Jul 30, 2012

Why Is This Tigra Comic Under Your Mattress?

Why Is This Tigra Comic Under Your Mattress?
Back Issue Ben
Ben Smith

Chris Claremont and John Byrne are one of the more storied creative teams in comic book history. Their work on X-Men in the late 70s and early 80s would influence that franchise, and even the entire Marvel universe, up until this very day. What you might now know is their work before that, on books like IRON FIST and here on MARVEL TEAM-UP. This time, I'm going to focus on issue #67 of MARVEL TEAM-UP, guest-starring Tigra. I never was a big fan of Tigra as a youngling, but it's not hard to see the appeal of the character. She's basically a sexy cat-lady that runs around only wearing a bikini at all the time. Don't worry, Batman; the case is solved. She also happens to be a really interesting character too, and this is one of her early appearances.

Let's take a look, shall we?

Jul 28, 2012

It's Not About "Dark," Damn It

In less than 48 hours, I'm going to be seeing The Dark Knight Rises. I'm not a fan of Nolan's Batman by any means, so I'm basically seeing it for completist purposes. I've seen the first two in theaters, and I just want to satisfy my curiosity. Plus, after the way I loved Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man, I feel like this has been the best year for superhero movies thus far and I'm hoping to get lucky with this one. Maybe I'll like it.

But what I'd like to talk about right now are my reasons for not being a fan of the Nolan Batmans, and how that ties into a larger issue I have with comic books and comic-book movies. I've frequently seen my argument against these movies be dismissed with "You don't like it because it's too dark," especially in light of my championing a movie like Avengers. That's reductive at best, and is ridiculous. It's not about "dark," and it never was. You know what my favorite comic book movie pre-Thor was?

That's right. It was The Crow. You know, that movie where Eric Draven comes back from the dead to avenge his murder and the murder/rape of his girlfriend by killing everyone involved? Really, roses and puppies, that movie is.

Hey, know what one of my favorite comics in recent years is?

CRIMINAL by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. A noir comic. And if you know about noir, you know going in that things do not end on a bright note, pretty much at any time.

All this goes to say, I'm sick of my argument against the Nolanverse being reduced to "It's dark." That's not my argument. It never was. So what is my problem with them?

I can't buy into them. And before I get into that, I just want to get this out of the way. Look, I'm not the type of comic book fan that judges the movies based on their adherence to the details of the comics. If I were, I'd hate... well, everything. No, I don't even judge comics based on their strict adherence to continuity, so why would I judge comic book movies that way? These heroes are serialized characters, and they're open to a variety of interpretations.

So I really only judge superhero movies by two things: (1) how much they capture the spirit and the magic of the character, and (2) how little it takes me out of the story, which is to say how much it gets me immersed in what I'm watching and how long it keeps me there.

The first criterion is important when watching these movies for the first time, but is less important in subsequent viewings (basically, the novelty gets lost. If you find a superhero movie where the "magic" stays on after 10 viewings, please tell me. Also, I've only seen Avengers four times.). The second is just important to watching any movie, period. Now, you can make up for the lack of the second criterion with an influx of the first (prime example that was pointed out to me earlier today: there's no way that T-Rex in Jurassic Park should have gotten into that building, but it's too awesome not to do), but overall, especially on rewatching, if you don't fulfill the second criterion, you're just taking us out of the story.

And that's where I stand with Nolan's Batmans. I can't get into the story, pretty much at all.

In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne spends over an hour of our movie time training to be a ninja. He practices all these ninja moves, but when he becomes Batman, what does he do? Put on the most constricting mobility-hindering suit possible.

I know it's an aesthetic gripe. I'm aware of that. But it's a big glaring plot hole, and it's constantly there on the screen. The annoying thing is that Nolan's first film is filled to the brim with great actors who deliver equally great performances (except for Katie Holmes), but the suit is right there, calling attention to itself. You're supposed to find this man frightening, but nothing about him is frightening. He's in a Halloween suit. He can't turn his neck. The entire movie spends so much time establishing how "grounded" and "realistic" it is, but the very way Batman is presented is "realistic" in a Hollywood point of view, which is not at all "believable," but more "not fantastic." It wouldn't even be so glaring if Jim Gordon didn't get so much screen time. How is who's supposed to be the world's most perfect human wearing body armor from head to toe while the old policeman next to him is only wearing a bulletproof vest?

Seriously, I rewatched Batman Begins recently and actually thought it was pretty good, up till the point that he put the suit on, and then it was done. I was taken out of the story, and I couldn't get back in to the story.

"But Duy," you ask, "as you say, you can make up for lack of tightness in the story if it captures the magic. Didn't it do that for you? After all, Batman had a bunch of gadgets and a cool tank."

Well, no, frankly, it didn't do that for me, and that's the part where my comic prejudices come into play. Batman is many things, and surely, being "Mr. Gadgets" is a fair interpretation, but it's not mine. To me, Batman was made cool by the fact that he had a keen detective mind (barely present in Begins) and was the world's best physical specimen, the DC Universe's answer to Captain America.

To me, the gadgets don't make Batman cool; it's the other way around. They're cool because Batman uses them. But that's not the case with Bat-Bale, who is so reliant upon all his gadgets. And again, that's fair if you like that interpretation of Batman, but considering that he spent over an hour of movie time learning how to be a fighting machine, I don't think you can blame me for being disappointed that he eschewed it for the chance to be James Bond with gadgets.

The Dark Knight was even worse, because in addition to all of that, he would continually lose in it. The first scene he's in, he gets bitten by a dog. Hardly a challenge for the Caped Crusader. The final scene he's in, he falls two stories and gets knocked out, despite his heavy body armor (funnily enough, if he didn't have that heavy body armor, he'd have been able to right himself). There's just nothing spectacular about this Batman beyond his gadgets, and I just find the overreliance on gadgets and weapons kinda lame. So to me, he doesn't fit criterion 1 at all — much less so when you consider that Captain America would come out next year.

But what about criterion 2? Look, I've never seen The Dark Knight again, but I remember two things about it right off the bat whenever anyone asks me what I think of it, and one of them is the big plot hole in the middle, where Gordon fakes his death, then Batman chases the Joker around Gothamm, intentionally crashes his bike, intentionally knocks himself unconscious (which he wouldn't have to, if he were wearing Captain America style clothing and were able to you know, right himself), so that Joker comes this close to killing him, so Gordon could reveal that he didn't die, and pull a gun on Joker int he nick of time, thus saving Batman. But no, this was all a plan! Honest!

It's just things like this that continually take me out of the story, and if I'm not able to immerse myself in the story, I can't say I'm a fan of it, can I? Nolan just asks us to take the movie too seriously, but I think superheroes are inherently absurd. For further explanation, let's go to David Mazzucchelli, from his BATMAN: YEAR ONE afterword.

(By the way, I actually did like Dark Knight the first time. The second thing I remember about it is Heath Ledger's performance, which was transcendent and amazing. Then again, it's probably a bad sign that the first two things I think of are plot holes and the villain.)

When I've said this to people, I've often received the defense of "Well, what do you expect? It's a superhero movie." But I think that's unfair to superhero movies. Why should we hold them to a lower standard because they're superhero movies? They should still be logical as they're presented to us, with the world and the characters and their actions being congruous with each other. You can present to me the most unrealistic scenario, and as long as it's in line with the world that's been presented to us and I can empathize with the characters' actions and reactions, as long as the events have sound progressive logic to them, I would buy into the movie. Nolan's Batman doesn't do that. (For the record, I think the best explanation I've ever seen regarding this was specifically that it was absurd and the disconnect between the Bat-elements and the grounded setting really highlighted the former. Great if you can see the blatant absurdity as a positive, but I just find it difficult to do because I think Nolan's trying too hard to ask us to see it as anything but. It's all about perceptions.)

Not for me, anyway. I'm mainly writing this because I hate telling people that I don't like Nolan's Batman and being greeted with reactions like "GASP! Heathen! How dare you!" All I'm saying is that it hits my suspension of disbelief threshold too much. That's a threshold that's different for everyone, and I'm not saying anyone's wrong for liking them. I'm saying I don't.

(Also, I'm saying the first two were lame. They just didn't get any of the magic of the superheroes. Well, I guess they do if you like Bat-Gadget-Man.)

Now, having gotten that out of the way, I just want to get something else out of the way. So be warned; I'm putting my rant hat on. 

I'm sick of praises for this movie being phrased to bash Avengers, or any of the Marvel movies in particular. I was pointed to a review saying how it was a contrast to "Marvel's witty, slickly-produced spectacles," with "witty, slickly-produced spectacles" being used as a negative. Last week, someone said "Dark Knight Rises makes Avengers look like a kiddie film!" AVENGERS IS A KID-FRIENDLY FILM! Why is that a bad thing? But what really gets me is the ones that attack Avengers and the Marvel movies for not being substantial, whereas the Nolan Batfilms are thought-provoking. Avengers was a movie about hope and heart and heroism. It's SUPPOSED to be primal and idealistic. It's not supposed to make you think; it's supposed to speak to your gut and make you feel the goodness from a most basic level. Why does something have to try to say something deep or meaningful about "society" in order to be good? I like deep, dark, things as long as they're well-crafted, but it seems to me that people tend to automatically give points for something just by being dark and subtract points for something when they're not. Seriously well-done, well-crafted things that appeal to both children and adults is so underrated from an artistic level, as if they're somehow "less" because they don't deal with a deeper theme, that they choose to focus on uplifting themes. Is this the world we live in?

Oh no! Tom "Loki" Hiddleston likes the fact
that kids watched Avengers! Doesn't he know
superheroes are serious business??

Now, having said all that, I like variety in my entertainment, and the older I get, the more eclectic my tastes get. I'm still going to see The Dark Knight Rises on Sunday. The completist in me wants to see it, and I don't give in to him very often, so I'm going to see it. I'm a comic book fan, and I love LIFE WITH ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE and I love CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT, two stories with the same premise and two completely different tones and directions. So I feel like there's room in this world for both a dark Batman movie and an uplifting movie like Avengers (though, if you were to ask me, given Hollywood's copycat nature, I know which one I want them to ape going forward). 

And make no mistake about it, I want to like this movie; I don't buy things or tickets to things that I don't want to like. But I wanted to get that clear to you guys before I saw it: I didn't like the first two, I know what I'm getting into, and thus I'm waiving my right to complain about this one on the Cube if I end up not liking it. If I do like it, well, expect me to write something about it. 

But if I don't like it, well, you should know: it has nothing to do with it being "dark," and it never did.

Jul 27, 2012

The Craft: An Interview with Alan Moore by Daniel Whiston

I got this interview a few years ago on the Engine Comics website. It's entitled "The Craft," and was conducted in two part by Daniel Whiston in 2002. The interview is with Alan Moore, and he talks about many of the technical aspects of comics, how he approaches his craft, his working method, and a variety of other subjects. I thought it was a fascinating read back then, and since it's available in its entirety only on another website now, one that isn't a comics website or even mostly in English, I figured I'd post it here.

Nothing from this point on is mine, other than the placement of the pictures within the text. I also removed some pictures from the original interview, because, I, uh, forgot what they were supposed to be. Also, a bunch of the links at the end are dead, there. I figured I'd keep them in for the sake of full replication. But generally, the misspellings, wrong punctuation, all that stuff — not mine. (I think Alan meant "World Tree" and not "World Three," by the way.)

ABOVE: Photo by José Villarrubia

Jul 26, 2012

She Is Screaming in the Shower: The Perfect Reboot: How to Bring a Comic Book Publisher into the 21st Century

She Is Screaming in the Shower is a column written by Robert Leichsenring for The Comics Cube! Click here for the archives!

(Note from Duy: Robert's thoughts do not necessarily reflect mine. They don't necessarily not reflect mine either. This article also features Photoshopped images done by Paul Cornish! Everyone go thank him for his work once this is done.)

The Perfect Reboot: How to Bring a Comic Book Publisher into the 21st Century
by Robert Leichsenring

Ave, friends. It is me again. And I brought you pwesents.
Actually, no did not. Germans don't give away stuff for free. Ask Greece.

But I'm here for a new installment of your favorite shower-screaming extravaganza. And an extravaganza it is as our beloved Paul Cornish (check his blogs, they're awesome) has provided me with some unique covers to put a cherry on top of this cream of an article.

Today's madness is centered around the perfect reboot, and how you could use it as a gateway to transform your company in answer to the challenges of the new millennium.

We have seen it couple of times. Reboots, relaunches, renumbering, and whatever else you can do with the prefix "re-." DC is a master at this . . . and by master I mean a 3-year-old with pencils and a printing press. So let's just take their reboot from last year and see if we cannot make it better.

So, where to start?

We already have a bad crossover, FLASHPOINT, to introduce our new status quo. And with the finish of this we have a whole new universe to launch, and enough time to do everything right.

But what are the challenges for publishers today?
  1. Decreasing revenue due to dropping buyers interest and lower sales
  2. Quality decline in story and art
  3. The challenge of online piracy and the digital market
  4. Accessibility for new readers
  5. Gaining new readers
Those points need to be addressed for a publisher to make the transition into the digital age and especially to gain access to new customers, who are naturally intertwined with today's informational technology.

Let's do this.

Jul 25, 2012

Easter Eggs: Clark Kent Visits the Daily Bugle!

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

In MARVEL TEAM-UP #79, dated March 1978, the not-yet-legendary-but-soon-would-be X-Men team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne teamed up Spider-Man with Red Sonja, She-Devil with a Sword!

An early scene sees Peter Parker walking into the offices of the Daily Bugle, with Superman in his mild-mannered persona as Clark Kent dropping by for a visit.

"Mild-mannered reporter" is a classic phrase associated with Superman, and Robbie Robertson's reference to a "metropolitan TV network" refers to Metropolis' WGBS-TV, where Clark Kent worked as the co-anchor for the news program from 1971 until the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986!

Jul 24, 2012

Matt's Mentionables: Where the Joy Has Gone

Matt's Mentionables is a column written by Matt for The Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Where the Joy Has Gone
by Matt

Wow, someone certainly has been screaming in the shower. Despite that lead in, I actually agree with a lot of the points in Robert’s article. I do feel a bit worn out, but I am mostly a DC man, so I am worn out by DC. I have discovered some recent joy in my reading and have even, *gasp*, expanded beyond capes and Booster Gold. However, hoping for some mythic past where writers were better (re-read THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA and tell me that’s great dialogue) or for companies to do anything, but try and defend their bottom line and all you will get is frustration.

Instead, look for comics joy in other places. My support for DC continues, but I have grown tired of numerous and confusing Batman and Superman titles. They really aren’t geared toward beginners or new readers anyway. In my quest for new reading material and comics joy, I have gone down the independent path and selections from Marvel’s recent offerings. I was generally familiar with the Marvel titles, but the independents are original works without an encumbering 50-plus year history.

The Big 2 are going to let you down. It’s just in their nature. They want to sell massive amount of comics and to do so, the stories will be tropes or repeats (there are only so many stories you can tell anyway). The art will be inconsistent and at some point the style of comics will no longer be your preference (at this point, I would like to remind young people to stay off my lawn). While I am still reading DC, my list has definitely shrunk as I started to realize, I didn’t care about Superboy or Firestorm or Batwoman. For me, art complements writing and when the writing fails, I lose interest. Last winter, I decided to make an effort to expand my universe (see what I did there?) and put out a call to Earth’s Mightiest Facebook Group. The results took some work, but I found some real gems.

I have not been reading Marvel since the first AGE OF APOCALYPSE series. I just lost interest in all comics and only started reading again about five years ago. I had no idea what was going on in the books, but I was generally aware of major events like Civil War and whatever happened in Marvel Ultimate Alliance. I kept on hearing about this guy called Bendis and something called the Ultimate Universe. While I did start reading some Brian Michael Bendis Avengers trades, I never made it to the Ultimate Universe. I enjoyed some of the stories and I was never bothered by not knowing a lot of the characters’ backstories (I have the internet after all). However, I never quite got as pulled in by the Avengers as I did by Jon Hickman’s FANTASTIC FOUR(and FF) and AMAZING SPIDER-MAn starting with Dan Slott’s Big Time stories. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is great, but I’m going to focus on other things. Feel free to ask Duy about Spider-Man, he loves him.

The one thing these books have in common is that they are generally pretty fun reads. It’s not some moral play or overhyped drama. Or, at least, I haven’t encountered that yet. Heck, Johnny Storm “died” and came back and he jokes about it and loses an election to guy who killed him (2-month old spoiler alert). You also get to see a Council of Reeds who try to solve the universe’s problems. FANTASTIC FOUR is, in a nutshell, completely insane and I love it. It goes completely against the idea that comics need to be grounded in the real world or believable. FF is similar in tone, but focuses on the Richards’ children and their classmates in what is basically super science school. Since it stars kids, the tone is usually lighter and you get to have fun, imaginative adventures. I’m still not sure why you need to focus of the comic to be children for that to be the case.

Once you get outside the Big 2, it is my belief that with perseverance you can find a comic that suits your every mood. I want to talk about 3 current comics I read whenever I doubt that there is still joy in the comics industry.

The first comic is LOCKE AND KEY from IDW. LOCKE AND KEY is a horror/suspense/thriller comic. I personally wouldn’t call it a horror comic since there are no zombies or ghouls. Ghosts and demons, yes, but also a shocking lack of werewolves. Keys are used in LOCKE AND KEY to unlock mysterious powers and danger throughout Keyhouse, located in Lovecraft, MA (I guess there are horror elements to it). Since I don’t want to ruin too much of the series for people, I will share one of my favorite moments from keeping up with the series. During one of the story arcs, an issue takes place during February and each panel or page represents what happened to the Locke family during one day that month. It is breathtaking to realize that:
  1. Someone thought to do this
  2. They plotted it out so it flows and makes sense and
  3. It wasn’t a fluke issue, everything that goes on in February stays true in other issues

That was my "Woah" moment with LOCKE AND KEY. It gives you a defined and real world, with characters who are dynamic and multidimensional, even the eight year olds.

Another comic I’m reading for the joy it brings is Red 5’s ATOMIC ROBO. The titular Atomic Robo is a sentient robot created in the 1920s by Nikola Tesla and has been an action scientist since the 1950s. The series jumps around in time, but is generally consistent during a story arc; it either sticks with a set time period (such as World War 2) or follows Robo through time as he practices action science on essentially the same problem (like crazy Nazi mad scientists). Atomic Robo is an action comedy series. He is a wisecracking robot and prefers to solve problems with punching and witty repartee. What more could you ask for in an escapist title? Robo in on a hiatus now, but you can pick up the Free Comic Book Day issues on their website.
Speaking of the Internet, my final source of comics joy is an online comic. It tells the story of a man who is not only a doctor, but also a ninja. Dr. McNinja operates out of the city of Cumberland, Maryland (it’s a real place and where the creator is from) and is written and drawn by Christopher Hastings (who has also worked on some Deadpool issues). Dr. McNinja has battled zombie Ben Franklin, space Dinosaurs and the dreaded Dr. McLucador. The stories are a combination of action, adventure, occasional mysticism, giant gorilla receptionists and pretty much thinly veiled insanity (I doubt there is even a veil). Again, it’s great escapist reading and the best part is you get 3 pages a week and have a long back catalogue to go through if you’re, I don’t know, bored from 9-5 several days a week.

Remember, whenever you find yourself doubting if comics can do anything right, take a deep breath, search out the core of what you love about comics. For me, it’s a good story and a creator who is obviously having fun with the medium. If I can’t find it in the Big 2, I know where I can turn to escape from events or seriousness.

Jul 23, 2012

Back Issue Ben: ROM: A Retrospective, Part 8

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

ROM: SPACEKNIGHT: A Retrospective
Part Eight: Jason Takes Manhattan

by Ben Smith

Click here for part 1.
Click here for part 2. 
Click here for part 3.
Click here for part 4.
Click here for part 5.
Click here for part 6.
Click here for part 7.

This is it friends, the end of the line. For those coming in for the last fifteen minutes of the movie, I *have* read and recapped every single issue of the classic 1980s Marvel comic series, ROM: SPACEKNIGHT. As we learned in the first seven parts, Rom is the hero of the alien planet Galador, charged with ridding the universe of evil alien shape-shifters the Dire Wraiths. Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema did the bulk of the work on the series, with Buscema being replaced by the legendary Steve Ditko here at the end. Last time, with the help of the heroes of Earth, Rom finally accomplished his mission and eliminated the Wraith threat from Earth, while also destroying their home planet and leaving them powerless across the galaxy. What did he do for an encore? He left his human love Brandy in the arms of another man (well Rick Jones, close enough) to explore the cosmos, where he happened upon other fellow Spaceknights. Will he find the happiness and reward he seeks? Will Rick continue to sexually harass Brandy? Will Rom ever get fingers? Join me one last time as we burn this retrospective to the ground!

Jul 20, 2012

Reviews: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century Volume 3: 2009

So LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY VOLUME 3: 2009 came out a few weeks ago, and I've had time to properly digest it. Time for a review!

This story concludes the three-part "Century" storyline, which spanned a hundred years but we only saw three years of (1910, 1969, and now 2009). At the start of the book, Mina Murray is in a mental institution, Alan Quatermain is missing, and the gender-switching Orlando is just getting discharged from the army. That's when he turns into a woman and is confronted by Prospero (from Shakespeare's The Tempest) to get the band back together and stop the coming of the Anti-Christ. All that gets accomplished in a tantalizing and captivating story.

I'll be the first to say that I thought LOEG CENTURY: 1910 was a bit of a mess. I thought it tried too hard to be clever, to the detriment of the story (which I couldn't really say about any of the previous LOEG books aside from BLACK DOSSIER, and even then that was kind of the point.) However, I thought LOEG CENTURY: 1969 was a marked improvement, done in such a way that even if you didn't get the references, you'd still get the whole story. And if you did get the references, then more power to you. (Side note: Andy Capp is in 1969. It's great.)

I thought LOEG CENTURY: 2009 was even better. I've already read it three times, the third time with Jess Nevins' annotations handy. And instead of doing a regular review, I thought I'd look back at my old LOEG retrospective piece and look at the factors I listed there for why LOEG worked in the first place, and see how this one stacks up. So, in reverse order:

4. Moore and O'Neill are just damn good at what they do. This part's still true. O'Neill is a master storyteller, able to convey a lot of motion and emotion through his pictures. His art style was, back in 1999, an acquired taste for me, but now I can't imagine anyone else drawing these books. It's idiosyncratic and it works. I'm still surprised that he can make some characters look distinctly like an actor (Daniel Craig and Roger Moore are both in this book) with his style. It's amazing.

Similarly, the writing is as strong as ever. Perhaps even stronger. I haven't had this kind of adrenaline-rushing pumped-up reaction to LOEG since the first one, and that's a great thing. Moore and O'Neil are also still the masters of the unexpectedly dramatic, as you'll notice when Emma Peel/Knight is given an offer by Orlando. In any other comic, it would be dismissed with a quick gesture, but here, Emma's reaction is given the proper depth and gravitas that such a moment would demand in reality. The result is not realism (this book's too far gone for that), but believability. There's a distinction.

Moreso, it works on many levels. If you want to read it as a rollicking adventure story, you can. If you want to read it as Moore's critique of modern fiction in contrast with classic fiction, you can. And if you want to figure out who everyone is and how they all play into the themes of the story, you can. This brings us to our next point.

3. It makes you work. This is still true. Look, I'll be the first one to say that if the first thing you can say about a book is "It makes you work," it's probably an annoying book, and that's partly why I think 1910 was the worst LOEG book so far. But by and large, that's not the way LOEG works. Like I said, it works on multiple levels. I still have unanswered questions about the story. I want to know, first and foremost, what the point of the Nemo family being spotlighted in every issue is, what the significance of the references to Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera has, what underlying intentions Prospero obviously has, and more. But I don't want them spoonfed to me; I want to actually reread them and do the research until I get it.

And I think that's the best testimony I can give for LOEG in terms of its multilayered nature: more than anything else, it makes me want to do the work. More than anything else. Yes, that includes FROM HELL.

2. Production. The production quality is still top-notch. I've got the first three volumes in hardback, and the CENTURY stuff is all in the original issues, but I'm guessing Top Shelf is going to collect CENTURY in a hardcover edition. It's all there: the ads (this time done in 2009 mold, so it's all Web-based), the glossy paper (with that wonderful glossy paper smell), the high-quality coloring, and the unparalleled lettering (how does Todd Klein keep going?). Impeccable. Let's move on to the next point.

1. Moore and O'Neill are obviously having fun. Yes, absolutely. I feel like these guys are having more fun than the guys writing for DC right now. But if I could describe LOEG CENTURY 2009 (or any of the LOEG books, actually) in any way, it's this: basically, it feels like Alan and Kevin took a bunch of action figures, played around with them, and made it into a comic. It's fun. It's vibrant. It's energetic.

And SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER if you ever told me just a month ago that I could say (highlight the text to see it) "Mary Poppins saving the day is one of the coolest things ever in the history of comics" and mean it, I would've told you to get outta here. But it is. It's one of the greatest moments in the history of comics, and it blew my mind. How many times has that happened to me in the last five years in comics? Probably exactly two more times (ASTERIOS POLYP and HABIBI).

So go pick it up. Go read it. You'll enjoy yourself. You'll want to read it again. And maybe, just maybe, you'll want to learn some stuff afterwards.

Jul 19, 2012

She Is Screaming in the Shower: Industry Standards

She Is Screaming in the Shower is a column written by Robert Leichsenring for The Comics Cube! Click here for the archives!

(Note from Duy: Robert's thoughts do not necessarily reflect mine. They don't necessarily not reflect mine either.)

Industry Standards: Why Publishers Are Not Even Trying
by Robert Leichsenring

Hi nation,
It is me again. And today I bring a back full of ranting.

For the last two or maybe three years I have been absorbed in comic books. I read everything I could lay my hands on: A lot of Marvel, parts from DC and a lot from smaller publishers and webcomics (seriously, check out DrMcNinja.com [he is a doctor and a ninja … and Irish]).

But over the last 10 months I started to feel tired. I was missing the excitement, the fun and the love that I normally get from comics. But it seems that to find that I have to stray from the pack that is the Big Two and venture deeper and deeper into the slow burning hell that is the independent market.

But why do I feel like this?

Jul 18, 2012

Watchmen French Reprint Edition Portfolio and Promo Posters: Hi-Res Scans

I've been looking for high-resolution scans of the French Reprint Edition pin-ups of WATCHMEN for a while. These are all drawn by Dave Gibbons. I saw them over a decade ago when I first got Internet access, but I only now found these really high-quality scans of them from here. Since notasdecine is not a comics site, I figured I'd give it a home here on The Cube.

So here they are, followed by the black-and-white promotional posters, complete with quotes for each. (Words by Alan Moore, of course.)

Since they're in high resolution, click through to see the pics. Click the pics to enlarge them.

Jul 17, 2012

Top 5 Creators Who Would Have Actually Made Me Buy Before Watchmen (Who Aren't Alan Moore)

So the first couple of weeks of BEFORE WATCHMEN, I was actually curious about how they were going to do things and went so far as to scan MINUTEMEN #1 and SILK SPECTRE #1 in the shop. After that, I promptly forgot all about it, and not only wasn't curious enough to scan COMEDIAN #1 and NITE OWL #1, I actually forgot they were there.

And that made me realize that of my many problems with the project, the biggest is actually that these creators do not interest me at all. None of them (except Darwyn Cooke on the right project, and this isn't it) are a draw for me, so naturally, I wouldn't really be drawn to this particular project.

But there are exactly five people who aren't Alan Moore who would have a very good chance of making me buy this. And here they are.

5. J.H. Williams III

At this point, I feel like I need to buy everything JH Williams draws. But to tie this into WATCHMEN, part of what made the original series great was its technical innovation. Moore and Gibbons set constraints for themselves (a quote in every book, a three-tier/three-column structure, no thought balloons, no sound effects) and adhered to those constraints, sometimes to the point of frustration. Here, Moore says:

Watchmen has just got to be more and more hard labor as it's gone on. We started out with all these innocent ideas like making the smiley badge on the cover of the first one the first panel of the story, and then to be really clever we'll make it the last panel of the story as well, and have it on the last panel of the book. Then we did that with the statue in the second issue as well, and by that time it's a feature and you’ve got to do it every issue. Then there's the little quotes at the end of the episodes that didn’t get into the first three issues, but now they’re running OK and tying the whole story in with a quote. That seemed really clever and stylish and smart and sophisticated, but by the time you get to issue #8, you’re thinking, "Christ …"

That's a lot of thought to put into one story, and the one artist who screams "thought" in today's industry more than any others (not to say others don't do it, but his is more obvious than everyone else's) is J.H. Williams III. He puts so much thought into a single sequence that the care for the craft shines through. To add to that, he prefers double-page spreads with varying panel sizes, automatically making his style a gigantic departure from Gibbons'. A J.H. Williams III WATCHMEN story would be interesting even just for  comparative purposes.

And frankly, at this point, I feel like he's always just on the brink of blowing me away with some new innovation.

4. Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is, for me, the greatest artist of all time when it comes to drawing superheroes in iconic poses. If I could have anyone fill up a sketchbook with random characters, the first one would be — well, okay, my first one would be the guy at number 1, but play along — Garcia-Lopez, and I'd have him draw everyone I liked that he didn't draw for DC's various merchandise. And that includes the WATCHMEN characters. Basically, if he drew it, I'd buy it and treat it like a bunch of commission pieces.
Also, the fact that he's one of the greatest and most dynamic layout artists in history? Doesn't hurt.

3. Grant Morrison

I'm sure this will surprise people, because I've developed a reputation somewhat as a Morrison hater (even after I wrote this). But I actually would buy this because I wouldn't in any way be able to contain my curiosity. To me, Grant Morrison's style is the exact opposite of Alan Moore's. Where Moore is structured, technical, and precise — sometimes too structured, technical, and precise — Morrison's style flies off the seat of its pants and is more organic. Morrison's success rate for me is far lower than Moore's, but when he does succeed with me, it's by a big amount.

Look, I'm not saying I would like it, I'm not saying I wouldn't like it, and I'm not saying it's going to be good or that it's going to be bad. I'm not saying I wouldn't rail on it on this website for days on end afterward, and I'm not saying it wouldn't blow my mind. What I'm saying is that Morrison's ability to surprise me constantly with how I feel about his comics, combined with the stark difference in how he and Moore each write comics, would make it impossible for me not to pick this up. I would buy this. I would have to.

So I'm going to wait for Multiversity to hit, hopefully next year, and see his take on the Charlton Heroes, done Watchmen-style.

2. Dave Gibbons

The guy that often gets overlooked when discussing WATCHMEN, Dave Gibbons did more for the original series than he's often credited for (read my piece on what exactly he did here). Gibbons is the only one who could write a project like this that I would see as the "real" continuation to the original series, because I believe he would have built off of the ideas that he and Moore had going into it. WATCHMEN is full of unanswered questions that inform the rest of the narrative. While most of those questions don't need to be answered, I bet Gibbons would have been able to answer questions no one bothered asking. I know it'd be good, and since Dave is the co-creator of WATCHMEN that usually gets less than his share of the credit, that'd make me more inclined to support it.

1. George Perez
Dollar Bill.
Pic from here

Well, this isn't a surprise. I'd buy anything George draws. The guy's my favorite artist, and I'd buy anything he drew! No, seriously, anything. That's my number 1 guy, and that's all the reason I need.

Are you buying BEFORE WATCHMEN? What got you to buy it? If you aren't, what would have gotten you to change your minds?

Jul 16, 2012

Back Issue Ben: When the Black Cat Crosses Your Path

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

(Note from Duy: I know I said Ben would wrap up his ROM: SPACEKNIGHT retrospective this week, but because of, you know, the movie, I decided to put this one up today. He wraps up ROM next week!)

When the Black Cat Crosses Your Path
by Ben Smith

"Cats don't squash spiders, we just bat 'em around a bit."

Art by Mark Brooks

Those of you that may have gone to see the new Spider-Man movie may have noticed Gwen Stacy as the female lead instead of Mary Jane Watson. Well, those two may represent the biggest romances of Spider-Man's life (Gwen is still #1!), but they're not the only ones. Peter Parker's love life and girlfriends are an interesting lot, and none are more interesting than one Felicia Hardy, aka the Black Cat. Originally conceived by Marv Wolfman as a Spider-Woman villain, she eventually ended up debuting in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN as a beautiful, thrill-seeking cat burglar.

Spider-Man didn't know whether to tie her up and take her to the police, or tie her up and kiss her. Some would say the dynamic between Spider-Man and Black Cat was lifted directly from Batman and Catwoman, but I didn't read Batman as a kid, so they can bite me. Nonetheless, I loved the Black Cat, if for no other reason than she gave Spider-Man more reason to stay in costume more often. (That Peter Parker guy is such a drag sometimes).

So let's take a look back at the silver haired voluptuous knockout in the black bodysuit, and try to determine what makes her so fascinating. Um, wait, I think I just did it. Done! That was an easy one for this week…
(For the purposes of this retrospective, I'll be focusing on the Black Cat portions of the issues only.)

Jul 15, 2012

Remember When James Cameron Was Supposed to Do Spider-Man?

I found this off an old WIZARD issue. I'd forgotten that James Cameron was attached to the Spider-Man movies at one point, and that he wanted Leonardo DiCaprio to play Peter Parker. The WIZARD guys did this as a joke.

I wonder how that would have gone. Not only was Leo too old to be Peter Parker even then, but he also had too much of a negative reputation (as an actor, not as a person) if I remember right. On the other hand, he actually turned out to be a pretty good actor after all, and since it's James Cameron, maybe the movie would have been the top-grossing movie ever.

Your thoughts?

Easter Eggs in Comics: Death of the Endless in Thanos #7

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

In 2004, Marvel's mad Titan, Thanos, got his own series, courtesy of Jim Starlin and his eventual artist, Ron Lim (he of SILVER SURFER and INFINITY GAUNTLET fame). Thanos is a dangerous villain who is in love with Marvel's Death, who usually shows up as a female in a hood and a robe, sometimes with a regular face or just as a pure skeleton.

Death's skeletal form, Thanos, Death's "human" form

But she's Death, so she can take on whatever form she wants. And in THANOS #7, she takes on this form.

It's different enough to avoid lawsuits, obviously, but isn't that obviously a takeoff of Death of the Endless, from Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN series?

Art by JH Williams III

'Cause I think so!

Thanks to Back Issue Ben for the scans!

Got an Easter Egg for the Cube? Email it to comicscube@gmail.com

Jul 14, 2012

You Decide: LOEG Century!

Here's something for you guys. The top panel is from LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN CENTURY 1910, when Andrew Norton materializes in 1969. The bottom panel is from LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN 1969, presumably the same moment. Check out the differences!

Does one moment come after the other, or are they supposed to be the same moment, but history was changed at one point? You decide!

Neil Gaiman! J.H. Williams III! Sandman! With Stats!

So I'm calling it. This is going to be the biggest piece of news to come out of San Diego this year. For me, anyway.

Neil Gaiman is writing a SANDMAN prequel for the 25th anniversary of SANDMAN. It will tell the story of what happens right before SANDMAN #1, which I've always been curious about. And now we'll get to see it.

It will be drawn by J.H. Williams III.

I'm just going to say it — this is either gonna be the top-selling comic every single month it's out, or it'll be the top-selling hardcover or trade paperback/ This is gonna be huge, and I don't know if there are any people saying it wouldn't be. It's got everything going for it. Let's look at them:

  • J.H. Williams III is on it. Williams adds Gaiman to the list of writers he's worked with, which includes Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Warren Ellis. He's really the 800-pound gorilla of comics at the moment, who can pretty much do anything he wants, and fans will follow. In addition to just being an incredible and innovative artist, he's also a proven draw financially. Check out the sales for BATWOMAN #3, when he was drawing it. It was the 13th highest DC book at the time, beaten only by the books you expected it to be beaten by (JUSTICE LEAGUE, the SUPERMAN books, the books that BATMAN stars in, GREEN LANTERN, and... fine, I'm surprised by WONDER WOMAN, but BATWOMAN came right after it). Now check out the sales for BATWOMAN #10, when he'd been off it for four issues. It's moved to the 25th bestselling book (20th if you don't count the BEFORE WATCHMEN books). That's not to mention that he's got three — THREE!! — Absolute Editions to his name. To put it into perspective, George Perez and Jim Lee each have two. Sure, Williams' Absolute Editions are all of PROMETHEA, but these are DC's most expensive products, so making them has to be justified by cost. And they made an Absolute Edition of PROMETHEA before an Absolute Edition of THE KILLING JOKE or Alan Moore's SWAMP THING. I'd say Williams is most likely in demand.

    In addition, here's a Delirium commission he did to whet your appetite:

    Not enough? How about a Death?

  • It's the first Sandman in 9 years. Aside from the SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS comic adaptation that P. Craig Russell did a couple of years back, which wasn't an original story, there has been no original SANDMAN story since 2003, when Gaiman did the ENDLESS NIGHTS hardcover with a variety of artists. Fans are starved for more SANDMAN, and this particular prequel has actually been in the works for years. How popular was SANDMAN, really? Well, I was leafing through old WIZARD issues, and I noticed the sales figures from July 1996.. Check it out.

    Notice anything? Well, aside from the X-Men and Image dominating? Yep, the two bestselling DC books are Sandman spinoffs! Sandman spinoffs without the leading character beat out Batman and Superman. But that was back in 1996. How did ENDLESS NIGHTS do in 2003? Well, it only ended up as the first comic book to ever get on The New York Times Best Seller List. So, you know, take that for what it's worth.

  • There's no controversy here. Unlike the Alan Moore situation affecting BEFORE WATCHMEN, this is just driven by a desire by the creator of the property to do something with that property. There will be no calls for boycotts, no one saying "But it's not the original guy." And even with those factors, the four BEFORE WATCHMEN books in June were beaten only by four books — two of them being AVENGERS VS. X-MEN. Furthermore, it doesn't even have the whole narrative argument that's levied against BEFORE WATCHMEN, which is that the original is a complete story and shouldn't be tampered with. Nor does it have the controversy the DC reboot had, as this is just building from what's already been established. With those factors gone, it's hard to imagine a SANDMAN fan not wanting to buy this.

  • Gaiman is on it. Let's face it, Gaiman is huge. In fact, he's probably the biggest crossover talent the industry has. He's been brought here to the Philippines twice by Fully Booked. To put that into perspective, it costs a lot of money to fly someone here from America and give him luxurious accommodations, and make sure the bookstore doesn't lose money, and he's been here twice. When I was in Washington DC, I went to go see him at a bookstore, and they had to move the event to a nearby church, and I still ended up sitting on the floor. Behind him. Because everything in front of him was taken. All that, and I haven't mentioned the fact that he brings in a higher proportion of  female readers more than anyone else. There may be better writers, but I doubt that anyone is as big of an instant draw among the non-comics-reading crowd. And he's working on SANDMAN, the comic he made his name on! So there's this big nostalgia/loyalty factor as well. And it's gonna be great.

Of course, Gaiman once wrote a Batman story that was supposed to be an "end of Batman" tale called WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CAPED CRUSADER?, and practically no one talks about it anymore and it seems to have come and gone, so I don't know. On the one hand, maybe people are getting sick of too many evergreen Bat-books. On the other hand, I would have imagined a Gaiman-Batman connection being not just an instant sale, but a highly demanded book for years, and I guess judging by the fact that I never see people discussing it (or even saying "So I finally read it..."), it's fallen short of that expectation. So I could be completely wrong with everything I said above. But personally? For me? It comes down to a simple combination: It's Neil Gaiman working on SANDMAN again, with the greatest artist of the modern era in charge of making it come to life. I cannot wait.

Jul 12, 2012

How Marc Webb Should End His Spider-Man Trilogy

Note: This article contains potential SPOILERS for Amazing Spider-Man and its sequels. You've been warned. If, also, you're not a Spider-Man fan and want to read more Spider-Man comics so you can see what happens for yourself, you should probably stop reading now.

So I've been trying to figure out how Marc Webb's next two Spider-Man movies are gonna go. Obviously, it all depends on how closely they stick to the comics, but considering that Gwen Stacy is in it and we've heard that Norman Osborn, also known as The Green Goblin, is in this universe, I think we can all pretty much guess what's gonna happen at some point.

The subplot with Peter Parker's parents, I think, will resolve itself on its own. I think I can safely say it's the weakest and most contrived part of the movie, and even if they never actually resolve it, we can forget it ever happened. Okay, fine, 99 out of 100 people will actually want it resolved. That odd guy out is me, who wouldn't care.

So basically, unless they change the story completely, Gwen's got to die at some point and Peter needs to bring the Green Goblin to justice, and then find a resolution to the story that's not a gigantic downer. Not only is it a superhero movie, meaning it has to end on a hopeful tone, but after the blockbuster that is The Avengers, I think people are now trying to look for light instead of darkness.

But it seems to be too much to fit into the next movies. Let's check out what they'll need to fit in, and see how they can work it all in.

Jul 11, 2012

Spider-Man: Raimi or Webb? or Why the Reboot is a Good Thing for Spider-Fans

So it's been over a week since Marc Webb's Amazing Spider-Man debuted here in the Philippines, and I'd racked my brain for how to write about it. I don't do movie reviews, since I like to make sure every post I do talks about the comics medium or industry or fandom somehow. So I waited several days, and I read people's posts on Facebook and over the Internet, and I listened to my coworkers and friends of friends talk about the movie, and here's what I noticed.

Everyone is comparing it to Sam Raimi's first film, Spider-Man. Virtually no one is judging it by its own merits. They try, but it always comes down to comparison.

And now you're saying, "Well, duh, Duy. I noticed that too. What's your point?" My point is that it's a good thing if you're a Spider-Man fan. (And if you're not, why are you even reading this article? Wait, why did you even see the movie?!)

Look, it's just human nature to compare things. To paraphrase Bill Simmons, we always want things to be great, and to prove a new thing is great, we have to tear down the last one. If we're particularly attached to one thing, we want to tear down the new one. It happens with everything, and superhero movies are no different. Avengers is being compared to Dark Knight, for crying out loud. People make lists for these things, and that's just the way it works. It's just more blatant this time because it's obviously the same source material done only 10 years apart. (As a digression, people make too much of a deal out of that "10 years apart" thing. Superman Returns was instantly compared to the Christopher Reeve films when it came out, and that was like 30 years apart. Smallville was too — I remember people comparing Tom Welling to that dude who plays Clark before Christopher Reeve shows up. That's just the way it works.)

In the interest of full disclosure, there really is no comparison for me. I like Webb's version much better. Yes, the first version was truer to the comic in terms of details and chronology (although Kirsten Dunst was still playing a Liz Allan/Gwen Stacy hybrid), but in terms of emotion, pathos, and overall tone, Webb's version was much closer to Spider-Man. I could explain it, but my buddy Paul Cornish already did right here, when talking about where Raimi's Spider-Man went wrong:

Comic Pete has to struggle to hold back his anger, whereas it seems to come naturally to sweet, good natured Maguire-Pete. It's this struggle that makes comic Pete a better character than Maguire-Pete; doing the right thing doesn't come as easy to comic Pete, but he still does it!

But although it's no contest for me, obviously, there are people still loyal to the original movie. And that's fair. What's more, that's great.

You see, no matter where you are — the Internet, a comic shop, a bookstore, the coffehouse, a bar, school, work — when you talk about comics, one of the hottest topics is always which interpretation you prefer more. It's one of the topics that keep a character vital, and it's a topic that never dies. Superman has multiple interpretations, and people are still talking about which interpretations they prefer. Batman, arguably the most successful superhero in history, is the one who's gone through the most extreme reinventions. Spider-Man is no different.

Spider-Man is my favorite character in fiction. But I didn't buy every Spider-Man comic, and I have no desire to. There was a whole stretch from 2000-2008 that saw me buy a very small number of Spider-Man comics, simply because I didn't like that particular interpretation of him. Every time I went into it, or saw scans on the net, I thought he was moody, depressing, and incredibly boring to read.

But I can't deny that fans responded and bought the product. Do I think it was bad? Absolutely. But I'm not a be-all end-all authority on what is "good." I can analyze things on a technical level and call it bad, but there's a visceral component to these things that can't be judged, ever, and if people respond in droves, then it did its job.

Spider-Man, probably more than any other character aside from Superman or Batman, probably has more of a precedent for varying interpretations. His first two artists (both of whom controlled a bulk of the storytelling, along with Stan Lee) were so drastically different. Whereas Steve Ditko portrayed Peter with an angry grit (and couldn't seem to draw a conventional superhero face), John Romita had him more calm and more mellow (and couldn't seem to draw anything but a conventional superhero face). Check out these two scenes.

I can't even think of Ditko and Romita's Spider-Man as being the exact same thing, but the important thing is they both come from the same core: a relatable character who makes mistakes, and is driven to do the right thing due to the death of his uncle. And if both versions can exist (not to mention the ones that came after), why can't Webb's and Raimi's?

Which interpretation you prefer ends up saying something about you. If nothing else, it at least says a lot about your preferred choice of entertainment. Look, I don't like 2000-2008 Spider-Man because it was too melodramatic for me and removed a key aspect of Spider-Man that I prefer (the loner aspect). I love Lee and Ditko's run, so much so that I wrote about it. I love Dan Slott's run. They entertain me, a lot.

Maybe it also says something about you as a person. If you thought Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker was a bully, that speaks a lot to your morals. If you thought that his reactions were just relatable and human, that means you empathized. If you thought Garfield wasn't enough of a nerd and was simply of a different but not necessarily outcast clique than the popular kids, maybe you were one of those kids in school but you were comfortable with it. If you were one of those kids in school but were always bugged by how you were treated by the Flash Thompson types regardless, maybe you loved his portrayal. Or if you're anything like some girls I know, maybe you just liked Tobey better because he's more built.

It's more true of some than others, but the fact that you can easily compare these two movies makes it even more blatant for this one: a large part of these stories is about you, what you bring to the table. We can dissect the technical aspects and analyze them to death, but as long as they're done with some level of proficiency, it comes down to how you feel about it — how much it grabs you.

And it's specifically because of this variety of our experiences that some will prefer the Raimi film and some will prefer the Webb film. And people will will talk about it. They'll debate it, and they'll argue, and no side will ever be right or wrong for preferring something over the other. It will come up every time either movie is brought up. The general moviegoing audience is given something that was once exclusive to comic book fans: the ability to discuss multiple versions of Spider-Man, which will keep the character vital and in the public consciousness. All it takes is a handful of people who fell in love with the character via these movies and in turn infect their friends, and the debate will rage forever.

And as someone whose favorite character is Peter Benjamin Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, I have only one thing to say.

I love it.


So, which one did you like more?

Jul 10, 2012

Easter Eggs in Comics: Daffy Duck as Donald Duck

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

Today's Easter Egg comes to us from a comic book I've never read. It's a panel reprinted in Les Daniels' DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes, and is from LOONEY TUNES #7, by Steve Korte, Alvaro Flores, Luis Sepulveda, and Jessica Russo.

Yep, that's Daffy Duck wearing Donald Duck's outfit, and Bugs Bunny laughing at the concept!

Funny, eh? I'd love to read the entire comic!

Jul 9, 2012

Back Issue Ben: Micronauts: A Mini-Retrospective, Part 3

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Micronauts: A Mini-Retrospective
Part 3: They Came from Inner Space

by Ben Smith

Click here for part 1.
Click here for part 2. 

If you haven't been keeping up at this point, then you're just way behind. Don't worry, we'll wait for you to catch up.

Good? All right, let's continue. I have been covering the action-packed, epic opening storyline to the forgotten classic comic book series, THE MICRONAUTS. As we learned in the first two parts, the heroic Micronauts struggle to free the Microverse from the evil Baron Karza. Bill Mantlo is on writing duties, while Michael Golden and his various inkers provide wonderful action-packed artwork. Last time, our heroes finished their time on Earth, and brought the battle back to the Microverse itself. Through the separate efforts of Acroyear and his people, and Argon and his rebellion, Baron Karza's forces have been decimated. Unfortunately, Bug has fallen in battle, and Commander Rann and Marionette have been captured by Karza. So close and yet so far from ending Karza's rule, will the heroes be able to succeed and save the Microverse? Read on, true believers!

Jul 5, 2012

Ask Duy: Betty or Veronica?

Not too long ago, Comics Cuber London Elliott asked me that age-old comics question.

Betty or Veronica?

This is the version of the "three on a soda" by Harry Lucey.
I picked it 'cause he's my favorite.

Now, because I know people will want to do it, let's get rid of the obvious and "funny" answers, including but not limited to "both," "Cheryl Blossom," "neither, because Archie's too much of a narcissist," and "Jughead, because, you know, Chasing Amy."

No, for this post, we have to pick one of Betty Cooper or Veronica Lodge for Archie Andrews.

I don't think I'm going to get much disagreement that Betty is the nicer one and "better" for Archie (however "better" someone so obsessed with Archie can be), but I do think that Veronica is the more interesting character, and her dynamic with Archie is more compelling than Betty's because they're of two completely different worlds. Generally speaking (there are exceptions, naturally), Veronica's conflicts with Archie come from their relationship, while any conflict Archie has with Betty is external, driven by something outside.

To illustrate, let's look at the first issue of LIFE WITH ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE, the bestselling magazine that showcases two alternate-reality stories, one in which Archie is married to Betty and one where he's married to Veronica. Even the cover itself is very telling.

Archie being married to Veronica makes him feel inadequate, wondering if he can live in her world. Look at that slump — Norm Breyfogle's body language conveys so much. In contrast, look at the left side. He's perfectly happy with Betty.

In fact, the first page of the Veronica story already establishes a problem between Veronica and Archie.

However, in the Betty story, the conflict comes from Archie and Betty not making enough to make ends meet. The real drama starts when Mr. Lodge offers to sponsor Archie to a record label in exchange for his divorcing Betty and marrying Ronnie instead.

How good was Norm on this series? Sigh.

How interesting that even in the Betty story, the conflict is driven by Veronica. (Needless to say, in the Veronica story, Betty takes her "defeat" gracefully and rocks no boats.)

Veronica is simply the more dynamic, more interesting character, which is why she's been able to anchor solo series of her own much longer than Betty, who's pretty passive, especially in comparison. Veronica doesn't stand for anything, and she has a lot of money, so it's easier to have her drive a story, because of her personality or her trappings.

Let's look at a story called "Flipped Out," in which Jughead gives Archie a two-headed coin to flip so he can decide whether to take Betty or Ronnie to the dance. (Of course, Jughead assigns Betty to heads.)

It's because of Veronica that this is a story at all. She's the one who loses her temper and makes the decision to walk away from Archie, while Betty just lets it happen. She shows up at the end of the story, and Archie "chooses" her.

In the saga of Archie Andrews picking Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, the only two possible happy endings are Veronica growing up and treating Archie right (which would neuter Veronica as a character) or Archie choosing Betty. Veronica drives the story. She is the narrative option. She is the right choice if you want more interesting and more dynamic and more entertaining stories. But Betty is the end of the story.

Um, provided she gets over this kind of thing.
It's creepy.

As a bit of an aside, CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT has an Archie analogue, named Riley Richards, married to a Veronica analogue, named Felicity. He's miserable in his marriage and realizes that the Betty analogue, Lizzie, has always been attractive, and he should have ended up with her.

Therefore, he decides to kill his wife.

The book itself is a great crime story, expertly delivered by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, but the one thing that really sets it apart from the other CRIMINAL volumes is the flashback scenes, done purely in Archie style (may not be safe for work).

Even here, the conflict is kicked off by the Veronica character.

So there. Betty may be the best end to the story, but Veronica drives the story. And that's my answer to the age-old question.