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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Four From The Library

Been picking up a bunch of things from the library lately.  Sitting here unread right now are multiple volumes of LOCKE & KEY, THE STAND and 20th CENTURY BOYS (hopefully the last issue of that will be out by the time I catch up), plus THE CARTER FAMILY,  FATALE, several of DC's "New 52" volumes and some recent Charles Burns books.

Some things I have read, or finished with, below the jump.  Summary, LEO GEO and STONE FROG good, LEAPING TALL BUILDINGS gorgeous yet awful, CREATIVITY OF DITKO, good comics, many available in better forms, one decent feature, borrow a copy if you can.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Movies - THE BIG YEAR (2011)

I don't know if it was just having seen a great Wes Anderson movie less than a day earlier or what, but I couldn't help but think while watching THE BIG YEAR (2011) that it felt like what would happen if a Wes Anderson style screenplay were somehow handed to a completely average, non-adventurous mainstream director.

I didn't know too much about the movie going in, just that it was about bird watching enthusiasts and it starred  Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin, three actors who have done some great movies in the past, but also put out a lot of fluff between the good ones. And I think Kevin Pollak mentioned it once or twice on his talk show, so I knew he was in it, and is usually entertaining.

I think I would have to say that I liked it overall, but the script really seemed to be fighting against the direction throughout. Everything in the script was quirky, from the premise to the plot to the characters to the settings. I couldn't help but to picture how someone like Wes Anderson would interpret all of it, the exact opposite of what the actual director (David Frankel, for the record, who I'm only familiar with from THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA) chose to do. The film makes all the safe, mainstream choices in how to tell the story, how to handle the music cues. That ended up turning it into a good film that was nothing special, and I was left with the feeling that if it was bolder it could have been a great film. Or possibly a spectacular failure, but either way something memorable. I mean, the script has a remote Alaskan cabin where birders go to spot a few rare birds at a particular time of year. In a Wes Anderson movie, that cabin would just look like nothing you'd seen before, but if he succeeded look exactly right. In this movie, it's just a cabin in Alaska.

So I'm not sorry I watched it, and it was pleasant to see Wilson, Black and Martin all doing better work than a lot of their choices, but I'm not sure I'd ever watch it again.

A few recent things... (mostly movies)

Just wanted to throw up a few things I posted on Facebook for some reason, just to have them in a place where I can find them in the future. Just a few movie/tv thoughts (THE HOBBIT, MOONRISE KINGDOM and a few Sherlocks) and some images I wanted to save.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A few quick links.

A colour Milk&Cheese image by Evan Dorkin.

James Vance announces two long-awaited books coming from him in 2013, ON THE ROPES, the sequel to KINGS IN DISGUISE with artist Dan Burr and the final OMAHA THE CAT DANCER book with Reed Waller and the late Kate Worley.

Steve Bissette's been posting some Swamp Thing head sketches he did recently.  Here's a good one, along with an article on some vintage movies and related comics.

A couple of good histories of the now defunct COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE from some people who were there, Maggie Thompson and John Jackson Miller. I quickly went over my relatively brief time as an occasional reader of the publication over here.

More than you probably thought you needed to know about Charlton artists, courtesy of Nick Caputo, over here and over here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Newly acquired books 2013.01.15

Figured I'd start posting briefly about books as I get them, even though I won't finish reading some of them for a few months or even years. Or in rare cases, I never will. First some print stuff, and then some free digital stuff below.


COMPLETE NEMESIS THE WARLOCK #3 [2007] is the third and final volume of the adventures of the Pat Mills / Kevin O'Neill creation published in the pages of 2000 A.D. from 1980 to 1999, featuring the last three books:
8 - Purity's Story (art by David Roach)
9 - Deathbringer (art by John Hicklenton)
10 - The Final Conflict (art by Henry Flint, final chapter by Kevin O`Neill)
Plus an assortment of painted stories by various artists.

Other than the various works by Alan Moore, Nemesis The Warlock is the only 2000 A.D. feature I have more than a passing interest in.  The few dozen Dredd stories I've read have been enough for me to get the idea, and nothing else has really captured my imagination. But Nemesis always seemed intriguing, and after reading all the Mills/O'Neill MARSHAL LAW I could find, I picked up the first book a few years ago, got the second soon after, but had trouble finding the third for some reason. That's resolved now, but I'll probably go back and re-read the whole thing from the beginning before I get to this one.

POGO - THE COMPLETE SYNDICATED COMIC STRIPS #2 [2012] continues Walt Kelly's comic strips, with both daily and full colour Sunday pages from 1951 and 1952.  I'll have to try to ration this out, since they only seem to be publishing a book a year, and with every two volumes coming in a slipcase, I'm tempted to wait until two more come out to get #3 and #4 in a set. Oh, I'm kidding myself that I have that kind of self control...

ESSENTIAL BLACK PANTHER #1 [2012], I'm always somewhat reluctant to pick up anything from Marvel for various reasons, but I figured waiting until almost a year after the book comes out works out nicely. I've always been curious about Don McGregor's 1970s run on Jack Kirby's creation, the "Panther's Rage" storyline, highly praised by some people whose opinions I respect, and this seemed like my best bet to get it. It helps that this also reprints most of the Kirby/Royer run on the series. Kind of wish they squeezed in those last two issues, but then I wish the colour reprints didn't continue beyond Kirby's last issue. Just leafing through, Billy Graham's art seems pretty sharp, Gil Kane's single issue looks great, even Rich Buckler as inked by Klaus Janson looks better than most of the his work I've seen.

By the way, I've joked before that I can count on finding at least one typo or production error in any Marvel book within five minutes of picking it up.  The table on contents for this one lists "P. Craig Russel [sic]" as the inker on one issue. Hopefully that's it for this book...

SHOWCASE PRESENTS WEIRD WAR TALES [2012], the latest of DC's big black&white reprint books, with the first 21 issues of the series launched in 1971, I've got a backlog of these I want to buy, and a backlog of those to read among those I've bought, but this one I had to get right away. Launched by editor Joe Kubert as primarily a reprint title for the 1950s DC war books, he also included some new framing sequences and a few new stories by Sam Glanzman (including a USS Stevens story), Russ Heath and others. Then Joe Orlando takes over with #8, and it becomes more of a war book in DC's mystery line (as opposed to a mystery book in the war line under Kubert), including a lot of work from the Filipino artists then becoming regulars in Orlando's other anthology books, such as Tony DeZuniga, Alex Nino and Alfredo Alcala. Their work always looks especially good in black and white. Sheldon Mayer also contributes a few great stories, one drawn by Alex Toth, and there's a memorable early Walter Simonson story in there. I have about half these issues, so I'm glad to have this book so I no longer have to look around for reading copies of the others.

And on the digital side...

Comixology gave me a copy of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover's BANDETTE #1 for free after I filled out a survey. It's a cute enough thing, mostly thanks to the art, and the other two issues so far are only $1 each, so maybe I'll check them out.

Marvel generally makes three or four comics a week temporarily available for free on Comixology, mostly first issues or first chapters of storylines. I justify downloading them since I figure free to me must cost them some amount of money, however minuscule. They generally remind me modern Marvel comics aren't written for me. Most interesting thing this week is a Hulk issue drawn by Steve Dillon. Haven't read it yet.

As I've mentioned before, I find the iVerse interface inferior enough that I'd only buy something there if there wasn't a choice. That hasn't happened yet, but the closest they've come is with some of Rick Veitch's work. BRAT PACK (the revised version) is available in five chapters, with the first free and the others $1, so if I didn't have the collection and the original issues, $4 for the series would be a bargain. Check it out if you've ever been curious. Veitch also has an anthology called BONG, the first free issue includes the Peanuts parody "Nutpeas", "The Tell-Tale Fart" (with Steve Bissette, scanned from the original art), a new Subtleman story continuing from the last RARE BIT FIENDS (previously seen as a webcomic) and the first chapter of ABRAXAS AND THE EARTHMAN, the classic story seen in EPIC ILLUSTRATED. If I didn't already have the ABRAXAS book published in 2006 that alone would be worth buying #2 for $1, though I'd prefer to buy just an ABRAXAS digital book for $5 or so.

[and to update, there are a few presentation problems with BONG which I asked Veitch about, and you might want to wait to see if those are fixed before getting anything but the free issue]

The British children's comic THE PHOENIX launched a digital edition. I wasn't that interested in the contents, but the app is done by Panel Nine, and I'm always interested in what they do in terms of format, so I checked out the sample issue. Pretty well done, and some of the content made it tempting to subscribe, while most of it was professional but obviously not for me. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I missed the bargain price subscription offer. It was worth checking out to see how they handled double page spreads, which hasn't been an issue in the previous Panel Nine books. They came up with the first really elegant solution to the problem I've ever seen. Maybe not quite perfect, but definitely a path forward.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Just some quick thoughts as a placeholder on a book I might want to do a full review of later.

I was kind of disappointed by Sean Howe's recent MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY. I guess my expectations were a bit high, since it was pretty heavily praised by quite a few people whose opinions I respect. I guess overall it's okay for what it is, a breezy pop history of the publisher, with a special emphasis on a few items of special interest to the writer. I guess I've read too much about the stuff I'm interested in, since there wasn't that much I learned about comics I liked, and just some trivia I've already started to forget about the comics I don't care for.  Howe seems to like 1970s Marvel a lot, whereas my history of Marvel in the 1970s is "Jack Kirby left, Steve Gerber and Gene Colan did some interesting work both together and separately, Jack Kirby came back for a little while and soon after Gerber and Colan were gone. And Steve Ditko came back towards the end of the decade, drawing characters he didn't create". Howe seems to like Gerber, so it was cool that his work got a significant amount of attention. In comparison to their importance, I thought the 1960s got way too little room, there's a lot more you can get into there that I've read about in interviews with and articles by the people who were there, and the later eras got too much, and a lot of the wrong stuff was emphasized from those eras (the entire Epic line just seems to get a few passing references). And overall I think the book was too kind to a few individuals, presenting their stories in a "their side, everyone else's side, you figure out the truth" manner. I will say I took a certain joy in Tom DeFalco's telling of Jim Shooter's final days in charge.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Movies - LES MISÉRABLES (2012)

On a whim I went to go see LES MISÉRABLES today (am I the only one who always wants to translate that and call it THE MISERABLES).

I'm not really big on musicals. I think the only ones on my list of favourite movies would be THE WIZARD OF OZ, WEST SIDE STORY (the bits without Tony and Maria whining) and WILLY WONKA. And I suppose THE MUPPET MOVIE would qualify. Other than those, I would re-watch stuff like BRIGADOON, THE MUSIC MAN, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, MARY POPPINS or SWEENEY TODD if they were on. That's actually more musicals I like than I was expecting, especially considering I haven't actually tried to watch most of the others considered classics... But still, not a whole lot of heavy dramatic stuff there.

Friday, January 11, 2013

On the BONE hardcover trilogy...

Jeff Smith's BONE in convenient colour hardcover trilogy form

A few people have asked me about the three volume BONE collection I mentioned in my year in review post, so I figured I'd post a bit more about it.  You can also check out this post from two years ago when I got the first volume.

First off, that's red foil on the cover logos, so the books look much nicer than the scan.

As I noted back then, I believe Scholastic Canada is the only branch of the company to release the books in this format so far, publishing one a year from 2010 to 2012. They include all the covers to the nine-volume colour books, and the first one has a "Possum Interlude" short story, with Smith doing his best Walt Kelly style artwork, which I assume appears in the second Scholastic Graphix book but doesn't appear in the black&white BONE ONE VOLUME. I haven't seen the more recent colour ONE VOLUME.

Here's how the various editions look side by side, with copies of the Graphix hardcovers borrowed from the library:

And here's a comparison of the same page in each edition:

For those interested in numbers, the vertical height of the image areas are 190 mm on the Graphix edition, 198 mm the ONE VOLUME edition and 217 mm on the "Trilogy". And not pictured, but the original comic book serialization pages were 230 mm and the Ipad edition via Comixology has pages 173 mm high. So the "Trilogy" edition is by a good margin the largest currently available edition (unless the colour ONE VOLUME is bigger than the b&w version).

And the reading experience is generally better. The paper quality and binding is the same as the Graphix edition.  I love the ONE VOLUME version, but the thin paper required to make a 1300+ page book practical means I have to constantly check that I didn't flip two pages at a time. The individual books are also lighter than the ONE VOLUME version, and lay open on a table better.

And the best part is probably the price.  At $40 cover price, and often heavily discounted, the ONE VOLUME b&w softcover is still the cheapest way to read the series. The "Trilogy" versions are $27 dollars each, discounted to about $17 on major Canadian retail websites, so you can probably get the set for $51. The Graphix editions look like they're $13 softcover, $23 hardcover now, so a set of those would be $117 or $207, minus whatever discount you'd get.  On Comixology the series would cost $86 for the nine collections, or $108 if you got the 55 individual issues for some reason (that might be the only way to get the original Cartoon Books covers, but you can find scans of those on-line pretty easily). And the colour ONE VOLUME is $150, sometimes discounted to as low as $90. So the "Trilogy" version, in addition to being the best way to read the series in colour, is also the cheapest.

So, bottom line, very highly recommended set if you want to read BONE in colour. The ISBN of the first book is 1443104809, you can get it at Amazon Canada or Chapters and should be able to find the other two there easily enough. Looks like shipping to the US would be about $14 for the set on either of those sites, which still makes it only $65 total. Or urge your local branch of Scholastic to release the books in this format.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

State of My Digital Comics Union, January 2013

So, as I mentioned, last year was the year I really got into digital comics. So some rambling thoughts on that.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Looking back on 2012

Couple of days late, but year in review time, I guess.  As usual, here for the Ditko and here for the Kirby.

Other than that, kind of a slow year for me in terms of new comics. It was the year I really went digital, after getting an Ipad.  Print first, though...

USAGI YOJIMBO only had two issues before it went on hiatus so Stan Sakai could draw 47 RONIN. I'm not too interested in the latter, might pick it up when it's collected, and might take this opportunity to switch to either collections or digital for USAGI when it comes back. Not an easy decision to make, since I've been reading the book for over 20 years, and with back issue purchases have 198 consecutive issues, plus specials and such, and it's not a matter of quality since the book is still top notch. We'll see, still a few months before I have to decide.

ROB HANES ADVENTURES #13 came out, the first issue in three years, which was a pleasant surprise. Enjoyable issue with two complete stories by creator Randy Reynaldo.

Only one issue of SERGIO ARAGONES FUNNIES came out from Bongo, and the planned GROO/CONAN series didn't come out. Hopefully Aragones' health problems are all in the past and he can get those back on the schedule for 2013.

Picked up a couple of issues of Paul Grist's MUDMAN, and they were enjoyable enough, though I prefer JACK STAFF and KANE. Unfortunately, like just about every Grist project, it's fallen into a black hole of lateness, so I think I'm definitely going to digital or collections for that one.

Mark Crilley got out one book of his BRODY'S GHOST series.  Good stuff, but I do wish it was coming out a bit faster. That really does seem to be a common problem with just about every new serialized comic book I'm interested in.

Alison Bechdel's ARE YOU MY MOTHER?, the long-awaited follow-up to her 2006 book FUN HOME, was pretty good. Maybe a bit too much about the process of writing, too "meta" as the kids say (do they still say that? Did they ever?). I want to re-read the two books sometime to fully form an opinion on them.

DOTTER OF HER FATHER'S EYES by Mary Talbot and her husband Bryan was entertaining, about the relationships between James Joyce and his daughter and between Mary Talbot and her father, a Joycean scholar. Still, I keep hoping every new Bryan Talbot book will live up to SUNDERLAND or ONE BAD RAT or ARKWRIGHT, and so far the last few haven't. I guess that's the problem when a creator has set the bar so high with earlier projects that just "very good" becomes a letdown.

The only other new thing I've picked up is Hunt Emerson's adaptation of DANTE'S INFERNO, but I haven't gotten around to reading that yet.

Couple of new things I'd probably be buying if I went to a comic shop more often (I think I made fewer visits to comic shops in 2012 than in any year since I started going to them  in 1988).  Linda Medley made a surprise return to CASTLE WAITING and had three issues wrapping up the second book. I kind of want to get them, but at this point I'll just wait for the revised second book with the whole story.  JOE KUBERT PRESENTS has some nice looking work from the man in the title, plus some new USS Stevens work by Sam Glanzman. If I was seeing it that would be hard to resist, but as it is I'm hoping for a nice collected edition. Ideally one of the Kubert material, along with more of his later work not available in other books, and the Glanzman stuff as the ending for a complete USS Stevens book. But I'd take just a collection of the anthology. And ADVENTURES OF AUGUSTA WIND is a pretty intriguing looking book from J.M. DeMatteis, which I'm sure I'll buy in some form eventually.

Spent a lot more on reprints, as usual.

CORPSE ON THE IMJIN AND OTHER STORIES BY HARVEY KURTZMAN, I just got and haven't had a chance to read, but just a gorgeous looking book. It's good that someone finally cracked the code on how to do a proper EC reprint series.  Who knew you needed an Enigma Machine to figure out "creator themed collections, split by genre for the more prolific creators". I'm definitely going to pick up the Wallace Wood suspense story book. And I'm disappointed to find out, according to what I just checked, that the Al Williamson book that was supposed to come out last month is delayed a few months.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD (BOOK 3.5) is a nice little collection of some of Larry Marder's colour stories to prepare for Book 4: Something More, coming... eventually.

It was pretty nice to see a reprint of the Goodwin/Simonson ALIEN - THE ILLUSTRATED STORY movie adaptation. I'd found a copy of the original a few years ago, but it was a bit fragile, so the fresh edition is welcome, and it's good that new people get a chance to discover it.

BONE - THE EPIC CONCLUSION is the third and last of Scholastic Canada's three volume colour hardcover reprint of Jeff Smith's comic. This is my favourite way to read the story now. Nice large pages, good paper, good binding, comfortable in the hand. And a really good story.

I need to catch up on some Osamu Tezuka. I got BARBARA a few weeks ago, but haven't got around to reading it. I think both volumes of the new edition of ADOLF are out, and I'll have to see if I want to replace my old 5 volume version.

I picked up GRENDEL OMNIBUS #1, which has all the Hunter Rose solo stuff by Matt Wagner and various artists, all in black, white and red. I think I prefer the colour version of DEVIL BY THE DEED, but the other stuff, most of which is new to me, has been pretty good, as I work my way through. Haven't decided if I'll pick up the later books.

DOUG WILDEY'S RIO - THE COMPLETE SAGA might be the book of the year. All of Wildey's published Rio stories, with as much as possible newly shot from the original artwork, plus two unpublished stories, one finished and one pretty far along but never completed, which means you get some nice looks at Wildey's pencils and work process. He seemed to work really out of order, with the ending of the story fully done while earlier stuff is still just sketched out, sometimes sketched panels on the same page as finished panels.

SHOWCASE PRESENTS SEA DEVILS #1 and SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE LOSERS #1 are two welcome big thick black and white reprints from DC, with a lot of Russ Heath in the first, and John Severin in the second.

And it was good to see DC reprint THE BIBLE by Sheldon Mayer, Nester Redondo and Joe Kubert.

And, somehow I missed this, the second POGO comic strip collection by Walt Kelly came out, and a copy is now on its way to me. A lot of other good comic strip reprints came out, but I'm way behind on almost everything.

I guess that's enough on comics.  I'll get to the digital stuff in another post.

In movies, I've mostly been trying to make time to re-watch some old favourites and stuff that I should have watched years ago but somehow missed. I mean, re-watching THE USUAL SUSPECTS, FIELD OF DREAMS, WEST SIDE STORY, THE GODFATHER, WILLY WONKA, TIME BANDITS, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THAT THING YOU DO (that was just December) makes me wonder why I'd ever want to see a new movie again. But I did see a few.

LOOPER was a nice diversion, with a few clever bits, all of which completely fall apart once you start thinking about what's going on, even more than most time travel stories, but pretty good as long as you can avoid that trap.

RED TAILS had some decent bits, enough to be worth seeing, but was a pretty uneven movie overall. A shame, as the Tuskegee Airmen story is pretty interesting, and could have led to a much better movie. Not that I think very many more people would have seen it if it had been a better film.

CHRONICLE wasn't too bad.  The "found footage" conceit was kind of strained, especially in the early going, but it led to some pretty clever visuals in the second half. Some very good effects in the super-powers and their "real-world" consequences.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES wasn't, I guess, a bad movie, but it wasn't a very good Batman movie. A shame, as I thought Nolan had a pretty valid interpretation of Batman from the first two movies, but after this I think I was reading in some things that weren't there and ignoring some things that were. Glad to see the end of this version of the character.

When I saw THE HOBBIT a few weeks ago, I walked out of the theater thinking it was one of the worst movies I ever saw. I've softened a bit on that, but I still think it's far from good, and is so far inferior to the LORD OF THE RINGS movies that it's hard to believe most of the same people are involved. Won't be going to see the next two (at least not in theaters), and overall I'm just confused that most people seem to like it as much as they do.

On the other hand, I've been hearing for months that JOHN CARTER is really good, but Disney screwed up the marketing (deliberately or otherwise), and dismissed that. I've now seen it on DVD, and I'll say now that I was wrong. I thought it was a great movie, something I'd never expect from the handful of ads I saw, and now really wish I'd seen it on the big screen with an audience. I can't remember the last new action/adventure movie I saw that worked as well as this, with good pacing, a plot reasonably faithful to the source, if I remember correctly (it's been a while since I read Burroughs), with changes that made sense, rather than being gratuitous, funny bits that were actually funny (as opposed to every attempt at humour in THE HOBBIT), solid special effects, mostly good acting. The movie they put out clearly was not the movie they were selling. No clue if that was deliberate or just run-of-the-mill incompetence, but I'm kind of upset now that the chance of a sequel seems remote.

On TV, I think KEY AND PEELE is a pretty great sketch comedy show, and may be my favourite show now. I liked the final season of COMMUNITY for the most part, uneven but more good than bad, and always watchable and re-watchable. I liked some of the episodes of LOUIE a lot this year, in particular the story with Robin Williams (as a character) and the one with Marc Maron (as himself), and parts of the "Late Night" plot. Almost caught up on BREAKING BAD, which has been pretty spectacular. MAD MEN is still good, but not as good as it was.  DEXTER, already on a long downward spiral since the Trinity Killer season, went right down the drain, so I think I'm done with it. Still enjoy THE COLBERT REPORT and THE DAILY SHOW, though I skip over huge chunks of both (about half the interviews, and most of the field pieces on THE DAILY SHOW). I watch THE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON sometimes, and mostly enjoy what I see.

The only music I bought this year was the new Bob Dylan album, TEMPEST. And that was the first time I bought an album digitally, which makes sense since I don't think I've touched any of my CDs in over a year. A couple of good songs on there, but that title song, a 14 minute song about the Titanic, is kind of ridiculous. If Dylan of old did an epic song about the Titanic, it might be about hubris, or class, or something bigger than a boat sinking. This is a song about a boat sinking.
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