Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Superman and Magic

I didn't think I'd be back to this blog, but I want to address a really nerdy and academic point. Here comes the thesis:

Superman has no special vulnerability to magic. Rather, his powers afford him no special invulnerability to magic, which is a sort of de facto vulnerability for an otherwise invincible character.

If you fire a mundane bullet from a mundane pistol at Superman, the bullet will bounce off of Superman unless he dodges it.

If Zatanna fires a magically conjured bullet from a magically conjured pistol, and the bullet and pistol are otherwise similar to their mundane counterparts, the bullet will bounce off Superman unless he dodges it.

If the Spectre fires a bullet magically enchanted to kill Kryptonians from a mundane pistol at Superman, the bullet will kill Superman unless he dodges it.

Is that clear? Superman is incredibly strong, incredibly fast, and incredibly hard to injure. He is effectively invulnerable to practically all naturally occurring phenomena except Kryptonite and red solar radiation, depending on the continuity.

Magic is capable of effects that exceed natural constraints. Magic can do the impossible. Magic can rewrite the fundamental laws of reality. Like normal Earthlings, Superman is not immune to that. Superman's apparent immunity to most natural phenomena only underscores that.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year

Every week, I get a report showing that someone is visiting this blog. Most of them are people who are searching for the cover to Wizard #66 or examples of omniscient narrators, but a few are still checking for updates. If you're one, this is for you.

It's been a long time since I even bought a comic. Most of the stuff I'd been buying was pretty crap anyway, and I can't say I've really missed it. I haven't had much of a reason to post to this blog, and having seen several other comics blogs getting retired for the new year, it seems that my feelings are pretty typical lately. If you're in the industry, please take note.

I don't have much of anything to say about the hobby. Let those still invested in it do the complaining.

Actually, there's the problem: Reading comics I liked turned into the hobby of following most of the major titles from week to week, and that hobby turned out to be expensive and not fun in the end. If I wanted to spend money on something I don't enjoy, I could join a fucking church.

Before you drop $2.99 plus sales tax on a 32-page book that's mostly ads and won't look good on your bookshelf, ask yourself if the content inside is worth more to you than a damn gallon of gas.

Have a nice year. I'll be in prayer for 2008, B.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

New Comic Selections for August 29, 2007

Been a while. I got disenchanted with the very idea of blogging about comics, but what the heck, I'll give it another shot.

Action Comics #855: This issue's story is "Escape From Bizarro World, Part One." I don't really understand what's supposed to distinguish this storyline from the Bizarro World story that recently ("recently") ran in All-Star Superman. Eric Powell and Dave Stewart's art give the story a creepy, washed-out vibe that suits Bizarro World well, but the story doesn't really move me. I guess I'm still suffering from Bizarro fatigue. A little of that guy goes a long way.
  • The Good: Kirby dots in space and the promise of new powers under a blue sun!
  • The Bad: That lackluster cover, especially given the more striking image inside of multiple Bizarros springing from Superman's own body.
  • The Ugly: Slogging through pages of goddamn Bizarro-speak.

Avengers: The Initiative #5: This book is trying way too hard. I never thought I'd say this, but portraying Gyrich as an unfeeling bureaucrat whose morals can't even be graciously called compromised is a disservice to the character. "Mutant Zero" isn't interesting enough to warrant how hard Slott is trying to sell her. The best part of this story was seeing Trauma get his uninteresting ass kicked by the Hulk, and I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be sympathetic to the guy.

  • The Good: Jimmy Cheung's cover is pretty, and Bengal gives the story an injection of understated coolness when he and Constrictor ambush the Death's Head robots.
  • The Bad: The writing has been rushing for payoff without working for it, e.g. Trauma's completely off-screen work with Dani Moonstar in the space of an issue.
  • The Ugly: Stefano Caselli's Hulk, but in a good way.

Batman Annual #26: Nice cover by Brian Stelfreeze! The interior art's not so nice, though. It looks rushed and lacks detail. The coloring's flat, too, but the inking is quite nice. Also flat: the story. The origin of Ra's al-Ghul ought not be relegated to a stupid annual that will be forgotten and dumped in a quarter bin within the year. On the upside, maybe this means that Ra's al-Ghul: Year One isn't in continuity anymore.

  • The Good: Batman's interactions with the Australians are funny. The humor makes the rest of the plot sound even more...I don't know, overblown?
  • The Bad: Rushed work, no passion. The story doesn't really tell us who Ra's is or what the hell makes him such a big deal. At best, he's a long-lived sociopath, which is an unfairly one-dimensional portrayal of a great supervillain.
  • The Ugly: Ra's al-Ghul being present at yet another significant moment in history. Blah blah blah.

Ex Machina Masquerade Special: I don't get why this isn't part of the regular series, but it's still a good story. And what a creepy cover! I like that Ex Machina has these surreal-ass covers.

  • The Good: Leon's art matches the series well. Ex Machina always struck me as the kind of book that depended on its initial creative team to really work, but this issue proved me wrong.
  • The Bad: The cover price is $3.50 for 32 pages. Not a fan.
  • The Ugly: The half-decapitated pirate. Jesus, this series has its gory moments, doesn't it?

Ninja Scroll #12: I like these self-contained Ninja Scroll stories. This isn't a bad little series, considering it's basically an impulse buy for me.

  • The Good: You can't help but love the ease with which Jubei takes what the road throws at him. Torres does an excellent job with his characterization.
  • The Bad: Yu's art is below average. Backgrounds are rare, and his panels are small, with thick gutters between them. His compositions are rarely clear or dynamic. But with experience, he could do some great work.
  • The Ugly: Jubei stabbing and slashing and wrestling the naked vampire chick. I know, it's an odd thing to consider squicky considering the book's source material, but still. This issue didn't sport a "mature audiences" tag.

Wonder Woman #12: Cool cover! Not very clear that it's Sarge Steel in the background, though. And if it were up to me, I'd strip the Amazons Attack! header....

  • The Good: Torres has done an okay job with the writing, I think. I know his work on the title hasn't exactly been the stuff of legends, but it's easily better than A. J. Lieberman's "Hush Returns" stuff, so if this doesn't get collected as a trade....
  • The Bad: I'm not thrilled with Diaz's artwork. Everything looks awkward, except Diana in her civilian disguise. I wonder why he so lovingly renders Diana in her white jumpsuit? :P
  • The Ugly: Nemesis's musings on Everyman's sexual identity. Could've done without that bit.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hulk Kick Baby!

Man Kicking Babies

Hulk Kicking Babies

No, I know.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hey, Facebook Friends! Comics!

I logged into Facebook this morning for my monthly round of friend request confirmations and whatnot, and on a lark, I decided to use the iLike application. It was pretty user-friendly, automatically parsing the list of my favorite bands on my profile and offering up some of their songs for me to share. Now, people visiting my profile can check out some of the music I like. Okay, cool.

There's a similar Facebook app from Flixster for movies. It, too, automatically parses the favorites in your profile. It also allows you to contribute your own ratings and reviews for movies in Flixster's online database, which your friends can access via Facebook. There's even a Shelfari application that does the same for your books.

So why the devil isn't there anything like this for comic books?

Whenever I want to recommend a comic to my friends, it's a challenge. It's not like recommending movies. Everyone knows you go to the theater to see them, and if you want a preview or want to know what's new, you only have to turn on the TV. Hardly anyone knows where to get comics, and those who do don't necessarily know where a comic shop is. If I don't have some kind of preview—a cover image, sample pages on a website, a copy they can flip through—the recommendation probably won't make an impression.

You know what I'm talking about. Your boy enjoyed the last Spider-Man flick, and he says, "Oh, hey, you read the comics, right?"

"Oh, yeah," you say. "If you like the movies, you'd probably dig Ultimate Spider-Man."

Maybe you have the first trade paperback on you or in the car or something, maybe you're both going back to your place, and you can loan it to him. But if not, what's gonna happen? Maybe he'll walk by a comic shop by chance while out somewhere within days of your suggestion, and maybe he'll still be interested enough to pop inside...

...and even in the best circumstances (clean store, no fanboys, logical shelving), he's gonna be confronted with The Amazing Spider-Man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, Spider-Man Family, Sensational Spider-Man, and even books like The Amazing Spider-Girl and, shit, there's Spidey on the cover of New Avengers and which one was the one my friend recommended for me again? And holy God, what are all these collected volumes on these shelves?!

You can appreciate the problem. And yet...I mean, Diamond publishes its shipping lists weekly and maintains a searchable database of retailers. Most publishers solicit their books months in advance. Most of us who follow the periodicals have pull lists at our preferred shops. Why the Christ isn't there an online pull list application for one of the major social networking sites? Why can I not have, right there on my profile, a regularly updated little gallery of books I'm reading, maybe even with my ratings and reviews, with cover images and links to more information? Why can't my friends see that shit, click on something that catches their eye, and find out where they can get it for themselves?

Is this not a no-brainer? The whole problem with marketing comic books nowadays is that no one knows where the fuck to buy them or where to start reading. House organs hype every fucking title in the line, and company-wide crossovers intimidate new readers. Most of my buying is influenced by social interaction that guides me to the stuff I like, talking to people at the shop and participating in message boards and blogs. Is it not an intuitive leap that leveraging the power of sites like Facebook could fix the problem?

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Ever Responsible Batman

I bought the new Batgirl Showcase last week, naturally. I didn't expect much in the way of quality, especially since these are mostly stories cashing in on the popularity of the television show. And while these reprints don't really bring the quality, they definitely bring the entertainment. Observe:

More like Trojan Man

Tell me that doesn't read like Bats is about to give Robin a lesson in protection.

Anyway! I refuse to believe that's Silver Age naïveté. I don't put much stock in the idea that Silver Age superhero stories aren't self-aware in the first place. Writers like Gardner Fox had to have known that the television show was attracting its share of adult readers to the Batman comics. Subversive, risqué humor was part of the show's writing, so why not the comic books?

Too bad the comics compromised the character so often. Batgirl could fight crime as ably as her male counterparts and even designed her own weapons and gadgets without their help, but it seems like for every instance of her showing up the Dynamic Duo in this collection, there are two instances of her being a marriage-and-mascara-obsessed caricature.

And even if that's not how the majority of the character's stories present her, what the hell difference does it make when DC chooses to represent her on the cover with this image?

Cover of Showcase Presents Batgirl, Volume 1

I understand the kitschy appeal of it to a degree, but whose call was this? Imagine a young girl introduced to DC via their Minx line (as unfortunately named as it is) who wants to read stories featuring DC's more established female characters. What the hell is she to make of this? Is this the image DC wants for itself when it comes to powerful females? I suppose it could be worse, but are we supposed to be satisfied with that?

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Big (F.) Deal vs. Sleeper

I've got a couple of comics from last week right here. One is The Spirit #7, and the other is Marvel Adventures: Iron Man #2. The former is a title received well critically, and the lattter is an all-ages knock-off of a long-running license with an upcoming movie whose main title doesn't look anything like its classic formula.

The Spirit sounds really great. Classic series with great storytelling, Darwyn Cooke attached to the project...but this issue falls flat. It's got three stories by solid talent, but you get the feeling it was rushed or something. Walt Simonson's story, "Harder Than Diamonds," misses several beats important to the plot. Check out the Spirit impersonating Nukes without any explanation that he's doing that, Nukes showing up out of nowhere and blasting away at the cab soon after...what?

Meanwhile, the Iron Man title lets nothing go to waste. There's a way cool element early on regarding microwave power transmission that comes into play later in the story. The workers' motivation for abandoning their posts is explained and resolved by the last page. It's lean, but it's lean without sacrificing anything vital to the story.

Then, in The Spirit, there's Palmiotti's story. It reminded me of the recent Spectre miniseries, and not in a good way. It was a building full of shallow characterizations that failed to engage me as a reader. Some of them bordered on being offensively stereotypical.

But in Iron Man? The Chinese workers are played straight, no goofy pidgin. A group of them even heroically helps stop the menacing Mandarin! They may not be named or have much individual characterization, but they come off.

Baker's Spirit story is a mess of plotting shortcuts and ugly, ugly computer lettering. It ends the issue, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. A little more craft, a little hand lettering, some expository captions or something, I don't know. I don't want to bash anyone's work, but I didn't enjoy it at all.

Yet in Iron Man, we've got a complete story with good character development (especially Rhodey and Pepper) supported by clean, dynamic art.

It's odd to me that a book like The Spirit #7 should outsell one like MA: Iron Man #2. I get that a guy in a tin suit might not appeal to everyone, but it grabs the imagination quite a bit more than the Spirit himself, who's just a masked vigilante around whom stories happen. Honestly, you could do the same thing with Iron Man, and the only difference would really be genre trappings. So if you're a little late on your comics and have to choose between these two books, go with Iron Man. It's a great title that deserves your $2.99 way more than some books getting hyped all over the blogosphere.

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