Archive for the ‘Comics Commentary’ Category

HARD TO SWALLOW… EVEN HARDER TO DIGEST

Good enough to be a Regular-Sized Comic... But apparently NOT "good enough" to stay that size forever.

LET’S JUST JUMP RIGHT IN, SHALL WE?

How would you like to order a Marvel Trade Paperback only to have it arrive and be 1/3 to 1/2 smaller than you anticipated? My guess is you wouldn’t like it. At all.

Happens to me all the time… And I am sick and fucking tired of buying trades that end up being digest sized books. Worst of all? Marvel sorta seems to being doing all this on the sly…. So don’t feel bad if– like me– you end up buying

See the simplistic art? This SCREAMS younger reader.

lots of books you don’t want because Marvel often buries the specs on their smaller format collections in a mountain of hype. Is it intentional? I have to believe it is– at least partially– since their other digest collections– like Marvel Adventures and their Runaways series–  are clearly marked as being digest sized.

You might think that’s the only reason I harbor such a dislike for these tiny books. You’d be very wrong. I have many reasons… The 2 most basic being 1) As mentioned,  I feel their sizes are often misrepresented in the Marvel Previews descriptions and 2) I don’t believe the smaller publication size is worth the FULL DOLLAR price tags Marvel charges.

How can a digest sized book seriously carry the same price tag as a larger, regular-sized trade paperback? Does Marvel really expect us to believe the smaller size doesn’t save them significant money? Cause it does– both in lower amounts of the paper and inks needed to produce the books and lower shipping costs incurred sending the products to their final retail destinations.

Before I vent any further, I want to state that I understand the bulk of the Marvel’s digest books are meant to be aimed at a younger, more GENERAL audience. I have zero problems with that. After all, you’re reading opinions from a person who proudly collects– (and actually reads!)– all of James Kochalka‘s Johnny Boo: The Best Little Ghost in the World books… And these books are aimed at kindergarten kids!

NO COMIC SNOBS HERE

I’ve always believed that general audience books can be extremely entertaining… And I certainly don’t need to read about ass rape and female decapitation every time I pick up a comic to feel like I’ve fully lived my life as a discerning comics connoisseur.

Johnny Boo is for kids and it is a BIG BOOK with HARD COVERS! How can this be Marvel? Kids only read small, flimsy books... Right?

I understand that someone at Marvel assumes their general audience releases need to be made smaller– for smaller hands. But here’s the problem with that frickin’ assumption: Most of the concepts and plots in the “general audience” Marvel comic books are much more complicated than, let’s say, the plots found in Andy Runton‘s excellent Owly series… or  Kochalka’s aforementioned Johnny Boo. And the crazy thing about Boo? Those books are hardcovers printed in a larger size format than the Marvel digests… For kids in kindergarten! Where’s the logic in that, Marvel?

Doesn't LOOK like a kids' book either

Here’s just some of the plot for Black Widow and the Marvel Girls– transcribed word for word from the back cover of the recent Marvel digest release: “While removing a rogue weapons dealer from an impregnable safe house, the Black Widow remembers her escape from the brutal KGB training ground known as the Red Room…” Cone on, does that sound like the plot of a “kiddie” book? It is my firm belief that any child that can understand that story has to be old enough to hold a larger book.

How do I know this? Well to start, I wasn’t spit out of Hell’s foul embrace like an ignorant Hellboy. (At least I don’t think I was.) I grew up reading comics after I basically taught myself how to read… Conquering the thick Charlotte’s Web novel by the time I was five. If I could hold a book like that, I also held a comic book or a comic trade paperback (they were called “Annuals” back then) with ease. I have no doubt that I would have found these miniature comics just as irritating back then as I do today.

OKAY, SO I’M A “SIZE-IST”

The other reason I can’t stand these little buggers– besides the misrepresentation, over-priced volumes and too small sizes?

Easy to read my ass! And this was one of the MORE STEALTHY, LESS VERBOSE pages

The artwork reprinted in these collections was originally rendered in a STANDARD SIZE– meant to fit in a “regular-size” comic book. The art is not drawn for Manga-size books (the format these Marvel digests most clearly ape)– where the artists tailor their work and storytelling techniques to favor the smaller format. These are regular comic pages reduced to fit into a pitifully small area. You can’t really enjoy the art… As the pages were never drawn in consideration of the digest format.

What thought– other than greed could Marvel be using as they take all these great stories (that were once printed regular comic size) and reduce them to digest size? Are they that desperate to shave their margins on these books? I would have loved to read the collections for Spider-Man Secret Wars, Iron Man: Armor Wars or Dr. Doom and Masters of Evil in “normal” trade paperbacks. Not so interested now that the publishers have insisted on squeezing these stories into books one might easily find stuck in a McDonald’s Happy Meal box one day. I’m exaggerating, of course… But not by much.

Plus, why are almost all of Marvel’s recent female-centric books being almost surreptitiously released in this shitty format as well?  Why am I paying regular sized trade prices for small books featuring these popular women as lead characters? Here are just a few of the titles (and prices) of some of the female led books I won’t be reading: Black Widow and the Marvel Girls ($14.99 USD), Models, Inc ($14.99 USD) and Nomad, Girl without a World ($14.99 USD). Only Marvel Divas (and monthly titles like Ms. Marvel) seemed to have escaped this sad reduction binge.

I have a WHOLE STACK of digest sized trades that I unwittingly purchased at

Tim Gunn-- obviously pissed to be regulated to such a small format

one time or another. Now I have decided NOT to read them because of their cramped art and pitifully tiny word balloons… And that just sucks.

Since I am finding it increasingly hard to determine what any Marvel book is actually going to look like until it arrives in the comic book stores– I have specifically requested that my retailer let me know if any of the books I have ordered suddenly turn up digest sized. I hate to ask– to burden them with yet another one of my  idiosyncracies… But I really, really, DON’T want any more of these Marvel monstrosities entering my home ever again. Since I receive my books via mail order, I cannot look at them and reject them due to their small size… So I must rely on the fine folks at the comic shop to do it for me.

I really don’t enjoy feeling poorly fucked by Marvel when I open my box filled with comics. I want to feel joyful (or at least happy)– especially since I seem to spend over $200 on books every week. That’s a lotta moola to pay out– only to feel jerked around.

I’ve been wanting to type the following sentence ever since I started writing this Blog: I may want to read like a child but I don’t want to be treated like a child.

Hey Marvel… Be up front with me. Don’t distract from the sizes of your trades with razzle-dazzle bullshit or miraculously forget to mention your trade trim sizes in a lot of your product descriptions. The majority of your readers are not children. I know you know this… So even though a book’s content may skew a little younger– please stop printing them in digest size.

At the very least, print them in both large and small formats (like the Runaways series) so your customers can pick the format they want to purchase. I certainly wouldn’t mind paying a couple of dollars more for a larger book… And we all know that a “couple of dollars more” would actually be a big premium for us to pay just to receive slightly larger book.

At the end of the day, I would like to think that somebody– ANYBODY– at Marvel would give a shit about this… But the haphazard, bone-headed way they arbitrarily choose their Trade Paperback printing sizes would say otherwise. Just more crap from the former House of Ideas.

SWEET CHRISTMAS!

Mysterious SEE THROUGH fabric that causes comic book nipples to vanish!

I have been a fan of Zenescope’s from the beginning. Even though the content in their books is often wildly uneven– I’ve always had a soft spot (maybe the opposite is true) for their Bad Girl approach to these children’s fables… The

The sweet, sweet art of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose-- created by Jim Balent, master draftsman of the female body

main focus of their Grimm Fairy Tales series. Besides Zenescope, only one other publisher– Broadsword Comics– where owner and supreme art talent Jim Balent created and has consistently published Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose for years– seems interested in keeping this once hot comics genre alive.

So when upstart Zenescope appeared from nowhere and attacked the Bad Girl genre with a lust I hadn’t seen since the 90′s– it was both a surprise and a pleasure.

I have no problem admitting that I have enjoyed their hardcovers and trade paperbacks despite many problems with story structure, continuity and production… But then again, I also freely admit to looking at and enjoying the pictures in Playboy first– and only reading the articles if I find the interest (or the time) later.

Plus, overdosing all week on comic books stories featuring steroid pumped heroes can become very tiring… So I welcome the chance to kick back for an hour or two a couple of times a year and look at a buxom woman attempt to teach some equally attractive ne’er-do-wells a few grim “lessons” via some old childhood tales. I also appreciate that Zenescope decided to go back to the darker roots that birthed these fables– as many were written hundreds of years ago to frighten small children into unquestioning obedience. Nobody’s going to mistake Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel & Gretel for romance classics or secret odes to rebellion… Right?

There's more fun to be had in the Zenescope Universe than multiple editions of the same comics!

Oddly, it wasn’t Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales series that first caught my attention. It was their Alice in Wonderland story continuation called Return to Wonderland. Created long before the latest crapfest Alice in Wonderland film was in development, I was all for this series too… As the Wonderland books seemed much more continuity conscious than a lot of the other Zenescope efforts. With Wonderland, I got my cute ladies and a seemingly well thought out story in one package. It was interesting and it was something different that I wasn’t used to seeing within the confines of Bad Girl comics.

And I was as happy as can be… Until the company started bringing out Volume after Volume of the exact same material– reprinting the same books OVER and OVER in completely different editions and trade dress (book designs). The different editions also came out far enough apart, that I actually bought the SAME BOOK– 3 times!

This is a sad admission from someone who takes pride in the care he normally uses when determining which books to buy every Wednesday. I purchase a lot of stuff each week– so it is vitally important to my mental well-being that I NOT order duplicates of books I already have in my collection.

I do not have unlimited funds for my addictions. I also do not return books that I have mistakenly bought extra copies of. I only return books that arrive damaged. I simply feel my comic book retailer is not responsible for my moments of ineptitude… So why should I put them through the hassle of processing a return?

They didn’t do anything wrong. And while I know they would take back every one of the redundant tomes I order… I find it much easier to just give them away or sell them on eBay. Since I am not a comic book retailer by trade or by choice… You can understand how little I enjoy the thought of putting books up for sale on eBay… Preferring to leave that activity to the worthy professionals who do it every day.

A Zenescope collection that doesn't suffer from "variant-itis"

As we amble our way toward the graphic examples below(why waste wonderful art?)… Please understand that I “get” the idea of variant covers. I understand that they often cause completists to buy duplicates (even if we’re discussing expensive hardcovers) or one cover may appeal to someone when another cover does not– triggering a sale that might otherwise not have happened.

What I don’t get– and what I’ll never understand… Is how dissimilar all these Wonderland covers are… Yet how they almost all look the same. Weird, huh?

And before you say, “All Spider-Man covers look the same”… You’re right. Under the aegis of Joey Q the “pin-up” covers on every Marvel comic sort of all seem to run together… Just like these Wonderland hardcover and trade paperback covers do.

The BIG difference? I can discern one Spider-Man logo from another.

It is the familiarity in tone and theme on almost every book cover that makes the whole process so damn confusing.  You used to be able look at a comic cover for a book  you had already read and know instantly what story was inside. Not now. How many damn covers of Alice bent over do I need to see (and buy) before I throw in the towel?

In my case, the answer was 3. Buying 3 of the same book– just with different covers– made me finally hang up on the Wonderland series of hardcover and trade paperback collections. The titles are so similar, the logos so much alike… I really don’t blame myself for buying them over and over. Yes, I know if I had paid more attention it absolutely never would have happened. But there is only so much effort you can put into your hobby every week before it ceases to become a hobby and transforms into an unhealthy obsession.

I guess I wanted (and needed) a more distinctive design for each series.. A more distinct logo for each book definitely. Maybe numbering the books like they did for their Grimm Fairy Tales editions. (Zenescope, you should also know putting the words Grimm Fairy Tales above the various non-distinct Wonderland logos is also confusing.) It absolutely wouldn’t hurt for you to stop changing the covers every time you print a new edition of each book as well.

In the end, I don’t know if you meant to confuse me or not Zenescope. Maybe you did– hoping I would do exactly what I did do and buy extra unwanted copies. But as I have written on this Blog before– if you make it too hard or too confusing for me to buy your books properly… Guess what? I’ll just stop buying books from your company.

Another distinctive title

Luckily, Zenescope was smart enough to number the Grimm Fairy Tales volumes so I can still buy those… And their other titles like 1001 Arabian Nights: Adventures of Sinbad and The Piper are distinct enough so I knew what I was getting into when I clicked the “buy” button.

In the end, I cannot believe this article has led me to this conclusion: I am actually advocating that Zenescope rebrand the entire Wonderland book series again. One last time so they can get it right.

Maybe then, after I’ve had another year or so to cool off– I might (emphasis on “might”) just buy them all one last time and attempt to read them in order again. In the meantime, you can easily stop this confusing crap from happening to other fans by redesigning the entire line while I cool off.

Just a thought. And before you say, “Why not just read the comics! That ought to be easy right?” If you’ve never looked, 90′s Marvel doesn’t have any advantage on variant happy Zenescope. These folks pump out several different covers for seemingly every single comic they publish.

With the frustrating idea of numerous Zenescope editions firmly in mind, here are ALL the cover for all the different editions that the company currently shows for the Wonderland Book Series on their website. Please note that I truly believe there have been more. These are just the ones I can find. Obviously the multiple cover edition ploy has been working– because they continue to do it every chance they get:

Return to Wonderland Hardcover Cover A

One of many

Return to Wonderland Hardcover Cover B

Let's do it again

Return to Wonderland Trade Paperback  A

... And again...

Return to Wonderland Trade Paperback Cover B

... And again.

ADDING TO THE PILE…

Tales from Wonderland Volume 1 Trade Paperback

Alice in another harrowing pickle

Tales from Wonderland Volume 2 Trade Paperback

Alice bending over

Beyond Wonderland Hardcover

Oops! She's bending over again! (The better for you to see her cleavage, My Dear!)

Escape from Wonderland Hardcover

This is not the end!

AND COMING SOON…

Tales from Wonderland Volume 3 Trade Paperback

Soon to confuse me at a comic shop near you


Urasawa's Modern Manga Classic

You Can Go Home Again

Anyone who follows the CCW*TV Companion Blog or watches my rants on CCW*TV will not be surprised to read that I have become increasingly disenchanted with the Big 2 comic publishers. Lame “blockbuster” events, rising cover prices, gratuitous deaths and clichéd storytelling are only a few of the problems that currently bother me. That’s not to say there aren’t any mainstream comics that I currently enjoy on a monthly basis. I do. They just seem too few and far between nowadays.

The Sentry Rips Another One!

The escalation of mean spiritedness, bloodshed and misogyny in American comics has become quite tiring. As a result of the persistent problems I’m having with the mainstream superhero books, I have rediscovered a lost love of mine: Manga.

Keeping up with Marvel. DC gets into the gratuitous violence act.

Even though U.S. comics were my introduction to the wonderful art form known as sequential art– Manga soon crept in and overtook my love for most capes and cowls… And I am quite certain that my affinity for anime had something to do with it.

Japanese produced animation has always struck a deep chord with me… Much more so than any old Hanna-Barbera “cartoon” ever could. Was it the seriousness of the subject matter, the captivating action sequences or how the animation cells meshed together so fluidly? If I had to choose between these reasons– I would choose all three.

After watching my first episodes of Battle of the Planets,  Captain Harlock– and eventually Robotech– how the hell could I ever be content to watch Scooby Doo?

In the late 80’s I was a complete, unapologetic Marvel Zombie. I did not care for anything DC offered– nor had my horizons expanded to vast and fertile area of independent comics.  That entire mindset changed one day while I was looking through a friend’s stack of books and came across a comic called Xenon.

♥ My first Manga ♥

The artwork on the cover caught my eye– feeling very familiar to me.  Not because it resembled any of the comics I had been reading but because it looked more like the great anime I had been watching.

Though the cover illustration was in color I soon realized that all the interior pages were in black and white. The concept wasn’t completely foreign to me as I had seen a couple of TMNT comics by this point… But Xenon just felt different from any book I had seen. The artwork was dark and gritty. Backgrounds and cityscapes were drawn with the precision of an architect. It had intricate robotic designs for the hero and the villain’s alter egos. All of this set against the backdrop of a Japanese high school.

Whatever this comic was about didn’t matter to me. All I knew was that I had to read it right away– along with every other issue my friend had collected.

AND THAT’S HOW IT ALL STARTED

Now Being Reprinted in Deluxe Editions

Soon I was adding all kinds of Manga books to my weekly pull list. The more Manga that became available (at the time it was a fairly slow trickle)– the more I wanted to buy. Titles like Appleseed, Ranma ½, Maison Ikkoku, Gunhed, Silent Mobius, Urusei Yatasura, Fist of the North Star and Nausicaa. As well as Ninja High School, The Dirty Pair and Gold Digger– all comics drawn by Americans with a profound influence from Japanese artists and anime.

These books gave me something that American comics couldn’t (or wouldn’t)– huge amounts of imagination. Where regular superhero comics seemed grounded in a reality populated by fantastical and impressive beings– the entire world of Manga seemed gloriously overloaded with the fantastical and the impressive. Each book had its own reality, not a shared one, and I seemed to never tire of discovering new worlds with each new manga I started to read.

Gantz-- Another great Manga

Thanks to the efforts of a growing number of companies like Viz and Dark Horse– Manga became even more predominant on comic shop shelves as the years passed. As anyone with a passing interest in the genre knows, Manga has since exploded far beyond comic specialty stores and now reaches the mainstream via national bookstore chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble.

A while ago Insideman contacted me about writing a Manga column for his Swear All you Like Blog– or maybe even a series of reviews. Whether this column becomes a reality on a regular basis remains to be seen– as life, work (and fun) always have a way of interrupting the best of plans. Still, I went back and forth concerning what topic to write about, what book to review for this post– and finally settled on letting you in on “where I’m coming from” when I am enjoying (and possibly even reviewing) manga.

Giving some background on what this art medium means to me– and the years I’ve been invested in it– may give you a better understanding of any future reviews. I was there almost at the beginning of the Manga industry in America… And to see it grow so vast in the last couple of decades simply amazes me.

Orange Jumpsuit Ninja. Not my favorite by far. Maybe it is yours.

It’s becoming tougher to find great books out there as the industry keeps growing– then contracting– and growing again. With a crowded field of books and various Manga companies starting , suspending or ceasing publication, hopefully I can steer you in the right direction. I want to help you experience some of the best the genre has to offer.

So, thanks Marvel and DC! If it weren’t for your poor attempts at keeping this comic fan satisfied– I may never have rediscovered my long-lost love.

(Besides reading Manga for more than half of his life, Jose Melendez has also been a comic book retailer for almost 18 years. He is the co-host of CCW*TV– where he attempts to make the show somewhat entertaining on a weekly basis– despite the “best efforts” of co-host Elliott who tends to ruin everything with his boring, stale personality. Jose is also the main contributor on the CCW Companion Blog.

His only regret in life is breaking up with a very cute and kind redhead 10 years ago for no good reason. Please learn from this and don’t make the same mistake yourself… Or else alcohol will most likely play a big part in your future lifestyle.)

HOW ARE THESE DIFFERENT?

What's to compare? Aren't these 2 books just different children of the SAME medium?

Recently, I came across an article entitled MANGA VS COMICSI know. I know... What’s weird– there are a ton of articles just like this out there… All comparing Manga to American Comic Books.

Truth be told, I am not in agreement with most of their content. First off, let’s make this clear– Manga MEANS Comic, okay? Second, why are people bothering to compare these?

Most people in the CCW Nation know me as Mike F. I’m a proudly confessed Manga, Video Game and Comic Book fanatic… And clearly, I have passionate thoughts on these subjects.

Here are statements made from one of the articles mentioned above (I have added a few of my own thoughts as well):

“American comics are all capes.”

WRONG.

“American comics are all about prolonging a dead franchise.”

WRONG.

Everyone knows American comics are all about retconning. (Unless you’re Geoff Johns, of course… But that’s completely different post.)

ANIME LEADS TO MANGA

I watched anime for years– never once venturing into comics. Turned out to be a good thing too. I wouldn’t have had the first clue where to start.

My first ever experience with comics was with a Manga book. And like many people– like the articles I so strongly disagree with now… At the time, I just assumed that American comics were only about superheroes.

A challenging tale that highlights the difference between lust and true love

The first manga I ever read was Chobits– by the 4 female mangakas CLAMP. I loved this unique story about a robotic female (called a persocom) named Chii whose vagina holds her on/off switch. The internal chip is located there so if someone makes love to her– the chip inside turns her off and wipes her memories.

When Hideki– the horniest of horn dogs (the subject of his vast porn collection is a focus in the first few volumes)– discovers a completely wiped Chii in the trash, he can’t believe his good luck and takes her home… Eventually falling in love.

But he doesn’t want to risk the possibility of Chii losing her memories again… So he resigns himself to never having sex with the woman he loves for the rest of his life. It’s a charming story about virginity… And the line between common lust and pure love.

The female artists of CLAMP created a challenging premise that moved me and really made me think. I’d never been exposed to a story like this before. The panel placement, the clever jokes, the stunning artwork. Chobits became an instant favorite of mine and spawned my love for comics. Wanting to experience more, I searched extensively until I found other great Manga titles like Gunsmith Cats and Battle Angel Alita.

And then, again, I was content to stay exactly where I was. Years and years would pass before I would come across an American comic book that would change me forever. That book was WE3–  a small masterpiece written by oft-praised Scottish comic messiah Grant Morrison.

As good as it gets

When I first saw this book on Amazon, I thought, “Hmmm… What in the world could this be about?”

What a joy it was to read– watching 3 captured animals used by the government attempt to escape back home. I literally shouted “Yes!” at the end of the first issue– when WE1 says: “We go home, home now.” Completely arrested by the spirit of the comic’s overall story,  I became hooked on Morrison’s other comics work. This eventually led to my reading Green Lantern, Batman and Superman.

Not too long after that,  I began reading Marvel comics too. By then, I was well into all type of comic book genres.

Which leads me back to my original question: WHY ARE PEOPLE SO INTENT ON COMPARING MANGA TO COMIC BOOKS?

Yes, Marvel and DC comics can get lost in their prolonged continuity and yes, Manga can get ridiculous with its “cute” or KAWAII random sense of humor… But why compare two things that are basically the same? Vertigo, Image– even Marvel’s Icon imprint– publish plenty of non-superhero related comics from such great writers as Brian Vaughn and Ed Brubaker… But no one is foolish enough to say those books aren’t comics.

The current Akira Reprint Series

Japanese comic legend Katshuiro Otomo (creator of AKIRA) has stated he found inspiration in some DC comics… And felt delighted when given the chance to write a short 8-page Batman story in the BATMAN: Black and White limited series.

Even more frustrating: The people commenting on this article all wrote things that proved they were as ignorant as the article’s authors.

My roommate is from Japan and was a comic reader back in the day. She confirmed the similarities for me. She even felt it foolish to compare Manga and American comics– as they are, again, the same thing.

As you can tell, I love the comics of America and Japan. Even France, the UK and other countries have some great titles.

But I feel no need to compare these two genres because really– it’s just wasting my time. Time better spent reading great books like 20th Century Boys or Daredevil and not noticing any difference.

Mike F is a citizen of the CCW*TV Nation– a regular poster on the CCW*TV Companion Blog. He reads comics because he wants to and obviously couldn’t care less if a comic was in color or black and white. While normally we would say a Guest Columnist’s views are exclusively his or her own… We totally agree with everything he’s written.

SAME BAT CHEST
“NEW” BAT SYMBOL

Jeez, irate fanboys-- it's not like DC's slapping a SWASTIKA on his chest! Relax!

Batman gets his yellow chest symbol back.

So let’s ALL have a GOOD CRY like the ADULTS we are… OK?

I’ll admit it. I grew up with Batman sporting a large yellow symbol on his chest. It never bothered me… Anymore than Robin running around in a skimpy red and green outfit bothered me. And if not for the yellow cape and the black diamond mask– everyone I knew thought Master Dick looked like one of Santa’s elves. The yellow oval was just Batman… and Batman always had that symbol on his chest.

The yellow symbol was on his chest in the Adam West Batman television reruns. It was on his chest in the comics.

Then one day, to shake things up a little (and to no doubt emulate Batman’s darker movie image)– somebody (or a group of somebodies… I doubt only one person was allowed to make this decision at DC Comics alone) decided that the yellow symbol had to go. That Batman would look more serious and more dangerous without this near neon yellow oval splattered across his chest.

In the end, they went with a larger stylized version of Batman creator Bob Kane’s original design.

And you know what? I immediately thought “Fine”. I didn’t have a stroke or suffer an emotional collapse… And I sure as hell didn’t go on the internet and type post after post about how this change in costume would ruin Batman’s credibility.

He’s already dressed like a FUCKING BAT, okay? It doesn’t take a change in his chest symbol to make him any more– or any less– INSANE.

Want to challenge me on this?

Then allow me to paraphrase a private conversation that I had with renowned former DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Dick Giordano. You will never meet a bigger fan of the Bat.

“What’s up with the yellow symbol on his chest?” I asked.

“Are you kidding?’ Dick asked back, half mockingly. “The yellow symbol is the cornerstone of Batman’s entire look. You gotta have the yellow symbol.”

“Why?”

“Cause it proves to all criminals– and all of Batman’s foes– that he’s insane. What sane person would run around fighting crime with a big yellow oval on his chest that screams ‘Here! Shoot me in the chest right here! I dare you!’ You gotta have the symbol.” Dick said again, pointing emphatically with both index fingers at the middle of his own huge barrel-shaped body.

For my money, Mr. Giordano was– and still is– right.

As he also noted, Batman wearing a yellow symbol is like Superman waking up one day and painting a red and white bullseye on his chest… Flying over to Lexcorp and daring Lex Luthor to shoot him in between the pecs with a kryptonite bullet.

I agree. You can’t get any crazier than being a masked crime fighter with no super powers– whose very life depends on his ability to hide in the shadows and sneak up on villains… Then inexplicably deciding to make his job 100 TIMES more dangerous by wearing a bright yellow symbol on his chest.

Oh wait, you CAN get crazier.

You can spend the last 24 hours typing your fingers into bloody stumps bitching that DC brought said iconic Bat Symbol back.

Now THAT’S insane!

Does this REALLY get your panties in a bunch? Then get a LIFE!


Since I am a 99.9% “Wait for the Hardcover or the Trade Paperback” kind of guy, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and let you know what I’m buying every week. Since people keep asking why I buy so many books every week, I expect all you floppy readers to tell me what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong… And I may even chime in on occasion and defend my choices. Not that a personal preference should need defending, mind you…

I might also point out why I am not buying some stuff as well… And the list may also generate a rant or expose a pet peeve… So watch out for that!

THIS WEEK’S HARDCOVERS, GRAPHIC NOVELS & MANGA

The titles in blue are either new items or items I decided against:

Adventures of Superboy Vol 1 HCI just stopped myself. Maybe next week ;-)
Big Book O’ Ditko This is going to sound horrible… I don’t like Ditko’s art
Bone Tall Tales – I got the softcover… CHEAPER!
Chew Vol 1 Omnivore HC – Own both already. Still couldn’t resist
Classic Transformers Vol 6
Daredevil The Devils Hand – What’s up, Andy Diggle?
Felix the Cats Greatest Comic Book Tails HC Torn again but my heart says, “COMIC BOOK REPRINTS… Uh, no.”
Final Crisis Revelations I own the hardcover already

Hey Dark Horse! Next time you charge $49.99 for a book-- reprint something that critics aren't calling "Boring"!

Flash Gordon Comic Book Archives Vol 1 HC Saw several reviews that called these “COMIC BOOK REPRINTS” boring!
Garth Ennis Battlefields Vol 5 The Firefly & His Majesty – I luv this series.
GI Joe Best of Scarlett
Invaders Eve of Destruction
Locke & Key Vol 3 Crown Of Shadows HC – I luv this series too!
Marvelman Classic Vol 1 HCAgain, maybe next week.
Myspace Dark Horse Presents Vol 5
Penny Arcade Vol 6 Halls Below
Siege Avengers Initiative HC
Star Trek Original Series Omnibus
Street Fighter Vol 6 Final Round
Team-Ups of the Brave and the Bold HC – What a weird title!
Ultimates II Ultimate Collection Oh Hell No!

Love the shout out! Thanks, Mike!

Unwritten Vol 2 Inside Man- Really? How could I resist? (I bought the first volume already. Loved it!)
Wolverine Dark Wolverine Vol 2 My Hero I own the hardcover already
X-Men Forever Vol 4 Devil in a White Dress- I guess

MANGA

Gossip Girl Manga Vol 1 – You damn well better believe I’m buying this! I’m MAD for MANGA!
Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys Vol 10 – Oh my!
Ooku Inner Chambers Vol 4

Some Additions:
Amy Devlin Mystery HC Vol 1 Past Lies (2nd Print)
Dorohedoro Vol 2
My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer (2nd Print)

I'm amazed that no one has figured out I'm Jodie Foster yet

MARK MILLAR, YOU INSULT ME

Millar, seen here briefly in Heaven-- discovering to his dismay that God is, in fact, a woman

MMM

Great EARLY Millar-- NOT to be confused with CURRENT Millar

Alright, let’s get the obvious kudos out-of-the-way. Like most everybody, I loved Millar’s Wanted (the comic, not the movie). Loved Superman: Red Son (although Grant Morrison seems to have some sort of creative issues with the work). Even liked American Jesus: Chosen (for the most part). If you’re wondering why I am so swiftly glossing over my Millar likes… It’s because THAT Mark Millar– the one who wrote THOSE comic books…

… Apparently he’s gone– and he ain’t coming back.

Instead we’re left with this full-of-shite Scotsman who seemingly doesn’t give a rat’s ass about crafting coherent stories and/or his own artistic credibility. He now seems to be a writer who favors bombast over innovation– shock over craftsmanship… And most disgustingly– he seems to TRULY HATE WOMEN.

And not just a little bit. He seems to HATE them a WHOLE LOT… So much so that Millar’s writing can leave one wondering if he spends some of his days just designing new ways to humiliate, abuse, rape, torture and murder them. I seriously don’t know what female Mark may think screwed him over (if any)… But it must’ve been an AWFULLY BIG SCREW (if it happened)– as he seemingly possesses no compunction in regards to his mammoth disdain toward the fairer sex.

PALPABLE HATRED

I keep using variations of the word “seems” because I freely admit I do not know Millar personally. I am also not Mark Millar, nor am I Mark Millar’s psychiatrist (if he has ever had one). I know nothing about the man other than what he has exposed in his interviews and his comic book scripts.

Fans of male rape fantasies and violence toward women? Boy, do I have a $24.99 book for you!

Yet I can tell you that I’ve never felt any stronger hatred directed toward women in mainstream comics than in Millar’s hideous scripts for the Ultimate Avengers: Next Generation hardcover. In his quest to make sure we understand just how vile a creature his version of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe Red Skull is– Millar pushes the disgust factor so far beyond the pale that he may find his career forever stained and beyond any serious critical acceptance. (To readers that care about such things, at least.)

Let me put this in a separate paragraph so you understand I mean “business”: Millar goes so far beyond the pale in his degradation and depiction of violence against women in this comic book– he may never redeem himself as a writer… In nay reader’s minds.

Millar affords the Red Skull scene after scene of violent behavior toward all types of foes– both imagined and real… But the writer seemingly can’t be satisfied with just amping up the story’s carnage quotient far past the “way more than necessary” mark. So he is absolutely certain we “get” that this Red Skull is one depraved fucker– Millar reserves the harshest bouts of villainous violence for the Skull’s female victim.

To summarize: The Skull forces a woman (the future Red Wasp) to murder her husband. He promises her that if she doesn’t commit this heinous act (with a pair of “old scissors” no less), he will kill her baby. But this being a Mark Millar Blockbuster Script™– the shock-a-minute fun house ride demeaning women doesn’t end there… For even as the woman successfully cuts her husband to bits– the Red Skull repays her by casually throwing her child out of a high-rise window anyway.

Just in case any reader might attempt to fantasize that a cool dude like Spider-man swings by off panel and catches the innocent tyke in mid-fall… Millar, penciler Carols Pacheco and colorist Justin Ponsor cut to an exterior view of the building on the next page– emphasizing a huge red blood stain on the white snow-covered sidewalk many floors below.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE BULLSHIT!

You’d think these actions would be more than enough to establish the Red Skull’s inhumanity, right? Well, Millar’s not done yet– as he forces readers to watch as the woman is pounced on by three of the Red Skull’s goons.

Nick exclaims "What the %@#&?" A sentiment many of us share with the former SHIELD leader after reading this hardcover.

With the ominous words “… And so began the longest night of that lady’s life” plastered over the next panel… A panel that inexplicably features a shot of an empty stairwell. What the fuck does an empty stairwell have to do with Millar’s allusions to a night of brutal rape and sodomy? Are we to believe something else was originally drawn in this panel– but eventually censored by Marvel?

Who knows?

Here’s what I do know: Being forced to digest this needless rape coda (after having already been subjected to page after page of this over-the-top violent mish-mash)– I couldn’t help but wonder exactly what sexual perversions Millar would have gleefully shown us in the next 6 to 8 pages if he owned Marvel Comics–  instead of just worked there.

Here’s a certainty: You’ll never find Millar’s wise ass grin (look up his silly photos in a Google image search) next to the word subtle in any dictionary.

The man either doesn’t know– or doesn’t care– to learn when to stop the violence. Not content to just pander to his reader’s most prurient interests, he makes certain to drive every one of his masochistic points home with a over-sized sledgehammer.

If you look back, you can see the roots of Millar’s seeming female dissatisfaction sprout in his original Ultimates series– as hardly any female character can prance (and I mean half-naked prance) through one of these earlier Ultimates comics without making certain that everyone within earshot knowing she was a sex hungry slut ready to taken on all perversions, as served by any gender.

It's all downhill from here...

At first, the overt sexualization of Marvel’s main heroes (albeit in an alternate universe) seemed ballsy and refreshingly direct. Unfortunately, it very quickly became apparent that Millar was a one suck pony. When these asshole versions of Marvel’s Mightiest weren’t sniping at each other or blatantly killing their enemies– they were banging each other’s brains out… Usually in male dominant– female supplicant– positions that were sure to appeal to the wet dreams of comicdom’s most adolescent pervs.

Believe me when I write that I am no prude. I have lived in Hollywood for a relatively long time. I’m an actor. I have been propositioned in every way imaginable in both personal and professional situations. Nothing shocks me now… And I find all this “real-life” predatory bullshit to be as boring and disgusting as the iron clad predictability of Millar’s current fictional attempts to shock us… From Kick Ass, to Nemesis, to the Ultimates.

The work now has a built-in yawn factor that begs the question, “Can Mark Millar write a comic book without relying on the same clichés?”

Unfortunately, his current Ultimate Avengers and Nemesis books seem to show emphatically that he can’t– or won’t– rise above his own formula… Which is truly sad, as it seemed he once had talent to spare.

Goodbye Mr. Millar… It seems we hardly knew ye. And what’s left, I want nothing to do with– at all.

(The preceding was simply an OPINION PIECE, reflecting MY OPINIONS on Mark Mllar’s comic book works… And just like assholes, it is my God-given right to have such opinions. My right to free speech and to form my own opinions guaranteed to me under the U.S. Constitution.)

Here are Jose Melendez and Elliott Serrano (founders of CCW*TV)– with their excellent reviews of Millar’s Ultimate Avengers #6 and Ultimate Avengers 2 #1 comic books (embedded with permission) below. If you haven’t seen this video yet, please watch it now. These two gentlemen can pick these issues– and the “issues” inside the issues– apart like nobody’s business!