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Christmas

Episode 126: Toy Talk
by Chase Bouzigard, Blake Petit & Mike Bellamy

It's one more Chase-less episode, so Blake, Mike, and Kenny spend this week discussing their favorite toy lines! From classics of our youth to hits of today, the guys chat about TransFormers, DC Direct, Marvel Universe, McFarlane, Voltron, Mini-Mates and everything in between! Blake even weaves the tale of how a review of the Marvel Zombie Mini-Mates got away from him. In the picks this week, Kenny chooses the first two issues of Killer of Demons, Blake chooses Detective Comics #854, Mike goes with Booster Gold #21, and the graphic novel pick is The Pro! Contact us with comments, suggestions, "Ask Chase Anything" questions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

Music provided by the Podshow Podsafe Music Network.

Episode 126: Toy Talk

(left-click to listen, right-click to download)

Episode 126: 2 in 1 Checklist





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Christmas

Episode 122: Battle For the Cowl and the NEW Batman Family
by Chase Bouzigard, Blake Petit & Mike Bellamy

Back in Episode 106, when Battle For the Cowl was yet to begin, the Showcase boys looked at the possible candidates for the Batman mantle and the state of the Batman family as a whole. With Battle For the Cowl over, the guys give their impressions of the story, the spinoffs, the new Batman and Robin team, Neil Gaiman's Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, and their thoughts on the new comics that are about to comprise the Batman universe! Plus -- you want picks of the week? We'll give you picks of the week! Mike gives us Supergirl #41, Chase takes X-Force #15, and Blake presents Muppet Robin Hood #1 and this week's graphic novel pick, Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool. Write us with comments, suggestions, picks of the week, "Ask Chase Anything" questions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

Music provided by the Podshow Podsafe Music Network.

Episode 122: Battle For the Cowl and the NEW Batman Family

(left-click to listen, right-click to download)

Episode 122: 2 in 1 Checklist




PLUS:The boys go through a lot of stuff this week, beginning with the sad passings of a pair of Davids, the first issue of Batman and Robin, major announcements from E3, and the television returns of Torchwood, Doctor Who, the Muppets, and Conan O'Brien (and his mysteriously familiar set)! Then, the guys get into it with the Captain America #600 controversy! All this and more in your Week in Geek!

Week in Geek #23: Captain America, Muppets, and More!

Like the show? Review the show! 2 in 1 Showcase wants your reviews at iTunes, Podcast Alley, and Podcast Pickle. The guys promise they won't bite.
Looking for previous episodes? Check out the 2 in 1 Showcase Archive Page!
Christmas

EVERYTHING BUT IMAGINARY 2/18/04 -- MUSICAL CHAIRS BEHIND THE MASK

Musical chairs behind the mask

As I’ve said in this column before, one of my favorite things about DC Comics is their concept of the heroic legacy. I love how the mantle of the Flash has been passed down from Jay Garrick to Barry Allen to Wally West, and that there is a new Kid Flash patiently waiting his turn in line. I love that we’re on our second Atom, our third Dr. Mid-Nite and that the legacies of Ted (Starman) Knight and Sylvester (Star-Spangled Kid) Pemberton have come to rest in Stargirl. Granted, not every character is a legacy character. Even though they’ve all got lots of related characters in their wake I don’t want to see Clark Kent replaced as Superman, Diana replaced as Wonder Woman or Billy Batson replaced as Captain Marvel.

Recently, though, the world of comics has been abuzz with the news that no less than three heroes may be passing their masks on to somebody else soon -- two of them confirmed, one of them still in the rumor bin, and while I’m all for the legacy, a couple of these have me a bit perturbed.

By the way, I'm not going to discuss anything that isn't already all over the place on the Internet -- either as confirmed fact or blatant rumor -- but if you're super-spoiler sensitive, be warned.

First, it was revealed that when Damion Scott takes over as the penciller of the Robin series, Tim Drake will be abandoning the identity. Who’s going to get it? We don’t know yet, but according to a sketch that has been making the rounds on the internet, it’s going to be a girl with blonde hair. (The hair thing could be a red herring -- let’s not forget Black Canary is a natural brunette and dyes her hair after many, many years of wearing a wig.)

So who is the new girl wonder? Immediate speculation places Tim’s girlfriend Stephanie Brown, a.k.a. Spoiler, as the frontrunner. She’s got drive to fight crime and a more original story than losing her parents to violence like most of the bat-family. (In her case, she became a hero because her father was a supervillain, the late Cluemaster.) But Batman famously “fired” her some time ago for being too headstrong, too reckless... too much like Jason Todd, the second, dead Robin.

One other name I want to throw out as a possibility is Cissie King-Jones, once known as Arrowette and Tim’s former teammate in Young Justice. She was tough, skilled and cool-headed, and quit putting on the spandex of her own accord rather than being forced out of it, meaning theoretically, she could be talked back into it.

Either way, though, I’m not worried because I don’t expect the change to be permanent. I suspect Tim may temporarily take on a new identity (the way Dick Grayson became Nightwing), but eventually I think he’ll be back with the Bat because he’s too popular as Robin. It’s always been said of him that Tim Drake didn’t want to grow up to be a superhero like his predecessors did, but he hasn’t grown up yet. I’ll be really surprised if he’s not back by Robin #140.

Second, let’s look at the furor over Firestorm. Once upon a time this nuclear-powered hero was created when Professor Martin Stein and teenager Ronnie Raymond merged into one super-powered being. Somewhere along the line, the Prof left and Ronnie became the sole proprietor of Firestorm. Now that he’s got a new series coming out, it has been revealed that Ronnie won’t be Firestorm anymore but instead some new kid will get the powers.

Now the immediate question to me is “how”? It’s not like being Robin where (theoretically) anybody with sufficient training can put on the tights and at least do the job. Ronnie and the Prof got their powers when they were caught in a nuclear explosion (which, the last time I checked, was more likely to just kill anybody who happened to be there).

Some people, however, are less curious and more upset that Ronnie won’t be Firestorm. I can understand that, and if I thought that they were just going to kill him off for the sake of replacing him with a new character, I’d be mad too. But I don’t think he’s going to be killed off -- I’ve heard that writer Dan Jolley intends to use Ronnie in the book, which I think opens a lot of storytelling potential. Even if there’s no “merge,” I think it would be interesting to see Ronnie take on the sort of mentor role the professor once did for him, and I’ll be picking up the book.

There is speculation that Ronnie is going to die, however, in the midst of Brad Meltzer’s upcoming miniseries Identity Crisis, which promises to kill off a DC hero. (As nearly every event kills off a DC hero, I don’t know why anyone is acting surprised. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if an X-Men event managed to kill off a DC hero.)

There’s more speculation about Identity Crisis, however, and this is the only upcoming DC change that really bothers me. It’s still unconfirmed, but I’m sure by now all of us have heard the rumor that Meltzer is going to kill off Kyle Rayner, paving the way for Hal Jordan’s return as Green Lantern.

And you thought Jolley’s announcement kicked off a firestorm.

There are a lot of people still mad about how Hal was replaced. At the time, heck, I was one of them. I thought it was terrible how the character went insane, killed his friends and became a villain. I didn’t like this punk kid Rayner, I hated the “crab mask,” and I missed the Corps.

Then something odd happened. Kyle Rayner started to grow on me. All the people who are still screaming that Kyle is just a big whiner and he doesn’t deserve the ring, do me a favor and read Ron Marz’s entire run on the book, not just the first five issues. Kyle grew. Kyle matured. Kyle became a hero and he’s earned a place in the DCU. He’s certainly earned better than the abysmal writing his book has been saddled with for the past two years or so, but that’s another column entirely.

Here’s the catch-22 for me. I like legacies, and I think Green Lantern is the second-best legacy in comics. (First is the Flash.) So if Kyle’s legacy is being passed on, how can I be upset?

Because it’s regressing. If the rumors are true, it’s going back instead of moving forward. I think I’d be less upset if the ring were going to be passed down to someone new than if it were going back to Hal Jordan who, whether you like it or not, is a very logical choice in the role of the Spectre. Which opens up another question -- if Hal is brought back to life, whose soul gets bonded to the spirit of God’s wrath to keep it in check? The Spectre needs a human host. If not Hal, then who?

Change in comic books, like in life, is inevitable. The difference is, in comic books we can control it. Change just for the sake of change (or for the sake of appeasing a few mewling fans who think forming an “attack team” is a logical recourse if you’re disappointed about a comic book) doesn’t work. Change flowing from story and character does. Writers and editors need to keep that in mind when they’re deciding what changes to make, just as we readers need to keep it in mind when we’re deciding which comics deserve our hard-earned dollars every Wednesday.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 11, 2004

Robin writer Bill Willingham has been wowing me for a long time now, mostly with his work on Fables. With issue #22 he has proved that even a fill-in issue of this comic book is better than a regular issue of any other title. Taking a break from the current “March of the Wooden Soldiers” story arc, Willingham shows us a side of Cinderella we haven’t seen before, heading off to Paris to meet a smitten Ichabod Crane to aid her mysterious employer. This is a great little mystery tale, with more twists in one issue than you get in half a year of most Marvel comics these days. It also stands completely on its own. If you’ve been curious about Fables but didn’t want in during a storyline, this is a great place to jump on-board.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People's Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the novel-in-progress Lost in Silver at Evertime Realms. He’s also the co-host, with good buddy Chase Bouzigard and Not-On-the-Internet Mike Bellamy, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcasts. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

 

Christmas

EVERYTHING BUT IMAGINARY 2/11/04 -- MAN OF TWO WORLDS

Man of Two Worlds

Not many people in any artform can really be said to help define the medium in which they work. Drama is measured against Shakespeare. Sculpture and painting is measured against Michelangelo. Comic books could have been measured against Julius Schwartz.

Some of you younger readers -- or older readers that are new to comics -- may not understand what all the fuss was about when it was announced that Julie Schwartz passed away on Sunday. Sure, it was a bummer, but who did he create? What epic stories did he write? What innovations did he make in artwork? He was just an editor, right?

Oh, friends, how wrong you are. He didn’t just do runs as the editor for the Superman and Batman comics. It is not an exaggeration to say that, were it not for Julie Schwartz, the comic book industry may not even exist today. And if it did, it would most certainly be in a very different form than the one we all know and love. In the early 1950s, comics were on a downturn. Sales were dropping. Congressional hearings and bad press making parents think comics were polluting the minds of their children lead to the implementation of the Comics Code of America, and with it the demise of the horror and science fiction titles that had helped keep the industry afloat after World War II. DC Comics, not wanting to take a chance on a new title only to have it fail again, decided to launch a series that would feature several rotating stories, try-outs for different concepts, and those that proved popular enough would graduate to a series of their own.

Julie Schwartz got to edit the fourth issue of that series. Its title? Showcase.

Julie had previously worked as an agent for science fiction writers, contributing to the careers of such minor authors as Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft. Supposedly, he had never even read a comic book before the day he got his job as an editor at DC. When his issue of Showcase came up, rather than conjuring up something new, he took something old and made it new again. Only a few superheroes had survived the post-war years: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman... Julie and writer Gardner Fox decided to revive an old character, give a new beginning to the Flash. But this wouldn’t be the old Flash, Jay Garrick, who got his powers by the unlikely method of inhaling hard water fumes... this would be a young police scientist, someone who actually read the Flash comics starring Jay Garrick as a child... a man named Barry Allen, who would become the Flash by riding the lightning.

Showcase #4 was a hit. And thus, the Silver Age of comics began.

Barry soon graduated to his own title, and Julie took another shot at recreating a DC classic. Together with John Broome, they revamped an old guy named Green Lantern, who had a magic ring that gave him great power. Julie and John discarded the magical aspects and made it a far-flung space opera, and one of the most popular characters in comics, beginning with Showcase #22.

With the success of Hal Jordan, more concepts got revived. Hawkman. The Atom. Eventually the most logical step was to recreate the old team concept pioneered by the Justice Society of America.

Julie and Fox banded together the most popular DC heroes -- Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter, and made them the Justice League of America, launching them in another anthology title called The Brave and the Bold. The superhero team was another smash hit, and word of this got to the offices of rival Atlas Comics (formerly Timely). The president of the company ordered their chief idea man, a young buck who worked under the nom de plume Stan Lee, to come up with his own superhero team to compete. Stan cooked up his own characters, a bit more human, a bit more flawed than their DC counterparts, and with the first issue of that comic book, Atlas became Marvel Comics...

...with Fantastic Four #1.

The FF was a smash, and was followed by the Hulk, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Avengers... The comic book landscape would never be the same.

That’s not all. Julie also helped invent the crossover.

Oh, heroes had met from time to time, and had ever since the Justice Society was created, but with the popularity of the new heroes, it was decided that the originals should come back. Problem: it had been established that the Jay Garrick Flash was a fictional character in Barry Allen’s world. The solution? A swipe of an old sci-fi concept: alternate universes. First the Flashes met, then the JLA and JSA had an annual meeting for decades until the Crisis on Infinite Earths merged their worlds into one and made the cross-company crossover en vogue.

Julie didn’t rest, though. When sales of the Batman comics began to slump, he spearheaded the “new look” Batman. He held the reigns of the Superman titles for years before finally retiring with the post-Crisis revamp. So loved, so renowned was he among the DC staff, that the company created a special issue of Superman -- #411 -- entirely without Julie’s knowledge. In that story, the man of steel traveled to “our” universe and met the editor who had guided him for years, and Julie even made an appearance on the cover, all a special birthday present to a legend.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster invented the superhero. Stan Lee brought about a renaissance. Julie Schwartz may not have had any writer or artist credits to his name, but he had more verve and energy than any ten creators who have done comic books before or since his heyday. There’s a favorite short story of mine, “A Sound of Thunder” by Julie’s one-time client Ray Bradbury. In this story, a man travels back in time and accidentally kills a butterfly, only to realize when he returns to his own time that one small change had irrevocably altered his world.

Julie Schwartz was that butterfly, a man who, with the beat of his glorious wings, would forever alter the landscape of comic books. He may not have done any of it alone, but he was the catalyst. He saved a dying artform, and he gave all of us what he come here to talk about, praise, gripe over, berate and love every time we log on to Comixtreme.com. When I started writing this column, almost a year ago, my stated purpose was to describe what makes good comics good and what could make bad comics better.

Julie Schwartz made comics great.

So rest easy, Julie. You have our respect, our admiration, and our eternal thanks.

Up, up and away.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 4, 2004

This week my favorite comic is one of the few titles out there you’d be hard-pressed to find even an indirect imprint of Julie Schwartz upon: the second issue of the fantastic Vertigo miniseries My Faith in Frankie. Writer Mike Carey and artist Sonny Liew have created a genuinely funny, thrilling and exciting miniseries about a young woman with her own personal god who gets jealous when she wants to start having a social life. Part romantic comedy, part classic good/evil struggle, this is a comic book like none I’ve ever read before, and it’s an awful lot of fun.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People's Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the novel-in-progress Lost in Silver at Evertime Realms. He’s also the co-host, with good buddy Chase Bouzigard and Not-On-the-Internet Mike Bellamy, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcasts. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

 

25th-May-2009 12:56 pm - Classic EBI #48: Thou Shalt Not Kill
Christmas

EVERYTHING BUT IMAGINARY 2/04/04 -- THOU SHALT NOT KILL

Thou Shalt Not Kill

So Iceman killed a guard, I’m told. I’m working on what I’ve picked up talking to various people who are still reading Uncanny X-Men, because it’s been some time since I tried that series, but from what I understand Iceman had been reduced to a few little ice chips (must be that “secondary mutation” thing, since I know he used to just cover his normal, flesh body with ice) and he extracted the moisture from a guard to create a new body for himself, killing the guard in the process.

This bothers me, frankly, because the five original X-Men remain my favorite characters in that franchise, and Iceman has never been a character who kills. Out of those five the only one who’s ever really had a killer edge is Archangel, and then only when controlled by those nasty wings Apocalypse gave him. There are two types of superheroes -- those who kill their enemies and those who don’t. I’m talking about this from a characterization standpoint, I’m not making any moral judgment here -- it’s logical for a character like the Punisher or Wolverine to have a killer instinct, but other, brighter characters simply don’t (and shouldn’t) have the capacity
to take life capriciously.

It does make sense for someone like the Punisher to resort to brutal force – he’s had a brutal life and his family was ripped away from him in a brutal fashion. He wants vengeance, and he feels he’ll never get it until all criminals are dead. Not only does it fit his character, but this brings up a lot of story potential as he clashes with brighter characters who don’t kill, like his early battles with Spider-Man.

This is not to say that even the brightest characters will never take a life. Rather, having a hero dole out death is something that should be done sparingly, and have serious impact when it happens, not unlike when a police officer has to shoot a criminal in the line of duty. John Byrne did a story towards the end of his Superman run wherein the man of steel found a pocket universe created by the Time Trapper. He had conjured it up to fool the Legion of Super-Heroes into thinking there had once been a being named Superboy (thereby explaining all the pre-Crisis Legion stories in which young Clark was a member, all of which were rendered void after the 1986 revamp). Three Kryptonian criminals were loose on this alternate Earth, and finally succeeded in killing all but one inhabitant of that universe, the creature that became Supergirl. The criminals boasted that they would one day find their way to other universes and destroy them as well, and Superman believed them... so to save more worlds from that horrible fate, he executed the criminals with a chunk of green Kryptonite.

It was a shocking, powerful moment. Superman killed someone. And it didn’t end there, either. He went mad with guilt, winding up with a split personality then exiling himself into space until he came to grips with what he had done. The titles have dealt with the ramifications of his actions and the scars they left him with ever since. The point is, though, that it was still in character because he didn’t do it casually. He did it because he felt he had no other choice.

Wonder Woman is a different story, though. A character of peace, an ambassador from paradise, she is still a warrior born, and while violence is always her last resort, I would see no change in character if she were to reach a point where she felt the only way to save innocent lives was to take the life of an offender... and did it.

Another of those bright characters, Captain America, is a character I wouldn’t have a problem seeing use lethal force more often -- he is primarily a soldier, not a superhero, and he has been forced to kill both during World War II and since his return. However, the Avengers charter prohibits its members from taking lives, something that has come up time and again during the team’s history. During the “Operation: Galactic Storm” storyline, Iron Man led a group of Avengers in killing the Kree Supreme Intelligence, an action that was excused as being done in a time of war.

In an earlier tale, while trapped in the past during a time-travel adventure, Mockingbird was drugged and seduced by the man called the Phantom Rider. When she shook off his influence, she sent him hurtling off the edge of a cliff. Back in the present, her actions had her expelled from the team and ended her marriage to Hawkeye, although they eventually reconciled some time before she, too, was killed in battle. As a former SHIELD agent, it was in-character for her to be able to kill, particularly under such provocation. As an Avenger, however, she could not.

Provocation, in fact, is a main point in trying to tell a tale where someone you think of as a hero has to resort to lethal force. From what I’ve heard of the Iceman story, the provocation does not seem great enough... there could have been another way, or even a better explanation, such as when Colossus killed one of the Marauders during the Mutant Massacre storyline. The Marauders were a group of mutants brought together by Mr. Sinister and set loose in the sewers of New York to murder the underground mutant population called the Morlocks. Colossus, for all his brawn, was never a brutal character, but seeing the death and devestation beneath the streets broke something in him, and when he managed to get his hand on one of the murderers, he snapped his neck. It worked because the kind man he was felt pushed to rage and a thirst for vengeance, but even his teammates were taken aback: Rogue even commented, “Killing’s my job. Or Wolvie’s. Peter is made for gentler things.”

Provocation can only go so far without changing the character, however. When Element Lad and Hal Jordan became killers (murdering Monstress and several Green Lanterns, respectively), the writers recognized it was totally out of character... so the only way to make it work was to change the character, making them both go crazy. I’m not going to get into the Hal Jordan debate here -- there isn’t enough bandwidth on the website -- but at least both of the characters were brought to that point in a semi-logical fashion.

Then there are characters that I simply cannot imagine taking a life for any reason. DC’s Captain Marvel, for instance, may have the power of Zeus and the wisdom of Solomon, but he has the heart of a young boy, and was in fact singled out by the demon Neron as having the purest soul in the universe. If he were to intentionally take a life, it would cause irrevocable harm to the character. If he were to do it unintentionally, however, that could open up some doors for storytelling...

That, in fact, is exactly what happened to Barry Allen, the second Flash. The brutal Professor Zoom had murdered his wife, Iris, but after some time Barry managed to put his life back together. He was even planning to marry again when Zoom reappeared, threatening his new bride-to-be. The Flash was so focused on stopping his enemy, on stopping history from repeating itself, that he broke Zoom’s neck – not intentionally, but in a panic to save the woman he loved. This led to the still-infamous “Trial of the Flash” storyline (which we’d like to get in a trade paperback sometime, DC), and some of the best storytelling that character ever saw.

Then, of course, there’s Batman. In his case you’ve got to look at who he is. While it’s true, in his early adventures, he did sometimes use lethal force, he has evolved as a character since then and those early adventures are no longer in continuity. Now you’re left with someone who saw his parents butchered and, as a result, struggles against death. As Superman put it in Kingdom Come, when you strip Batman of everything else he is, you’re left with someone who doesn’t want anyone to die. Even criminals. Even scum. Every so often you’ll hear someone comment about how many lives would be saved if he just killed the Joker. That’s probably true. But if he did that, he wouldn’t be Batman.

Even when pushed to the edge, it doesn’t quite work to make Batman a killer. One of the few weak points of Jeph Loeb’s “Hush” storyline was the much-touted issue where he almost did kill the Joker, only to be stopped by James Gordon. Honestly, it would have made more sense for Gordon himself to use lethal force: the Joker is responsible for crippling his daughter and murdering his wife, but he’s a good cop first and foremost and doesn’t kill when it isn’t necessary. It was a great moment for Gordon. Not so much for Batman, because you knew he wouldn’t cross that line. The same problem came up near the end of Judd Winick’s run on Green Lantern, when the character tracked down some thugs responsible for almost killing a gay friend of his. There was zero suspense as Green Lantern threatened the man’s life, because you knew he wouldn’t do it. I’m not saying he should have done it, I want you to understand that, I’m saying that since we all knew he wouldn’t, it would have served Winick not to make the story hinge on that point to begin with.

Again, folks, I’m not saying any of this to make any kind of value judgment about one type of character versus another. Virtually every character I’ve mentioned here has had wonderful stories told about him or her, but the point is that those stories have to work with who the character is. Lobo would have no problem killing a guard. Iceman would. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 28, 2003

Continuing down the path Marvel forged with the Ultimate line, Devil’s Due Comics started a whole new continuity last week with the premiere of G.I. Joe: Cobra Reborn. Writer Paul Jenkins is starting a new line from scratch, beginning with this origin story of the ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world. It’s somewhat darker than the classic G.I. Joe property, and that’s just fine – this is aimed at the folks who loved G.I. Joe but who feel the original property hasn’t grown up as much as they have. I can’t wait until this story continues in G.I. Joe Reborn, then the new ongoing G.I. Joe Reloaded.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People's Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the novel-in-progress Lost in Silver at Evertime Realms. He’s also the co-host, with good buddy Chase Bouzigard and Not-On-the-Internet Mike Bellamy, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcasts. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

 

25th-May-2009 12:53 pm - Classic EBI #47: Indefinite Delays
Christmas

EVERYTHING BUT IMAGINARY 1/28/04 -- INDEFINITE DELAYS

Indefinite delays

“Delayed indefinitely.”

That was the phrase that awaited people who expected the first issue of the Marvel/MAX Ant-Man miniseries in January. I’d be lying if I said this was a total shock -- while I’ve always enjoyed Ant-Man, the fact is, he’s never been a hugely popular character (no pun intended), and although no official reason was given for the “indefinite delay,” I would bet dollars to donuts that a big part of it is small amounts of pre-orders.

Still, being a Marvel title, I would bet even the pre-orders were much higher than the average sales on a book like, say, Fade From Blue, but you still see that every couple of months, like clockwork. The big companies, as is to be expected, have a much higher threshhold of what makes a worthwhile book to sell, and the sad fact is that sometimes those sales just don’t add up to enough to publish a book, even if somewhere out there, some readers are waiting for it.

Another famous example of this was John Byrne’s classic “The Last Galactus Story,” which began publication in Epic Illustrated, an anthology title that was cancelled, yanking the story out from under Byrne. The ending never saw the light of day, and fans still approach him at conventions and ask how it would have went.

Not every comic book that winds up on the side of a milk carton does so because of low sales, though. There are hundreds of comic book projects that are announced, even solicited by Diamond, and then never make it to comic book shelves. It’s a shame when that happens, but it is not unexpected. Some books are just interminably late due to the creative team -- a perfect example of this is Kevin Smith’s work for Marvel. Two years after the first issue of Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do was solicited, fans are still waiting for the last issue of this five-issue monthly miniseries. And let’s not forget that only one issue ever came out of Daredevil: The Target, a miniseries meant to spotlight Bullseye just in time for the Daredevil movie... which is now available on DVD, and still no issue two in sight.

Then there are books that are knocked off the schedule due to inter-office politics. Back in 1993, when Image Comics was still a young company, they made a big coup by getting Alan Moore to write a miniseries lampooning silver-age superheroes, specifically the Marvel characters of that era. It was a fun six-issue book called 1963. In this series Moore introduced us to the likes of Mystery, Inc., The Fury, Horus, the Lord of Light and U.S.A.: The Ultimate Special Agent. The books were written and drawn in an amusing style that threw you back to the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko era, but each of them had underlying subplots involving time travel and mysterious goings on. In the last issue the Tomorrow Syndicate began travelling the multiverse in search of the missing sorcerer Johnny Beyond, only to wind up in a new world on the last page where they encountered Rob Liefeld’s Shaft -- they had crash-landed in the present-day Image Universe, in a story that would be resolved in the upcoming 1963 Annual!

That annual was never printed. It got shuffled between studios, from Image founder to Image founder, and ultimately fell through the cracks. I don’t know if it was ever even written or penciled, but the story was left with a cliffhanger that couldn’t possibly be resolved today in the way intended, if for no other reason, than because of the shakeups Image as a company has undergone in the past decade. The 1963 characters made one more appearance that I know of, guest-starring in a time-travel issue of Jim Valentino’s ShadowHawk, but we still don’t know the big mystery of 1963. Moore and artist Steve Bissette, who co-created and co-owned the characters, have fallen out, although they have allegedly agreed that there is a way to finish the story. If it ever will be finished, though, remains to be seen.

Not every “delayed” comic is delayed forever, of course. It took ‘em 20 years, but the Justice League and the Avengers finally met -- although none of the pages Gerry Conway and George Perez did for that first miniseries ever saw print. Then there’s my favorite “delayed” comic, a book scheduled for print in 1983 (when I was just six years old and had never read a comic) but that came out in 1989 (when I was twelve and reading them the way a man dying of dehydration gulps water): Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe.

Some of you may not know who Fred Hembeck is -- he isn’t as big as he used to be, but in the 70s, 80s and early 90s he did a series of comic strips in a series of publications that goofed on classic superheroes. If you’ve ever seen a drawing of Spider-Man with pupils and a cheesy grin through his mask and spirals for kneecaps, you’ve seen a Fred Hembeck Spider-Man. He still does his “Dateline: @!!?*” comic strip/column in Comics Buyer’s Guide, in fact, and when it appears, it’s one of my favorite features.

In ‘83 he and then-Marvel Editor In Chief Jim Shooter decided to do a spoof called Jim Shooter Destroys the Marvel Universe, which would consist of a framing sequence wherein Shooter would hire Hembeck to write and draw a comic killing every Marvel character -- hero and villain -- and a middle section that would actually consist of that very comic book. Editors shifted Shooter’s name from the title and put Hembeck on, although Shooter, a former DC employee, was still the star. In the story, a DC editor gave young Jim Shooter a post-hypnotic suggestion to one day take over Marvel comics and destroy it. It was funny and goofy, and would have worked great as the two companies got along fine at the time.

Then the JLA/Avengers fiasco happened, the companies cooled towards each other and the playful jab at DC didn’t seem so safe anymore. So Hembeck re-drew the framing sequence so that the culprit was not Jim Shooter, but his evil twin, Tim Shooter, who harbored a lifetime of anger towards his brother because the famously-large Jim Shooter was a half-inch taller than him. All, again, was right with the world.

Then Shooter got fired.

And the book was thought dead until, some time later, editor Jim Salicrup contacted Hembeck to revive it. Hembeck used the delay to change the framing sequence further, showing himself out on the street because of a comic he’d never written, making jokes about the previous framing sequence and how it would have run, without ever mentioning Shooter by name. Then the Punisher showed up, peeved that the Marvel universe was being destroyed and he had only appeared in one panel.

It was funny, funny comic, and if you ever find a copy pick it up. It’s worth it just to see Hembeck watching the Punisher reading a comic book and thinking “His lips move when he reads...”

We’ve all been disappointed at times, friends. We’ve all anxiously awaited comics that were never published. But take heart -- if the work was done and the creators are still working, there’s always hope. Write to the publishers. Write to the creators. Tell them what you want to see.

If there’s hope for Fred Hembeck, there’s hope for anyone.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 21, 2003

It keeps happening, friends, I’m sorry. If Congress ever gets wind of this it’ll try to pass legislation forbidding Mark Waid from writing such good comic books so that somebody else will have a chance to win “Favorite of the Week” for a change, but until then I’m praising Fantastic Four nearly every month. In issue #508, Waid floored me by killing my favorite Marvel character, Benjamin J. Grimm, the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing. This issue we see how his death has affected the rest of the team and what lengths Reed Richards will go to to bring his best friend back.

I keep thinking that the most powerful ending of this storyline would be for Reed to fail and for Ben to stay dead, but then the fanboy in me screams “nooooooo!” and calls for his mother to tell him things will be okay. Ben will be back. Ben has to come back, and if anyone can do it in a satisfying way, it’s Mark Waid.

Oh, and welcome back Mike Wieringo on the art chores. Howard Porter did a nice job, but for me, ‘Ringo owns this book now.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People's Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the novel-in-progress Lost in Silver at Evertime Realms. He’s also the co-host, with good buddy Chase Bouzigard and Not-On-the-Internet Mike Bellamy, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcasts. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

 

Christmas

EVERYTHING BUT IMAGINARY 1/21/04 -- AND WHERE DO YOU BUY YOUR COMICS?

And where do you buy your comics?

I can’t find HERO #12, and it’s driving me nuts.

Let me explain -- there are several titles that I read regularly but, for various reasons, I don’t have on my pull list at the comic shop I frequent. I have a notebook that I keep in my pocket at pretty much all times -- this comes with the territory of being a reporter -- and I make a list of anything not in my folder that I want to grab off the rack when I go to the comic shop each week. I got there on my usual Friday, though, and to my dismay, HERO #12 had already sold out.

This happens sometimes. No one’s fault. No hard feelings. That means I’ve got to look somewhere else. My second stop on Friday afternoons, after the comic shop, is Border’s Books and Music, which actually put in (will wonders never cease?) an honest-to-god spinner rack a few months ago. I haven’t seen one of those in years. The comics on that rack, however, tend to lag behind the ones released in the comic shop by a few weeks, but even though I knew I wouldn’t find what I was looking for there, I checked it out anyway. No luck.

As I was about to head home, I decided to try one last stop -- a store called Comic Cosmos that is only slightly out of my way. Cosmos is a terrible shop. It’s disorganized, it’s cluttered, its customer base is apparently 99 percent children whose parents let them watch “The Sopranos” since they were six and one percent people who can’t find what they want anywhere else. My trip into Hell was for naught, though, because Cosmos didn’t have HERO either, and this shop is so bad that when the guy at the counter offered to order it for me I lied and told him I didn’t live in the area.

I slumped back to my car, thinking I could always try ordering it online from the fine people at X-World, but that has its own dangers (not because there's anything wrong with X-World, but because my brain doesn't function properly). I always feel like it’s a waste if I order just one comic online, so then I start browsing the trade paperbacks, and the next thing I know I’m spending way more money than I actually should, considering that I still need to purchase other things like gasoline and sinus medicine and pants that don’t threaten to fall down around my ankles every time I break into a trot.

So in just three stops, my comic-buying capabilities have been virtually exhausted. And that gets me really sad, friends, because when I was a kid, I would have never given up on looking for this book. When I was a kid, there were a lot more places that I could look.

In those glory days before I had a driver’s license and before I had ever visited my first comic shop, there were dozens of establishments that got my hard-earned cash for comics. I’d go to the grocery store with my mom just to look at the comics there. If they didn’t have anything I wanted, I’d run to the drugstore next door in the same shopping center and look at that selection. Any time we’d go to a mall, I’d have to go into the bookstore. Any time we’d stop for gas, I’d race to the magazine rack while my dad filled the tank. I’d pay with cash if I had it, coins if I had to, beg my parents on occasion, because that’s how it was done. If I couldn’t find this month’s Amazing Spider-Man in one place, I’d simply wait until I encountered the next comic book rack and try again.

The sad thing is, not only do almost none of those establishments carry comic books any more, but a great number of them (where I live, at least) are out of business. Grocery stores and drugstores get sold to other chains and shut down, bookstores have their leases cancelled because idiot mall owners think a Gap, an Old Navy and a Banana Republic aren’t enough, so they’d better throw in a Structure too. And kids who wind up in these places see the same preppie clothes and the same hair care and video game magazines, and they never get a taste of how cool Flash, Fantastic Four or JSA are.

There is one exception, though. There is still one line of comic books that you can find in bookstores, in drugstores or perched at the checkout line in the supermarket sandwiched happily between the National Enquirer and the TV Guide. It’s a line that we rarely talk about, we “older,” “sophisticated” comic book readers, a line that I don’t think I’ve ever even heard mentioned here on Comixtreme except for the occasional “Still on the Shelf.” It’s a line that is barely a blip on the Diamond sales charts, but that eclipses every other comic book in America when you toss in the newstand sales.

I’m talking about Archie comics, man. And thank God for Archie comics.

I don’t care if you do think you’re too old or too savvy for Archie, that redheaded goober is one of the best ambassadors we currently have in the comic book world. Oh, I hear you people already. “What about the Spider-Man movie, Blake? What about X-Men? What about The Hulk?”

I want you to do a little experiment. Go down to your local Wal-Mart (or Target or whatever big box department store is nearest you). Make a log of every item you find featuring a comic book character. You’ll find the action figures. Schoolbags. Notebooks. DVDs. CDs. T-shirts. Shoes. Underwear. Cereal. Fruit Roll-Ups. You could get swamped in this merchandise.

Now find me an actual comic book featuring those characters. And the ones occasionally inserted with the action figures don’t count. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

...

It’s not that easy, is it? if you’re lucky, you’ll find a couple of tattered Ultimate Spider-Man trade paperbacks in the book section, their covers bent, their pages creased, probably with a big bar code sticker affixed to the front with the same sort of glue they use to hold the space shuttle together. It’s never coming off, and that really frustrates you because it ruins the book and there’s already a perfectly good bar code printed on the cover, so what’s the sticker for?

But you’ve still got Archie. His digest. His double digest. And his pals -- Jughead, Betty and Veronica, Reggie, Moose ...

But that’s not all. In those Archie comics, you’ll find ads for their other books -- Sonic the Hedgehog. The Crusaders and Shield trade paperbacks. Adventure. Science Fiction. Superheroes.

And there are kids out there now, reading Jughead Double Digest , thinking, “This Comet character sounds kinda cool... I’d like to read some superhero comics.”

But these kids have never been to a comic shop. They don’t see Action Comics at the Rite-Aid or Teen Titans at Waldenbooks. So they stick with Archie and eventually grow out of him.

Don’t misunderstand me, friends. I love comic book stores. The problem is that you can’t survive on just comic book stores. Dealers shouldn’t look at the newsstand market as competition, they should look at it as the gateway to snag their customers. Even in my childhood I never saw a supermarket rack with half the selection as even a lousy comic store. People may buy the latest John Grisham novel at Wal-Mart, but if they like it and go back, there won’t be a complete selection of his works sitting on the shelf. For that, they’ll have to go to a bookstore. Comic books can work the same way. A kid can pick up an issue of X-Men guest-starring the New Mutants and think, “Hey, where can I read more about these guys?”

And they’ll look. And they won’t find it.

But if they love it, if they look hard enough, sooner or later they’ll hear about this little store off the main highway. It isn’t big and it isn’t flashy and yeah, some of the people who shop there wear the same Shazam! t-shirt every other day and only do the laundry on Fridays.

But it’s a start.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 14, 2004

Superman, hands-down, is my favorite comic book character, so it pains me to see how rarely he is actually treated right by the creators. Last week, though, last week Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen treated him brilliantly in Superman: Secret Identity #1 . This story takes place in a world like our own, with no superheroes and where Big Blue is a fictional character. Our hero is a young man with the unfortunate name of Clark Kent, who gets picked on his entire life for having such a namesake, but gets none of the perks of the name... until one day he wakes up and has all of Superman‘s powers. As always, Busiek is weaving a great character piece and Immonen continues to show off his skills as the best Superman artist of the past decade, possibly since the great Curt Swan put his pencil down. I’m just sorry it will only last four issues.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People's Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the novel-in-progress Lost in Silver at Evertime Realms. He’s also the co-host, with good buddy Chase Bouzigard and Not-On-the-Internet Mike Bellamy, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcasts. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

 

Christmas

EVERYTHING BUT IMAGINARY 1/14/04 -- THE 2003 EVERYTHING BUT IMAGINARY AWARDS PART TWO

The 2003 Everything But Imaginary Awards Part Two

Welcome back to the 2003 Everything But Imaginary awards, the comic book award show voted on by the readers of Comixtreme.com! Let’s have a big hand for your host, soon to be a featured player on the WB’s The Surreal Life, Blake M. Petit!

Thanks, Blake. Welcome back, folks to the first-ever Everything But Imaginary Awards! Last week, we presented the winners in our first six categories: best superhero title, best science fiction title, best fantasy title, best horror title, best “no tights” title and best humor title. If you’re just tuning in, you can catch a recap right here: The 2003 EBI Awards Part One.

Here’s how this is going to work – there are six remaining categories and 12 awards to hand out. In each category there will be two “Blakie” winners – the “Writer’s Choice” awards, as selected by yours truly, based entirely on my own preferences and biases, and the “Reader’s Choice” awards, voted on by you, the reader. In some instances, the same title won both awards (one of those moments of cosmic synergy), so those books will be awarded the coveted “Double Blakie” award.

Everybody got that? I hope so, it wasn’t that hard… Let’s hand out some awards!

Best Mature Readers Title
Writer’s Choice: This isn’t just my favorite mature readers title – it’s one of my favorite comic books on the market. DC/Vertigo’s Fables, written by Bill Willingham. This is a smart title, a comic book that mixes magic and action with political drama and intrigue. As I mentioned last week when it took home the Reader’s Choice Award for Best Fantasy, this is a comic about classic fairy tale and folk characters that are trying to make their way in our world. Willingham and a rotating stable of artists, in the most recent story arc particularly, have blended together elements of dramatic storytelling, romance, drama and sheer horror (the gory final battle against Goldilocks being the best example). They have also created (or rather, re-created) some great characters -- Snow White is a smart, savvy woman, Prince Charming is a scheming rogue, and Bigby Wolf (until now best known for causing trouble for Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs) has become one of my favorite comic book detectives, a gumshoe in the old sense with a dash of Lon Cheney Jr. thrown in for good measure. This is a great comic book.

Reader’s Choice: Brian Michael Bendis, the hardest-working writer in comics, scores again for the premiere Marvel MAX title Alias. The story of former superhero Jessica Jones, Alias focused on her days as a private detective, the mystery as to why she dropped out of the hero biz, and her relationships with various former spandex-clad colleagues. This has been a solid seller and a critically acclaimed book from day one, but it won’t be in the running for this award next year, as Bendis decided to rework it, bring it into the “mainstream” Marvel Universe and recreate it as The Pulse. Ah, but we’ll always have trade paperbacks.

Honorable Mention: Supreme Power, Sleeper


Best All-Ages Title
Writer’s Choice: This is the part where the writer’s biases reaaaaally come in to play, because this is a title I doubt more than a handful of you read on a regular basis, but month in and month out my favorite all-ages comic book this year was the reborn Uncle Scrooge published by Gemstone Comics. Scrooge has long been one of my favorite characters, and his absence from the American comic book scene was too painful and too long. I still think Gemstone makes a major mistake putting this title out at 64 pages a month with a $6.95 price tag, but reprints of classic Carl Barks stories and wonderful, masterful new stories like “The Coin” by Don Rosa make this a book I want to read each and every month, one that I think any young reader could jump right into, and one that I think could really expand the comic book world if it were only done right.

Reader’s Choice: Not a surprise, Bendis and Mark Bagley score again with Ultimate Spider-Man. This re-imagining of Marvel’s premiere superhero clears away the decades of continuity that could be somewhat daunting to new readers and it tells stories that, for the most part, you can give to kids to read with little problem. Even those jokes or stories that stray on the more mature side of things are usually no harsher than anything your kids are seeing on prime-time TV. Add to that the fact that the characters are strong, the dialogue is snappy and the artwork is flat-out beautiful, and Ultimate Spider-Man gets its second EBI award this year in as many categories.

Honorable Mention: Justice League Adventures, Sentinel

Best New Title
Writer’s Choice: The qualification for this award was that it be given to an ongoing series, the first issue of which was released between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2003. While it pained me to see Young Justice end, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve enjoyed the reborn Teen Titans more than any comic book launched this year. Geoff Johns and Mike McKone have taken the best characters from two old titles and created a new dynamic that’s working wonderfully. Old elements, like the Superboy/Wonder Girl romance, have been maintained. Impulse has been completely reborn as the new Kid Flash. The question of Superboy’s true parentage looks to be something that will be debated both in the comics and by readers for some time to come. Also, the fact that the only character in this book that currently has his own series is Robin leaves Johns a lot of room to tell the sort of character-oriented stories he does so well.

Reader’s Choice: One of the best-received titles in Marvel’s Tsunami imprint picks up the Reader’s Choice Award for best new title – Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways. For those of you not in the know, this is a title about a group of teenagers who discover their parents are supervillains and head for the hills, hoping to escape their past. Vaughan is one of the best, most versatile writers in comics today, also being responsible for Y: The Last Man and Mystique, and the fact that he’s bringing back two of my old favorite characters in this book -- Cloak and Dagger – makes it even more appealing. I’ll be honest, this isn’t a comic book I’ve read, but if and when Marvel ever puts out a trade paperback collecting the first story arc, I’ll more than likely give it a try.

Honorable Mention: Superman/Batman, Emma Frost

Best Miniseries or Special
Writer’s Choice: It’s an old property that was returned to us this year via the “series of miniseries” format, but since its introduction in 1995 I have never failed to be amazed by an issue of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, so handing this award to Astro City: Local Heroes was a no-brainer for me. In five issues there were four excellent stories about a world full of superheroes – that of a doorman, a snoopy girl reporter who drove off a powerful hero into space, a city girl forced to spend a summer in the country and a defense attorney forced to clear the name of a mobster he knows is guilty. Busiek’s gift comes from taking the foundations of fantasy and superhero universes built by others over long decades and telling new, fresh stories that seem so obvious in retrospect that you wonder why no one has told them before. I can’t wait for the next Astro City mini next year.

Reader’s Choice: Perennial favorite Neil Gaiman makes the list with the bizarre, brilliant Marvel Knights minseries 1602. Gaiman has taken the entire Marvel Universe four centuries back in time, and no one knows why. He’s telling a story about superheroes in a world where mutants are condemned as Satanic, Nick Fury is the master of defense for the Queen of England, Captain America is a blonde haired, blue-eyed Native American warrior and the Fantastic Four are missing. The series also features beautiful artwork by Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove, one of the best art teams in comics. This is supposedly not an “Elseworlds” story, but part of the Marvel Universe – so how did it slip back in time? What happened to everyone? Most importantly, where is everything going to go next? This miniseries isn’t over yet, but I couldn’t be more excited to find out where it has left to go.

Honorable Mention: Sandman: Endless Nights, Formerly Known as the Justice League

The New Beginning Award
Writer’s Choice AND Reader’s Choice: The New Beginning Award is given out for an old property reinvigorated this year – either by a relaunch or a new creative team – and the readers and I agree that no comic book fit that bill in 2003 like Birds of Prey. Although the book had great creators in the past in Chuck Dixon and artists like Butch Guice and Greg Land, after they left the book for the pastures of CrossGen comics it floundered for some time… until earlier last year when the book was given to Gail Simone and Ed Benes to make their own. Simone has said she was reluctant to take the book for fear of being typecast, but there are far worse things to be known as than the best writer Black Canary and Oracle have ever had. The women of the Clocktower read like real women – they can talk about their boyfriends at one minute and be all business the next. They crack jokes that seem natural coming from their mouths and protect Gotham City with a style all their own. Benes’ artwork is fantastic too – he draws great women without making them look unnaturally put-together, he does good night scenes and he gives the book a fantastic style. This book is so good that it’s even improving the Nightwing title with the story about his relationship with Oracle. It’s one of the best books currently coming out of the DCU.

Honorable Mention: Teen Titans, Wolverine

The “Happy Trails” Award
Writer’s Choice: The Happy Trails Award is given to the cancelled ongoing comic book that people were most sorry to see go away this year. There were a few titles that went the way of the dodo in 2003 that left a big void in my pull list, but hands-down, the comic I miss the most is Peter David’s Supergirl. Over the course of its 80 issues, David took a character mired down by conflicting continuity and… well… mired her down with even more continuity, but it was all good continuity. From the Earth-Born Angel storyline to the return of Kara Zor-El, David told great stories while trying to give people what it seemed the fans wanted. The saddest part of the whole thing is that the book got the axe just when sales were on the rise – most likely to make way for the Cir-El incarnation of the character that cluttered up the Superman titles this year. As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t a fair trade-off.

Reader’s Choice: Although this was predictably the category with the widest array of votes spread out over the most titles, Comixtreme.com proved itself to be the site where Deadpool fans come to roost, voting for Agent X to get the 2003 Happy Trails Award. The title that kinda sorta replaced Deadpool at the same time as X-Statix replaced X-Force was a fan favorite, but suffered when Gail Simone left the book. The mystery of Agent X (was he really the allegedly-dead Deadpool or was he someone else?) floundered until it was announced that the book was being cancelled, at which point Simone returned to wrap things up. Fans can take heart, though, with Agent X gone, Deadpool will return in a few months with another character whose revamped book failed -- Cable (alias “Soldier X”).

Honorable Mention: Ruse, The Crew

This was a lot of fun, guys, and I think the most fun I had was learning what you guys dug the most. It’ll come in handy over the next 52 weeks of “Everything But Imaginary.” I hope your favorites won, and if they didn’t, get out the vote next year.

Thanks for watching The 2003 Everything But Imaginary Awards. We now return to our regularly-scheduled programming…

Favorite of the Week: January 7, 2004

In the first week of the new year, my favorite single issue was Plastic Man #2. Kyle Baker has taken the pliable paladin and launched into a hysterical story that has all the brilliant elements that made it such a great strip under creator Jack Cole and that virtually every incarnation since then has been missing. This time out Plastic Man has been assigned to capture that notorious crook Eel O’Brian… but his boss doesn’t know that Plas and Eel are the same guy! It’s not the first time Plastic Man has been assigned to capture himself, but the cliffhanger at the end of this issue – to my knowledge – has never been done with this character before. I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People's Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the novel-in-progress Lost in Silver at Evertime Realms. He’s also the co-host, with good buddy Chase Bouzigard and Not-On-the-Internet Mike Bellamy, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcasts. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

 

Christmas

The 2003 Everything But Imaginary Awards Part One

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the 2003 Everything But Imaginary awards, the comic book award show voted on by the readers of Comixtreme.com! And now here’s your host, the man who would work for the money we offered after Billy Crystal turned us down, Blake M. Petit!

Thanks, Blake, and welcome everyone to the first-ever Everything But Imaginary Awards! Here’s how this is going to work – there are 12 categories and 24 awards to hand out. We’ll do the first six categories this week and the last six next week. In each category there will be two “Blakie” winners – the “Writer’s Choice” awards, as selected by yours truly, based entirely on my own preferences and biases, and the “Reader’s Choice” awards, voted on by you, the reader. In some instances, the same title won both awards (you smart readers you), so those books will be awarded the coveted “Double Blakie” award.

You’re all on the edge of your seat, I can tell. Okay, let’s get on with the awards!

Best Superhero Title
Writer’s Choice: There are a lot of quality superhero books out there these days, friends, but throughout 2003 no single title grabbed my attention and held it like Geoff Johns’s work on JSA. Johns took some of my favorite old-school superhero characters, blended them together with new characters that mixed into the various legacies of the DC Universe, threw in some nasty villains and gave us a great comic book. This year we were treated to a massive battle against Mordru and Eclipso, an unexpected but well-done romance between Captain Marvel and Stargirl and the reintroduction of the original Red Tornado. You want classic superhero action? JSA is as classic as it gets.

Reader’s Choice: It’s one of the top-selling titles in comic books, and one of the best – no one should be surprised that the EBI readers selected Ultimate Spider-Man as the superhero title of the year. Since this book was launched a few years ago Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley have given us a great retelling of the origin of Marvel’s flagship character – without a fill-in for either of them, I should add. This is character-based superhero comic books at their best – between Pete’s problems with Mary Jane to the wonderful “Aunt May in Therapy” issue, this is a book that has been top-notch from the start, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Honorable Mention: Fantastic Four, New X-Men


Best Science Fiction Title
Writer’s Choice AND Reader’s Choice: It’s a tale of honor and glory, blood and death, treachery and betrayal and science fiction action at it’s finest. It’s CrossGen’s Negation by Tony Bedard and Paul Pelletier. This is a title that brings together all the disparate threads of the CrossGen universe. It’s a military title, a war story in outer space, and instead of the beaches of a lone country being the battleground, two entire universes are at stake. In a few months this book will give way for Negation War, which will in turn give way to a new volume of this series – we’re promised epic battles and high octane excitement. Whatever state the CrossGen universe is in when the smoke clears and the battle is over, the readers hope that we’ll be getting science fiction excitement from Negation for a long time to come.

Honorable Mention: Legion, TransFormers: Generation One

Best Fantasy Title
Writer’s Choice: This was a tough one, but finally the title that exemplified good fantasy comics better than any other this year was Arrowsmith by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco. This war story is set in an alternate history where magic and sorcery defined the 19th century instead of steel and steam, and when the first world war begins, battles are fought with magic instead of bullets. This book is the story of Fletcher Arrowsmith, a young man who lies about his age to join the Air Force of the United States of Columbia, only to discover that war is hell. This book, more than any other this year, used its fantasy elements not to define itself, but to enhance the world that it exists within.

Reader’s Choice: One of the best comic books on the stands is the reader’s selection for best fantasy comic of the year – Vertigo’s Fables by Bill Willingham. Unlike many fantasy titles, however, this is a book firmly grounded in the real world – the characters from all the great fairy tales and stories of old were driven from their lands long ago and set up a new life in the “mundane” world. The second year of Fables was even better than the first – Goldilocks attempted a coup, Prince Charming made his bid to run for mayor of Fabletown and a mind-controlled tryst between Snow White and Bigby Wolf left the former princess carrying a litter of her own. As great as Fables was this year, the best thing about it is the potential it has for next year.

Honorable Mention: Sojourn, Knights of the Dinner Table

Best Horror Title
Writer’s Choice AND Reader’s Choice: There are more scary comics on the racks than there used to be, but in 2003 there was none as consistently scary and entertaining as Route 666, Tony Bedard’s examination of a young woman who sees monsters everywhere she goes. People think Cassie Starkweather is going crazy, but in fact, she’s the only one who sees the demons in her society clearly. Cassie has to battle ghosts, demons, werewolves and vampires in this series, taking the conventions of old-fashioned “B” horror movies and making them frightening, many for the first time. Bedard has taken lots of familiar elements and turned them into something entirely new.

Honorable Mention: 30 Days of Night, Incredible Hulk

Best “No Tights” Title
Writer’s Choice: The best title on the racks without any superheroes, aliens or sorcerers is Gotham Central by Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark. This is a hardboiled crime drama about cops trying to cope in a city under the shadow of the Batman. This book has a unique format – Rucka writes stories about the “day shift” of the Gotham City Police Department, with Brubaker writing stories about the “night shift.” Familiar characters like Renée Montoya and Maggie Sawyer get to show off in this book, and a lot of new characters have been introduced and shown off as well. This is a great title, the best crime comic on the stands, and one that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves.

Reader’s Choice: I was a bit reluctant about announcing this winner, but I allowed it because, although it has a very science fiction feel to it, there’s still too much mystery about the core concept to declare it firmly in that category. Plus, Y: The Last Man got so many votes in this category that I couldn’t ignore it. Brian Vaughan has crafted an intriguing story about the last man alive in a world full of women. At turns scary and funny, thrilling and exciting, this is a fantastic comic book. It’s more a mystery than anything else – no one knows why all the men died, no one knows why Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand, survived. It’s also a study of society – commenting as much upon our own society as one in which all the men have died.

Honorable Mention: Ruse, Usagi Yojimbo

Best Humor Title
Writer’s Choice AND Reader’s Choice: It’s funny, it’s silly, it’s wacky, it’s PVP by Scott Kurtz. This is a funny, funny comic book – Cole Richards is the publisher of a video game magazine. As he tries to run a business, he’s got to deal with his employees: Francis Ray Ottoman would rather play video games than write about them, Skull the troll has more heart than brain, and Brent Sienna and Jade Fontaine spend as much time keeping their romance burning as they do getting their jobs done. It’s part workplace comedy, part geek comedy, part satire and all fun. This comic book makes me laugh each and every time an issue it comes out, and it’s good to know that it makes so many of you guys laugh, too.

Honorable Mention: Liberty Meadows, Formerly Known as the Justice League

Well, that’s all the room we have this week, friends, and the job is only halfway done. Come back in seven days and find out your choices (and mine) for best mature readers title, best all-ages title, best new title, best miniseries or special, the “New Beginning” award and the “Happy Trails” award.

The 2003 Everything But Imaginary Awards will continue after a word from our sponsor…

Favorite of the Week: December 31, 2003

This was one of those weeks where it was tough to pick a favorite – for sheer superhero action, it should have been Superman/Batman. For most potential, it would have been Ultimate Fantastic Four. But when I picked the comic I just plain enjoyed the most, it was PVP #5. This issue, the gang at PVP Magazine meet the passive-aggressive supervillain Max Powers. An old nemesis of Cole and Brent, Max sets up a competing magazine in the same building, leading to a prank war not seen since the glory days of Cheers. Throw in a dream sequence illustrated by Frank Cho and some great Matrix jokes, and you’ve got a comic that makes me sad it only comes out every 60 days.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People's Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the novel-in-progress Lost in Silver at Evertime Realms. He’s also the co-host, with good buddy Chase Bouzigard and Not-On-the-Internet Mike Bellamy, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcasts. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

Christmas

The New Year's Resolution Column (12/31/03)

Ah, so it is the last day of 2003, and with that many of my colleagues here at Comixtreme are taking an opportunity to look back at the past 365 days and how they changed the world of comics. Well, to heck with that. Here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters, we’re looking ahead to the next 365. We’re talking about what can be done, will be done and should be done next year to make the world of comics a bigger, better place. This week, we’re handing out New Year’s Resolutions.

Now I’ve made resolutions of my own, of course, and I’m not telling you what they are because if I did then you could make fun of me next year for failing at all of them except the one involving Lord of the Rings star Miranda Otto, which you’ll all agree I probably could have achieved if it weren’t for that pesky restraining order. But anyway, overall I think 2003 was a pretty good year for comics, and I want to see that trend continue into 2004. And here’s how it should be done:

Resolutions for Marvel Comics

• To stop attempting to fire people writing brilliant runs on assorted comic books, i.e. Mark Waid and Peter David.

• To give up on trying to cancel Spider-Girl, because it clearly has the most dedicated, devoted fan base in comics, several of whom apparently have naked pictures of Joe Quesada with a llama.

• To introduce a female character in Uncanny X-Men that serves some purpose other than to pine over and/or throw herself at all of the male characters. This resolution also applies to Northstar.

• To place a brass plaque on the wall of every editor’s office reading “20 issues a year is meaningless if 19 of them suck.” Similarly, the offending editors should stop pretending they don’t know what we’re talking about.

• To re-think the policy that is going to create four Spider-Man titles, three Fantastic Four titles and four titles that just have X-Men in the name, let alone count all related titles. Can anyone else say “overexposure”?

• To stop doing crappy specials and miniseries starring villains who are going to be in major motion pictures six months after the miniseries is scheduled to be completed.

Resolutions for DC Comics

• To make sure, the next time they shuffle around the Superman creative teams, they get writers who actually understand and respect the character working on the title, and to stop doing whatever it is they’re doing to drive them away.

• To get Neil Gaiman and Jim Lee as the new creative team on Wonder Woman, just to see if anything can make that comic book sell better. If that still fails to increase sales, trade her to Nestle for the Qwik Bunny.

• To do whatever it takes, up to and including elective surgery, to get Kurt Busiek signed up as the regular writer for JLA. If that doesn’t work, get Geoff Johns. In fact, make them take turns like Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker do on Gotham Central -- Busiek could tell stories with the “Magnificent Seven” and Johns could do arcs reinvigorating the second-tier heroes, allowing both of them to do what they’re most brilliant at.

• To hold several Warner Brothers executives captive until they agree to stop screwing up every live-action adaptation of a DC comic except for Smallville. While you’re at it, tell them to hold off on making any more Superman movies until Tom Welling is ready for the part. And if anybody mentions The Rock, slap them in the face with a codfish.

General Resolutions For the Comic Book Industry

• To produce some comic books that will draw in new readers that are actually affordable for, and accesibile to, new readers. No matter how good Uncle Scrooge is, it’s not generating any new readers sitting on comic shop shelves with a seven-dollar price tag.

• To get Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley jobs endorsing Energizer batteries. These two simply do not stop.

• To give it a rest with the “decompressed storytelling.” Twenty-page fight sequences with three lines of dialogue doesn’t make a comic book “cinematic.” It makes it tedious. And while you’re at it, stop trying to make “widescreen” comics too. You are not making movies. You’re making comic books, so stop acting like you’re ashamed of it and make great ones.

• To send someone over to Dave Sim’s house to make sure he didn’t collapse right after the last issue of Cerebus was finished the way Charles Schulz did when Peanuts wrapped up.

• To start giving major writing contracts to semi-popular internet columnists.

Well, I think that’s enough to get things started, don’t you? Take my advice to heart, gang, have a safe and happy New Year, and be back here in seven days for the biggest “Everything But Imaginary” yet!

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: December 24, 2003

Even if Avengers #76 weren’t Geoff Johns’s final issue, it would still be one of his best. After playing around with two of the real B-list characters, Jack of Hearts and Ant-Man, for his entire run, Johns sends one of them out with a bang this issue, and makes the other seem more real, more human than he ever has. With this book come and gone, I’ve got nothing to look forward to in this corner of the Marvel Universe until the Avengers Vs. the Thunderbolts miniseries in a few months...

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People's Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the novel-in-progress Lost in Silver at Evertime Realms. He’s also the co-host, with good buddy Chase Bouzigard and Not-On-the-Internet Mike Bellamy, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcasts. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

 

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