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.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Jim Shooter, he's back...

Free Comic Book Day, 1992

Thanks to Dark Horse Comics Jim Shooter is returning to the game and bringing with him both Solar, The Man Of The Atom and Magnus Robot Fighter. I couldn't be more excited about this fact and in preparation of his return I broke into the great white cardboard vault of my humble collection of books and broke the scotch tape seals upon the plastic storage containers of one of my all time favorite comic book reads; Unity, Time Is Not Absolute the Valiant Comics crossover event of 1992.

In my humble opinion this is still the best crossover event ever produced in the history of modern comics. For those of you who've never had the opportunity to read this eighteen chapter story you just don't know what you're missing. What made this crossover event so unique is that every single issue in the event really mattered. Each and every book in the crossover event was completely dedicated to the Unity, Time Is Not Absolute storyline and as the tale unfolded it was truly majestic in both scope and content. It was special and so were the group of creators who put the event together.

One of the key individuals responsible for this wonderful work was a young man named Jim Shooter. Called bad boy by some, maverick by others and visionary by most of the rest of us, this guy brought something to comics that hasn't been seen since the magical days of Valiant Comics. He brought excitement and promotions that had people waiting outside the doors of their local comic book stores drooling with anticipation. Valiant comics rocked the comic book world in their day. And Jim Shooter was the front man of the organization.

I've always thought of Jim Shooter as one third snake oil salesman, one third carnival barker and two thirds creative genius. Jim is one of the very rare artistic types who knows how to take care of business too. And he loves making money. And he's a bit ruthless. And people seem to think he's a loose cannon and dangerous to work with. I think if Jim Shooter had gone into politics he'd be Carl Rove, but man, I just love the guy. When he's on his game he brings a real excitement to comics.

I hope he just rocks with Doctor Solar and Magnus. I want to see Jim Shooter work his amazing mojo at Dark Horse and show the comic book fans of today what a real writer and a real promoter are all about. I think Dark Horse could use a little Jim Shooter magic. You see, the only complaint I've ever had about Dark Horse is that they're too darn humble and low key. Jim Shooter on the other hand has stones so big you could use them for Olympic Curling. He's got Chutzpah! And he isn't ashamed of the act of promotion like so many people at Dark Horse seem to be. He's loud and proud to be a promoter and he's darned good at it too.

Dark Horse could use a good front man. Don't get me wrong, they've got some talented names on the Marquee, but they're like the original members of the band, Van Halen. Each is extremely skilled in their own right, but they lack the real charisma of a David Lee Roth. Jim Shooter is a David Lee Roth kind of guy. He's got charisma and he draws attention and he holds it like a trained professional. He's star quality and I hope Dark Horse gets him out on the comic con circuit and let's him do what he does best. Jim Shooter will generate interest. Fans like myself would kill for a chance to shake his hand and say hello. Seriously, I'd much rather meet Jim in person than Stan Lee.

Thank you Dark Horse for bringing Jim Shooter, Doctor Solar and Magnus back to my comic book table. I couldn't be happier for everyone involved.

Jim, knock us all dead, Dude...

Friday, March 5, 2010

B.P.R.D. agent man...

Professor Trevor Bruttenholm needs you!

Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. We interrupt our normally scheduled bog entry this evening to bring you a special news bulletin. Once again our country stands upon the precipice of war and the clarion call of patriotic duty now rings out across this great land. Paranormal activities are at an all time high and supernatural forces are preparing even at this very moment to launch attacks of unparalleled ferocity against the world and the human species that call it home. Now is the time for all good and courageous souls to come to the aid of mankind.

Do you have what it takes to fight the supernatural forces threatening not only our freedom, but perhaps even our continued existence upon the Earthly plane as well? Do you possess psychic abilities including but not limited to telekinesis, psychokinesis, or astral projection? Are you able to communicate with undead spirits? Are you currently a practicing psychic or medium? Do you have magical abilities? Are you skilled in the mystic arts of alchemy?

If you've answered yes to any of the questions above you may have what it takes to don the uniform of the the B.P.R.D. and fight side by side with the few, the proud, the elite against evil and the forces of darkness. If you think you've got the physical stamina, the spiritual fortitude and the purity of heart to stand toe to toe with the endless hordes of demonic denizens from Hell and prevail in the face of overwhelming adversity, don't hesitate another minute.

Trevor Bruttenhold


The B.P.R.D. Needs You!

(Additional Secret Benefits will be revealed upon a need to know basis.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

And did we tell you the name of the game, boy...

So many hands in so many pockets...

Yes, Nick Simmons is responsible for the contents of the book that bears his name. He claims to be the creator of the work and I'll leave it to the courts to determine what part he played (if any.) in any illegal acts of plagiarism he may or may not have have committed in the production of his book, Incarnate. Whatever the case may be with Nick Simmons I have serious issues with the number of hands this book passed through before it hit comic store bookshelves without a single person in the process asking the same questions so many others in the marketplace are now asking. After all, these people are supposed to be the "professionals".


Professionals like those at Studio Il? Now, I don't know how familiar you are with the Radical format Nick's book was designed under, but here's the quick skinny. The Radical Publishing comic book is actually two books worth of material in a single book. They charge a bit more up front of course, but the reader gets more material and I guess even saves a little money in the long run by only having to buy three books instead of six. This means there were a lot of pages of Nick's artwork in the hands of the Studio Il crew who were doing inks, backgrounds and color for the book. (See their blog entry dated 09-03-09)

If you visit their website, as I've done numerous times in the last week since this story first broke, you'll quickly come to notice that these people are all about the Manga style of art. Take a look at the examples of their work listed here or here. Admittedly I'm no expert on the subject, but it seems to have a very distinct Manga flavor to me. No one noticed that the panels they were working on had a familiar feel to them? What, they love drawing Manga, they just don't read it? Either the company doing the work for Nick Simmons was very stupid or very sloppy. Or was it something else entirely?

Clearly from the blog entry posted above Studio Il was working hard to meet deadlines. They publicly expressed how much they were enjoying working on the Incarnate project for Radical Publishing and how much they were looking forward to future opportunities. Is it possible corners were cut and short cuts taken? So far StudioIl has chosen to remain silent and have issued no statement on what may or may not have happened in regards to their efforts on Nick Simmons behalf.

Personally, I don't know if 'd ever entrust my son's career to a group of "professionals" who proved so inept at helping someone as high profile as Nick Simmons avoid potential career ending pitfalls, including those of his own making. That's part of what professionals are paid to do. Why did these people fail him so completely?

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd like to hear what they have to say, but so far they aren't talking.

Don't even get me started on Radical Publishing. All I keep seeing in my mind is a yacht full of corporate executives smoozing it up with big daddy Gene Simmons while his son's career drifted off into the sea of oblivion and ruin. They wind up with a wall full of celebrity handshake photos and Nick Simmons winds up on a wall of shame. I want answers. I want to know how they fell asleep at the helm and let such a fiasco happen. I really do...

We may never get answers. Unfortunately it's looking like no one's interested in raising much more of a stink over this than has already been raised and this is just another ugly little dust bunny the industry would rather sweep under the bed and forget than use as an opportunity to improve the standards by which the artists work and the publishers produce their product for the marketplace. Make no bones about it, I think Nick Simmons may have made a mistake and he is being punished in ways I'm sure he never imagined possible. That being said I also think it's a crime the way Nick's being used as a human shield by corporate executives who filled their office walls with cheesy photographs of themselves posing with Gene Simmons and carted off as much of the family fortune as they could line their pockets with until the gravy train ran off the tracks.

There are those who believe the actions of Nick Simmons to be inexcusable and criminal. I won't argue with them, they have a right to their opinion. But I think Nick was also a victim here too. He was in the hands of professionals whose job it was to keep such a disaster from ever happening and they failed him miserably. Even if it was just a matter of criminal stupidity on their parts, they failed him and they're getting away with it completely unscathed. Sorry Nick, but that's how the wolves roll...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Voices carry....

I know who Bleach is now...

I've never been much of a fan of Manga. I've just never had anything in the genre catch my interest and the artistic styling just isn't my cup of tea. That being said I have to admit a new found respect for the fans of Manga and their willingness to stand up in defense of the characters and the artists who create them when it appeared that someone may have copied some of the works and attempted to pass them off as his own.

As many of you may be aware of by now, Nick Simmons has been accused of plagiarism in his recently released book, Incarnate. Now, I'm not going to go into the allegations here because that's not the focus of this piece. (You can however go here and find any number of helpful links to catch up on the story.) What I'd like to talk about here is the group of people who've reaffirmed my belief in the power of individuals uniting around a common cause and fighting for something they believe in.

Make no bones about it, the individuals at this Facebook site have rallied around a common cause and they're fighting mad at Nick Simmons. This group of individuals share a passion for Manga/Anime that up until a few days ago I had no idea existed in this country. Thousands of individuals from all across America have banded together to voice their outrage at what they perceive to be heinous criminal act against manga creator Tite Kubo. (I say "perceive" because nothing has yet been proven in a court of law.) This group of united spirits have managed to draw attention to an issue in a way I'll bet dollars to doughnuts a whole lot of corporate executives thought could never happen or would ever happen. This group has proven that the market is not nearly as stupid as they thought we were and I applaud their efforts for having made this point perfectly clear to the publishing industry.

I hope those of us throughout the entire comic landscape, whatever our favorite genre or flavor may be, take heed of this group and the shear size of the number of voices they brought together to speak their minds about what they will and will not tolerate in the books they spend their hard earned monies for. They have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt the power of the comic book consumer; When we combine our voices we can make a difference. Instead of swallowing everything they feed us and thanking them for inferior product we can speak out and say, "Enough is enough! We do know crap when we see it and we're not going to take it anymore!". Bravo and well done!

Whatever winds up happening or not happening in the judicial system concerning Nick Simmons and his book Incarnate, this group of individuals have shown me something I thought no longer existed in the nation of comic book readers. They've shown me an active, interested and fully engaged fan base that isn't as easily fooled as some in the ivory tower of the corporate elite believed us to be. This group has earned respect and I'd like to go on record and say, "Well done good souls! I like your style and you've got my respect no matter what Nick Simmons, Radical Publishing or anyone else might think of you."

On a personal note: I'd like to thank Ross Cameron, Dianne Pacheco and Silena Buckelew for taking the time to help me learn a little bit about Manga, Anime and Cosplay and showing me what great people Manga fans really are. (Yes Silena, I did visit your Facebook page and when I saw the cosplay reference I googled and researched what it meant...) Ross, send me your web comic link so I can add it to my links. Dianne, you are a great person to burn the midnight oil talking to. Thanks to all of you!

Oh, can anyone recommend a book or two to read so I can see if I've missed something in Manga I might want to read and expand my horizons a bit?

I think I'm a bit more open to it now than I used to be...