Wednesday, June 30, 2004
The St. Petersburg Times has a report on CrossGen Comics filing for bankruptcy. Contacting some sources I haven't seen the comic news sites do in the bankruptcy lawyers themselves.
They also talked with comic shop owners in the area, one of whom had the odd theory that CG failed because of a low economy. How does that explain the rising sales of comics in general I wonder?
I went to the movies with some non-comic reading friends to see the new "Spider-man 2" film today. This entry is going to discuss some of the movie's themes, and will likely contain some spoilers (though I'll try to avoid being too specific) so be warned before you read on.
One of the first things my friends noticed, and it even hit me despite my being used to it by way of the nature of the comic. Was the sheer overwhelming message that Peter Parker is the ultimate loser. As what seemed like every personal problem he's ever had in comics was condensed to the first hour and a half.
I found myself not thinking "man I feel for you Peter" as I think I was supposed to do, but instead thought "no wonder you are so miserable, you're a loser who makes the wrong choices every time."
One of my friends even asked me after the movies, (paraphrasing from memory) "Is that how he is in comics? Do things go that wrong for him? Because it seems to be too much, and loses a lot of the fun that being Spider-man would bring."
One of the longest running themes in comics, and the slogan that is Spidey's catch phrase is that "with great power comes great responsibility."
Yet this movie sort of undermines that message, because it forgets what I perceive is a key element to people's lives. In that personal responsibility is just as important, because if you put everyone else ahead of yourself you eventually find yourself unable to help anyone.
Something else my friends and I discussed on the way out, was how a lot of time spent to the nature of heroism and the need for sacrifice. We got that message and could understand it, but it goes too far in the extreme showing to my mind a bad message to people in the long run.
Saying that to be truly good and heroic one must give up everything, even your dreams, just seems way too pessimistic of an attitude. The idea that a hero can't be happy in order to be there for others just seems rather off. A hero who is willing to sacrifice everything for anything doesn't come off as very heroic to me, because then the sacrifice itself means little if he could so easily do it.
There were other odd moments as well, but those were the basics for what seemed a rather depressingly themed movie. That was interesting but had lots of messages that I just couldn't find myself agreeing with.
Lots of stunning visuals though, which thrilled my friends despite their problems with the basic theme. And with the packed theater, I'm guessing Spider-Man 3 will soon be on its way.
Monday, June 28, 2004
Monday Link Blog
Otherwise known as it is Monday, I'm tired and irritable about a lot of things and at certain people.
Greg McElhatton has done his Previews rundown for Ninth Art. He has a hilarious comment about how bad a name "Chocolate Thunder" is for a comic. While doing his usual great job of some of the lesser known titles from the smaller companies.
He's also made me curious about Morrison's Doom Patrol, which given that I've never read any of it and have never been a big Morrison booster surprises me.
Johanna Draper Carlson has also posted her Previews rundown and snarky comments. She's got a shrewd eye for what's good and bad in the industry, and her recommendations list always makes me think "that's the type of stuff people would be reading if comics were a bit more normally populated medium."
John Jakala has announced the winners of his Street Angel fanfiction contest. Congratulations to the winners, and good for John for showing such activism spirit in support of a small press book.
Tokyopop is also getting into the activism spirit, by starting their own Manga Force group of fans. From what I read on the site, the fans in the Manga Force will be given assignments to help spread the word about various Tokyopop products. And in exchange will get exclusive behind the scenes access to upcoming projects, and well as be able to enter exclusive contests.
Newsarama has a strange article that points out the ultimate bandwagon jump on of some of today's comic creators. As Rand Queen is bringing back his Darkchylde creation, this time in manga form as a very young girl.
Interesting to read the responses in the thread, of the fans of his old T&A style, professing either no interest or feelings of betrayal about this new less blatantly sexual look.
Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley has a great quote in an article on the new "Spider-girl" type character in the "Amazing Fantasy" series in the Omaha World-Herald. Saying "The thing that we've noticed is that manga sales have proven females will read graphic-novel fiction," Buckley said. "If we can develop the content and get it into the right retail, we'll have a chance."
Okay number one, that they didn't know women would read GN fiction is sort of mind boggling. Did they really have no faith in the medium itself, or just think they were too dumb to "get it"?
Then the second, I can agree that if you get the right content in the right retail outlet you have a chance. Yet since when is yet another superhero type character the "right content"? If you really want the different audience, you have to make what they want to read. Not expect them to adapt to what you produce.
Sunday, June 27, 2004
Sensual Phrase Vol. 2
by Mayu Shinjo
Viz Comics June 1, 2004
$9.95 192 Pages
When a young lyricist named Aine and Sakuya the lead singer of the super popular band known as Lucifer, find themselves involved in a relationship the two never realized was possible. They find themselves experiencing things that will leave them both forever changed.
Aine was always a quiet young woman, who at times doesn't realize her own value as a person and as a talented lyricist. So she was stunned when the super cool and sexy Sakuya took an interest in her and her lyrics.
Sex or perhaps lust is something I've felt never came through in comic form very well. Oh there have been relationships in comics that I've wanted to see go well, but I never felt the utter passion of lusting for another truly realized.
That is until this book, where the passion and sheer lust Sakuya and Aine feel for each other comes burning right off the page. I almost had to look away at times, out of the feeling like I was almost intruding on them as they are so passionately drawn to each other.
In volume two there is a new element that could drive the two apart. While I can understand the need for it, in order to give the two leads something to overcome. I must admit to being more irritated with it than anything else, because it just seems so obtrusive and in the way of what I feel is important in the story.
Still the book is well worth reading, that'll leave just about any reader breathless from the sheer forcefulness of its passion.
Saturday, June 26, 2004
Described as ultra-violent in the vein of other manga like Battle Royale, I must admit to being drawn in by the very attractive female character on the cover instead and didn't find the violence that "ultra".
Kurumi Ayaki is a young meter maid who plans to take early retirement in order to marry her long time fiancee. When it turns out that he didn't get the promotion they both thought was a given, she instead has to beg her sleaze of a boss for her job back.
He cruelly assigns her instead to work under a young genius in the Unsolved Crimes unit, who never leaves his room and expects her to be at his beck and call. Who quickly has her involved in a case about a series of murders apparently being perpetuated by a circus clown.
I shouldn't really like this book, there are a lot of scenes such as Kurumi coming out of her shower naked, and the panel focus on her panties while she bends over to investigate a dead body. That serves no purpose but "fan service" to titillate the young male audience.
Yet for some reason I could get past that, and I found myself really liking Kurumi. She's a bit of a ditz in places, but she's smarter than those around her expect her to be.
She actually has realistic reactions to the situations she finds herself in, by not being the "tough guy" when coming upon these rather gruesome murders. Yet instead wears her emotions and fears on her sleeve, so that it is more impressive when she overcomes them.
This book is a real page turner when it concentrates on the murder case, and has a tension level that should leave just about any reader on the edge of their seat anxious to see what happens next.
So if you can accept some immaturity in places, give this book a try, perhaps you'll be as surprised at finding yourself liking it as I was.
Friday, June 25, 2004
CrossGen's Start & End
The first I'd heard of CrossGen Comics was in a Wizard Magazine ad asking for submissions. I didn't really think much on it at the time except to think it was a strange name for a company.
As a DC Comics Chat Host I had the rare opportunity to talk with and even befriend a number of comic professionals. One or two of whom wound up taking CrossGen up on their submissions, which in a round about way led to my being aware of them. I do know I was surprised one day to find a note in my e-mail box one day from then CG PR Director Ian Feller.
Ian told me, paraphrasing as it has been over four years now, that he'd been told that I was an influential comic fan who could help them out. They wanted to start a grass roots movement among fandom, that would spread the word and get a buzz going for their books before they hit the stands.
He wanted me to give him a list of other fans, and their addresses, so they could send them surprise PR material in order that they would hopefully sing CG's praises on the internet as well.
I was of course a bit pleased that they would pick me out, yet a bit bemused at the stuff as well. It sort of showed a lack of understanding at how the online world of fandom at that time worked.
Yes we all talked online at various online forums together, and at times met each other at cons. Yet I can't say that I knew more than one or two on a personal level, and having their mailing address was far out of the question. I wasn't supposed to let any of them know why I would want the address either, so it was certainly an odd request.
Thinking on it now, the current comic blogosphere and its tight knit community would probably be closer to what CG had in mind back then. Still I did what I could, and got them a few names and addresses.
A month or so later I would receive the CrossGen Info packet, a very nice and professionally made package containing a divider and color glossy paper info on their Quad system, HQ, various launch books and most unique of all bio pages on every single staff member down to the singing receptionist out front.
I found myself, given recent events, a bit amused by their Mission Statement of the company which you see when you open the divider:
To set and maintain the industry standard for quality in comic book publication.
To deliver product in a timely and consistent manner.
To provide readers with a high quality, entertaining product that does not insult their intelligence.
To treat all employees with integrity, courtesy, dignity and respect.
To share the wealth with those who help create it.
To prove it can be done.
While looking over this stuff for the first time in a few years, I was reminded about things like the CrossGen money back guarantee. Where if a reader bought the CrossGen Chronicles #1 and the first three issues of any of their series, and didn't like them. That they could send them to CG along with a hand written note explaining why, and receive a full refund.
I was also surprised to be reminded how CG had sent out samplers to all of the retailers, had an primer in Wizard and had a sort of half issue that was only available through Another Universe. Which may have shown a bad precedent to begin your comic line with exclusive comics.
It was fun to read some of their old PR and interviews again as well, from a perspective of where these reporters are now. Included was a Matt Brady article for AU, a Randy Lander and Don MacPherson article from Psycomic and a strange article in Comic Retailer that probably has the nugget that shows what brings about CG's eventual downfall.
In it Alessi explains to retailers how he knows how comic fans tend to only follow a popular creative team or story idea for 6 to 12 issues and then depart. Yet that their goal from the framework he and the creators had devised was to not have that type of direction.
He seemed to believe that if you don't give readers a true ending, and just kept an ongoing narrative that the readers would have no reason to depart. I don't think I can agree with that, as I enjoy a story not the concept behind the story for the most part. And would think I would get tired of anything if it kept going on and on.
Yet there was also the minus that if something didn't work for you, then you knew it was no use to go back to it, because if the concept is bigger than the individual story or creators. Then it wasn't likely to change very much.
Still I was feeling pretty positive about CG, likely in part due to the way they seemed to go out of their way to make me feel as if I was a part of their beginnings. When I saw a contest to win a free trip to their HQ in Diamond's Previews by just writing to tell what books you were trying and why I entered.
I must say the accommodations that CrossGen had for me where first rate,as my hotel room was a suite (with a kitchen, walk in closet, etc.); plus, Thursday night writer Ron Marz and Ian Feller (their Media Relations guy) came by and took me to dinner at this really terrific seafood place in nearby Clearwater that was located right off the beach.
The next day was the visit to CG HQ with my retailer, who had a different flight in and as such didn't get into Tampa until late Thur. night, along for the tour. We where both amazed by the art collection on the wall with pieces from just about every major (and some not so) artist (Frazetta, Romita, Silke and numerous others) that has ever worked in the comic field. It took us 2 hours just to see all of it as they even had some of the art displayed in the bathrooms.
I must admit to wondering at the time whether CG would be up for a possible sexual harassment charges at the time. Given the plethora of art that had women in no clothes at all,and amount of non-creative staff they had. Yet that never came to be.
After we finished our tour and were introduced to everyone we were given free rein to roam the building and see and do whatever we wanted. The people working there were some of the nicest I have ever seen in any business situation. They seemed very enthusiastic and proud of their work and it really showed when they talked with us about it.
I never felt like we were intruding on them at all (even though they were all hard at work in order to meet deadlines) as they welcomed us openly whenever we happened to stop by were they where at and answer our questions and show us what they were working on.
I got to see preview copies of all of the #2 issues of CrossGen's books (and some artwork for #3s as well) except Meridian which was in production. The improvement in the quality of the art and storytelling from the #1s to the # 2s was amazing to see at the time.
SIGIL especially (being a book I had serious questions about the art after #1)seemed to have made the biggest improvement in storytelling ability. The art has a lot crisper style and tone that truly impressed me. I almost couldn't believe the same art team that did #1 had done the art for #2 upon seeing it.
The computers they use for their website and for coloring the comics are amazing as well. They were IBMs but according to them have more power than the ones the Disney Animation studios used at the time.
They showed us how they do the special effects and such using programs like Photoshop, which was interesting for someone like me who has always been intrigued by the computer coloring process.
For lunch we ate at a great Italian restaurant nearby with nearly all of the major people from the company there. Mark Alessi the owner of CrossGen really picked our brains for what we thought of the books, what could be done better and what could keep me as a fan (and my retailer as a retailer:) ) buying their comics.
Over lunch I asked them about their plans for expansion and Mark said they are working towards 7 regular titles.
Mark was a very interesting guy who was obviously very excited about what he was doing. He is also a very much a salesman and really sold his company to my retailer who at the time didn't really know much about the company.
For me it was the creators who won me over though. I've already talked about Ron and Ian but Barbara Kesel was a pleasure to talk with as well. She took my thoughts on the events of SIGIL #1 (the main female character's death which I didn't like especially) very well and explained to me what she wants to do in both of the titles she was working on at the time.
As I recall this was at the time that the FANDOM MERIDIAN#1 review controversy had started. Where Don MacPherson had taken exception to the display of the young girl's panties in the first issue. The creators there didn't seem to have much to say about the review though. They admitted to being taken by surprise by the reviewer's view on the book, as they just didn't expect anyone to interpret the book that way when they read it.
If I remember correctly they said they were teaming up with the magazine COSMOGIRL to get girls to send in a story idea for what they would like to see Sephie (lead character in MERDIAN) do in an issue. The best one would be flown to CrossGen HQ for a tour similar to the one I just had and they'd also get to co-write a story with Barbara Kesel that will be drawn and run in COSMOGIRL.
I wonder if anything ever happened with that?
I received a lot of free goodies while there were a beautiful SCION wind-breaker jacket, a CrossGen T-shirt, posters, and one of every comic they had produced so far signed by their respective creative teams.
Though they seemed to have expected me to be a large fellow by giving me 2XL sizes when I only wear a Large.
Overall I was truly impressed with CrossGen's approach to the way they worked and had a really positive feeling towards what they seemed to be trying to accomplish. Yeah I thought Alessi was a bit too fanboyish at times, especially with his talk before we left of "go out and spread the word" which had me rolling my eyes a bit.
Yet still I'd had a nice time, given that I hadn't ever been to Florida before then, and I admit it they'd sort of "bought" a lot of goodwill from me. Which sort of makes how things turn out sort of odd really.
I doubt there were many bigger fans of the company than I when they started out, as I said they'd built up a lot of goodwill. Yet as the series went on, what I saw as promise eventually became just missed opportunities. The books were not awful but they just didn't have the bite that would make me want to come back for more.
Then the bad PR started coming out slowly but surely with Alessi seeming too defensive of any negative criticism. Then the reports of employees being unfairly treated and leaving. And the eventual reports of non-payment to the people who gave up a lot to give Alessi and CG a try.
All of the positivity that things seemed to have when I visited during the first year seems lost now, as things have not gone as planned. Recently reports have come out that Alessi has filed for Bankruptcy in an attempt to save the company. Will it work? Who knows, if anything does come out of it the company and line will be drastically different than the way things began.
Whew this has been a weird week focusing on one company's line for such a long period of time. I must admit to some appreciation that I'm through so that I can look at a smaller picture again for a bit.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
CrossGen Three Pack
Okay gang my mind is turning into mush after spending the entire week reading nothing but CrossGen Comics, so I'm doing three quick looks to wrap up my coverage of their books here. The three I'm covering are all different styles of books, but have one thing in common that I think is what kept them from being all they could be.
Probably the best use of the sigil power was in The Path series. This samurai epic has lots of political intrigue and questions of faith. When a young priest sees his warrior brother struck down by his gods, for only being gifted with the power of the sigil which power threatens their mastery.
He vows vengeance on them, but first must deal with political intrigue at home when a mad emperor thinks to use the priest's power to further his own ends.
This series seemed to be the ultimate fakeout at first. Described in early PR as a sort of Holmesian detective world series, it instead turns out more like the old TV show Scarecrow & Ms. King with sharp banter between the two leads being the big appeal. While any mystery is just window dressing, which was disappointing.
The book makes a point of not having any sigil bearers in it, but is still very weighed down by the universe as a whole through the hints that one of its leads has the same glowing eyes as other like minded characters in their other sigil verse series.
Very much in the Jackie Chan line of movies, this martial artist devoted series follows a thief who gets more than he bargained for when he steals a mysterious ring.
Set on an alien world version of ancient China, this book is filled with madcap kung fu action, humor and a talking monkey. A light popcorn level read, that never really went very far but had fun with itself and its readers.
All of these series, and the ones I've covered previously this week aren't really that terrible in terms of quality. Some even have interesting explorations of ideas that if given more time could have led to something more substantial.
Yet at all of their heart was one fatal flaw. By trying to evoke certain time periods or story types, but not be able to be that. Mainly due to having to fit into the weak universe level sigil verse mess that Alessi had long ago decided was the heart of the company.
There really isn't much point to trying to capture a Victorian England detective story, or ancient China martial arts action, or even Japanese Samurai epic, if you must place them on these strange alien worlds. This cuts them off from the depth and history that such stories should have going for them naturally. And comes off as someone trying to claim to be wordly, because they visited the It's A Small World ride at Disney World.
This was a realization that CrossGen made late in the game, and tried to right with series like Route 666, El Capitan and others. Yet by then their die had been cast, and the initial push they had was gone.
Coming tomorrow, I look at how CrossGen began looking at their early PR and sharing my own experiences from when I won a trip to visit their headquarters. Then on Saturday I'll look at the apparent end of the company. So stay tuned!
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
This installment covers the sword and sorcery book of the CrossGen line, in Scion. Owing a lot of its roots to Prince Valiant, Scion follows a young prince named Ethan who when readying to take part in a ceremonial sword fight is unknowingly branded with the typical CrossGen sigil of power.
When the sigil activates during the sword fight and scars his opponent, it leads to an end to a long standing peace.
Thus leading to Ethan having to seek a way to rectify the situation. On his journey he meets the beautiful Ashleigh, who turns out to be the sister of the man he injured. The two start off roughly but over time build a bond between each other that leads to love.
When Ethan realizes that she is a proponent of a possible even more important struggle than the war, the freedom of a slave race that both sides have used and abused over centuries. The two join forces to try to resolve both problems.
The Ashleigh character is an interesting study of contrast of approaches. She is caring, compassionate and very emotional forward, that makes up part of very potentially great female character. Except that she is attired in very tight and revealing all leather outfits, that work to underscore a lot of her positives.
Ethan's is a basic all around good guy who always does what he feels is right. Yet when such actions put him at odds with his family. He must face the hard lessons of growing up about living his own life out of the shadow and framework of the family that had always been there for him.
The art when done by Jim Cheung did well in mixing the classic Arthurian era surface trapping with a high tech futuristic framework well. The battle scenes especially were very epic in feel.
In one respect this was probably one of the stronger CrossGen series, because it could stand very well on its own. While the sigil's presence does cause ties to the CG universe as a whole, it is pushed into the background and could have just as easily been ignored or done away with.
The core problem of the series was that its main storyline of the war between the various faction ended and had nowhere else to go. Even one of the characters realized this in an issue, asking its lead where they were going now that they had accomplished what they sought.
This is a problem in a lot of corporate owned series, the not knowing when is a good time to take a bow and leave the stage. Yet usually not to the extent that this series had.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Monday, June 21, 2004
Today I'm looking at CrossGen's Chimera miniseries, being only four issues it would be easy to pass by given that I mainly want to see why the regular series didn't work. Yet when reading it I was surprised by how it seemed to encapsulate many of CrossGen's strengths and weaknesses in its short run.
Chimera is a science fiction series owing a lot of its roots to things like Frank Herbert's Dune series. The story follows Sara Jenning, a smart mouth young woman who gains the typical deux ex machina of the the CG Universe sigil as a young girl during an invasion of her planet by the dreaded Imperium.
When attacked her power activates and she decimates the entire invading force, which sends her underground as a fugitive. When circumstances change, and her true nature is revealed, the Imperium comes after her again, and this time she must stand against the Emperor and his children themselves in order to live.
This plays well into the strengths of CrossGen's initial titles, the art by Brandon Peterson is attractive and full of life. A lot of attention is given to details of ships and the world around the characters. The space ships especially remind a lot of the way the early Red Star art in terms of its sophistication and beauty.
Sara is a likeable character that I couldn't help but root for, and her struggle was involving enough for me to be interested in it. Though it ends too soon for any real resolution to be had.
Yet the series relies a bit too much on knowledge of the sigil's origin in other series to follow. Which as too often with these initial series was a magic mcguffin that could do whatever the writer wanted it to do. This leads to a lack of danger, because the sigil bearers are shown as so powerful that little can stand up to them.
The pacing of the stories, as with most of these CrossGen series as I'm finding, is just too slow and padded out. Events that could have taken place in a page or two or drawn out over the entire issue or two.
I would come to the end of an issue and think "already over?" Not in a good way, but in a way of feeling like it wasn't a substantial enough read.
Also while Peterson's art is attractive, it can be a bit too pandering. Not only for Sara's "torpedo breasts" that can be seen on those covers, but for the huge amount of butt shots. I don't think it a coincidence that the sigil had the key placement of being just above her hip on her lower back
So all in all, it was an interesting idea for a basic series, that relied far too much on the CrossGen universe as a whole to be totally understood. The production values and artwork especially was high as usual, yet left some disturbing thoughts for directions it took.
Basically it was a project that had potential, yet never quite lived up to it because of its desire to be a part of a bigger picture rather than stay true to the smaller one. Too bad really as I could have used a good sci-fi series that wasn't just a cheap Star Wars or Star Trek ripoff.
The review of CG's Chimera will be later this evening, as I recover from giving blood at work today.
I did pick up some cool stuff before work today at Books A Million though, Sabrina The Teenage Witch #58(first Manga issue), Hikaru No Go(cool looking manga about a ghost possessing a young man), Remote (interesting new manga series following a female police officer) and Sensual Phrase #2. (cool new romantic series about a young woman's burgeoning relationship with a popular singer)
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Kicking off my week of coverage of some of the CrossGen Comics is their most "successful" title, in terms of sales anyway, SOJOURN. Following in the path of stories like the LORD OF THE RINGS series, SOJOURN is a fantasy quest series involving dragons, trolls, wizards and magic items of power.
The initial setup is that the "deux ex machina" power behind all of Crossgen's initial sigil based series grants its power to Mordath a long dead tyrant. Which brings him back to life, and he once again sets about taking over the 5 realms of the planet Quinn.
One of his troll armies kills the family of a female archer known as Arwyn, who vows vengeance on Mordath. She is given the bow of the famous hero of old who vanquished Mordath thousands of years ago, and along with her dog and a rogue known as Gareth sets out to gain the pieces of arrow that killed Mordath. For only its power has any hope of putting an end to Mordath's tyranny once and for all.
On the surface the book seems to follow Arwyn, given that it is her quest for vengeance. Yet the book is much more Gareth's as we see everything from his perspective, as the book uses his internal monologue for narration.
Which is interesting in the respect of showing the hero as someone else sees her, yet a little annoying as well since I never felt like I got to know Arwyn herself.
There are very few books with female leads, and of those even fewer that I would care about given the propensity of "bad girl" books that only care about showing the women's bodies.
Yet this book seemed to promise something deeper to its lead, and I wanted to know more about her. Yet the choice of narrative made that nearly impossible, as just as there is a separation between Gareth understanding her, so too do we as the reader not understand her.
Which I think hurt the book's potential in the long run, because I grew to not care what happened to her on the quest as time went on.
The quest itself takes the heroes to distant lands all gorgeously rendered by the art of Greg Land. Land's art is just simply gorgeous to behold in terms of its beauty in scenery and the way the people are drawn. Which is both a blessing and a curse at times.
The art is too pretty, in a world where evil is only a step away from total domination the beauty of everything made me feel like things were not as bad they should seem. The people too are just too perfect, even the trolls who should be scary horrible beings, have a sort of beauty and majesty about them.
Which made for a sense of detachment for me as a reader, nothing seemed truly horrible so nothing held a sense of danger. Because I couldn't cross the line to care about the characters or story just didn't involve me enough to make me want to read more.
I can see why this was a favorite so many of the CG faithful though. Land's art is enjoyable to look at, if not suited exactly for the story. The covers along show off how great of a pin-up artist he is, with many covers with Arwyn and other female characters in exotic locales and attire. And there are enough mixtures of the overall CG universe background to make readers involved in that happy
Yet it just never quite gets to the level of involvement that would require a casual reader to have the intense desire to come back for more. Which is a shame, as the basic setup has such promise, but it never quite gets there. And now with the series having ended and CG likely soon becoming a footnote, it will never reach it.
Saturday, June 19, 2004
That's a question every person who has one has to ask themselves at least once.
Do I think any of what I say here is unique or important to the history of comics? No. I sort of look at blogs as... well comics used to be known as disposable entertainment, so I guess blogs could be disposable commentary. In that they are relevant when you write them, but months or weeks or days or heck sometimes just hours later, what was said then doesn't matter much.
Still it offers me a forum for my thoughts that is there whenever I have time for it. With the busy schedule I'm living with as an adult, I rarely have the time to slog through the various online forums seeking those who offer something other than typical fanboy meanderings on whether the Hulk could beat up Superman or not.
And even when I do find those seemingly rare at times intelligent discussion, keeping up with it can be more than I am able to handle most days.
Yet there's still a part of me that feels the need to be creative, and yes I do feel anyone that posts about their thoughts on comics is being creative. Whether they are any good is another conversation though plays in to this as well. As I want to improve the craft of my writing, as the more I write the more I'll learn how better to express my thoughts. (I hope at least)
Yet lately I've been wondering a little why I wasn't quite happy with my blog. Then I realized why, I was taking easy ways out. Rather than being creative I was just linking to other bloggers work, which can be fun and interesting, but given that's all I was doing for the most part I wasn't being as creative as I had hoped to be.
So starting tomorrow I will start doing more original work here. First up, and awfully timely given the news that they have filed for bankruptcy, will be a week long look at CrossGen Comics. I'll take a look each day at one of their series, to see if I can get an impression on why they didn't take off.
Then towards the end of the week, I'll look at some of the original CrossGen PR push, I still have one of their first press kits! To see how they started, and how it compares to how things went and has brought them to the end they are now.
So if that sounds interesting, I hope you'll check back throughout the week.
Friday, June 18, 2004
Starting Next Week
Expect more original content here. Lined up starting Sunday will be week long rundown on various CrossGen Comics I've recently received as castoffs. I plan to look at them, see what had promise, what didn't work, and perhaps why the books never took off.
So please stay tuned!
Thursday, June 17, 2004
Marvel and their alliance partner Gotham Entertainment Group, I suppose I shouldn't laugh when I automatically thought "Marvel teams up with Batman?" with a name like that, have agreed to have a new version of Spider-man.
This Spider-man will be a young, Indian boy named Pavitr Prabhakar, a Mumbaikar. Whose adventures will all be based in India which "interweaves the local customs, culture and mystery of modern India, with an eye to making Spiderman's mythology more relevant to this particular audience,"
This is a pretty intriguing idea to me, I would like to think at times that the basic concepts of most of the big characters are universal. Yet at the same time the idea of taking that basic concept, and allowing the culture to put their own take and ideas is very interesting.
If this proves successful, then perhaps it'll lead to the chance of other countries being given the same type of chance.
Advantage to Unflipped Manga Art
Stemming from a post on Johanna's blog the question of reading unflipped manga art has started me thinking on why I like reading it in that form now.
When I first encountered the right to left format it was a tough go, years of reading habits had to be unlearned in order to lose myself in the story. Yet eventually it became normal, though to this day I still have to concentrate when I read.
Which is good in a fashion, because it makes me pay attention to the art more. Something that I shamefully must admit I don't pay a lot of attention to normally in regular comics as long as the art is competent.
Yet because I have to concentrate I pick up on far more visual clues than I once did, and if I get lost I find it interesting to try to determine why I read things out of order. Most times it was because of word balloon placement, or slant of the panel that led my eye in a direction that it wasn't supposed to.
Yet still it can be a fascinating exercise, and has even crossed over a bit into my normal left to right reading now as well.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Johanna questions why Shojo manga is described as being for both girls and boys in the U.S.
In my opinion it is likely described as such so as to not scare off male readers, some of whom may look at anything that says "targeted for girls/women" as reading "anti-boy."
Of course I'm weird and have always found the stuff supposedly targeted at boys --big explosions, women in little clothing, with little to no characterization or personal elements beyond "I'll save you from that horrible man/monster Jill/Johanna/Denise!"-- stuff sort of insulting to my intelligence.
While I look at the stuff targeted supposedly at girls/women --personal issues, world events, finding true love, interpersonal conflicts-- and gone "ooh interesting!"
Yet I know for many people, especially young boys, anything described as for girls can have negative connotations for them if a boy is interested in it. It seems more acceptable for girls in our society to be interested in typical "boy" targeted entertainment.
Likely due to the still overriding domination of male targeted entertainment in TV shows and movies, leaving them with very little choice in the matter. Though the rash of teenage girl targeted movies like "Mean Girls" and "Lizzie McGuire" may be changing that trend thankfully.
Yet boys interested in anything thought of as "for girls" are often derided, chastised and made to choose something else in most instances. Leading to a real defensiveness that can come out any time that is questioned. Ever try and describe a boy's G.I. Joe toys as dolls, to only be loudly corrected that they "are not dolls, but action figures!"?
Perhaps this view will eventually change, but for now it doesn't seem that likely.
Monday, June 14, 2004
Carol Azizian reports for THE FLINT JOURNAL on manga's rising popularity with kids and women.
Such as with Clyde Houston Kelley a 16 year old who identified with the Japanese comic book character, Yugi. Who as a shy 10th-grader who's picked on by his classmates and spends time alone playing games took heart at the comic character who had similar problems.
At one point these type of stories were with fans identifying with American comic characters like Spider-Man or wishing they could be like Superman. Yet with today's move by DC and Marvel to make their characters and stories "more sophisticated" that level of relatability has been lost.
Female readers are also enjoying manga because of its diversity of genres. Suchas 27 year old Jocelyn Urmanic, who says in the article that she first got involved through the animation but then got into the books. "[She]admitted it was difficult to read them at first because of the unusual format. But she quickly "learned to go through the story and figure it out."
By 1995, she was buying both anime and manga at Comic Relief, where she later worked. She has a large collection of both as well as animation cels.
This line especially had to be most damning to DC and Marvel "American comics don't do a lot for me, I'm not too much of a superhero-type person. I love Batman. But I'm not interested in a lot of what Marvel or DC Comics puts out."
Can DC or Marvel ever recover from this? I'm not sure given that they continue to market books to the ever shrinking core audience in the Direct Market. Yet only time will tell.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
Neat stuff at Wal-Mart
I was in Wal-Mart today getting some medicine to treat a sunburn, and noticed two great finds:
The Untold Legend of Batman
Written by Len Wein
Interior art by Jim Aparo and John Byrne
Cover by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Dick Giordano
The Superman Story
Written by Martin Pasko
Art by Curt Swan
These b&w comics in paperback book form were originally published in the early 1980s according to their inside. With Tor now rereleasing them today, should make for an interesting read.
Johanna makes some insightful comments on Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis miniseries from DC Comics.
I usually don't get too upset about these things, but this was one instance that made me question why I even bother with DC and Marvel anymore. Given how much more enjoyment I get out of manga and the indies.
I know the character because she and here husband were real fun characters that just really worked for me when I read them in the old team book they were in.
I realize that she is a minor character though, so I'm sort of wondering why DC is making such a big deal about her death.
Because the big reaction I'm seeing from a lot of folks on this is that they are scratching their heads going "that's the big deal they hyped as the event of the year?" Which could mean this is backfiring on DC?
I mean sure I like her and her husband A LOT, but I think 90% of fans don't even know who they are/were, and this isn't going to make either of them any more interesting from my viewpoint. (the opposite if anything) Yet what I get from interviews is the same as her, that this series is supposed to show that "see secret identities are important!"
Which is silly. Yes the secret ID is a genre staple but when you try to explain it too much it comes off equally to someone writing a story to try to figure out how Superman flies or how the Green Lantern ring's power works.
It's super hero comic books, if you can't accept that someone can fly or that if someone puts on a pair of glasses it makes them look totally different. Well superheroes may not be for you.
Saturday, June 12, 2004
Quick Comic Takes
Catching up on some things I've read recently.
CSI:Serial TPB - I only discovered the show recently through some friends loaning me the DVD seasons to watch. Yet when I learned there was a comic series about the teams I didn't have much hope that it would match the show's quality given how most comic adaptions tend to turn our poorly.
Here with Serial that idea of poor adaptions might be broken. As it does an admiral job of capturing the show's flow and dialogue. There are a few times where the writer falls in love with his own voice, such as how he overwrites openings and scene changes.
Seeming almost as if he doesn't trust the artist to tell the story. Which is too bad as the artist does a great job of capturing the likenesses of the actors without the stiffness that such drawings usually bring.
Serial brings a good mystery solved through the usual adept CSI methods, and is a must for any fan of the show who can't wait for the next new episode.
Suki #1 This strange series following a high school girl who seems too cheerful and naive to be believable enough to read in even fiction, is an odd duck.
At first I found the cheerfulness to be so heavy that I almost put down the book in order to gag at its saccharine flavor. Yet as the book goes on the cheerfulness starts to take on a disturbing feeling, that leads to a mystery that makes me want to see the reason behind it.
I'm not sure where the storyline is going, but after an odd start it has me very interested in seeing what happens next.
Planetes #1 - This manga has gotten so much praise that I was almost scared to read it, thinking nothing could live up to its hype. When I found the first story about an astronaut seeking closure to personal tragedy to be a bit too melodramatic. I thought my fears were being realized.
Then with the second story about a female captain whose obsession with the vice of smoking led her to great extremes. I was starting be won over. Her characterization reminded me of some of the female characters Warren Ellis wrote, such as Jenny Sparks. Yet with a touch more humor and passion.
The third story about a young astronaut who wants desperately to go on a mission to Jupiter was my favorite. As we see his family and learn about his drive and dedication to achieve his goal.
Overall a very fine start that definitely lived up to some of the hyperbole I had seen of it before. And a series I'll definitely want to see more of.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Via Johanna the 2003 Squiddies Awards winners have been announced and Brian Bendis is once again voted as the favorite writer.
Foiling the diabolical plans of myself and a select few other comic bloggers, to ruin his chances!
Seriously I really am just kidding folks, and congrats to him and all of the other winners this year.
For me Mr. Bendis is just another in a long line of popular creators work, whose acclaim I don't get. Yet then my tastes have generally tended to be far from the norm for the comics buying public. Likely because I didn't truly grow up reading comics, only really (beyond G.I. Joe as a kid) getting into them during my later teen years.
I did think it was nice to learn that there are others who have had similar feelings on the work. And I enjoyed reading all of the commentary yesterday that had similar views to mine.
Hopefully those that disagree with me or any of the others do know that our disagreement doesn't mean we think their tastes are bad. Given the numbers, if anything it is probably more likely that we are the unenlightened few who just can't grasp his greatness for some reason or another.
I've enjoyed seeing most of their comments as to why they like Bendis's stuff greatly. Perhaps they learned from what the others said, how come some might not like his work as well.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Dissing Bendis Day
Someone forgot to tell me that this was "Diss Bendis Day", I wish I would have known as I would have bought presents! For the most part I find Bendis an easy to ignore creator, because outside of Ultimate Spider-Man I've seen very little by him that I WANTED to read.
What I have read by him seems mediocre to fair at best, nothing to outright despise, but not anything that is truly memorable either. Which given how most comics today are poorly done, makes his work seem even better by comparison, likely explaining a good deal of his appeal to some fans.
Still I found the links around blogosphere today fairly interesting to read.
First up was Johanna ---Who seems to be catching most of the flack, though I thought her point that it is interesting to see someone so widely praised put under a more critical eye to be a good one. --- started by pointing out a review that talked about the unrealistic dialogue in Bendis's recent Daredevil comic.
Whenever I see someone criticize or acclaim someone regarding realistic dialogue, I think of what I saw writer Brian K. Vaughan say once. He was at one time a court stenographer, and said that the way people normally talk is terrible and would be awful to read in a book.
So he hopes a reader who offers him such praise really means, is that his dialogue makes the emotions behind it seem real. Which was a great insight.
John Jakala also weighs in, he and I seem to have the closest feelings on the situation. Though unlike him, I found Bendis's Fortune & Glory to be a big waste of space.
Because it came off as a creator thinking what he had to say was truly unique. Yet it turned out to be just one more standard "Hollywood people are stupid!" story, that offered nothing that hadn't been explored thousands of times in the past.
I must admit to liking Bendis's early Ultimate Spider-Man issues, until Peter put on the costume at least. Then it became stiffly drawn, padded out superhero drama which lost my interest very quickly.
Yet with the plethora of options out there, and the fact that Bendis sticks mainly to Marvel whose books I rarely follow, ignoring him and his work is easy for me.
Monday, June 07, 2004
Johanna has gotten a head start this month on her Preview recommendations, and I wanted to use this space tonight to reply to some of the stuff she says in her great column.
FINDER: DREAM SEQUENCE
Diamond Order Code JUN04 2647
by Carla Speed McNeil, Lightspeed Press
200 black-and-white pages, $20.95
Sigh I really should try to catch up on this wonderful series, but I am so far behind that I wonder if I'll ever catch up. The last time I read it was WAY back during the first trade which I loved. Yet I just haven't managed to get back to the series for more, and now I'm not even sure how many collections I am behind.
Diamond Order Code JUN04 2744
by Jill Thompson, Sirius Entertainment
48 color pages, $9.95
The first two painted storybooks, this and The Revenge of Jimmy, are now available in softcover.
Wonderful to see these books start arriving in a more affordable format. I wonder if her propsed cartoon series had made any further progress?
Oh, look, the Red Star folks are back with another oversized, over-priced collection. This series had such a buzz, but erratic schedules and jumping publishers seems to have killed the word of mouth.
That's what happens when you just keep releasing the same material over and over again. Readers patience only goes so far, before people give up and move onto other things. In comics the old adage "Out of sight out of mind" is more true than in just about any other field.
Wow, there's a new Legion trade collection -- and it didn't take five years to get it out!
Too bad it's one of the type of stories that non-Legion fans think of when they think of the LSH. Tons of characters with little to no explanations as to who they are, a sort of smugness directed towards their modern counterparts, and an ending that made litte to no sense at all.
There is an Ultimate Gambit for fans to demand the return of? I can sort of see the appeal to some fanboys for the character. He's in love with a woman he's not allowed to touch. Something a lot of fanboys are completely familiar with in their dealings with all women.
Anyway, be sure to check out her article as it recommends a lot of great stuff.
Sunday, June 06, 2004
I put in a 10 hour day at work today, so am WAY too tired to write anything very deep tonight.
Johanna over at Comics Worth Reading covers a lot of great items this week on her site and blog. Yet the highlight of the weekend for me was her coverage of Planetes which she named a Comics Worth Reading.
It is a truly great manga series, that I hope to do some coverage of eventually as well.
I must admit to being a bit selfish, and being glad to see her coverage of books like it and Ranma 1/2, rather than the superhero books she usually does. Since as it stands now, I'm much more likely to read them and want opinions on it. Rather than on the weekly, mostly forgettable, superhero books from the big two.
While at a flea market yesteday I made a neat discovery of a Batman novel that I had not seen before.
Tales of the Batman
It looks like it should be a fun book to try, and it only cost me $1. Gotta love flea markets!
Friday, June 04, 2004
Tokyopop is teaming up with the band Linkin Park, to produce a manga version of their"Breaking the Habit" music video. This is a briliant idea, as comics and music videos both tell stories in a short format, using the combination of images and words like very few other mediums can.
Perhaps this will lead to even further crossovers like this as time goes by.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Think the typical comic book geek, as seen on the Simpsons, doesn't exist?
I used to think that, as surely no one could be as lifeless and single minded as the "Comics Book Guy" from that show. Yet then I visit the Green Lantern board and see thispost by a fan there know as WelcometotheVOid:
The destruction of the Corps, Oa, the Central Battery was NOT , I repeat not an editorial directive, until after Ron Marz wrote up his ET.
The original ET, was approved by the Editors as long as G. Jones turned Hal was turned into a villain for the next Green Lantern. No where in that script was the destruction of the GLC, Oa, or the rest of the Green Lantern legacy.
Ron Marz tried to hide behind this editorial sheep's clothing, but other insiders [Dooley to name one source] have revealed that it was Ron Marz that wrote off Oa, the GLC, and much of the Green Lantern Legacy as possible.
Zero Hour even tried to return Hal Jordan from the 57th Century, but was told that Hal was to be the villain after ZH.
If you don't believe that Ron Marz knew about GJ's ET, then you missed the part about the "The Guardians return Sinestro" part in the original ET pre-published work!
As well as when Judd Winnick 'wrote' the return of the Guardians as children, that was also mentioned in the original GJ ET script!
And if this all was the "editor's" fault, then how come as soon as Ron Marz left, the Green Lantern legacy found another active GL in Raker, restored mostly everything that ET destroyed In Legacy * #150, rediscovered Mojo and so on, while the "editors" were still working at DC Comics?!
further claiming that he :
Ron Marz will tell you what you want to hear, I talked with him about his X-O run over at Valiant and had a friend talk to him about his Silver Surfer work.
The guy basically told each of us, at separate times that the character or comic we talked to him about was "his favorite this and that".
The guy basically thought people won't talk to each other about what he told them.
He also during his first Kyle run told people Kyle was his idea and this direction.
then years later, he started to say it was the editor this and the readers that,
Now it's 'I never got to TELL my Green Lantern story'...
...believe what you want, but I know what I pieced together..
When Ron Marz refuted these claims as his own board saying:
As many times as I answer this question, I know there's a certain group of fans who simply won't accept the truth no matter how many times they hear it. But, here goes again:
When I took on the GL assignment, I was given an outline by DC editorial for issues #48-#50, the issue-by-issue broad strokes of what had to happen in those issues: Hal grieving for Coast City, getting pissed at the Guardians, battling and destroying the Corps, killing Sinestro, destroying the Central Battery and the Guardians save one, the last GL ring being awarded to a new, lone GL.
More specific details were mine: which GLs we showed Hal fighting, the killing of Kilowog "on camera," choosing Ganthet as the Guardian who survived.
The creation of Kyle -- who and what he was -- was left pretty much up to me, with some input from Kevin Dooley. I came up with his name, his physical look and the fact that he was an artist. As I recall, the editorial outline said something like: "New GL is given the ring." That was it in terms of specific direction.
So ... editorial called the overall shots, but I wrote it. I've also always been consistent about this as well: if anyone thinks "blame" needs to be assigned, that's my name in the credits box, "blame" me.
I know some of this stems from the continuing divisive and frankly nasty nature of DC's GL boards. If someone doesn't like my writing and feels the need to continually say so, that's fine. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. But to make up lies and put words in my mouth for that purpose is kind of pathetic. If anyone one wants a direct answer or opinion -- in other words, the truth right from the horse's mouth -- I'm always available right here.
Does Void bow his head and admit he made it up or was perhaps misinformed? Of course not! In true fanboy form he sticks to his own view, claiming everyone should believe him because "he says so." I know I'm convinced! I always take the word of people with the names like WelcometotheVoid, over those who sign their own name or were actually a part of the process.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Tokyopop has also put out a call, asking fans what movie, TV show, video game, music video or sport fans would like to see in the Cine-Manga format. All participants will be eligible to win free stuff from Tokyopop.
I wonder how many people actually participate in these surveys? Tokyopop does them very often, so they must obviously be getting some substantial feedback from it, and it does seem to be a great way to learn more about your audience.
Huh, in this day and age where DC and Marvel have done away with their letter columns. And DC additionally having done away with all e-mail accounts for readers to send feedback to. Basically telling fans that "we don't care what you think."
Tokyopop once again shows up the American "dinosaur like" comic publishers, by hyping their creators appearance at the upcoming San Diego Comic Con. While also asking for fans who can't make it to send in letters and artwork, that they can give to the visiting creators.