Oct 31, 2011

Easter Eggs in Comics: Jeff Smax says Happy Halloween!

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

Today's aptly timed Easter Egg comes to us from Alan Moore and Zander Cannon's SMAX miniseries. Smax lives in a fantasy world — literally — and the entire comic is full of fantasy genre Easter Eggs. He has to go on a quest, so he has to get a permit to go on a quest. On the way to the bureau, he takes a shortcut through the alleyway of eerie children.

How many characters can you spot? There's Casper the Friendly Ghost, Wendy the Witch, a dead version of Harry Potter ("The Boy Who Lived" seems to now be "The Boy Who Died"), and a couple more. Can anyone name them?

Happy Halloween, folks!

Learn more about Smax and Top 10 here. 

This can be found in:

Oct 28, 2011

Easter Eggs in Comics: Ms. Captain Marvel

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

Today's Easter Egg comes from UNCANNY X-MEN #153, by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, and features Carol Danvers.

Carol Danvers is a Marvel character. She's been known as Binary and Warbird,. But mostly, she's been known as Ms. Marvel.

Ms. Marvel was an offshoot of a 1960s Marvel hero named Captain Marvel (real name: Mar-Vell, and no relation to the Captain Marvel I always talk about. I'll talk about the similarity in nomenclature in the future).

Well, in this issue, Carol Danvers walks into the room the X-Men are in, and guess what she's wearing?

Yep, it's reversed, but that's a Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel shirt!


Thanks to Ben Dietz for suggesting this Easter Egg, and Jeff White and Back Issue Ben Smith for the scans! Although Ben didn't actually scan this; this came off the 40 YEARS OF X-MEN DVD:

Oct 24, 2011

Reclaiming History: Captain Marvel in The Great Brinks Robbery! (A True Story)

Welcome to a new 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!

So I was reading Uncle John's Unstoppable Bathroom Reader a few days back. For those of you not aware of these books, they're full of short, random articles that make interesting reading, from lists of quotes, puns, and funny names to small news stories from the last century.

One of the articles that I just randomly turned to detailed the Great Brinks Robbery, which took place on January 17, 1950. Seven men came out of a car on Prince Street in Boston, went up to the Brinks Armored Car garage, and walked away with $1.2 million in cash and $1.5 million in checks, money orders, and securities. At the time, it was the single largest robbery in U.S. history. It was called by some "The Crime of the Century."

Thanks to this site.

And the public loved it. Almost immediately, they were sympathetic to the robbers, earning a status as cult heroes due to their nonviolent methods as well as the gigantic balls they had taking on, of all things, a security company. The FBI had six years to catch them before the statute of limitations would elapse, and they did catch them, with 11 days left to spare. But not only did they recover only 0.2% of the money ($51,906), but more than 1,000 prospective jurors were excused from duty because they admitted to being sympathetic to the robbers. (The unbiased jury ended up finding them all guilty.)

What makes this comics-related? Simple. When they committed the robbery, some of the men were wearing Halloween masks. What a bunch of modern accounts won't tell you is that these were the masks in question.

That's right. That's a Captain Marvel mask. That's how big this character was circa 1950, folks. Not only were they making Halloween masks of him, but his face was used in the "Crime of the Century."

What? Don't believe me? Okay, the robbers who weren't wearing a Captain Marvel mask were wearing these instead.

A Captain Marvel, Jr. mask. This entire franchise was just huge, and I have no doubt that if they had female robbers with them, we'd have gotten a Mary Marvel Halloween mask in this gallery as well.

This little detail is overlooked by some texts (and rightfully so — it's a small detail) like the Wikipedia entry or this one, but I am happy that the book covered it, and I found the pictures of it and the full FBI documentation of it here, as it highlights just how big Captain Marvel and Family really were. On the Ed Sullivan show, Ed did a sketch with seven people wearing these masks (meaning the identity of the mask was a big detail back in 1950, even if it's a footnote now).

There. Never doubt the popularity of the Golden Age Captain Marvel ever again!! And if you do, just think: Elvis Presley would debut three years later. And, well, you know.

WATCHMEN 2? I'm Over It.

Well, it's pretty much all but confirmed. There will be new projects set in the WATCHMEN universe, with Darwyn Cooke at the helm. I was wondering how my reaction to it differed from my reaction to its possibility a year ago, and I have to admit: not so much. Most of the stuff I said back then — that I'd look at it if Dave Gibbons was involved and that I think there is actually room for a prequel or a TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER comic — still hold true. The difference now lies in how extreme my reaction is not.

It's absolutely true that any sequel to WATCHMEN may be deemed superfluous, and that any attempt at such may feel a lot like glorified fan fiction. But what, may I ask, would the difference between that and most of mainstream comics fare these days anyway?

This will not change the original work by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in any way. No one is forcing me or you to buy it or enjoy it or even pay attention to it.

As for the whole creators' rights issue, it's kind of split in half here. Moore doesn't want to do it, but Gibbons does. And seeing as how I've always thought that Gibbons deserved more recognition and recompense for his role in WATCHMEN, I actually may fall on his side on this one. Did you know that when he and Moore were flown to New York to promote WATCHMEN in 1986 that Moore got put in a five-star hotel, while Gibbons stayed in a dirt motel, where he eventually got robbed?

So call this what you will. Creatively bankrupt, a cashgrab, a savvy business move, something to piss off Alan Moore, whatever. But let's give the "This will ruin WATCHMEN" thing a rest. COUNTDOWN didn't ruin the Golden Age Mary Marvel stories, John Byrne didn't ruin Superman, "Sins Past" didn't ruin Gwen Stacy... I could go on and on, but the point is, it's all fiction, and as fiction, you can pick and choose what "really" happened.

And face it — if there's any one guy that can actually make this intriguing, it's Darwyn Cooke.

So let's save the hate juice, guys. It's going to be fine.

Oct 20, 2011

What Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family Mean to Me

I first discovered Captain Marvel when I was a little kid, watching HERO HIGH on the TV as a kid. HERO HIGH was a cartoon full of superheroes who went to high school, and was loosely based on the Archie crowd. According to this website, the episode saw multiple times must have been the sixth episode, "A Fistful of Knuckles," because that's the one that guest-starred Captain Marvel, he of the power of Shazam.

What I didn't know back then was that there was actually a Shazam! cartoon back then as well. It just didn't come here to the Philippines until almost ten years later (when I watched it religiously). But enough of an interest was piqued back then in this superhero who was a kid who used a magic word to turn into the world's mightiest mortal. At the time, as well, Captain Marvel was fairly prominent in the DC Universe, appearing in Roy Thomas and Tom Mandrake's SHAZAM: THE NEW BEGINNING and John Byrne's LEGENDS. This is a cover I've never forgotten:

But I think where Captain Marvel really took off for me was borrowing this book from the school library when I was 14: The Smithsonian Book of Comic Book Comics. It not only offered a history of comics (which I always loved reading about), but provided some reprints from The Golden Age. Even with the two Superman stories in it ripped out, there was a lot for a young reader to peruse, from Batman's first appearance to a Little Lulu story to a classic Carl Barks–penned Donald Duck story. But there were two stories that I read in that collection over and over again. One was a story in Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT about Gerhard Shnobble, the man who could fly. The other is from CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES #100, entitled "Captain Marvel Battles the Plot Against the Universe!" by Otto Binder and C.C. Beck.

Oct 14, 2011

The Comics Cube! Reviews the DCnU: THE SHADE #1

I think I've more than adequately expressed how excited I was for THE SHADE right here, because I am such a big fan of James Robinson's STARMAN. I was able to pick up the first issue of the new THE SHADE maxiseries today, by James Robinson and Cully Hamner. As far as I know, the series will consist of three three-parters and three stand-alone stories in an alternating fashion, with each story having a different artist.

The big issue in this comic is that of continuity. THE SHADE was a pivotal player in STARMAN, which is heavily based on the Golden Age heroes, specifically the Justice Society of America. Supposedly, the JSA is now moving to the alternate earth of Earth-2 and no longer exist in the main DC earth, so logically, they'd take The Shade with them. But no, Deathstroke shows up here. So all I'm gonna say is that this is pre-FLASHPOINT and pre-DCnU, and take it as a logical continuation of STARMAN.

I'm not so sure that this comic has to be all that new reader-friendly, as I think it's meant to tap into that cult audience that STARMAN had. I wouldn't call this series new reader-friendly, but again, I'm not convinced it has to be.

This series picks up pretty much after the events of STARMAN #81. The Shade is feeling down because it is October, the month of his creation - obviously leading up to a story later on in which they reveal his origin - and we spend just a good amount of time getting to know The Shade, with scenes where he is conversing with Mikaal Tomas (the current Starman) over tea and a scene where he is conversing with his girlfriend Hope O'Dare after they have been intimate. These are well-written scenes, and this is where it gets tricky.

You see, despite them being well-written scenes, they perhaps give us more of a peek into The Shade's psyche than is good for him. The Shade is very much a man of mystery, much like Wolverine or the Phantom Stranger. In many respects, revealing too much about him takes away from what makes him cool in the first place. It's too early to tell just how much of The Shade will be revealed, and how much of it will be good or bad for the character, so all I can really say right now is that they are well-written scenes with a fascinating character and supporting cast.

The basic plot of the story thus far though is a little bland. Someone wants The Shade dead (the first four letters of his name are "CALD"), and Deathstroke the Terminator shows up to kill him. The ensuing fight scene is a little disappointing in that it is, much like much of what the DCnU has been offering, unnecessarily excessive and gratuitous in its violence, but since STARMAN was doing that in an era when it wasn't common, I'll give it a pass. But the cliffhanger ending isn't much of a cliffhanger. I've spoken before of the problems with going too far in a serial drama and raising the stakes too high. When they're too high, you know the hero's going to win handily. When was the last time the world was at stake and Superman didn't save it? So this, much like the NIGHTWING cliffhanger, doesn't really work.

The book flies by really quickly, especially in comparison to the other comics I got this week, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #671 and BATWOMAN #2 (both of which were majorly awesome), so that was a bit disappointing. But again, STARMAN was always somewhat decompressed, and the beauty of it was always in enjoying the characters, even over the action. The quiet moments were just as special as the action-packed ones, if not more so. And in The Shade, we have a very fascinating main character indeed, so even if it's slow, I'm willing to stick it out.

The art by Cully Hamner is expressive, cartoony, and lends itself to color very well. It is clear and communicative in terms of telling the story. However, I remain unconvinced that his art is the best for someone whom the cover calls "The Master of Dark." It's fun to look at, but I'm not sure that it should be.

Altogether, there's enough in here that's a STARMAN storytelling trademark that I'm going to stick it out, but this isn't the best start to the series. I'm hoping it picks up, and that Robinson finds that fine balance between mystery and revelation when it comes to my favorite anti-hero.

Oct 13, 2011

The Comics Cube!'s Resident Kid Reviews the DCnU: SUPERMAN #1

Two weeks ago, I did two DCnU reviews. I reviewed SUPERMAN #1, and then I had the Resident Kid review FLASH #1.

What I didn't mention was that the Resident Kid, soon to be the Resident Teen, also read SUPERMAN #1 and had an opinion of it. When I met with Budjette Tan of at the TRESE booksigning this past weekend, he asked if I were planning to do more reviews from the Resident Kid, as he is the supposed target market.

So, without further ado, this is my memory of our conversation about SUPERMAN #1.

Me: What'd you think?
Kid: It was okay. Superman's a little mean in it.
Me: Mean?
Kid: Yeah, even as Clark. He doesn't really come off as Superman to me. He's not nice enough.
Me: Yeah, that's one of the things they're doing. They're trying to make him cooler and more badass.
Kid: Why?
Me: I dunno. You're the target market. You tell me. Wouldn't that be more appealing to teenagers?
Kid: I don't think so. I mean, it's Superman.
Me: What's Superman to you?
Kid: It should be like the Superman on JUSTICE LEAGUE (the cartoon). The guy with the heart of gold who would never let anyone die.
Me: How would you rate this against FLASH #1?
Kid: Well, this is much, much better. I read FLASH in 3 minutes. I read this in 20. I might even go back to it. Much better.
Me: What do you think of the ending?
Kid: What about the ending?
Me: The romantic subplot. Does it interest you?
Kid: No, not really.
Me: What kind of ending would interest you?
Kid: Superman saving the day, and then a new threat looms on the horizon. That would be good. More exciting.
Me: What did you think of the art?
Kid: I think it's good. Better than FLASH.
Me: You know that George Perez did the layouts?
Kid: What does that mean?
Me: It means he planned out the entire thing, put the characters where they're supposed to be, and then left it to someone else to finish the art.
Kid: Oh. Why didn't he just do the whole thing then?
Me: Would that have made it better?
Kid: Yeah. Much better.
Me: Should I get the second issue?
Kid: Yeah. This is good. I think it's worth it. I'd read it.

Oct 12, 2011

My Interview With Hub Pacheco in Garage Magazine: The Unabridged Version

If you had told me two months ago that I would be in a men's fashion magazine, I'd have laughed and told you to get out of Cube Town! But it seems I can now say such a thing, as, in the October 2011 issue of GARAGE MAGAZINE, which is the "men's guide to style," there is an article by Hub Pacheco of WIPComics about the Superman reboot.And wouldn't you know it? I'm in it! Yep, Hub interviewed me for "The Super Do-Over." Here is the article:

Of course, what finally made it into the article is in no way the full conversation. So here we go, after the jump, the (mostly) unabridged interview between me and Hub Pacheco. I say "mostly" unabridged because we went off the rails a couple of times, including a tiny rant about Lebron James. (We're not fans.) I took those out.

Please note that this conversation occurred on August 4, 2011, and the article came out on October 7, 2011. In the meantime, of course, DC released their first issues. So please keep that in mind.

Ready? Go!

Oct 10, 2011

Fifteen Things You Need to Know About The Shade

It may sound weird, but BATWOMAN aside (which, face it, doesn't count), the only other book in DC's entire relaunch I was (and still am) anywhere near excited about is THE SHADE by James Robinson and a bunch of artists, including Cully Hamner, Darwyn Cooke, Jill Thompson, Javier Pullido, Frazer Irving, and one of my all-time favorites, Gene Ha.

STARMAN by Robinson, Tony Harris, and Peter Snejberg was a cult hit in the 90s, but I refused to read it back then because I was fiercely loyal to the Will Payton version. In 2007, I scanned a paperback in a Barnes and Noble's in Washington DC and found it intriguing, and I bought the entire series in individual issues off a good deal on eBay.

STARMAN took place in one of DC's fictional places, Opal City. One of the main characters in STARMAN is The Shade, and by the end of it, The Shade was Opal City's protector. (I'm not spoiling anything, am I? You don't see Jack Knight running around.) Now, I have no idea how the DCnU affects STARMAN continuity, and therefore THE SHADE continuity, nor do I really care. I AM EXCITED!

So you might want to get into THE SHADE, but you might be confused, because what you might know of The Shade is what you know of him from JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED:

So fear not, loyal Cubers. Here are, as I see it, the fifteen things you need to know about The Shade! Needless to say, STARMAN SPOILERS abound!

Oct 6, 2011

WHODUNNIT 1: Who Shot Danny Scott?

So if my Google Analytics are anything to go by, my scan of WHODUNNIT #3 was a huge hit with you guys, so I figure I'd give you the first issue as well. Unlike #3, I actually have the solution for this, which I will share if there's enough demand to see it.

Again, I'm not advocating full scans of anything anywhere, and if I'm ever asked to take this down, I will. But this is out of print and I want you all to experience the wonderfulness of an interactive comic book. Why are there no comics like this today?

WHODUNNIT is copyright Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle, and is a great back issue find anywhere! The entire issue is after the jump! Click the images to see them in full size.

Remember, you need to answer ALL the questions to qualify as a correct answer!

Oct 3, 2011

TRESE Book 4 Launch at Robinsons Galleria, October 8, 5:00 PM

This Saturday, at the National Book Store Bestsellers branch in Robinsons Galleria, at 5:00 p.m., Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo will be launching the fourth installment of their seminal komik, TRESE, which follows the exploits of Alexandra Trese and the Kambal as they fight modernized versions of the demons and creatures from old Philippine folklore. You can view the full list of cases here.

As I pondered the event, I thought about how TRESE has changed the game for local Philippine komiks, and how we are now getting several that play upon local pre-Christian folklore, such as SKYWORLD and LAKAN. I wanted to see what Budjette Tan thought of this, so I sent him the following message on Facebook.

Budj, here's a question for you.

Whether you realize it or not, TRESE has changed the game. It is now THE komik that people point to for this generation. You've proven that black-and-white comics, printed at first on bond paper and folded in two, can have merit and quality. History will look upon this as that turning point. Even if technically better comics come out, TRESE will hold its place in history. It's like the first color TV show, or ACTION COMICS #1 (the first one), or BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES.

You're the one being asked by fans for cartoons, movies, video games-- you have 1258 fans on Facebook, you're the one with the book launch at National. I'm sure your sales figures bear this out too. Is any other book from the company even close?

So here's my question. What do YOU think of that?

This was his response:

Is it a turning point? Only history can say for sure.

Looking back, I do think that one of the things that makes TRESE stand out is that it might be considered the first serial comics of the new decade. We released 13 cases and compiled them into 3 books. It gives the feeling that one just watched /read one season of a TV serial; as opposed to graphic novels like Elmer, Zsazsa Zaturnnah, and Mythology Class, which feel more like movies.

If TRESE can make the leap to other media, I think it would be great. Looking back at the history of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man, those characters became iconic and “ever lasting” because new readers were brought in through their TV shows, radio shows, cartoons, and movies. I’d like TRESE to find new readers that way, reach out to readers who rarely step in the bookstore, but get to lure them in because they saw it on TV or the movie theater.

I think the success of TRESE also owes itself to having such a daring publisher like Visprint. So far, Visprint is the only publisher that’s taking a chance in Filipino graphic novels. Adarna tried it and stopped after a couple years.

I also think TRESE became “game changing” because of it being so Pinoy.

There’s actually another local graphic novel series that’s been around as long as Trese and has actually come out with five volumes. Don’t know if you’ve already read LOVE IS IN THE BAG. As far as I know, it has a pretty good fanbase and they have good sales. But maybe since it’s drawn in that manga style and not set in the Philippines, it still feel mostly manga rather than it being considered “an orginal Pinoy graphic novel”.

I’m just happy that we got to finish a new book and that we’ve actually started on the next one.

I’d love to see more Pinoy graphic novels on the bookshelves, whether is “serials” like Trese or one-shots like “Elmer”.

I’m not so sure I answered your question! Hahaha!

I believe TRESE is a turning point, and will be seen by future komikeros as a turning point. Like I said above, it's like the first color show, it's like BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, it's like Michael Jordan. Perhaps I was wrong with the ACTION COMICS #1 comparison though. TRESE is leading a renaissance, not a birth. Regardless, TRESE is history, and at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 8, at Bestsellers in Robinsons Galleria, I will be there to witness and take part in history.

And you should too.

Read my review of the first three TRESE books here.

TRESE's official Web site, where you can read all of the issues on your computer, is here, and you can buy the books anywhere in the Philippines.

If you don't live in the Philippines, you can order them online from National Bookstore.

Join the TRESE Facebook group here.