Saturday, September 09, 2006

What the Sam Scratch is goin' on here?!? #9

Underdog #4

And to think I've lasted this long without ever considering Simon Bar Sinister's genitals. Oh thank you so very, very much, Charlton.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Free Spidey!

Free Spidey graphicNo, that's not "free Spidey" as in Free Willy or "liberate the working-class spiders from beneath the heels of the bourgeois pigs," but rather, "Hey! I got a free Spidey and it didn't cost me one thin dime!"

Oh, okay. It cost me a quarter. But I got a nifty swell tabloid newspaper with it!

Starting a few weeks ago and running for the next six months, newspapers across the country are giving away free classic Amazing Spider-Man comic book serializations in their papers. I got mine in the tabloidy folds of Thursday New York Post ("Still only 25¢!"), a newspaper that makes The Daily Bugle look like The New York Times and that has featured such fine journalistic headlines like HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR. (And no, I'm not jealous just because I have never been pictured on "Page Six.")

Even if you don't subscribe to the sensationtastic Post, you can be on the lookout for Spidey comics in papers around the country: here's a full list of where the promotion is running. Boo, hiss: the Post is only running the inserts through October! I'm getting on the phone right now to Rupert Murdoch and giving him what for! (Also, for canceling Arrested Development and Firefly. Bad Rupert! Bad! Bad!)

This week's free Spidey is the first half of Amazing Spider-Man #2 and for a free giveaway it's a pretty cool item. It's comic book-sized and completely printed on newsprint (no glossy cover), but the reproduction of Ditko's linework is crisp and clean and the coloring is bright and vibrant. (I don't own the first Spidey Marvel Masterworks, but I'd would not be surprised if the reprints come straight from that book project.) It reprints the first twelve pages of Spider-Man #2 plus a gorgeous Ditko Peter Parker/Spidey pin-up ('member those?). There are only two ads: a "try to win a car by spending money texting a message on your cell phone" ad on the back and, on the inside front cover, an ad for, an online supermarket coupon service that appears to be sponsoring the reprint project, but which could take some lessons in proper usage of apostrophes:
Super Mom's

Spidey #2 coverThis is the fourth in the series (I'm very disappointed that I was aware of but completely missed #1-3). Since this reprinted the front half of Amazing Spider-Man #2, I'm guessing the first one reprinted Amazing Fantasy #15 and issues one and two split the first Amazing issue. Spider-Man #2 features two stories blurbed on the cover, the first appearances of the Vulture and the Tinkerer, and this week's free Spidey leaves off on a cliffhanger towards the end of the Vulture story. Well, less a cliffhanger than that they simply stopped after page twelve and statted "To be continued next week!" below the panel. That begs the question: since the cover of this free Spidey was a mildly reformatted reprint of the cover of ASM #2, what will be on the cover of next week's freebie which reprints the back half of #2? (For that matter, what was on last week's?) I'm wondering if they will be using "created for this reprint" covers like the fill-in covers (like this one by John Byrne) when they split early issues of X-Men across two reprint issues in Amazing Adventures in the early eighties.

Incidentally, despite the cover's black border, "collectible series" heading, and "not for resale" indicia, how long do you think it will take until people are walking into comic book stores, slapping this down on the counter and declaring "How much will you pay me for Spider-Man number 2 from 1963?" and then getting all moody and stompy when they're told to take a hike. Let us know when, not if, that happens, Mike Sterling!

In many ways, this whole project is what I like to call A Very Good Thing: it presents early, primal, back-to-the-basics stories for the general non-comic book reading public that mirror the Spidey seen in the movies and that folks will remember from the cartoon series: bold, action-filled, but uncomplicated by iron armor, Civil Wars and divulged secret IDs. In other words, this is the perfect introduction to comic books for kids and adults who have never touched them before, and I surely don't have to tell you that Lee and Ditko's early Spider-Man comics are pretty solid work in and of themselves: fairly straightforward in plot but dynamic, vibrant art and a story that's absolutely stuffed chock-full of the standard, primal Spidey elements everyone knows, loves, recognizes and absolutely associates with Spider-Man:

ASM #2 panel
Peter Parker: Science Nerd!

ASM #2 panel
Peter Parker: Science Genius!

ASM #2 panel
J. Jonah Jameson! Not as editor-in-chief of the Bugle, but as multimedia conglomerate chief and publisher of Now magazine. Ya gotta admire his sticking with the "all villains, all the time" press coverage. Years before the media coverage of O.J., the man knows that crime sell papers.

ASM #2 panel
Triple-J's appearance in this issue might surprise modern or movie-era Spidey readers, though: by later standards, the man's practically a pussycat! An immediate check, Jonah? Adjust his medications, nurse, he's not quite right!

ASM #2 panel
The first appearance of the Spider-Cam!

ASM #2 panel
There're a few things not quite in place yet.
Hey, where's your spider-sense, Petey?

ASM #2 panel
Oh, there it is! (Isn't this a gorgeous panel? Check out that pose and the shaded buildings behind Spidey...Ditko is a freakin' genius!)

ASM #2 panel
Speaking of genius, here's a beautiful sequence that's almost an early trial run for the amazing "lifting up the machinery" sequence in Spider-Man #33. Ditko=genius.

So, enough gushing, Bully. Do I have any complaints about this nifty freebie comic? Sure do, but they're sort of meta-complaints: where's the follow-up? This is a golden opportunity to get brand-new, never-before-seen customers into comic book stores and hooked on comics. But aside from a token line on the last page reading "To find Marvel Comics at a local comic book shop call 1-888-COMICBOOK," there's no merchandising follow-up. Don't make new comic fans dial a phone number, tell them 'xactly where to go! I don't know how the comic supplements are printed, but if they're printed separately for each newspaper (like Parade magazine with its local paper branding on the cover, for example), isn't there a way to offer a local comic book shop a page or half-page advertisement in each booklet? Failing that, if the comic supplements are printed exactly the same for all local markets, why isn't the Post's advertising manager on the phone to Forbidden Planet, Midtown Comics, and/or Jim Hanley's, telling them: "We've giving away free Spider-Man comics in Thursday papers through October...that would be an ideal day to advertise in our newspaper that if you liked the free comic, you can find more comics and graphic novels starring Spider-Man and other heroes, plus toys, cards, tee-shirts, videos and the whole kitten kaboodle, in your store!" Why not capitalize on one of the largest distributions of a comic book in recent history by advertising in sync with it?

I also wonder if it would have made sense for the Post to beef up its anemic comic strip section ( of the smallest strip selections I've ever seen in a paper that has one) by adding the Spider-Man comic strip and running a line above it each day: "Pick up Thursday's Post for your free Spider-Man color comic!" Now, I'm sad to say the Spidey strip these days is no great shakes (witness some recent examples at the always hilarious comic strip criticism blog The Comics Curmudgeon), but when have newspaperfolk been so blind of the concept of synergy? (Note: I'm not certain whether the Spidey strip runs in the competing Daily News or now; if it does, this renders my point moot.

Who's dropping the ball in this series of missed opportunities? Marvel, for not developing and requiring a specific growth of the industry plan to go along with licensing these freebie comics? The Post, for failure to capitalize on potential and growth and buzz on a running promotion? Is J. Jonah Jameson to blame? Whatever. Free comics are a good, good thing and I heartily recommend these fun and nicely produced Spidey reprints. But I'm a long-time comics-reading fan, so they are preaching to the converted with me. As I often ask: where is our next generation of comic readers going to come from? There were chances to bring some on board with this project, but while the ball isn't completely dropped, the inability to connect all these potential new comics fans with a specific comic book store is a juggling fumble for our team.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Unsettling Slang of Mister Clint Barton

From Avengers #109. All dialogue guaranteed verbatim!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Makin' Kevin beaucoup jealous.

Sure, he's got the fame, the wealth, the babes, the cool-lookin' blog, the Boing Boing traffic, and exceptional skill in photographing toys, but what have I got that Kevin "BeaucoupKevin" Church don't have?

A: An advance copy of the new Pet Shop Boys Catalogue book from Thames & Hudson!

Pet Shop Boys book! Ooooh, shiny! So shiny that like a vampire, it's hard to take a photo of it.
So reflective you could defeat Medusa with it. (PS: That sticker peels right off.)

Pet Shop Boys book! Almost 2000 illustrations, over 1700 in color, meaning every single one of your favorite albums and single releases gets featured in depth, including rare collector's items Kevin probably has squirreled away in his Uncle Scrooge-like Pet Shop Boys bin. Lots of photography in colors so candy-bright you wanna lick 'em! But don't.

Pet Shop Boys book! Also features stills from all of their videos plus filming history, and lots more besides: Christmas cards, Literally magazine, interviews, chronology, concert images, one-off special events, tour programmes, introductory essay and histories plus the proverbial much much more.

Pet Shop Boys book! It's the perfect gift for you or your pop-savvy friends.
Buy one, buy several, buy one for Dusty Springfield.

If you're a fan of Pet Shop Boys, there's no better way to celebrate their twentieth anniversary than popping on a CD or vinyl of their tunes and settling down in a comfy armchair with a cup of hot tea and this book. Kevin, stop drooling, 'coz your copy will be in your hands towards the end of September. The rest of you can find it in starting in early October at your local bookstore (as always, support your independent bookseller!), or if you can't find it or want it by mail, click to the right to pre-order it through at a discount. Tell 'em Bully sent you. If you don't, how can you expect to be taken seriously?

More good old fashioned nightmare fuel.

And here's the second most disturbing comic book cover in the history of the medium...

Flintstones and the Jetsons #12

Man, this is a whole new twist on the Fred/Barney relationship I didn't wanna even consider. No wonder, with that unending power struggle over Fruity Pebbles.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The most disturbing comic book cover in the history of the medium.

Some may say it's this one:
Crime SuspenStories #22

Others may say it's this one:

But they're both wrong. For this little bull's money, there's no more disturbing comic book cover in the history of the medium than this:

The Flintstones and the Jetsons #4

Monday, September 04, 2006

Seal of Approval

(Inspired by Tegan):

Seal of Approval

(Click on the seal to make your own!)

Today in Comics History, Labor Day: Extremely obvious Labor Day post

Batman: The Long Halloween #12
cover of Batman: The Long Halloween #12 (DC, November 1997), pencils and inks by Tim Sale, colors by Gregory Wright (?)

Let's start counting: how many comic blogs will feature the exact same image today?

Ah well, we're entitled to be lazy. Take the day off, spend it with friends and family, and enjoy yourself. Me? I'm off to the park for the last picnic of the summer, plus fried chicken, potato salad, lemonade and chocolate cake. See you tomorrow, and Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Long Live the Legion!

LSH logoI'm chuffed as a chipmunk to be able to announce that I'm now a member of one of the most prestigious and fun groups online: The Comic Blog Legion! This conglomeration of superpowered teens elite comic book bloggers brings together the créme de la créme of the comics blogosphere world to fight evil throughout the galaxy talk about comics, which I think you'll all agree is a worthwhile cause. The Legion is run by Redhead Fangirl—check her blog out today! The initiation process was tricky but I passed with flying colors: Redhead Fangirl and two of the other members of the Legion sat behind desks and asked me questions and then pressed buttons and bulbs lit up on the front of their desks which said whether they voted "yes" or "no" to my entry into the Legion. It kinda reminded me of something but I can't quite recall what. Anyway, I'm in, and I get to hang out at the cool rocketship clubhouse whenever I'm in town! Even if you're not a member of the Legion, you can get in on the fun by checking out the wide variety of totally excellent comics blogs at the Legion Home Page. You'll discover all your favorites plus dozens of new blogs to explore and enjoy. See? Everybody wins!

If you ask me, however, what the best thing about joining the Legion is, I'd have to say: the ultra-cool Flight Ring!:
Legion Flight Ring

Reviews: The smirk of Luthor

She-Hulk #11SHE-HULK #11: This comic is fun. The third or so issue in a row that I don't loathe the cover on, which tells me Greg Horn is maybe better painting light moments or comedy than cheesecake. (Although is it just me or does his Man-Wolf remind me less of this guy and more of this guy?) Anyway, this one's a solid mix of action, exposition, and a dandy "to be continued" moment that sums up what I like best about this book: it's a fun read from cover to cover but if you put it in context of the issues that have gone before you get a lot more out of it. In other words, it fulfills both the promise of the best of Marvel Comics (a compelling shared universe with a logically linear history) and fun comics (you like it and you wanna read more). I'm just a little bull stuffed with fluff so it took me up until about three pages before the revelation of why all the love-stuff has been happening to suss it out, which means good things for Mister Starfox, I guess.

52 Week 1752 WEEK 17: This comic is fun. Okay, okay, maybe I'm indulgin' my lowest-common denominator comics fun here, but I kinda like Lobo. There's something to be said for a DC Universe that contains not only nicely-nicely do-gooders but a few action-oriented tough guys who are in it for money, beer, and their own good. That's the joy and wonder of superhero comics to me: the diverse and often divisive range of characters in a shared universe. I'm more a fan of, say, the Superman: The Animated Series style Lobo than the Alan Grant Lobo, but this Lobo's got an appeal and it's fun to see him run into characters he hasn't interacted with before. (Although if I remember, didn't Vril Dox take away his "regenerate his entire body from a single drop of blood" power waaaaaay back in L.E.G.I.O.N.?) And who says a Lobo with "religion" won't be interesting to read...Jay and Silent Bob in Clerks II were a hoot and a half, too, without compromising their basic premise. As Lobo himself says on the cover (you gotta love a meta-Lobo), we're one-third of the way through the series, and next issue's blurb (Detective Chimp! Dr. Fate!) shows that with the addition of new characters to the mix, we're starting to ramp up phase two of 52. I'm still hooked, but it does get me wondering: is it all going to pay off? There's a lot of balls in the air; I'd hate to see any of them drop.

X-Factor #10X-FACTOR #10: This comic is fun. Best cliffhanger ending this that's how you get me chomping at the bit to read the next issue! Renato Arlem's artwork is a wee bit scratchy and murky, but I think that fits the mood and tone of this book, so I won't whine about Ryan Sook's departure. And, have I mentioned that I can handle Layla Miller much better when she's not proclaiming in every issue "I know stuff." (Leave that to Siryn this issue, although it's a funny setup). A quiet and plot-driven mutant book that has action but doesn't depend on it for its sole entertainment is okay in my book, and this issue gets a new storyline off to a good kick-start.

Snakes on a Plane #1SNAKES ON A PLANE #1: This comic is fun. Aw, c'mon, now what grade did you expect me to give this? It's big, it's dumb, it's goofy, and its has a higher ratio of sound effect captions that go "ssssssssssss" than any other comic published this week. The comics adaptation leaves out a handful of decent lines but otherwise keeps the set-up moving right along, although the real snakey action isn't really coming until next this probably would have been better served by being a double-sized comic complete in one issue, and certainly would have sold better if it had come out the same week the movie had. I could quibble that the comics version of Sam "Motherloving snakes" Jackson is less convincing than that in The Ultimates, but hey, what do you want from a movie-to-comic adaptation? These things (comics adaptations, not snakes) are rare beasts these days: they made more sense in an age before home video. But you can't fault it for being exactly what it is: a comic called Snakes on a Plane. For that, it's what it is an' nothing more: fun.

Solo #12SOLO #12: This comic is fun. All hail and salute Solo in its final issue, one of the best recent anthologies from the Big Two...okay, okay, the only recent anthology from one of the Big Two, but all the more to be praised for its creator-centric focus. Last up in this final issue is Brendan McCarthy, whose psychedelic art reminds me a little of Ralph Steadman crossed with Jamie Hewlett—fantastic, pastelly, hallucinatory stuff that crosses the slim wavy line back and forth between metafiction and superheroics in stories that get the patented Bully head-scratching but sheer admiration at the same time. In other words, it's that gut feeling that "I'm not certain if I know what's going on here but by gosh and golly, I like it!"...not unlike the 1970s era-Jack Kirby, f'r instance. Many of McCarthy's stories in Solo are concerned with not just comics heroes but the sheer art of creating comics themselves, and in the end, it's an appropriate theme for the final issue for a series that celebrated creators and the concept of creation: a very rare duck for DC. Not every issue was my favorite, but every single one had something that appealed to me. I'll miss Solo, and I think the comic book world is poorer for its passing.

All Star Superman #5ALL STAR SUPERMAN #5: This comic is fun. Okay, speaking of the art of creating comics, here's this week's Bully DIY art project: Get yourself a Post-It note, ask your parents to use scissors and cut it into a vibrant and energetic starburst shape, and then write on it: "Warning: Superman does not appear in this issue!" And then write below that, in smaller letters: "But you won't care!" Because yes, this is an all Lex and Clark issue, and (aside from a handful of ads) Superman absolutely does not appear in this comic book, but his presence is so felt he's practically a third party in the dialogue between Lex and Clark. Part of the fun is the way Luthor addresses his rants to Clark but they are truly directed to Superman; only we (well, and Clark) can realize how effectively he's communicating to the Man of Steel. It's a wonderful synthesis of words and art: both Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are firing on all cylinders here, from the slumpy, pudgy-lookin' Clark who is only obvious to us as a slouching Superman in a poorly-fitted suit, to the welcome reappearance of my favorite element from issue #1, Clark using his bumbling and stumbling to hide his super-skills in saving people. As a Marvel fanbull I still consider Dr. Doom to be my favorite villain, but Luthor's a close second, and if he were written like this all the time or even half the time he'd be pushing old Doomsie off that #1 pedestal. Witness his sharp reminder to Clark that Ma Kent is dead but only being concerned with the fact that Clark knows a skill (shorthand) that Luthor doesn't...and Luthor's determined to add it to his repertoire, even though it's genuinely pointless for Lex: he just needs to know everything. That's the fun in this issue; Lex proclaims his gospel throughout the issue, confident in his knowledge that he is aware and comprehends everything: everything, that is, except exactly who that is standing before him. (And who else but Grant Morrison's Lex Luthor would draw on his own eyebrow so he can give an evil glare?) Golly, I loves me some All Star Superman, and if this series and more specifically this issue doesn't get major awards by the end of the year, there's no justice in the comics world. I'm also awarding it The Best Line of the Week, and for the first time, it isn't even a line: it's Luthor's smug, self-satisfied smirk on page 3 as he's sentenced to the electric chair. Sure, it's not a line, except in Morrison's script. But look at the panel before that, and look at that panel, and a chill runs up your spine. That's the effect that Lex Luthor should have on you. And me. And humanity. And Superman. Best panel of the week, oh yes. But I'm not awarding it the Most Fun Comic of the Week. Why? What could beat Clark Kent?...

Action #842ACTION #842: This comic is fun....the most fun comic of the week, to be precise. I've told you how much I'm enjoying Batman and Detective, and now Action has become a favorite. I didn't like what I saw of Infinite Crisis, but if this is the aftermath—DC's flagship characters become fun and exciting again...then I'll forgive a little Pantha head-rolling. Not only that, but this is a Bully favorite that I woulda missed if it weren't thanks to a little help from my friends...friend Steven over at The Roar of Comics, to be precise, whose passionate praise of this issue ended with "GO. BUY. NOW. It's great!", resulting in one of my very few return trips to a comic shop between new issue day, just to pick up Action. Steven says it all so well himself that I won't blab on and on and say much the same stuff he did except not as well, but I'll just tell you how nice it is to see a competent and well-trained Nightwing at work and a Superman who can use psychology as well as his fists. Plus, a Simpsons crossover! This one passes the ultimate Bully-test of a fun comic: a sense of awe and wonder and that gotta read the next issue rush. I haven't read any Superman comics regularly since The Millennium Giants story made me drop the whole Super-line, but I'm back on board with Action. Thanks, DC! Thanks, Kurt Busiek, Fabien Nicieza, and Pete Woods! Thanks, Superman! Most of all, thanks, Steven! Awe, wonder, fun and the compelling need to read the next issue: isn't that what good comics are all about?

Ten of a Kind: Hey Kids! Comics!

(More Ten of a Kind here.)