Friday, August 27, 2010

Read Comics In Public Day Is Tomorrow

Saturday, August 28 (which, not coincidentally, I'm sure, is also the birthday of Jack "King" Kirby) has been designated International Read Comics In Public Day.  Appreciators of fine sequential literature are encouraged to take to the streets armed with the graphic narrative of their choice and simply allow themselves to be seen, and perhaps photographed, reading it. The event, dreamed up by editors of the comics news site The Daily Crosshatch, seeks not only to foster acceptance of reading comics among the general public, but in comic readers themselves.  Yes, apparently there remain some comics readers who are somewhat abashed to actually be seen indulging their passion for the artform in a public setting.
I would hope that the readers of Gutter Talk are the sort whose first reaction to hearing of this event would be, as mine was, "We need a special day for this? Seriously?"  Though, after reading of the origins of and rationale for the event (as well as the confessions of NPR's comics blogger Glen Weldon) I can see why such a day can be useful.
However, I would like to state that, for my part, I have never been self-conscious about reading comics of any genre in any venue where I might be seen doing so.
I remember sitting in a bar in Edinboro, Pennsylvania one Friday afternoon in early 1989, nursing a beer and chuckling not so quietly over the repartee between Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, and his wife Sue in Justice League Europe #4.  (I really miss the Dibnys. The worst part of the whole cycle of awful stories kicked off by Brad Meltzer's horrid Identity Crisis is the raw deal those two great characters got) Only later did it occur to me that a bar was perhaps an odd place to be reading anything, let alone a comic book. 
Truthfully, if I'm inclined to consider at all what other people might think of what I chose to read in public, its when I'm reading something along the lines of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion or Christoper Hitchens' God Is Not Great.  Not that it would stop me, but I do think about it. I actually did once have a co-worker, upon seeing me reading The Portable Atheist, tell me that I needed to "get right with God" or I was going to Hell. 
Even though my dad always thought my reading, and drawing, comics was a waste of time, even he never intimated that it placed my immortal soul in jeopardy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Superman: Secret Origin #6 Arrives--FINALLY--Wednesday

So, at long last, the final issue of Superman: Secret Origin, the six issue Geoff Johns/Gary Frank retelling of Kal-El's beginnings, is scheduled to hit comic store racks this coming Wednesday.
My response: A big, resounding "Who gives a flying crap?"
Big fat hairy deal

Somewhere during the interminable interval between issues of this series, I simply stopped caring.  I'm most likely not going to bother picking up the finale.
Certifiable raving looney tune that he may be, Cerebus writer/artist Dave Sim has been right about one thing, at least.
Woman are evil.
Ok, make that two things.
Back in the early 90s, during his crusade to promote the cause of self-published comics, Sim, in his  essays on the subject that he eventually collected as Cerebus' Guide To Self-Publishing, repeatedly and strenuously emphasized the importance of adhering to a schedule and  meeting deadlines.  Basically, all his admonishments boil down to one thing: If you say you're book is monthly, it damn well better come out once a month. If you make readers wait for months on end for the next chapter, eventually they're going to give and go elsewhere, especially with so many other comics on the shelves to chose from.
Sim was addressing publishers who were basically, like his own Aardvark-Vanaheim Comics, one man operations. From such publishers, however, many of whom support themselves by toiling at "real" jobs, a certain amount of lateness and a  few blown deadlines are understandable.  From a major corporate publisher, a division of the world's largest communications conglomerate, it's unforgivable.
A comic has to be really, really good to keep me interested after six or more months between issues, and Secret Origins' rather uninspired retelling of a story everyone already knows comes nowhere near meeting that standard.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ravage 2099: Worst Comic Ever?

Worst Comic Ever?

I recently inadvertantly aquired a copy of the first issue of Ravage 2099, the first, and some say, the worst title in Marvel's short lived line of comics detailing the adventures of super-heroes in a dystopic future world, most of whom, with the exception of Ravage, were riffs on current day Marvel heroes.
Inadvertantly? Well, the Half-Price Books store across from the Graceland shopping center here in beautiful Columbus, Ohio often sells bundles of old comics consisting of 15 or 16 issues bagged together.  I picked up what was labeled as a "variety bundle", and since the bag was sealed I could not see what all was inside.  The books that I could see were two issues of Comico's Justice Machine, a series I have been collecting and reading recently, and it was, after all, only two bucks, so I picked it up.  Unfortunately, the bundle contained only five JM's, two of which I already had.  The rest was mostly a lot of crappy Marvels, mainly from the 90's.
When Ravage 2099 is mentioned, it is usually as an example of the quintessential bad Marvel comic of the 90's.   So, is it?
Well, it's certainly bad.  The script is by Stan Lee, and it is among the worst things he's ever turned out.  (And let's remember that, with the exception of post-Ditko Amazing Spider-Man, when Stan isn't working with an artist with a strong creative vision of his own such as Ditko or Kirby, Stan's writing has never really been all that good.) Ravage's transformation from corporate pawn to rebel vigilante is too abrupt and utterly unbelievable. The issue's villain, an evil executive of the corporation that rules most of the future  world of 2099, is just laughable. He goes around casually killing people who happen to be in the room while he's monologuing about how evil  he is because they now know too much.  ("Hello.  My name is Anderthorp Henton. Oh, dear. I'm sorry, but you know too much now and I must kill you." ZAP!)
The art really isn't that bad. Paul Ryan is a decent artist  who tells a story well. He's certainly nowhere near as bad as some who were drawing paychecks from Marvel and DC back then. (You know who I'm talking about, Liefeld. Yeah, you  too, Larsen.)
For a more complete overview of the issue, check out this post from the blog Again With The Comics.
Bad as it is, however, I certainly wouldn't say that Ravage 2099 epitomizes the absolute nadir of Marvel's 90's output.  
On the other hand, 1997's Uncanny X-Men #346, which I was also duped into purchasing, certainly comes close. The story, if it can be called that, by Scott Lobdell, is merely an excuse for a protracted fight scene punctuated by really bad dialogue.  The alleged art by Joe Madureira is even worse. Imagine, if you will, Rob Liefeld trying to draw in Manga style and you begin to get an idea how bad it is.  
Just about all this issue is missing, and that would truly make it a prime exemplar of the typical bad Marvel  comic of the era, is a shiny foil enhanced cover.
Which, by the way, Ravage 2099 #1 has.
OOOOH! Shiiiny!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Cathy" Calling It Quits

To quote the only memorable thing that our 38th President (as Archie Bunker would say, "Look it up, little goil.") ever said, "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over." (Well, that gaffe during his first debate with his eventual successor about there being "no Communist domination of Eastern Europe" was memorable, but more for the benightedness of it than the profundity.)
Sorry. I seem to have gotten off-topic before even revealing what today's topic is. So...without further digression, we resume our regularly scheduled post, already in progress:
The Comics Curmudgeon reported a couple of days ago that the long running sad excuse for a parody of a comic strip known as Cathy will come to a long overdue end at the beginning of October.  One can only hope that alleged cartoonist Cathy Guisewite's plans for her retirement include maybe finally learning to draw.  
Today's Cathy strip
Actually, I can't be too happy about this development.  After all, given the sad state of the modern newspaper comic strip, it's highly likely that Cathy's place in your local paper will be taken by something even more painfully unfunny and crudely drawn (unless, of course, they already carry Pearls Before Swine.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

35-7-35: Unlocking this Week's New Comics

Let's take a look at what I picked up during my weekly visit to the Laughing Ogre on Wednesday.  It's a selection that certainly proves those famous last words, "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."
"That was disappointing." Those are the first words that popped into my head after I finished reading The Brave and the Bold #35.  You would think that any story teaming the Inferior Five with the Legion of Substitute Heroes would be funny without even trying, yet this story tries so desperately hard and falls so woefully short of the mark that it's kind of sad, really. There are certain people who just shouldn't attempt comedy, Jay Leno for instance (a cheap shot, to be sure, but sadly true), and B&B writer J. Michael Straczynski has officially added his name to that roll call with this issue.

The blurb on the cover of Booster Gold #32 proclaimed that "Giffen & DeMatteis Reunite to bring the BWA-HA-HA Back to Booster Gold!" but it wasn't until #34 that they really lived up to that bit of hype. In that story, which continues into the just released #35, our time traveling protagonist has gone back to the  days of the Justice League International and been pulled by Blue Beetle into another misadventure as super-powered repo men (as seen in Justice League International #25 and Annual #2).
Giffen and DeMatteis have taken some hits from other on-line fanboys for living in the past and attempting to recreate their glory days of two decades past.  Me, I'm OK  with it for three reasons:
  1. I really like the old JLI stories, even more now than when they were first coming out in the 1980's, and...
  2. I'm not all that happy with the current goings on in the post-Identity Crisis, Dan Didio-Geoff Johns DC Universe, and...
  3. Keith and J.M. are really good at reliving their glory days. This is a witty, fast paced adventure romp that can proudly stand alongside the best of the early JLI tales, and I'm looking forward to reading more next issue.
As far as I'm concerned, there's only one thing that could make me enjoy this  story any more than I already am:
Another comic that could probably benefit from a visit by the Canine Crusader is Justice League: Generation Lost.  
I started out picking up both of DC's current bi-weekly limited series, but dropped Brightest Day pretty quickly, and after the pointless waste of time and paper that was its sixth issue, I figured I'd be giving up on Generation Lost pretty soon, as well. The absence of Keith Giffen's name from the credits of #7 seemed to bear that out at first. 
However, that issue was actually pretty good, so I'll be sticking around for a couple more at least.  After three and a half months, the story finally seems to be getting started. Sure, you  kind of expect a 26 issue story to be somewhat languidly paced, but this is sort of ridiculous. The low point was, as I hinted above, last issue, which seemed to me to be just filler that didn't advance the story at all. 
Even without Giffen, Judd Winick is doing a decent job of evoking the JLI spirit.  While this story is more serious than the ridiculous goings on in Booster Gold, the interaction between the characters gives the proceedings a lighthearted feel.  In that way, Generation Lost is more reminiscent of Justice League Europe, which was my favorite of the two monthly JLI books back in the 80's.  I especially like the team's new Rocket Red. Winick and Giffen have created a character who is as likeable and funny as Dimitri Pushkin, the League's previous representative of the Rocket Red Corp, yet is not just a rehash of the older character.  He's  the best thing about this book.
If  Winick can keep turning out issues like this,  I might just stick around for the full 26.