6.30.2008

Wall-E: The Movie: The Review

by Betsy

As we walked into the movie theater to see Wall-E, my husband remarked that we were undoubtedly seeing the movie for the first of many times. Such is life with a three-year-old, and such is the power of Disney-Pixar. I'm happy to report that this movie is so good that it will probably take hundreds of viewings until I'm sick and tired of it.

Pixar definitely sets the bar high, and Wall-E more than clears it. In fact, I'd say this movie surpasses modern classics like The Incredibles and Finding Nemo.

The year is 2700, and humans have covered the Earth in trash to the point that they've all left for an extended cruise in space while robots clear it up. Unfortunately, all of them have broken down, save one, our hero Wall-E.

Wall-E may be a robot - he barely even speaks throughout the entire movie - but his humanity shines through, immediately endearing him to me. He has a natural curiosity, seeking out interesting objects in the trash and bringing them home. And, he wants nothing more in the world than love. When EVE, another robot, lands on Earth, their unfolding romance is nothing short of beautiful.

Wall-E and EVE end up on the spaceship with all of the humans, and while Wall-E has human characteristics, the humans themselves are floating around space, robotically slurping down huge drinks, constantly plugged into computer monitors, fat, and disconnected with the world. How the rest of the movie unfolds, I'll leave to you to discover - I'd hate to do any more than I already have to keep this lovely movie from unfolding for you as it did for me.

Pixar has yet to make a bad movie; even its lesser offerings (A Bug's Life, for example) are better than most animated movies. What makes Wall-E stand above even such great animated movies is its broad appeal. Kids will love it (and my son did) because it's funny and charming. Adults will love it too - not because it's tolerable as kiddie movies go, and not because it makes pop culture jokes over kids' heads (I'm looking at you, Shrek. You too, Aladdin.) Instead, Wall-E is a movie that is true family entertainment, equally delightful for all ages, simply because of the strength of its story.

I have no doubt that I will end up watching Wall-E with my son many, many times. I also am confident that every single time, it will be with a smile on my face.

Rating: A+

Read more!

DC Comics -- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

by Chris

With all the talk of DC comics in the news lately, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at what they're doing well and what they're not doing so well. Most of the press recently has been negative, what with Chuck Dixon leaving, Warren Ellis making comments on his Bad Signal e-mail, and other creators complaining in general in regards to the editorial direction or lack thereof. After Doug's article last week about the company, I figured I'd throw in my $0.02. Are DC's comics these days really that bad? Does this reader have anything good to say about the company? Read on and find out!

The Good:

Batman -- Sometimes, I have no idea what Grant Morrison is doing with a story, but then, a few issues down the road in a different story arc, he'll pull stuff in that he introduced six months ago and make it awesome. He did it with New X-Men and he's doing it now with Batman. Combine that with Tony Daniel putting in the work of his career and you've got an awesome book.




Detective Comics -- Paul Dini's one and done (sometimes two and done) stories are refreshing in these days of story arcs that take six months to get to the payoff. Then there's Dustin Nguyen's moody and gorgeous artwork. Put them together and you've got something stellar. Month in and month out, these
guys put together an engaging, well drawn story.





Justice Society of America -- Okay, I have no idea whose legacy half these new characters are carrying on, but I'm still enjoying this book immensely. The passion that Johns (and Ross) have for these characters just bleeds onto the page, which translates into some amazing stories. With so many characters, there's just a ton of stuff going on in each issue, which is so much the opposite of a lot of books these days. Dale Eaglesham doesn't get a lot of mention when talking about this book, but his artwork is very good.


Action Comics -- While I was pretty underwhelmed by Richard Donner's run on the book, Johns has really taken the bull by the horns, so to speak. No one has ever gotten me interested in the Legion of Superheroes, but that arc was amazing. Johns really made me care about them and really got me emotionally attached to their relationship to Superman. Now I'm really looking forward to the Brainiac story.




Sinestro Corps War -- Now THAT is how you do a crossover. I didn't even buy the Green Lantern Corps issues and still was able to follow the story and enjoy it thoroughly. Great character moments, plenty of action, and engaging storytelling, much unlike the rest of Johns' run on the book (see below).






The Bad:

Green Lantern -- Aside from the Sinestro Corps War storyline, this book is pretty boring. Why do they feel it's necessary to take six issues to re-tell Hal Jordan's origin? I can maybe see three with all the seeds they're planting for upcoming storylines, but six seems excessive, especially when nothing's
really happening. And don't get me started on the arc early in Johns' run with Hal getting shot down in Chechnya. Put me right to sleep. The one redeeming quality in all of this is Ivan Reis' gorgeous artwork.


Kurt Busiek's Superman run -- I love me some Kurt Busiek. He's one of my favorite writers. How does he turn out almost two years' worth of boring Superman stories? I wasn't engaged by any of it. I enjoyed the Carlos Pacheco artwork on the few issues he was on, but aside from that, I can't believe Busiek wrote these issues. I'm looking forward to seeing what James Robinson will do with the book.




Wonder Woman -- When Greg Rucka took over this book before Infinite Crisis, it was the first time I'd bought more than three issues of the book. Rucka had such brilliant ideas and such a grasp on the character that it was an amazing read each and every month. Then Infinite Crisis came along and the book sunk right down into mediocrity and it hasn't pulled itself out yet. Allan Heinberg's run was a train wreck from the start. Jodi Picoult's arc was unbelievably cheesy and felt like it was written in the 70s. Now Gail Simone is writing it and I'm surprised at how un-engaging the stories are. I have faith in her storytelling abilities and Aaron Lopresti is doing an excellent job, so I'll stick around for a while, but how hard is it to get this book right?

Flash -- This book had been awesome for 10 years. Mark Waid, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, and Geoff Johns had elevated this book to one of the best superhero books on the stands. As soon as Johns left, it died. The last few issues before it ended was painful to read. The series with Bart was mediocre at best. Even Waid couldn't re-ignite the magic he had. Now Peyer has come on and we're again at mediocre. I think DC has had problems relaunching a lot of their books post-OYL in general, which points to bad editorial planning.


The Ugly:

Supergirl -- Okay, the first year and a half of this book were usually a bit confusing as to what exactly was going on, but it was crystal clear compared to what the new creative team is doing. I dropped the book after two issues because I had absolutely no idea what was going on. The story wasn't explained, it was just Superman sending Kara after some aliens into another galaxy or some such and then all of a sudden she was back on Earth. There would be panels with no dialogue and no narration and the artist didn't help us understand what was going on. I gave up. I'm still upset they canceled Peter David's version of the book. The new creative team of writer Sterling Gates and penciller Jamal Igle takes over in October. It will be tied in quite closely with Robinson's and Johns' books. Hopefully, they can make the book interesting and relevant.

Crisis of Infinite Mini-Series Tie-Ins When you have to read three or four different mini-series to understand what's going on in an additional crossover or even your favorite monthly book, there's something wrong. Teen Titans, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman all became unreadable during the Amazons Attack story unless you were buying the mini series. Ditto Superman and Action Comics at times during Countdown. If you didn't read the four tie-in mini-series, Infinite Crisis was difficult to follow. And now I've seen at least six mini-series tying into Final Crisis. I'll tell you this: I won't be buying any of them.

the whole Chuck Dixon thing -- So we don't know the whole story behind this, but when the guy who made Robin readable again and was doing a very good job on Batman and the Outsiders suddenly leaves the company, something isn't quite right. The man was a major force in the Batman family of books throughout the 90s, wrote Robin, Nightwing, and Birds of Prey for years, and has a fairly large fan base. I figure you would find any way possible to keep a guy like that working for you.

Late books and fill-in creators -- I was going to write something about how bad it is to have to have a fill-in artist on the second issue of Titans, but I was informed that Ian Churchill injured his hand and physically couldn't do the work. However, there are plenty of other places where DC has dropped the ball, with Action Comics and Wonder Woman post-OYL being the worst offenders. Then we've got fill-in art on Final Crisis, entire fill-in creative teams on Batman and Detective Comics last year, and don't get me started on yanking Tony Bedard off of Batman and the Outsiders before it even got started. They seem to be getting better with this type of thing, though.

So, while there are some areas where DC could improve, there are definitely some good books begin put out, too. I haven't been reading Countdown, so I can't comment on that book as far as editorial direction goes. I also haven't been following the whole thing with Grant Morrison and his complaints about how the editorial team has handled some of the stuff for Final Crisis. They do have a handful of books that are extremely good right now and a few that could become
very good once they find a solid direction. I'll be sticking around for the foreseeable future.
Read more!

6.28.2008

In Memoriam: Michael Turner

by Matt

The crew here at the Bad Genious are saddened to hear of the passing of artist Michael Turner after a long battle with cancer. Our deepest condolences goes out to his family and friends. He is a talent that will be missed tremendously and we will never forget what he offered to the industry.

Those wishing to send their condolences to Michael Turner's family are encouraged to send them to:

Aspen MLT, Inc.
C/O Michael Turner
5855 Green Valley Circle, Suite 111
Culver City, CA, 90230

Aspen Comics also encourages anyone wishing to make a charitable donation in Turner’s name can do so to his requested charities, The American Cancer Society or The Make-A-Wish Foundation. Read more!

6.27.2008

WANTED: The Movie: The Review

by Jon Quixote

I rolled my eyes when some of the advance word on Wanted compared it to Fight Club. I'm not much of a Mark Millar fan, and I never read the comic this flick was based on, but given the trailers, the Millar comics I have read, and the reputation Wanted had when it came out, I imagined an annoying faux-Palahniuk gloss liberally spray-painted on the plot in an effort to justify the copious & stylistic violence that is the raison d'etre for this latest comic book blockbuster.

But as it turns out, the times when Wanted is pretending to be Fight Club were the only times I actually enjoyed this laughable action movie.

The Fight Club rip-off (down to James McAvoy dressing like Edward Norton for Halloween, complete with nasal voice-over and IKEA references) actually gives Wanted a thematic spine that is more or less nurtured to fruition. McAvoy's character, Wesley, is a corporate drone who spends much of the first act bemoaning his lack of inaction in his dully out-of-control life. When he is recruited into a secret society of assassins, his new life can be described as anything but inactive, but it's not until he learns to start knitting his own sweaters that he actually becomes more than just a sweatshop worker in a different, bloodier factory. And that is the thread of a pretty good movie.

But that thread is woven into a pattern that would be banal and clich├ęd if it wasn't so unintentionally hilarious. If one was to spoof this movie, one couldn't do better than just to use the original script and add some wonky sound effects and Bob Saget voice-overs.

Exhibit A: This secret society of assassins that McAvoy is recruited into? This cabal that has been around for a thousand years, sculpting the political landscape with the edge of a blade? They get their orders, their targets, from... string.

I am not making this up.

Yes, this yarn revolves around a magical loom that tells Morgan Freeman who to shoot. The third act contains the realization that killing people for a millenium on the orders of the Fruit Of The Loom grapes might not have been the soundest business plan. And lo, Wesley takes control of his own destiny. At least until his pants start telling him to burn things and his shoes suggest they go rape a nun.

But the screenplay is not the only source of inadvertent hilarity in this movie. I can't finish this review without commenting on the soulless, over-the-top action sequences. I know hyperbolic post-Matrix gun play was going to be the driving thrust of this movie, but it's all so over the top here that there is neither thrill nor tension - it's just CGI spectacle with all the depth of a laser-light show. And though the craziness is better when played with a wink, too often it's all so damned grave. At the movie's climactic, operatic moment - it involves Morgan Freeman throwing knitted death warrants at everybody and a magic bullet that just keeps going and going - I just burst out laughing. Even Freeman, with a voice that can order penguins to their doom, can't sell it. He tries very hard, but it's all too silly.

Verdict: Some interesting ideas are crushed by an onslaught of stupid. C

Read more!

Creator APB -- Artists Missing in Action

by Chris

We all have favorite creators that seem to disappear from the industry. There are a lot of artists I enjoy whose work I no longer get to see unless I pull out back issues from my long boxes. A lot of them I consider to be better than some of the people getting work today. Of course, some of them chose to leave the industry and pursue other paths. Some of those guys have come back, at least for a while, like Matt Broome on Rick Remender's The End League, and it's nice to see them working in the industry again. Here are a few others I'd like to see make a return. Yes, it's heavily weighted with early Image guys, but that's when I really started getting into comics, so they heavily influenced my tastes.



Stephen Platt -- Platt made a huge splash with his premiere on Moon Knight #55. Rob Liefeld snatched him up quickly after that. After several Prophet mini-series, five gorgeous issues of Soul Saga, and the Wolverine/Cable: Guts and Glory one shot, he disappeared from the industry. I hear he's doing storyboarding in the film industry these days. His hyper-detailed artwork just leapt off the page and I was always amazed at how many bullet casings he could squeeze into each panel. I would love to see him come back and do SOMETHING, even if it was just a mini-series. What I'd really like to see, though, is him finish up the rest of Soul Saga.

Jeff Matsuda -- Matsuda started out with Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios in the early 90s, moved on to Marvel, and his last work was on Kaboom with Liefeld's Awesome Comics. While his style evolved over the years, it was always energetic and nice to look at. His storytelling style was very kinetic, which
added a level of enjoyment to the books he worked on. Like Platt, I've heard that he currently does storyboarding for films. I'd love to see him come back and do another Kaboom mini with Jeph Loeb.


Greg Capullo -- Capullo drew close to 100 consecutive issues of Spawn. Not only was he dedicated and consistent, but his artwork was gorgeous. His Creech series just blew me away. Aside from the occasional cover for Spawn these days, he doesn't seem to be doing anything in the industry. I don't know if that's by personal choice or industry indifference. If it's the latter, it's a crime. He should be on a high profile gig somewhere.



ChrisCross -- Aside from a couple of fill in issues in 2007, ChrisCross hasn't had any serious work since his Firestorm relaunch. I suspect it might have something to do with his tirade about the coloring on that book. Still, this is ridiculous. His pencils were gorgeous and his storytelling was very good. I absolutely loved his run with Peter David on Captain Marvel. I always wanted to see him get a crack at a Spider-Man title. I think he'd be a perfect fit.



Scott Clark -- The original artist on Stormwatch, Clark's last major work was on the second volume of Alpha Flight. He was very good at action scenes, which fit perfectly with those two books. Not sure what he's up to these days, but I'd love to see him get some work, maybe on the new Stormwatch relaunch. I think he'd even be a good fit for the new X-Force book.





Some of the artists I was going to mention in this column have actually started doing some fill in or mini-series work, like Joe Benitez, Ryan Benjamin, and Joe Madureira. Before his run on Uncanny X-Men, Billy Tan would have been on the list, too. It's nice to see them coming back into the industry and hope they put more stuff out in the future. Which artists that haven't done any work in a while would you like to see come back to the industry?
Read more!

6.26.2008

Dan DiDio’s Not Dead Yet!

by Doug Smith

In a recent interview, DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio said, “"We do an examination of what it takes to be a hero in the face of total defeat, and, more importantly, finding the will to continue to fight against overwhelming odds”.

He was talking about Final Crisis, but he could have just as easily been talking about his job.

In case you missed it, the last two weeks have not been kind to Mr. DiDio. There was the news that Marvel trounced DC in May, with a better than 50% lead in both dollar sales and market share, and Final Crisis - DC’s big summer event book – posting less-than-stellar sales. There was Grant Morrison basically throwing DC’s editorial staff under the bus from Speed about the continuity confusion surrounding Final Crisis and the books that supposedly led into it, Death of the New Gods and the fan-scorned weekly Countdown to Final Crisis; comments such as “I requested a moratorium on the New Gods so that I could build up some foreboding and create anticipation for their return in a new form … instead, the characters were passed around like hepatitis B to practically every writer at DC to toy with as they pleased,” as seen in this interview, hardly shine a positive light on DC’s editors. And then things really blew up when the recently-departed-from-DC writer Chuck Dixon said “I did not quit", and then replied to this column at CBR with some comments that seemed to point the finger squarely at Dan DiDio as being the reason for his departure; Newsarama picked that up, and things continued to snowball

These three events were enough to throw fuel on the already-burning fire of fan discontent, so that by the time Warren Ellis issued a newsletter with a cryptic hint about a big change coming in the DC offices, DC fans had DiDio headed to the unemployment line and Jimmy Palmiotti moving in as his replacement (when, in fact, it was VP of Business Development John Nee who had resigned). At Heroes Con, Palmiotti had to answer questions about the situation and let people know that not only did he not want the job, he’d never been approached about it, which had to have been an awkward conversation since DiDio and Palmiotti are said to be very good friends.

And while all of this was going on, Heidi MacDonald quietly broke the news at The Beat that DC had renewed Dan DiDio’s contract. Sorry, haters.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Certainly not for the fans who want DiDio fired, and maybe not for some of the people in the DC offices, as suggested by this follow-up column at CBR. To judge from the internet chatter, Gotham City is burning down while Emperor DiDio fiddles.

But is DC really that bad right now? Let’s take a look.

I’m not the biggest DC fan in the world. I’ve been reading their books for over a quarter-century, but I’m more of a Marvel guy in my heart. Now, some people may think that makes me unqualified to offer a “state of the universe” on DC, but I think it allows me to remove passion from the analysis. That, and a lot of what you’re about to read isn’t so much my opinion as what I see other fans saying around the ‘net.

First, let’s just get it out of the way: DC is fumbling with their big crossover events. Infinite Crisis wasn’t the blockbuster that its twenty-year-old predecessor was, and fan reaction is mixed to this day. DC caught lightning in a bottle with the highly successful weekly series 52, but badly botched the “sequel”, Countdown, which, along with its myriad tie-in books, caused so much fan disappointment and outright wrath, that it appears to have already affected Final Crisis in the sales department. And the smaller-scale Amazons Attack was widely derided as well. “Sinestro Corps War” was a hit, but that wasn’t promoted as an “event” the way the others were; it was a crossover between two related titles which expanded at the last minute to include some quick cash-in tie-ins. It’s too early to tell if the new weekly book Trinity is going to be a hit or a miss.

So, yeah, big events? Really not DC’s strength these days. So let’s take a spin through their core titles.

Let’s begin with books that are generally considered to be good. Green Lantern has been a fan favorite title since Geoff Johns revived Hal Jordan; the “Sinestro Corps War” was one of the most well-received events of recent years, and the upcoming “Blackest Night” storyline has fans buzzing. Green Lantern Corps is a little more under the radar but seems to be getting a halo effect from the GL love. Johns also seems to be making fans happy with his long run on Justice Society of America, and has Action Comics on the right track after artistic delays threatened to derail it. Johns is teaming with George Perez on the upcoming Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds miniseries, which promises to give the Legion of Superheroes the creative revamp it desperately needs. Add to that mix the arrival this week of writer James Robinson on Superman, and the fan-fave Booster Gold (co-written by Johns and Jeff Katz), and we have several key titles in very good shape. If I were DC, I’d have Geoff Johns chained to a desk for the next five years, at least.

(A quick disclaimer: I realize there are fans that don’t care for the work of Geoff Johns. Heck, I’m not his biggest fan either, although I do like most of his work. Nobody is universally loved. I’m only speaking in terms of “general perception” here. That same principle applies to all of the books and creators I’m discussing.)

Next, let’s move to the Batman family. Most fans seem pleased with Paul Dini’s work on Detective Comics. Grant Morrison seems to be more divisive with his Batman run – some love it, some hate it – but sales are strong (especially for the “RIP” arc) and plenty of fans are digging it, so this is pretty much what you expect when you hire Morrison. Nightwing fans are happy for the first time in years with new writer Peter J. Tomasi. With Chuck Dixon out, Robin obviously needs a new writer (is Fabian Nicieza permanent on that title?), as does Batman and the Outsiders. Catwoman was just cancelled, but this may have as much to do with character re-tooling as sales; Selina Kyle has been getting back to her villainous roots of late, so expect to see her as a prominent player in Batman’s books again. Overall, it looks like the Bat-Office could use some stability, but the two big flagship books are solid, and there’s nothing wrong with the other titles that can’t be fixed with the right hire. May I suggest either keeping Nicieza on Robin, or moving him to BATO where his strong team-book background could be an asset? And whichever one Nicieza doesn’t write could go to Sean McKeever, who should have some time on his hands now that Countdown is over. That still leaves Birds of Prey, which just got a new writer and has been a bit shaky since Gail Simone left; let’s see how Tony Bedard shakes out here.

Speaking of Gail Simone…one of the most high-profile fiascos of the past few years was DC’s relaunch of Wonder Woman. Creative shuffling, long delays, and just flat-out bad creative decisions have really hurt this book. Hiring Gail Simone is a step in the right direction, but this book still needs a lot of attention. Still, so long as we’re moving in the right direction…

The other massively screwed-up relaunch was The Flash, and even Mark Waid couldn’t get that one fixed; he found out the hard way that you really can’t go home again. No offense to current writer Tom Peyer, but this book needs a high-profile writer and some serious promotion to get it on the right track. DC has recently started working with J. Michael Straczynski, and his fan base and background in sci-fi could be a perfect fit here. This book certainly needs fixing, pronto.

What else needs fixing? Legion of Superheroes, where Jim Shooter has learned the same hard lesson as Mark Waid, but as mentioned above, DC seems to have a Crisis-related fix in the works there; we’ll see. Supergirl has been creatively cursed since issue 1, but word is that Johns and Robinson are going to pull that book closer into the Superman family of titles, so there’s hope there. Again, moving in the right direction…

What else we got? There’s The Brave and the Bold, which didn’t live up to sales expectations with the Waid/Perez dream team. Some fans loved the book for its old-school fun, but others were just left cold. Straczynski is coming on board that title, and might boost sales, but it’s also very possible that a team-up book is just going to be a niche seller in this day and age. Blue Beetle has a very vocal and dedicated fan base, even if they are small in number; the same can be said for Manhunter and Jonah Hex. While these books aren’t topping the sales charts they are quality comics. Teen Titans struggled after Geoff Johns left, but has been getting steadily better in recent months (the current “Terror Titans” arc has seen an upswing in positive fan response). On the other hand, we have Titans, which just recently relaunched under the pen of Judd Winick, who also writes Green Arrow/Black Canary, and…well…let’s just say Judd Winick has his detractors (rumor has it there’s a new writer coming on board GA/BC soon anyway). The new Titans series is inspiring more than a little hatred on the internet these days, so let’s put that one in the “fix it” column. Personally, I think Dwayne McDuffie would be a great choice to write that book, as it calls for strong character work with a touch of humor, both of which he can do well.

And that, finally, leads us to the book McDuffie is currently writing, DC’s flagship team book, Justice League of America. Sales continue to be strong on this series, but there is fan grumbling about the book being forced into crossover tie-ins, which prevents McDuffie from hitting his creative stride. That may be, but even the arcs that haven’t been crossovers with other “big” series have felt…small. And this book just shouldn’t feel small. McDuffie has chops, but maybe he’s just not quite right for this book. Or maybe it’s editorial interference. Either way, this is a book that we should file under “good but should be better”.

There are other books in the DCU, of course. Superman/Batman and Batman Confidential, but those are secondary titles for those characters. Books like Simon Dark or the recently-cancelled Infinity Inc. and All-New Atom. Checkmate, which got a lot of love during Greg Rucka’s tenure but no sales; Shadowpact, which launched at the same time and just ended its similarly fan-approved but sales-starved run. Lots of miscellaneous miniseries. Oddballs like The Spirit. All-Star Superman, which a lot of fans love (despite its tardiness), and All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, which a lot of fans loathe but sells like crazy when it does come out. But none of these books really make up the heart and soul of DC Comics. The books I discussed in the paragraphs above…those are the books that are really the lifeblood of the DCU. The books by which the health of that line can be judged. And honestly…it doesn’t look that sick. Yes, there have been some big mistakes made on DiDio’s watch, but it appears that DC is making moves towards fixing those titles. And there’s nothing that can’t be fixed simply by using writers that DC already has in-house on other books.

The quality, for the most part, is there. The problem is, the sales are not. So, how to fix that?

If I was to whisper in Dan DiDio’s ear, I would tell him “no more events”. Fans are burned out, and lashing out. Make the “Final” in Final Crisis mean something. Focus on the core books, make them as good as they can be, because you’re almost there. No more weekly books for the time being either. You got lucky with 52 but crapped out with Countdown. Take the time, energy, and resources needed for a weekly book and put them into the core monthlies (and give fans’ wallets a break). Once you’re confident things are humming with the regular books, follow the “Sinestro Corps War” model for small events. Let them begin as subplots in a book, build up, and then explode. (Indications are that this model is already being employed with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman “events” this year.) Cross over to other titles only if it makes sense. If Green Lantern is selling well, and you feel you’ve got good creative teams going on Wonder Woman and The Flash but sales are slack, then let those three writers figure out a crossover that works, so you can get more eyeballs on those titles that need attention. Even if it’s only a temporary bump in sales, you might pick up enough new readers to make it work. Same thing with, say, Batman and Manhunter, or crossing Blue Beetle over with Superman and Action Comics. Smaller, focused, creator-driven crossovers are the way to go. And find a better way to market these books, because if there’s one thing that is not being laid at DiDio’s feet, it’s DC’s poor marketing, which has been mentioned as a weakness for many years.

In a lot of ways, being the editor-in-chief of either DC or Marvel is like being the head coach of a pro sports team. If you’re winning championships, you’re a genius. If you’re losing games, you’re a moron and you need to be fired. Years ago, the Utah Jazz had two superstars in Karl Malone and John Stockton, a great coach in Jerry Sloan, and were a perennial powerhouse in the NBA. Then Stockton and Malone retired, the team started to suck, and there were calls for Sloan’s job. Did Sloan forget how to coach? No, but the team needed to rebuild. Ownership stuck by him and now Jerry Sloan’s had the Jazz back in the playoffs for the last couple of years, with a young team with lots of potential.

Dan DiDio may not be a genius but I also don’t think he’s an idiot. He’s rebuilding. The signs are there. Problem books are moving in the right direction. Remember, Final Crisis has been in the works for two years. Once the Countdown train was on the tracks, there was no turning back, even after that book turned ugly; DC was locked into a year of that title and then (almost) another year of FC. There’s still work to be done, but I don’t believe that DC needs a complete turnover at this time. If, a year from now, things are still as ugly as they are today, then maybe. What they’re working on right now, today, as you read this, is what we’ll be seeing next year.

Maybe there’s so much turmoil in the offices that a change is needed; I’m not an insider so I can’t say if DiDio’s time and talent management are as lacking as some rumors indicate, but if that’s the case, then DiDio’s bosses have to make that call. But DiDio’s not the first high-level exec to go through this kind of turmoil. It was just a few years ago that Marvel EIC Joe Quesada was, quite possibly, the most hated man in comics. There were constant calls for him to be fired (some even coming from within the DC offices!), petitions for his ouster, a laundry list of things he had screwed up, rumors of creative unrest (remember the “Mark Waid fired from FF” debacle, the one that broke the internet in half?), new series failing left and right…and even though he still has his detractors to this day, you’ve gotta say that today he’s looking an awful lot like the coach who just won the Super Bowl.

But that’s just my opinion…I’m just a random dork with a blogger account. What does everybody else think?
Read more!

6.25.2008

Panelology - Who Do We Read? (Part 1)

by Brandon

Panelology triumphantly returns this week after a long, but necessary, mental health hiatus! Continuing on with my look at the essentials of collecting comic books, I'm taking up the issue of comic book companies. Who do we read? Why do we slavishly follow companies? Is there hope for mankind? Read on!

Comic book fans are pretty unusual. Our purchasing habits tend to follow one company or line with great regularity. Sure, we all venture out, but we tend to follow a company's titles as a general rule of thumb. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is a curious phenomenon that happens within our hobby. I'm a huge music buff, but I don't tend to follow record labels around. I, like any proud fanboy, also love movies. Yet, I don't find myself lining up at the the local yokel movie theater every time something from Paramount or Warner Brothers comes out. Even gamers tend to sample across the spectrum.

This isn't a rule for everybody, but many in our community tend to stay with one company for a majority of their purchases. I'm no different. I freely admit that I am Marvel fan. I do tend to dip out into other books and companies, but I would say a full two-thirds of all of my purchases come from the House of Ideas. Just this past weekend at HeroCon, I heard a young man exclaim as he was rifling through the 50% off TPB boxes, "Man, all of this shit is Marvel! Why would anybody read this stuff?"

Well, let's see...

Marvel
I love Marvel. I think Marvel tends to do a great job of mixing the fantastic with reality. I think in terms of character development in the superhero realm, Marvel does a better job than anybody out there. For super-heroics, Marvel offers a wide variety of titles, both solo and team books. Marvel doesn't seem to be afraid to take risks with their properties. Just look at Brand New Day and the Death of Captain America arcs if you don't buy this argument. For better or for worse, Marvel likes risks. I don't think they are as risky as they were back about eight years ago or so, but that was more of a function of survival than anything. Plus, they have a quasi-impressive line of labels now. Max, Ultimate, and Icon have solid potential. I believe the Ultimate line may be the only one that has at least lived up to its potential, but if rumors are true about this line, it could be going the way of Valiant pretty soon.


DC
Ah, the "old" guard. If someone wants superhero titles, DC is where it is at. Marvel has them too, but DC seems to be focused so much on the superhero that they seem to lose the characterization Marvel tends to focus on. That could be my own bias of DC coming in, but I don't think that focusing on superheroes is a bad thing. I think DC appeals to those fans who want heavy continuity and stability. I don't see them as risk takers, but more as stability-setters. They really have bought into the event trend, which is great for their readers because they tend to demand a more cohesive, connected universe of titles. Their Vertigo line is also one of the best lines out there for mature readers. It mixes fantasy, crime, science fiction, and mystery so well. Unlike the Ultimate line, Vertigo has far exceeded its potential. Vertigo acts almost like an indie label being hawked off by a major company. I really enjoy many titles from this line. Except for Jack of Fables.

Dark Horse
DH is an interesting company right now. They have tons of opportunities going for them. They have a good mix of licensed properties and original titles. On the licensed properties front, they have some big licenses with Star Wars, Conan, Indiana Jones, Buffy, Aliens, and Predator to name just a few. I bet DC and Marvel would cream themselves to snap up those properties! These properties bring in a locked-in fanbase that tend to follow the titles out of love for the characters. This is good money for DH. Chances are that at least one of those properties interests you, my fine readers. DH also has some really good original titles. Hellboy, Fear Agents and The End League immediately come to mind. All three of these titles are exceedingly well done. DH seems to be more willing to take a dip in the original title pool lately, which seems to be working for them. Also, their collected editions

Image
Image has a lot going for it these days. They have a stable of some really excellent titles that are very diverse. To use a terrible word, Image has cornered the market on "funky" titles. That's right, funky. That's probably not the right word, but it works for the time being. They have a zombie book, outlandish and grounded superhero titles, spy books, and action/adventure titles. Image seems to do a bit of everything and they are able to filter it through their funky lens to make it unique. Fell, Casanova, The Walking Dead, and Savage Dragon are all strong books in my mind from this company. Image has tons of potential, and I think Erik Larsen is doing a fine job tapping that potential.

Those are just four of the "big" companies. Just between those four, there is enough diversity in comic books for anybody to find a title they love. But what about the other comic publishers? Great question! Next week, I'll take us on a journey through some of the indie publishers.

I'll definitely be getting back on a regular weekly schedule too. Between taking two grad classes, teaching a creative writing class, and wrapping up the school year, things have been a little hectic around here for me. But never fear! I'll be back next week with Part 2!
Read more!

6.24.2008

From Top to Bottom: Comic Book Robots

by Matt

Welcome to the 9th edition of the weekly "From Top to Bottom" column! Every week I will look at something within the comics industry and give you my opinion on what I think is the best and what I think ranks amongst the bottom-feeders.

Last week I took a look at the Top and Bottom of Comic Book Dads. This week, in my son's eager anticipation for WALL*E, I thought it would be fun to take a look at my Top 3 robots/androids in comics and those that are in words of Eric Cartman, "Lame."

Robots, androids (whatever you call them) have been in comics since the beginning and have changed considerably through the years. I didn't count robots that have already appeared in another form, like in a movie, so don't expect R2D2 and C3P0 in this list.


3) The Fury
The Fury is not a true robot, it is a cybiote, an amalgam of flesh and metal. This killing machine was created to kill superheroes and that is just what it did. It relentlessly stalked its prey and couldn't be stopped. The list of heroes it slaughtered included Captain Britain, Jackdaw, Miracle Man and a host of other British heroes. While it never spoke, Alan Moore made this true monster speak volumes by seeing the fear it gave to those it stalked.


2) Hourman
Hourman came from the 853rd century and was modeled on Rex Tyler's DNA, He served with both the JLA and was a member of the JSA for awhile. He currently is believed to have been destroyed by Extant during Zero Hour, he travelled back in time to replace the original Hourman. Even though he was only an android, he possessed many human traits. Hopefully we have not seen the last of him.


1) Machine Man
Machine Man has played a role (and ones that are completely different than each other) in 2 of my favorites series. He served as a new Watcher in the Earth X series and was integral in not only progressing the story but also helping provide the information needed to defeat the Celestial. He also appeared in NextWave and was a completely different character, drinking beer and calling humans "fleshy ones". I prefer the latter version.


There has been many more cool robots/cyborgs/androids, the following bottom choices are the bad side of robots. Not necessarily evil, just not really cool at all.

3) H.E.R.B.I.E.
Couldn't Mr. Fantastic create a better robot than this? Especially considering that Hank Pym created a killer robot (pun totally intended) in Ultron. Was he really a threat to the FF?








2) Nimrod
There are two big things that bug me about this robot. The first is its name, now I know why it was given that name, its name means 'might hunter' in the Bible, but c'mon, Nimrod? Are you really supposed to scared by something called Nimrod? Nimrod just doesn't intimidate or impress anyone. The other thing that bugged me is that he was pink. Now I will give Nimrod this, he did act scary and was very methodical and calculating in his early appearances in the X-Men but I cannot get past that he was pink. Think about it though, how scary is a big, pink robot named Nimrod? Not scary, just lame.


1) Danger
I admit that I liked her a smidgen more in the latter part of the Astonishing X-Men series than I did in her first appearances but I still think she is lame character. It was mostly because I felt like the X-Men have been in this situation before, only it was Cerebro that gained sentience and fought Professor X and the X-Men. I liked the idea behind it but the execution seemed forced and was resolved rather quickly.


So there you have it, I am sure some of you are screaming where is Ultron and the Vision? The Vision just was not a character that appealed to me and I will admit that I like the white-pasty version of him from years back. Ultron on the other hand only had one or two appearances that were cool, while the rest were lame. The Ultron in Daredevil and in Avengers West Coast (the Rose parade storyline, at least I think it was the Rose parade) essentially made the character weak. The Sentinels almost made the cool list merely on the fact that they just look spooky. But the Sentinel stories in X-Men: The Hidden Years and in the X-Men '96 annual just killed them and they almost made the Bottom list.

Read more!

6.22.2008

Patrick's Hat-Trick: DC Free

by Patrick

Welcome to Patrick's Hat-trick, where I take a look at three books and offer you my views. Since we started this site a couple of months ago, I've fallen into the role of the DC reviewer. Well, this week I'm going to change it up and look at three books that DON'T come from DC; Mike Allred's MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS #1, Jeff Smith's RASL #2 and Top Cow's Genius #1.

So, I'm not reviewing DC books today, and if you wanted to stop me,

Okay, I don't know if you name is Dre, but the point is you should have shot me. Let's get started!


MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS #9 Years ago, on a whim I picked up a comic I never seen or heard of before called Madman. A whim purchase can be a thing of beauty. Finding that undiscovered treasure. Something that no one else new about. And YOU are the one who discovered the treasure. Such was the way I felt reading that original mini-series. It's been almost 15 years since that day, and Madman has come a long way. He joined the Legends imprint at Dark Horse, met Hellboy and even hung out with Superman. Then he faded away for awhile while Mike Allred played in the Marvel and DC pool. Last year Allred relaunched his creator-owned book as Madman Atomic Comics.

This has been a book I have meant to review the last three times it came out, but never got around to writing those reviews. I think I didn't do it because I've hard a hard time figuring out how to review this book. I'll start off with it's strong points. Mike Allred might be one of the best artist out there today. And with Madman, he is not afraid to try new things that are fantastic to look at. This issue was a chase scene down a snap city street, where if you had enough copies of the book, you could lay them end to end to make one huge long panel. In a previous issue he drew every panel in the style of a different artist, ranging from Jack Kirby to Charles Schultz to Jeff Smith to Rob Lifield. My point: The book looks GREAT. It's about as creative as the kind of things Will Eisner did with his Spirit strips.

But the thing with Will Eisner, he has the great stories to go with his experimental storytelling techniques. But I think Mike Allred has these great visual ideas for the book, and is shoehorning the story into these techniques a story, and they haven't always been great fits. I do think this issue has done the best at merging the two. That's why I'm giving Madman the Bad Genious Grade of B This book has often felt like an experiment in style over strong storytelling. But it's a pretty interesting experiment to watch.

Genius #1: Sometime buying a book blindly works out, like it did when I bought Madman 15 years ago. And sometime you waste four bucks. This week, I wasted four bucks on Top Cow's Pilot Season: Genius #1. I saw it in the shop and thought "The Bad Genious' need to have a review for Genius, even if they spell the name wrong!" (I'll leave it to you to which of us spelled the name wrong)

The book is about the greatest military mind of our time, a teenage girl, taking control of all the gangs of Compton and attacking the police for no other reason then it's "all she knows how to do". It's a pretty bad story, but I did find the art by Afua Richardson good. I wish I had more to say about this book. But there just wasn't much to the book to review. GRADE:D I didn't enjoy it, but I am willing consider that I may not have been the target audience for this.

RASL #2 People picking up this book expecting to find the Jeff Smith of Bone or his Shazam mini from DC will surprised to find a quite different kind of story story. It's not the art that will surprise them, but rather the story. There are no cute creatures, funny gags, and big Lord of the Rings type fantasy. Instead Smith is giving us a sci-fi chase story complete with hookers and bloody murders. In the first issue we get to follow the title character, Rasl, as he travels through alternate dimensions stealing Picasasso's and being chased by a lizard faced goon. In this issue Rasl comes home and we get a little bit filled in about his past, and learn a little more about him. It's an interesting story, and one I'm on board with so far. Looking forward to issue #3 Mr Smith. GRADE: B It's not Bone, and that's not bad

See you next time here on the hat trick, when I'll be doing a Trinity Hat Trick, looking at issues 2,3, and 4. And, as always, I look forward to reading your thought on these books in the comments section. Until then, I'm out of here!
Read more!