What I thought of Heroes in Crisis

Written by Tom King and drawn by Clay Mann, Heroes in Crisis was yet another massive event title which promised to ‘change the DC Universe forever’, or at least til the end of June. It is an interesting, but seriously, seriously flawed experiment  but more on that in a moment.

The story centres round Sanctuary, a centre created by Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman designed to help superheroes deal with the physiological effects of being a superhero. Basically it’s a drop in centre for people suffering with PTSD. This in itself is a great idea as it deals with the violence intrinsic in superhero comics and forces the reader to confront the fact their favourite genre is a violent one soaked in wish fulfilment.   This would be a great chance to do something unique and original as Tom King is certainly a talented enough writer to pull it off.

Except it doesn’t. It fails badly because it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Is it a murder mystery or a psychological study of the superhero because merging both doesn’t work as all of the threads become a mess as King also throws in some threads from his Batman run not to mention enacting obvious editorial demands which ends up making the ending pretty worthless.

But is an experiment. It does try to say something different. Mann’s art is pretty good often following a 9-panel grid but again it all feels a bit empty which is a shame as DC need something to give them a hard kick in the arse and this could have been it.

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What I thought of some recent comics…

For many folk who follow this blog one way or another you possibly followed me because of my reviews of comics and although I don’t have the time (or to be honest the energy right now) to pick this up again but I do miss it so here’s a rundown of some of the comics you should be picking up, and some to avoid,

Starting with…

The Immortal Hulk.

The Hulk has had long runs of quality throughout the character’s long life from the original Kirby/Lee run, through to Herb Trimpe’s long run, and so on. This latest run written by Al Ewing and drawn by Joe Bennett is rewriting the character in a horror setting although still playing with the superhero genre. It owes a lot, and I mean a lot, to Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run and Neil Gaiman’s superhero work.

It is however a stunning work in its own right melding body horror. supernatural elements and superheroics. This is by far the best comic produced by the Big Two today.

Batman.

Tom King’s run initially was offputting to me but he’s developed a clear story for Batman/Bruce Wayne that’s went from strength to strength. DC suffer from producing reams of utter drivel with art trapped in DC’s sub Jim Lee house style. King’s Batman run is blessed from having artists who can actually draw comics.

The Walking Dead.

This is a title which has been treading water for some time since the introduction of the Commonwealth with the title often resembling an essay of the benefits of capitalism versus socialism. With issue 200 coming soon it was clear Robert Kirkman would pull something out his hat for that issue to rival #100’s death of Glenn and introduction of Negan.

Well he’s done that in #191 and #192 and in these two issues the entire comic is up in the air as I have no idea how the comic is going to develop from now on. Picking these issues up won’t be easy as they both are selling around the £10 mark already and look to increase once the second print hits.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

Remember the days when Marvel used to produce fun, all-ages comics that anyone could pick up? They’re more or less gone but Squirrel Girl keeps the flag flying with light, fun superheroics every issue and it is a complete delight.

Wicked and the Divine

This title was one again I was less than excited about at the start but is now clearly the best superhero based title out there today. It is however nearing the end so pick it up now and you’ll get the final days of one of this decades most interesting mainstream books.

The Green Lantern.

Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp’s revamp of Green Lantern is interesting mainly thanks to Sharp’s stunning art. Morrison is going back over old ground in terms of style and although it is readable, there’s not much going on here apart from Sharp’s splendid art.

The Avengers.

As a title, this sells like proverbial hot cakes and it should do but I’ve never been convinced by Jason Aaron as a writer and this title won’t be the book that sells me on him having one good title in him and that’s about it. Its readable but disposable rubbish.

Savage Avengers

Remember the 90’s when any old shite would be thrown out if it had a bunch of EXTREME characters who were anti-heroes so they could do EXTREME things every month? Well, this is that book but they’re doing SAVAGE things instead of just being EXTREME. With a lineup of Wolverine, Elektra, The Punisher, Brother Voodoo, Venom and err, Conan this is a shameless cash cow designed to milk the Avengers brand, the Conan IP, and the popularity of Wolverine, Punisher and Venom for every single fucking penny Marvel can get out of the punter. It is terrible but it does serve as a signpost as to how awful comics can get.

 

And that’s it. Hope this pointed you in the direction of some good books and warned you off others. I may end up making this a monthly thing, so until the next time go out there and get yourself some good comics.

The endless futile entitlement of fandom

This week saw pitiful cries of entitlement about Game of Thrones, and the casting of the new Batman. In the case of Game of Thrones, fans started a petition asking for ‘competent writers’ for a proposed remake of the last season. As of the moment I write this there’s over a million people who’ve signed it which is not a shock but these people basically want the programme to pan out as they want it to, so when they say ‘competent’ what they really mean is ‘someone I like writing something I like’.

The next bit of fan entitlement is the casting of Robert Pattinson as the new Batman. Shrill cries of outrage followed as fans cried a torrent of tears and anger that one of the star of the Twilight film should be cast. Some calmer voices pointed out that was a decade ago and he’s been carving a career as a pretty good actor since but no, outrage!

Back in 1988 when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman in the then forthcoming Tim Burton film fans were outraged and yes, a petition circulated round pre-digital fan circles.

There’s nothing new about fan entitlement. It is an old thing but it doesn’t stop people from complaining, or indeed, desperately doubling back once they’ve realised that Thing X isn’t actually as bad as it was or that complaining about Thing X makes them a bit of a cock.

So in around 18 months many of these people signing petitions will be praising Robert Pattison and wishing there was another series as good as Game of Thrones.All of this will be forgotten as these people move onto their next target and the cycle carries on throughout the generations…

What the HBO Watchmen trailer tells us

American TV channel HBO are making a Watchmen series based on the comic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons which has been adapted by Damon Lindelof. It isn’t an exact adaptation as opposed to a ‘remix’ of the source material.

Take a look.

There’s an excited buzz around the trailer, and as far back as last year some in the media were proclaiming how this could be another triumph from HBO. However what’s the hidden message in the heart of not just the trailer, but the entire project?

 

I’ll give you time to think…

 

 

Scroll down if you don’t want to avoid spoilers.

 

 

 

 

The hidden message is that DC/Warners/HBO/Lindelof think Alan Moore is a cunt.

 

”BUT I WANT MY RORSCHACH CLONES BEATING PEOPLE UP” you may be screaming right now, but there’s no getting over the fact that Alan Moore does not want Watchmen used and abused like this. The comic made DC/Warners a lot of money and critical acclaim over the decades, and indeed, DC did for a time avoid exploiting it but the gloves are off now so they couldn’t give a fuck about Moore, creators rights or respecting the source material. There’s money to be made and who knows when the superhero bubble is going to burst, so cash those cheques now while the going is good.

Who cares if it sends a message to creators that they’re ultimately there to create intellectual property for their multinational bosses. This trailer is the horses head in the bed of every creator working for DC (and Marvel) thinking of getting uppity about creators rights. Fuck with them and they’ll give your babies to the man who wrote Star Trek: Into Darkness.

That’ll teach them!

Why are comic shops closing in a time when comics have never been so popular?

The Guardian published an article recently about why are comic shops closing when superheroes are quite literally making all the money on the planet and have never been so popular? The article isn’t bad and gets most of the reasons why. For example…

So why are so many going out of business? Like other retailers on the high street, comic shops must factor in rents, business rates, staff wages, insurance – but the profit margins on comics are so narrow as to make this a very delicate balancing act.

They then go onto discuss how monthly comics is a guessing game. You as a retailer have to sit with a copy of Diamond Previews, and try to guess what will sell and in what numbers.

Previews is a massive book released by the largest, and only real distributor of mainstream comics in the world, Diamond Distributors. As a retailer you spend so much time scouring the monthly order form working out how much of say, Iron Man, is going to sell in three months time. So you order enough for your standing orders and maybe 5-10 copies for the shelves as people like Iron Man right? But all that money of yours is now sunk into comics that aren’t sale or return (SOR) plus your profit margin is pitiful, so do you run the risk of having unsold copies sitting there wasting your money or have nothing which means people coming in asking for Iron Man leave empty handed?

Whatever decision you make depends on lots of things but the one thing you can’t change is where you get your comics from as Diamond operate a monopoly. There is no competition, which means the direct market which was meant to bring control to retailers and create a better overall industry, is stale and bloated at a time when the Marvel films are making billions, and folk see comic related characters adapted to to film and TV everywhere.

There are other reasons, such as kids especially not being familiar with how comics are read because it isn’t just words with pictures. Comics are an entire art form and medium of its own, and although there’s a lot of titles out there which are written or drawn by people who don’t understand how comics work (hence why some books are glorified storyboards) a lot do get the basics at least. Also some shops are opened by people who may love comics but have no idea of business so once the comic collection they used to help launch the shop is gone, then they struggle to push on because they don’t know what to do next.

As for shops there’s still those out there where staff are uninformed, unhelpful and these tend to be places with ‘Geek’ in the name of the shop. These places are part throwbacks to the old style of shop and a pretence of a more modern shop but end up just being awful places to shop. To use one example I walked into one such shop and had some 17 year old follow me around the shop thinking I’m obviously some shoplifter even though I’m now a middle aged man who suffers from right sided numbness after a stokes three years ago, so move at the pace of a drunken slug.

But ultimately the main reason shops go under is the business is an unforgiving one controlled by a monolithic distributor so it forces the retailer to take on other revenue streams which may be more profitable (see the proliferation of Funko Pop toys and wargaming) but take you away from what you wanted which is a comic shop. There is no easy solution to this but for shops to make money they need to adapt, but they all need to start questioning, and actually challenging, the way the entire direct market has been set up. Maybe then things will swing back the retailers way.

The weird world of romance comics

I got a batch of old DC, Marvel and Charlton romance comics the other day and they’re simply insane in their simplistic old-fashioned sexism, or worse, when the creators were trying to be ‘progressive’ in the 60’s and 70’s.

These titles sold hundreds of thousands of copies every month yet they’re now highly collectable thanks to having some work from fine creators like Wally Wood, Jim Steranko, John Romita and Stan Lee who must have churned out thousands of stories where men were men, women knew their place and love always won. What’s bizarre is that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created the genre in 1947, but don’t expect a billion dollar film franchise for Millie the Model anytime soon.

Think of this; when Jack and Stan were carving themselves what would be the Marvel Universe they’d sell thousands upon thousands of glorious stuff like this.

And it’s the Marvel romance comics of the 60’s and 70’s I’m drawn to like some masochistic butterfly which isn’t to say that DC didn’t knock out a few gems.

But it’s the Marvel stuff created by then middle aged men trying hard to tell stories which teenage girls could lap up that’s the prime choice.

This stuff is generally awful, but there’s an ironic joy in these tales of romance which are often beautifully drawn, but it really is the cries for contemporary relevance that makes these stories so fantastically shite, yet great at the same time.

By the mid-70’s romance comics were dead, more or less. The rise of the superhero meant Marvel and DC concentrated on that genre and the days of both main publishers printing a variety of comics of all genres were on the way out. However these now highly collectable relics contain some work that needs better appreciation from comics historians and the fact that this genre is often disregarded or skimmed over in various histories of comics is a tragedy. Especially as even low grade copies of these comics fetch high prices.

So seek these comics out. If you’re any sort of fan of the medium you may not be exposing yourself to great stories but you’ll find some amazing art, and you can ironically enjoy them to your hearts content…

My Captain Marvel

This weekend Marvel’s Captain Marvel film opened. That’s this Captain Marvel.

Not this Captain Marvel appearing in Shazam! (long story, copyright but if you want to dive into the rabbit hole start here) which is the original Captain Marvel.

There’s no sign of new Marvelman/Miracleman comics let alone a film, but I’m sure his day will come.

It thankfully isn’t this Captain Marvel.

The Captain Marvel film isn’t even the first Captain Marvel that Marvel Comics produced.

This Captain Marvel had his own series which struggled hard for 16 issues before enjoying a revamp but even though he had a better costume the series struggled.

It wasn’t til Jim Starlin took over with #25 bringing in a more cosmic flavour, while bringing in characters like Drax and Thanos to tell a story which today would have been a major crossover, with its own series and everything but the 1970’s were cheaper times so readers could pick up issues cheaply as they came out. Well, readers in America that is. Over here many of the issues either weren’t distributed or had suck a low distribution they may as well not come over from the States. So to read this story which dived from one title to another (Captain Marvel to Avengers to Warlock to Marvel Two in One) involved some serious work.

This was my Captain Marvel that I grew up on. There were other Captain Marvel’s (at least two) after this one, not including the one currently packing cinemas but that run by Jim Starlin that ended with Captain Marvel dying not because of Thanos, but because of cancer, is among the best run of SF/superhero comics you’ll ever find.

There’s now pretty cheap trades collecting all these stories so when you’ve enjoyed the Carol Danvers version, go back to the comics for the best run of Captain Marvel done so far. You won’t regret it.