Primarily a DC guy, Image creeping up charts, Marvel a distant third. Read more comic book thoughts at http://royals13-alska.blogspot.ca/
It's often said that one should stick to what one knows - this is especially useful advice for those wishing to write. Where once I was writing to help learn about myself and muddle through "emotions" and "feelings" now I've decided to go back to writing for the sheer joy of it - something I'd forgotten about. I've become so passionate (and unabashed about said passion) for comic books and the culture that goes with it that I've decided to use that as my muse and launching point to (for what, the fourth time?) revisit this blog.
There'll be no rhyme or reason to this, regarding schedule (or to a degree, subject matter) - when I want to write about something I've read or an event related to the culture, I will. You can decide when or if you'd like to read it. I don't have an agenda (although, it would be nice to spark some interest in this "world" amongst my peers) other than to write and share. As a side benefit, I get to listen to music while I do this, so periodically I may drop a few lines regarding something that's caught my ear (tonight I have the Dark Was The Night compilation on - highly recommend it). Commentary regarding my grammar and structure is unnecessary. The style I employ is atypical and I get that. It's often rather intentional. So, you know, just relax and enjoy. If you aren't careful, you might learn something.
New Comic Book Day is a couple days away (henceforth referred to as NCBD) as I'm sitting on a Monday here, but there's never a book or two far away from me (especially since I DO have a Comic Book room). I'm not going to follow any particular format with this, if artists/writers do something that I think is worth mentioning, I will, the only certainty will be the title (always first), publisher (in brackets) and issue number (if applicable). In no order then, here's a couple books I've read or attempted (yes, I have the ability to walk away from something that has no appeal to me after valiant attempts to have it win me over) over the past few days;
Spyboy (Dark Horse) - "Spy-School Confidential"
This was a collected issue (aka graphic novel or trade paperback*) containing issues 14-17 of the regular series. Full disclosure? I hadn't read issues 2-13. Typically these trades represent new story lines and "jumping on" points for new readers. I didn't find this to be the case here and that was disappointing. The writer was someone I was familiar with (Peter David), albeit from slightly more..."serious" (?) work with Marvel Comics and that was what attracted me to this (that, and the price was right). Also in the interest of full disclosure, I'm not a big fan of "manga" style artwork, which is what Pop Mhan tended to deliver. I say "tended to" because it was sporadic. The colours were bright, the women gravity defying and in general this was aesthetically consistent with what we're accustomed to. When trying to express facial emotion however Mhan would seem to alter his style and faces would look like something out of early Astro Boy cartoons. Didn't work for me. Between the art style and my lack of familiarity with the characters, it didn't take long before this became a "Pass" book. As in, I'm going to pass it on to someone else to read.
Various Batman Titles (DC) - "Requiem"
Publishers are always trying to get more money out of us poor folk and a traditional way is the "crossover" storyline. Something so massive occurs in title X that it can't be contained with a singular storyline and bleeds into related titles. Of late is the Forever Evil and Villain's Month books we're seeing all September - but I'm going to touch on those last. Prior to Forever Evil we had a storyline go through a number of the Bat-books called "Requiem" in which Batman must deal with (read: death) the loss of Robin, and this particular Robin happened to be his son. First. crossovers can be tricky to pull off successfully, you have multiple artists and writers trying to convey a consistent story aesthetically and often emotionally. Secondly, within the big picture, you still have your own characters and storyline to deal with. The greater the number of titles used in the crossover, the more likely the message can get lost/distorted or flat out misinterpreted.
Thanks to my friends at The Silver Snail (do please check them out, I can't even begin to say enough good things about the people that are there - they've become like family to me) and their back to school sale, I was able to pick up a slew of these titles (it occurred in books I don't typically read and wasn't prepared to pony up the extra cash for each week). I remember the last time a Robin had been killed and the incredible event it was for DC. There were phone numbers for fans to call and vote on how they wanted the storyline to end - Live? Or die? The books exploded on the after market, people scrambled looking for them, it was in major media. The story involved Batman, Robin, Joker, Superman and even some political intrigue involving the UN. It was well written, the art was fantastic and in general, worth the hype. This time around though it all felt very sudden, sort of an "oh right, next month there's this thing, Robin is going to die. Stay tuned". Still, the response to the tale that followed was enticing, I wanted to see how this would play out. Over the course of 4 different titles (Batman, Detective Comics, Batman Incorporated, Batman and Robin) I witnessed how each creative team (writer & artist/inker) attempted to express the range of emotions a father who is incredibly emotionally internalised was forced to deal with the murder of his (10 year old) son. There was the typical "I'll just punch my pain away" stuff, but below that and especially in the "supporting" characters (of which there were many, and of whom we know to be significant characters in their own right) we got to see some really convincing emotion and pain. They didn't lose a "hero" or "sidekick" - they lost a friend, a brother (which was particularly well conveyed) and a son. Previous Robins were "wards" of Bruce Wayne, so death and departure were easier to convey I suspect because they weren't "blood". This was a legitimate challenge to the creative teams because intelligent and discerning readers want more nowadays than fights, tights and boobies. We've grown up with these characters and if done properly, when they hurt we should as well. I didn't pick up every single issue from the storyline and in retrospect I wish I had taken the time to dig around for them because I think in it's entirety the story was really well done and handled well. Batman has always been stoic, emotionally he was portrayed to be unbreakable and impenetrable. It's refreshing to see DC (who as we have learned of late to be frighteningly conservative - more on that later) take a chance and trust it's creative teams (also a rarity apparently) to try and add layers to this mythic figure.
Forever Evil/Villain's Month -
I love that DC has chosen to use every September to do something unique that utilises the entirety of their books. First they launched the New 52 (every DC book was cancelled, then relaunched with new number 1 and continuity), then we got 0 Month (all issues in September were issue number 0 and stories were primarily "origin" types) now we get Villain's Month wherein every DC title is re-named after that character's primary villain (i.e. for Batman we got a Joker issue, for Superman we got Lex Luthor). To really take it up another level, all the books had fancy lenticular 3-D covers (there are also "regular" covers available) - the catch? The books had to be printed overseas in predetermined numbers. Due to this process, there was no overprinting, no reprints available and limited quantities. Add to this rumours of low print runs, marketing blitzes and media saturation. Anyone who understands the basic fundamentals of economics can see where this was headed. E-Bay listings before the books were out (weeks in advance in fact) had the books at triple and quadruple their cover price. It took me back to the crash of the nineties. The nineties saw "speculators" who believed they could retire off the earnings from selling their comic books - so they bought case loads. Nearly ruined the whole industry. Back then, we saw print run records for a single issue break almost weekly (to an eventual record of 7.1 MILLION for X-Men #1 in 1991; as a comparable Batman #1 was roughly 218,000 in 2011). I guess supply and demand hadn't been properly explained in economics classes.
ANYWAYS. Long story short, by the time they've all been released I'll likely have read 8 of the 52, I'll write something up on them then. I just didn't want to completely ignore them as they've been pretty dominant news. So much so that we're seeing some real challenges within the hobby. Retailers taking advantage of customers, customers trying to take advantage of retailers. People being particularly douchy. Ah how I love the way a buck can make a person change.
* A quick note. In my mind, and traditionally, a "Graphic Novel" was new material written, drawn and presented in a unique format (the Marvel Graphic Novel series, DC's The Killing Joke). A "Trade" is/was a collection of previously published material - reprinted and repackaged. Somewhere the terms seem to have become interchangeable. Is it a big deal? No. Am I and particular? If you knew me you wouldn't ask such a ridiculous question.
SO, this is the first of what I really hope will be a consistent effort. It's not typical of what you might see in "reviews" but I never seem to do anything in a typical fashion. Truthfully, I suspect this will be less "review-y" and more "comic book meandering". Deal with it ;-) I welcome feedback, because the true joy of this hobby, to a degree for me anyway, is the conversation and points of view I get to hear and share with my peers and friends. I make no claim to any of the historical data being 100% accurate but it is, to my mind very close and at the very least reflective of the point I'm trying to make.
Thanks for reading and as a very close friend would say,
Take it slow.
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