Super Mega Monkey Ultra Extreme III Alright!!!!

Later, in the privacy of his own apartment, Raxton peels off his outer clothes, again to revel in his awesome power...
-- Amazing Spider-Man #35


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    Continuity is the selling point

    I have just finished reading Rob Salkowitz's Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, which was published in 2012 and takes a look at the comic industry (and related "geek culture") from a business press point of view. It's an interesting read that i recommend to people thinking about the comic industry and where it might go, but i don't really want to review the book per se. In addition to being a business "futurist", Salkowitz also happens to be a comics fan, and even a super-hero comic fan specifically, which is why he chose this particular topic for this book (Salkowitz's previous books have titles like Generation Blend: Managing Across the Technology Age Gap).

    And thanks to his comics enthusiasm, Salkowitz is generally sympathetic to comics fans, even to the ones he categorizes as "aging fanboys". That said, as he describes various trends in the industry - the influx of a new generation of geek girls thanks to things like Twilight, the influx of mass acceptance and interest due to the successful movies, the attempts at expanding beyond the superhero genre by Japanese creators and alt.comics writers, the attempts at expanded outreach through digital comics, - it's the aging fanboys mired in their crusty continuity and, in a sort of symbiotic relationship, with the direct market retailers that represent one of the biggest challenges for a successful future for the comics industry. An interesting point that he makes is that when we say "mainstream" comics, we really mean the super-hero comics that are the opposite of mainstream in any larger sense, whereas most smaller publishers deal in genres that are much more mainstream to the general populace.

    By the end of the book he describes four possible outcomes:

    1) an "Expanding Multiverse" where digital comics helps the industry reach mass appeal. This is the most utopian, allowing all genres and publishers to thrive.

    2) An "Endless Summer" where the Hollywood hits keep coming and the spectacle at Comic-Con keeps getting bigger and bigger, albeit by crowding out the indie publishers.

    3) A "Ghost World" (a reference to the indie Daniel Clowes comic) where the Hollywood hits stop coming and Warner and Disney pull the plug on their comic publishing outfits but the vacuum is filled by indies.

    And 4) An "Infinite Crisis" where again the Hollywood hits stop but the aging fanboys and retailers have their way and both indie and digital fail to expand in a significant way, leaving the industry basically an ever shrinking niche market for super-hero fans.

    Ok, so that turned out to be, if not a review of the book, at least a summary. Again, i think Salkowitz takes a fair approach to the topic. "Fanboy super-hero continuity nerds are preventing the comics industry from growing" is hardly a new insight but he makes the point well (hostile reaction to the Twilight fans, hostile reaction to the influx of movies and video games at Comic-Con, hostile reaction to... etc.) while also making the counterbalancing point that fanboy super-hero continuity nerds in a sense are the comic industry.

    But all of that is just background to what i really wanted to talk about, which is this section on continuity itself. I think Salkowitz sets up an interesting point but fails to actually make the point. Perhaps it's a point that only i, as a fanboy super-hero continuity nerd, can see. But here goes. He starts off by talking about how television shows including Smallville, Lost, Fringe, and Heroes had crossover appeal to comics fans, and says the connection was "much deeper" than subject matter. Specifically, it was:

    ...serialized storytelling with a core cast of characters who develop yet remain fundamentally unchanged. Each individual episode or issue must stand alone to provide a point of entry for newcomers, but form a part of a larger story line to keep people coming back week after week.

    So basically, it's the continuity. Continuing directly:

    Most prime-time TV programs weren't always like this. From the 1950s to the 1980s, very few shows had any kind of continuity story lines from episode to episode. Even heavily plotted dramas, police shows, or science fiction series like Star Trek (the original series), which may have had recurring characters or occasional cliffhangers, rarely referred to prior events or offered any coherent sense of their characters' histories or motivations.

    The revolution that transformed episodic storytelling first took place in the pages of Marvel Comics in the 1960s, when Stan Lee and his collaborators (principally Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) wove long story arcs over dozens of issues and multiple titles, each of which also provided a satisfying individual reading experience and usually wrapped up the primary plot points in a single issue. In case anyone wonders why Stan Lee, the kindly old charmer with his name on every licensing deal, is so famous and well regarded today, that's why. The bold artwork and wild flights of imagination and fantasy of the Marvel Silver Age gripped readers, but this sense of integrity to the entire comics universe (provided partly by Lee's consistent writing and editorial voice) kept them coming back for more and buying anything with a Marvel logo on the cover. Before he became a brand unto himself, Stan Lee was one of the most important brand innovators of the twentieth century.

    Chris Claremont, who wrote the wildly successful X-Men books for Marvel starting in the late 1970s, elevated the continuity aspects of comics storytelling to rarefied heights under the universe-building stewardship of then-Marvel editor in chief Jim Shooter. X-Men was not just about good guys and bad guys, or mutants trying to fit into a world that was prejudiced against them; it was an ongoing soap opera with handfuls of overlapping subplots and long-simmering conflicts bubbling under the surface at any given moment. Like a soap opera, it sometimes got so tangled in its own mythology that casual readers couldn't make heads or tails of any given issue, but hard-core fans kept demanding more story, more X-titles, and greater complexities.

    Emphasis mine, of course.

    By the way, after reading that nice description of Stan Lee's contributions, i'm reminded that Tom Brevoort today trotted out again the idea that Stan Lee used to make continuity mistakes all the time. He doesn't give any examples but when pressed in the past he's cited things like calling Bruce Banner "Bob Banner" or calling Cyclops "Warren" or whatever. Those aren't continuity mistakes. And having been all through the Silver Age comics for my project, i can't think of any other continuity errors that Stan Lee made. It's sort of besides the point - errors can happen! - but it's been a regular claim of Brevoort's that continually annoys me, and i also wanted to link to that post because it's relevant to the larger point here.

    Salkowitz then goes on to talk about how this continuity innovation influenced television, saying that "Well-executed shows in this style that have no connection to comics whatsoever are now discovering that they are attracting comics fans, who tend to be vocal advocates for stuff they like." Breaking Bad is cited as an example.

    So the above quotes alone tells me that mainstream viewers can "handle" continuity and that it is even a selling point. I grant you that no television show has ever approached the "multiple titles" aspect to the degree that Marvel (and DC) comics have. But that doesn't say one way or another if that would be successful.

    But my point here isn't to argue for more continuity on television. It's really about defending the need for it in comics, basically that far from being the thing that prevents the comic industry from growing, it's the glue that prevents it from crumbling. So let me continue. A little earlier in the book Salkowitz describes friends of his that are indie creators that produce a comic called Supernatural Law (aka Wolff and Byrd - Counselors of the Macabre). And he puts that comic in a category along with Bone, Finder, and Strangers in Paradise, that in the 1990s was dubbed the "new mainstream". This movement...

    ...attempted to stake out a space between the standard superheroics of DC, Marvel, and Image Comics and the artsy fringe of "alternative" comics... The concepts were varied, accessible, and usually well done. Typically involving some combination of fantasy, mystery, science fiction, adventure, and humor, the titles reflected the kind of genre mix you'd find in the mass-market paperback books or network television. The stories were rich without the crust of "continuity" and whiff of juvenilia that hovers over superhero comics...

    However, Salkowitz goes on to say that in the early 2000s the "new mainstream" fell apart, partially due to production costs and Diamond dropping low selling indies from their catalog, but:

    At the same time, the natural audience for "new mainstream" titles found its entertainment desires satisfied by dense new episodic genre shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, and Supernatural, which tap into the same kind of sensibilities and appeal as comics.

    Salkowitz doesn't tie it all together, but i will. Readers abandoned the "new mainstream" titles that eschewed continuity when those genres became available in other formats and at the same time those formats were adding continuity. Meanwhile, the continuity-laden super-hero comics are the ones that survived. And it makes a kind of sense. If (true) mainstream genres are available in other formats (television, paperback books) why would people need to seek out this non-mainstream format for them? Even the super-hero genre, once notoriously difficult to transfer to the screen, is now gaining traction in movies and on television. If that happens; if, say, the "Defenders" line of Netflix shows kicks off an era of super-heroes on television, is Marvel prepared to pack in their publishing line?

    I've always said i don't think it's super-heroes specifically that makes Marvel interesting. If i just wanted great super-hero stories, there are a lot of options out there. And if Science Fiction or Swords & Sorcery or anything else had been the genre fad when the Lee/Kirby era started, would things not have picked up in the same way? It's the shared universe that kept people engaged. When Tom Brevoort (in the link above) says the job and the goal is "not to maintain the continuity, it's to tell excellent and engaging stories that excite and involve the readers", i disagree. Sure, we want "excellent and engaging stories", but we can get that from a lot of places. The unique thing Marvel has to offer is its continuity. And multi-title continuity with a history that reaches back 50+ years is the one unique thing that comics can offer long after everything else is available in other formats. So how did it become the industry's boogyman?

    By fnord12 | September 19, 2014, 4:23 PM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link

    Marvel Sales


    By fnord12 | September 19, 2014, 4:04 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    It's a Gordon Ramsay world

    Restaurants are reducing the number of options on their menus. No word on whether they're also replacing all their tables with booths and benches.

    (Kevin Drum disputes the idea that they're reducing their menus for aesthetic reasons and not as a cost cutting measure, but that ruins my joke. "Joke".)

    By fnord12 | September 18, 2014, 1:47 PM | TeeVee & Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link

    SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

    Captain Marvel #7 - Well we all knew that an issue featuring Rocket Raccoon and Captain Marvel's cat was going to be well received in this household. And the guest art by Marcio Takara was unobtrusive and pretty good. My only question is if these flerken are in any way related to the space cats from Speedball #6.

    New Warriors #9 - What to say at this point? It continues to be a great book but even if i convinced anyone new of that, it's already cancelled. This issue featured Justice and Scarlet Spider fighting a giant bear sports mascot, but that was really just a disguise for some nice character development, and it was a downtime issue for the rest of the cast, although it's still moving a plot forward for Hummingbird that i'm wondering if there will be time to get to. And speaking of unresolved plots, what happened to Phobos, Helio, and Gronk?

    Ms. Marvel #8 - Ok guys, i've been convinced to take this book seriously because i think it's really good. But now that you've got my attention, that also means you get my nerdy niggling questions. Like, she recognizes this giant teleporting dog as Lockjaw, but she doesn't seem to question at all why he's been sent to her? She's just sort of adopted it and is using it to teleport her around. And that's cute and cool and all, but it makes her look overly naive, especially for someone that is supposed to be a knowledgeable fangirl. She doesn't wonder if it relates to her origin, or at least consider trying to send the dog back home? Anyway, still a very fun book.

    By fnord12 | September 17, 2014, 6:12 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    Fed vacancies

    Matthew Yglesias on "Obama's biggest economic policy mistake".

    By fnord12 | September 17, 2014, 6:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    Lead again

    Kevin Drum has the latest evidence of how our switch to unleaded paint and gasoline reduced crime. I know i link-blog about this a lot, but i really do think it's incredibly important, sort of the greatest environmental clean-up story most people don't even know about let alone being critical for understanding crime statistics.

    By fnord12 | September 17, 2014, 6:05 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (0) | Link

    Recap 60

    Did you know that Baatezu is both the singular and the plural form? We didn't.

    Chicken God Egg: The Angelic Furnace

    By min | September 16, 2014, 2:46 PM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link

    The Homeless for Fracking

    Some funny business going on at a hearing on fracking in North Carolina.


    Another 18 or so men sported turquoise-colored "Shale Yes" T-shirts. Some of them expressed confusion about why they were in Cullowhee. A handful removed their shirts or turned them inside out after anti-fracking supporters quizzed them about their knowledge of fracking. One of the men told The Herald he stays in a Winston-Salem homeless shelter and came because he had been told it would help the environment. He said he felt misled. The man, an Army veteran receiving mental-health care, refused to provide his name or additional details, saying he didn't want any trouble. To prove his story, he fished in his pocket and produced a Bethesda Center For The Homeless business card.

    The men who would talk - none were willing to provide their names -- seemed nervous. They asked reporters to close their notebooks when other people approached. One warned another to be quiet. They denied receiving money to attend the hearing.

    And here:

    "They were clueless," said Bettie "Betsy" Ashby, a member of the Jackson County Coalition Against Fracking. "At least two of them I met definitely came from a homeless shelter. One of them even apologized to me and said, 'I didn't know they were trying to do this to me.' One said, 'I did it for the...' and then he rubbed his fingers together like 'for the money.'"


    One man, who identified himself as "Christian Bradshaw," initially said, "We feel we did not know about none of this." But later he adds, "We're pretty much out here supporting the needs of energy (and) jobs."

    His friends begin laughing. One of them covers his face with his hat. Another man, wearing a T-shirt with marijuana leaves on it that says, "Please Keep on the Grass," yells a comment about legalizing marijuana as he heads into the auditorium.

    A man wearing a turquoise "Shale Yes" shirt and an identification badge tells Ashby, "They're here to learn." When the cameraman approaches, the man flips the ID badge around.

    Ashby said one of the men told her he didn't want to talk because he feared the trip organizers would not give him a ride back to Winston-Salem.

    "They were scared," Ashby said. "I don't think they had any idea what they were getting into. Once they realized it, they were very uncomfortable. They were completely clueless about what fracking is. They're being exploited seven ways to Sunday."

    By fnord12 | September 16, 2014, 12:33 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

    Churning out the hits

    It must kind of suck to be an aging arena rocker. Here are three variations on the same theme from a (now out of date) review of upcoming tours in the July issue of Rolling Stone:


    Don't expect to hear many songs from Aerosmith's most recent album... "We really believe in the new album,' says Joe Perry. "But the audience wants the old stuff."

    Motley Crue:

    "Do you leave out 'Girls, Girls, Girls' and please the 200 people in the arena that want the deep tracks?" Sixx asks. "It's hard."

    Tom Petty:

    Expect Petty and the Heartbreakers to go deep into their new studio album... "It would be a shame not to - I want people to know it exists," says Petty of the record, "and that it's a real album."

    On the one hand, it must be awesome for people wanting to hear any of the music you've written, but you can imagine that they'd really like to stretch out and think that they're still doing relevant stuff. Interesting distinctions, too. Aerosmith is just doing what the fans want, Petty goes in the opposite direction, and Motley Crue's not even thinking about new music, just whether or not to play the hits vs. the album tracks. But they're all struggling with the same basic problem.

    By fnord12 | September 16, 2014, 11:07 AM | Music | Comments (1) | Link

    State secrets all the way down

    To get all Glenn Greenwald for a minute, one reason that liberals have been disappointed in Obama isn't because, like, he failed to fight Republicans hard enough and stuff. It's because in several ways he's continued some of the worst policies of the Bush administration when it comes to the NSA and drone warfare and a relatively obscure topic, state secrets privilege, which is where the government gets court cases thrown out because, they claim, allowing them to go forward would threaten national security. The use of the state secrets argument increased dramatically under Bush but then continued (Greenwald would say increased) under Obama. The latest example is particularly egregious because the court case is not even against the government. It's against a (supposedly) private advocacy group that a business owner is suing for defamation.

    The Justice Department intervened late Friday in a defamation lawsuit against United Against Nuclear Iran, a prominent advocacy group that pushes for tough sanctions against Tehran. The government said the case should be dropped because forcing the group to open its files would jeopardize national security.

    The group is not affiliated with the government, and lists no government contracts on its tax forms. The government has cited no precedent for using the so-called state-secrets privilege to quash a private lawsuit that does not focus on government activity.

    The lawsuit is brought by a Greek shipping company that has been accused of doing business with Iran by United Against Nuclear Iran. Presumably the company thinks they can prove that United Against Nuclear Iran's accusation is hurting their reputation and profits. They tried to subpoena the group's donor list, maybe to show that a rival business is among their contributors. The issue may seem trivial to us, but this company now has no recourse to the law thanks to the intervention of the government. This could nepotism, it could be an indication that the government is engaging in illegal propaganda, or it could "just" be a continued case of overreach of the state-secrets privilege. Regardless of which it is, it seems fishy and a more real type of Federal government abuse of power than the stuff you see Tea Party and Libertarian types complaining about. Which is too bad because it would be nice to see a left-right coalition on issues like these.

    By fnord12 | September 15, 2014, 9:45 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    Whale of sale

    If Namor seems a little out of character, not getting too mad about potentially being called "fishy" and making bad sea puns, it's probably because this is meant to be a young Namor, since at the time (1988-1989) the only Namor comic being published was the Saga of the Sub-Mariner book that retold his history. That series wasn't even available for subscription (being a limited series), making the use of him to advertise subscriptions the thing that was really fishy.

    By fnord12 | September 11, 2014, 5:43 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

    Did we win?

    Yesterday was the "Battle for the Net" and so we had the image below at the top of our website. I'm fairly confident that due to our vast influence, we convinced the FCC to support net neutrality. But just in case, here's the image again in a blog post:

    By fnord12 | September 11, 2014, 7:08 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

    Savage Hulk #3 - I find myself literally without comment on this, actually.

    She-Hulk #8 - Honestly, i knew that Nick Fury had been aged recently but i didn't know the same thing had happened to Captain America (i knew the Falcon was replacing him but i didn't know why). So with last issue's cliffhanger i thought the story was going to be about some old guy that was going to hire She-Hulk to prove that he was really Captain America. Then when Min got outraged about it i looked it up online and it does seem to really have happened. Once again i say unto thee: footnotes would be nice. of course it's just a story and it'll all get reset to status quo at some point in the future, and in the meantime this is a funny story, and i'm still liking Pulido's art.

    Superior Foes of Spider-Man #15 - Another great, funny, interesting issue. It would be fitting (but unorthodox) if the series ends with the characters all having betrayed each other to the point where they can't work together anymore and having gained nothing, and it does seem like that's where we're going.

    By fnord12 | September 10, 2014, 2:13 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    Executive Disorder

    Looking at the reaction to Obama's decision to delay his executive action on immigration, i'm reminded about how this was supposed to be the year of the executive order, but so far that hasn't really been the case.

    But right now i'm actually just thinking about the political strategy behind this recent decision. So regardless of whether immigration reform is a good thing and whether or not the executive order would have been constitutional (i think yes to both, but it's besides the point here), does delaying the order make sense?

    The idea is that it's supposed to help red state Democratic senators. But anyone that is against immigration is going to vote against the Democrat regardless of whether or not this executive order was issued. And anyone that would only be motivated to vote because of this issue seems to have more reason to get to the voting booth if it means they have a chance to help Republicans take back the Senate to prevent the order. Meanwhile, all of the pro-reform supporters are demoralized and angry at Obama and the Dems for this, making them less likely to vote, donate, help with get out the vote operations, etc.. So the whole thing makes no strategic sense to me.

    I guess i'll wait until after the election and see all the people interviewed who say, "Yep, i was going to vote for the Republican but since President Obama decided to wait until after the election to issue the executive order, i decided to vote for the Democrat (or not vote).".

    By fnord12 | September 8, 2014, 12:48 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    Not my Marvel Action Hour

    There have been a lot of Marvel cartoons, but it was pretty sparse for actual Marvel characters in 1989, apparently. Prior to this there was of course Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends and the Hulk, and there were also Fantastic Four cartoons and even a Spider-Woman cartoon. But in 1989 poor Spider-Man had to contend with Robocop and the Dino-Riders, the latter of whom are admittedly almost by definition cool, but i've never heard of them (and who is that dude in the "rear view mirror"? He looks like Dr. Demonicus.).

    It seems the Pryde of the X-Men pilot would occasionally run during this slot as well, so that's something.

    A few years after this Marvel gets back into the swing of things with the X-Men cartoon and a new Spider-Man cartoon and then Hulk, Fantastic Four and Iron Man shows, all of which were, relatively speaking, more faithful to the comics than anything that had come before (except when they literally cut images out of the comics and had them talk to us), but it seems for a brief period your Marvel cartoon options were limited.

    By fnord12 | September 6, 2014, 9:45 PM | Comics | Comments (5) | Link

    Lurkers Beyond Bathtime

    I considered just posting these first two panels without context:

    But i couldn't ignore the unknowable horror of Mr. Bubble himself.

    Marvel had obviously realized by 1989 that its audience was getting older, since it's clearly advertising to parents here. Can't get your kids to take a bath? Put them under the thrall of an amorphous elder god!

    Also, i'm hoping this is a two tub household. Because the younger sister is clearly running to take a bath in the first two panels, and she comes out clean in the fourth...

    ...but she's not visible in the third panel at all. Unless she IS Mr. Bubble, perhaps having allowed herself to be possessed so that the entity may take corporeal form on the Material Plane.

    And why is some of the boy's dialogue in quotes? He's reciting from some unholy arcane text, that's why.

    By fnord12 | September 6, 2014, 12:42 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

    The power to move and my GIANT FIST!

    By fnord12 | September 6, 2014, 12:39 PM | Video Games | Comments (0) | Link

    Action set is all you need to play with power!

    By 1989 my comic collecting was winding down a bit, in no small part due to the arrival of Nintendo. But i never bought a game from the Sears catalog or their hotline, which is good because who knows if the game you ordered would be the game you received. Take a look at the first three screenshots here. The first and third images are swapped (it's a picture of Simon's Quest at the top and Zelda II in spot #3), and the second image is showing a scene from Super Mario Brothers I (which came with the system!) instead of II. I also would not want to have wound up with Wizzard and Warriors, obviously a cheap knock-off of the superior Wizards and Warriors game.

    I do enjoy the duck-faced Koopas and somewhat off model Bowser. I feel like i've seen that style of Koopa somewhere else, but i'm not sure where. But they are particularly nightmarish and i think they should be brought back.

    By fnord12 | September 6, 2014, 12:24 PM | Video Games | Comments (1) | Link

    Something for the ladies

    We've all seen the Milo Manara Spider-Woman cover, so it's only fair to give something back. Here's how the Drama Channel advertises Pride & Prejudice.

    Obsession with that particular scene has apparently reached gigantic and terrifying proportions.

    By fnord12 | September 6, 2014, 12:20 PM | Boooooks & TeeVee | Comments (6) | Link

    Quickie Horde

    Well, it was supposed to be a quickie. I wanted to get one more batch of miniatures painted during my "break" from the comics project, and i went to pick out miniatures where i could just do a standard base coat > wash > quick detailing. And i picked out three of them (the red-headed fighter, the thief, and the zombie). But then i decided i'd take all these unusual translucent miniatures. My original thought was i'd just paint some eyes and highlights and otherwise leave them alone. I mean, they're practically already painted, right? And that's what i did for the red ones. But as i started looking at the green ones, i realized there's a lot of detail in those minis that isn't really visible if you leave them unpainted. For example, i had no idea that the one miniature on the left was three naked ladies hugging each other until i really squinted at it (quite what use that will be to me in a game is unclear) or that the one in the back was a mass of skeletons in an unearthly flame. So i wound up using more paint on them than anticipated. And painting these guys is actually pretty nerve wracking and pretty much push me to the limits of my meager abilities, since if you mess up you can't just paint over it (without obscuring the parts you are leaving translucent. So i didn't take as many risks and there were definitely a few time where i had to scrape off paint with a knife. But i'm still pretty happy with how they came out.

    By fnord12 | September 5, 2014, 11:05 AM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link

    Mary Worth gets weird(er)

    Yay! Second brain in my belly!

    Click the image for a bigger version and commentary at the always funny Comics Curmudgeon.

    By fnord12 | September 5, 2014, 9:27 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    Marry up

    Pretty sure Min told me it says the same thing in Piketty's book.

    By fnord12 | September 4, 2014, 2:08 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

    Mostly Furniture Horde

    None of these are actually Bones . Around the same time i was backing that Kickstarter someone told me about a smaller miniature vendor that was retiring and having a close-out sale, so of course i compounded my backlog by getting some from him. These are metal figures, and as you can see, a lot of them are props, like candles and ballistas and a throne and a spellbook. And what was described as an elf boy with a toy bow but which i will use as a halfling. And for some reason he had an echidna and a playtpus and for some reason i bought them. Hey, Echidna was the mother of all monsters, and a platypus combines the powers of a beaver, duck (never pick up a duck in a dungeon!), snake, and alligator, right?

    By fnord12 | September 3, 2014, 4:00 PM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link

    Walking Upright is the Key

    Fnord12 thought i needed to share this with you.

    When Yano was preparing her written texts for the exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, she says she described Hello Kitty as a cat. "I was corrected -- very firmly," she says. "That's one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She's a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She's never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it's called Charmmy Kitty."

    That's what separates Goofy from Pluto.

    Like my great grandmother would say, there's a clear hierarchy where animals that show their back to the sky are inferior to those that don't (what she actually said was it meant they were there for us to eat. i don't know how these conversations got started, but you couldn't very well argue with a 100 year old woman. you just rolled with it when it happened.).

    She's definitely a cartoon character, a girl, and a friend. If Sanrio wants us to keep hush hush on cats owning other cats, i'm willing to do that.

    By min | September 1, 2014, 7:21 PM | Cute Things | Comments (1) | Link

    Cheetah Ambassadors

    "As the two companions grow up together, the dog's body language will communicate to the cheetah that there's nothing to fear in new or public surroundings".

    By fnord12 | September 1, 2014, 2:50 PM | Cute Things | Comments (1) | Link

    Understanding Comics NOW!

    This again. Tom Brevoort laments the lack of quality comic reviewers. Here's what i said about that last time. And this still comes across as "Oh, no one out there understands the great works of art we're producing!" to me. But let me try to get a little more constructive this time. Brevoort complains that reviews don't bring any "critical faculties or technical knowledge or analytical thinking" to their reviews. And this is where i wish that he still had his more long form blog instead of the tumblr page (and to be clear, i really do appreciate that Brevoort continues to put himself out there and interact with fans despite the fact that so many of the questions he gets are just awful). Because i'd like to see how Brevoort thinks people should be thinking about today's comics.

    Jim Shooter has on his also-defunct blog a multi-part lecture on comics that was eye opening for me, using a random Kirby issue of Human Torch Strange Tales as an example. But so much of what Shooter takes as lessons from that book, from character introductions to panel framing to sequential action, has all gone out the window. Part of the problem is that a single issue can't really be judged on its own anymore (if you look at the question Brevoort was asked this time around, i initially thought it was going to be if there was a point to reviewing a single issue at all given the decompressed nature of modern comics), and part is (charitably) due to evolving art and writing styles. So the Kirby lens is no longer applicable, and from what i remember of Scott McCloud's seminal Understanding Comics, that's really out of date by modern standards too. So i'd really love - no snark - if Brevoort or someone else could take the time to really deconstruct a few issues and show how to apply the "technical knowledge" that he thinks reviewers should be bringing. Alternatively he could point to a reviewer that he does think does a good job, but the impression i get is that there aren't any.

    For my part, obviously my Timeline reviews are more functional and mostly about how things fit into continuity, which we know isn't something Brevoort cares about. And my opinions there and especially my Speed Reviews here are exactly what Brevoort complains about, just me vomiting up my immediate impressions ("Here's what i think about this comic. BLAAAARGH!"). And i know Brevoort isn't talking about people on random blog sites; in fact his complaint is that the reviews on Newsarama and CBR read like random blog posts. But i have put Understanding Comics back in the bathroom for a refresher read. And i would really love if there was some sort of lesson for modern comics that might change my opinion that the attention to craft that the old school artists and writers had isn't lost, just changed.

    By fnord12 | August 29, 2014, 1:23 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

    But what if we just wanna complaaaaaain?

    Riffing off the Knee Defender controversy, Matthew Yglesias says if you don't like how much space you get on a plane, you should pay more.

    In the past, though, he's said that airplanes have gotten crappier because of deregulation. But even then, the quality was better because the prices were fixed at higher levels, so you were still paying more.

    By fnord12 | August 27, 2014, 6:14 PM | Liberal Outrage & Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link

    Kevin Drum is feeling peak-ish

    He and John Cole of Balloon Juice are coiners of phrases, apparently. I actually find it hard to believe. The "We've reached Peak X" phraseology feels like it's always been around.

    By fnord12 | August 27, 2014, 6:11 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link

    Maybe this is the angle we need to play up

    Unrealistically sexy female comic characters can ruin your relationships.

    By fnord12 | August 27, 2014, 6:09 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

    After what i hope didn't come across like too much of an old man rant in the post below, i've got three enjoyable comics this week. Some spoilers below!

    Elektra #5 - Definitely more of a grounded issue after the recent surreal stuff, and that's a nice change of pace (although i liked the previous issues fine too). This latest assassin's limited precog ability reminded me a bit of Spider-Man's spider-sense although it must be more difficult to manage; Spider-Man gets instinctive warnings (which i imagine translates to "duck!" "dodge left!" without him knowing exactly why) whereas this guy is seeing in his head things that will happen seconds before they actually happen. So he still has to be able to react to what he's seeing. Which maybe is why this guy might be a master assassin (that we never heard of before) but he's never played in the superhero world. Anyway, i continue to like the art and i'm happy that there's some movement on the plot, some character work for Elektra, AND some nice fights this issue.

    Ms. Marvel #7 - And this was just great. For once, these fill-in art issues have not been a derailment, and the Wolverine guest star fit very nicely into the theme of the book. I've been saying that this book is a lot like the early issues of Spider-Man, but it's done with with more foresight (thanks to lots of books having taken this route already, from Ultimate Spider-Man to Invincible), so that we can really see Kamala develop in a planned way. And so i really liked how this issue had her learning that in order to be a super-hero, she's going to have to sometimes hurt people (and yes, even punch giant sewer alligators in the eyeball), and seeing her come to grips with that. And if the book lasts, i can imagine her even perhaps rebelling against that convention. It's a fun book, very human, lots of in-joke humor (in the sense that she's such a fan girl of Wolverine), and of course some non in-joke humor in the villain, who is a cockatiel clone of Thomas Edison. What's interesting is the pretty delayed reveal that her powers are indeed a result of Inhumanity. There's been enough going on in this book that i'm no longer worried, as i was at first, that the book would lose its audience due to its decompressed storytelling, but it's still an unusual decision to wait this long before confirming that she's tied in with the larger Marvel universe beyond her choice of name.

    Daredevil #7 - And this issue shows me that this book really could be my anchor book. It's an Original Sin tie-in and it also shows me what's been going on in Wakanda with the new Black Panther. And it's all done really well. I found the use of technology in Wakanda to be consistent with past appearances and appropriately handled, and the new Panther to be intriguing. And Daredevil's combination of super-heroics and negotiating tactics to be great. And i liked Waid and Rodriguez's (artist Javier Rodriguez gets a co-plotting credit) twist on what we thought the Original Sin reveal from last issue was. The memory that DD got last issue was seemingly of his father beating up his mother, but it turns out that his mom was having a postpartum depression freakout, and his father was really just defending him from her. And that sounds like it could be pretty awful, but Waid approaches it with i think the right amount of sensitivity; if anything it may come across a little too much like a PSA for postpartum disorders at the end (and the lettercol is replaced with an info sheet from Postpartum Support International). But it's still a nice twist on what we thought from last issue, which got some people pretty upset. So it's definitely an enjoyable issue and part of an enjoyable series. As far as being my anchor book, though, the problem is that it's just Daredevil! As much as Waid and team have been doing amazing work with him and as much as previous teams going back to at least Frank Miller have had great runs, he's just never been a character that i've loved. Which is why i was extra disappointed when Waid left Hulk, even if he hadn't been working the same magic there.

    Bonus DC comment: Wanyas is still giving us Forever People, but it's another Giffen-less issue. It's Starlin art this time, and it's fine, but i think i really just want OMAC again and i'm not getting that here.

    By fnord12 | August 26, 2014, 9:35 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    Ok, Axis! Here we come!

    JSFan's question hit me right after i found out that my two current favorite Marvel books were being cancelled, and so it mixed in with other thoughts that were floating around in my head, so i wanted to wait a little bit before responding.

    It's worth noting that before these cancellations, creative team shifts were announced on Iron Man and the Hulk, and i wasn't interested in following the titles after that. Which already put me in a really weird spot where i'm not reading any of the "big" titles about the more obvious characters. We've stopped reading Avengers, our forays into the X-titles didn't go well, same with Fantastic Four, and i can't bring myself to read Spider-Man after Brand New Day.

    At least compared to my local comic reading friends, i liked Bendis' Avengers run more than most, but even i was souring on him in the end, and the things that i soured on made me unable to enjoy his X-books. And i've never liked Dan Slott or Matt Fraction. I feel like i ought to like Jonathan Hickman but i'm unable to. And Uncanny Avengers convinced me i'm not a fan of Rick Remender. Brian Wood's x-title started off promising but we got sick of that pretty quick, too. So that pretty much leaves me off of all the core Marvel books.

    And that's fine because Marvel has been admirably running a second stream of quirkier or more "indie" style books. And we had been reading a lot of those, from "FF" (where Allred's art overrode whatever i don't like about Fraction) to Superior Foes and New Warriors. And i'd also put the Waid/Samnee Daredevil in that category, and also the Hawkeye book even though that's another one i'm not getting. And this new wave of female led books: Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, She-Hulk, Elektra. But FF was cancelled, and now SFOES and New Warriors are as well, and we've decided to drop Black Widow. I'm also pretty ambivalent about Captain Marvel. I think Ms. Marvel is great and after the latest issue She-Hulk is moving up there for me, and so far Elektra has been pretty good. But my crisis of faith at the moment is that none of those books are awesome books that, by themselves, would get me to the comic store. They are books that i'd pick up while i'm at the comic store to get something great. Maybe Ms. Marvel and Daredevil should be, but i'm not feeling it at the moment. They're books i put in the middle of my pile and am always happy to read, and i usually enjoy them more than i anticipate i will, but they're not the ones that i save for last because i know i'm going to love them.

    Now, i should mention that i don't actually go to the comic store. Friend Wanyas picks up my books for me. So on momentum alone i'll probably keep getting what i'm getting. But i really am feeling like i need an "anchor" book or i am going to continue to let books drop and eventually stop picking up Marvel monthlies. Especially since a lot of the books i'm getting are skirting the cancellation line.

    But all of the above is just ebb and flow. At one point in the 90s i was down to just Peter David's Hulk, so it's not the first time i'm just not interested in Marvel's current output. I came back in a big way with Heroes Reborn and enthusiastically stuck around when (pre EiC) Quesada launched the Marvel Knights line. And i was pretty enthused with the Return of the Mega Crossover era (moreso beginning with Civil War than House of M) in the beginning. So it's entirely possible that Marvel turns things around in a way that gets me picking up more books again.

    But to get to JSFan's specific question, i stick with Marvel books because i'm very much invested in the Marvel universe. Not necessarily specific characters, but the universe itself. If it was just the characters i think i would be satisfied with the movies or would have switched over to the more manageable Ultimate universe. I grew up with the idea of Marvel as a contiguous ongoing story, and i like to keep in touch with that story, even if i can't or won't get all the pieces. I've said all this over in the Timeline project and elsewhere on this blog, but the huge and intertwining aspect of the Marvel universe makes it unique, intriguing, and bigger than the sum of the individual books. Even books that are pretty terrible quality wise become great because of what they add and the way they get built upon. I think that's awesome and in its own special way makes the Marvel universe "story" at least as appealing to me as an A+ quality Neil Gaiman Sandman run.

    As an aside (and i'm repeating myself from older posts with this too), this is where i think Marvel has a disconnect with a certain (small, cranky) segment of its readers, me included. I've seen Tom Brevoort say things like continuity is fine but it shouldn't get in the way of a good story, and that seems to make logical sense, but i actually disagree when it comes to Marvel universe stories. The continuity is the main appeal of those stories. So when it's discarded (mistakes are one thing, and it's clear from my project that they happened all the time; i'm talking about a very conscious decision to not worry about it), the stories really do have to stand on the strength of the writing and art quality. And frankly, you can get much better standalone stories from other sources. I'm not saying it's impossible to get works of art out of ongoing super-hero comics, but it's not something you're going to achieve on a regular basis.

    And that gets to a difference now compared to when i was just collecting Hulk. At that point there were enough touchpoints with the rest of the Marvel universe that i could see what was going on. I saw the changes to the Avengers line-up, i saw the various Infinity crossovers, i saw bone claw Wolverine, etc. (and by the way, guys, i picked up a lot of the stuff i skipped out on as back issues not long after the fact thanks to the market crash, so just to be clear it's not like i never read Infinity Gauntlet).

    Nowadays, many of the books, especially the more "indie" books, are completely isolated from the Marvel universe. Daredevil has actually been an exception to this; thanks to that and Waid's Hulk, i was able to keep up with the more recent crossovers despite not actually getting them. But all the other books exist in a vacuum. And on top of that Tom Brevoort has been signaling to us old timers that there really isn't a Marvel universe any more and we really need to get over it. I've been unable to fully accept that, but it does have an effect. If there were a clean break of some sort - the sort of reboot that the rumors have been predicting for years now - i think i'd be more relieved than disappointed. But at this point i still feel half obligated and half genuinely still attached enough to the larger Marvel universe story to plug along with at least some books on my pull list. And along the way there have been great writers in recent years that have done some fun books that delve into Marvel "continuity" the way i like - Yost, Wells, Van Lente, Pak, Parker, Gage, Abnett/Lanning and Gillen all come to mind - and i'm sure there will be more in the future. If there isn't a reboot (release me, Marvel!).

    In the meantime, i really do feel like i need a book that connects me more directly with the goings-on of the Marvel universe. And since i don't really love any of the writers of the core books, i was considering just collecting whatever the crossover of the moment was, since those are the books where things mainly "happen" nowadays and they feature most of the Marvel characters. When i suggested that to my local friends they looked at me like i had two heads, but that may nonetheless be the way to go.

    By fnord12 | August 25, 2014, 3:56 PM | Comics | Comments (9) | Link

    White on white murder

    Matthew Yglesias has some snark for you.

    By fnord12 | August 22, 2014, 11:55 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    And maybe everything else, too

    Pretty much the subtext of most of my conversations about comics.

    By fnord12 | August 22, 2014, 11:46 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    Thanks a lot, jerks

    Well, my call to arms in the most recent Speed Review shows the extent of my influence. Both Superior Foes and New Warriors are cancelled.

    By fnord12 | August 22, 2014, 9:23 AM | Comics | Comments (11) | Link

    Recaps 58.1 and 59

    As promised, here's Recap 58.1: The Vain Experiment and our most recent adventure, Chicken God Egg: Journey to Irate Volcano Island.

    By min | August 20, 2014, 10:09 PM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link

    Marvel Sales


    By fnord12 | August 20, 2014, 9:28 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

    Black Widow #9 - Man, that is the saddest, schlumpiest Punisher i have ever seen.

    What's wrong, was he all out of wife-beaters and cheap beer? And this was worth a splash panel? An entire page devoted to that? All of Noto's art continues to be stiff. The scene with Crossbones walking around the ship, it's like, you could do better posing action figures, and again, what a waste of space.

    He's dynamically swinging around to grab Black Widow's gun in that final panel, in case you can't tell. Clearly you would frame that shot at close range with no background so that you can't tell exactly what's happening. All of the art is like this. Storywise, i guess it's a basic, albeit content-lite, spy plot, except Black Widow's whole mission here is a cluster and she learns nothing, and there's a scene with her i guess? maybe? capturing the Punisher at the end that is left to our imagination. Continuity-wise, the last time i saw the Black Widow interact with the Punisher, it ended in a pretty bitter fight and the Punisher getting imprisoned by the Avengers. But none of that is mentioned here. It's like, we should be excited to see these characters but we shouldn't expect them to act at all they've ever appeared before. All in all, pretty lame. I don't know how we got nine issues into this series already. Min? Can we drop this?

    She-Hulk #7 - It was pretty clever of Marvel to give us two issues of the worst art i've ever seen in a comic book so that when we get back to the quirky weirdness of Pulido i'm willing to embrace it wholeheartedly. This issue actually is exactly what this book should be. A fun "case" for She-Hulk showing both her legal and super-hero sides, and with some good interaction between her and Hellcat. A fun story. Hellcat trying to use Henry Pym's helmet to talk to ants: "It's like talking to a million ten year olds! All they want is sugar!" Since i've already got my scanner fired up, let me use it to highlight some art that i think is interesting instead of just bitching about Noto's bad Widow art.

    Captain Marvel #6 - I have been liking this better since we actually got into the heart of what the Spartaxians wanted the planet for. The resolution here is pretty obvious, but it's a fun bit of space battle and basic politics. We saw the Guardians of the Galaxy movie this past weekend, and one of things that struck me was how in the movieverse, the Spartaxians are as non-relevant as they were in the comics before Bendis' GotG comic. At the very end, Starlord is identified as being half-human and half something that the Xandarians aren't familiar with, and that's it. I assumed that the Spartaxians would play a much larger role in the movie, hence Bendis' revision. The fact that that isn't the case as all makes Bendis' decision - and the fallout here - all the more bizarre. Anyway, i only mention that here since this comic takes an obvious cue from the GotG movie by having Captain Marvel flying away listening to a mix tape. In any event, next issue promises to be about the flerken cat so i suppose it's worth sticking around for that.

    New Warriors #8 - This continues to be fun. As long as Hummingbird says something like "I'm going to fight you with my brain" every issue, i'm good. I am a little disappointed to see the whole issue devoted to these new Inhumans and just waiting until the last panel to advance the Maelstrom's Minions plot or anything else that's going on. But i guess it was good to wrap that part up for now, and i definitely enjoyed the issue.

    Superior Foes of Spider-Man #14 - By the way, this book and New Warriors, definitely my two favorite books right now, are selling less than 20,000 copies each on the direct market. I am obviously not a good gauge of what most people like. But in my humble opinion, this issue is just fantastic. This is a comedy heist book, but since we're talking about art, let's just take a random scene to show some actual sequential art that i can only wish existed in the actual action comics.

    And that's in addition to lots of little breaks to do funny stuff like this.

    And on top of that, humor and intrigue that anyone who likes movies like Ocean's Eleven or Guy Ritchie's early films would enjoy. Except since it's in the Marvel universe, it's about stealing things like a portrait of an unmasked Dr. Doom or the (still alive) head of Silvermane. So that's my pitch. If everyone reading this blog goes out and adds this to their pull list, we can move that 17,826 number up to like 17,831 or so. We can do it!

    By fnord12 | August 19, 2014, 6:38 PM | Comics | Comments (7) | Link

    Well that's a problem

    I'm all for solar energy, but not if it's going to create a vortex of fiery bird death.

    When i think of solar energy, i think mainly of solar panels on our roofs and maybe, as we have here in Jersey, on all our telephone poles. It never occurred to me that we'd have to create some sort of mirrored monstrosity that focuses the sunlight into laser intensity. It might be a question of trying to fit solar into a traditional power plant model instead of distributing the responsibility (and ownership). Or it might just be that solar panels on the roof aren't sufficient for our power needs in all climates (yet?).

    To go back to the Earthship, they are very much designed to work independent of an energy grid, but they also remove the majority of the need for climate control thanks to its use of thermal mass. Climate control is what drains the majority of a typical home's energy. So an Earthship is pretty much self-sufficient, energy wise. But we can't expect to retrofit all existing buildings to be partially underground, even if people would accept that (which they wouldn't). So hopefully this Flamestrike issue is resolvable.

    By fnord12 | August 19, 2014, 11:20 AM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (0) | Link

    Did Thomas Friedman Write This?

    A friend was telling me about a ride at Great Adventure called the Zumanjaro. It's essentially a bigger version of Freefall - you ride up in a car to some tremendously impressive height and then the car drops. As i was reading through their list of "facts" about the ride, i came across this line:

    Plummet back to Earth as fast as a female cheetah stalking her prey

    Stop. Go back. Read that again. I guess because...they both achieve top speeds of 90 mph? But stalking means to creep up stealthily. And why does the cheetah have to be female?

    Oh, and also

    The name Zumanjaro has African influences

    Ow. My brain.

    By min | August 18, 2014, 12:55 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link

    How i know i'm living the dream

    There is a peach pie literally cooling on the window sill, like i'm in a cartoon, plus the pie is surrounded by comic books.

    By fnord12 | August 16, 2014, 6:59 PM | Comics & My stupid life | Comments (2) | Link

    No need to stop here. There's plenty more SuperMegaMonkey where that came from.