3. Wonder Woman – Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
I cannot believe the Idle Time brass has dragged me into this new 52 mess. I read about one comic book a year, and that is usually one of the collected story lines in one big book. I haven’t read any of the other books in the new 52 series, so I have no perspective why this one is #3 or how it stacks up to the other 51. My only history with Wonder Woman is through the Lynda Carter television series.
Other than thinking Wonder Woman was the most beautiful woman in the world, I can only remember some shit about an invisible jet that she could fly with her mind, her taking her lasso and roping the bad guys into telling the truth, deflecting bullets and insults with her giant bangles, and that damn tiara that she would throw like a boomerang.
This new reboot of Wonder Woman tackles all kinds of issues the modern everywoman deals with. First, Wonder Woman always thought she had a normal childhood, forged from clay like Saruman’s Uruk Hai, and that her mother loved her little claybaby so much that the gods chose to animate her. She leaves Paradise Island because she was so different from the other Amazons, and begins living a fabulous life in the big city. All this is turned upside down when some little white-trash girl, Zola, appears in her bedroom because some chicken-footed dude gave her a portkey so that she may escape a cruel death by two crazed centaurs. Wonder Woman isn’t afraid; she takes the key and returns to Zola’s house and lays waste to those hoofed bitches. Continue reading The Best of DC’s New 52: #3, Wonder Woman→
5. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. – Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli
I’m not a comics fan.
Never have been. Most likely never will be, but that doesn’t stop my peer group from continually trying to push them on me. Because, you see, I am a socially-maladjusted nerd, so it should be something I’m rather keen on. But I’m just not interested, so here’s my Final Statement after spending twenty years surrounded by people who are:
I don’t care about Watchmen, and no matter how many times I “borrow” your copy (i.e., accept it as it is shoved into my hands to get you to quit bugging me about it), I am never going to read it.
I don’t care about Frank Miller, or the other one.*
I don’t care about cross-overs or multiple universes. Or the “death” of any superhero, which always seems to be a minor media event even though everyone knows damn well he won’t be gone for long.
I do care about Idle Time ranking projects, though, so here I am. Always willing to lean into the pitch and take one for the team, even if it means reading over fifty fucking funnybooks in way too short a time. Sometimes through gritted teeth, more often simply nodding off, but occasionally experiencing a flash of genuine tolerance, I paged my way through each issue of DC Comics’ “New 52.” (About 36 of which seemed to be Green Lantern-related. Those DC chumps really bet the farm on that turd of a movie last summer, didn’t they?) Continue reading The Best of DC’s New 52: #5, Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E→
Comic book events have been convenient ways of tricking my otherwise four-color-phobic Idle Time brethren into reading comics. Remember in 2008 when we hosted the Secret Invasion pool? Or late last year when Erik tried to organize a comics-themed podcast? (I haven’t given up on you, ghostmann) Nothing really worked. Comics is still a distant third place in the Idle Time media hierarchy.
Then DC announced its “New 52” initiative: fifty-two brand-new number-one issues, including re-boots on iconic books like Batman and Green Lantern. Incredible creative teams were assembled. Everything was going to be fresh, and opportunity for reaching new readers had never been greater. The plan met with huge opposition from DC faithful, of course; there was even a protest organized for last year’s SDCC. But for people like me, eager to see comics attack a broader audience (just don’t mess with my Marvel books), this seemed promising. Even Uncle Isey, the Holy Bee himself, long the staunchest hold-out to the funnybooks, enthusiastically declared, “I’m in.”
So the two of us, along with Rex, who never needs an excuse to be asked to read a huge pile of comics, tasked ourselves with reading all fifty-two of the DCnU’s premiere issues. We employed our patent-pending Idle Time roulette system to rank the lot and we now know, unequivocally, which of these new series are worth picking up… and which should be used for kindling and birdcage liners. Erik “ghostmann” Hanson, a longtime DC stalwart, will be chiming in on our Top list, as will the mysterious Lazy Bear, who we’ve forced out of his eleven-month slumber with comic book homework. We’re already five months in on many of the titles, and the first collected editions of these books hit shelves beginning in May. Now, then, is the perfect time to tell you what to read, and what to avoid. Continue reading The Worst of DC’s New 52→
One of the more interesting ironies of the new century is that while comics have become more popular in this country than ever before, it is that very popularity that seems to be threatening the existence of comic shops and specialty stores. Most major comics publishers, including the big two, have begun aggressively marketing digital versions of their monthly titles, complete with “smart” readers that zoom in and out on panel transitions like DVD-extra storyboards. Somewhat overlooked amidst DC’s New 52 initiative is the fact that the publisher is now releasing its digital editions simultaneously with print copies. Batman fanatics don’t need to hit their saver bin for a first peek into the mysterious Court of Owls. In fact, digital subscribers can download, read, and post spoilers on an issue before the local comic shop even opens for business.
Meanwhile, publishers of book-length graphic novels, as well as the cartoonists and creators responsible, are finding that their works are being embraced by mainstream bookstores and online vendors. The New York Times has a “Graphic Books” best seller list that includes volumes from pioneering indie comics publishers like Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics. A backup story in Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve #12 addresses the painful realization that we’re likely never to see a staple-bound comic from the likes of Chester Brown, Peter Bagge, or Jessica Abel again. He includes a soundbite from a Daniel Clowes interview on NPR: “Nobody wants to sell some floppy thing that, you know, gets all bent on the shelf… No bookstore wants to carry it because the profit margin is so low…”
DC Comics unveiled the first issue in its “New” DC Universe (DCnU) yesterday, with the release of Justice League #1. Penned by fan-favorite Geoff Johns and featuring art by comics icon Jim Lee, this first installment in “The New 52,” the highly controversial and hotly anticipated reboot of DC Comics’ decades-long continuity, sets the stage for a new origin of one of the oldest superhero pantheons in pop culture. In an era where superheroes are big business, and the vast majority of comic book character introductions are being made via media other than comics, this fresh start has the opportunity to revitalize the DC canon. It has the potential to give a new audience the thrill of experiencing the magic of comics alongside generations of long-time fans who have been glowing in the burgeoning interest and exposure of their favorite stories. Instead of fresh, this first issue feels terribly stale. Comics, courtesy of inventive storytellers like Stan Lee, Frank Miller, and Geoff Johns himself, had been the inspiration for a decade of big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. If this one issue is any indication, however, DC would prefer that their movies, cartoons, and video games influence the comics instead.
It should be an easy question to answer, a simple topic to elaborate upon. I love comics, and I love talking about the medium. And despite the fact that some of the best, most literate expressions of this artform have nothing to do with superheroes, I can’t ever deny the deep-seated passion I’ve had for capes-and-tights adventures since my first Avengers so many decades ago. But – why superheroes? What is it about this mythic cross of science fiction and fantasy that had not only enthralled me from a young age, but has also turned into huge business, dominating popular culture in movies and video games in the twenty-first century? Should be simple to answer. Shouldn’t it?
Grant Morrison, one of the most renowned and respected comics writers of our day, is far more equipped to tackle this subject than I. Thankfully, at least, as his new book Supergods shows us, I wasn’t wrong in thinking that there is no simple answer to the question. I’m just as thankful that the exploration of superhero culture, in his capable hands and guided by a life similarly captivated by the genre (as well as being twisted through years of genuine chaos magic and intense psychedelia), is a tremendously fascinating and rewarding one.
Supergods explores the history of superheroes, from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s creation of Superman in 1938 through the modern era and the infusion of superheroics into the “real world,” both in Hollywood’s forays into more realistic portrayals, and the advent of real world superheroes, like Portland’s Zetaman and Atlanta’s Crimson Fist. As each decade and each era is explored, Morrison beautifully connects current events with the responses of popular culture, demonstrating how the world of comics, and superheroes specifically, became both accurate reflections of the times as well as prescient oracles of developing fears, dreams, and ideals.
At the EarthFair Festival in San Diego this past weekend, I was struck by the logo for the San Diego Pagan Pride organization. All these pagan religions united against discrimination and prejudice, reminding us all the while that crosses and Stars of David are fine as religious symbols, but if you’re really looking for iconography to rally behind, consider the ankh or… the hammer of Thor!
Which then made me wonder whether or not the half-dozen or so people in San Diego who actually claim to be adherents to the Norse faith had any problem with Marvel Studios’ upcoming summer blockbuster. Was Thor being seen as a trivialization of their beliefs? An insulting depiction of their deity dealing with the modern world like, I don’t know… The Book of Mormon or something? Or was this going to be their Passion of the Christ? Would Teutonic neopaganists start losing their shit in theaters nationwide (starting at midnight on May 6, naturally) watching their God of Thunder suffer at the hands of the divinely crafted Destroyer armor? Continue reading The Passion of the Thunder God→
Beginning January 2011, DC Comics will implement a line-wide pricing adjustment, lowering the prices of all standard length 32-page ongoing comic book titles currently priced at $3.99 to $2.99.
“This announcement reaffirms DC Comics’ commitment to both our core fans and to comic book store retailers,” said Jim Lee, DC Comics Co-Publisher. “For the long term health of the industry, we are willing to take a financial risk so that readers who love our medium do not abandon the art form.” Continue reading Bravo, DC→
Originally published in Justifications on December 10, 2007:
This past Saturday night I was huddled near an electric spaceheater in a makeshift room of a live/work loft in the Vulcan Studios community in Oakland, just off San Leandro. Charlie was clinging to a vanishing pang of nostalgia, something he remembered loving about being a boy… something about growing up and the way things were. Unable to properly recollect the memory, he resorted to a description of a typical day growing up with two brothers and a sister: wake up, fight, read comics, fight… “it was so great.”
He asked me if I read comics growing up. Sherice: “He still does.”
My love affair with comics is similarly rooted in those carefree days of youth. Both of my parents worked when I was growing up, so, during my elementary school years, my grandfather would often pick me up after school and take me to his house in Cow Hollow. At least once a week we would walk down to Chestnut Street – a place decades removed from today’s trendy nightspots and Apple stores – and wander into Jack’s, a magazine and tobacco store between Scott and Pierce. Nonno would set himself up in the back, elbows on the counter, and talk to whom I can only imagine was Jack himself, leaving me at the entryway of the store to peruse the comics racks. Continue reading Loving the Funnybooks→
The Institute’s comics department may receive far less attention than its audio/visual brethren, but as department chair I will continue to extol the virtues of the medium to any and all mildly interested parties. When compared alongside music and film, comics does require the most human interaction, particularly in the sharing of discoveries. If Professor Flores was particularly excited about a movie, you might add it to your Netflix queue. If Dr. Howell was adding an LP to the fourth quarter syllabus, you might download it wirelessly to your iPhone. But if I want you to read the new Chris Ware book, you’re going to have to set foot in a bookstore, or, god forbid, a comics store. The twenty-first century has not devised an effective means of disseminating or reading comics digitally. Not to say it won’t happen… but chances are, for the foreseeable future, your best bet is to borrow my copy. And maybe we’ll get coffee too.
It seems rather fitting that the finest graphic offerings of 2010 are all achievements in comics storytelling and craft. It’s hard to argue that comics can accomplish things that other media cannot, especially when comics-in-adaptation are all the rage these days. Scott Pilgrim was one of the best movies of the year; The Walking Dead is a new AMC hit; and Disney’s new Marvel properties are toy shelf gold. These five books, however, need to be appreciated in the form the artists intended.