AUDIO OF THE DAY: STEVEN BARNES Interviewed by Horace Digby AND Wild Bunch Talk

I’m in the process of getting the MONARCHS OF MAYHEM: LR GILES interview posted. Should have it up in another couple of hours.

In the interim I’m listening to a pretty informative audio interview from 2007, Steven Barnes interviewed by Horace Digby. (interview covers books, scifi, comics, martial arts, self improvement, ethnicity, Alan Moore, Batman, Plato, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Marvel Comics, Cinema, Television, Sliders, Alexander the Great, and much more).

Listen here:

Part 1
Part 2

(In fact the only problem I have with the interview is how Steven Barnes is introduced. Steven Barnes is one of the most celebrated science fiction writers of his generation. Full stop. How he is introduced is with a modifier that strikes me as being both unnecessary and unthinkingly dismissive. But that aside, an interesting listen)

Also I’m watching the end of Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH, and ‘wow’ what a great film. There’s that moment in THE WILD BUNCH, where the four, guns drawn, are surrounded by an army in shock, everyone frozen, in that pause between heaven and hell.

And Ernest Borgnine into that silence… chuckles, and the gates of hell are opened.

It’s as good a moment of film, as you’ll find.

A movie of brutal violence, that is at its heart.. a romance about the dying of an age.

Anyhow, excuse any slowness in getting the next post up, but it’s… THE WILD BUNCH.

Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue)

The return of UNDER THE RADAR Vol2 Issue 2! Part 1 of 2!

“Must we start every sup, with who we love and who we don’t?” —Peter O’Toole in the LION IN WINTER


Okay it’s that time again. My recommendation for comic books/graphic novels to preorder now for January 2011 arrival.

If while going though the below list you see any titles that you want to purchase current or backissues of go

here.

But first, what is UNDER THE RADAR?

UNDER THE RADAR was an experiment I started a while ago that I was quite proud of. Basically a very cool PDF I launched out to comic book retailers and fans to highlight titles you would otherwise miss, or get lost in the deluge from bigger publishers flooding the market.

It was fun, and very intensive, and very time consuming, so when time became an issue it fell by the wayside.

But I notice my old UNDER THE RADAR posts get a lot of hits, and even though a lot of people are doing preview podcasts (audio/radio-like programs dedicated to recommending items to preorder), those can be quite time consuming, when what most people are looking for is a quickly viewed list of recommended items they might otherwise miss.

So with that in mind, UNDER THE RADAR is back, but in a FAR simpler format. No PDF, no long diatribes. just a monthly listing of new titles to preorder or be on the lookout for.

Okay without further ado, this is a list of titles you can preorder this month through your local retailer for January 2011 arrival.


Marvel

No letters pages, no back matter, ads breaking up the story.

All these odd decisions from Marvel give no incentive to buy marvel issues monthly. Seemingly, they don’t care enough to give you a something beyond what you would get in the trade paperback, a real sense of a Stan Lee dialog, or sense of a monthly behind the scenes look at the creative process, so generally I say eff em. I’m talking about the publishing policies and policy makers of Marvel, not generally the creators, (as marvel has some great creators, but perhaps in service of not the greatest decision makers) but rather the lackluster way the creations are fed to you.

So even though Marvel floods the market with well over a hundred titles a month, their policies make it very easy to dismiss most of them from purchase consideration. The exceptions for this month?

$4.99 INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #500

Written by MATT FRACTION Art & 50/50 Covers by SALVADOR LARROCA Variant Covers by MARKO DJURDJEVIC, JOE QUESADA & JOHN ROMITA JR. GIANT-SIZED ANNIVERSARY ISSUE! Three generations of Starks face their ultimate foe, seventy-some years in the future while, in the present, Spider-Man joins Iron Man as he tries to fill in the blanks of his missing memory. What if amnesia was a weapon? What if the smartest man in the land had ten nightmares that all came true? Who is the son of Tony Stark? What’s inside of the rings? The future starts now, for the Marvel Universe’s favorite futurist. The Eisner-award-winning series makes a four-hundred-something-issue leap and raises a glass of non-alcoholic champale in salute to Ol’ Shell-head! By Matt Fraction (THOR, UNCANNY X-MEN, CASANOVA) and Salvador Larroca (UNCANNY X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR), with special guests Howard X, Y and Z! 104 PGS./Rated A …$4.99

100 pgs for $5. Not great, but I do like what Matt Fraction is doing with this book. Hopefully it isn’t full of reprints to pad out the page count, but figure the odds of that. A lukewarm recommendation.

* Marvel had a couple interesting trades, but their pricing is outrageous. For 4 and 5 issues of content they are trying to charge $20 to $30 for a collected edition, trade, or hc. Which basically boils down to them trying to charge you between $4 and $6 per issue collected. To that I say, hell no. A trade should, with rare eceptions, be no more than $2 per issue collected. So if you are only collecting 4 issues you’re only going to get $8 from me. And if it costs more than that you get nothing from me.

So Marvel trades get nothing from me this month.

*I’m interested in Matt Fraction’s THOR but not interested enough to pay $4 an issue, they can keep it.

$1.95 (save $1.04) THUNDERBOLTS #152
Written by JEFF PARKER Penciled by KEV WALKER Cover by GREG LAND The T-Bolts leap into HULK’s “Scorched Earth”! At the request of Steve Rogers, Luke Cage must take his hardened team to deal with a doomsday scenario unleashed in the pages of HULK! And now that the squad is a man short, Cage finally uses his power to recruit another prisoner to duty–and his pick will shock you! Will the Thunderbolts accept this new member as a part of their force? Or will this heavy duty wild card destroy the balance of power? Find out in the series that Newsarama.com’s Best Shots calls “The Avengers title that not enough people are raving about…it’s one of the best of the bunch.” 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99 (preview artwork is available)

The reason I’m picking up this title is it has potential, it has Luke Cage:Power Man (They need to go back to calling him that), Jeff Parker is a good writer, storyline sounds like a good jumping on point, and the price is $2.99. So to keep me picking it up monthly they’ll need to add letterpages or backmatter, or I’ll be hopping off of it relatively soon.

$2.99 BLACK PANTHER MAN WITHOUT FEAR #514

Written by DAVID LISS Penciled by FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA Cover by SIMONE BIANCHI Luke Cage guest stars as T’Challa’s new adventure in NYC continues! The former King of Wakanda has sworn to protect the mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen, and while battling the mob is one thing, how does he stop a killer targeting innocent people? It’s a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, as T’Challa hunts ruthless new crime lord Vlad the Impaler, while Vlad concocts a desperate and bloody scheme to entrap the mysterious new vigilante that’s ruining his plans. T’Challa learns what it really means to be a man without fear, courtesy of award-winning thriller novelist David Liss and the pulp-tastic art of Francesco Francavilla! 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99

I think without argument Christopher Priest’s take on the Black Panther was the essential take, and Marvel’s use of this character since, has been in the shadow of that great run. And good writers not withstanding, Hudlin and Mayberry, I think it suffers from idiotic editorial decisions. Petty decisions intent, for whatever reason, on dismantling a great character. A female Black Panther? Really? That was someone’s stab at a good idea? Just indicative of the sabotaging type editorial decisions that have plagued this character.

The post-Priest series suffering from gimmics rather than gusto.

However with T’Challa back in the suit, if only in the DAREDEVIL title, I’m hoping this will be a good jumping on point. I’d love to see an entertaining, respectful run with this character. I’m unfamiliar with David Liss, but he has sense enough to toss Luke Cage:Power Man in here, and that means I’m willing to give him the benefit of a doubt, and willing to support, until they prove otherwise.

From Marvels ICON Line

$3.99 CASANOVA GULA #1 (OF 4)

Written by MATT FRACTION Art & Cover by FABIO MOON CASANOVA is back. Or is he? Actually Casanova is gone. Gone from space, gone from time. The burning question WHEN IS CASANOVA QUINN hangs over the entire world as E.M.P.I.R.E. and W.A.S.T.E. alike race toward the horrible, inevitable, answer…The second staggering volume of CASANOVA starts here by the Eisner-laden team of Matt Fraction (THOR, UNCANNY X-MEN, THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN) and Fabio Moon (DAYTRIPPER, SUGARSHOCK) taking over art duties. Never before collected! Never before reprinted! Never before understood! In gorgeous full 4-D psychocolor! Worth a million in prizes! Change your shorts, change your life, change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy! Guaranteed!* *not actually guaranteed 40 PGS./Mature Content …$3.99


No ads breaking up the story, and loads of backmatter, and additional pages. So it’s me getting more bang for my buck, plus it’s Matt Fraction’s CASANOVA.

$14.99 CASANOVA TP LUXURIA VOL 1

Written by MATT FRACTION Penciled by FABIO MOON & GABRIEL BA Cover by GABRIEL BA Meet Casanova Quinn: prodigal son of a law-and-order family hell-bent on keeping the world safe and sound, now blackmailed into betraying his father and the international law enforcement organization he controls. LUXURIA collects the first volume of CASANOVA as its titular star transforms from devil-may-care thrill-seeker into the most dangerous man in the world. What happens when the ultimate player gets played? Find out in this genre-bending sci-spy epic. Gorgeously re-colored and re-lettered by hand, this staggering psychedelic spy-fi epic is collected for the first time as it was meant to be made. By the Eisner award-winning team of Matt Fraction (INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, THOR, UNCANNY X-MEN), Gabriel Ba (UMBRELLA ACADEMY, BPRD: 1947), and Fabio Moon (DAYTRIPPER, SUGARSHOCK). With all-new, all-different, never-before-seen bonus material! Collecting CASANOVA: LUXURIA #1-4112 PGS./Mature …$24.99 152 PGS./Mature …$14.99

And speaking of CASANOVA we also have the CASANOVA trade. At $15 and being a collection of bigger ICON issues, the price point is a doable exception.

$3.50 INCOGNITO BAD INFLUENCES #4

BY ED BRUBAKER AND SEAN PHILIPS WITH COLORS BY VAL STAPLES Zack Overkill has plunged into the super-criminal underworld on a deadly mission that’s made him question everything. Now he’s come face-to-face with his target, and things just got a hell of a lot worse. And so with every issue, our Professor of Pulp Culture, Jess Nevines is back with another great essay on forgotten pulp history, available only in the single issues of INCOGNITO. INCOGNITO, BAD INFLUENCES #4 -32 PGS/Mature Content/Np Ads … $3.50

It’s always good to see the CRIMINAL team of Brubaker and Philips releasing another issue.

Uhh, yeah and that’s all for Marvel.


DC

All the negatives I said for Marvel, goes for DC as well. Which makes it easy to disregard most of the 100 or so books they put out every month. It’s stupid, confusing, greedy, and ultimately just off-putting to have 20 different Bat Titles. You should have just 2. BATMAN, and one 100page anthology called BATMAN FAMILY. Boom, job done. And until they do this it makes it very easy for me to buy none of their titles. Thanks. :).

The exceptions?

$2.99 POWER GIRL #20

Written by JUDD WINICK Art and cover by SAMI BASRI Racing headlong into the adventure and turmoil of GENERATION LOST, Power Girl is hot on the trail of Max Lord – seeking answers and looking for payback. But a trip to Project Cadmus leaves her with a bit more than she can handle, and monstrously outnumbered. On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

The one big difference between Marvel and DC is in terms of art. For the most part Marvel has frigging kick ass artists and cover design, and no doubt this is due to two of the companies driving forces, Quesada and Bendis, being great artists in their own right. DC to be kind, with a few exceptions (such as the great and innovative art of Perez or Quietly), underwhelms. DC’s covers and interiors are typically a bland, uninteresting house style; and in a medium that lives and dies on art, that’s not a good thing.

And when they do get a decent artist, like Simone Bianchi, seemingly the suits are too inane or cheap to keep them, and Marvel ends up offering the artist a better deal.

Which brings us to Sam Basri.

I touched on this in the last UNDER THE RADAR, Sam Basri is one of the few absolutely amazing artists that DC has working for them. His sense of cover design on the POWER GIRL series has been blowing me away. They really are works of art by themselves, and is one of the main reasons I’m picking up this series in individual issues rather than waiting for the trade. He really is one of DCs best artists, and the company really needs to realize this and pay him accordingly, or they’ll find him working for their competition in no time. :) .

$2.99 SPIRIT #10

Written by DAVID HINE Art by MORITAT Cover by LADRONN Roscoe Kalashnikov was sure he could get away with murder – and in a town as corrupt as Central City, maybe he could. But if that’s so, why do his victim’s words still haunt him? She said something about “the spirit of justice” and now, around every corner, Roscoe is seeing a flash of trench coat and the briefest glimpse of a masked man… On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

David Hine on a SPIRIT comic? I’m intrigued. David Hine is a really good writer.

$2.99 THUNDER AGENTS #3

Written by NICK SPENCER Art by CAFU & BIT and HOWARD CHAYKIN Cover by CHRIS SPROUSE The new hit series by Nick Spencer (ACTION COMICS, Morning Glories) and CAFU continues! Think the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are a messed-up team? Wait until you learn the secrets of the evil organization known as Spider! This issue promises twists, turns and a sequence illustrated by the legendary Howard Chaykin! On sale JANUARY 12 * 32 pg, FC $2.99 US

I’m hearing good things about this Nick Spenser, so this issue may be worth a look.

$2.99 LOONEY TUNES #194

Written by BILL MATHENY Art by DAVID ALVAREZ Cover by SCOTT GROSS Beaky Buzzard is hungry. He thinks he’s found a nice meal in Daffy Duck, but the wacky bird has another suggestion: Bugs Bunny. So just who will be feeding the hungry buzzard family? A hint: It won’t be the ever-cool Bugs! Poor Beaky doesn’t stand a chance… On sale JANUARY 5 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

$2.99 TINY TITANS #36

Written by ART BALTAZAR & FRANCO Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR Titans to the center of the Earth! Terra uses her powers to take the “hot” Titans on the journey of a lifetime. And if Terra is involved, you know Beast Boy isn’t far behind! Don’t forget the sunscreen and the bottled water, and watch out for the Sea Trap of Doom! On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

I’ve started looking for books that I can give to younger readers. The above seem to fit the bill.

$2.99 ACTION COMICS #897

Written by PAUL CORNELL Art by PETE WOODS Cover by DAVID FINCH & BATT The last place Lex Luthor expected his quest for the Black Lantern energy to take him was Arkham Asylum – specifically to the cell of The Joker! What clues about Lex’s quest could The Joker have to offer, and why on Earth would Lex trust him? Get ready for a one-of-a-kind confrontation between comics’ two greatest villains, as brought to you by the twisted minds of Paul Cornell and Pete Woods! On sale JANUARY 26 * 32 pg, FC $2.99 US

$2.99 STEEL #1

Written by STEVE LYONS Art by SEAN CHEN Cover by ALEX GARNER John Henry Irons is a normal human being who managed to overcome all odds and become a hero who Superman considers a peer and colleague. What kind of determination drives a man to reach such heights? Find out here as a battered and bruised Steel defiantly stands as the only thing between Metallo and the destruction of Metropolis! Doctor Who novelist Steve Lyons and artist Sean Chen (ACTION COMICS, SALVATION RUN) deliver a story that shows why Steel is a true DC Universe icon! ONE-SHOT * On sale JANUARY 5 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Great solicitation. Plus I really like the character of Steel.

*I’ve heard good things about Lemire’s SUPERBOY, but I’ve seen the art, and it just doesn’t work for me. May try it later in trade.

$2.99 SUPERGIRL #60

Written by NICK SPENCER Art by BERNARD CHANG Cover by AMY REEDER & RICHARD FRIEND SUPERGIRL welcomes aboard writer Nick Spencer (JIMMY OLSEN, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS, Morning Glories) and artist Bernard Chang (WONDER WOMAN, SUPERMAN) for a Girl of Steel story unlike any other! Someone is trying to kill the young heroes of the DC Universe! Who is this villain, and how can Supergirl stop him? Maybe her friends can help – namely, Batgirl, Blue Beetle, Miss Martian, Static and…Robin?! Buckle up, folks, because this one puts the pedal to the metal on page one and doesn’t let up for a second! On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Two things are getting me to give this a try, Nick Spenser and Static.

$2.99 HOUSE OF MYSTERY #33

Written by MATTHEW STURGES Art by WERTHER DELL’EDERA and DAVID LLOYD Cover by ESAO ANDREWS Since the Pair of the Conception first chased Fig Keele into the House of Mystery, Fig has never known who they were or what they wanted from her. Now, Fig solves a mystery that’s been lingering since the very beginning. Featuring a tale illustrated by David Lloyd (V FOR VENDETTA)! On sale JANUARY 5 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US MATURE READERS

Probably not the best place to jump in, but I’m intrigued, and have been meaning to pick this up.

Wow, I’m actually quite surprised how many DC comics I recommend this month. I guess their price drop has helped their titles to become more attractive, or at least most justifiable of the expense. Well that’s all for this installment. Catch me tomorrow for part 2 of this, and the remaining titles I recommend. Don’t miss it, as that’s where the good stuff is.

On DC Comics New york Comic Con 2010 News! Zuda Comics and Milestone comics! Price changes and more! Pt 1 of 2!

Well had hoped to be partaking of New York Comic Con goodness today, I had even prepped a nice itinerary of panels and events, but some last minute snafus got in the way. But (hopefully) that just means I get to bring you the Sunday perspective rather than Saturday, and with Sunday typically calmer, it should allow me to bring you some interesting coverage.

Plan is to head out in the AM so I can crash the Sunday Convention doors when they open. We’ll see how well that plan pans out. :)

But what I can bring you in the interim, is a bit of feedback on the first 2 days of the New York Comic Con (coverage/news has been surprisingly light), and following that offer a slightly sleep deprived, yet heartfelt questioning on what’s going on with DC Comics. Okay… onto the ranting :) :

Home and the Grace of God

ComingSoon.Net- Has a 5 page gallery of pictures from the con. Uhhh— don’t know who their photographer is, but you are at one of the nations biggest cons and all you can think to take pictures of is toys and props???? Wow. Either that’s the most boring con ever, or ComingSoon needs a new photographer. :). Judge for yourself.

Newsarama- True to their name is on the ball with coverage of various panels. Though the bit of news that got my attention was DC’s price drop, dropping their price from the insane $3.99 price point back to the nearly as insane, but just this side of acceptable $2.99 price point.

Now the following stance is primarily regarding the physical form of comics. But drop a $1 off the pricing and the stance is valid for the digital form of the product. For more on my take on tangible versus digital, go here.

I guess their shrinking sales figures woke them up to the fact (a fact that just about everyone told them before they embarked on the path) that $3.99 (ie $4!!) for a couple dozen pages of paper that will take you ten minutes to read… is not good value for your money.

Ideally I’d like to see the big two comic book companies (Marvel owned by Disney and DC owned by Time-Warner) pick up and run with Warren Ellis’ Slimline/Fell model of pricing… $1.99. That’s the price-point you need, particularly in this economy where the Average person’s salary is stagnant or decreasing, to not only maintain existing reader interest, but to create a viable entry price point for new readers.

Now I’m not crazy that DC is cutting 2 pages of story, 20 rather than 22 pages, to bring the price-point back to $2.99. So they are pretty much screwing the people who were just getting $2.99 books, which was pretty much everybody. So to look at this another way you’re still forcing an across the line price increase by reducing the content for the regular $2.99 books, while still asking a $2.99 price tag for them.

Crap! That makes me mad.

Leave it to DC, to make a necessity, lower prices or lose market share, yet another way to screw the consumer.

I think it reeks of unhealthy quibbling from one of the more public faces of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. I mean seriously, you’re going to stiff us across the line for 2 pages.

Johns, Dido, Lee, Wayne… (a company with entirely too many titles, and too few people really willing to steer the ship), are you watching this?! Great Caesar’s ghost! If we’re losing 2 pages across the line, kick the darn price down to $2.50!

Sigh.

I was taken in by this announcement until I really started thinking about it.

I mean don’t get me wrong it is a start. It’s a start… an underhanded, devious, greedy, backstabbing, slimy, smarmy, odious and stinky start. But it’s a start.

Now all they have to do is publish some books worth buying, and I might jump back on the DC bandwagon.

Oooh, riled a few of you huh?!

Here’s the thing, I’m not a DC basher. I like DC.

While Marvel was the comic company that, like most kids my age, galvanized my attention in my youth; heading into my teenage years it was DC who had picked up the coming challenge of the direct market and a more mature customer base and gave us a very sophisticated and yes literate body of work, in an amazingly short amount of time.

Wolfman and Perez’s NEW TEEN TITANS (look at that great cover! We’ll discuss in a minute how current day DC comics have a hard time producing great covers), Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s LEGION OF SUPERHEROES, Moore, Bisette and Totleben’s SWAMP THING, Miller’s DARK KNIGHT and YEAR ONE, Baron and Guice’s THE FLASH , Englehart and Joe Staton’s run on THE GREEN LANTERN, O’Neil and Cowan’s THE QUESTION, DeMatteis and Giffen’s JUSTICE LEAGUE, (preceded by the equally good run by Gerry Conway and Luke McDonnell on the closing issues of the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA) and of course Wolfman and Perez on CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. All those books in relative spitting distance of each other and in many ways they still define what is best in this medium we call comics.

Those runs are memorable touchstones to a lost holy grail, that to this day, companies are still mining for, still trying to recapture. Not least of all DC itself.

DC

Here’s the thing I’m aware from podcasts that DC has quite a few talented creators out there, and some are doing good books. Some are doing FANTASTIC books! DC has one of the best creators, in my opinion, working in comics today in Mark Chiarello, Art Director (as of this writing) of DC Comics. His SOLO and his WEDNESDAY COMICS, in a time where the height of creativity or thinking outside the box in comics, was Zombie variant covers, or killing/resurrecting characters, are two projects, that continue to blow my mind. Just inventive, thinking out the box audacity. And that he’s also am amazing writer and artist (His Negro League cards are STUNNING!) in his own right, just makes it all the more odd that DC doesn’t just turn over the keys to him.

But they don’t.

Instead DC seems to be retreating from very innovative concepts and growth, growth that seemed to have been building up to a watershed of creativity perhaps akin to that 80s period I mentioned, but seemingly forestalled in what can only be seen as a homogenization of what was becoming an ethnically diverse line.

DCs problem today is the same problem that has always been an Achilles heel of comics. Braindead marketing, and over-saturation/flooding of the market.

“Oooohh. One Batman book is good. That mean’s 16 Batman titles would be great!” No you stupid, stupid men. Multiple titles of the same character introduces confusion into your consumers and into the brand. While you will always capture the one moron, with too much disposable income, who will buy, and probably not read, all 16 titles. Historically, and today currently, what happens instead is for that one who will buy into your gouging ploy, you have 600 people like me who will look at these 16 different Bat titles, scratch their head, and say I can’t be fucking arsed to figure out what title is the ‘good’ Batman title.

And I understand, that with so-called 2nd string titles not selling as well, the impetus is to go with a name, go with a name, go with a name. The problem with that is at $4 a pop, no one is going to experiment on a 22 page comic. At 60cents and 75cents I could take a risk on something called SWAMP THING or $1.25 on something called THE QUESTION. But DC, all comic companies have largely priced themselves out of the impulse buy market. At $4 the book has to offer a definite great experience for the reader’s money. In terms of both story, art, character, and payoff. And typically that’s a lot to ask of a new character where the first several issues is about building the character. And that’s a lot to ask of Dc, in particular, because DC cover artiist, for the most part, not very good. Anytime DC gets a halfway decent artist, Marvel swoops in and steals him away, till you look at today, and DCs covers for the most part look like garbage. The tradedress, the actual art, it’s just not something that wouls impel me to stop, pickup the book, and flip through it. If the cover artist sucks, I can only imagine how bad the interior art is.

I refuse to believe Mark Chiarello is signing off on these covers. But whoever it is, needs to tighten up the ship, because fault Marvel for what you will, but their books, their cover artists… are AMAZING! Like I said, I don’t even buy Marvel Comics with the exception of Brubaker’s CRIMINAL, but if I did I would be drawn to these marvel books.

Why is CRIMINAL the only Marvel/Icon book i buy?

Well, because I don’t buy individual issues that don’t come with a letterspage and/or backmatter/ additional conversational type material. One of the reasons I was such a huge fan of books such as FELL and GUTTSVILLE (Holy Hell I miss that book! Two of the most innovative, beautiful and brilliant books of the 21st, smothered to death by that little flooding the market thing I’m talking about) is because they offer this deeper insight into the material. in the case of Brubaker’s CRIMINAL it’s even more amazing material.

So yeah that’s why. If you can’t be bothered to put together a Stan’s Soapbox style bit for your readers, or do a letters page, I can’t be bothered to pay for your effing book.

However all things being equal, if Marvel and DC were to reinstate letters-pages/back-matter, and get the ads out tof the story, based on the quality of the Marvel artists and to some degree writers, I would clearly be buying Marvel comics.

While it’s inane to let a cover be the sole judge of a comic, this is a graphic medium, so the cover means a bit. It’s the resume that gets you in the door, or the hands of the reader, and it should impress.

Marvel Comics, from trade dress to actual artist, typically rocks.

DC typically sucks.

Examples?

Damn take your pick of nearly any DC comic released this month. Such as:

This is your flagship title, right? You couldn’t tell it by this cover. You could barely tell this is a JLA title. You make the title all but invisible? Really? It’s just piss-poor trade dress design. And the central image conveys and illicits no interest what so ever. No art director should have signed off on this.

This is a good artist, however the central image doesn’t really convey much. The Rebel’s title and trade dress doesn’t help to give any kind of interest to the cover. It’s the type of cover that in the old days would have been saved with a word balloon or caption, but evidently DC can be bothered these days with little things, like making their covers sell-able.

Honestly do I even have to point out how bad this cover is. And me not reading DC comics, this is my first time seeing the costume all the podcasters were talking about. I really have no stake in the character, so change away. But make it good, that costume is utter garbage. Beyond that the art just looks… awkward. I’m not sure if she’s preparing to fight or having some type of hemorrhoid attack. :).

Here are 3 more cover images, that just don’t cut it.

The DOOM PATROL central image is actually good, but the trade dress just does nothing to make it exciting. It’s just floating in a sea of boredom. The FLASH image is busy, but busy in a bad way, it’s just not engaging or interesting, but at least the Trade Dress, typography brings some interest to the image. Just not enough to overcome the weakness in the central image.

THE FLASH has some of the best covers ever, it has to do with artists with a great sense of design and placement, as well as a great color scheme, and finally fantastic typography, captions, and word balloons, a life and energy that is mostly missing from this modern issue.
So DC has only itself to blame that it’s new characters find a steep slope to acceptance. Even at $2 I’m open to dropping $5 and picking up 2 books a week. But when $5 will barely get you one book/story, and typically that $5 experience of piece of story is unsatisfying at best.

SUPERGIRL- I’ve heard nothing but good things about this Super-Girl run, but based on this cover alone, I would never pick up the book. Again the central image itself isn’t particularly bad, it’s just not particularly anything. And once again DCs lack of trade dress, typography, just calls attention to the fact that something is lacking.

How is it with nearly 80 years of comic covers to learn from, people still can’t get it right?

Marvel however, really has not only great artists, but as importantly they understand typography and the effective use of typography and cover organization. Bendis was well known for this with his POWERS work. Some examples of Marvel getting it right? (these are from the same month as the DC ones above):

The above Marvel images speak clearly for themselves.

Marvel just kicks ass on these covers (and this statement comes from me Heroic Times, someone who for the most part has turned his back on Marvel monthly comics)! Marvel has those stunning, painterly artists, such as Simone Bianchi that DC simply can’t hold onto.

Marvel is no less culpable than DC with their 6 THOR or 8 AVENGERS titles, but each issue looks orders of magnitude better than their DC counterparts. And Marvel seems, to come to each cover witn a sense of design and layout, for the most part lacking in the DC titles.

George Perez is still cranking out some masterpieces for DC. Relative newcomer Sami Basri , is knocking it out of the park with POWER GIRL (And if DC doesn’t pay this guy, I predict he’ll be the next artist Marvel takes away from them. He’s that good. Look at his cover to issue #16 of POWER GIL, a great use of negative, a great understanding of creating images that speak), as well as Alina Rusa’s attention grabbing cover to BOP.

But these are exceptions to DC’s rule of rather tired, boring, uninspired covers. Marvel on the other hand, while no less event heavy, and just as guilty of flooding the market, you get the sense it’s a rather cohesive vision driving the Marvel machine, and for the most part it really is creator and quality driven. With DC you get the sense it’s mostly editorial mandates, that tend to be a scattershot approach, and that quality across the board is more miss than hit.

Yet given all this, DC still looks to the consumers for the reason their books aren’t selling. The books aren’t selling first and foremost because they are too expensive. And two because, the DC comics I’ver read in the past few years, individual issues, just aren’t very good, even if they were $2, for giving you a good reading experience. The JLA is supposed to be the flagship title for DC, and in the last few years, they’ve been unable to get anyone excited or interested in these comics.

Part of this, most of this is, particularly with Dwayne McDuffie… editorial interference. I have yet to interview Dwayne McDuffie, but the sense I get was he was courted by DC, following his HUGELY successful JLA UNLIMITED series (which got the JLA absolutely right and is the best they’ve been in any medium in years) and given JLA, mainly to weasle the rights to MILESTONE away from him (more on Milestone in a bit). And once that was done he was pretty much saddled with crippling editorial interference, and a less than stellar art team, until he was pretty much shooed off the book.

So when a company’s flagship books are saddled with high prices, and poor, unsatisfying story and art, very few are going to risk dollars with secondary characters or untried characters from this company. It’s why I think ideas like Chiarello’s SOLO and WEDNESDAY COMICS, somewhat of a reinvention of the company’s SHOWCASE roots, are potentially the future of the medium. A monthly flagship title, containing a mix of classic and new characters, with letter pages, and back matter, and a real conversation like comics of old, with popular characters being spun off into their own titles.

The alternative is the diminishing returns model of current comics.

To be continued….

Random Rants, Images, Comics, and Movies: JUSTICE, ATOM EGOYAN, FELL

This is some random images of items currently on my overloaded radar. Either films I’ve watched, or books I’ve read, or music listened to:

I’ve just finished the first 2 books in the 3 book series that is JUSTICE. You can find expanded details about what I thought of it by checking out my 100 GREATEST GRAPHIC NOVELS posting, over in the menu to your right. But in brief, I thought it was a very effective collaboration. Particularly the melding of Doug Braithwaite’s inventive layouts with Alex Ross’ sublime paints, creates a final product to be lauded. The dialog, by frequent Ross collaborator Jim Kruegar, particularly at the start of the 2nd volume, doesn’t always ring true, seems at times forced and stilted. But these moments are brief, overall the story is everything it sets out to be, an engaging, if darker version of the Saturday Superhero cartoons that Alex Ross grew up on. All twelve issues deserve to be collected in the publisher’s over-sized Absolute format.

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While on the comics topic. There is really very little out there that interests me. Two of the best, most interesting comics in a long time GUTSVILLE and FELL look like they are on permanent hiatus. Simon Spurrier is paying the bills over at Marvel Comics, doing Ghost Rider or something. What a waste. I guess it comes back to that Kirkman Brouhaha, of guys spending their careers maintaining the old order, rather than creating the new.

Similarly SPECIAL FORCES and ZEROKILLER are to be delayed.

So with the best comics on hiatus, what does that leave?

Well I’ve been looking around and seriously… not a whole hell of a lot. First and foremost I’m not paying $4 or $3.99 as they like to call it, for a comic book. Hell most people are on the fence, and rightfully so about paying $3 for a comic. So at the $4 price point, it makes more sense to say f**k new comics; and just read back issues. You can pick back issues up for as low as 25cents (there’s enough old comics, that if you tried you couldn’t get through a tenth of em in your lifetime, so who needs new), or do more cost effective collected editions such as offered through Manga, or Trade Paper Backs, or Original Graphic Novels… all available easily through your local bookstore.

Warren Ellis had, and has, the right idea with FELL, a $1.99 book that is 2nd to nothing on the stands. But it does suffer from catch22-I-tis…. not enough people are buying it for Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith to do it regularly, but if they don’t do it regularly the people who are interested in it can’t buy it (and may stop looking for it), and it can’t build momentum and an audience.

See? Catch 22.

With the big two generally releasing diabetes inducing soap opera fare (SECRET this, FINAL that, who gives a good damn) an irony becomes clear. As shown by cinema receipts the mainstream is open to adopt comics, but the comics market has a/ very little of any quality for them to adopt and b/ no mainstream distribution in place. It is an idiotic oversight. At every theater that sold Batman tickets there should have been comic book spinner racks, loaded with comics, strategically placed not too far from the popcorn. :) .They could have moved millions of comics, as opposed to being happy to break 30,000 issues.

I keep hearing how shrewd Marvel Comics is, but like Microsoft they are only shrewd in fleecing their customer base.

Like Microsoft, Marvel would rather burn money in safeguarding what is broken rather than actually giving their customers something that works.

Microsoft once upon a time made an operating system for customers to use. Can you imagine that? It was a bold operating system, nowadays Microsoft makes products with an eye to their limitations, with an eye to what you can not do with it. Those are two very, very, different mentalities and it shows in the quality of the product. One is an adventurous, explorational spirit which put Microsoft on the top, the other is a scared, protectionist, antagonist mindset that threatens to drag them to the bottom.

Marvel Comics has that same mindset. They are protecting the old, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but they are doing it at the expense of the new. And that is a bad thing.

It is, therefore, an age ripe to topple old men and old doddering companies.

It is an age for the new.

New items such as RETURN OF THE SUPER PIMPS! This series published by DIAL C FOR COMICS, is closing in on issue #6 and is the kind of book that is the victim of a poor distribution market. Meaning it should be selling millions, and would be great to sell to kids, but the distribution model is aimed at whispering to the choir rather than shouting to the crowd.

Which is a shame because it is a great comic… and I recommend it. It is that rarest of things in a very cookie cutter market… it’s fun, it’s original, and it’s not Eurocentric. All things I consider very welcome, and very refreshing, and very needed. So bother your retailer for issues and if he can’t help you do a search, find the website of the company and order books direct from them. And just tell them HEROIC TIMES sent you.

Okay enough of that rant. :) .

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What do the above have in common?

They are all films by director Atom Egoyan. The first film I saw by him was the brilliant and devastating THE SWEET HEREAFTER. There aren’t many movies I rate as an A. THE SWEET HEREAFTER just may be an A+. I’ve been going through the rest of Egoyan’s work, and it appears so far that THE SWEET HEREAFTER is clearly his best film. That said his other films have much to recommend them. I’ll do a full breakdown, similar to my earlier overviews of Directors Jess Franco and Tsui Hark (you can find those also in the column to your right); so check back often.

Christopher Priest’s THE CREW from Marvel Comics

So I hammered Priest’s early 1990s series THE RAY for DC, after reading a good bulk of the run. So you think I would have been Priested out on this blog for a while.

You’d be wrong.

I’ve just finished all seven issues of his THE CREW. In a word….BLOODY HELL! Okay two words.

This is absolutely brilliant, brilliant stuff!

This is what you hold up to your wife when she’s about to knock you out for raiding the kids college fund for comic money! It’s the medium as bloody art.

It confirms what I said about the series a few postings back…. WOW!

And have to praise the art of Joe Bennett, the Inks of Crime Lab, and the colors of Avalon Studio! Too often Priest will bring a strong story to the table and will be let down by bad art or bad production values, not this time. This time he’s found the perfect creative team!

Each issue just gets better and better, with issue #5 just blowing me out of the water! Being one of my fav issues. And issues 6 and 7 wrapping it up beautifully.

Only seven issues, before they pulled the plug.

But enough to tell a great seven part story.

But this should definitely be put out as a hardcover, and would love to see Priest and Bennett get the chance to tell more tales… of THE CREW. If not as a continuing series, then a series of mini-series.

Which may actually work better in Priest’s case, since the naysaying idiots (when he hits a series) are quick to want to talk cancellation… so beat them to the punch!

Don’t go for a continued series, go for the miniseries! That actually gives you a new promotional push, for each storyline you want to do.

Do a Warren Ellis or Grant Morrison, concentrate on the mini-series, the complete story, the arc. The one-shot.

So Priest, if you’re reading this… pick up the phone. Call Bennett, you’ve got a story you want to tell… tell it.

Hell do your own characters/books for Image or Boom Studios.

You’re way too good to be on the bench, to walk away from it.

Indie Spinner Rack guys (see my earlier review) mentioned reading Pope’s BATMAN 100 and how that was so beautifully drawn,it made them want to draw.

After reading Priest’s THE CREW I wanted to write, that’s what greatness does… it makes you want to… emulate it.