Friday, July 23, 2010

Baltimore - Bantam Books

A first rate read steeped in atmosphere.

If not for a three issue mini-series soon to be released by, Dark Horse comics, Baltimore, The Plague Ships, I would never have heard of this novel. If not for my fondness for the creative team of, Mike Mignola, (writer) and, Ben Steinbeck, (illustrator) I'd have simply dismissed, Baltimore, The Plague Ships, as yet one more vampire story in a market already over-saturated with tales of the blood-sucking night-stalkers. Only because of my fondness for, Mike Mignola and Ben Steinbeck, did I decide to add the mini-series, based upon a novel I'd never heard of, to my pull file.

Not wishing to read a comic book based upon a novel I'd never read in the first place, I looked it up on,, found a copy of it for a fair price and ordered it forthwith. I started reading the novel the day it arrived in the mail and didn't put it down until I'd finished it. Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, is as good a read as I've enjoyed in a very long time. This novel took me back to the days of my youth when the tales of, Edgar Allen Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft, introduced me to the horror genre. Like all good classic horror tales, Baltimore, begins on a moonless night in a field covered in fog. Men are at war, a human endeavor already fraught with unimaginable horrors, but on this particular night one soldier is about to come face to face with a horror that will change his life forever.

Wounded, slipping in and out of consciousness as he lies in a tangled heap of dead and dying soldiers, Baltimore, looks on in mounting terror as a strange flock of flying creatures descend upon the bodies strewn across the recent battlefield and begin feeding upon them. After drawing the attention of one of the winged monstrosities, Baltimore, finds himself fighting for his life against an ancient and fearsomely strong vampire. During the ensuing struggle, Baltimore, manages to inflict a terrible, but non-lethal wound to the face of his adversary. The enraged vampire leaves a wound of his own upon the thigh of, Baltimore, that will eventually cost him his leg.

Thus begins a tale I can only best describe as, Captain Ahab, versus the, Great White Wraith, that took his leg. Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire is a tale of revenge and retribution and the toll such pursuits take upon those who seek such bitter satisfactions. It is a good read that echos many of the great tomes that have preceded it in the genre of horror. The novel pays homage without copying or cloning other works. Once again, it is a good read and if you're planning on picking up the upcoming, Dark Horse mini-series, Baltimore, The Plague Ships, I would encourage you to find this book and read it in advance of, Mike Mignola and Ben Steinbeck's return to the world of, Henry Baltimore. If the comic book is even half as good as the novel, this will be a tale you won't want to miss.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brody's Ghost - Mark Crilley

Just plain fun and entertaining.

It was through MDHP (MySpace Dark Horse Presents) that I first came into contact with, Brody's Ghost. There was just something interesting enough about the premise of the story that led me to pick up the first graphic novel in what will be a six book series. All I can say is that this little book gives substance to the cliche, "good things come in small packages." If you overlooked this wonderful gem while shopping in your local comic book store I strongly encourage you to call your local shopkeeper and ask him or her to pull a copy of this book from their shelves and put it in your file before there are no more copies to be found. You just don't want to miss this story.

Mark Crilley can draw. I must admit to being a newcomer to his work, but I'm a fan now and I'll be looking up some of his earlier work as soon as possible. Even in black and white his illustrations breath with vitality and life. I was immediately drawn in to Brody's world from the very first panel and held there until the last panel of the story. Judging from the youthful look of the main characters this story is aimed at the young adolescent market, but anyone could read this book and find it entertaining.

The story revolves around a young man named, Brody. He's till steeped in the throes of a broken heart and living a very shallow and depressed life. Plainly put, he's a slacker. Everything in his life is going from bad to worse until one day he encounters the ghost. Her name is, Talia, and she's been temporarily locked out of heaven until she performs A life task--think, really good deed. Being a ghost she's somewhat limited in her ability to manipulate the corporal world and she needs the help of a, ghostseer, an individual with psychic powers capable of seeing, hearing and talking with ghosts.

Brody, up to this point in his life, has remained blissfully ignorant of his latent psychic abilities. In his current slacker-state of being he isn't going to be of much use to, Talia. She decides he needs training to awaken his abilities and she arranges for him to meet, Kagemura, a ghost sensei with the wisdom to educate young, Brody, in the ways of his psychic skills. The game is then "afoot" as they say...

One of the aspects of, Brody's Ghost, I found most refreshing was that I didn't find myself having to shove aside an overabundance of female cleavage or don a welder's mask to protect my face from the flash burn of a nonstop barrage of the F-Bomb to enjoy the story. It was nice to read a book without feeling assaulted or challenged. It was more than entertaining, it was refreshing.

Mark Crilley has crafted a beautifully illustrated and delightfully written story that promises to deliver five more installments of quality entertainment. I can recommend this book without either hesitation or reservation to readers of all ages and genders. There's something here for everyone and I can't wait for more of, Brody's Ghost, to hit the shelves of my local comic book store. Well done, Mr. Crilley! I'm a fan for sure...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mog World - Yahtzee Croshaw

I do like the cover art.

Fortunately I was spared the tragic mistake of picking this up as an impulse buy by reading the extended nineteen page preview of the book at, Dark Horse Publishing's website. Make no mistake about it, whatever qualities you might find appealing about the online antics of, Yahtzee Croshaw, you'll be hard pressed to find a single one of them between the covers of this book. Unfortunately, this is one of those marketing team projects designed to make money solely on the basis of name recognition. You know how it goes...

Marketing team: "We love what you've got going here with the whole, Yahtzee, thing and we're here to help you capitalize on it while the iron is hot. Celebrity is fleeting, Mr. Croshaw. Especially the Internet kind and if you're going to benefit financially from your current popularity we've got to act fast before the opportunities available to you right now disappear faster than the video games you review."

Yahtzee: "Well, this is all kind of new to me. What do you have in mind?"

Marketing team: "We've already started production on a series of tee-shirts, coffee mugs and buttons, none of that cheap crap mind you, this is all first rate material, assembled in the, United States, and produced to order. All it requires on your part is a link on your website and a small percentage of each sale to cover shipping, handling and manufacturing costs."

Yahtzee: "That's all there is to it?"

Marketing team: "That's just the beginning! Have you ever thought of writing a book?"

Yahtzee: "I read one once, Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, or something like that."

Marketing team: "Don't worry about it. Just throw something together, we'll clean it up in editing, slap a, Grateful Dead, looking cover on it and find a small publisher to sell it online."

Yahtzee: "Well, I'm really not much of a writer per sey..."

Marketing team: "Yahtzee, my man, don't worry about it. You see, we're not selling the literary contents of the book, we're selling the name on the book, Yahtzee Croshaw. Besides, your fans are primarily gamers, not exactly top of the food chain, if you know what we're talking about. They'll probably never even bother to read it once they get it home. It's an impulse purchase..."

Yahtzee: "So that's it?"

Marketing team: "Why, that's just the tip of the iceberg! We're in the final steps of negotiating the closing details on a deal with an online hemp-jewelery company out of, Korea. We're very excited about the, Yahtzee, one hit wonder, line of glass bongs and we just received an email from our perfumer in, China, that they've just begun human testing on the first in your new line of cologne for men called, Joystick."

Sorry, Yahtzee, but in the words of, The Beatles, "You may be a lover, but you ain't no dancer."

Better luck with your cologne...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

R.E.B.E.L.S. - D.C. Comics

The best book nobody knows about.

This is one of the very best comic book titles being produced right now. Tony Bedard is just flat out writing his arse off. Issue after issue he's creating perhaps the most original book to come out of the D.C. talent pool and he's doing it with a cast of characters no one else really seems to care about working with. Tony seems to have found a way to circumvent the stranglehold, Geoff Johns seems to have over the creative process at D.C. and is producing original work that is both engaging and entertaining. R.E.B.E.L.S. is a book you can read without needing a degree in molecular engineering to understand it. There is an elegant simplicity to Tony's story telling that is a breath of fresh air in the current age of convoluted obscurity that passes itself off as dark and edgy adult entertainment.

R.E.B.E.L.S. has managed to do in just eighteen issues what, Geoff Johns has failed to do in series after seemingly endless series of crossover events involving an average of thirty titles each. Tony Bedard has advanced his premise, developed his characters and provided genuinely poignant and compelling moments of story telling in the process. And most impressively of all, he's managed to do it without dropping the F-Bomb in every other sentence, covering up gaping plot holes with with bucketful after bucketful of T&A and offering more adult examples of creative problem solving than, "My powers-penis is bigger than your powers-penis!".

Before I journey much further along I'd like to point out how wonderfully the illustrations of the artistic team of, Claude St. Aubin (Pencils) and Scott Hanna (Inker) enhance this book. This team manages to flesh out more than breast size. The worlds and environments they create are beautifully rendered and a joy for the eye to behold. Theirs is a vision of the universe containing more than nipples, breasts and camel toes. Every time I turn a page I'm treated to alien landscapes filled with lush flora, fauna and architectural designs that spark my imagination and take my breath away. Truly this team engages the highest intellectual functions rather than stimulating the basest part of human nature.

Tony Bedard and his team are creating a genuinely articulate and intelligent piece of work. It is truly sophisticated and adult in every way. Unlike the elitist, pseudo-intellectual group of bohemian extremists currently in charge of the industry who're more concerned with force-feeding their vision of morality and artistic integrity upon the marketplace, Tony is doing what matters most to a real writer. He's telling a story in a manner that engages and entertains as many people as possible rather than alienating all, but the most narrow of demographic. Tony is using the art form to entertain, not to engage in some ludicrous, political crusade against the moral windmills of imaginary censorship.

If you're a reader seeking content more substantial than titillating pinup art to decorate your school locker with, R.E.B.E.L.S. is the book for you. This is a title that shows the very best of what comics can be. It may not be getting the push that some of the bigger projects at D.C. are receiving, but it delivers far more quality for the dollars you'll spend on it than just about anything else you can find in their catalog of books.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Doctor Solar - Dark Horse Publishing

This is gonna be so good...

At last a book has come along worthy of my leaving poolside to come inside, get on the computer and write about. Three times I've read this book now and it just gets better with each and every read. No, it isn't a perfect book. Yes there's a bit of rust around the corners of the dialog and yes, there were some ponderous moments where exposition around minute details seemed to get in the way of the story's pacing, but damn this is a book that we'll all be talking about once this title gets off the ground and running. This book was about laying the foundation for things to come and if you look at the things hinted at in this first issue there's a lot of very cool things coming down the road. Did you catch some of the awesome goodness in this issue?

Secret therapy? How cool is that!? Phillip Solar gaining unbelievable abilities and in the first few nano-seconds of possessing those goodies screwing up the world because he tried to save himself some personal humiliation? Doh! Or how about the, Captain Kirk, poster on the wall of, Whitmore Pickerel's, apartment? (Yeah, there's all kind of goodies in this issue.) Just who was, Bently, working for? And just what is, Tanek Nuro, CEO of Lovejoy International Inc. up to? And exactly what does happen when a hack writerreally can bring his characters to life? And poor, poor, brokenhearted, Gail...

If the foundation laid in this issue is any indication at all there's gonna be a fine house built by the time it's all said and done. And you know what? Jim Shooter's right. How the hell are you supposed to write a good book when most of the characters in the big two companies are so damn tied up for the next many years in plot lines revolving around "major event" stories? At, Dark Horse, Jim Shooter, gets to write without character restrictions fouling up every good idea he comes up with for them. Bravo, Jim! I'm excited and I'm looking forward to some real creative story telling.

This is a book that will suffer initially because of the teasers released to promote it. I too thought the book looked pretty hokey as far as the preview teaser went, but seen now in full context with the rest of the story the book looks pretty damn good. Let me be the first to tell you in no uncertain terms, don't be fooled by the previews, this book is pretty darn good and it's only going to get better as future issues are released.

Compared to other offerings in the marketplace this summer, this one really did manage to"brighten" my day. Nice job, Jim! Now, I'm off to lounge by the pool again. Ciao!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Comics for Cures 2010 - The afterglow...

Lobster Johnson
by Carla Rodriquez

I felt pretty good going into this event. I'd scouted things out in advance, I'd set up my watch list and with an ingenious setup of browser tabs in place I was feeling quite confident as crunch time grew closer and closer. Both the upstairs P.C. and the laptop I keep on the end table beside me in the television room were warmed up and ready to go. A fresh pot of coffee in the kitchen and a cooler full of Red Bulls assured me of a state of alertness until the wee hours of the night in case I needed to be ready for a last minute bid. I was confident, organized and ready to work a master plan I believed would guarantee me a maximum acquisition of treasures.

Days earlier I'd gone through page after page of sketch cards making a detailed list of the ones I liked and would be interested in acquiring. I carefully listed the cards by the hour and minute the bidding on them would close. Once the information had been properly organized in a data base and printed out on paper I began making the hard decisions which of the three hundred chosen cards I could live without if I didn't win the individual battles of the bid. This was a process I repeated until I was down to a twenty card pool of my absolute favorites. By Saturday evening my clipboard contained a fifteen card list of the sketch cards for which I would put up a good fight. The battle was about to be joined.

Early on in the evening (Saturday) I scored an easy acquisition when I picked up three Tiki themed cards by an artist named, David Fletcher. At ninety-nine cents each I was just ecstatic. I think so many people passed on them because they weren't superhero cards, but the detailing was exquisite and they were beautifully drawn. They were on my list as cards I'd go for if the price was right and at ninety-nine cents apiece, the price was right.

For the next several hours I watched as cards I was interested in acquiring, but wouldn't bid my hardest for came and went, and I may not have won any of those cards, but I know I drove the price up higher than the buyer had originally hoped to pay for them. (Whoever wound up buying the, Adam West card knows what I'm talking about.) My plan was to force the early evening bidders into spending as much money as possible so that by the time my late night cards hit the block they'd be out of money. Hey, it was for charity...

As the evening progressed I picked up another great ninety-nine cent card by an artist named, Earl Geier. Again, this was a beautiful drawing of an Amazon, but in a more realistic rendition than so many of the other modern "stylized illustrations" favored by so many people right now. It really reminded me of the illustrations that used to accompany the, Ripley's, Believe It Or Not, pieces in the Sunday funny pages. Again, a wonderful piece so many people passed by in favor of Superhero drawings. At this point I'd picked up four very solid pieces and I still had the funds at my disposal to go for the last two cards I really wanted to acquire.

The two cards I wanted to come away from the auction with were, Carla Rodriguez's, Lobster Johnson and Guy Davis', Sandman Mystery Theater. I'd fallen in love with Carla's interpretation of, Lobster Johnson, since the moment I'd seen it. Not only was the illustration amazing, the coloring was simply brilliant. It was simply the best interpretation I've ever seen of the character. I had to have it. I put the ninety-nine cent bid on it to see if I could draw any one else interested in it out into the open. Sure enough, someone answered the bid. At two dollars and ten cents I let it ride until the last possible minute and then put in a max bid of six dollars and seventy-five cents. My theory was that the other bidder was going for the five dollar bargain and bidding what I did would beat their six dollar and fifty cent bid when it came and sure enough, I got one of my top two cards for six dollars and seventy-five cents.

Guy Davis is a favorite of mine. I love his art and I wanted the, Sandman Mystery Theater, card more than any other single card in the auction. Once I'd managed to grab the, Lobster Johnson, card at the bargain price at the bargain price I knew I could go all in for the card and most likely come away with it. With under a minute to go in the bidding for it I placed a max bid of fifty dollars. I took it home for twenty-eight dollars and sixty-five cents. My evening was complete.

I went into the auction looking for what I felt were some of the better art pieces as opposed to who were my favorite comic book characters. In the end I got a little bit of a number of things from the auction, I got a piece by a favorite artist, a favorite character piece and some cards I just plain liked as pieces of art. For the first time I'd ever participated in the event I couldn't help, but feel I'd come away from it in pretty good shape. I came away with the top two cards I really wanted and six of the fifteen I'd gone into the event willing to bid on. It was well worth staying up until three in the morning for.

If you've never participated in this wonderful event I'd recommend you watch for it next year. Comics For Cures, sponsored by, Comic2Games, is a worthwhile event where everyone comes out a winner. The, American Cancer Society, is the big winner of course, but the little pieces of art are real treasures that make anyone who takes one or two of them home a winner too. I won't be missing this annual event from now on and I hope you'll be adding it to your calender too. Thanks, Comics2Games, you guys rock!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Comics for Cures 2010

How many of our lives have been touched by cancer? Whether it was a friend, a family member or a loved one the feelings of helplessness are always the same. How many times have you wished you could do something to help someone with cancer? Maybe you'd just like to find a way to repay a debt of gratitude for support that came your way when you or someone you cared for experienced cancer in their life. Tonight and tomorrow you have that opportunity, thanks to the good folks at, Comics2Games, in Florence, Kentucky.

This weekend will wrap up the third annual, Comics for Cures Sketch Card Benefit Auction & Gallery Show (In association with Relay For Life, The American Cancer Society.) with the conclusion of their online sketch card auction and a Gallery show at their store, Comics2Games located at 8470 US 42 in Florence, Kentucky. You'll find all 1100 cards in the online auction on display and there will be snacks and beverages served throughout the evening. If I'm not mistaken, I believe they'll have laptop computers set up at the store so you can bid on any card or set of cards that catch your eye. It sounds like a really good time and I'm sure they'll have a surprise or two in store for those who show up to join them for the evening's activities.

If you're not familiar with sketch card art work you can see what all the excitement is about at the online auction site and maybe purchase one of these small treasures for your very own. With 1100 cards available, if we each spend an average of at least three dollars, we can all help to make a significant contribution to, The American Cancer Societies, Relay for Life. Please visit and bid generously. Make a difference, you'll be a better person for it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Suggested for mature adults...

Fun for the whole family?

Labeling the content of a comic book, mature and adult, doesn't necessarily make it one or the other. More often than not the comics I read with the, "suggested for mature and adult readers" label on the front cover are anything but mature and adult. Most of the material in these books is aimed at teenage boys and is designed to titillate the senses rather than stimulate the intellect. The books are often little more than panel after panel of pinup art with the written part of the story doing little more than teasing future story lines and dropping the F-Bomb at every opportunity.

A good story appeals to an audience wider than a single demographic. Male, female, young or old, if a story is truly good it will cross gender and age barriers and offer a little something to a wide variety of readers. Can comic books make that claim right now? Are women reading comic books? The numbers would say they're not. How about young kids? Again, the numbers would say not. Judging from the message and comment boards at the websites I visit, teenage boys are the overwhelming demographic reading comic books these days and their interests are in anything other than intellectual content.

I talk to women in comic book shops and again and again they say the same thing, "Why would I be interested in books filled with half naked women and enormous breasts?" I talk to countless women who find little to read in a market dominated by books bearing the label, suggested for mature and adult readers. Women know what that warning means just as well as I do. It means that in a market increasingly dominated by such labeled books there's less and less for us (the reader looking for more than eye candy) to read.

And it just gets worse every day. Using the justification that comic books are now written primarily for adults both the writing and illustration aspects of today's comics are becoming more and more objectionable to larger and larger numbers of mature adults. The undeniable reality is that the audience for the type of book being produced right now is shrinking. The industry can offer up any number of excuses it cares to, but the reality is that if the product was worth buying, we'd be buying it.

Claiming to be the champions of "free speech" the modern crop of comic book creators are leaving a stain of profanity and sexual objectification upon the landscape of comic books that will deter a wide variety of people from picking up a comic book for a very long time. There is a line that can be crossed. When a so called defense of free speech becomes nothing more than how many times you can fit the F-bomb into a book before it becomes the only word in a book, the line is crossed. When the number of panels in a book devoted to nearly nude women posed in a manner designed to highlight no other female attributes than breast, nipple or camel toe, the line has been crossed. There is a point where stretching the boundaries breaks down into nothing more than sexual titillation and profanity.

The rebuttals to those who question the increasingly objectionable materials taking over the marketplace today run from complete dismissal, either in the form of, "If you don't like it, don't read it." to ridicule for believing in moderation. If you don't one hundred percent, without questioning one single aspect of the content in a comic book, applaud the artistic vision of both writer and illustrator you are denigrated as either, "too stupid to get it" or "too prudish to appreciate it".

The I-Pad isn't going to save the comic industry if all it continues to force feed the market is anatomical exercises in female body parts and profanity. The comic book industry is turning its back on the reader. It is so currently enamored with Hollywood and television deals and is suffering under the delusion that these new "viewers" are the industry's real future. As we've seen with the number of comic book and superhero projects getting canceled lately, the home viewer is no more interested in sexual tension that never resolves, plot lines that endlessly meander with never an end or explanation in sight than is the average comic book reader. This kind of product is no more satisfying on a screen (of any size) than it is upon a printed page.

The industry leaders need to take control of the talent and reign them back in. The blush has worn off the rose and no matter how good the sex was at the beginning of the relationship, it's time to move on to more substantial things. Too much of anything eventually becomes a bad thing and what's being done to comic books right now is turning far more readers away than its attracting. The current group of creators may indeed have won the war against censorship, but in the process they've lost the hearts of a great many people. Where is this in the best interests of anyone? Readership is down. Profits are down. Nobody seems happy with the state of the industry right now. How can this possibly be good for business? Yes, its time for a change, but the behavior and the attitude of the reader isn't where it needs to begin.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Veggie Dog Saturn - Buyer Beware Comics

Jason Young, marching to the beat of a different drummer.

Its taken me a couple of issues to warm up to Jason Young's homespun existential ruminations, but with issue four of, Veggie Dog Saturn, I've finally started to cozy up to his style of story telling and I'm starting to become a fan. I don't normally read existential comics. Especially those by younger writers who tend to feel that every lesson has to be a hard one exposing yet one more of life's darker lies. Oftentimes it seems as if every existential writer today is a disciple of the Goth school of disillusionment where each and every day is viewed as little more than one more agonizing step along the slow and tortuous path towards the inevitable darkness of death. Frankly it gets a little tedious.

Jason Young is a refreshing young existential writer simply because he sees the inconsistencies of life as a series of practical jokes in a divine comedy. The most important lesson Jason appears to be learning from life is to see the wonderful humor of it all, even when that humor is dark. There is a genuine warmth to his work and the life lessons he offers avoid falling prey to the trap of appearing pedantic or preachy. Jason shares with us instead of presuming to teach us. (His is an old soul's voice in a young man's story.)

I think Jason Young really hits his stride in issue four of, Veggie Dog Saturn. For the first time he presents us with a series of vignettes around a central theme instead of attempting to fill a book with a single story. There are a total of six vignettes in this little gem of a book, each of which is like a facet of a jewel reflecting a color of light different than the one before it. Like a jeweler cutting a larger stone into smaller carats Jason strikes with swift sharp blows bringing the deeper beauty of a moment into the full light of realization. You will laugh, cry, nod your head in agreement and in the end you'll have learned a little something about the humanity inside us all. That's a lot more than you'll get from a lot books on the shelves these days.

Issue number four of, Veggie Dog Saturn, is a damn fine book and a heck of a bargain at only two dollars. You can find Jason Young and his book at Mavericks Card and Comic Shop or you can purchase it online at Buyer Beware Comics. I highly reccomend Jason's book and I hope you'll give it a try. The kid's got some talent and a whole bunch of heart, always a winning combination in my book.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wannabes - Gonzo Goose Productions

The Wannabez just shouldn't be...

Did you ever have one of those ideas when you and your buddies were sitting around smoking a big fatty of, the-chronic-that-killed-Elvis-and-his-evil-alien-clone-baby-weed that just seemed so, totally awesome? You probably talked about it for hours upon hours and then once the buzz wore off you forgot all about it and thankfully the world was spared the delirious remnants of your THC induced reefer madness. (Luckily I've never actually been there myself, but I do have friends who've shared the "awesomeness" of such transcendental experiences with me.)

Unfortunately, there are also those Cannabis induced lapses in judgment where those very same stone-headed ideas actually manage to get beyond the stage of conception and are in fact acted upon and brought to fruition in the real world. Those of us in the business refer to these lapses in judgment as, YouTube videos. Indy films, cable television pilots, sex videos and sometimes even literary efforts can sometimes come back to haunt a celebrity for many years. They are humiliations to be avoided at any and all costs.

If the creators of the comic book, Wannabez, are reading this I have some very important words of advice for you; collect all copies of this book and destroy them immediately before you are forced to live with the humiliation of this book for the rest of your professional careers. Stop whatever work you're doing with this concept and go back to the drawing board before its too late. Break out the bong, boys, and try again...

Normally I'd go into specific details about what it is about the book I didn't like, but in this case I'm just going to show some restraint and do my best to spare you the public humiliation such critical analysis would expose you to. Let me just say that this book goes beyond bad and would best be released in a "trashcan" format. I really tried to enjoy this book. I dropped six hits of LSD, downed a fifth of Tequila, drank a twelve pack of Bud and smoked enough Primo to reanimate both, Elvis and his evil-alien-clone-baby, but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get past the wrongness of this book. Sorry, but there are indeed some ideas that just should never see the light of day and, guys, this was at least five of them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hellboy In Mexico - Dark Horse Comics

Boom, boom, out go the lights!

Time to put the big boy panties on and put the whining to bed. For anyone who hasn't figured it out yet, Mike Mignola and Richard Corben are one of the best teams working in the comic book industry today. Now, I'm a longtime fan of Mike Mignola and of course nothing makes me happier than Mike illustrating one of his own stories, but its time to stop thinking that no one but Mike Mignola can illustrate a Hellboy story. Richard Corben is smokin' hot and every issue of Hellboy he illustrates just gets better and better. Its time for the naysayers to just shut up, get on the bandwagon and start handing out some well deserved kudos to the guy.

Seriously, what more does Richard Corben need to do to earn some respect? Have you read, The Crooked Man? How about, The Bride of Hell? And now, Hellboy in Mexico or, (A drunken Blur). Clearly Mike Mignola has complete confidence in the man's skills or he wouldn't be a part of what is clearly one of the finest collections of talent working on the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. line of books. I understand we're all resistant to change and new things scare us. Its especially scary when it comes to messing with a winning formula like Mike Mignola and Hellboy, but its time to put aside the hostility, take an objective look at what Richard Corben is producing and go with the flow of something really good.

There's just not a lot more for me to say, the man's work speaks for itself. From the very first panel in, Hellboy in Mexico or, (A Drunken Blur) you are drawn into the desert and by the end of page two of this book you're reaching for a water bottle. Richard Corben's illustrations live and breath. And he takes my breath away with every single panel he draws. Get off the man's case and show some respect. And while you're at it, show a little a trust in the judgment of mike Mignola. Judging from what I've seen so far, he knows exactly what he's doing.

Richard, you rock! I hope to see a lot more of your artistic styling gracing the pages of Hellboy for quite some time to come.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Confectionaries - Ringtail Cafe

Sweet and satisfying.

Among the treasures I brought home from my visit to SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) 2010 is a comic book called, Confectionaries, from the good folks at, Ringtail Cafe. I found the idea for this book intriguing the moment it was first explained to me by Darren and Krista Mueller, as cover artist Jackie Hernandez sketched a drawing of a "Strawberry gum drop" cat in the back of the comic I'd just purchased at their table on my Sunday afternoon visit to SPACE 2010.

Once upon a time there was a wizard. This wizard was unique in that he also possessed no small amount of talent as a confectioner. This "kitchen magician" would create the most wonderful of candies and share them with all of the people in the village. He was a kind and gentle soul and everyone agreed that there was something special and magical about the treats he created. Now the wizard had a wife. She too was a kind and gentle spirit and the two of them shared a deep and abiding love. They had many blessings, but one thing eluded them. They simply had no children. And they wanted a family so very much. Since nature didn't seem to be taking it's course, the wizard decided to take things into his own hands. He and his wife would use their unique confectionery skills and make themselves a family. And that's how the story begins...

Although there will be stand alone issues, (including the introductory zero issue and an upcoming holiday special), Confectionaries is set to release as a series of three graphic novels. Not only that, but due to the anticipated length of time between the graphic novel releases, Ringtail Cafe, will be using their mailing list to send "bite sized fun" one page, Confectionaries, comic strips to tide us over until the books arrive. Is that sweet or what!?

The book is very kid friendly which is important to me as a parent of a three year old boy. As I stated earlier, I liked the concept for the book as soon as it was explained to me at, SPACE 2010. The critical test for me as a parent was whether the book would engage my three year old or not. We sat down together and I took the opportunity to substitute, Confectionaries, for his normal bedtime favorite, Mr. Brown, and he loved it! Nothing is more rewarding to me as a father than capturing the imagination of my son and answering those innocent questions all children ask when they're excited about something; "Who is that, daddy? Do they live in the castle too? Are they sad? Is it something spooky?". (I'm hoping more, Confectionaries, arrives before the single issue I've got wears out from repetitive reads .) Yes, this is a story I can't wait to begin sharing with my son and I'm willing to bet you and your children will enjoy it too.

If you're not on the mailing list yet I'd suggest going over to Ringtail Cafe and sign up as soon as possible. Go ahead, I'll wait here until you get back.

Now wasn't that easy? Better yet, why not visit the friendly folks at, Comics 2 Games, located at 8470 US 42 in Florence, Kentucky and pick one up today. Tell em', "Dirk sent me." and enjoy the puzzled look on their faces as they try and figure out just who in the heck you're talking about.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Owly and Friends - FCBD

All that is bad in books for kids.

Without a doubt in my mind, this was the single worst book in this year's offerings for FCBD (Free Comic Book Day). It was so bad in fact that it provided me with the perfect example of what's wrong with the majority of comics being produced for kids these days. Lets begin with this book specifically. First off, who was the genius that had the brilliant idea of grabbing kids attention with a bright and colorful book of black and white illustrations? Seriously? Is there no one working at, Top Shelf, who has children of their own? Not one single person realized that black and white illustrations hold a child's attention span for about three nano-seconds?

And thanks for the stories with no words to accompany the illustrations. Again, nothing teaches a child to "read" like picture books. Duh...

My experience with this book went something like this.

Micah: "Who is that, Daddy?"

Me: "That's Owly, son."

Micah: "What's that, Daddy"

Me: "I'm not really sure. I think it might be a worm."

Micah: "A worm? What's he doing? Why? What's his name?

Me: "I don't know what his name is. I'm not sure what he's doing."

Micah: "Can we read, Toy Story, now?"

And enough of making books for kids made out of newspaper stock. I could care less about the collectible potential of the book, but how about the durability of it? Try throwing one of those books into a room with a couple of four year old boys and timing how long it lasts before shredding into a pile of confetti. Fragile paper stock does not hold up well in young hands still in the process of developing fine motor control.

It just shows the approach the industry is taking to comic books for kids. The efforts are perfunctory at best. The books are considered a throwaway product and they're manufactured as one. Kids comics are being produced to silence critics, not to engage and entertain young readers. The critics are right, comic books aren't being written with young people in mind. Kids comics don't produce movie deals. Why would anyone want to waste time, effort and resources in developing and producing them? In my opinion this is a complete lack of long term vision. If you don't get kids reading comics when they're young, what are the chances they'll pick them up when they're older whether the comics are available on an I-Pad or not.

Since the industry doesn't seem interested in researching and developing a well thought out product I'd like to take this opportunity to offer them a few tips. Maybe this will help create a more marketable product if nothing else.

1. Stop treating children as if they're mentally deficient and incapable of doing more with a comic book than sit in a corner and drool over it. (And no, this isn't permission to drop the f-bomb in every other sentence and take it upon yourselves to educate my child about the diversity of human sexuality.)

2. Stop making kids comic books out of newsprint paper stock. No parent is going to pay for a comic book that shreds to pieces in minutes. I pick up freebies at the front counter made from better paper stock. These are the books I give to my son and they take a beating and still hold together. That's right, your freebies are a better value than the crap you try to get me to buy for my youngster. Duh...

3. Treat kids like their comic book purchases matter just as much as their parents. If you try to palm off an inferior product on them they know it. You may fool them once, but the next time they spend their allowance money it won't be on one of your completely lame and boring books.

Owly and Friends was shiny on the outside and filled with nothing but second rate content on the inside. The book wasn't even worthy of the bird cage. The only purpose the book served was to insure I don't ever bother wasting any of my hard earned money on, Top Shelf, products.

(Thank goodness for FCBD so I didn't have to throw away good money to learn this lesson.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

FCBD 2010- Mavericks Comic Shop

What!? I thought kids didn't read comic books any more!

Judging from the turnout at Mavericks Card and Comic Shop in Dayton, Ohio Saturday afternoon for FCBD (Free Comic Book Day) the rumors regarding a lack of interest in comic books by today's children have been greatly exaggerated. Kids love comic books and the excitement in their eyes as they look for that one special book is still the same as I experienced as a youngster looking through the spinning wire rack at the drug store when I was a boy. The problem isn't a lack of interest on the child's part, it's a lack of follow up on the industry's part. it just sees as if once they've given one token day to providing children with an age appropriate comic book there's no follow up. One day for the kids and then its back to the ultra violence and the harsh language of a dark and angry world.

Kids love comic books and parents like the cost of providing them to their kids when compared to items like video games and electronic gaming machines. In an economy like the one our country is currently experiencing comic books are a wonderful entertainment alternative for children, if only there were more of them available in the marketplace. And I'm not talking about the ones costing twice the price of a regular book, but printed upon the worst quality of paper and containing material that treats children as though they are mentally deficient instead of just young developing minds.

One day a year parents can enjoy a day at the local comic store with their children. One day of light and then the darkness descends upon the landscape once again and everything good and wonderful about comic books is buried beneath a ton of ultra violence and sexual titillation. Three-hundred and sixty-four days of emptiness and silent shops and yet the industry continues to miss the message of FCBD. There's nothing like kids in a comic book store. They are the future of the comic book industry and it's lifeblood.

As I visited website after website and blog after blog the images I saw sent a message that was loud and clear, but no matter how loud and clear any message is, if it falls upon deaf ears and blind eyes it goes unheard, unseen and unheeded. From the ivory towers in New York to their counterparts on the west coast the future of the comic book industry isn't just ignored, it's viewed as an inconvenience. Comic books for young readers are viewed as a waste of time. Movie deals don't come out of comics geared towards young readers. There are too many restrictions to deal with when writing books for young readers. These excuses only hold water to those whose minds are closed and to those who have no interest in young readers. Those living in the ivory towers of the comic book industry have become blinded by the gold in the hills of Hollywood. Potential movie producers are now the main audience being catered to instead of comic book readers and the children we wish to pass our passion on to.

FCBD is a wake up call if the industry chooses to heed it. The comic creators need to come to their senses and shake off the madness of gold fever before the foundations of their industry crumble beneath their feet and their house of cards collapses upon their heads. The truth, the elephant in the room that no one in the industry wants to acknowledge is that we, the comic book reader, haven't abandoned you, it is you who have abandoned us. It isn't the fanboy suffering from the disease of gold fever, it is the comic book creators. The gold you chase in the Hollywood hills is a fool's gold. Just as freely as it flows one day, it dries up on the next and there quickly comes a day when the name on the party guest list belongs to someone else and you are no longer a welcome guest.

FCBD at Mavericks in Dayton, Ohio was a warm and wonderful afternoon. It was good to see so many kids in the shop. Their excitement was infectious and a reminder of the joy we experienced as children when comic books were written with us in mind and weren't yet considered the sole property of mature adults. It was good to see those bygone days again, even if only for an afternoon. Maybe we'll see them again one day, when the gold rush ends.

Friday, April 30, 2010

SPACE 2010

A friendlier entity I've never encountered.

Have you ever set out on a journey with one goal in mind only to reach the intended destination and discover something entirely different, but even more satisfying than anything you could have ever imagined possible? Such was the case when I spent a delightful Sunday afternoon at SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) 2010 in Columbus, Ohio. Now, the tale of how I came to be at this event is worth recounting so bear with me for a moment or two. Like any good story, this one begins with a woman...

My wife is worth any sacrifice. Even when that sacrifice is missing C2E2 in Chicago, Illinois. Yes, I wanted to go so bad I could taste it, but my wife had the opportunity to attend an event in Indianapolis that was equally important to her and since she is always the most important part of my life I made the decision to stay home. Now, she tried to compromise and find a way for both of us to make our trips, but no matter how many obstacles we overcame another would come along to take it's place. The universe just refused to give me a break...

Knowing how disappointed I was at missing C2E2, Jason Young, a friend from Mavericks Comics and Cards in Dayton, Ohio informed me that Guy Davis (B.P.R.D. artist extraordinaire) was going to be at an event I'd never heard of before in Columbus, Ohio called SPACE. Just as my spirits lifted at the prospect of meeting one of my favorite comic book artists, they were brought crashing back to Earth when he told me the dates of the show, April 24th & 25th. My son's birthday is April 24th and I just can't put anything before his happiness any more than I can his mother's happiness. Again, it just seemed as if the universe was actively conspiring to make this one of the worst comic book convention seasons of my entire life.

That night, after all the remnants of my son's birthday celebration had been picked up and taken out to the trash, the dishes done, dried and put away I sat down to rest for a minute. It came to me that I'd fulfilled my obligations to my wife and son and I had earned at least a taste of the convention season in full swing around me. If nothing else, I would have my signed book from Guy Davis and a photo of our moment together. I simply would not be denied. At that moment it became a quest. Together my wife and I began Googling and Map Questing. I threw together a bag, filled my wallet with my available cash reserves and made sure there were fresh batteries in the digital camera and made ready for my journey the following morning.

So I've already blogged about my moments with Guy Davis here and I've also blogged about one of my favorite encounters at SPACE here. (As I continue reading through the pile of comic books I brought home from SPACE there will be be more reviews.) Now I'd like to say a few words about SPACE 2010. First, it doesn't matter how many plasma screen televisions or eight thousand dollar booths or celebrities or movie and television premiers you have, if you don't have a passionate love for comic books you don't have what SPACE has to offer to those who make the annual pilgrimage to Columbus, Ohio.

SPACE is love made visible. It is a fellowship between those who create comic books because they love them, not for the riches they can reap from them. Those who have been in the business take those who are new to the business under veteran wings to offer guidance and encouragement. It is a communion of souls who just want to share their craft. SPACE is a charging of batteries and the opportunity to reinvigorate the creative drive. The energy of the event engulfs you the moment you step into the room and you can't help but be swept up and carried away.

This is one of those events that those in charge of D.C., Marvel and other such giants of the industry need to attend and rediscover what comic books are really all about. For those who have lost their way (and perhaps their creative integrity) among the marinas of San Diego and the bright lights of Hollywood SPACE could serve as a wake up call to what really matters to the viability of the industry, the every day working people who love comic books. Too many creators these days are far more interested in making comic books geared towards the pockets of the shareholder than they are the reader. Too many of these same creators are also more interested in celebrity adulation than customer appreciation. Whereas most comic book conventions have become little more than Hollywood parties and self aggrandizement, SPACE is all about the joy of making and reading comic books.

This was my first year attending SPACE, but it certainly won't be my last. Next year I hope to spend some time with Bob Corby and learn more about the guy who has been putting this show together for eleven years now. I don't know the man yet, but judging from the gathering I witnessed last weekend he's got to be a pretty special kind of person. This event is a labor of love on the part of every single individual who participates in it from the top down. Bob, you're an inspiration. I look forward to meeting you and attending Space again next year.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Tale Of Two Robots - Wishtales Publishing Studio

A very warm and decidedly "human" story...

Among my favorite moments during SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) 2010 were those spent in conversation with Tom Dell'Aringa and Steve Ogden of Wishtales Publishing Studios. Along with an obvious bond of friendship and a mutual respect for the talents of the other these gentleman share a profound love for comic books. Their creative philosophy is refreshingly "retro" in that they believe in quality books that can be enjoyed by adults without being age inappropriate for younger readers at the same time. To put it simply, they believe it is possible to engage younger readers without enraging their parents. They believe in books father and son or mother and daughter can sit down and read together, enjoy together with each one taking something of value from the experience.

Since our time together at SPACE 2010 I've now had the pleasure of reading several of the titles available from, Wishtales Publishing Studios. In A Tale Of Two Robots, (Wonderful reading for young children.) Tom Dell'Aringa presents two tales about love and searching for that special someone to share our lives with. The stories are short, to the point and reminded me of one of my favorite books from my own childhood, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's, The Little Prince. This is a book I'll be reading with my son again and again.

Steve Ogden's, Moon Town is a campy science fiction story about a group of miners working on the moon. I don't want to give away any spoilers in issue one, but someone or something is stealing ore and they're not above hurting those who get in their way. This book is perfect for either teens or adults. The story is fun, mature and adult without relying upon profanity or sexual content. I found Moon Town entertaining and will definitely be going online at to read more as it becomes available.

Another offering from Steve Ogden is, Croakers Gorge. Imagine Calvin and Hobbs meets Bloom County amidst the cerebral and scenic beauty of a polluted swamp and you've just introduced yourself to the world of Croaker's Gorge. Yeah it's just that funny...

Now, even though I didn't get to meet the new kid, Eddie Pittman, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention his hilarious web comic, Red's Planet. Again, I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the very first thing I learned from my first visit to Red's Planet is how to get abducted by aliens. Tom Dell'Aringa has promised to send me a copy of Red's Planet and I can hardly wait for it to show up in my mailbox.

Oh, just for poops and giggles, go here. Then come back and tell me what you think. Funny stuff, huh.

Thanks to SPACE 2010 I got to meet a couple of fine gentlemen who introduced me to a great new publishing company. Tom and Steve, Wishtales is now book marked on my computer and I'll be spending a lot more time there in the upcoming days. Thank you for the books, they've become instant treasures in my humble collection.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Guy Davis - Artist and enlightened being...

Dirk and Guy Davis at SPACE (Small Press And Comic Expo) 2010

Only one time in my life have I ever sat in a room filled with the spirit of genuine enlightenment. It was when I attended an evening with Ram Dass at the Victoria Theater in Dayton, Ohio. He filled a room with his presence and every person in attendance knew that every word he spoke was given straight to them as a gift from the source of all wisdom. I've never felt such presence emanate from another individual in all my life. Until this afternoon when I sat and watched one of the kindest, gentlest souls I've ever witnessed handing out agape love like he had access to an endless supply of it.

Guy Davis has paid his dues. I can't even begin to imagine the hours he's invested in developing his craft, let alone the number of miles he's traveled to sit behind eight foot tables to ply his wares. The man has earned the right to pass over all but the largest of conventions in the most culturally enlightened of metropolitan cities. Yet there he was on a Sunday afternoon in the overcrowded basement of a Columbus, Ohio Ramada Inn with the lights flickering and threatening to go completely dark at any moment, not as a big fish in a little pond, but as one of a group of regular people gathered together to share a common love of comic books.

Pilgrim after pilgrim handed him small drawings, hoping for nothing more than a positive word of encouragement and he treated each offering as if it was a treasure he'd been blessed to receive and he would not allow a single soul to leave his table until he'd traded them for a shirt, a book or a drawing of his own. He made friends, not fans and it was something magical and wonderful to watch. He made each one of us who visited his table feel as if we were the most important person he'd spent time with during the entire afternoon. It was an experience I'll never forget.

I went to SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) in Columbus, Ohio to meet the Legendary, Guy Davis. I could have paid my monies to enter the event, walked to his table, got my photo and autograph and left the convention a completely happy and satisfied man, but Guy gave me something far more valuable than a celebrity photo and a signed book. Guy Davis reminded me how special and unique we all are and that each and every one of has a gift that only we can share with everyone else in the world around us. His gift enabled me to share an afternoon with a wonderful group of people, each one of which enriched the experience of the day and sent me home feeling refreshed, renewed and invigorated.

Space turned out to be far more than I expected it to be. It wasn't just a gathering of small press dealers hawking their wares. It was a fellowship of people who share a genuine passion and love for comic books. We held church and it was indeed a religious experience. SPACE is an event for anyone who reads comic books whether they ever become a collectible item or not. Every collector of comics should make a pilgrimage to this show at least once in their lifetime and experience comic book love in its purest form. This is a convention stripped of plasma screens, Hollywood celebrities and thousand dollar booths. It isn't about major announcements, movie premieres and internet lounges. SPACE is about the books, the people who make them and those of us who read them. It is about shaking hands, exchanging contact information and making new friends. This was my first trip to SPACE, but it certainly won't be my last. My thanks go out to Guy Davis and all of the great people who made this such a wonderful day. See you all next year?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Open letter to Mike Richardson - Dark Horse Comics

Consumers want answers!

Dear Mr. Richardson:

First off let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Dirk Bauman and I live in Dayton, Ohio. I am a card carrying Liberal and in no way affiliated with any religious organization either conservative or otherwise. I am a loving husband and parent. I am considered an instigator and a rabble rouser by by friends. I don't just question authority, I browbeat it. I believe in asking the tough questions, even of the things I'm most passionate about. I believe in answers, not excuses, justifications or rationalizations.

Let me now say that I consider Dark Horse Comics to be the best publishing house in the business today. I think the titles you produce are consistently among the most original and entertaining books in the marketplace. Dark Horse books are different. What I would like to know from you is, why?

When so many of your competitors books are filled with scantily clad super vixens why are your books so often showcasing regular looking people? Your books are filled with people who look like me. Is this a conscious decision? They dress like me too. Why is that? Why aren't your characters festooned in spandex, spaghetti straps and thigh high boots? Sex sells, why aren't you selling it? Is there something you think is more important in marketing than sexual tension and titillation?

Why are your books so free of profanity? Isn't profanity a natural part of human communication? Don't we all use profanity in the course of our daily conversations? Isn't it important for our children to be exposed to profanity in comic books so they'll be more efficient in it's use as they enter their teenage years? If not comic books, where will our children learn to handle profanity in a mature and adult manner? I'm very concerned that the rational discourse between characters in your books will confuse my child into thinking such communication techniques are an effective method of problem solving in real life.

Why do so many of the stories in your books revolve around what the characters are doing instead of who they are doing? Isn't sexual intrigue and conquest a natural part of the human experience? Again, I'm a parent who cares about my child's intellectual and emotional development- How can I teach him about the importance and value of sexual intercourse without comic books to use as visual aids? Aren't you concerned with educating children? Isn't what they learn important to you?

There are so many questions that need answering. Why aren't you doing major crossover events, don't you believe in making money? Why, when all of your competitors are selling books for $3.99, do you not have a single book in that price range? I'm just confused...

How can you hope to succeed in this industry, at this particular time, during this particular economic climate by ignoring the sensationalist business tactics of your competitors? Surely you don't think the satisfaction of the consumer is as important as the happiness of shareholders? What kind of business model is that? As a concerned consumer, I think we deserve answers.

Dirk Bauman
Dayton, Ohio

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jim Shooter - Man Of The Atom

They just keep getting better...

As far as I'm concerned, so far this has been the year of Dark Horse Comics. Week after week as 2010 unfolds, the titles that consistently deliver the most original stories without leaving me feeling angry or disappointed are Dark Horse comics. In an age where shock and awe seem to have replaced genuine character development and legitimate plot lines, Dark Horse refuses to jump on board the bandwagon of sensationalism and is producing quality books where story rules the day and strong characters prevail over strong language and even stronger sexual overtones.

As other companies continue to stock their stables with ever raunchier purveyors of sleaze and soft core porn merchants, Dark Horse continues to provide a home for writers and artists who see the world as something more than a crap-hole that only looks good when filled with half naked women. Don't get me wrong, Dark Horse understands the nature of our imperfect world. Their books don't shy away from the realities of snakes feeding upon kittens or or the fallibility of the human species. Unlike other companies producing comic books these days Dark Horse also understands that in spite of the worst in the world there are moments of nobility and sacrifice that are just as valid as the muck and mire in which we spend much of our collective time.

Dark Horse recognizes the need for balance. Simply because nothing exists in a pure state doesn't negate the truth, reality or value of good. Even if the world is little more than a crap-hole, the real story is in the rising above and not in the wallowing within. I for one am tired of the wallowing stories where only the torment of the players and the final bloody body count are what matter to the tale. These stories may be sensational, but they are not the true story of the human condition. Yes, we may be less than the best we can be, but we are certainly more than the worst we can be. I want stories about more than the dark side of humanity. I want Doctor Solar.

Like Doctor Solar, each one of us contain the spark of divinity. Each of us possesses the ability to perform the miraculous and the power to change daily moments in ways that can change the world. Each of us also contains a dark spark of the ravenous beast that seeks only to feed upon the world and perpetuate no other survival but that of our own. And then there is our humanity; ignorant and unsure, trying to find our truth and purpose with little more to guide us than an insatiable curiosity about all things and a thirst for knowledge. For all his outward appearance of God like power Doctor Solar is still a man. He is an imperfect being with great power trying to make sense of the world and find his place in the universe.

Like all of us, Doctor Solar wields the power of the divine with the less than fully enlightened intellect of the common man. Sometimes he performs miracles and other times, in spite of his best intentions, he produces terrible tragedy. And just like every single one of us, Doctor Solar lives with memory of his actions and tries to make peace with himself and the world around him as best he can. This is the real story of the human condition and not the sleaze filled crap-hole where the only truth is: Abandon all hope, all ye who enter within. I don't care how many hip, young writers at D.C. and Marvel try to convince me that the only real story is that of us wallowing in the crap-hole. I don't care how often they promote the only truth as, nobody gets out of the world unscathed or alive. I've seen better and I know better.

Jim Shooter is the perfect writer for Doctor Solar. In many ways Jim Shooter is Doctor Solar. Jim's a great talent who has produced some amazing comic book work and yet there have been moments where he's stumbled over his own imperfect humanity and produced some incredible tragedy and disaster in both his personal and professional life. Jim has walked through the heavens and he's wallowed in the muck with the best of us. If anyone truly understands Doctor Solar, Jim Shooter is that man.

It is often said that a writer should write what he knows best. If that's really true, Jim Shooter should tell his own story through Doctor Solar- The story of great talent and fallible humanity learning from experience while surviving both great success and soul crushing tragedy and how he's come to make peace with both himself and the world around him. I'd pay money to read that story. And in the end, neither the character's past nor his potential future would matter as much to me as where he stands now. I would not ask of him the ultimate truth, I would only ask of him the truth he knows right now.

Whatever Jim has in store for Doctor Solar I'm just glad the two of them are back. I'm a big fan of both characters and the comic book world is a better place whenever they're a part of it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Unwritten - Vertigo Comics


This book has been one of my favorite reads since I first picked up issue number one for ninety-nine cents. It has proven consistently well written and woven a sophisticated and engrossing story. I couldn't have been more surprised and disappointed in the crass and vulgar tale that to all appearances seems to have been some sort of ill conceived attempt to set a record for the most times the F-bomb has ever been dropped in a mainstream comic book.

I'll let the book speak for itself.

1. Twenty-two pages of story, only seven of which do not contain the F-Bomb at least once. (One of the seven pages contains the word, shit.)

2. A full list of curse words includes: ass, bastard, bitch, bullshit, cunt, f**k, f**king and shit.

3. Some of the most sophisticated and well written lines of dialog include: "Seriously, Bitch, do not get in my way." "--if you know what's--CUNT!" "You hairless f**king retard." "You flea bitten f**k." "Hey you. Cunt whisker." "Jesus f**king wept." "F**k, f**k, f**k, f**k, f**k, f**k, f**k." (Yes, it was seven straight times.) and more...

Seriously, this broadens the comic book base and encourages new readers to pick up and start reading comic books in what way? How many potential readers do you cost the industry for every potential reader you think you're attracting with this kind of content? Artistic integrity? Freedom of speech? At what cost to the vitality of the industry upon which your livelihood depends?

Mike Mignola is creating some of the most engrossing and sophisticated comic books in the marketplace today and you won't find him using such a list of profanity in his dialog. Mignola's stories do not suffer in the least because he makes a conscious choice to reach as many readers as possible without also offending as many of them at the same time.

Scott Allie when asked why he used symbols instead of expletives stated that he doesn't feel the need and that by not using them he isn't sending angry mothers racing down to their local comic book stores to rail at hapless clerks and store owners.

There is a time and a place for everything. Are mainstream comic books really the venue for the type of content some of these young writers are shoving down the throats of the American public? Since when did our only interest in comic books become to be shocked or outraged by every other page of content? Look, I'm a Liberal and an atheist, I believe in the importance and the need for a free press. I read periodicals including The Hightower Lowdown and Mother Jones. Why is it that the only place I'm being assailed by an avalanche of profanity is in the comic books I read? I read copious amounts of printed material including online articles and of all the reading I do on a daily basis only the comic book seems determined to shock and anger me. Why? To what possible benefit to me the consumer?

Telling me that if I don't like it, I'm free to walk away is not an answer that sells more comic books. Disregarding the opinions of others and aggressively alienating people have never been recommended sales tactics in any school of business theory I've ever studied. The industry is suffering because of the attitude of a group of writers who are far more concerned with their rights as individual creators than they are in fostering growth in the industry of which they are but a small part. These writers care about the opinions and interests of fewer and fewer people with every passing book and for all their best efforts they're killing the industry and blaming everything and everyone other than themselves and their childish infatuation with erotic and profanity riddled nonsense.

Its time to grow up and realize that being adult is more than liberal doses of breasts and curse words. Comic books don't need profanity to be sophisticated, hip or entertaining. This was an unnecessary exercise in profanity that wound up crapping all over what could have been a pretty good story. It was immature and childish and I expected better from what has up to this point been a mature and adult read.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Victorian Undead- Wildstorm Comics

"Alimentary Watson, alimentary."

There's been a lot going on lately so I've been a little too busy to blog. Things are finally calming down a little so it's time to catch up on some of my favorite comic books. Outside of the very cool things going on over at Dark Horse with the Agents of the B.P.R.D. program and the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. titles, Groo and Hellcyon this is being a rather lackluster year for comic books. One of the few exceptions I've found is a book called, Victorian Undead.

Okay, I picked this book up on a whim one day and I've been reading it ever since. Even though I'm normally not much of a zombie fan I am a lifetime fan of Sherlock Holmes and I guess that's what first attracted me to this title. What keeps me reading it is the wonderful little story written by Ian Edginton and tastefully illustrated by Davide Fabbri. This is just plain and simple, a fun and entertaining read. Seriously, this is exactly the kind of tale I think is so lacking in the industry today. Without impossibly endowed bimbos squeezed into ridiculously revealing costumes and the f-bomb dropping like raindrops upon the printed page Victorian Undead manages to provide an engaging and entertaining read.

This is a comic book anyone of any age can read and enjoy. My son and I can share this book without me having to worry about "adult" content that's just inappropriate for a youngster his age. And best of all it isn't ridiculously oversimplified infantile crap that he finds insultingly banal and boring. How interesting are kids comics that offer little more in a storyline than, "See Spider Man. Run, Spider Man, run." Duh...

Victorian Undead is good clean family fun and I recommend it highly. Again, zombies, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty as the zombie lord combine for a great tale. Well worth reading!

Now, for those of you going to the big Chicago Con this weekend I'd strongly suggest you take the time to sign up for Dark Horse's Agents of the B.P.R.D. program. They've got some wonderful activities planned for you and you don't want to miss out on the fun.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Turn and face the strange...

Cha, cha changes...

After spending the entire weekend and the first two days of this week reading the entire Hellboy/B.P.R.D. series I'm ready to venture a couple of guesses as to what I think is coming in the months ahead for Hellboy and friends.

1. After walking parallel paths for so long it is time for one character to fight for what he's worked so hard to gain and another to regain what he's forgotten for so long. I think we're about to see the awakening of Abe to his true self and I don't think its gonna be pretty. Just as Hellboy will ascend to the light, I believe Abe Sapien will fall from grace. These two friends are about to do battle. Fire versus water. Its a Yin/Yang sort of thing...

2. Kate Corrigan is going to die. Come on, she's wrapped up most of her lines in the story and she now has a love interest. Need I say more? About all she's got left to finish is making her peace with Hellboy and she'll die in his arms when she's done. It'll serve as motivation for Hellboy to do what he's gotta do.

3. Abe is going to kill a lot of the people Hellboy loves in the B.P.R.D. as a misguided effort to anger Hellboy into forsaking his humanity and turning him to the dark side. Fans of the series are going to be screaming bloody murder.

4. I think we're finally going to learn the purpose of the secret organization that created Abe Sapien to be their tool at the end time. Just as we've seen those groups fighting against Hellboy's ascension to the throne so now we'll see the machinations of those who seek to goad him towards fulfilling his original purpose in destroying the human race. They'll serve the purpose of those in the bull ring who inflict any number of small wounds untill the bull is enraged and striking out at anything in front of it.

5. The time has come for Liz Sherman to die. She's been through enough and she's tired. Frankly, I'm ready for her to go. She's always been rather self absorbed and self-centered. She's never really paid much attention to the pain and suffering of those around her. Even though she's one of the most human of the gang she's also one of the least human too. She's isolated and disconnected. I think she'll go down in an act of self sacrifice that will finally raise her above the self adsorbed state of self pity and self loathing she's always waffled between and she'll finally understand that being a part of humanity is serving humanity. She'll discover her connection just as she's dying.

6. We're going to see the big reset button pushed and pushed hard. I think the only real mysteries remaining now are who will be the new stars and whether or not the B.P.R.D. survives the recession. Will there be two titles remaining after the bloodbath or will Hellboy take over the mantle of leadership on a temporary basis and bring the B.P.R.D. and Hellboy titles back together under one banner until such time as the economy rebounds?

We're in for some real changes folks and I think we're gonna see some real attention generated by a title willing to kill off so many of it's flag ship characters in one massive event. I'm not sure who or what will be remaining once the smoke clears, but I'm fairly certain we'll be hard pressed to recognize it as the B.P.R.D. or Hellboy books we've come to know and love.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I don't care what it looks like on screen!

Long live the king?

It was a little too quiet. Everything was resolving nicely and there were sighs of satisfaction as the good things happened to the good characters and bad things happened to the bad guys. And then came, King of Fear number three and everything you thought you knew about B.P.R.D. and Abe Sapien got turned upside down and turned inside out. If this is the beginning of the new things to come I'm locked, loaded and ready to roll. I've been thinking about this book for a couple of days now and it's finally dawned on me why I love Dark Horse comics so much.

You see, I love stories where the plot revolves around what the characters are doing instead of who they're doing and Dark Horse is one of the few places where those kind of tales are still being done. To me, it just seems that whenever I look at any of the mainstream superhero titles anymore its all about the soap opera drama. I spend more time watching the characters go on and on about their personal lives and whatever they're supposedly doing in the story gets bogged down in psychological minutia. This whole idea of making the characters as "real" as possible has gotten completely out of control.

Somehow a group of young writers have managed to grab the attention of company board members and convinced them that they know what we as comic book readers are interested in reading and they've turned our superhero fantasy world into a paper bound soap opera. And if these young guns are so correct in their assumptions and are indeed giving us, the reader, what we really want in our comic books why are sales dropping so hard and so fast? Why aren't we (the reader)buying more and more comic books if these guys are so zeroed in on what it is we want?

Maybe it's because they don't care about the comic book reader anymore and the only audience they're targeting and catering to is the film industry. Maybe they're so busy catering to what the corporate board members are concerned with, landing big name movie projects, that the real audience for comic books has fallen by the wayside. Readers don't seem to matter much to the new writers making books today. They're so busy writing stories designed towards the eventual film viewers that what they're giving us to read right now just isn't very interesting to us.

Look, the elements that work so well on the big screen just aren't the same as the elements that make a good comic book. The tension between emotionally involved characters that rivets the attention of the movie voyeur isn't the same as the action generated conflict that drives the reader towards a pulse pounding conclusion. Viewers want one thing from a story and readers want something else. The current crop of writers driving the industry right now just don't seem to understand this fact.

Dark Horse is about comic books first and movie deals if they come along. They make books for readers first and it makes their titles so enjoyable to those of us who want our characters doing things and not just talking us to death. There's nothing wrong with a little characterization, but when it becomes the entire focus of the story it bogs down the action and ruins the pace of the comic book. Enough of the screen plays already. Sales figures should be sending the message loud and clear. I don't care what the writers are saying to the board members, they're wrong and what they're doing right now isn't fixing anything. Someone needs to start writing with something more in mind than, "Wouldn't that make a cool movie?"

Dark Horse is publishing books where things happen and stuff gets down. Whether it translates onto the silver screen isn't as important as how it works in the book right now. Their stories keep the reader engrossed and coming back for more and that's what a real comic book should do. I for one am glad they don't have more screen writers working for them, those guys don't know crap about what makes a good read.

Go and read B.P.R.D. King of Fear number three and you'll know what I'm talking about.