Saturday, August 04, 2007

Pantha Report

Ah, for the innocent comics of our youth; they were nothing like the violent comics of today. Or, at least, so they tell me. They were, however, riddled with corpses

This is Tommy the Corpse, the guest star of Bronze Age Superman story.

Remember, kids, the most important thing to do when you encounter a corpse is to throw your arms around it and stare deeply into its eyes.

Gnothi seauton, kouroi!

And the next time you're tempted to complain about death in modern comics, think of Tommy the Corpse and ...

don't lose your head.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Officers Friendly

For your Metropolis-based Heroclix games:

Officers Garling and Sanders of the Metropolis Police Department.

Ambush Island

I haven't forgotten you, Heroclix fans! With the template supplied me by Absorbascommando Derek Lancaster, I've made a new map for your aquatic clix:

I call this map "Ambush Island". It's not exactly complicated, but I still think it's interesting. The island supplies elevated terrain, the reef provides blocking terrain, and the shoals provide hindering terrain. Really, it's not hindering terrain, but "obscuring terrain"; the special rule of the map is that hindering terrain affects only line of sight, not movement.

I'm afraid the resolution here really doesn't do the map justice, but I'm happy to send anyone the file. Imagine using the new Starro-Slave Aquaman or Sword of Atlantis Aquaman, with their new special powers on this map! Throw in some fishclix and some aquatic objects, and you're ready for some splashing good gaming.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Action Comics, featuring.... me

Special thanks to Absorbascommando Jonathan Stopek who pointed out to me that I'm on page 4 of Action Comics 853 (in the top article). Apparently, Devon and I are Metropolis police officers (see our publicity photos, at right).

Good ol' Kurt Busiek! Thanks, KB! I think I'll be blowing that panel up and putting on a tee shirt. That I wear. All the time. "That? Oh, that's just an appearance by me in Action Comics. My latest appearance, I mean... ."

Despite my having been, er, less than kind about Kurt's work on Aquaman, I am a huge fan of his take on Superman, and this month's issue is sheer genius.

Dr. Sivana's Unternet! The Return of the Kryptonite Monkey (and as sidekick to the Kryptonite Man)! The Kryptonite Man, who talks as a villain should, and says "Faugh!" I love villains who say "Faugh!".

Phineas Potter! And Jimmy Olsen's flame breath, "turtle power", and "human geiger counter". Tobias Whale? I didn't think anyone remembered Tobias Whale. And, of course, the guest appearance at the end, which is simultaneously completely unexpected yet perfectly natural.

This is Superman comics as I like them: with Superman as the voice of calm normality in a crazy world of "B" science fiction films gone wild.

Anyway, make sure to tune it to our next Big Monkey Comics Podcast, where I will do a Dramatic Reading of ... MY OWN QUOTE from the Action Comics article!

Now, that is comic book irony.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Star Trek: Year Four

I would like to praise a comic book-- that's NOT from DC.

I enjoyed the first issue of IDW's new series, Star Trek: Year Four.

I'm not familiar with IDW's catalog of series; I looked at the house ads for other books, but they all seemed rather... unpleasant.

Star Trek: Year Four, however, was quite pleasant. Not groundbreaking, by any means, but I think that's part of the point. The series is intended as a continuation of where the original Star Trek series left off (it was cancelled in its third year, hence the name "Year Four"). As such the first issue is quite traditional; it really does read almost like a "lost episode".

The number of familiar Star Trek notes it hits casually in the course of telling its story is impressive:
  • Gigantic Thing in Space that requires investigation
  • Kirk drinking coffee from a cup
  • Vast discoveries that would probably change the Federation society and get mentioned alot, but which is in fact tossed aside and never mentioned again
  • Red-shirt eaten by monster
  • Kirk killing a monster
  • "He's dead, Jim."
  • Kirk and a horny alien beauty
  • Spock doing research on the ship
  • Kirk putting on a boot
  • Bones drooling over medical facilities
  • Crazed scientists and their tragic outcomes
  • Arbitrary threat to the ship
  • Ending homily

There were less traditional touches I enjoyed, too. I loved seeing two characters from the forgotten or maligned Star Trek cartoon series (Lieutenant Arex and Lieutenant M'Ress) and the subtle incorporation of Trek continuity from other Trek series (Enteprise and Deep Space Nine). And good for James T., who's finally learned a new trick or two, based on his previous away missions!

As for the art, well, there's a little hinkiness in the way humans are drawn. But I very much appreciate the stylized approach to the art. Photorealism isn't appropriate for a Star Trek book; the television series was stylized itself; it was the ideas that mattered, not whether a bridge full of colored lights and matte paintings of deep space made any sense.

The art is used to tell the story; plenty of panels have no background details at all, because they would simply be a distraction. This is an element of Golden Age art that I love, and I'm grateful to see it in Year Four. I dislike the "art for art's sake" that we seen in many modern comics, where incredible attention is lavished on the details in the background of a mall food court, when what we need to be paying attention to is the fight in the foreground.

I also liked that there's a rigid four-panel structure to each page (except for one eye-popping two-page splash) that helps measure out the pacing in steady way that helps duplicate the feeling of watching the television show. The absence of thought balloons or captions helped, too!

I don't believe that subsequent plots are going to be quite so boilerplate, but it was nice to start off from a place of great familiarity and comfort. This is not fanfic; it's focus on using the characters to tell stories, not telling stories about the characters.

Give Star Trek: Year Four a try; I'll be interested to know what you think.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A New Big Monkey Podcast!

The latest edition of the Big Monkey Comics Podcast is now available on line (and on the I-Tunes for those who have the I-Tunes)! Please listen, enjoy, and tell me what you liked!
This is a 'very special episode', with Ben Hatton, Devon Sanders, me, Tori Tyree of the Women's Comic Book Discussion Group, and X-Men writer, the charming and generally delightful Mike Carey.
  1. In our first section, I chat with Ben, Devon, and Tori about Black Canary and why you really don't need more than fishnets and kung fu.
  2. The second section is Devon's on-the-spot interview with Mike Carey during his recent visit to Big Monkey.
  3. In the third section, Tori and the Monkey Men tell you how to make comics attractive to new readers.
Listening for the following ... and more!

  • Ben's new plan to distribute comics with other leisure-time products.
  • Devon shops at Tiffany's. Yes, really.
  • "You are not the editor of me." Nice one, Ms. Carey.
  • Tori explains what Black Canary will do if she finds out she didn't hit you hard enough.
  • Ben enjoys the deep-fried twinkie of nerdiness.
  • What does Plastic Man smell like?
  • Ace and Wicked Weasel teach Devon how to be a man.
  • My Dramatic Reading of Hal Jordan's inner musings.
  • The main driving force behind Mike Carey's diverse output!
  • Ben postulates that it's not the message but the medium.
  • Find out how the first comic I ever read influenced my choice of leisure activities and spending quality time with the elderly.
  • A commercial for a delicious new personal security device!
  • Devon sings the work of Harold Faltermeyer.
  • We speak directly to Dan Didio, confident that he is listening.
  • Thrill to a guest spot by Blockade Boy and Gerry Conway on a slightly moist Washington afternoon!
  • Learn why the homeless flee in fear from the force that is Tori Tyree.
  • Ben Hatton's I Hate Jogging, 1st issue special -- because YOU demanded it!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Blue Beetle outwitting an enemy in classic comic book style.
  • Blue Beetle outwitting a different enemy with very out of the box thinking, inspired by Ted Kord.
  • The continuance use of and development of Blue Beetle's supporting cast, particular that hunky kid who drives what appears to be television's Batmobile and Jaime's dad, who made me cry (and will make you cry, too).
  • The tenderness of Darkseid, and its results (Countdown).
  • FINALLY, gods that act like gods instead of middle school guidance counselors (WW).
  • I don't know which was more beautiful in Justice Society Classified: the artist's skillful balance of detailed background with more abstract foreground or the writer's skillful conveying a simple overall message with detailed character moments.
  • Zatanna does cruise ships? Of course, she does (Countdown).
  • Sinestro's ingeniously evil method of "defeating" his successor on Korugar (GLC).
  • Hey, Green Arrow's becoming a hero in Green Arrow: Year One. Who knew? He turned a huge corner for me when he found dead bodies in a well and his first thought wasn't, "Damn! Corpses in my water!" but rather, "Who did this to these people?"
  • Superman still knows how to make an entrance (Teen Titans).
  • The things that made me happy in IDW's first issue of Star Trek: Year Four are enough to merit a separate post.
  • Wonder Woman straddling a nuclear missile in flight (WW); nothing says "more fun comics" than Wonder Woman straddling a nuclear missile in flight.