Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Taking Chances

Sometimes I feel like I get a little too set in my reading habits. So I like to take a chance on books that at least on the surface level I don't feel a connection to. Recently the two I took a chance on were

Conan Volume 1: The Frost Giant's Daughter And Other Stories
by Kurt Busiek, Cary Nord (Illustrator), Thomas Yeates (Illustrator), Dave Stewart (Illustrator)
Dark Horse, $15.95, 192 pages (March, 2005)

I've never been much of a fan of sword & sorcery books, though I do recall watching one of the Conan movies and reading one or two novels as a kid. Yet that was more in hopes of seeing some naked chicks than anything else.

Yet this new series has received a lot of praise, and the packaging of the book was really lovely, so I decided to take a chance.

Sadly I'm still not a fan of sword and sorcery books, and found large parts of this story line fairly repugnant. Conan in some respects has a certain amount of honor when it comes to fellow warriors, and I could admire his sense of adventure in wanting to see new places and meet new people.

Yet his treatment of women is down right scary, be it dominating a slave girl who risked much to free him from a drug induced stupor. To his wild pursuit of a female goddess in order to rape her for first taunting him on a battlefield.

I suppose that is done to add depth to the character, showing he is neither hero of villain. Yet that's just a step too far for me to really root for him as I feel I should.

The book and story itself are quite well done though. These mystical worlds are both bigger than life, yet still recognizable and relatable to the reader. Busiek provides unique voices for the various races and characters, and the blood, gore and women in little to no clothing are brought to full life by Nord.

I'm just not the target audience for the book, because it's a genre that just isn't ever going to interest me if this book is any indication.

Inhumans Vol. 1: Culture Shock
by Sean McKeever and Matthew Clark
Marvel, $7.99, 144 pages (April 27, 2005)

I have never liked or cared for The Inhumans characters at all before. Beyond the rather goofy costumes and powers. There's just something inherently creepy about a race of beings who gas their kids with stuff that most likely could kill them or horribly deform them.

So imagine my surprise when I take a chance on this book and find it far different from my expectations.

The creepy stuff with the gas is still there, but it is played with for great effect in how it can take lives in directions that the participants didn't expect. Then how that can change the way they must live and how they interact with those around them.

A big help is that the "goofy stuff" of the Inhumans royal family is downplayed to the point where they are almost out of the book entirely. With the series following a group of new Inhuman characters, who are young and still adjusting to their roles in the Inhumans society as adults.

So when they are ordered by their king to take part in an exchange program, that requires them to live and attend college on Earth. Their lives are all thrown into turmoil as they must not only continue to learn about themselves, but also learn about an entirely new society.

Seeing how both the Earthlings and Inhumans interact with each other was fascinating study of culture clash. From the naive Alaris who gets taken advantage of by those who see an opportunity in his optimistic ignorance. To the brash Nahrees who despite an abrasive personality constantly finds herself interacting with others, and becoming hurt when things don't go well.

I like that neither culture is shown as being inherently better or worse than the other. Each has its positives and negatives that are highlighted.

It showcasea the alienness that the different cultures have when they come together, yet still manages to have the grain of connection that crosses those differences. A common thread, that no matter how different things may seem we can all be very much a like as well.

I got to the end of this book and wanted to see more about the characters, and to see whether the two races could come together or not. Hopefully Marvel finishes the story soon.

Monday, March 28, 2005

DVD News

I'm looking at the TV Shows on DVD site tonight and have run across this interesting tidbit.

Smallville Season 5 to have Lois Lane Retrospective:

One specific feature which we've received word on is a "Lois Lane Retrospective". This feature will take a look back at the history of Lois Lane, so that today's generation can see that there has been a long line of women who have played this key role in the Superman mythology.

Special guest appearances for this feature include video interviews with Erica Durance (who plays Lois Lane in "Smallville"), Noel Neill (the original Lois Lane from the Kirk Alyn "Superman" serials and "The Adventures of Superman" TV series from the 1950s), and even Dana Delany (who voiced Lois Lane in "Superman: The Animated Series" of the 1990s).

Just added:

Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in four Superman movies and appeared in the Smallville episodes "Crusade" and "Transference," has also been interviewed for the Smallville Season 4 DVD set.

I'm not a huge fan of the show, but it sounds really interesting to get this kind of look at how Lois has been played. Too bad Terri Hatcher isn't involved, though with Lois & Clark The New Adventures of Superman Season One coming out. Well perhaps we'll see something like that from her down the line.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

This Week's Comics Snapshots

JLA Classified #5 - This is just a fun sitcom comedy approach to superheroes, with common events taken to extreme lengths for the joke.

Those worrying about Mary Marvel's intelligence level should definitely be pleased by her showing this issue. When she meets Guy Gardner for the first time, and has to stand up to her over protective brother. Which is the bigger obstacle was surprising.

I did find myself wondering when Blue Beetle and Power Girl became such friends, I must have missed that somewhere. Yet all in all just a fun read, with characters who are goofy and with stories that don't take themselves too seriously.

It'll be a nice reminder of why DC used to be fun before the the whole "whatever DC's latest wallowing in sadism crossover is called" stuff sends everything down the toilet.

Spellbinders #1 - Young people with magic powers at a high school in Salem, MA welcome a new girl whose power may be the greatest they've ever seen.

Nothing happens in this comic that doesn't feel like a slightly different version of The Craft. I was just bored as it all just seemed too familiar, though the last page cliffhanger showed potential but may be too little to late for this reader.

I expect better from writer Mike Carey after his wonderful "My Faith in Frankie" miniseries, but this just lacked a lot of the heart and freshness of that.

Runaways #2 - This comic is kind of annoying because it relies on everyone being idiots of a sort. Not in the goofy sitcom way of the Giffen Justice League, where the goofy behavior is played for laughs.

Yet in a way that the characters have to act stupid in order to forward the plot.

From the former heroes who want to stop the Runaways from ruining their lives by being superheroes. By putting on their superhero to beat them into doing what they say not what they do.

To the Runaways who in trying to stop someone who might kill them 20 years in the future. By picking a fight with him out of the blue today, rather than talk with him to see what he is like first.

Gee I wonder why he might dislike them in the future?

I want to see what happens next, but I felt that it could have been better designed to get to where the writer wanted it to wind up at.

Live Wire #1-2 - It is strange really, the comics lacks a real plot, but that's fine because the characters seem so fresh. They may be teenage robots on deadly missions, but the approach makes it feel like teens going to the beach for a weekend.

Which makes for a strange read that is interesting, but like the characters feelings in the book, nothing really important to spend time worrying over.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Best Superhero Cartoon?

The best superhero cartoon I've ever seen isn't the Justice League or Batman, but is Cartoon Network's Krypto The Superdog.

From the light hearted fun theme song, to the clever use of the Superman mythos, to the heart filled theme of just a young boy who needs a friend. Who gains the best friend any man or boy could ever have.

This series is just a ton of fun, and in just a minute guestspot shows a more likeable and human Superman than has been seen anywhere else in over a decade worth of comics.

Don't just pass this off as a kiddy cartoon, while it is great for kids, fan of fun superhero adventures of any age should enjoy it as well.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hinako Ashihara
Viz, $9.99, 192 pages (March 8, 2005)

SOS is a short story manga collection, of young loves.

I like short stories, because they tend to offer unique endings that longer series tend not to. Because if you are working with a limited space the author has to be especially creative in order to get to the end in time.

While with a series there is more room for tangents, yet it also means more responsibility to give the audience the end they need. Since you are asking them to commit to your story for a longer term of time. While in a short story, if the ending isn't popular the audience hasn't invested as much time or money.

SOS started off a bit too familiar though, not that familiarity is bad, but there was nothing to really remark on in its first storyline. Which involves three young teens who are great at making love matches for everyone but themselves. So the three form a dating agency to earn money, yet wind up finding something special among themselves.

The characters are likeable enough, and there is an odd bit about a teacher who has a dating problem that helps add a bit of spice to it all. Yet it was still a standard boy and girl must get past their own emotional baggage together story.

The second storyline is where the book starts earning its keep though. With a poignant tale of tragic love and time lost, that takes place both in the here and now and 1922.

The pacing on the story was very well done, slowly building and twisting until the ending that is one of the most emotional manga moments I've seen. It was one that I should have seen coming, but for some reason it completely took me by surprise.

The final story is about a girl whose boyfriend takes advantage of her devotion to him. She feels strongly for him but he just sees her as another means of making his life easier.

Typically this story would only go a certain way, with her dumping him and finding someone that is more deserving of her love. Yet the breakup is just the start of the story, and who turns out to be the right one for her was surprising.

It is surprising to see a young relationship portrayed that starts out black and white, but moves into many shades of gray. As the lesson is taught that real relationships take work on both sides, and that forgiveness can solve many problems.

I'm not sure if this volume is the first in a series or just a one shot. Yet Hinako Ashihara is certainly a talent who I'll be on the look out for.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Quick Singles Rundowns

Young Avengers #2 - Quickly becoming my favorite Marvel book, especially since She-Hulk is on hiatus. This second issue continues to build the team in fun interesting ways, that reminds me strongly of the early Legion of Super-Heroes, with new promising members showing up to join.

This time we have "the girls" show up, in the form of a strong willed and athletic heiress (who reminds me of Sue Dibny before Identity Crisis) and Ant Man's daughter. Plus the team's mission is explained, giving them a reason to be together that so many other teams lack.

Adam Strange #6 - I will be very curious to see how readers who are waiting for the trade will react to this series once they read it. Since it is written in a way that makes it better suited for the singles format with slam bang openings and a cliffhanger closing that might not work as well in collected form.

This has sort of becoming more of a travelogue than a story though. With the last two issues being as much about checking in with some very obscure DC outer space characters, as about the mystery of Rann's disappearance.

Yet when the series is discussed in interviews as having the purpose of reestablishing the cosmic aspects of the DCU, then that should be expected I suppose.

Sabrina #65 - This issue resolves around self-centeredness, from Sabrina's jealousness of Llandra and Shinji's relationship, to her aunt not discussing with Sabrina what her new job might mean for their family, to the crook who only cares about making himself a star.

It was a wonderful portrayal of the emotion from different angles, and seeing how some where able to get past that out of love made for a very interesting read.

Samurai: Heaven & Earth #3 - Marz's story is simple and pure, dealing with the samurai Shiro traveling the globe to regain his kidnapped love. It is easy to understand and grasp, while providing settings that show off the wonderful artistic talent of artist Luke Ross.

Ross's attention to detail, provides a strikingly lovely picture of France in the time of the Musketeers. Whom Shiro comes into conflict with, though not just any Musketeers but the famous Three Musketeers from Dumas's book.

As Shiro goes forward he finds himself in even greater conflicts, but never wavers in his goal. Which makes him one of the more admirable new characters in some years, and one I long to see have his goal met.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Mr. Incredible
Which Incredibles Character Are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

Miracleman Thoughts

Miracleman comics have sort of become the "holy grail" of many comic fans out there. With issues hard to find, and usually quite expensive once they are. Its myth has grown in leaps and bounds in the last few years especially with the legal rights battle as wonderfully reported here.

I decided recently to try to hunt up some of the issues for myself as well, to see whether the reality lived up to the myth or not. Through eBay and a friend I was able to get a fairly good sampling I think, to judge their worth.

Issues #1-3 deal first with a sort of "flashback" story hearkening back to the Silver Age era of goofy villains and plots. Where the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad (but not evil) and you knew who would win in the end.

Alan Moore captures the feel of those stories perfectly, without it seeming like just a pastiche of those old stories. This is a style he would later revisit with his flashback Supreme stories, so it was interesting to see that he had an apparent fondness for it even so many years back.

Then comes the meat and potatoes, as we watch Miracleman learn his life was a lie. He and his two junior partners were really experiments of the government. The lives they thought they'd lived were really virtual reality created dreams, and that the government tried to destroy them when they realized how dangerous they were.

Which only led to Miracleman gaining amnesia, that made him forget his magic world of transformation. So he built a new life as a reporter and met and married the love of his life. Living a life of virtual ambiguity for 15 years, until a terrorist attack reawakens who he really is.

We then watch as he must battle his junior partner, who has lived the last 15 years with his powers on and has become corrupted by it.

These early issues are broken up in chapters, as these were colorized reprints of short stories from the UK based WARRIOR book. It was interesting to see how writer Alan Moore worked differently with different artists.

Moore didn't seem to trust the first artist Garry Leach much, with good reason since some of the battle sequences were hard to follow, looking like two colored blobs clashing with each other in murky surroundings. So the narrative was heavily descriptive, annoying so in places.

Even if the art itself was showing exactly the same thing, the text made sure to restate it just to be sure. With Alan Davis, Moore seemed to pull back a little more, with less redundancy type narration boxes and dialogue.

Which made the book an easier read, especially since the early dialogue tended to be heavily over wrought. Such as when describing a huge fight scene in issue 2, as something we as mortals couldn't ever understand.

It was two guys beating the heck out of each other, what is so hard to grasp about that concept? Though having read more now, it is evident that it was the first in a line of things meant to show how different powered individuals are from normal people.

Later issues would explore more about the kind of dreams and lives the characters lived through under their dream state. Before having Miracleman confront the scientist who created him for his own ulterior motives.

Then issue 9 where Miracleman's wife gives birth, was an apparently a controversial story during its time. At least as evidenced by the very angry seeming foreword to book 2 by Catherine Yronwode about whether it was appropriate subject for youths or not.

The nudity and graphic violence of the early issues would seem to have made it evident that it wasn't a book for youths to me anyway. Yet on the graphic depiction of the birth I found myself wondering about the necessity of the visuals shown.

Yes it is a natural thing in life, but then so is using the bathroom or vomiting. Neither of which are things I care to see, and I don't think these graphic scenes added anything to the story but an "eww" factor.

Issue 9 was the last of the Moore stories I've been able to find so far. I do have the Apochypha trade, which is a collection of sort of "Elseworld" tales involving the Miracleman family of characters by some of today's more well known comic talent.

Of them the standout ones are

*"The Scrapbook" by Sarah Byam and Norm Breyfogle, which has Miracleman looking in at a world where things with his family had gone certain other ways. It was a poignant tale of "what might have beens" and hints to me at what he must have to give up in future issues.

*"Stray Thoughts" by Stefan Petrucha and Broderic Macaraeg, features Miraclewoman in a story that bring an interesting spin on the old "Superman's robots" theme. Yet doesn't lose the charm those old stories brought out either.

*"Wishing on a Star" by Steve Moore and Alex Ross, was a true surprise find. Its story on how Miracleman's existence would have a negative effect on human initiative was interesting. Yet more impressive was seeing Alex Ross do art with a softer feel and approach than his typical very stiff work he's done in recent years.

There is also a "What were they thinking?" story by James Robinson and Kelly Jones. That focuses on Miracleman's former junior partner Kid Miracleman, and exactly what his thought process was in going evil. It really seemed to glorify the violence and rape done by the lead character in a very disturbing way that disturbed me by its message.

This is a solid mature superhero story, that explores the superhero tale from a slightly different angle. Unlike other tales, like Superman's, where the characters seek acceptance from others.

Miracleman is instead a journey that has the character have to learn and embrace his apartness from humanity.

Miracleman is a work that still stands up all of these years later. I wouldn't put it up there with Moore's Watchmen work, as it lacks the underlining themes and commentary that it worked with.

I definitely look forward to seeing further volumes, and hope that the legal battles get settled so the books can be reprinted in new volumes. Thus making them open to a wider audience.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Lunch Hour Comix
Robert Ullman
Alternative Comics, 64 B&W pages, $5.00

This collection of creator Robert Ullman's comics, done in just one hour a day is remarkably insightful. Usually when I hear about comic challenges surrounding doing things in a time limit. I tend to think "wow a fast food approach to art, how FUN."

Yet the work is of such quality that I wouldn't have known such little time was taken otherwise. Plus the strips don't fall into the humdrum "Today I changed shirts." dullness that many creators looking at everyday life fall into.

10-8-04's strip especially was really clever, as Ullman realizes how your reality is and what you feel can be two entirely different things. Which hit my current mood perfectly, and is the first comics to ring true like that in a while.

The Incredibles DVD

I just watched this movie, and I must say it was quite surprising. I felt when I first heard the movie, and saw the ad highlighting jokes on how overweight the lead was, that it would be one of those "Ha, ha! See how goofy superheroes are!" which would have been fine with me.

Yet instead it was a fairly serious approach to it all, that had its light moments but seemed more directed at an adult audience then for kids as I expected it to be. There was themes of sexual innuendo, responsibility towards family, and the hum drum life of being married with children. Right along with the violent and dangerous life of a superhero, which surprised me as well.

During the huge portions with no one in costume, while I enjoyed it, I also found myself wondering what a kid thought during them. Perhaps that's unfair too, goodness knows comics get a bad rap for being kids only at times. Yet seeing this level of maturity from a Disney cartoon just really surprised me.

A very fun, insightful movie though. It just wasn't at all what I expected it to be.

Target Presents Reading to the Rescue

Writer: Forest Stone
Penciler: Ron Lim
Inker: Scott Koblish

My nine year old niece brought this home from school a a couple of weeks ago, and I just now saw it and decided to give it a look. It is a simple story that has the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, having to fight off the Impossible Man at a kids reading achievement festival.

In fairly typical fashion for these stories, see Superman Radio Shack comics among others, the kids turn out to be the real heroes.

The dialogue at times feels like it is talking down to the readers. Yet the art is very strong, with each hero given a good chance to shine. Except poor Sue Storm, who spends most of the issue with her arms sticking out with a blank stare. Her powers require a lot of thought to showcase well visually, because the power of invisibility is very hard to pull off.

The thing that struck me most though, was that it never talked about the characters origins at all. Which wasn't really needed here, since their powers were explained, but still surprising since I'm not sure how well known the Fantastic Four are. (at least until the movie hits)

I don't read either Spider-Man or Fantastic Four, so I'm not sure how representative it is of how their books are. Yet my niece did pick up a copy of the Spider-Girl Target exclusive when shopping today, so at least it gave her a push towards that.

Shopping Trip

I'm sitting here looking over all the stuff I bought yesterday during a quick out of town vacation. I don't regret buying any of it, but it is certainly surprising to see just how much stuff there was to get, that I was so excited by.

Hot Gimmick Book 8

I love this series about young people coming of age in an apartment complex in Japan. While the Japanese culture and attitudes are big parts of the story, the problems the characters face cross all social lines.

As an aside, my non-comic reading companion thought the cover was very striking and my decription has made her curious about trying it.

Cheeky Angel Book 5

This gender based comedy series always makes me laugh and at times think strongly of the roles we tend to place people in. For no other reason than that is just the commonly thought of way.

Sgt. Frog Book 7

I'm always surprised by this comedic series about free loading aliens, who spend more time trying to collect toys and eat. Rather than trying to conquer the Earth as their mission states.

SOS Book 1

Times Two Book 1

I'm not very familiar with either series, but the art looks strong and I like the idea of short story form young romance titles.

Meanwhile at the comic shop-- Can I just say how cool it is to have a comic shop inside an inside mall instead of the out of the way places they usually are located?-- I picked up quite a bit as well.

Conan Volume 1: The Frost Giant's Daughter And Other Stories

This is one of those cases where the packaging was just so well done, that I had to give the book a shot at such a reasonable price.

I'm not what I think many would call a Conan fan, since I've only read one or two of the novels as a kid, plus saw only the first movie. Yet this book just looks so lovely, and as I've (or perhaps as he) has gotten older. I've been enjoying more and more of writer Kurt Busiek's work than I once did. So I'm hopeful that trend continues.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch #65

I see Johanna has already reviewed this issue. I'll read both it and her commentary, as soon as I get the book back from my 9 year old niece.

Adam Strange #6

I thought issue #5 of this was a bit of a let down, since it seemed to be almost a repeat of the previous 2. Hopefully this issue wins me back, and makes me forget the annoyance of how even the end of this is just a beginning to the next big DC Crossover event.

Young Avengers #2

If this issue is as good, if not better, than the first one. Then between it and DC's Legion of Super-Heroes title, it is a great time to be a fan of teen heroes teams.

Samurai: Heaven and Earth #3 (of 5)

A Samurai versus the Musketeers for his lost love. Should be very cool!

Wow a lot of money spent. I really am hooked aren't it? Yet darn do I have some good reading ahead of me!

Moody Gardens

If anyone is ever in the Galveston, TX area I highly recommend a stop at Moody Gardens. It is a gorgeous place that offers things for both the family, and something for those looking for something more romantic as I and a friend were looking for.

We did some shopping on the way there yesterday, and I'll post some thoughts on that stuff later.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

This & That

From the CBLDF Newsletter:

ITEM! New Editor & Focus for SPX 2005 Anthology

Because you demanded it, the SPX Anthology is returning to its roots
by doing away with themed issues and reclaiming its role as the
nation's finest showcase for an uninhibited range of today's best
alternative and art comics.

Which I think is great news, as while the themes were wonderfully thought out. I didn't really enjoy any of the books, and since I use the Anthology as sort of a sampler. I didn't feel as if it gave me an accurate reading on what the creator's own work was like.

Joss Whedon To Write and Direct Wonder Woman Movie - Given Whedon's penchant for writing strong, interesting female characters. This movie could be something really special.

(I just caught myself, as the description I first used was "Joss Whedon To Do Wonder Woman.")

I haven't had much time this week to read or write between work and making plans with a special someone for what to do on a 6 day vacation next week. We're leaning towards Moody Gardens right now.

I caught the Claudette Colbert movie Midnight the other night on the heads up of a friend. I wasn't quite sure where it was going at times, but it all worked out wonderfully. Plus it was neat to look for the stuff the host said at the front of the movie, such as how Claudette only wanted to be shot from her left side, among others.

I am currently making my way through a partial run of Miracleman I picked up on eBay and from a friend.

It has been interesting reading the first couple of issues so far. Especially to see how a writer works differently with different artists. Alan Moore didn't seem to trust the first artist much, with good reason since some of the sequences were hard to follow, so the narrative was heavily descriptive.

Story details were explained in the text, even if the art itself was showing exactly the same thing. With Alan Davis, Moore seemed to pull back a little more, with less redundancy type narration boxes and dialogue.

Which is good, since some of the early narration was hurting my head a bit. It just stated the same things over and over in a heavily over wrought tone. Such as when describing a huge fight scene in issue 2, was something we as mortals couldn't ever understand.

It was two guys beating the heck out of each other, what is so hard to grasp about that? Because they are stronger than us?

Still an interesting read though. It takes a very serious and adult look at what the reaction would be to people with super powers. So far it has somehow managed to show the silly aspects of the comics of a bygone era for what they are. Yet not seem to look down its nose or degrade them for being what they were either.

I'm really looking forward to seeing where it all winds up, and hope that the legal dealings get settled and the books become more widely available.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Cool/Funny DC Stuff in June

Aquaman #31

"If only I had a trench coat, then I could star in the Sin City movie instead of Bruce Willis."


This looks like a nifty cover, as you don't see cover dresses like that anymore. It has the classic look, but doesn't look dated.

Green Lantern #2

Wow maybe Geoff Johns will succeed in taking the stick out of Hal Jordan's ass after all. As that's one very cool and happy looking cover. Of course Geoff is also writing JLA this month, which is a followup to the "story that won't die or at least end" in Identity Crisis.

Thanks goodness for:

JLA Classified #9

It is always fun to see more of G'Nort, though a Godzilla sized version may be overkill!


I wasn't reading comics back when The Teen Titans ruled the stands, so I'm looking forward to this collection that spotlights a character I've always liked but whose history I never knew. This ties into "The Return of Donna Troy" which will have art by José García-López and George Perez!

So it could be a really neat month!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Recent Comics Reads

(I'm trying a slightly different format today, just to see if it works for me.)

I've been buying mainly manga and collections of older stuff lately. One of the things I picked up recently was Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol Vol. 2: The Painting That Ate Paris.

Now I didn't know a darn thing about the DP before reading this, and in a lot of ways I still don't. Morrison's style for this was about the big idea, the characters seem interesting, but there isn't a lot of time spent on bringing them to life for me. The villains in the first storyarc have more screen time and personality to them then the DP crew does.

Yet that's okay as while the ideas Morrison puts forth are ones that could fall apart under lesser talent. Somehow he manages to make even the most oddball of ideas -- a painting that can swallow the world, a robot body that comes alive and wants to kill its brain, and a man whose tattoos are the words to a spell to destroy the world--- seem serious and interesting, rather than the silly mess they really should be.

I'm not sure I got everything I was supposed to get, but I felt like my brain got a real workout from the sheer imaginative power put into the work.

Cheeky Angel is an interesting series that I almost passed on. When I first heard about it on Johanna's site her reviews gave me the impression that it was very fight driven. The series follows a young boy named Megumi who gets tricked into making a wish that turns him into a girl.

This lends itself to an exploration of commonly thought of gender roles, and turns them on its ear. Megumi may be the sexiest girl in school now, but he still feels like a boy on the inside and won't take any crap from the boys in the school who think she must fall in love with them.

Volume 4 has an insight into an entire genre that I'd been reading recently, that I had been trying to find an answer for.

A friend had sent me copies of Worst 1 & 2 & Tough 1, all of which are part of the "toughest guy at school/in the neighborhood" fighting genre. After trying to read the series I knew they weren't for me, because page after page of fighting doesn't interest me.

Cheeky Angel 4 explained to me exactly why it doesn't hold my interest though. When Megumi is talking to her would be suitors on why she is such a good fighter, and trains so hard. Which is be cause she wants to be the toughest person in the world, just like any other guy.

The boys laugh at her and say that sure everyone felt like that when they were 8, but you grow out of it. Which explained why the fighting genre doesn't work for me, while also showing how Megumi has a very limited idea on what being a guy is really like.

I also read the first Invincible trade by up and coming writing talent Robert Kirkman. This series is widely praised for being a back to basics, fun superhero series. Yet I really didn't see that at all.

Yes at its heart it is a superhero story, but it falls into one of my pet peeves, by being a book that relies on your knowledge of others books in order to truly enjoy it. Everything is so familiar that I spend my time going "oh that's taken from Superman or that's from Spider-Man" instead of just seeing it as a part of the character's story instead.

There is just a feeling of boredom to the book, with superpowers, costumes and alien invasions are seen as common place. If it seems like even the characters in the book are bored with their story, then why shouldn't I be?

Finally I read Ruroni Kenshin Volumes 10-11, which has the gang all coming together again finally. It was nice to see how the original supporting cast and the new friends Kenshin has made on his journey interacted with each other.

Yet the big draw is seeing Kenshin finally begin to confront the villains who in previous volumes had only been building strength. The action scenes are full of energy, as the good guys battle clearly evil foes in astounding visuals.

This series approach is what more American superhero titles should be like. Heroes helping those in need, confronting problems that can challenge their personal beliefs, but never losing their heroic centers.

Now if I can only find Hot Gimmick 8, Imadoki! Nowadays 5, Cheeky Angel 5, and Sgt. Frog 7.

State Game

From Johanna who has apparently been to far more places than I. I wonder if I might have missed one or two having sleepily road with friends from Virginia to North Carolina once.

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Nifty form that will do the HTML for you.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Doubt! Volume 1
Kaneyoshi Izumi
VIZ LLC, 192 Pages, $9.95

Doubt! follows a young girl named Ai Maekawa, who starts off as a rather dull, average looking girl who gets caught wearing panties with a cartoon character on them by popular but snobby junior high school girl.

The girl uses this info to make Ai's life hell in junior high. Yet as she moves to a new high school where no one knows her. Ai sets out to reinvent herself as a hot, popular girl that everyone will love.

This seems to work to great effect, until the snobby girl that knows her secret transfers to the new school. Yet that's when the story really begins to go places.

There are more manga series about teens in high school then can ever be read by one person. So in order to stand out there has to be something unique or special about a series, or else it is likely to get lost in the shuffle very easily.

Doubt! makes that cut for me, because it capture the absurdity and at times superficial nature of teenage life so well. It is a time when looks and popularity are the most important things to a person, and when one embarrassing moment can seem like an end of the world moment that will ruin the kid's life forever.

The look into what makes someone popular, even snotty at times, and why people would want to be like that is interesting. Especially in its ability to turn characters that would typically be "the bad guys" in most stories and make them the heroes instead.

The art is very clean and emotive, with facial expressions perfectly captured so that wordless pages still show emotion perfectly to the reader.

While the book take a very light approach, there are serious subjects broached underneath. Ai's friend Mina knows only one way to show affection for a boy she likes, which is to offer him sexual favors. She seems unable to grasp why he turns her down, as she doesn't have the knowledge of how to interact with him in any other way.

While played mainly for comedy here, as the boy continuously fights her advances off, it is something I have seen in real life. With both men and women or boys and girls seeing love or affection only in terms of sex.

I'm really looking forward to volume 2 to see where it goes next, as unlike other series, it doesn't have any set path for it to take next yet. Which means anything is possible.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Case Closed 4
Gosho Aoyama
200 pages, VIZ LLC, $9.95 (March 1, 2005)

This volume is the best in the series so far, because it shows the true diversity of the concept.

In the first story a horrible murder is committed in an art museum. At first the culprit seems clear, but Conan finds some visual clues that help turn the case on its ear.

I enjoyed it because it was a very "play fair" mystery. All of the elements needed to solve the crime were right there on panel. Yet so cleverly done that I immediately went back and read the story to see the clues for myself after the big revelation.

The second story finds Conan having to race against time to find a bomb on a passenger train. Seeing Conan have to put together what pieces of conversations he heard meant, as well as struggle with the restraints of everyone treating him like a kid. Added a lot of tension, that had me on the edge of my seat to see how he would save the day.

The third story has Conan teaming with his current classmates, to solve a coded treasure map. Seeing the difference in attitudes and expectations between Conan and his fellow students have make the differences between youth and adulthood clear.

The kids see it all as a big adventure and have grand plans for the treasure they want to find. Conan knows the danger they can find themselves in, and his pragmatic response of "putting the money in savings" brings him very down to Earth.

Seeing how varied the stories could be make me feel better about facing the huge number of future volumes to come from the series. Its ability to balance both humor and serious subjects in entertaining and at times thought provoking ways has me very excited to see future volumes.

Tokyopop Free Magazine Offer

I got this in an e-mail from Tokyopop, looks pretty good.

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Our debut issue ships soon, so please sign up by June 1, 2005 and we'll make sure your copy of Takuhai gets right to your doorstep in time for you to get your manga groove on ... and did we mention that it's FREE?!!!!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Fashion Comics

Betty & Veronica Spectacular #69

The Archie titles are all undergoing a makeover to make them more relevant to today's audiences. With this issue the series turns toward a new direction of focusing more on fashions than the normal love triangle of the two girls pursuing Archie.

This is exemplified by a cover that looks like something from a teen fashion magazine, with the girls almost unrecognizable with the more modern clothes and hair styles. The interior art is different as well, as the strict panel borders are gone as the book turns towards full bleed (art goes right across the page) art style.

The art makes the book look more dynamic, which is good as the stories themselves were rather dull. I'm possibly not the target audience here, even though I like shopping for clothes, but I found the characters to be very superficial.

In the first story for example, the girls berate the guys for not being more trendy in their choice of fashion. While it was a justifiable complaint, their behavior made them both seem too shallow and rather unlikeable. Plus Betty and Veronica are two different people, but here their dialogue seemed interchangeable which is poor storytelling in my opinion.

Also, though minor, I'd always seen Reggie as a very fashion aware "preppie" character. Seeing him in tattered clothes just went against the snotty rich boy persona I've always thought of him as.

I'll be curious to see how the audience takes to these new approaches to these classic characters and settings. This series certainly has potential, though I hope the stories are a bit better done in the future.

Paradise Kiss book 1

While B&V centered entirely on fashion, this series instead uses fashion as a background story for a coming of age romance story. Yukari is the typical young female student studying hard for her college entrance exams. When a gang of fashion students pick surprise her on the street asking her to be their model, she's a bit taken aback.

Yet as time goes on she finds herself taken in by their enthusiasm for what they do and who they are. As someone who always did what others expected of her, their rebellious nature intrigues her, especially the fashionably cool George who flirts with her.

I enjoyed how Yukari comes to appreciate and embrace new ways of thinking and behavior that at first seemed repulsive to her. The growth of her character, and how she realizes what her true feelings are is realistically done.

I look forward to seeing where this series and its characters wind up as I read future volumes.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Batman Handbook
Scott Beatty
Quirk Books, $15.95

Sometimes a book is just so goofy sounding that I have to give it a look, this was one of them. As writer Scott Beatty takes a (way too) serious look at times at exactly what it would take to really be Batman.

Which is actually part of the charm, as I could only laugh at the at times very clinical look at how to do things in chapters like "How to Throw a Batarang," "How to Make a Batsuit," "How to Bulletproof Your Batmobile," or my personal favorite "How Train a Sidekick" which were a hoot to read.

Done in a "Worst Case Scenario" type format, there are some surprising insights at times, but for the most part it is just amusing to see how silly it can all really be at times.

The design is really keen too, with the small size making it easily portable with time being spent on each segment just long enough to be interesting without becoming tedious.

So if you want something just a bit weird, I'd recommend giving this book a look at least.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Fight For Superman

Newsarama has been doing a wonderful job keeping up with the battle between DC/Time-Warner and the family of Superman's creators over who owns the property.

It is an issue that reaches far beyond comics, but its impact on how comic companies are run could be Earth shattering for the industry's two biggest entities in DC and Marvel. Which have come to rely almost exclusively on decades old concepts and characters, with little to no new property having a lasting impact in decades.

After decades of abuse and neglect I find it interesting to see the people who made it all possible, or at least their families, finally have some power. I wonder if things will actually go to court, but one thing for sure is that the way things have been done for so long will likely change.

Which is why I find it a bit disconcerting to see many fans take the side that the families are being greedy or don't deserve their fair rights. While I could understand it from boards like Newsarama's which has a rather negative reputation.

Yet I've also found that mindset on many creators boards as well, like this on one on Geoff Johns board with many numerous opinions like:

oh well. both shuster and seigel are dead right? why should people profit off there creation just cause they are related. DC is giving is good entertainment.

Oh there is no doubt that DC should have taken care of Joe and Jerry better than they did but like I said when they were working for the company there were no creator rights at all. I'm certainly glad that their names are now in each of the books listed as the creators of Superman, I'm glad that DC did step in to help them since they were not in the best of financial shape at all but I'm against the families being able to exploit the situation to get themselves a bunch of cash for nothing.

And nothing is exactly what DC should give them; they don't deserve a dime at all now that Joe and Jerry are gone. DC should not have to pay them, their children's children nor be threatened by any blackmail of giving them more money or possibly losing the character. That's ridiculous and shows how much it's just about money for the families now so I got no pity for them, not one single bit.

There are others of like mind, and thankfully some who counter argue with more facts and feelings of support for people over corporations. Especially on a creator's own forum, which I would assume would mean given their participation there. That they recognize the importance of the people behind the characters and stories, at least if not more so as being as important as who publishes them.

The 250K as being enough argument had me scratching my head especially though. So I took a few minutes and looked at the box office grosses of the Superman films for sort of a comparison to see how fair that might be.

The numbers for Superman The Movie alone, at least according to The Numbers was $300,200,000 world gross.

Superman II made Total US Gross of $108,185,706.

Superman III Total US Gross $59,950,623 and $37,200,000 in rentals.

This isn't even counting comics, toys, other merchandise and licensing deals and so much other stuff. Yet the families of the people who made the concept should be happy with only 250K? And they are selfish for even pursuing their legal rights?

Sometimes I just have to shake my head, you know?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

February's Reading List

Stuff I read this month:

Hikaru no Go 3
Case Closed 3
X-Day 1-2
Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol vol. 2: The Painting That Ate Paris
Hellboy Volume 1 : Seed of Destruction
Planetes Vol. 4.1 & 4.2
Cheeky Angel 1-3
The Original Nexus Graphic Novel
Tramps Like Us 3-4
Love Fights 2
Legal Drug 1
Here is Greenwood 1
Imadoki 3
Sensual Phrase 5
Carnet De Voyage

Text Novels:

Jasper Fforde's Well of Lost Plots A Thursday Next novel
J. D. Robb's Survivor in Death

I try to read at least one non-comics related text only book a month, this month I managed two so yay me.

February's Reading List

Stuff I read this month:

Hikaru no Go 3
Case Closed 3
X-Day 1-2
Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol vol. 2: The Painting that Ate Paris
Hellboy Volume 1 : Seed of Destruction
Planetes Vol. 4.1 & 4.2
Cheeky Angel 1-3
The Original Nexus Graphic Novel
Tramps Like Us 3-4
Love Fights 2
Legal Drug 1
Here is Greenwood 1
Imadoki 4
Sensual Phrase 5
Carnet De Voyage

Text Novels:

Jasper Fforde's Well of Lost Plots A Thursday Next novel
J. D. Robb's Survivor in Death

I try to read at least one non-comics related text only book a month, this month I managed two so yay me.