Friday, December 22, 2006

Alex Ross: Wizard Interview follow up

I was quite happy to see Ross very quickly and very publicly respond to a number of posts, mine included, that suggested his initial comments could and were being perceived as homophobic. I thought that his remarks, which I have linked to, are worth reading in their entirety, which is why I've not exerpted them here.

Ross addresses all the points that have been raised by others, which is nice to see. He was paying attention. Yay.

Geoff Johns has also responded, and while I don't have to link to it, it was nice to see calming words on his side as well.

The problem here, and why I think that this really deserves a follow up is that the internet is pretty much forever. You make a comment that gets mis-interpreted and no matter how many denials its going to float around google and yahoo in cached server pages forever. Ross has certainly addressed all the points that were leveled against him and refuted them well. I would hate to think that people can google "Alex Ross Homophobe" for the next decade and get my first post without getting any of the follow up. Not fair to anyone. Period.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Marvel Trivia Game: A New Universe to explore

So Lis over at Kid Sis in Hollywood sends me a wonderful Chanukah present, the fancy-shmancy tin of the Marvel Trivia Game. I am, of course, delighted by the thoughtfulness of the present, and also quite sure that there are only about 2 or three people in my present universe that I can actually play the game with.

After all, this is not like pulling out Candyland or Scrabble. Likely, no one else but me is going to get a question about the Abomination, even if I can look up "abomination" in the dictionary and make two double letter and a triple word score out of it.

(One could make the case that reading Claremont's X-Men was a lot like playing Chutes and Ladders however. Almost done, almost to the end of a story... oh no, back to square two. You're now in an alternative universe. So sorry.)

However, once i start to look over the cards, I realize that what appeared to be a wonderful gift is, in fact, a curse! how could that be, you ask yourself, its just a harmless trivia game. And you would be right... on the surface.

Lets take a look at card 74 and you'll see what I mean.

The cards progress in difficulty as you read down. Question 1: What is Mr. Fantastic's name? Reed Richards. Fine, we're good there. Question 2 requires that you were reading West Coast Avengers of a particular time period to get the US Agent answer. Question 3 and 4 are pretty old school, but question number 5 puts us into knowing when that first Marvel Spotlight was published.

OK, so far so good. After all, we've had nicknames, secret identities, mistaken identities and publishing dates on one card. I'm 5 for 5. Then we look at another randomly selected card:
Well OK, I'm down with Mystique's adopted daughter, Rogue. Question 1, the easiest one down. Question 2: What team is M on? Huh? Who is M? M exists? How? I mean, I don't even know the character, how the heck am I supposed to know what team he's on?

Maybe this is an abberation, so I'll move to the third question: Tony Stark makes his million how? Well, as the long suffering Iron Man fan, I say Stark International as the answer, or making munitions to go all old skool and SHIELD on you. The card, however, has Stark Industries as the answer.

Now wait, you're going to have to start qualifying eras or I'm never going to get an answer right here.

Question 4: Who is Spider-man 2099's arch nemesis begs the answer: the 25 cent bin, which is not going to be on the back of the card.

I won't even go into the fifth question, which I thought was one of those Area 51s for Marvel: don't ask, they don't officially exist. you mean they actually did a story for the creation of Cap's shield? when? I'm not even sure that I would want to read it. I think that I'd rather there be some mystery in life, like the real origin of Wolverine. Some things Marvel is better off not doing.

The cards go on and on. You can see the problem here: there are just so many issues, so many that I don't recall reading, that I missed that I simply don't know about... its almost too much for my brain. It used to be that you could read the Avengers or the FF and actually keep continuity in your head AND YOU WERE PROUD OF IT DAMN IT! Now there are indestructible shield storylines and reboots and even New Universe questions and it's just too much.

Excuse me, I have some reading to go do....

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Alex Ross and Obsidian: the Wizard interview

Sorry to have been absent, but the holidays have taken so much time away from important things like blogging and comic books. I did run across this almost bizarre Wizard magazine interview by Alex Ross where he goes off on the character Obsidian, who has come out of the closet. The oddity, if you read the interview, is Ross' choice of words when describing how the character has been "handled".

Now, not following the character at all, I would have read the interview and not noticed a thing, but over at superunderwearperverts' blog, we have a gay man who has a real problem with the interview, and once you read his points, I can certainly see why.

I have greatly admired Ross' technique and many of the pieces that he has done. I even own a single page from Marvels, which is a phenomenal piece of work, and it was worth every penny. But I've always had a bit of a problem with him thinking that he's the only one who "gets" a certain character, and that "he's taking the character back to their roots", when, lets face it, there are a lot of roots to follow on the JSA, the JLA, the Wonder Twins.

Now I can see how a gay man might really be offended by Ross' comments to wizard, using odd "code words" that seem to imply the Johns might agree with him (which is even worse, since Johns might not agree at all; we simply don't know) about how Obsidian has been "molested".

I don't know. Does Alex have a problem with a gay character? I wouldn't have thought so, but this is an odd interview. The internet certainly puts a premium on watching what you say.

Amended to add: Please read the follow up post here:

Saturday, December 09, 2006

pistoleras baby!

The opening panel for this page... just finished, the ink still wet on my fingertips if not on the page.

Just had to share with everyone.

Sleep tight! Tomorrow we confront that which all artists fear: waking up and thinking that everything you did the night before was terrible and had to be completely redone.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Are You Hurting Comics?

Over at comic book resources, we've had Jimmy Robinson write a post entitled Are You Helping Comics? that seems to be generating a little bit of controversy partly for the irony of someone who has a What If: Wolverine coming out calling for the health of indie comics, and partly its rather rambling nature.

I'm resigned to the fact that Jimmy is probably muckraking a little bit, or a lot, and not in the good Man-Thing kind of way. Because while Jimmy is preaching to the converted, the national press is reporting that Dave Cockrum died in his Superman pajamas, as opposed to focusing on his being a pivotal force in the genesis of the modern superhero phenomenon known as the X-Men.

Should we be working harder to introduce people to comics and to educate them that comics are not all Archie or Superman but Maus and Jimmy Corrigan and Sandman and Vertigo? I think that the national press has actually done a lot of that over the last 20 years (Despite it "POW ZAP BAM" failings everytime a headline is to be written). Its the fallout from Dark Knight and Watchmen finally hitting ground level. The question really is: now that they have the idea that different works exist, how do we get them to read them? How do we keep them coming back?

The manga books seem to have very little problem with this, and in fact their marketing strategy has been pretty smart from the very beginning. They have outfoxed the American comic publishers at most every turn over the last couple years, which has been both funny and disheartening to watch.

How do we get them to keep coming back? Months ago I put together a post that spotlighted a Paul Levitz interview where he talks about DC's old efforts to break out of the format that constrained comics in the USA for so long. I keep revisiting that in my head, as well as all the variable sizes and printing options that are out there, wanting to see what sort of book would sell to an adult. I'm convinced that it has to be a correct combination of art, story and packaging to get adults to finally break down and buy the work.

Am I helping comics? You bet, I'm trying pretty darn hard.

Jimmy, by writing a What If?, what are YOU doing that is helping?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

JLA: Unintentional Porn

Just go here. One of the comments said it best: this is one of the best moments of unintentional porn I've seen in years!

In Review of: New Frontier by Cooke and Stewart

Is it wallowing in nostalgia to try and update your favorite myths? Is it, for want of a better term, fanwank to try and imagine a complexity to beginnings of the Justice League or Abin Sur’s crash that simply wasn’t there at the beginning? Does the origin of Jon J’onzz really need the Miller-ization that takes place in these beautifully crafted trades?

Such is the beguiling series of questions that plague me in regards to Cooke’s New Frontier.

It almost seems that the work cannot possibly be seen with rose colored glasses as an integral part of the evaluation. Cooke was doing the work with a real love of the material and shows, no question. He’s filled out things, answered questions, given us background motivation that would never have been possible in the late 1950’s. More than anything this is a work of love, one that dovetails fairly well with Robinson and Smith’s Golden Age book. If you have a love of the early Gil Kane Green Lanterns and Atoms, get nostalgic at the goofy ernestness of Sekowsky’s JLA’s, then you’re bound to love this series. It would be hard not to. Unlike a Miller Batman: Year One, this is not a radical re-interpretation of the beloved Silver Age characters, but a reaffirmation of their continued relevance.

It is also a rather nostalgic wankfest that has an almost Roy Thomas-level need to fill in the gaps and motivations of many of these same Silver Age legends. And that may not be a bad thing.

I think that this stands out in stark relief to the dismal handling of the characters that exists right now. Hal Jordan went insane? Not in this universe. He may be flawed, but this Hal longs for the stars and gets his wish. Nothing insane about this man. This Batman has none of the psychotic about him, but he is the true Dark Knight, in classic fashion.

Cooke’s art is lovingly colored, and the coloring is a delicious surprise here. Dave Stewart expands on the palette that would have made sense on the books of the early ‘60’s vintage, without making it appear too modern or not “of the time”. It’s a delicate task, and he performs admirably. I have to say that I’ll be ya that the art looks even better in the Ultimate version of this. Cooke puts in a million great touches: the Flash’s large Infantino head, the real reason Batman adopted his 1950’s look, the ins and outs of the Ferris-Jordan relationship, Lois Lane as a real investigative reporter. Its fun stuff.

My own touchpoint this series is simply not one of nostalgia. I never fell in love with those beloved-to-others Infantino Flashs, I never really dug the early JLAs. I come to this book with all the accumulated continuity without any of the childhood emotion. I reserve that for old Marvels. So in the end, I really enjoyed New Frontier, thought that it was a great ride, but I didn’t have me dancing around the room in childish wonder at seeing my heroes again as they once were: unsullied by years upon years of meaningless continuity and forced relevance.

And don’t we all want to do the Comic Book Happy Dance?!?

Friday, December 01, 2006

RIP Dave Cockrum

I've waited a few days to get the chance to post this, but I wanted to say a few things about Dave Cockrum, and those things do not include any tirades against Marvel for not taking care of him until recently.

Personal story, enter at your own risk: My second or third day in New York, and in the comics industry as a whole, I was working at the Defiant offices on W36th St., when in comes Dave Cockrum, who proceeds to sit at the drawing board next to mine and look over recently inked pages of his Defiant work: Plasm: Home for the Holidays. Dave, wearing splints on both wrists for carpal tunnel, was clearly not in the very best of health, but was jovial, cordial, just plain fun to talk with.

His one complaint on the Plasm pages: that they had taken the tail off of Nightcrawler in the background of a panel. "He's my character, my trademark." Dave explained to Jim Shooter, "I always draw him into my work somewhere." The inker had taken the tail out, worried about copyright violation. Jim agreed with Dave saying, "he won't be colored exactly the same, I'm not worried about it." "Do we have to send this back to the inker?" Dave asked.

"There's an inker sitting there with a brush in his hand,"says Jim, looking at me. I quickly touch up the artwork and put the tail back in. And I'm thinking, HOW GODDAMN COOL IS THIS??

Somewhere out there is the original art for the cover which i had the pleasure of working on, art that eventually was used as the back cover. I really wish that I had gotten that artwork back.

Dave was a huge Star Trek fan, and entertained everyone in the office with his fluent Klingon and i got the chance to sit there and talk to him about Marvel and the different covers that he worked on that i remembered. He was a great guy, and I have a fond memory of that day getting the chance to sit and work and talk with a guy that somehow never quite became the legend that he should have become for his body of work. It was day 3 of being a peer rather than chatting over the table at a convention. It still makes me smile.

So there you go, just a small memory from the long ago year of 1993, but one that I hold on to. Rest in peace Dave, you go well remembered by so many of us.

I will get this out of the way: after getting a picture of just how bad comics were in trouble in '76 and '77 from guys like Chuck Rozanski, we perhaps should note that the All New, All Different X-Men changed the entire industry, and created the last Great Marvel Property. think about it: everything else that we really see as a Marvel Icon comes from Lee/Kirby or Lee/Ditko (and I don't have to go into the listing of any of those names, do I?) except the modern X-Men. For them, get down on your knees and worship Wein, Wolfman, Cockrum, Claremont, Byrne and Austin. The six of them may be the reason that you can continue to buy comics today.