Friday, October 26, 2007


Countdown ArenaIn an interview with, Keith Champagne talks about the comic COUNTDOWN: ARENA that he's writing. The purpose of the book is that Monarch nee Captain Atom is scouring the multiverse to build his army. In doing so, he realizes he has several versions of different characters to choose from. It's not a matter of picking Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, but which Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman. Nevermind that the smart thing to do would probably be to pick as many Supermen, Green Lanterns, and Flashes as possible and let fly. Anywho, in order to pick the best ones, Monarch is going to pick 3 likely choices of each and let them fight it out. What potentially makes this book is fun, the modern DC multiverse is made up of all the elseworlds and variations that DC has come up with in the past. So, it's the Victorian era Batman of GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT vs Batman of a JSA of the JSA: THE LIBERTY FILES and vampire Batman of RED RAIN. And so on (sadly, some battles like Superman and Green Lantern feature alternates never seen before this series). And for Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, readers get to vote for the winners.

But what gets me in the interview and indeed leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth (other than this being part of COUNTDOWN which I've pretty much avoided) is in the interview Champagne twice invokes the word "sacrilegious" in regards to the fact that he would have liked to use THE WATCHMEN Nite Owl in the Blue Beetle battle and the DARK KNIGHT RETURNS Batman.

Excuse me? What's the difference in using those characters and the ones from GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT, RED RAIN, or RED SON? How is Moore's characters or Miller's version of a character which will have zero impact on their mini-series more sacrilegious than the others? How the heck is it more sacrilegious than DC actually killing off both Ditko's Blue Beetle and Question to make way for lame politically correct versions? More sacrilegious than killing of Kirby's Fourth World characters? For actually having in a book that stars the Justice League characters, the rape of a long-time supporting character by a stock super-villain and then having her killed off by another long-time supporting character? Or how they killed off half of the JSA years back only to now have a book made up of mostly carbon copies and "legacy heroes", making a book that should be about celebrating the original heroes into a book about the generation of heroes. You know just like you can get in the Outsiders, Teen Titans, Justice League... Want to talk sacrilegious, you cannot get mores o than what they've done to the DCU already.

What's really funny is that as they are running roughshod over their heroes and histories, one of the things that made THE WATCHMEN work is the fact that it's not really the Charlton heroes. DC at the time wisely realized to let THE WATCHMEN actually be the Charlton characters it would render them largely unusable in the future, it would take them too far from their starting points. By letting Moore use the characters as templates for his cast instead, it allowed Moore to take his story as far as he wanted to. DC got to have their cake and eat it too. So, DC wants to somehow hold these duplicates sacred now, while they have killed off and ruined the originals, which was something creating THE WATCHMEN was to protect against.

Seems to me, it's a little late to worry about sacrilege of using certain characters. DC has gone far past and done far worse to their classic characters already.

Another thing that bugs me a little is how the multiverse is being used. The multiverse originally had very few duplicates and those were done deliberately. Instead it was to incorporate the various companies' characters. You had Earth-1, 2, and 3 as being the one with the most duplicates due to the way history organically unfolded. Fandom posited an Earth-B for The Brave & the Bold stories and a few others that didn't really fit into continuity because Haney didn't really bother with Earths 1&2, it was all the same Earth as far as he was concerned. But Earth-X didn't have another Superman, Batman, etc. Neither did Earth-S. And up to CRISIS, neither did Earth-Prime. But, right into exploring the new Earths, we now have a Green Lantern on Earth-5 (more or less Earth-S). Why? Why not explore the characters that are already there that can be used such as Ibis or Diamond Jack. We don't need MORE Green Lanterns, there are hundreds to choose from. Each Earth had a pretty clear delineation and purpose to it. And the characters were far more unique. Captain Marvel and family was on Earth-S, nowhere else. Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters didn't have counterparts on S or 1. And so on. Now, the multiverse is almost more like hypertime before it, a fail-safe in case the mainstream-verse gets screwed up too much.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Captain Compass

A site I like to check out about once or twice a week is Toonopedia. A great site that is dedicated to comic books, comic strips and animation, scanning decades and media. I almost always learn something new. Today's Toonopedia entry is on Captain Compass:

I've read a few stories with him and found him to be an interesting detective character (of course, that partly could be because of my fondness for the seas). It was one of the reasons I got that Detective 500 that had a story with him and all the other back-up detectives over the years of Detective Comics' run, all wonderfully rendered by the master Jim Aparo. My first exposure to Captain Compass may have been in one of those little digests which reprinted a bunch of different individual detective stories with some of those same detectives. A quaint but enjoyable detective story where the clues to the mystery are in front of you.

However, what struck me about the Toonopedia entry was the panel of artwork that Don posted with it (He always posts an image, usually from the character's prime or original run). In this case, it is a panel from one of the stories. In terms of dynamics it's almost boring really; Captain Compass is simply pacing while musing in front of his chief in the office. On second look though, I was really struck by the amount of detail yet with an economy of line. Compass' head and shoulders are bowed in a defeated manner, his boss is watching with his head resting on the palm of his hand. The desk has panels, we see the blinds in the window, labels on the file cabinet as well as a shadow for depth. There's a model ship on the cabinet and a topographical map on the wall above it. The chair is completely rendered with the struts and Compass' clothes are realistically wrinkled, yet all with a sparsity of linework. Nothing fights for dominance, you have no trouble reading the scene, yet it's very detailed and very non-generic looking in that it does look like an office that someone head of a ship line might have thanks to little things like the model ship and map. It's the very type of scene that many of today's artists would fill up stray crosshatching lines, fancy angles (and today's writers would fill at least 3 panels, breaking up the dialogue and close-ups). And the colorist would fill it with gradients and photoshop effects. It is detailed, but it isn't busy or overly rendered or complex.

It's not the first time I've noticed things like this, a lot of times on some of the old art that is posted here or elsewhere. Taking the panel out of context (or in reprint books, sometimes the very fact the color printing is now in-register or bw so the bad printing is not a distraction), I see the artwork anew, not breezing through it to get to the next panel. And I'm struck just by how good it really is. Just how much detail that the artists manage to get in the scenes and still have it all be clearly legible. Often, less is indeed more.

Not saying I don't like detailed or busy art. John Byrne, if anything, puts more detail in his backgrounds now than he ever did. I love Perez and you cannot accuse him of skimping on details. However, what these two gentlemen do that many today seem not to is make it clear as to the story that each panel tells. Detail is fine as long as the purpose of the panel isn't lost in it, as long as the main idea that panel has to get across is loud and clear. You don't have to hunt in a Perez picture for the story it has to tell, if there are a hundred figures on the page, it's because it serves the scene. If it distracts you, it's not because you have to stop to figure out what the heck is going on, it's more because of what more former boss would call "The D**N factor". I.E. when you see it, you stop and go, "D**N!!" And you marvel at all that he managed to include in one scene.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Captain America's Return and stuff

Alex Ross Captain America
Irv Novick Shield

Marvel has just revealed a new Captain America debuting in January from Brubaker's glaciarly slow paced CAPTAIN AMERICA comic. This one carries a gun and a knife, so it's probably the bloodthirsty retconned alive and trained-assassin Bucky in the threads. But maybe not. As much as I generally like Alex Ross designs, the new Cap's big design change echoes another patriotic hero, the Shield. They say the triangular chest design is in homage to the shape of his first shield. However, I always heard the reason he switched to a round shield after his first adventure was from threat of lawsuit and trademark infringement of the MLJ (Archie) character whose costume it resembled. And when he was revamped when licensed to DC, his costume even went shiny!

Impact Shield

Have to say, Alex Ross does a great Fighting Yank for the upcoming Dynamite series SUPERPOWERS. Of course part of that is it's accurate to the way the character looked and it ranks up there with some of Alex Schomburg's work with the character.
Alex Ross Superpowers

In the "Lying in the Gutters" column at Comicbookresources, we have a copy of an article revealing that Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) is in line for a movie based on the Italian Dylan Dog horror comic. What, Rupert Everett isn't available? See Rupert Everett starred in the movie CEMETARY MAN, based on a novel by the writer of Dylan Dog while Dylan's look is actually based on Rupert Everett. Dylan's comedic side-kick is none other than Groucho Marx, a similarity that had to be toned down in the American reprinting of some issues by Dark Horse Comics a few years back.

It’s the Golden-Age Again

It’s a good time to be a golden-age fan. Doc Savage and the Shadow are being reprinted again, with the original covers and interesting articles and insights to behind the stories. Did you know that overseas in England, the Shadow novels were heavily re-edited and names of the characters and such were changed to give them an England locale? If the story had a really strong or uniquely American flavor, they changed him to the Phantom Sheriff in the Old West! G-8 and the Spider have their facsimile editions regularly coming out, Adventure House still does High Adventure every other month, giving us all of the Captain Zero stories (very excellent by the way), Green Lama and Ki-gor stories. And there are other pulp facsimiles that come out such as SPICY MYSTERY, SUBMARINE STORIES, DON WINSLOW, etc.

DC has had pretty good success with the JSA (even if it’s by killing off various golden-agers and replacing them with legacy characters, not matter how minor a hero). So, other companies seem to be getting on the bandwagon.

First, Marvel is revisiting various of their Timely GA heroes with THE TWELVE by J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston. In a nutshell, twelve of Timely’s GA characters get captured by the Nazis near the end of the war and placed in suspended animation for research. The end of the war interrupts things and they are on ice until the present day. Now, they have trouble adapting (some were killer vigilantes after all) and one or two may go bad and not all make it out alive. So it’s basically going “realistic” and making the heroes grim and gritty. Weston’s art is very detailed, but I find he relies on models just a bit too much. It saps his artwork of dynamism and everything tends to look too posed. Couple that with his realistic style errs on making everything mundane, playing up more the ugliness of the human form, it doesn’t go well with superheroes in general unless you ARE going for that grim, ugly, heroes as fascists theme that it seems all superhero comics have turned into. To see samples of the work, you can search on newsarama or go to Weston’s blog and search some of the archives from the summer:

Dynamite has hired Jim Kruegar and Alex Ross, fresh off of JUSTICE to also do a mini with various public domain golden-age heroes. Actually, Ross is only doing promo art, redesigns and covers, so you can stop drooling. The Fighting Yank takes center stage as a man today racked by guilt from something near the end of the War that lead to many of the heroes retiring and such. And he finds out he’s about to die and might have one last chance to change things. It’s a lot of revisionism, the golden-age Daredevil is the Death Defying Devil, Miss Masque is Masquerade, the Face is Mr. Face. The Green Lama at least keeps his name and looks close to his comic incarnation, but gets a complete power overhaul as he’s compared to Dr. Fate (the Lama was a pulp detective with very limited powers per se in the pulps, his radio show and his first round in comics. In his second round, he traded robes for tights and got Superman type physical powers). Again some retire, some die and some go bad. Where is the sense of fun that can be had with these characters?

Well, that might just be with Image and Erik Larsen as they launch something titled ISSUE AFTER NEXT. It’s various creators from today doing stories of public domain characters from the 40’s. Each creator is pretty much left to their own devices, so there’s bound to be a wide range of takes as we see Larsen on Samson, Allred on Madman, among others.

So, there are some interesting looking titles coming out that I have some hope for as being fun. And some that I’m just going to have to adopt a wait and see attitude.

Monday, October 08, 2007

You Can Be a Hero

"We walk because they walk" For food, for water, for education, for medication. For 60 years people have participated in CROP walks, born originally out of desire to help the needy in post WWII Europe. Up to 25% of monies raised go to local charities. You can go to to find out more about CROP and other efforts that Church World Service are involved with in fighting poverty and world hunger.

I walked in Raleigh's CROP walk this past Sunday. Nowadays it's a 5K (3.2 miles) walk. Back when I did one as my Eagle project as well as helping my Church sponsor the city's official walk the following year, it was 10 miles! My Eagle walk was during the summer if I recall correctly, along a 5 mile stretch of under construction highway that was still cordoned off. Now, that was a walk! A few years later as I participated in one at Chapel Hill, it was 10K, approximately 6 miles. I remember looking down on that measly little hike.

Now, I'm personally glad they are shorter. I am definitely not in as good a shape as I was at the age of 17 and 18. And while I would normally heartily endorse having the walk in October, North Carolina is in a record breaking drought, and the temperatures sadly are inching back up. Yesterday, it was a nice 85 degrees. However, I count my blessings as today and the next it's back in the low 90s! But aside from the sweating and heat (and no Diet Cokes as part of the soft drinks at the end), it was good being out and doing just a little bit of something to make a better world. A sweaty Sunday afternoon and slightly sore feet is in reality a very little cost on my part. It was time well spent with friends and my girl friend as we talked and laughed. And amusingy watched teenagers with all their energy chaffing to walk faster and out-distance their parents trudging along at a snails' pace (with my girlfriend and me somewhere in between).

I enjoy superhero comics and pulp literature. Great escapist fun. A big part of that enjoyment stems from I like stories about good vs. evil, though nowadays it seems hard sometimes to tell the good guys from the bad. However, there are many charities and organizations that require only a little of your time to help be a positive force in the world. A 3 mile walk. An hour of effort. Cannot really complain about that.

Now, my friend Richard who is running a 29 mile marathon for Leukemia and cancer research in South Carolina? And he's older than me! Now that's a Superhero!