Everything But Imaginary: November 5, 2003
Addendum and expansion
Here at Everything But Imaginary International Headquarters, we pride ourselves on having our fingers on the pulse of the comic book industry. We strive to provide in-depth, up-to-the-minute analysis of comics for the benefit of our beloved readers. We find it quite amusing to refer to ourselves in the first person plural tense.
Sometimes, however, as fast as we are, things can creep out into the world that bear analysis in reference to earlier editions of Everything But Imaginary. Rather than re-treading old ground with whole columns on topics we’ve already covered, we have decided to dedicate this week to going back and updating you on some of the things we’ve mentioned in our previous 34 installments. So for those of you who keep a scrapbook at home, get out your scissors and rubber cement, because this week, it’s time for the addendum.
Addendum to EBI 10-15-03: Down With Da OG(N). While some of you out there may have known about the forthcoming Matrix trade paperback during the week we were discussing original graphic novels, we here at EBIIH hadn’t heard about it yet. Why didn’t anybody tell us? This is just like that time you didn’t tell us the oil light had been on for a week and we had to shell out $450 for a mechanic, you know that?
Anyway, this is a volume that will really stretch the definition of “original graphic novel” -- while it is true that most of the stories in this collection will be seeing print for the first time, many of them premiered long ago on the Matrix website. Online comics, of course, are another matter entirely, but it does make this book a curiosity. When the awards season rolls around, will it be entered in the “original” category? Can’t be -- it wasn’t created specifically for that volume. Will it be entered in the “reprint” category? Ah, but it’s never been printed before. That’s one thing you’ve got to love about the digital age -- how creative application of semantics can blow certain old customs out of the water.
Addendum to EBI 9-24-03: Judging a Book By Its Cover. After this column about how “pin-up syndrome” is afflicting way too many major comics, in which we also dissected examples of many good covers, an upcoming piece of artwork was released to the fan press that just dropped my jaw straight to the floor. It’s George Perez’s beautiful piece that will adorn the cover of Avengers/JLA #4, and it is simply mindblowing.
If you’re not paying attention, at a glance it would be easy to dismiss this cover as a simple pin-up of Superman. Then you look again and you do a double-take. This is a cover loaded with subtext. Superman is battered and ravaged, his uniform in shreds, his flesh scarred. In his left hand he holds a shield, the vaunted indestructible weapon of Captain America -- cracked, chipped, but still proud. In his right hand, surrounded by a nimbus of lightning, is Mjolnir, the legendary hammer of the mighty Thor.
Three questions immediately spring to mind when you look at this cover, three subtle questions you probably don’t even realize you’re asking, three questions that probably have the same answer: “What could do that to Superman? What could break Captain America’s shield? What happened to Thor?”
If you lived in the Marvel or DC Universes, this is an image that could scare the hell out of you.
But this is also an image with a promise of the story to come. You remember that not just anyone can lift that hammer, that only one truly worthy can raise it in battle. You see the red fire of a burst of heat vision simmering in Superman’s eyes. You see the look of determination in his face, the look of a hero girding himself for a struggle against impossible odds... the look Samwise Gamgee must have worn as he scaled Mount Doom, the look a mostly-dead Westley clung to when he challenged Prince Humperdink to a battle “to the pain,” the look a handful of doomed men kept about them in the last moments of the Alamo.
And suddenly, you almost feel sorry for who or whatever is about to be on the receiving end of that fury.
Addendum to EBI 7-2-03: The Gender Gap. My contention at the time of this column, and in fact to this day, is that women remain a huge, untapped potential audience for comic books. I stand by that, but clearly I underestimated the size of the female audience that does exist. There are plenty of female readers right here at Comixtreme, including our own reviews editor Andrea Speed and a great number of female posters, and I love that. What really impressed me, however, was my realization of how diverse the female readership is. I received an e-mail not long after that column from a female reader who goes by the moniker “MGM,” who had a good story of her own. She wrote, in part:
“How did I get interested in comics? Well, I used to belong to a Dungeons and Dragons group and we'd meet at the GM's house every Friday, and he read comics, so there were always comics lying around. Now, at the time I wasn't familiar with any comic book characters except the ones who'd had cartoons (Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and the X-Men in the 90s cartoon). In fact, I was more comic-ignorant than even the AVERAGE person, because I'd never seen a Superfriends episode, ever. Hell, I learned that Wonder Woman had a magic lasso by watching an episode of ‘Dr. Katz’ in college.
“But these were issues of the Big Seven JLA and... man, the stories were just so cool. Plus Green Lantern was cute. Even if I didn't have a clue who this Hal Jordan person was he kept brooding about.”
MGM graduated from the Grant Morrison/Howard Porter JLA (Porter should be gratified to know he draws such an attractive Kyle Rayner) to back-issues of the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis run on Justice League. When word of the Formerly Known as the Justice League miniseries was announced, she started to tell non-comic fans about it, of all places, on a My Little Pony Internet message board that she runs. (Remember, guys, we are not the only ones allowed to have nostalgia for the 80s.)
Here’s the amazing part -- as she told her readers about the travails of Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and Captain Atom (a frequent object of ridicule, she tells me, because he wears no pants), a number of them began asking her where they could buy the comics. MGM did them one better. She took orders from her readers and shipped out issues of FKasJL herself, along with classic Giffen-era Justice League comics.
The moral of the story? Well, there are a few. First -- women do, clearly, read comics, and if exposed to them, enjoy many of the same comics as men. Second -- you can never underestimate the variety of tastes a single person might have. I, for one, would never have thought to talk to a My Little Pony fan about the Martian Manhunter’s predilection towards Oreo cookies. Shows you what I know.
And third, DC has been quite happy with the sales of Formerly Known as the Justice League. They’ve been surprised as well. If they’re looking to spread the credit for its success, I know of at least one satisfied webmaster out there who has more than done her part.
FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: October 29, 2003
I am a huge fan of Don Rosa, I make no bones about that, and Uncle Scrooge #323 shows you why. The man’s artwork is as beautiful and detailed as anything George Perez or Phil Jimenez puts out there, and his storytelling is second-to-none. Rosa writes and illustrates this issue’s simple yet elegant lead story, “The Coin,” in which Scrooge gives Donald Duck a quarter to buy him a newspaper, only to realize too late that the coin he gave him was never meant to be spent. The story follows not any of the duck characters, but the coin’s point of view as it tries to find its way back to Scrooge.
Here’s the thing you need to realize to appreciate this story, something you’ll never get if you base your knowledge of the Disney Ducks on the Ducktales cartoon show. Most of Scrooge’s fortune is not in his money bin. Like any businessman, he keeps his money in banks, investments, bonds and other such ventures. But he spent decades before he became rich traveling the world, working for every dime and pulling himself up by the sweat of his brow. Each coin that makes it to the money bin means something to him, each coin has a story behind it, and that is the part of his fortune he never spends.
And it is that knowledge that makes “The Coin” a perfect character study of a character that only appears in a few panels, a simply, joyful little tale without danger or malice, and one of the most entertaining comic book stories I have ever read.
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 ”Summer Love” 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.