Sunday, May 20, 2018

Barrier

I'm not usually one to post about something that's just getting started, but Barrier is an exception because it's not going to be collected in a trade.  The original on line creation is being published in 5 issues by Image and that's it if you want a print copy.  Coming out weekly, Barrier, by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente, is coming out weekly.  This past Wednesday was week three and the halfway point, so if you haven't gotten ahold of it, you probably still can find the first 3 issues on the stands before they get jacked up in price.
Barrier #1 (Of 5) Collector’s Edition


Barrier is a beautiful book.  It's being published oversized and with the panels sideways by the usual standards.  Martin's art is arresting, whether in perspective that focuses on a character's face or in depicting the very alien aliens who are, through issue 3, something of a mystery.
Barrier #2 (Of 5)
The story starts with the perspectives of a young father trying to make it to the US from Honduras and a young American rancher on the border and who's a widow.  It looks like it's going to be a direct address of the problems of those fleeing to American and those in America who are reluctant, at best, to absorb those immigrants.  The immigrant faces violence and Coyotes and exposure to the elements and desperate crossings.  The rancher faces smuggling and racism and intimidation and loneliness.  Then it all goes sideways for both of them when they're abducted by aliens from another planet.
Barrier #3 (Of 5)
The portions of the story told from the Honduran perspective are told in Spanish.  The American's story is told in English.  When they and the aliens come together, each continues in his or her own language, without interpretation for either.  The aliens speak in colors, representing the fact that their language is entirely without frame of reference for either human.
Barrier #4 (Of 5)
The two humans, when they interact on the alien ship, are able to make themselves understood to one another on a basic level, even without a shared language, because they have shared human cultural references.  Pointing and speaking or showing artwork that the Honduran has done or had done on his person gets a message across. Pantomime fills in blanks.


But with the aliens, there's nothing.  Through the first 3 issues neither human has any idea what the aliens want.  They're shunted from one part of the ship to another, sometimes alone and sometimes together.  For whatever reason the aliens stripped the rancher of her clothes, leading the Honduran to give her his jacket.  The ship has spaces filled with objects taken from Earth and just dumped like some treasure room in Gringotts.  When the humans try to light a fire, the aliens react swiftly, but the aliens also provided medical care for a bullet wound to the Honduran's leg.
Barrier #5 (Of 5)
This is an intriguing story, and if you're impatient you can read it on Panel Syndicate where it was originally published.  I can wait two more weeks to get the rest of the story in an excellent print edition.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Free Comic Book Day Highlights




Several Small Reviews

So, I just wrapped up my first turbulent and intriguing year of graduate school and I am still winding down from everything. I’ve spent the past semester learning more about the human skeleton than I thought was possible and managed to name my 20-page research paper from my lithics class with a comic book reference. Next week I’ll be immersed in finishing up as much of my museum work as possible before diving into an intense self-directed study of Pompeii. Only 2 ½ weeks until I leave for Italy for field work! Whew, I am exhausted. Due to this I’ll just be highlighting a few comic book encounters from the past month.

First up, Free Comic Book Day!

My husband, son, and I checked out both of the local comic book stores in our new town and ended up going to the one that not have a line down the street. It was a nice setup and a Spiderman cosplayer gave my son a high five. The store itself was great and had additional sales to go along with FCBD. We got 4 free comics each (which was plenty) and picked up a Mouse Guard alphabet book.

Image result for mouse guard alphabet book

My son can read at this point (level 1 stuff, nothing fancy, but beyond needing an alphabet book) however, this book has neat little Mouse Guard blurbs with each letter and the art is gorgeous. My son loves Mouse Guard and since I always try to purchase something from the store hosting FCBD it was MG or the BB-8 cook book and the recipes did not look exciting (I think my son just liked the pictures). After spending some time with the alphabet book, I feel like it was a good purchase. 

Caution to other parents: Mouse Guard isn’t really made for children. It may look like a child’s book at a glance, but it contains a lot of warfare and death. My son started going through Mouse Guard at age 4 and frequently requests it, but there were quite a few story points he struggled with. He’s still upset about Conrad’s final encounter with the crabs from story arc one. Even so, if they can deal with Mufasa’s death in the Lion King it should be mostly okay.


Image result for wormwood saga fcbd


The other books we picked up that were worth noting are: The Wormwood Saga and Sparks.
The Wormwood Saga was interesting enough that I’d like to pick up further issues at some point. It is definitely all-ages as advertised but the art is oriented towards a young crowd used to animation. Don’t get me wrong, the art is appealing, just somewhat simplistic for my tastes. My son found it easy enough to follow the story though and that’s important for young people reading comics. It seems to be a fairly standard magical fantasy world adventure story (think of the Spiderwick Chronicles, Narnia, and Terebithia type genre). A young boy’s father can create paintings that are portals to another world and the boy shows this to a girl he wants to be friends with to impress her. He’s not supposed to share this with anyone so I’m sure that will go really well for him as the story progresses. Regardless of the seeming predictability, I like this type of genre and would hope the story branches out a bit more as it goes.


Image result for sparks fcbd


Sparks! was the true winner of our FCBD excursion. It hit a lot of high points for my son – cats in a dog robot trying to be heroes. The dog robot even puts out a fire by “peeing” on it. As you can imagine, my 5-year-old was cracking up while reading this book. The art is cartoony, but cute. The whole story is narrated by a sentient litter box and the villain is an alien hiding out as a human infant. This story is definitely for younger kids but it is a lot of fun with likable characters.


Thor: Ragnarok

Image result for tom hiddleston lokiI just saw this for the first time 2 days ago while decompressing from finals. I’m not a big Thor fan but I adore Tom Hiddleston as Loki so I keep watching these movies. First, I still love Loki, never stop stabbing people in the back sir. Besides that, this movie really tried to hard. It was entertaining but seemed to be trying to be sarcastic and funny in a way that works for Guardians of the Galaxy, but not for Thor. I get that the Thor movies aren’t as popular but trying to make it into something it isn’t doesn’t make anything better. Also, does anyone like Bruce Banner? Yuck. My son enjoyed Hulk’s fight with the giant wolf and the overall story was okay.


That’s about it for the past month. Most of it was class work, not much time for comics.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Spider-Man Created By Steve Ditko



I have constantly struggled with trying to define the creator credit when it comes to a collaborative art form.  As it stands right now a few creators have gotten their due. Jack Kirby (after years of court battles), Stan Lee (self-created grandstanding) , Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster (again after fighting for justice) and others except Steve Ditko.

I know many will say he has gotten credit for much of his work, but since Steve is not one to obtain lawyers and lives by a strong personal philosophy he is never going to stand up and say I created Spider-Man in court. Not counting on his many many other contributions to Marvel, DC and Charlton comics.

First let me get one thing clear, I understand that many of these characters have been enhanced and improved by the creators who came after the originators. Still for as much as people like Wally Wood and Frank Miller did to change the nature of Daredevil, you still have to give Bill Evertt and Stan Lee credit as creating Daredevil. The fact that Netflix Daredevil series has a F**KING created by Drew Goddard burns me up to no end. Credit someone as developing for TV – but creator – my ass. I know these types of credits are negotiated bullshit but over time people without knowing will think this asswipe created Daredevil.

So back the matter at hand. I say that Steve Ditko is the true creator of Spider-Man and Stan Lee can maybe get a co-creator credit as his dialogue and perhaps some story ideas were a part of the success of the character. Sadly Stan Lee has taken almost all the credit for Spider-Man and almost back handed Steve saying he can be called the co-creator.

My basis for giving Ditko first billing is due to comics being a visual medium first and foremost. Also Stan has constantly lauded the “Marvel Way” which means he often with artist came up with a story idea and the artist then turned it into 20 pages of story. Stan would then dialogue the entire thing. Many, many times the credits would read written by Stan Lee and art by Steve Ditko. When you see some of the original artwork by Kirby you often see margin notes where he is giving an idea what the characters are going to say. In many of the Spider-Man books by Lee and Ditko you can see where the dialogue does not even match what is happening on the actual page.

Ditko at one time produced a drawing showing what the Kirby Spider-Man may have been versus what Ditko created. If accurate (see below) Spider-Man would have never been the popular character he become.



When you read the first 38 issues of Spider-Man and the first 2 Annuals you can see tons of new villains and characters. The actual look and feel of the book is all dictated by the art. Spider-Man’s signature moves which are still used in the books and movies, 60 years later are basically the same. Without Ditko the Amazing Spider-Man could well have become very much just another generic guy in tights.

While I want to give the lion’s share of credit to Ditko for creating Spider-Man, I would give Stan Lee credit for the dialoguing of the books by Ditko and Kirby. As much as I’m sure Stan was grating on the nerves of the artists. It was the bombastic style of his and the fact that he did not write down Marvel comics like DC did to a younger audience that  help make the books different and new.
The thing that constantly drives me crazy is hearing Stan Lee, Stan Lee, Stan Lee. Stan was the front man and was certainly a force that helped to make Marvel comics the success it was but he did it on the backs of a lot of great creators like Kirby, Ditko. Everett, Wood, Dick Ayers and many others.

Remember in today’s world the writers usually provide a full script. That means page by page with a panel by panel breakdown of what they want presented. The dialogue is even included with a full script. An artist may decide to change something here and there but still they have a roadmap of what they are producing.  The Marvel way could be a page, a paragraph or a one liner. Spider-Man faces the Green Goblin again. Now the artist must layout the entire story and only gets writing credit if Stan decided to say plot by Ditko or whomever. At the end of Ditko and Lee’s run on the book the story is Ditko came by once a month and dropped off a complete Spider-Man story and left. Stan would look it over and add words.

The creator credit is important so we can properly give credit to the right people. In a collaborative medium like comic it can be difficult to pick out who should get credit at times. Other times it is pretty clear. With Spider-Man for me it is very very clear. Ditko is the creator of the Amazing Spider-Man and Stan Lee was the plotter (sometimes) and scripter for the character. 

I could write about this stuff forever. I also think that a lot of credit for these characters go to the writers and artists who followed in the originators footsteps which keep the characters alive/ They have added new elements to the characters over time and sometimes made the character better (Daredevil).

The rich history of characters like Batman and Superman show that the characters can change and morph with each generation and with different iterations of the characters in movies and TV. Still the people who started still are deserving of the title of creator. No matter how much you may add onto or modify the character you are not the creator. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Shared Universes


Author's Note: This is a bit of a ramble. I apologize for how my brain works.

This weekend Avengers: Infinity War is in full swing. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have been paying attention to the way people are responding to it. I have no doubt I’ll like it if not love it, but I don’t get to the movies as much as I wish I could anymore.  And I think I’m passed the days of seeing things on opening weekend. 

There are many Marvel characters I like, though I think I tend to be more of a DC guy.  Nevertheless, 10 years and 19 films later, you cannot deny the juggernaut (pun totally intended) that is the MCU.  They have the shared universe that movie studios desperately want, but at the moment, they are the only ones that have managed to do it successfully.

Just to reflect: Warner Bros is stumbling along with their DC Universe. Paramount is trying to reboot the Transformers with a shared universe that will include a new G.I. Joe and possibly other Hasbro properties such as MASK, Rom: Space Knight, Visionaries, and Micronauts in a string of films. Sony was toying around with combining their 21 Jump Street franchise with a Men In Black crossover/reboot, and Sony recently went into business with Valiant to develop a shared universe for their comic book properties. Universal also attempted and already failed at a shared Monster Movie Universe right out of the starting gate with Tom Cruise's lackluster The Mummy remake. These are just the major attempts at a shared universe and I am sure there are others we don't know about yet. Regardless, none have come close to replicating the formula.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Book of Hope ... or not.


The week I read "The Book of Hope" by Tommi Musturi

Have you ever started reading or listening or looking at some work of art and immediately realized that it was something special?  This is one of those books.

As soon as I started I could feel what a work of art it was.  I could hear the whispers of the message Musturi was trying to tell me. 

Sadly I couldn't make out a single word of what he was saying.  He was like the drunk at the bar who tries to give you life changing advice before passing out.  Yeah, I got nothing.  I can tell it's a great book but I'm not sure why.  But I will attempt below the break...


Saturday, April 21, 2018

ACTION COMICS #1000 -- A Review

Action Comics #1000 -- So good I had to buy two copies!  Actually, I spent a great deal of time deliberating on the cover I wanted most, knowing I could only afford two.  And these were just the "regular" decade variants, not the premium offerings.  I first gravitated towards the 1930's Steve Rude cover and the 1960's Mike Allred cover, but eventually chose the Joshua Middleton 1980's cover and the Dan Jurgen's 1990's cover.  There were minor imperfections along the edges of the Rude copies and the Allred one seemed too busy after closer inspection.  The background of the Middleton cover is gorgeous and it also shows my favorite version of Brainiac and Luthor again.  I think it is important that the "1000" number be extra bold.  In my opinion they used the wrong logo though. It's the Byrne-era one (1987), but the image is strictly pre-Crisis early 80's. The Jurgen's one represents my favorite version of Superman, focused on Lois and Clark, and it contains the Superman logo. Which one did you select?


 As we all know, "you can't judge a book by its cover" or at least you're not supposed to.  But in this case, the covers do a good job representing the quality stories inside. Let's explore after the break...

Thursday, April 19, 2018

ACTION COMICS: 80 YEARS OF SUPERMAN - THE DELUXE EDITION HC -- A Review

Happy 80th Birthday to Superman (and 18th birthday to my beautiful daughter, Helen [who likely will never read this]!!!  In celebration I plan on doing two review posts this week on recent publications honoring this historic event.  First up, is the ACTION COMICS: 80 YEARS OF SUPERMAN - THE DELUXE EDITION HC.

Is it wrong to judge a book by MY expectations?  How about judging it by its solicitation?  Read it for yourself below:

(CA) Jim Lee Join us for the 80th anniversary celebration of the most important comic book in American history: ACTION COMICS #1, featuring the first appearance of Superman! It's an extraordinary party as we revisit stories from across the decades, featuring the debuts of not just the Man of Tomorrow, but also Supergirl, Brainiac, the Fortress of Solitude and more! See the work of generations of top writers and artists on the original superhero! Enjoy sparkling essays from literary wizards who have won Pulitzer Prizes and hit the bestseller lists, including Jules Feiffer, who relives his memories of when ACTION COMICS #1 first hit newsstands. Plus, a historical essay by guest editor Paul Levitz, and all one thousand ACTION COMICS covers presented on a special 30' x by 39.75' poster! And as a bonus, don't miss a previously unpublished 1940s Superman tale believed to be written by Jerry Siegel with art by the Joe Shuster studio, salvaged fifty years ago and hidden away until now! This new hardcover serves as a companion to the ACTION COMICS #1000 comic book coming in March!

My first complaint: no poster.  I mean, that was one of the things I really wanted to get this book for in the first place.  Although, I should have been suspicious when the dimensions were listed in feet, not inches!

Now, I don't blame my go-to hardcover online store, InStockTrades.  Every week the new Marvel and DC books are 50% off and if you spend at least $50, shipping is free and there is an additional 2% loyalty discount when buying consecutive weeks.  Since I was already getting the latest Avengers Marvel Masterworks (MMW), volume 18, featuring the awesome John Byrne issues with the secret origin of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (#185-187), I was going to pay the normal $4 shipping.  So, I bought this for $10.99 ($14.99-$4), instead of the listed $29.99.  At that price, I got my money's worth (and something else to write about), but there are still issues, including issues with the issues included.  More after the break.