Saturday, December 26, 2015

Free Christmas Comic from the FBU

Today, I'm happy to present this downloadable holiday comic which was created for the Woolworth's stores in 1953. (Click on the link under the cover.)


Download Woolworth's 1953 Christmas Comic

Season's Greetings!

- Jim

Monday, December 21, 2015

Will 2016 Be The Worst Year for Comics Ever?

I once predicted that 2015 would be the year the paper comic industry collapsed. 
I was quite wrong about that.
And while there were a number of factors that contributed to my faulty prediction, there are also some signs that I may be more right than it seems.

One of the many things I didn't think about was that digital would help comic sales more than it cannibalized them. I don't believe anyone saw that coming so I don't feel too bad. It is interesting as this boost has not been seen in the traditional publishing world. I suspect it's because comic fans are more inclined to want a physical object than just regular book readers. (Romance fans, who make up a large portion of the traditional book market have migrated to digital in huge numbers.)

Also, I didn't foresee the dramatic influx of fans that cosplay has brought in. 

That's been a great thing to see. In talking with Noelle Stevenson this weekend at Punk Monkey comics, we both agreed that the vibe at conventions is definitely a more open environment than it was 10 or 20 years ago. That openness has brought in an audience for books like Lumberjanes, Princeless and Batgirl.  Where Castle Waiting struggled to find a sustainable readership 10 years ago, I suspect now such a book would be quite successful

Also, while the movies and shows may not have a  one to one effect on sales, (excluding Walking Dead) they have definitely raised the cool cachet of comics that any nerd factor sales barriers have been virtually erased. I bet that has helped first time walk in sales at local comic shops a lot.

With that said what will the next year bring? 
Well despite all the things I've just mentioned, I think the big two are actually in for a rocky year.

DC has already seen one new sales initiative fail (and fast) with no exciting plan B in the wings. Attempts to duplicate Batgirl's success didn't take hold (mostly I believe because duplicating such things is always difficult - how many Harry Potter clones failed?)

And Marvel's All New All Different sales relaunch after Secret Wars isn't looking too good. And I hear a lot of fans saying the core titles have the narrative weight of a Marvel coloring book as the stories don't seem connected to a shared continuity. 

And just last week, two articles that laid suggested this latest initiative has been a bit of a failure:

We've already seen one big sales dip this year. Was that a fluke or the real base of sales when there's no Secret Wars or Marvel Now 3.0  raising sales? How much will Dark Knight III and Civil War 2 really help both companies?

In discussing this topic with friend Trey Causey, we sort of agreed that part of the problem is the industry is chasing the ghost of a marketplace that may not exist anymore. That is to say that when you look at independent comics from Image, the success threshold is much lower. Image comics are allowed more time to try to find an audience. Conversely, DC seemed to throw in the towel on their DC You initiative too quickly. It was only due to a good bit of fan outcry that this latest version of Omega Men didn't get cancelled.
Trey suggested that small creative industry solutions to DC's and Marvel's woes (like lowering expectations ) are stymied by the fact they are both owned by big corporations who (perhaps unrealistically) expect certain levels of performance. If so, then both companies are sort of trapped in a death spiral.

I'm looking forward to seeing how 2016 plays out.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The 2nd Batman vs Superman Trailer

Last week, Time Warner released the 2nd major trailer for Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice:

Here's the water cooler talk from the Flashback Universe:

Jim Shelley: I was already quite interested in seeing the movie with just the teasing we got from the first trailer, but this newest one had some great bits that has me even more jazzed.Highlights to me were:

The Luthor/Kent/Wayne exchange with the joke of Luthor saying, "You wouldn't want to fight this guy" to Kent. That made me smile. I sort of hope Eisenberg is like that through the whole movie. It's hammy, but it's a type of hammy I can appreciate. It's got a nice Paul Lynde vibe to it.

It was good to see more of Wonder Woman in this preview. And again, the little bit with Superman and Batman wondering who she was aligned with was nice. (Did that strike anyone as an attempt to add a dash of MCU humor to the trailer?)

What I was less sold on was Doomsday and how he appeared. Now, I'm not a big Doomsday fan, but if I was, I would be sort of like, "...what the fugly!" On the plus side, they can kill him in this movie and we won't have to worry about him until 3 movies later when Darkseid sends an army of Doomsdays against the Justice League (because we know that scenes coming right?)
Trey Causey: Agreed on Eisenberg. I think he has the sort of Luthor. He has the sort of swarmy wunderkind thing going that works perfectly for a Luthor translated to the modern era. He probably helps that Eisenberg played Mark Zuckerberg, so this is same sort of arrogance.

It would amuse me to hear you utter the phrase "what the fugly!" as I don't think that's anything I've ever heard anyone say. The Doomsday design is uninspired, but it's just standard forgetable cgi monsters. It's not like bicycle shorts and bones Doomsday of the comic is really cool visual, or anything
StevieB: I also liked Eisenberg. It's  been hard for me to point my finger on why. I think it's because in the ridiculously serious tone that Warner Brothers has taken their last few movies, it's nice to see some camp. 

I really like Batman's voice changer. No more sounding like a 60 year old who's smoked a pack of cigarettes their whole life. I also think they've really nailed that costume.

Wonder Woman was great. I'm beginning to think more and more she's going to be the voice of reason in this movie. 

Am I the only who caught the three seconds of Parademons?

My speculation is that this is a vision of the future that Wonder Woman has. Not a dream sequence that the internet keeps screaming about. I think it's the reason WW comes back to the world of man. To stop these two from fighting because only TOGETHER CAN THEY DEFEAT THE COMING EVIL! lol 

As far as "Doomsday" goes; how much do you think they paid Disney to borrow the likeness for Abomination? 
Caine Dorr: I'm thinking the WW Vision thing sounds right too (now that Stephen pointed out the "Parademons")
The could be some sort of winged Bat-Force that Batman has put together to counter the Superman Arm Band wearing guys.
But I would prefer it was Parademons, as that helps set up other stuff to come. Imagine how stoked everyone will be if we even get a glimpse of Darkseid in the vision.

That's what we thought.

What did YOU think?

 - Jim

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wonder Woman Cast Announced

Reading this weekend I saw this post about the upcoming Wonder Woman movie:

WONDER WOMAN cast announced, new photo released -

Overall it sounds like a great lineup. One of the things that differinterates the DC movies from the Marvel movies is that they seem to have more star power.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Scooby Doo: Real Monsters Vs Fake Monsters

Among fans of Scooby Doo, one of the biggest controversies is the presence of real monsters in the show and movies. Here's a nice list of the 180+ appearances of real monsters in the Scooby Doo continuity.

Hands down, the best case against Real Monsters in Scooby Doo is presented by Chris Sims who advances the idea that the Scooby Gang should be viewed as avatars of skeptical/progressive thinking in a world of superstitious authority figures.
In addition to that, Chris (and many others) argue that having real monsters in the show subverts original premise of the show in a way that makes it unwatchable. I disagree with that for several reasons.
  • For kids originally exposed to the show, the monsters were real. Constantly relying on the gimmick of a person under a mask just caused kids to stopped taking the show seriously.
  • There is the perception that the introduction of real monsters into the show is a modern conceit, but that's false as the first real monster was introduced in 1970 in the That's Snow Ghost episode. 
  • There are also merits to portraying the gang as  heroes who aren't afraid to confront unknown challenges of possibly supernatural proportions. 
  • Also, it could be argued that the world we are seeing plays by different rules than ours. 
 On that last point, Alee Martinez presents the best argument for a Scooby Continuity with a supernatural tinge to it.
  • He mentions technology being different in the show (working robots, electric monsters from just car batteries, transparent glider skies, ect...)
  • Scooby can talk and understand complex human sentences
  • When in monster guise, the villains behave irrationally, as if they are not in possession of their own wits. (Like the Werewolf villain who is befuddled by Scooby and Shaggy pretending to be barbers:

Also, in the The New Scooby Doo Movies, the gang teams up with both Batman and Robin, Josie and the Pussycats, The Addams Family and Jeannie (and her apprentice genie Baboo.) While it could be argued that the Batman and Robin of this world are from the 60's television world (where there was no magic), the presence of Josie and the Pussycats, The Addams Family (somewhat) and Jeannie (definitely) suggest magic exists in this world.

 The biggest surge in real monsters came with the advent of the direct to video animated movies with Scooby Doo and The Goblin King being probably the most fantasy tinged entry in the series. However, more recently there has been an effort by the newer movies to present all monstrous threats as guys in a costume. It appears that the last appearance of a real monster in the universe was Annuki in the excellent Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.

Yet, in order to remove all real monsters, the movies have had to stretch physics to herculean contortions to explain how the villains are able to do the things they do. (Scooby Doo and  Kiss for example uses dream sequences and super advanced technology to explain its plot.) This avoidance of supernatural elements in the show has gotten so bad that even Blue Falcon has been demoted to just a fictional comic book character.

In a way, it reminds me of the eye rolling lengths that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gone to keep explain away Asgardian magical items as quantum powered alien technology.

The opponents of real monsters believe that the creatures ruin the show/movies for them because it perverts the original premise. I would argue it no more ruins the show than having magic work in the Batman universe. The Golden Age Batman universe wasn't filled with magic, but the modern one certainly is. Where is the hate for magic using heroes and villains in the DC Universe or  Batman Adventures? There is none.

At the end of the day, a lot of the hate is just people who feel like their version of a show has been corrupted to something that no longer represents their childhood memories. That's too bad, because they are missing out on a fun element of the show.

- Jim

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Who Put the THE back in The Batman?

Reading the classic Night of the Hunter from Detective Comics 439, a panel where a criminal referred to Batman as THE Batman caught my attention.

I had always assumed that was sort of a modern addition to the character's name, but in looking it up on the web I discovered that using the article THE was originally how the character was called in the Golden Age.

This got me to wondering, when did THE disappear from Batman's name and when did it reappear?

Discussing this with FBU contributor Trey Causey, he directed me to which has a good article on the use of the Definitive Article THE in superhero names. As interesting as this article is, it didn't really answer my question. So, I decided to do some random sampling to see when the THE showed back up.

Here's what I determined. The article disappeared sometime during the period when Robin became a regular. While it would show up sometimes early on, as the 40's gave way to the 50's The Batman and Robin just got shortened down to Batman and Robin.

This stuck with Batman all during the Atomic Age stories as Batman was less a creature of the night and more an adventurer dealing with strange aliens.

My first assumption was that the article got added back sometime around the 70's, possibly when DC got rights to publish The Shadow. So, I checked out Batman 259 where the Shadow makes a guest appearance:

Sure enough, Batman is called THE Batman in this issue.

Still, I wondered if the use of the article hadn't been one of the changes that occurred as a result of the New Look Batman era. What I found is that during this era, a lot of stories featured Batman dealing with socially relevant issues:

So, without a real criminal element to the stories, for the most part of this era Batman is just called Batman.

However, around issue 213, E. Nelson Bridwell retells the origin of Robin with a panel where Batman introduces himself as THE Batman.

Shortly thereafter, in Batman 224, current Batman writer Frank Robbins (also well known for his awesome art on Marvel's The Invaders) has a criminal use the phrase The Batman.

Two things may have precipitated this:
1) This is near the time that Frank Robbins was also drawing The Shadow
2) This also happens to coincide with the time that Robin has left the comic as Batman's sidekick.

The combination of no sidekick and the original pulp avenger floating around DC may have caused Robbins to reintroduce the THE into Batman's name. This is also a period when DC Editorial (Julius Schwartz) gives Robbins the freedom to move away from the socially relevant stories and return Batman to darker story lines.

While we may never know the exact catalyst, the result is that from this point on, the THE continues on into modern usage.

And despite some creators attempts to put a new spin on his name:

The Batman is still with us.

- Jim

Thursday, November 5, 2015

More Unseen Art

In the comments on Monday's Post, artist Reno Maniquis noted that he's worked on some projects that never came to fruition. I did some digging and found the art he was talking about.

The first up was going to be a Zuda pitch called hell-bent but Zuda folded before this project got going good.

The other was a possible Artifact story with a new character called Jet Pack Jenny

While neither of those projects panned out, I've enjoyed working with Reno on the Lost 100 Pagers he's created. He never fails to impress me with his work on those Bronze Age homages.

Another artist who I've worked with in the past (and most recently completed the So Falls The World Flashback Universe story is Jerry Hinds. Here are some awesome character sketches he developed for a sort of Jim Starlin Adam Warlock type of project. Again, this would have been a good project for Zuda.

The star to the story was a character called Judas Moonstone

His Allies were the enchantress Baba Yaga

And an imp named Toadflax

The villain of the series was a character called Nightshade

I still have more unseen art, but I'll save it for another day.

- Jim

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Unseen Art from Other Projects

I've been looking for some files this weekend, and while doing so, I found a bunch of art from projects that I thought I would share.

First up are a few pages from a Kondorr the Killer backstory that never saw light of day. Because I changed email services from when I was working on this project, I no longer have the name or contact information for the artist. The only thing I know is his first name was Roy.

Next up is a page from Flashback Co-Creator Pierre Villeneuve. This was part of a Zuda pitch we submitted for the League of Monsters. In this scene, the team is enjoying a game of Risk.

Here is a Lost 100 Pager that didn't work out because the artist drew the cover with a modern version of Black Orchid, not the Bronze Age one, even though I sent him reference samples. 

This is why you should always ask an artist to send roughs before sending finished work. (Most professionals will volunteer to send you a rough because they know it saves them time in the long run.) :( 

Here's another sketch by the same artist wherein he tries to pass off another artists (Gahan Wilson?) work as his own for the background/houses.

I've learned over the years that rather than just dive in on a project with a new artists, it's better to start with small assignments like character sketches and pinups. This gives you some idea of what you can expect before committing to a big project. 

Later this week, I'll share some art from more projects that didn't work out as well as a few that did.

- Jim

Friday, October 30, 2015

What Could Scare The Legion Of Monsters?

Here is an appropriate cover for the Halloween season: Marvel Premiere 28 featuring the Legion of Monsters!
Looking at this cover you have to wonder, what in the world could possibly be so terrifying to all these ferocious characters?

Could it be an attack from an Atomic Age threat like Rro, Grottu or Fin Fang Foom?

Or the awakening of a long slumbering Elder God?

Or maybe it's some new version of the Creature Commandos!

Ah...apparently, none of those guesses are correct.

Here's what's scaring them.

Indeed, a scary sight!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What did you think of the Supergirl Pilot?

Monday, the new Supergirl show premiered on CBS to what seems to be the highest ratings every achieved by a DC Superhero show.

On one hand, that's not too surprising as the build up to this show has been very strong on the internet (good job CBS/Time Warner - whoever was responsible for the excellent promo videos up to this point.) Also contributing to the high ratings is the fact that this is the first DC property to air on one of the big three networks in a long time. (Was the original Flash series from the 90's the last such show?) Also, the show got a weird bit of advanced promotion from GOP Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush.

With that said, the real challenge will be can the series maintain ratings to survive the season? I really don't know how to answer that. In my household, both my wife and daughter enjoyed the show. I enjoyed the pilot, but as I'm sort of losing my passion for superhero shows in general, I think I was less enthusiastic about it than they were. I did find the Ally McBeal vibe interesting in a "This is different" sort of way.  Melissa Benoist did an admirable job as Kara, and the supporting cast all seem like they can grow into their roles pretty well. I think, outside of my general superhero malaise, my biggest complaint was it felt a little like they were relying overly much on 1990's television story telling techniques. For instance, shouldn't her sister's role in the DEO have been kept more of mystery for a few shows? Seems like that plot point got revealed and resolved a bit quickly.

Overall, I enjoyed it enough to watch more episodes.

How about you?

- Jim


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