Jul 31, 2010

Marvel to Bring Back CrossGen, and Why It's Awesome

It's been almost a week since SDCC ended, and I keep trying to sift through the news reports to see if there was anything I missed. I expected to be really busy this week giving my opinion on a bunch of newsbits, but I've come to the conclusion that barely anything worthwhile happened during SDCC in terms of comics news. There was a lot of movie talk and video game talk, but barely anything on the comics front. Dan Slott was announced as the new regular writer of Amazing Spider-Man, which I'm happy about, since I think Dan really gets Spider-Man, but he's also been writing a huge bulk of the Spider-Man stories for the last two years. Everything else - new releases, etc. - seems to be stuff that didn't really have to be unveiled at SDCC. On the whole, I feel like the Jack Kirby/Alex Ross/Kurt Busiek project announcement before SDCC was more exciting than most SDCC comics news. Combined.

(Still, I'd rather have no news than bad news.)

Having gotten that out of the way, there was one piece of news that did take me by surprise and make me smile, and that was the news that Marvel was going to revive CrossGen, which makes so much sense that I wonder why no one thought to do it before. CrossGen ran from 1998 to 2004, and

I wasn't seriously collecting comics when CrossGen came out in 1998 -- I was pretty relegated to Alan Moore's ABC stuff and the Kurt Busiek/George Perez Avengers run due to budget constraints, so I wasn't there to experience CrossGen in its glory days. But what I read about it back when it was coming out at the time and what I read by CrossGen later on, after it had already gone bankrupt, made me really think it was one of comics' greatest failures. If not for some bad business practices, it could have - and should have - done so much.

The thing that jumps out most about CrossGen is the diversity of genre. In order to avoid the confusion a shared universe brings, CrossGen properties were all set on different worlds; it didn't matter if the inhabitants of these worlds were all human in appearance or if it seemed like they all take place in different time periods. Ostensibly, it all took place on different worlds at the same time, with the only unifying element in the books being the sigil above, which one character in each book would have it and would then possess a power based on it.

The intricacies and dynamics of the CrossGen universe are too complex for me to completely outline here, so I'll just point you to the Wikipedia article, but because of the isolated nature of each book, you can enjoy the universe without actually enjoying it as a universe, per se. There are crossovers between the books, some subtle and some not so, but done in such a way that it doesn't matter if you follow the other books or not.

That having been said, let's look at some of the worlds. Most (and by most, I mean all but one) of the CrossGen issues I bought were drawn by George Perez,  which was what drew me to the property in the first place. I hear that Checker Books has come out with collections of CrossGen stuff, but I haven't been able to find them here.

The world of Avalon is the setting of Scion, the star of which is Ethan, the heir (hence the title) to the Heron Dynasty. The series is like a modern-day Camelot (hence the name of the world), full of swords and kingdoms and ships and battles. A very wonderful boys' comic in a time when the medium sorely needs the genre diversification.

Meridian takes place in the world of Demetria, in which there is a system of floating islands, since a bunch of land was elevated into the sky. The series follows Sephie, who has become minister of Meridian, and her attempts to learn how to use her powers with her new role. Once again, this is a comic that is appealing ostensibly for girls, but really anyone, and I think the fact that it's about magic in a fantasy setting is great for genre diversification.

Sigil is a science fiction space opera with spaceships, aliens, and big guns, and it takes place on the world of Delassia.

Mystic, taking place on the world of Ciress, is also about magic, and there could be something said about the fact that this also stars two girls, Genevieve and Giselle, and how the comics thus far with girls in them focus on magic, but in a market flooded with a bunch of male superheroes, surely two female-centric magic books doesn't count as flooding the market. In Mystic, sorcery is organized into many guilds. I recommend this issue of CrossGen Chronicles. It's really moving.

And then there's the planet Arcadia, where Detective Simon Archard and his apprentice, Emma Bishop, go through their adventures in Ruse. Folks, if you want to look at how diverse CrossGen's lineup was, just look at the list we've got so far: medieval fantasy, magical fantasy, science fiction space opera, another kind of magical fantasy, and now, a supernatural Sherlock Holmes. I've only read one issue of Ruse, but under Mark Waid and Butch Guice's pens, it was excellent and cried out for more.

And finally, there's Sojourn, for a time CrossGen's highest-grossing comic. On the planet Quin, the protagonist Arwen is sent to kill the sigil-bearer Mordath. It's about as straightforward a fantasy romp as you can get, with swords and fantastic McGuffins, except the main character is female. Perhaps that accounts for the wide readership?

So there you have a small sampling of what CrossGen had to offer, and what Marvel stands to bring back with CrossGen. Looking at the titles I described above, it's pretty even in terms of gender representation, and though there is a disproportion as it relates to the diversity of CrossGen's genres, one can't deny that it's still really diverse, and would again be welcome - very welcome - additions to the marketplace. Ships, swords, Victorian detectives, and bows and arrows? It would be such a great way to get girls (did this actually increase female readership at the time) and non-superhero fans into comics, and I really hope Marvel doesn't drop the ball on this one!

To close, here's a George Perez-drawn page for the unpublished Lady Death/Sojourn crossover, with inks by yours truly!

Jul 28, 2010

Comics Cube! Reviews: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

Last week, I went to the bookstore, and I bought myself a copy of Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by David Petersen.

The concept of Mouse Guard is simple. It's the fall of 1152, and mice are anthropomorphized and live in a fantasy setting that has (so far) no humans. So there's swords and castles and fighting, and the big giant monsters that would usually be dragons are animals that prey on mice, like snakes and crabs. The Mouse Guard defends the kingdom from such threats. This particular book takes place a couple of years after the Mouse Guard fought for the mice's freedom from the Weasel Warlord.

The plot, as it is, is pretty generic. The three mice on the cover - from left to right, Lieam (the young one), Kenzie (the leader), and Saxon (the angry one) - discover there's a traitor in the kingdom, and uncover a plot to overthrow their Queen Gwendolyn. Along the way, we learn the history of the kingdom and meet some more characters, including the Black Axe, the kingdom's greatest warrior.

That's the basic plot, but like a lot of fantasy stories, the plot isn't the point of the book. Rather, it's about building the world in which the story is taking place, so it's about giving us a sense of place, a sense of the Mouse Guard and how they work, and the threats they face. In this respect, the book is nothing short of wonderful. The introduction of the elements of this world is generally not heavy-handed with a ton of exposition; rather, it shows us the world in bits and pieces, discovering it as if we were actually visitors taking a selectively guided tour. Discovering little mundane things such as how mice get their supply of grain and how mice travel across a body of water (I won't spoil it for you) is the kind of tiny little touch that really authenticates the world-building that Petersen attempts to do. There are also oaths and proverbs, really giving shape and texture to the setting of Mouse Guard.

And there's the art, the gorgeous classicist art. This is some of the best art I've ever seen - fifty years from now, people will still think it's a well-drawn comic, much in the same vein as we see, say, Prince Valiant today and still think it looks pretty, even by modern standards. Petersen depicts the mice with just enough detail, while not too much, so as to facilitate quick reading and an easier interpretation of their emotions. Check out this page of the main team:

Meanwhile, any outside threats were depicted with full-on detail, showing their otherness and highlighting their ominous presence. Like I said, in a world where mice are the protagonists, the fictional monsters can be replaced with regular animals. This is one well-drawn snake that Lieam is facing off against:

I mean, when's the last time a snake actually looked threatening, in a comic book or any other medium?

And even in the event when exposition is absolutely necessary, Petersen transforms it into a calligraphic work of art, worthy of Todd Klein. It's stuff like this that makes the book worth reading and rereading. Heck, if you want, you can just look at the pretty pictures. It is seriously worth the money.

I also want to talk a bit about the production of this book. It's printed on high-quality paper, making the coloring really pop out, and the coloring is top-notch and not distracting, as you can see from the examples above. Moreover, the book is 8x8 instead of standard-sized, and I can't help but feel that maybe Petersen is anticipating the translation of this book on digital media. It's the type of comic that would fit on your computer screen, and I know this because I'm holding the book up to the monitor right now.  Doesn't take anything away from the book, and would enable any translations to digital media to be easier than most other comics.

If there's any complaint I can come up with in the book, it's that it's too short. I want more. I feel like the personalities of the characters are pretty one- or two-dimensional, mainly because there are so many of them to fit in in such a short time. As a result, the story ends too quickly and you end up wanting more elaboration and exploration of the characters themselves and perhaps more time devoted to the plot and implications and effects. In fact, in the original issues of Mouse Guard, the epilogue, depicting what happened after the big climax, was not shown. The epilogue (as well as things like a map of the kingdom) is exclusive to the collection, meaning that if you bought this in its original issues, it would build up to a big giant fight, then the big giant fight happens, and it would end, and... that's it. Not exactly a very satisfying conclusion.

I can forgive that, though, since it seems that the whole point is to set up the pieces for future use while giving a story enough to tell us what the characters are all about. I'm certain that more dimensions will be added to these characters in subsequent volumes, and I quite frankly can't wait to read them.

Now, some of you may think that the nature of the story - anthropomorphized mice in a fantasy setting - makes it a perfect comic for kids. Well, guess what? In 2008, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 as well as its sequel, Winter 1152, won the Eisner Award for Best Kids' Publication! So with that in mind, let's check in with the Comics Cube!'s Resident Kid, Tristan!

I showed Tristan some preview pages of Mouse Guard, and he was intrigued, as I was, by the fantasy setting. The fact that mice were the main characters didn't make him question the coolness of the book at all. After all, this is a kid who likes war stories about ancient times, so the subject matter really grabbed him. He was hooked by the middle of chapter 1 (the snake page up above), and commends the art, calling it, in as matter-of-fact a manner as possible, "Great." Moreover, Tristan says the world built by Petersen is full, rich, and believable, and felt, as much as I did, that he was a tourist visiting the world of Mouse Guard.

He was, however, a little disappointed with the story. He shares my same gripe in that it feels too short, but also feels that the reveal of the "traitor" was more or less anticlimactic. Still, he can't wait to read the sequel, and he understands that it's a world-building book. He's already rated it as his favorite comic book next to Jeff Smith's Bone.

Mouse Guard has a sequel, Winter 1152, and is also now coming out with Legends of the Guard, which showcases various members of the Guard in short stories by different creative teams, including the one and only Gene Ha and Jason Shawn Alexander. It was actually this that got Mouse Guard my attention. If it can attract all these artists, it must be worth looking at, and trust me, folks, it is.

Mouse Guard's Official Web site is here, while David Petersen's blog is here.

This may possibly be my best find of the year; if not, it's certainly up there. As such, I more than highly recommend it. If you like fantasy, if you have kids you want to get into comics, or if you just plain, flat-out like great art and a good story, this is the book for you. Like I said, decades from now, people will still think this is a beautiful piece of work.

Reclaiming History: Bill Finger, the Real Creator of Batman

Welcome to the first ever installment of Reclaiming History, an ongoing series where the Comics Cube! tries to balance out what the history books say and what actually happened! Click here for the archive!

Today, we reclaim history in favor of the late, great Bill Finger, whom the Comics Cube! recognizes as the actual creator of Batman!

What's that, you say? Everyone knows that Bob Kane created Batman? Yes, that's what everyone knows, and if I worked for DC Comics or published a Batman story, I would have to credit Bob Kane as the sole creator of Batman, which is a damn shame and a social sin, because the truth is that Bob Kane would have killed Batman if left to his own devices. Bill Finger is the man primarily responsible for Batman and his success, and the tragedy of it all is that he will never get the credit he deserves for it, ever. The company will never recognize it, because it is legally mandated that Bob Kane gets a sole byline for every single Batman product, ever.

So let's recount, okay? Bob Kane was tasked by DC Comics to create a new superhero to ride on the success of Superman. He comes up with the idea of a man inspired by a bat, calling him, logically enough, "Birdman." (This is a subject of debate. Some people think he came up with "Bat-Man," some with "Birdman.") So he comes up with this dork (picture courtesy of Cracked):

I'm sorry, but what the hell is that thing? Does he look particularly batlike to you? He looks like he's wearing chainmail. Most importantly, he looks like the type of character that not only would have been forgotten by the end of the Golden Age, but also that he wouldn't even be well-liked in the Golden Age. According to Jim Steranko's History of Comics, those tights are red.

Fortunately for all of us, Bob Kane had an assistant named Bill Finger (pronounced like "zinger," not "linger"), who then made a bunch of changes to Bob Kane's ridiculously stupid design. He suggested, among other things, a cowl and gloves. In short, he changed that giant dork up there to Batman:

Now, isn't that much better? And wouldn't, oh, I dunno, 71 years of success agree with me? Yes, yes it does.

So not only does Bill Finger, I'm sorry, create Batman's look; he also comes up with the name Bruce Wayne and the idea that Batman is a scientific detective! Under Kane's pen, Batman was just going to be yet another rich man who was a vigilante at night.  Gee, I wonder how many darts I'd have to throw on a poster of Golden Age heroes who fit that description.

Oh, wait, not many. HERE'S ONE NOW:

Hell, even Mr. Terrific in his earnest lameness is cooler than Bob Kane's "Batman".

Oh, wait, look, here's the Sandman, another rich guy by day, vigilante by night!

And how could we forget the pulp heroes? Here's Zorro!

And, of course, the Shadow!

So basically, Bob Kane wouldn't have even made "Batman" a generic character - he would have made him too lame to even be generic. Bill Finger saved the visual aspect of Batman, and then he proceeded to write a bunch of Batman's earliest adventures. Another writer, Gardner Fox, came up with the Batarang, the Bat-plane/Bat-gyro, and, purportedly, the utility belt (though I'm willing to give that last one to Kane, given his original sketch), and Finger came up with the Batcave, the Batmobile, and Gotham City.

Bob Kane did indeed draw the early Batman stories, which no one disputes. But wait, did he "draw" or "trace"? For that information, we'll turn to Robby Reed, at Dial B for Blog.

Yeah, I'm going with "traced." That example is just one of many, and there is a good amount of evidence that Bob Kane was a swipe artist that puts Rob Liefeld to shame. And actually, Finger's not off the hook either - as the Professor pointed out before, many of the original Batman stories were direct swipes of The Shadow stories, including the first-ever Batman story. So basically, in the entire first Batman stories, if the stories weren't original, and the actual art wasn't original, what was?

That's right. The costume and the trappings - and Bill Finger was the one most responsible for it. Not Bob Kane.

Of course, Bob Kane doesn't acknowledge this - like a shrewd businessman, he quickly signed away all rights to Batman to DC in exchange for monetary compensation on every Batman product ever and a solitary byline. No one else can share this byline with him, and in fact, Jerry Robinson (who is like Bill Finger as it relates to the Joker, in that it's yet another thing where Bob Kane decides to take the credit) says, "I felt that I was part of a team. Unfortunately Bob did not feel that way, most of all with Bill. He should have credited Bill as co-creator, because I know; I was there. The Joker was my creation, and Bill wrote the first Joker story from my concept. Bill created all of the other characters... Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman. He was very innovative. The slogans, the Dynamic Duo and Gotham City -- it was all Bill Finger." (Credit: Dial B for Blog) By all accounts, Finger also came up with the "Dark Knight" moniker. And those gigantic props that were a trademark of early Batman stories? Finger came up with those too.

So basically, Bill Finger slaved away on the character you all know and you all love - the character that you read every week in comics, that you've seen in so many successful cartoons, that you've seen in many successful movies - while living on a paycheck and dying in obscurity and poverty, only to be given credit when the mountain of evidence against Kane was insurmountable.

Meanwhile, Bob Kane raked in millions and millions for all of Bill Finger's work, and on his grave, he's celebrated for having walked in the light of a higher power.

“Robert Kane aka Bob Kane -- GOD bestowed a dream upon Bob Kane, Blessed with divine inspiration and a rich imagination, Bob created a legacy known as BATMAN. Introduced in a May 1939 comic book, Batman grew from a tiny acorn into an American Icon. A ‘Hand of God’ creation, Batman and his world personify the eternal struggle of good versus evil, with GOD's laws prevailing in the end. Bob Kane, Bruce Wayne, Batman -- they are one and the same. Bob infused his dual identity character with his own attributes: goodness, kindness, compassion, sensitivity, generosity, intelligence, integrity, courage, purity of spirit, a love of all mankind. Batman is known as the ‘Dark Knight,’ but through his deeds he walks in the light of a higher power, as did his creator -- Bob Kane!"

You know, I talk on this blog a lot about the injustices done in the comics industry. There's the fact that Superman's creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, lived in poverty after DC bought Superman from them. There's all the problems Gene Colan is having now that could have all been avoided if the corporations were kind enough to recognize his work, and there's the issue with Jack Kirby's heirs and their want of recognition for the stuff Kirby did, and of course I talk a whole awful lot about how Steve Ditko deserves most of the credit for Spider-Man. There's, of course, all the recent crap surrounding Alan Moore and Watchmen. And you know, it's one thing for a corporation to screw the artists out of their rightful credit - it's dirty, it's measly, and it's ridiculous, but you expect it, because corporations are about profit-maximization, and you know they're dirty. But when an artist screws another fellow artist out of his proper credit? That's something else. It's a whole different level of baseness and ego-tripping. Even Stan Lee conceded eventually that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were the rightful co-creators of the Marvel Universe. All Kane gave Finger eventually - after years of hiding behind false excuses like "I was inspired by Zorro" - was the acknowledgment that Finger did a lot of work on Batman. No co-creator credits, nothing.

Bill Finger did eventually get credit for creating Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, with Martin Nodell, which may explain why Alan Scott also operates in Gotham City, but Green Lantern, famous as he is, isn't Batman or anywhere near close to him.

The Will Eisner Awards inducted Bill Finger into their Hall of Fame in 1999, the same year they inducted Jack Cole, Murphy Anderson, Art Spiegelman, Mac Raboy, and Gardner Fox (another guy Kane didn't give credit to), among others. And in 2005, the Eisner Awards established the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing, to celebrate, each year, two comic book writers, one alive and one deceased, who didn't get the credit they deserved.

Perhaps the most telling thing about Bill Finger's career is the fact that "I don't want to get Fingered," has become a quotable quote for any creator to tell an editor, when he feels as if he's not getting due credit.

In an industry where the higher-ups and some artists seem to have the exact opposite values of those of the characters they espouse, Bill Finger did his job humbly and created stories to thrill us for a lifetime. He never asked for the credit that he didn't get, and he must have believed that he would have gotten it eventually. He did work for us, the fans, and even if he'll never get the credit he deserves because legal mandate prohibits it so, we fans, we who love the character of Batman and all the values he embodies, should know the truth.

Long live Bill Finger, the real creator of Batman.

Easter Eggs in Comics: The Dark Knight in Spider-Man

Welcome to another installment of Easter Eggs in Comics! Click here for the archive!

In Amazing Spider-Man #411 by Tom DeFalco and Mark Bagley, near the end of the infamous Clone Saga, then-Spider-Man Ben Reilly stopped a fairly familiar-looking mugging from happening:

You gotta love how the Bruce Wayne substitute is wearing a Batman shirt!

Jul 27, 2010

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Jul 25, 2010

Get Off Alan Moore's Case!

I'm honestly getting sick of talking about the Alan Moore/DC thing. Unless something big happens, this will be my last defense of the Bard.

Alan Moore in The Simpsons: Husbands and Knives.

At the DC Nation panel at Comic-Con, Ian Sattler was asked if there were any plans to use the Watchmen characters, to which Sattler refused to comment. I really think one is coming, folks.

But what I'm even more angry about is the sheer blatant disrespect of some comic book fans to Moore, which I've generally outlined here. It's honestly disgusting how many fans are on his case because they feel that they deserve stuff from him.

Folks, Moore has been coming out with stuff nonstop since 1978. If you want work by Moore, it's easy to find - there's probably a lot from back in the day that you haven't even read yet. There is no shortage.

But then I get comments like this. I won't name names, but I will cite that it's from Robot6.

How come so many other creators are able to work with the big two? They realise that comics is a business. In life sometimes you have to compromise. Moore won't and hasn't. He has to hold on to his precious moral values, and the result is that the fans, and other creators he works with, suffer.
It's incredibly selfish of him, to value his principles over the benefit of others.

It's one of the most egocentric, shortsighted, and selfish responses to the matter I've ever seen.  Here was my response.
Yes, it's incredibly selfish of him to think of himself instead of fans want him to do! For shame that he should live his life in such a way that HE'S comfortable, that HE'S happy! It has to be in accordance to what the fans want!

The creators he has worked with have NEVER suffered, ever. Why do you think he went on to continue ABC even when Wildstorm was bought by DC? So he wouldn't screw over his artists. And for shame that he should turn down the movie royalties and HAVE HIS SHARE FORWARDED TO THE ARTISTS. The creators SURE suffer!

If people want to work with Alan Moore, there are many opportunities, as there have always been, because Alan Moore doesn't just write superheroes. But that's the thing - there are a bunch of you folks who aren't Alan Moore fans; you're superhero fans who just happen to like the way Alan Moore does them, and you think he's wasting his time doing stuff that he wants to write (a highly enviable position in life) instead of writing what YOU want him to write. If he'd followed that line of thinking, we would have never had From Hell. We would have never had Promethea. We would have never had Lost Girls. We would have never had Jack B. Quick. We would have never had Big Numbers.

Moore keeps doing comics and not just comics, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy his work and work with him. But you're all miffed because he won't do Watchmen sequels or prequels. Because he won't live his life according to YOUR dictates.

Fan entitlement, as said by a poster above, is a huge disease. We're not entitled to anything and Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison and Mark Waid and James Robinson and Garth Ennis and Steve Ditko and whoever else aren't obliged to give us what we continually clamor for. They should write what they want to write, and let it find its audience, instead of producing work specifically suited to the tastes of a bunch of fans who can't seem to appreciate the fact that writers have their own wishes and their own desires. That, my friend, is the very definition of hack work.

While it MAY be selfish of Moore to withhold this from his fans (it's not, in my opinion), it's far more selfish of fans to be pissy about it, because Moore won't write in accordance to their demands.

Honestly, it is mind-boggling to me how superhero fans, who grew up on the values espoused by Superman or Spider-Man or Batman, can be so incredibly corporation-biased when it comes to creator's rights. An incredible and disgusting sense of fan entitlement - "I like Watchmen, there should be more stuff! How dare Moore create a new underground British comic that entertains and provides something new on the market? He should be writing about the glory days of Rorschach and Nite Owl, damn it!" - is a disgusting disease. I imagine these same people are cursing Bill Watterson for not doing any Calvin and Hobbes comics.

On another discussion board, someone said Moore should be the bigger man. Pol Rua stepped up and provided the following response:

When he first signed the deal with DC, it was agreed that rights would revert after the book was out of print for 12 months. 24 years later, DC has not let print runs of Watchmen ever go out of print.
Alan Moore was the better man and said, what the hell, that's business.

When DC made money of Watchmen merchandise - posters, badges and whatnot, Moore, Gibbons and Higgins asked that they be given a share of these profits. DC claimed that the items (which were being sold) were 'promotional materials' and therefore the creators were not entitled to a share of profits.
Alan Moore was the better man, and didn't push the issue.

When DC bought up Wildstorm Publications (chiefly in order to obtain the publishing rights to Moore's ABC line), Moore could have just screwed over his co-workers like Rick Veitch, Jim Baikie, Chris Sprouse, Kevin O'Neill et. al. and pulled out of the deal altogether...
But Alan Moore was the better man, and once arrangements were made, he went back to work making money for DC.

When DC went back on their agreement not to interfere with the running of the ABC line by pulping issues of 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' and censoring a 'Cobweb' story in 'Tomorrow Stories'...
Alan Moore was the better man, and kept working for DC.

When he was accused of conspiring to rip off another writer's work and passing it off as his own with the 'LXG' trial, he was annoyed that DC/Warners settled the case, which he saw as an admission of guilt (partly on his behalf).
Alan Moore was the better man, and continued working for DC.

When he asked DC editorial to arrange for his name to be taken off future film projects involving his work, and they refused point-blank to do so until he was forced to go over their heads to get it done...
Alan Moore was the better man, and continued to work for DC.

It wasn't until Joel Silver lied in print about Moore's contribution to the 'V for Vendetta' film and DC Editorial refused to contact Warner Brothers and seek a public retraction on his behalf that he severed ties with the company for good, and even then...
Alan Moore was the better man, and agreed to produce the work he had been contracted to do before taking his property elsewhere.

Yeah, he's an absolute prick all right. What an unreasonable bastard!

I'm exasperated at this whole mess, and I'm unbelievably annoyed at so many comic book fans who will put their desires over a plain and simple issue of respecting the creators who gave you the stuff you enjoyed in the first place. Go read some Big Numbers. Go read some Top Ten. Go read some League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Oh, wait, here's a better idea - you want a Watchmen sequel? Make it yourself. Channel those hostile energies you're putting into bitching and complaining and try making one yourself. It will probably be better for you.

Congratulations to The Bill Finger and Eisner Hall of Fame Awards Winners!

The Eisner Awards have come and gone, but I'm happy to say that the recipients of the Bill Finger Award for Achievement in Comic Book Writing and the Hall of Fame Class of 2010 made me smile as it was coming up live on Newsarama. I figure I'd give a brief history lesson here for each of the inductees.

The Bill Finger Award for Achievement in Comic Book Writing is given yearly to two writers - one living and one deceased -in honor of the late, great Bill Finger - more on him tomorrow.

The first recipient of the Bill Finger Award this year was the late Otto Binder, and chances are you've never heard of him. Binder was the lead writer of Captain Marvel Adventures in the Golden Age, and of course, as I've said many times on this blog before, Captain Marvel was quite probably the most successful property of the Golden Age. Binder wrote over half of the entire Marvel Family saga, and created a lot of the famous Marvel Family characters, such as Mary Marvel, Uncle Dudley, Tawky Tawny, Black Adam, and Mr. Mind. That also makes him the writer of the original "Monster Society of Evil" saga, which is the first long-running storyline in comic books. There weren't many properties back then with such a diverse world - only Carl Barks' work on Donald Duck was as prolific.

Later on, Binder wrote Superman and created, among other things, Jimmy Olsen's signal watch, Lucy Lane, Krypto the Superdog, and, oh yeah - Supergirl.

Otto Binder was one of the true most influential forces in comics.

Gary Friedrich wrote a bunch of comics and even won an Alley Award for his work on Sgt. Rock and the Howling Commandos! But he'd probably be best known (as well known as a Bill Finger Award recipient could be, at least) as one of the co-creators of Ghost Rider. Though there's some disagreement as to who between him and Mike Ploog actually came up with the idea of the flaming skull head, Ghost Rider was a huge property in the 70s and 90s - when it even had spinoffs such as Johnny Blaze's own series. Only someone who grew up in the 70s can tell me for sure how huge Ghost Rider actually was. How about it, folks? (That's an invitation to leave a comment.)

Congratulations to Binder and Friedrich for well-deserved recognition!

The Hall of Fame Class of 2010 was headlined by two judges' choice awards. The first one was Burne Hogarth, known mainly for his work on the Tarzan newspaper strip of the Golden Age:

As well as for his very influential handbook, Dynamic Figure Drawing:

The other judges' choice for the Hall of Fame this year was Bob Montana, which made me wonder what in the world took so long? Bob Montana was the creator of Archie.

And I know Archie tends to get a bad rap, like it's not "really" comics, or it's too "stupid," or whatever, but the plain and simple fact is that Archie Comics has entertained people of all ages for the last seventy years while remaining largely unchanged. It's gone through a bunch of surface changes, but the storytelling style and general effect is the same as it was when Bob Montana was drawing it! Who else can say that? It's an achievement is what it is.

The awards then moved on to those elected into the Hall of Fame this year. The first one elected was Steve Gerber, master writer of a bunch of cult hits, most notably Howard the Duck, which is much, much better than its movie version. It's subversive and fun, and Gerber was treated for it in such a way that would actually make him eligible for the Finger Award. Howard the Duck had such a satirical bite and a strong cult following that he was actually a mock candidate in the 1976 Presidential Elections - the first after Watergate.

Here's a video of his campaign press kit.

The second elected inductee was someone who means a lot to me, and that's Dick Giordano. I said everything I could about Giordano in my eulogy for him here, so I won't repeat it. Instead, I'll just repost what I've always thought was the perfect splash page.

The third elected inductee was Michael Kaluta, a very elaborate comics artist who isn't as prolific as some of these other inductees, but yes, his work is gorgeous. He's known for his cover work, as well as his work on some 70s horror titles. (Neil Gaiman fans will be interested to know that he created Eve, the horror comic host who became a regular Sandman character.) Still, he's likely best known for his work on The Shadow, reviving the pulp hero for DC Comics in the 70s and Marvel Comics in the 80s.

The final elected inductee was Mort Weisinger, who co-created both Aquaman and Green Arrow, but is most well-known for being the main editor of the Superman comics at the time Otto Binder was writing it. His tenure as editor saw the introduction of many concepts (many of them by Otto Binder), including Supergirl, Krypto, the Phantom Zone, and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

It is under the editorial tenure of Weisinger that the trappings that made Superman one of my favorite superheroes emerged. For someone like me, who grew up on John Byrne's very serious take on Superman (where Superman had telekinetic powers when he was flying, and he needed an oxygen mask in space), discovering the Silver Age version was like a doorway into a much greater fantasy land. Superman could fly in space! He had all these friends who could fly in space! He could create robots! He had a home in the Arctic that he could open with a big giant key! He had a city in a bottle! He had a pet dog who could also fly! Weisinger's run on Superman always was a highlight for me - Superhero comics should be fun, and I'll always thank Binder and Weisinger for all these rich concepts that made it so that Superman was more than just a guy who could punch really hard. It was evocative of a very strong sense of wonder.


Batwoman and Asterios Polyp Dominate the Eisner Awards, and Congratulations to the Eisners!

Congratulations to all the Eisner Award winners! I haven't read all of the work, nor am I even familiar with a lot of them, but I'm sure everyone was deserving.

First off, I want to congratulate the Eisners as well for getting A Contract With God optioned for a major motion picture deal. Most blog readers know I'm not a movie buff and am even moreso not a comic book movie buff, but I can't help but feel happy for the Eisner family and for the spirit (no pun intended) of the late, great Will Eisner - if it gets them a level of financial comfort and stability, I raise my glass and toast to them. Congratulations, folks.

The Eisner Awards were dominated by two works: JH Williams' run on Detective Comics featuring Batwoman and David Mazzucchelli's OGN, Asterios Polyp. I have every issue of one and have the other on reserve, to be bought this coming week.

The best coloring award was taken by Dave Stewart, who definitely deserves it. Of all the nominees, he handled the largest number of comics, including Detective Comics. This was the one award David Mazzucchelli was nominated for in which he lost.

The best penciller/inker or best penciller/inker team went to J.H. Williams III, again for Batwoman. Not very surprising - Jim's able to mix multiple styles all on one page and mix them with an impeccable sense of design.

The best cover artist also went to J.H. Williams III, for his innovative work on the covers for Detective Comics.

Trust me, folks. Batwoman is a visual treat. The story's solid as well, and it makes Kate Kane one of the most fully formed characters in comics. I'd highly recommend the Batwoman: Elegy deluxe hardcover. Well worth the price.

And I'm excited about JH helming her new ongoing series, to come out in a few months.

Meanwhile, the best writer/artist, best lettering, and best new graphic album awards all went to David Mazzucchelli. Only Dave Stewart's victory prevented a straight sweep.

I have this book on reserve, to be picked up at Fully Booked later this week. I couldn't wait to read it before, and can wait even less now. I'll be sure to have a review when I'm done.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Jul 23, 2010

Westboro Baptist Church vs. Comics Fans

As stated previously on the Comics Cube!, Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church (the God Hates Fags people) decided to protest San Diego Comic-Con, on the grounds that SDCC is a haven for idol worshippers and people who are going to hell. This is a damn hateful group of people, folks, and they're not cool. Here they are:

And how did the comics fans respond? The only way they can.

Courtesy of Bleeding Cool and the Comics Alliance, here are some pictures.

Superman's for everyone, after all!

To finish this off, here's an interview with Gail Simone!

The Westboro Baptist Church preaches a message of hate, folks. At SDCC, they ran across some folks connected by a genuine love for their hobby, and they disappeared and went away.

Sometimes (as in my previous post) I can get really angry at comic book fans, but times like these, I'm proud to be one, and I wish I could've been there.