their classic DCU counterpart.
But the best part has to be the stories.

We read about these characters countless times, and we saw a lot of stories with these characters. Either in the comic pages, or the Bruce Timm animated universe. But still they manage to keep the stories fresh and interesting, even when they adapt a story that we already read in the comics, they manage to make it fresh and surprising.

Like the rise and fall of Speedy/Arsenal for example, they make what was a stinker of a story in the comic, into a great story in the show. So not only do they seem to have a strong animation team, but they seem to have a strong writing team as well.

I hope this show will stick around for many seasons because it is wayyyyy too good of a show. Sadly it is always iffy whether a broadcaster will renew a series for a new season or not. A good example of that is the Batman Beyond TV show. It was a show with critical acclaim and good ratings. Sadly it still was cancelled. Why?

No one was buying the toys.

There was no interest in the Batman Beyond toys and merchandising. Who will buy the action figure of Bat-Fake (to quote the Joker), when you can buy the action figure of the REAL Batman. So in that case, no toy sales, no show.
Let us hope that the Young Justice show does not suffer from a similar fate.
Guess we will have to wait and see.

Until next time,

- Pierre

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Prince Namor: A Comic Ages Timeline

Of late, I've been listening to various comic podcasters recount the moribund details of Avengers vs X-men. Chief among the things I've found myself dismayed by is the rather frivilous manner that the Sub-Mariner has been used in the series.

I've always had a soft spot for that character. He and Captain America are pretty much the lone counterparts to DC's JSA. (There have been a few other characters brought forth from the Golden Age, but none have ever been given the same spotlight that Cap or Namor have been.)

While Captain America has had more or less a steady career at Marvel, the Sub-Mariner has had a tougher time keeping his B-List status. I thought today I would present a visual time line of the Prince of Atlantis publishing history.

The Golden Age: 1937 - 1950

During this time Namor appeared in three Timely comics: Marvel Comics (which later became Marvel Mystery Comics), his own comic and All Winners Comics. (Thanks to Britt Reid for the correction!)

Little known facts:

Namor was the first flying superhero. (Remember, early Superman just leaped tall buildings.)

Namor first appeared in April 1939 in the prototype for a planned giveaway comic titled Motion Picture Funnies Weekly, produced by the comic book packager Funnies Inc. The only eight known samples among those created to send to theater owners were discovered in the estate of the deceased publisher in 1974.

When the giveaway idea fell through, creator Bill Everett used the character for Marvel Comics #1, the first comic book by Funnies, Inc. client Timely Comics, predecessor of Marvel.

The Atomic Age: 1950 - 1956

The Sub-Mariner experienced a brief revival in the mid-1950s, starting with Young Men #24 (which also briefly revived Captain America and the original Human Torch) and then in Sub-Mariner Comics #33-42 (April 1954 - Oct. 1955).

The Silver Age: 1956 - 1970

Reintroduced in 1962 in issue 4 of Fantastic Four, where he would proved to be a popular returning character in that title. This led to him sharing a starring spot in the split title Tales To Astonish in 1965. Finally in 1968 he gained his own title.

The Bronze Age: 1970 - 1985

During the Bronze Age, Namor managed to keep his solo title up until issue 72 which was published in 1974. He also was a regular in 3 other ongoing titles: The Defenders, The Invaders and Super-Villain Team Up. In addition to that, there were several multi-issue storylines in other comics (Avengers, Fantastic Four) with Namor.

Perhaps due to all this exposure, the Sub-Mariner sort of disappeared early in the 80's with only a 4 issue mini-series in 1984 from J.M. DeMatteis/Bob Budiansky to his name. While technically, this mini-series appears at the tail end of the Bronze Age, I've lumped into the beginning of the Iron age.

Iron Age: late 80's - early 90's

These last ages are defined differently among comic fans so you may find yourself disagreeing my my categorizations here. (Realize that the so-called Modern Age spans 3 decades now with no defined end point in sight.)

Highlights of the Iron Age included John Byrne's series featuring Namor and a few appearances in Alpha Flight and Byrne's Fantastic Four. This era also saw the market crushing release of Atlantis Attacks, a mini-series that the late comics historian Les Daniels has blamed for sounding the death-knell to the speculator market.

The Dark Age: Late 90's - 2007

This is perhaps the most schizophrenic point in Namor's publishing history as his portrayals run the gamut of Grim and Gritty, Teen Hero and Comic Foil. He also makes an appearance in the Avengers during Geoff John's run on the title, but no one ever remembers that run, so let's not break tradition.

The Digital Age: 2007 - Present

I've only heard this term a few places so far, with no true definition of where it starts however since 2007 marks both the introduction of the first iPhone AND Marvel's Digital Comics Unlimited website, I'm using that as my starting point.

For the most part, in this age, Namor has undergone a bit of a redefinition as Marvel has tried to reinforce his mutant status so that they can put him on the X-men. (Which is how he ends up on the aforementioned Avengers vs X-men mini-series.)

Namor has not fared well during this era. While the mini-series Namor: The First Mutant (a title which flies in the face of established Marvel continuity) has had some nice reviews, we've also seen some rather stupid uses of the character.

As a fat slob in Avengers Dark Reign

or as guy not above marrying his own cousin

Who may be bi-sexual...

...but is certainly Try-Sexual

Not I'm not above exploring aspects of a character's sexuality in a story but with Namor, it feels a bit like the aspects are being used as, at best, as a lazy afterthoughts or, at worst, simply for shock value.

Summation: If you look at this time line, you'll quickly see it makes a good metaphor for the waning cohesiveness of Marvel universe in general. As the universe and its continuity have become less important to the editors, so has Namor's appearances and portrayals floundered.

The general perception among comic fans (and perhaps creators too) is that Namor, like Aquaman, simply isn't a character who can hold his own title anymore. I've never held to that belief and have always felt a good writer can find some way to make a book successful. Whether you like it or not, since the DC 52 relaunch, Aquaman has been a consistent top seller for DC. Mostly that's because Geoff Johns has found a way to make the Aquaman interesting without changing the established aspects of the character.

Marvel should take note.

- Jim


Related Posts with Thumbnails