Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reason #37 To Read Detective Comics

I know I endlessly plug this book, but the hardcover of Greg Rucka and JH Williams III's first six issues of Detective Comics was released today can now be pre-ordered for June 30 and I couldn't resist the chance to once again urge you to buy this book, especially since Jock (no I didn't forget his last name, it's just Jock) has taken over the art on this series. I'll give his artwork a chance, but sadly I feel that there is little hope it will live up to his predecessor's amazing work. If my constant gushing and this little flip through of the first Rucka / Williams issue doesn't convince you to finally read this series (I've met a few reluctant readers, I used to be one) then I'll stop the endless plugging. That is until the new Batwoman series starts up in June!

Detective Comics #854 from Comic Book Candy on Vimeo.

Batwoman: Elegy Hardcover
Publisher: DC
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: JH Williams III
If you like... Batman (obvious, but necessary to point out), Sandman, comics with lead female characters that are not and never have been raped, unconventional artwork that elevates the story, and if you want to finally listen to the Gotham's Sexy Jam playlist this will come in handy!

This post also serves as an honorary Awesome Two Page Spread feature, as there are at least three notable spreads in this single issue.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wait for it...

I can't offer you a drink, but I can assure you that more posts are coming. I have just gotten back from Australia, which means I have a boatload of new books to read (only 4 months worth) so expect my frequency of updates to improve very soon!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

From Comics to Source Material to Comics

As comics continue to converge with other artistic realms, my tastes in other media frequently has an influence my comic book purchases. I enjoy listening to Tori Amos, so I read Comic Book Tattoo, a compilation of stories inspired by her songs. The same applies in reverse; I liked Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, so I finally broke down and watched Buffy (and loved it). One should take risks in order to discover new things, just as you shouldn’t base all purchasing decisions on Amazon’s “if you like this, you’d probably like this” suggestions. But I’m happy to say that reading comics has exposed me to a lot of new works, whether in films, novels, or music. Here are a handful of my cross-media discoveries: 

Criminal (the comic) --- Hard Case Crime Novels
Some time ago there was an article in the back of an issue of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip’s Criminal about Hard Case Crime, a new publisher that’s been re-releasing classic pulp novels, in addition to contemporary writers’ takes on the crime genre. At the time the article intrigued me, but with so many great crime comics being released today, I felt like I was already getting plenty of noir in my reading diet. This past week I stumbled across one of Hard Case Crime’s re-releases, called Lucky At Cards by Lawrence Block (as seen at left with awesome new cover inspired by classic pulp novel artwork). I’m glad I took the time to give this book a chance, because reading just one example of the genre gave me a whole new appreciation for crime comics. And since this isn’t really a direct source material to Criminal, I wasn’t caught up in comparing a novel to its comic book counterpart. Rather, I could see how well contemporary comic writers like Brian Azarello (100 Bullets) and Ed Brubaker have been able to capture the essence of the crime genre, as originally written by authors like Block. The book also really makes me want to see a crime comic written about a card cheat, but with the contemporary treatment. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for other Hard Case Crime releases, as this genre just climbed up my list of must-reads.

Ender’s Game (the comic) --- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

As mentioned previously (and frequently) in this blog, I have a weakness for science fiction books. Dune, Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451; they all hover at the top of my list of favorite books. Seeing a sci fi classic on the Marvel shelf was a no brainer purchase. Not only did I discover a great comic, but it also motivated me to finally read the original novels. Reading the Orson Scott Card classic gave me a real appreciation for the series as an adaptation. It’s being split into several minis, so readers can be grateful that little will be left out of the comics from the source material. A win / win scenario for fans of the book and the comics (my only regret is that I know how the series is going to end). I’m expecting Marvel’s upcoming adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Ant by David Mack to have a similar effect.

X-Men (the Bryan Singer film) --- New X-men (Grant Morrison comic)

Fact! Up until the release of this film, I was very casual with my interest in comics. I only acquired comics when I happened to cross paths with someone looking to part ways with their old books. But then two very important things happened: I turned 16 and got a job. With mobility and expendable income, it only seemed natural to gravitate towards the local comic book store. Low and behold, I found a book where the X-Men were wearing leather. Like in the movie! (Congrats you evil geniuses at Marvel, you totally sold me on stylistically matching a book with its current film release…don’t count on it happening again). I also picked up less interesting fare during those experimental days, namely every other x-title, but who knows if I’d still be reading comics had I not been introduced to the genre with such a superbly written and well-drawn series? This book will always have a place in my nerdy heart for making me feel like it was written just for me, the new teenaged comic book reader. I still recommend this to first time x-book readers looking for a modern point of entry. Thanks Grant Morrison!

Umbrella Academy --- My Chemical Romance

This one isn’t a total sell. I still don’t care for the band My Chemical Romance, but if I happened to be a tween goth girl, I may be singing another tune. I do, however, have a lot more respect for lead singer Gerard Way after reading the awesome Umbrella Academy series (currently available in two volumes), and I no longer dismiss this band as shallow fluff for depressed teens. They are shallow fluff for depressed teens – with a potential depth of which I am simply unaware. With a great writer as their lead singer, they deserve the benefit of the doubt, even if I still don’t enjoy their music.

American Splendor --- A Lot of Jazz

Enter a total sell. With some Miles Davis and a slew of blues singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone as part of my collection, I’ve enjoyed the occasional jazz.  Reading about Harvey Pekar’s obsessive-compulsive love of the genre, and seeing the film American Splendor with its jazz packed soundtrack was the final shove I needed to start me exploring. The Dave Brubeck Quartet. John Coltrane. Thelonious Monk. I’m still working through the classics, but it’s been a worthwhile comic book related tangent.

These were natural progressions for me, but they may be a stretch for others. I’m betting on enthusiasm being contagious. I hope that what I write will occasionally inspire someone to pick up a book they wouldn’t normally consider reading, or listen to an album that might be a pleasant companion piece to their comic, or simply find entertainment in an unexpected place. That’s why I write this blog! And expect a whole lot of it in the future. I’m still in Tasmania, and I miss having a desk. My collection of comics back home, however meager it may be, serve as a wonderful source of images and inspiration. The local library is a temporary substitute for the comic book stores back home, and I’m missing those fresh Wednesday books. I’m two weeks away from returning to the states and it may be a while before I get back into the swing of things, but stick around, there is plenty more to be shared.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Randon Panel: Part II

Girdle, don't fail me now!

As seen in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 1

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

28 Reasons Why I could Care Less About Marvel’s Siege

I really don’t like to rag on stuff here. There are plenty of people that are doing a fine job of voicing their disappointment with the current Marvel offerings; but upon randomly picking up the “Origins of Siege” freebie from my bi-monthly comic book store visit, I can’t help but feel the need to add to the mix my own bafflement of this book. I am pretty late coming on the “who cares?” train, seeing how issue two of this event book comes out next week, my only excuse being that I am in Tasmania and only hear about things when other people blog about them or, in this case, I get a freebie that is meant to get me excited enough to purchase the first issue.

1. Worst Freebie Ever

The whole point of Marvel sending out these free preview books to retailers is to drum up a little excitement. This particular preview included “An All-New “Siege” Prologue” and a sneak preview of Siege #1. I can’t even come up with a clever remark about how dull this was. Norman Osborne and Loki sit around and talk about how Asgard must be removed from its current position, floating above Oklahoma. Never mind how logistically inconvenient this is to the people of Oklahoma, or how having a city of Gods in America might threaten Osborne’s position of power – no, Norman just doesn’t understand it so he doesn’t like it (that’s really the only explanation given). It makes more sense if you imagine Norman Osborne as Nixon talking about hippies.

2. “Norman Osborne is the new political and media darling”
Straight from the set up given in the first page. I didn’t buy it when DC tried to do it with Lex Luthor, and I don’t buy it now. This is why Senator Palpatine isn’t scary and the evil Emperor is – (fake) politics in comics is booooring.

3. “Your First Look at the Event Seven Years in the Making!”
Color me baffled, but was THIS what Civil War and Secret Invasion and Dark Reign and House of M and Decimation and World War Hulk and Avengers Disassembled and Captain America Reborn and every other event in the last seven years was building up to? REALLY?

4. Bendis Does It Again!
And by “it” I mean having characters use a tragic event as political strategy and “again” because that’s exactly what happened in Civil War. Only this time it’s seemingly planned, but not really? Or something? AAAAAAH

5. Nine Realms
Okay so these “realms” are floating rocks in space – which you can get to via rainbows. No, I’m not talking about Super Mario Bros. (I wish), but in fact Loki’s explanation for….wait, this didn’t explain anything! It’s useless!

6. Neil Gaiman Did It Better

This may not have been as stark a contrast if I wasn’t reading Sandman at the moment – but Gaiman’s use of the Norse mythology is 10 times better (sorry Bendis). I mean sure Marvel couldn’t have Thor trying to clean up his own vomit with his beard the way he does in the Sandman books, but still. In the context of Siege, hearing about the realms of “light elves” and “dark elves” creates the kind of unintended humor that makes this book reek of avoidability.

7. There Is Only One Siege.
And that’s Under Siege.

8. Siege? Really?
When I hear siege in my head, I can only imagine it being screeched by a drunken pirate. And with the sausage fest line up of “key players” in this book, Loki + Iron Man + Norman Osborn + Siege can only mean one thing. Did anyone else think gay porno when they saw the fake movie poster mock up in this preview? Not that there’s anything wrong with gay porn! It would be a great companion book for Marvel Her-oes.
Finally something for the ladies!
9. Loki + Osborne

10. Osborne + Loki
I really can’t stress how much I don’t care about either one of these characters.

11. Crossover Fatigue
Crossovers have reached a new level of obnoxious intrusiveness. This is a small event compared to the onslaught of forced tie-ins that was Secret Invasion, Civil War, and the most recent vague banner of Dark Reign. In other words, I don’t mind buying a Marvel title, but I do mind buying a “super big tie in you have to read to understand what’s going on oh yes you can’t avoid it buy it noooooow”.

12. Totally Unnecessary
Marvel has recently announced that the editorial direction of their books will change greatly in the next year. They feel that the superheroes of the Marvel U have had enough squabbling amongst themselves and that it’s time to get back to the good fight and focus on the essence of the characters…wait, is this the same publisher that is putting out Siege? Wasn’t the Skrull invasion a perfect opportunity for the superheroes to unite against an outside foe, setting aside their differences and getting back to good versus evil? No, wait. Without Siege we wouldn’t have a way to get rid of Norman Osborne! Because the Marvel Universe getting back to its roots doesn’t involve a bloated reformed villain pulling the strings. Unless he’s wearing a certain green outfit. Really that's what the Siege "storyline" is all about, getting Osborne out and having the Marvel U back to status quo.

And there you have it. Basically I hate any event that only serves as an explanation for a future event rather than tell a good story, it’s a formula for sloppy results. I think Bendis is a tremendous writer, but puppet master he is not. If Marvel really wants to “get back to its roots” then it has to start with good writing.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Comics + Music: Part II

I must confess I’m very proud of the mix I’ve put together for the graphic novel Blankets. An autobiographical novel by Craig Thompson, Blankets is a poignant tale of first love told from the author’s adult perspective. Thompson’s own experiences serve as a reminder to readers that identity has its roots in our early relationships, with siblings, with parents, with God, our first love; and that the heartbreak visited by children may never be fully understood or accepted, but informs the adults we become.

Many of these songs remind me of my own formative years, and more than a few are tinged with the inevitable pain that comes with first love. A few tracks are taken from the characters’ subtlety suggested tastes (you can see Radiohead and Pixies poster in the background of Craig’s girlfriend’s room), while others are inspired by Thompson’s religious upbringings. Lastly, the winter setting of the novel, and the exploration of intimacy through sleep inspired some of the selections. Several songs encompass many of the novel’s themes, evoking feelings of first love, slumber, winter AND religion, making this mix a personal achievement. My original offer still stands; anyone who wants a copy need only ask and provide postage!

Tori Amos
Song: Winter
Album: Little Earthquakes

The Cure
Song: Love Song
Album: Disintegration

Sunny Day Real Estate

Song: In Circles
Album: Diary

Rocking Horse Winner
Song: From Miles Away
Album: State of Feeling Concentration

Regina Spektor
Song: Samson
Album: Begin to Hope


Song: Thinking About You
Album: Pablo Honey

The Pixies
Song: Monkey Gone To Heaven
Album: Doolittle

Smashing Pumpkins
Song: In the Arms of Sleep
Album: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

The Beatles

Song: Golden Slumber
Album: Abbey Road

Jens Lekman
Song: A Higher Power
Album: When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog

Elliot Smith
Song: Everything Reminds Me Of Her
Album: Figure 8

Jose Gonzalez
Song: Crosses
Album: Veneer

Sufjan Stevens
Song: Oh God Where Are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)
Album: Songs From Michigan

The Smiths
Song: Asleep
Album: The World Won't Listen

P.S. - Sorry for the lack of updates lately. Went out of town for a few days and didn't have the good sense to have a "scheduled" post. Many more updates to be seen this week, promises!