Saturday, July 29, 2006

What the Sam Scratch is goin' on here?!? #3

Continuing the new 'ccasional feature here at Comics Oughta Be Fun: new in a series of comic book covers so wacky, so insane, so far out, that they're seemingly inspired by my Grampy Bull's fav'rite saying: "What the Sam Scratch is goin' on here?!?"

Have a gun, citizen!


Batman.

Handing out guns.

To Li'l Abner.

What the Sam Scratch is goin' on here?!?


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Everything but the Bat-Sink.

52 Week 1252 WEEK 12: This comic is fun. Just like they were on Saturday morning TV in the 1970s, the worlds of Shazam! and Isis come together again as the DCU gets its own in-canon version of Joanna Cameron's Egyptian-styled hero, but this time is she working for the angels or the devils? Much to my surprise, the Black Adam storyline is starting to interest me from week to week: he's a character I grew tired of in JSA but 52, in examining his role as a world leader, is bringin' to life a little of that noble villain vibe Doc Doom does so well. (I'm definitely not fond of the new crazy Captain Marvel, but I assume he'll be getting better eventually. Get well soon, Billy!) The new Isis bears little connection to the original TV one, but her outfit is nicely updated with the same Egyptian scarab iconography but a new sexier design (the usual comic-book bare-bellied look doesn't seem out of place on an Egyptian goddess superhero). For the first time in a handful of weeks I'm interested to see where the Black Adam storyline is heading, and if I'm vaguely disappointed by and rush through the Elongated Man/Wonder Girl pages, well, there's at least a nice treat at the end in a two-page Wonder Woman origin. It's a fun and informative two-page spread that gives enough space devoted to the basic essentials that make Wondy unique—more than two pages would seem like filler, not unlike the interminable "History of the DCU" that wrapped up. Can't wait for more of these origin pieces!


FUTURAMA #26FUTURAMA #26: This comic is fun. I've been on a Futurama DVD-viewin' kick recently, which only serves to remind me how much I miss the TV series and can't wait for it to return on the Cartoon Network in...2008? Man, I can't wait that long! I need a cryogenic freezing tube to hop into and make the time go faster. Sigh. In the meantime, there's always Bongo's reliable Futurama comic, which consistently remains one of the funniest comics on the stand (if you enjoy Futurama's sense of humor, of course...as the kids today say on the internet, "your velocity may vary.") This one's about a time gun accident that splits one-eyed Leela into four different ages, but as usual the plot is almost secondary to sight gags, rapid-fire jokes and the larceny of Bender, The Sensational Character Find of 2999. Humor titles are difficult to pull off well; funny ones even harder; funny ones that stand up to being compared favorably to their source TV show are even rarer. While you're waiting for the new TV episodes, you could do worse to while away the next couple years reading Futurama comics. Just remember to get up and take a shower a few times during that, you filthy pigs.


Batman 655BATMAN #655: This comic is fun. And really, for me, it'a the first time in years that Batman (the comic) and Batman (the hero) have been truly fun, aside from an animated DVD or two and give or take a Christian Bale movie. Man, I hate to just genuflect at the altar of Mister Grant Morrison left and right, but between this and All Star Superman, he's just bringing some back-to-basics common sense fun and adventure back to DC's World's Finest. I know All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder wound up being a different kind of Bat-book and a lot of people are enjoying it, but this is the sort of book I was hoping for and wishing ASBARTBW was going to be. There's nothing amazingly extraordinary on the surface here—a solid Batman adventure stuffed with the rich buttery goodness of the Joker, a fake Batman, a temporarily giggly Commissioner Gordon, an acerbic Alfred (who provides us with The Best Line of the Week: "Why, just the other day I had a rather formidable nun down as the Penguin, sir."), a Robin who's treated with respect and equality by his partner, pop art that brings to mind a certain Caped Crusader of TV fame, Kirk Langstrom of Man-Bat fame, and...hoo-hah! Talia's back! (And hey, is that shadowy boy on the last page a certain retconned back-and-forth Batkid?) You might look at my description and say "Whoa, Morrison's throwing in everything but the kitchen sink!" And sure enough, there's no kitchen sink in this issue. But the difference here is Morrison knows where to put the pieces down to lead us on a thrilling trail that makes the issue race past, worth reading again, and leaves us on the edge of our seat waiting for the next issue. That's the surest sign of a fun comic, and that's why BATMAN #655 is The most fun comic of the week!

USPS to comics industry: "Eat our dust, amateurs!"

So I ran my little hooves over to the Post Office on my lunch hour and picked myself up a sheet of these:

DC Superhero Stamps


They're beautifully-done, gorgeously-designed, with nice if brief text on the back of each stamp about each hero and their comic. You can argue about missing characters (I woulda liked to see an Atom or Robin one), but if these prove successful, you can bet you'll see more in the series.

Still, if you're a comics collector venturing into the world of stamps for the first time, don't make the mistake of buying multiple and excess sets for eventual resale value. The same rules of supply and demand apply here as they do to last month's DC Comics: there's a slim chance to none that these will increase in value. So buy a set for yourself or gifts, get one framed, buy a stack to put your fave heroes on all your fan mail and your Con Ed bill, but don't count on these being more than eBay standard stock items after a few years. There's just too many people who will be buying and saving them for the value to increase massively.

But in a way, you gotta hand it to the USPS for their chutzpah and sheer canniness in understanding the collector market, haven't you? And I'm not just talking about these superhero stamps, but in fact all "commemorative stamps" (those celebrating and picturing a person, event, theme or object rather than the plain small flag or George Washington stamps you often get in rolls or out of a machine). Fans can point to the comic industry's alternate cover boom of the eighties as a shrewd and cynical (but all-too-often successful) way to get collectors to buy more copies, but no one in the comics industry has ever come even close to the United States Postal Service in depending on a huge percentage of the collectors' market for their income. In fact, they make the producers of chrominum holograph comics look like rank amateur pikers.

The main purpose behind the USPS creating commemorative stamps? Not for you to use. In fact, they depend a very large percentage on you buying many of them not to use. If you use a stamp, the USPS must provide a service—to get your letter from one place to the other. If you instead hoard a stamp, that labor cost is pure profit for them. Do you think the USPS promotes stamp collecting because it's fun and educational? (Well, as a little stuffed bull who used to collect stamps, it definitely is. But that's like saying McDonald's offers salads because they care about your health.)

Commemoratives appeal to collectors who will save them and never cash in their actual value by sticking them on a letter. In other words, the profitability of commemorative stamp issues is based on the USPS planning that we won't use them. Which makes me wonder: how can the comics world capitalize on this idea? How can our favorite industry invent an innovation that makes things worth more if you don't use them for their intended purpose?

Oh wait. We already have that:

CGC-Graded Comic


Still, there's one big difference between "investing" in comics and "investing" in United States postage stamps: Remember all those copies of Deathmate: Red you bought? Hoping to make a resale killing in the future when this can't-miss collectible goes up in value? In the words of Oscar Madison: "Now it's garbage."

But any US postage stamp—as long as it's kept fresh and mint—is always worth face value. If nothing else, you can stick 'em on a letter and mail 'em out.

Just try to do that with all your backup copies of Ghost Rider, Volume 2, #2.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

San Diego photos

Click the photo to the right to check out me bein' a tourist around San Diego the day after Comic-Con: wandering around the gorgeous Humphrey's Half-Moon Resort, visiting the historical Cabrillo Monument and Lighthouse, and headin' down to funky Hillside!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Comics on a Plane

Aquaman #37I'm sure you all have heard the phrase "Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink?" No, even though I spent the week in Sub San Diego, that's not a reference to an Aquaman story but rather the fact that I spent the entire week at San Diego Comic Con, completely surrounded on all four and occasionally five sides by comic books, and yet didn't have a chance to pick up last week's new comics. And with a long, long plane trip back home to New York, I need a stack o' comics for in-flight reading. What's the solution? The solution, as always, is easily solved by the next best thing to a Green Lantern power ring: Hertz's amazing Neverlost GPS technology. Just ask its pleasant Midwestern female artificial intelligence to direct you to the nearest comic book shop, and up pops easy-to-follow driving directions:
Neverlost

And mere minutes later, Linda the Neverlost Voice has directed me to On Comic Ground:
Neverlost

On Comic Ground is a small but well-stocked store on University Avenue, with a pleasant clerk who directs me to the previous week's comics. There's also a solid selection of back issues which I hoof through looking for some books off my wish list that I didn't have a chance to look for at Comic-Con. Yay! They have those issues of Sub-Mariner and Tales of Suspense I've been looking for, and at easy-to-afford prices. Thanks, On Comic Ground!

The Pleasant Clerk and I briefly schmooze about just-concluded Comic-Con and I learn On Comic Ground is actually a smaller shop on the site of the former larger Comic Kingdom store, which I'd never been to on my earlier, brief visits to San Diego but which I've heard about. It's always sad when a big comic book store goes bust, but I'm glad there's still a shop at this location.

I also spent some of my hard-earned dimes on a big stack o' comics from last Wednesday and instead of diving into them immediately, I stowed them away in my backpack to have plenty of readin' entertainment on the plane. So as I read these thirty thousand feet above the Kansas cornfields, I'm reviewing them longhoof and will transfer my notes to the blog later on. And in my first use of startling new airline technology, I'm comparing comics and their fun quotient to famous movies about flying that may or may not be fun. I'm going to keep the reviews brief, however, so I have plenty of time to savor the lovely airline food and to enjoy the in-flight movie, Please Return Your Tray to Its Fully Upright and Locked Position, starring Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner. Who says this isn't the age of American Airlines comics blogging? Go ahead, tell me who said it wasn't! Tell me!


52 Week 152 WEEK 11: This comic is as fun as the movie Airplane! There's something diff'rent about the new Batwoman that I can't put my hoof on at the moment, but I've kinda got a big Bully crush on her. Do you think if I send her a nice buncha flowers she will fall in love with me? I bet she will. Anyway, this issue of 52 has a lot going on, and I'll overlook creepy obsessed sad Ralph Dibney for the moment for a lot of rip-roarin' action starring Reneé Montoya and the Question, who are fast becoming my two fave characters of this series. Aside from the new Batwoman, of course! I'm kinda sweet on her.


Simpsons Comics #119SIMPSONS COMICS #119: This comic is as fun as the movie Airplane! I almost always enjoy any issue of Simpsons Comics but the best of the best hit it out of the four-color park with a story that's as clever and funny as the TV series itself. This one does that: the saga of Homer's attempt to win Mr. Burns's Trumpish reality show could easily be a decent Sunday-night-on-Fox episode. And no pesky promos for The War at Home!


Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #10FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #10: This comic is not fun, much like the movie Fearless. And I'm giving it that mark only for the last couple pages, which is either a horrible betrayal of the Uncle Ben of Earth-2 or wherever he came from, or some sort of weird switcharoo that's horribly choreographed and confusingly drawn: either way it obviously isn't the end of Uncle Ben-B's story, but it left a horrible taste in my mouth and made me regret the fact that I earlier said "Aw, I trust Peter David with this Uncle Ben Returns storyline." I know there's more to come, but the twist is just so nasty and confusing that I can't tell what it is that's really goin' on, but this little stuffed bull knows it ain't fun.


Eternals #2ETERNALS #2: This comic is as fun as the movie Airplane! On the other hand, Neil Gaiman pulls off a solid mix of action, mystery, adventure, moodiness, and a nice Kirby homage without slavishly copying the King in his Eternals revamp. John Romita Jr. turns in some very nice art—this guy just keeps getting better and better in his art career, I think!—and while the twists and mysteries are less confusing if you're read a Kirby Eternals book, it's still stands solidly on its own as a decent "everything you know is wrong" comic. My only disappointment? That Marvel didn't actually set up a www.partiesbysersi.com website. Who doesn't want their next party planned by Sersi?


She-Hulk #9SHE-HULK #9: This comic is as fun as the movie Airplane! First, a bit of old business: just to let you know I did not skip She-Hulk #8 because I didn't care at all for #7. No, I simply missed it and its Civil War-themed jacket on the comic book store stand, and now it's sold out, and back issues are going for more green than Shulkie at the beach! (Haw!) No, I ain't droppin' this book, 'specially since the new one is a whole bucket o' fun, even from the cover. You all know I'm no fan of Greg Horn's covers, but this one actually works, is fun and attractive! Maybe it's just that Mister Horn draws good bling. Anyway, this ish features a wedding I'm much more interested in than the overblown Storm and Panther Wedding of the Century (after all, were T'Challa and Ororo married by Elvis?> I think not!), and even better, Jen faces off against her father-in-law J. Jonah Jameson, who is not having a good week!


Civil War #3CIVIL WAR #3: This comic is not fun, much like the movie Fearless. I dunno. I like the story possibilities the unmasking of Spidey that this series has brought us, but guess I'm just gettin' tired of characters I consider heroes actin' like jerks. Why is Mister Fantastic so narrow-minded? Why are the X-Men the equivalent of being conscientious objectors? Why is Iron Man completely betraying the friends and ideals he's stood for in over forty years of his own series? Why is Ben Grimm...Ben Grimm!...fighting his friends? The only high spot is the surprise last-page reappearance of one of my fave Marvel heroes. I imagine next issue he'll make me mad at him as well. Sigh.


Justice League of America #0JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #0: This comic is sorta fun, like the movie Air Force One. I don't mind the flashbacks and flash-forwards in this, which is basically just a teaser for next month's new series, but the unevenness of the "all star cast of artists" and the usual Brad Meltzer confusing and wandering dialogue isn't a big draw for me. I'm interested to see who will be in the new JLA, but there's no real resolution in here; there's not even a real story or plot. I won't hold that against a zero issue which is more about setting tone and mood, but the regular series had better have more substance and a faster plot or I'm going to get disappointed real fast.


Runaways #18RUNAWAYS #18: This comic is fun, just like the movie Airplane! But kinda sad at the same time. A cheerful and joyous cover that leads to an all-out fight scene and a death in the Runaways? Sniff. One of the more touching Marvel deaths in the past several years. Civil War could take in a lesson in writing characters you care about from Runaways. All that and The Best Line of the Week: "Killing him would be the biggest mistake of your life. And I'm factoring those shoulder pads into the equation."


X-Factor #9X-FACTOR #9: This comic is fun, just like the movie Airplane! Here's some proof that the basic idea behind "Civil War" is sound: like here and in She-Hulk, the Superhero Registration Act plotline can be interesting and compelling. If only what the Act itself was stayed consistent from book to book...it's almost as if the writers weren't communicating or there was no clear editorial control...but that can be possible, can it? Can it? Anyway, it's not that hard to make the X-Men look like careless jerks these days, but at least Peter David gives it some humor and believability to the situation at the same time he sets up a more specific role for X-Factor in the post-House of M Marvel Universe. Why...it's almost as if Peter has some sort of plot and game plan in mind...how unique is that?!?


Gumby #1GUMBY #1: This comic is the most fun comic of the week and can only be compared to the most fun airplane movie of all time, Snakes on a Plane! Golly. The sort of fun and charming comic that hasn't been seen in a long, long time, as two of my favorite creators, Bob Burden and Rick Geary, tackle everybody's favorite clay boy in an adventure featuring a wagon full of shoes, Mexican food, Invincible Man, evil clowns, and luvvvvvvvvvv. The art is colorful and gorgeous and everything down to the lettering is pitch perfect: really, you can be a kid or a kid at heart and you'll love this book. I highly recommend it, whether or not you're on an airplane, and I have a strong feeling it's gonna be on my year-end list of Most Fun Comics of 2006. Miss it at your own peril and loss of fun, kemosabe!

I have to go now. Hot towels are being passed out to everyone. Hot towels! I love flying!


Restaurant review: Bully's East, San Diego

In addition to excellent comic book conventions, San Diego is also home to many amazing and delicious restaurants. I've had some excellent food here: I had some wonderful Chinese the other night, and some of the city's best Mexican restaurants are found in the historic Gaslamp District and Old Town...mmmm...more sopapillas, please!

But for my last meal in San Diego I asked John to drive me to the famous restaurant with the great name: Bully's East, "A San Diego Tradition Since 1967." Wow! That's a long time! I was hoping they did not have food that old in the kitchen.

Bully's East

My trusty and well-thumbed copy of Access Guide to San Diego warned that as popular as Bully's is, there's sometimes a wait to get in, but we arrived in the doldrums of the mid-afternoon smack-dab between lunch and dinner. It was the perfect time for linner then, as we were seated quickly in a plush cushy booth in the dark cozy dining room. There were many amazing things to choose from to eat as the menu was almost as big as a book:

Bully's East: menu

Everything sounded so good that I couldn't choose, so I let John pick what we were going to eat. First up: delicious, delicious calamari. These came fast and were hot and savory, not too much breading but just enough crunch to add to the tender squiddy goodness. It surprised me that instead of the usual tentacled rings you get when you order calamari, Bully's serves 'em up in big generous chunks of octopus-meat: no skimping on the seafoody delight here!

Bully's East: calamari

Next up: a hot piping bowl of my favorite soup, French Onion. Ooh la la! I know some people think that French onion soup is simply gilding the lily, but to the taste buds of this little stuffed bull, there's not anything that can't be improved by melting cheese over it! And hey, look, Texas Toast! My second kind of favorite toast after French. I'm getting full already and the main course hasn't even arrived!

Bully's East: French onion soup

Whoo hoo! When we ordered the Prime Rib Sandwich, I thought it would be carved slices in a roll: I didn't expect it would be a massive full piece of delicious, juicy prime rib laid out on a bed of toasted bread! Bully's certainly gives good value for money, especially with their famous and delicious prime rib:

Bully's East: prime rib

Huh? What? Why are you all looking at me like that? What's the matter?

Ohhhhhh. No, don't worry, Bully fans. I simply had some of the delicious creamy garlic mashed potatoes. I did not sit and eat prime rib! And even if I did, it wasn't anyone I knew! Besides, who even knows what kind of animal a prime rib comes from? Probably some sort of amazing and yummy beast called the Prime Riblet. John would not tell me where a prime rib comes from, but he seemed to enjoy it very much. Me? I'm stinkin' of garlic and lovin' it!

So, in conclusion: when you're in San Diego, dine at the fabulous Bully's East, and tell 'em I sent you. You'll come for the name, stay for the surprisingly large portions, friendly service, and all the free paper napkins you can use!


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Comic-Con: The Last Stand Day

If you've been following my Con reports, you may have noticed I take a different approach to the hard-hitting news and fact blogging done—and done well, I'll add—by a lot of other bloggers at the Con. I'm not in the thick of things and haven't been privy to the (relatively few) big news announcements at the show; I haven't been to panels or parties or even much beyond the confines of the 1700 aisle.

What I have done is had a lot of fun.

Sure, go ahead: make fun of me for being all wide-eyed and happy about it. (Go ahead! Go ahead!) I'm sure not the whole con hasn't been sunshine and lollipops. From my vantage point, however, it looks like most everybody had a humdinger of a time, because I'm seeing a lot of delighted and cheerful people strolling the aisles. The vast majority of Con attendees passing before my little stuffed eyed were friendly, outgoing, and obviously having fun. I've been comparing this show a lot to BEA and aside from being a big-ass show inside a big-ass convention center, there's an air of energy and excitement, even on this, the final day. The place was still packed. BEA dies on its last day. You can argue that's because BEA is a business show and Comic-Con is just a fan gathering...but I think the lines dividing them are slimmer than that. Lots of people came to Comic-Con to do business—I've made some great contact with industry book buyers, comic book stores, other publishers and even promising new authors.

Even that cliché of Comic-Con, the costumed attendees, is a heck of a lot of fun to watch. The more cynical of you might scoff or laugh, but I was impressed and a little jealous: I guess I have to get working on my tiny Bender costume for next year.

I filled in a few gaps in my collection...nothing too dramatic, but hey! There's that issue of Doctor Strange I wanted. And that West Coast Avengers that's the sequel to it. And wow, lookit those beautiful small-press comics! And who doesn't want a marshmallow gun?

It was my first Comic-Con, and I went into it not knowing what to expect. So forgive me if I'm being wide-eyed and bushy-tailed about the experience. Maybe next year I'll be cynical about it, but the roller-coaster atmosphere of it was a kick and an adrenaline rush and I've enjoyed myself a lot. Sure, there's things I wish. I wish more major new project announcements that would astonish the industry would be announced in San Diego. I wish the outside news media would understand they're looking at a large group of highly motivated consumers of pop culture and not simply a buncha weird fans who like to dress up in costume. I wish Marvel would take making contact with their fan base more seriously by making an outreach at these shows beyond videogame and movie tie-in appearances. I wish a method could be found to decrease the in-the-sun waiting lines and eliminate the fat that fans were turned away at the door. I wish I had a soothing, cooling tub to soak my sore little hooves in.

But in the end, it was a valuable learning experience. With Stormtroopers. You can take it seriously or you can do it because your company has to or you can even just come for poops and giggles but you can't deny it's good for the fans and good for the industry and the medium of comics on the whole. Those who read some of my more ranting blogs know that I frequently challenge the industry to nurture and build the next generation of fans. In other words, what is the comic book world doing to make certain there is a comic book world in twenty, thirty, forty years? I'll quibble at the big publishers about their commitment to that end. But take a look around you as you stand in a booth or an aisle at San Diego Comic-Con and do an informal mental poll. There were pre-teen kids. There were teenagers. There were college kids, people in their twenties and thirties and forties. There were grandfathers and grandmothers. There were people in wheelchairs and babies in strollers. There were more women than I expected. There were more parents than I expected, and not just being dragged by their kids. In other words, look around you: the passion and purpose comics, fantasy, gaming and toys brings to people runs across all generations.

Which brings me to, as I promised, the most heartening, encouraging sign for the power and strength of the comics industry that I overheard: As I stood in the Norton booth, I overheard a boy in his early teens...maybe thirteen or fourteen...excitedly pick up a copy of Norton's Up Front and eagerly explain to his forty-something father, with passion and accuracy, just who Bill Mauldin was. And why he was important. And that he drew great comics.

Kid, I salute you. You are others like you are the future of comics: carrying on the interest, passion, and genuine enthusiasm for the medium of comics, its history and great creators. It's for people like you that I'm happy to come to San Diego Comic-Con. It's for people like you that Comic-Con is created.

See you next year in San Diego!

Other Comic-Con entries: TuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdayExtra #1 (Wolverine)Extra #2 (Eisner)

Comic-Con Extra: My dreams of an Eisner

Here I am with the Eisner Award I won Friday night:
Not really mine. Sob!

I tell a lie. It's actually one of Kyle Baker's well-deserved pair. He let me pose for a photo with it.

I tell a lie again. I snuck in to have my picture taken while he was busy looking at a portfolio. Hah! I have scored one on Kyle Baker.

The Eisner Awards are cool and beautiful and very very useful...not only do they show you have the admiration and respect of your peers, but I imagine you could use them for cracking walnuts. I will be sure to ask Kyle Baker next time I see him.

I can only hope that one day I win an Eisner Award for Best Comics-Relating Blogging by a Stuffed Animal.

But...sigh...I just know that even if they start a category for that in the Eisners, I just bet it will be won by Giraffo.
Giraffo!

Grrrrrrrr. I hate Giraffo.

Other Comic-Con entries: TuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdayExtra #1 (Wolverine)Sunday