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Friday, September 30, 2016

Random pet peeves

Note that pet peeves are, by definition, some of the following: idiosyncratic, irrational, trivial.

You know I'm all about comic creators getting credit for their work. But one place I draw the line is when artists sign their names on comic pages on anything but the cover, title page or final page of the story. It's just so distracting when a random interior page, usually a splash, has the signature of the artist for no good reason. I know I should just ignore it, but I literally have to stop, put the book down and wait for a few minutes, or go do something else before I can continue.

I remember one particularly weird example from back in the 1990s, where it seemed that the artist had his signature on every page. I'm not sure why an editor would even allow that (this was a work-for-hire book), but I couldn't get more than a few pages into it.

On a related note, I might be the only person this bugs, but I wish Marvel would stop putting ads in the inside front and inside back covers of their tradepaperbacks. Every other publisher either leaves those pages blank, or puts some endpaper design there, or uses them for content (contents page, indicia, reviews, author bios). Marvel sticks a big ad on those pages, usually a house ad for other books, but sometimes even a paid ad. It's somewhat understandable when they have other books by the same creators, then it's sort of an overly gaudy "also by this author" page, but sometimes it seems random (do you really think Squirrel Girl readers want a book by Greg Land?). For some reason I don't mind when the last few interior pages are used for similar ads by other publishers, but it really stands out when it's the inside covers, especially the inside front cover.

Seriously, Marvel, it just looks cheap, and I really don't think it's helping you sell books. Leave them blank, maybe the printer will cut a few cents off the bill and you can call it even.

Related to the recent DOCTOR FATE book I read, I really don't mind when comics have a distinct font used for dialogue or captions by a particular character. Sometimes it can lead to clever stuff or provide some clarity. They can go overboard when it's used for too many characters in the same story, then it's just a design mess. But if you're going to do it, you have to do it consistently. in that FATE book, they just switch to a different, more legible font for the lead character three stories in. I know it can't be that difficult, in this computerized age, to go back and change the handful of examples of the other font for the reprint.

With the number of channels I get on TV, why are programs still delayed by sports events going into overtime? And why can't my DVR anticipate that? I've had to set my recording of Colbert to run an hour long because it's sure to be bumped by some random amount of time by, I want to say, football(?) once a week. This is 2016, why must we still watch TV like animals?

Recently Read 2016.09.30

A few thoughts on some of my recent readings...

by Jeff Smith and Stephen Weiner

This recent book from Jeff Smith has three sections. The first, and only one I've really read, is a new 36-page story of the Bone cousins (and Bartleby) following right after the conclusion BONE #55 back in 2004. The backcover promises it to be a "completely superfluous" adventure, and it delivers on that score. It's just another leg on the journey back to Boneville for our cast, and has their usual bickering interplay. Smith is always good at that, but it lacks the depth that he showed in the more dramatic parts of his 55 issue story. It would definitely be a distraction if it was actually at the end of the last book, in whatever format, but works fine on its own. I suppose the one thing it does establish is that getting back to Boneville from the Valley isn't a straightforward journey, so the prospect of any of our heroes ever going back to the Valley is even more remote.

The next 24-page chunk is an essay by Smith about the creation and publication of Bone, profusely illustrated with both photos and illustrations. Some of the illustrations are pretty cool. I've only skimmed the text, but it looks like it has some stuff I don't know about the history of the era.

The second half of the book is a 64-page presentation of Stephen Weiner's "Bone Companion", with some writing about the series and Smith's storytelling and its historical context, plus a short interview with Smith. This was released independently before, but without illustrations. Now it's fully illustrated with examples of what Weiner's talking about. Again, I've only skimmed it, it's not really for me, but has some interesting stuff.

Not sure if I can really recommend the book overall, but definitely take a look to see if your library has a copy to read the short story.

by Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart

This is a collection of the 10-issue series FIGHT CLUB 2, a sequel to Palahniuk's 1996 novel, better known for its 1999 film adaptation. I've never read the book, but watched the movie a few times, and mostly enjoyed it. However, Fight Club fans can be troublesome. I had to spend an hour at a party 15 years ago being polite as two guys talked about how great and important the book was, and what line from it they should get a tattoo of. That was literally the worst thing that happened to anyone in 2001...

Anyway, this is kind of an unusual thing, a novelist going to comics to do the sequel to one of his works. Can't think of another example offhand. And it starts off pretty good. Set several years after the end of the novel (which is different from the end of the film. A short story at the end of the book retells the end of the novel, I'm not sure why it wasn't at the front of the book), the first few chapters lay out an interesting premise based on the themes of the original story, and have some innovative storytelling concepts. I'm not sure if those are from Palahniuk or Stewart but they're expertly realized without being too distracting. The middle starts to get a little bit ridiculous, but still within the bounds of the fictional universe, and with the possibility of redemption once all the cards were on the table. And then it all goes to hell. Without getting too much into spoilers, Palahniuk takes the idea of meta-fiction to an absurd extreme, and very much makes the story about the story. And about the storyteller. And about the reader. And while I made it perfectly clear I'm fine with mocking Fight Club fans (here, if not to their faces), this wasn't what I wanted. The last two issues were a chore to get through.

I'd say avoid, overall. Or read the short story at the end, then the first three chapters, and then pretend the rest doesn't exist. And make an appointment to get that tattoo lasered off...

by Mark Beyer

This is a re-issue of the 1987 book by Beyer, originally published by Raw Books and Pantheon, and featuring Beyer's characters Amy & Jordan. The characters were a staple of the anthology RAW in the 1980s, and later appeared in a comic strip by Beyer, which has a few collections. This new edition of the 1987 book is, I think, the first release of the new New York Review Comics imprint of the New York Review of Books.

It's hard to describe Beyer's work. Visually it's got an odd primitive outsider art quality to it, but with a sort of visual consistency and clarity of idea that is almost hidden by the style. The writing is equally bizarre, with an almost stream of consciousness plotting that has all sorts of weird and violent things happening to Amy and Jordan as they try to live their lives. I enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting to, not having really gotten into the comic strip version before, and might give that another look now.

by Rich Ellis & Chris Roberson

This is a 2012 collection of the 6-issue series drawn by Ellis and written by Roberson, with covers by Mike Kaluta (who, frankly, seemed to be drawing covers featuring different characters). It's pretty much built on one of the standard modern fiction concepts of taking classic literature and mythology and presenting a fantasy framework where some of those well-known characters (or variations thereof for still copyrighted characters) can interact with each other and the original characters of the creators. Basically the SANDMAN/FABLES/UNWRITTEN formula that Vertigo has been used to various levels of success over the last few decades.

It's not done badly here, where the framework is a over-realm outside the real world with three sections, Memory, Moment and Maybe, representing past, present and future, and a battle between the rulers who represent those concepts personified. I'm just not really sure if it brings anything new to the table. It does have some potential, Ellis has some interesting artistic turns, and most of Roberson's writing was fine (the exception being the weird omniscient narration, which was sometimes trying way too hard to be cute), These six issues pretty much just set up the concept, which could be used to do something interesting, but to date it looks like the only follow-up was a 3-issue as-yet-uncollected series from 2013.

by Sui Ishida

This has been one of the most successful new Japanese comics in English over the last year, currently up to 8 volumes and a staple of the best-seller lists. It's a horror comic about a Tokyo which is inhabited by an underground society of flesh eating ghouls, and a young student named Ken Kaneki who gets drawn into their world thanks to an emergency transplant which turns him into a human-ghoul hybrid.

I liked bits of the first few chapters of the book, but overall wasn't that interested and was ready to declare it "decent, but not for me" and a one-and-done. Then suddenly things started to really click with the cliffhanger to the penultimate chapter and then into the finale of the book. So I guess I'll have to try at least one more.

I have to say, I found the action sequences in this book really difficult to follow. I'm not sure if that's just a familiarity with modern Japanese comics storytelling or what, but almost every time there was an action scene I had to go over the artwork multiple times, usually looking at the final results of the scene and sometimes just barely being able to piece together how we got there from the art. I hope that's not too common in later books, as I found that really frustrating.

by Eric Stephenson & Simon Gane

These two books collect 12 issues of the series by Stephenson and Gane, which is basically a sort of "mutants in the real world" take on superheroes. The main character is a young girl whose nascent telepathic powers, in a society where such powers are unknown, are seen as signs of insanity. She gets taken in by group of youths with similar powers, who have very specific ideas on how to use those powers for personal gain.

This was a pretty entertaining book, if a bit rough around the edges. I had some trouble remembering the various characters and their powers, and that's with only a few days between issues. I can't imagine it would be better with a month or more between issues. Still, there are a lot of interesting ideas, and sometimes there are some very bold and inventive visuals.

Unfortunately, the 12 issues here pretty much just tell the opening act of a longer story, but the last issue was six months ago and there don't appear to be any more on the immediate horizon.

by Kate Beaton

KING BABY is a recent children's picture book by Kate Beaton, who has had considerable success with cartoons of historical and literary humour for older readers. Like all picture books it was a quick read, but still pretty clever, and with some nice interplay between the text and images which is sometimes missing from these books. Definitely would recommend it for the target audience.

by Sonny Liew & Paul Levitz
(Doctor Fate created by Gardner Fox & Howard Sherman, unacknowledged)

This collects the first 7 issues and a short preview for the currently running (and soon ending) series with the latest revival of the long-running DC character.

If asked I'd probably say that I was a fan of Paul Levitz's work, although you have to go back over a quarter century for me to give a concrete example of why. After 1989 he was more an executive than a writer until a few years ago, and I haven't liked what I've read of his stuff since he got back into writing. And even his main writing assignment in the 1980s on LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES was uneven, with some incredible highs but lots of problems.

This DOCTOR FATE book was the best I'd read from him in a while, but far from perfect. So far it's a new take on the character, without any reference to previous versions, featuring a young medical student named Khalid Nassour who gets magical powers from an ancient Egyptian helmet, thanks to some pharaoh's blood in his lineage. Levitz does a pretty decent job on the lead, although there is some of the almost inevitable awkwardness of someone trying to write a character 40 years younger than him. He doesn't do as good a job on the supporting cast, unfortunately, who are still pretty generic and barely sketched out after 7 issues. And for the most part Fate's powers are still pretty much just hand-wavy magicing.

Sonny Liew's art is more interesting than the writing. It's a very unique look for a mainstream comic. I liked it a lot, with some very expressive faces and body language, and imaginative creatures.

One minor complaint, the first two chapters there was a font used for Fate's dialogue which I had a really hard time reading, to the point where I was pretty sure I'd give up on the book half-way through if they kept it up and it was more frequent. Someone must have agreed, as they quickly changed to a clearer font for the rest of the book. So how hard would it have been to go back and change the font in the earlier issues? There weren't that many balloons which would have to be changed, and it would have added to the visual consistency of the book.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Linking around

Item: John Jackson Miller looks at the history of comic book sales charts, on the occasion of 20 years of his industry sales charts, beginning with consolidating Diamond and Marvel's self-distributing disaster Heroes World, and continuing to just Diamond's charts with Marvel's return.

Item: Mike Sterling looks back at WHAT IF #1, a sickbed comic for him from 1977.

Item: Stephen Murphy interviewed on THE PUMA BLUES, UMBRA and other things.

Item: Nick Caputo has a comprehensive look at Steve Ditko fanzine art,

A reminder, the Update-A-Tron still exists and works (which surprises me, I thought Google killing Google Reader and the Google blog search would have stopped it). And just checking, it actually lets me add new blogs right now, which isn't always the case. If you have a site you think should be included, let me know and I'll check it out.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

That Diamond attention to detail...

I know pointing out typos on the comics internet is like shooting fish in a barrel. Almost as easy as finding overused cliches on the comics internet (and yes, guilty as charged on both counts, one of them at least twice in this paragraph). But this one was kind of great:

Aren't you glad that these are the comic book experts entrusted to distribute the majority of comics to the direct market?

I'm thinking that the BLACK LIGHTING TV show would be a CSI spin-off, devoted to the guys who use UV lights to detect bloodstains, other bodily fluids, counterfeit currency, nightclub entrance stamps, etc. Not sure what that has to do with the crime fighting teacher.

Anyway, congrats to Toy Isabella and Trevor Vo Eede on the potential show ("Diamod" also doesn't feel the character creators are worth mentioning in a news story).

DAREDEVIL - LOVE & WAR by Sienkiewicz/Miller

I'd read most of Frank Miller's 1980s work on Daredevil over the years, but not the 1986 "Marvel Graphic Novel" he wrote for Bill Sienkiewicz, LOVE & WAR. I recently got the Sienkiewicz/Miller ELEKTRA ASSASSIN book (which I've only previously read the first issue of), and it's on my metaphorical to-read pile (meaning it's on a bookshelf, filed under "S" for "Sink, Billy the"), and I saw L&W on a recent Marvel digital sale, so I figured that's worth $2.50.

It's not terrible, but it's not terribly good either. There's a criticism that publishers jumped on the "graphic novel" bandwagon in the 1980s by pumping out souped up annuals and selling them for five times the price. This isn't exactly the best example of that (see DAZZLER: THE MOVIE or SUPER BOXERS for that) but it's on that spectrum. Bill Sienkiewicz was early in his transition from second rate Neal Adams clone to the guy who did STRAY TOASTERS and BIG NUMBERS (and from there to one of the most sought after inkers in the biz. Odd career trajectory...), and the format is vaguely justified by the fact that this art would not have been properly reproduced on the newsprint of the regular series at the time, though this price level was still high (this was published at $6.95 when a regular issue of DD was 75¢. With an issue of DD being $3.99 now, that means this would be $37 today). This is pretty much a triple-length issue of Miller's DD, but where in the regular run he had Klaus Janson or David Mazzucchelli to ground the visuals with a sense of reality and humanity when Miller's script lacked it, and the comics code to keep a leash on the tendency to extreme violence, here he has no restraints and a visual collaborator who's very much into pushing the boundary of reality and storytelling in his work. The whole thing reeks of excess, sometimes in a good way, but more often not.

The story is pretty basic. The Kingpin, whose wife Vanessa is still suffering from amnesia due to the events of Miller's first DD run (this appears to be set between the Miller/Janson run and the Miller/Mazzucchelli run, although it was published after the latter), has the blind wife of a world-renowned doctor kidnapped to force the doctor to find a cure for Vanessa. Daredevil must first rescue the wife from the psychotic that the Kingpin has inexplicably tasked with holding her, and then break into the Kingpin's highrise headquarters to rescue the doctor (most amusing, we're expected to believe that a villain who has spent years fighting Spider-Man and Daredevil has no cameras on one side of his building because there are no windows there).  Even with this fairly simple plot and 63 pages to tell it, the ending winds up being rushed and perfunctory.

So for a DAREDEVIL annual, and if priced as such, it's decent enough, a little undisciplined, but that leads to some interesting bits. And it's a nice look at the state of Sienkiewicz's art just on the verge of breaking out, and for the first time really being given the print quality that would allow for his later work.

Monday, September 12, 2016

On the price of digital comics...

Something I've noticed...

Some background first. About a decade ago digital editions of print comics started to become a viable thing, as display technology and internet speeds got to the point that an adequate reading experience could be delivered. Various companies entered the field, and the clear winner, through a combination of a superior interface and strategic exclusive deals, was Comixology.

Eventually Amazon bought Comixology in 2014. The first visible effect of this was that Comixology removed the ability to buy comics directly in the reading app in Apple devices. Those purchases required using Apple's payment service, for which Apple reportedly takes at least 30% off the top. Amazon's decision not to engage in that is pretty justifiable. 30% for basically providing credit card processing is ridiculous to the point of usury. An independent Comixology trying to establish itself in the market can justify paying it for the market exposure and to provide a more easy and trusted payment service to new customers. An established Comixology backed by Amazon is getting a lot less for their 30%, especially since Amazon has its own competing on-line payments system, and you don't fund and legitimize the competition if you can avoid it. So while reading could continue on the apps on Apple phones and tablets, purchasing would have to be done through the website, payable by Amazon Payments or Paypal (I'm not sure what the situation was with in-app purchases on non-Apple devices).

The next major change was the integration of Comixology with Amazon's digital reader the Kindle. Starting late last year you could read many (but not all) digital comics bought on Amazon through Comixology. That only worked one way, though, books bought on Comixology can't be read on the Kindle. They also allowed you to merge your Comixology and Amazon accounts, although buried in the fine print there was that once you merge the accounts the ability to pay with Paypal goes away (and they've made it clear that eventually you'll have to use an Amazon account on Comixology).

So for a comic that is available on both Comixology and Amazon Kindle stores, the normal situation is this:

a) you can buy it on Amazon, which means you can read it either as a Kindle ebook (actual Kindle hardware, Kindle apps for other devices, Kindle cloud reader) or through Comixology (apps or web reader)

b) you can buy it on Comixology, which means you can read it through Comixology (apps or web reader)

So you're getting a lot more flexibility buying it through on Amazon (not that the Kindle reading experience for comics is any great shakes, especially compared to Comixology, but I assume there are situations where people will prefer to use it). They must charge a modest premium for those extra reading options. So let's compare the price, checked today, of a dozen books available on Amazon and on Comixology (and the print price, just for reference), with the difference you pay buying it on Amazon.

Title Publisher Amazon Comixology Amazon discount Print
Harley Quinn (2016-) #3 DC $2.99 $2.99 0 % $2.99
Ms. Marvel (2015-) #7 Marvel $3.62 $3.99 9 % $3.99
March: Book Three Top Shelf $7.66 $9.99 23 % $19.99
Paper Girls #9 Image $2.15 $2.99 28 % $2.99
Creepy Presents Steve Ditko Dark Horse $7.66 $10.99 30 % $19.99
Luke Cage, Hero For Hire Marvel Masterworks Vol. 1 Marvel $10.97 $16.99 35 % $75.00
Descender Vol. 2 Image $7.73 $11.99 36 % $14.99
Batman: The Killing Joke DC $7.66 $12.99 41 % $17.99
Ghosts Scholastic $5.36 $10.99 51 % $10.99
Puma Blues Dover $11.79 $23.99 51 % $29.95
From Hell Top Shelf $6.89 $14.99 54 % $35.00
Ragnarok Vol. 1: Last God Standing IDW $3.82 $9.99 62 % $24.99

So in all but one case I checked it was cheaper to buy from Amazon, usually considerably cheaper, despite the fact that you get more reading options buying from Amazon. And the one case where the price is the same? The Amazon page there notes "Price set by seller", which they use to mean "we'd sell it for less if we could, but the publisher won't let us". Presumably DC is insisting on price parity between different channels for recent periodical comics at least. Overall you would save over 40% buying those comics through Amazon instead of through Comixology, and 70% against buying them in print at cover price.

(these aren't atypical, and I couldn't find one case where the Comixology price was lower or I'd have included it)

(edit to add, someone told me that they got different prices checking Amazon, some lower, some higher, but always lower than the Comixology price. I just did some checking, and Amazon seemingly lists prices somewhat randomly, sometimes I get slightly different prices loading pages a few minutes apart, and wildly different prices, lower or higher, if I'm not logged in and using a VPN to mask my location. So exact amounts will vary, but still always lower on the service with most reading options)

Passing strange. Not sure where else you can get more for less like that (I think I've seen it sometimes with CDs, where a physical CD with a digital download is sometimes cheaper than just the digital version). I guess the business model of keeping your margins tight, even selling at a loss, until you build up the market share so you can crush your competition, and then have the ability to control the market completely is so completely ingrained in the Amazon DNA that it applies even when the competition is a wholly owned subsidiary. More to the point, I guess that Amazon prefers you buy through their site, where paying by Paypal isn't an option, so there's another middleman they can cut out completely.

Anyone have another plausible explanation for this price curiosity?

As I was saying...

Enter stage left, a middle-aged man wearing shorts and a plaid shirt. The room is lined with bookcases and boxes containing comic books. A television sits on a stand in one corner, with some Fraggle Rock DVDs on the stand as well. An open laptop sits on a small desk. The man fiddles with his cellular telemaphone until the opening number of the cast recording of Lin-Manuel Miranda's IN THE HEIGHTS can be heard, then sits in front of the laptop, looks at it with a quizzical expression that somehow mixes confusion with recognition with regret. He blows at the keyboard, raising a comical level of dust straight from an old Warner Brothers cartoon.

So, anyone still reading this thing? Might be hard, since I clearly haven't been writing it. Anyway, I hear tell that the comics internet is dead or dying (or should be killed, I'm unclear on the details), so I figured it's now the best time to get back in it. Plus there's a decent chance I'll get rid of both my Facebook and Twitter accounts by the end of the year, and I suppose I'll need someplace to be on-line, since I'm not sure that I exist in 2016 if I don't have that.

So let's get back into this with some short takes on the kinds of things I'll be posting about if this comeback turns out to be a real thing.

I remain delighted that after all these years I can still come across something as absurd as the cover of COUNT DUCKULA #8 (1989).
Talk show host Geraldo Rivera is doing a show investigating the long lost vault of bird gangster Al Capon and runs into Count Duckula. After touring the count's castle, Geraldo decides to do a special Halloween show on Count Duckula. But one special guest on the show causes a lot of problems in "Cry Me A Rivera" and "T.V. or Not T.V." 
That is a thing that exists. There are so many things wrong (and by wrong I mean great) with that. Plus, apparently Bill Sienkiewicz joins regular artist Warren Kremer (creator or definitive artist on most of the classic Harvey characters) on the artwork inside. I might have to pick this up sometime.

I've written before about issues concerning creators in comics getting appropriate credit for the creations (also appropriate compensation, but the financial aspect remains private unless the creators choose to talk about it, while the credit is by definition public). I'm glad that some positive changes have been made in that field over the last few years (if I ever figure out Tumblr look for more here). The biggest change would be that Marvel came to some agreement with the Jack Kirby family, so now he gets explicit credit as the creator or co-creator of most of his characters in the comics (at least a dozen books a month), and a more explicit credit in at least some of the screen adaptations. More recently they've begun to acknowledge Steve Ditko in print for co-creating Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, although I don't know if they decided to do that unilaterally or came to some agreement with Ditko.

The big change over at DC is the long overdue addition of Bill Finger to the Batman credit line, although with the more milquetoast "Batman created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger" wording rather than full co-creator status. I guess you take what tiny victories there are. The new version of the credit appears both in print and on screen. The Superman credit, meanwhile, changed a while ago in print to add the rather unwieldy line "by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family" to the traditional "Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster" credit. The credit has also expanded to at least some of the derivative characters like Supergirl.

Other than those big two, DC's a hodge-podge of acknowledged and unacknowledged creators, presumably based on exactly what their original contract said or subsequent negotiations with the creators have yielded. John Constantine recently got the rather specifically punctuated "created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleben and Jamie Delano & John Ridgway" (with no mention of Rick Veitch, artist of the first full story with JC). There was a run of the Young Justice cartoon where the Martian Manhunter went from uncredited to "created by Joe Samachson" to "created by Joe Samachson & Joseph Certa" to "created by Joseph Samachson & Joe Certa" (which seems to be the one they landed on). So the exact credits for each character can be in flux for a while.

Black Lightning has been in the news lately, which has brought to light that Tony Isabella has come to an agreement with DC that the credit line for the character will read "created by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden", taking the same linguistic compromise they did with Finger for Batman. The credit was initially Isabella solo for several years, until DC made what appears to be a unilateral decision to add Von Eeden as full co-creator, which is how it stood until recently. The news around the character also brought out the since retracted claim from Gerry Conway that Robert Kanigher should also be co-credited with the character, based on some prior development work for a horrid rejected character named "The Black Bomber" with Conway as editor. Very bizarre.

The most amusing thing was Conway stating that "Yep. Like Trump, Bob [Kanigher] insisted he understood “the blacks,” so imagine a Trump-scripted black superhero." I'm sorry, I don't care how bad "Black Bomber" was (and in the larger view Kanigher is infinitely more accomplished than Conway, despite some missteps), is this really the creator of Vibe (the breakdancing hispanic gang member turned hero from Justice League Detroit) criticizing others for cultural insensitivity? Iz chu loco, gringo?

Of course, for me, any increase in credits only serves to spotlight the many characters published every week without any acknowledgement of their creators (I may be in the minority in that, I don't think most comic readers or viewers of comic based movies and TV shows care). If the Gordian Knots of Marvel credit for Kirby and Ditko and Batman credit for Finger can be solved, surely an accommodation can be reached so every character has an associated creator or creators?

Some comics I've actually read lately...

I read the first two collections of VELVET, the spy thriller by Steve Epting and Ed Brubaker, reprinting the first ten issues from Image Comics. The high concept of the series is "what if Moneypenny (from James Bond stories) was really a retired agent", and it hasn't really moved beyond that yet, but it moves fast, hits all the familiar notes in a somewhat fresh way and looks pretty good. I'll come back for a third.

BLOODHOUND: BRASS KNUCKLE PSYCHOLOGY is written by Dan Jolley, mostly drawn by Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs, with one issue by Eddy Barrows. Published by Dark Horse, it reprints nine of the ten issues of the series published by DC from 2004-2005 (one issue was a crossover with FIRESTORM so excluded, a few changes are made in other issues to eliminate DC universe references). The title character, Travis Clevinger, is a former cop, in jail for killing his partner as the series starts. He has some vaguely defined power to track down superhumans, and gets a deal from the FBI for his help on a case. I kind of liked this, although there are lots of pacing problems, and I'd agree with Kurt Busiek's introduction that it would seem to work better outside the DC universe. Which is where the second book is more firmly set. I liked this enough to check that out someday.

Speaking of Kurt Busiek, I read the first book of AUTUMNLANDS, his series with artist Benjamin Dewey. It's an epic-fantasy about a magic-based world with lots of different animal tribes who end up bringing a legendary champion back from the past. There's more than a hint of Jack Kirby's Kamandi in the set-up, but a very different feel in the structure and storytelling. I enjoyed this one a lot, looks like it's still a while before the second book comes out, but I'll be there. And one of these days I'll probably have to check in with Busiek's ASTRO CITY again.

The first I HATE FAIRYLAND collection reprints five issues from Skottie Young's Image series about a young girl who's been trapped for decades in an Oz/Wonderland type fantasy realm, not aging and constantly causing chaos in her inept attempts to complete the quest that will let her leave. Starts off pretty good, Young's a funny cartoonist (as seen in the adaptations of six Oz novels with writer Eric Shanower he did between 2008 and 2013) and he gets to really cut loose here with the violence and mayhem. Unfortunately, by about the end of #2 we've seen it all, and nothing really new happens until the climax of the book. That ending did promise something a little bit different in the next book, so I might still give that a try, which I wasn't expecting I'd say a dozen pages from the end of this one.

I recently read all four of Darwyn Cooke's PARKER books from IDW, adapting Donald Westlake's novels of the career criminal's various adventures. Well, re-read the first two, and newly read the last two. THE HUNTER is still mostly solid, sets up the visual style of the world nicely, hits most of the beats. It is one of the cases where I'm familiar with the source material (albeit from over a decade before I read the adaptation), and I think Cooke falls down on a few bits, especially the ending, while keeping a lot of the more dated aspects of the book.  THE OUTFIT is one I didn't much like when I first read it, and that continues this time. A few bits in the beginning are good (as I understand it that bit is an abbreviated adaptation of another novel, THE MAN WITH THE GETAWAY FACE), but I really didn't like the section of various heists being told in different styles. The ending is a bit better, but not enough to redeem the book.  The third book is THE SCORE, another where I'm distantly familiar with the source material, and is the best of the series. It's got a straight forward heist, some well presented details of the planning, the execution, the inevitable screw-ups and the resolution, all with some colourful characters. So with the best of feelings towards the series, I go into SLAYGROUND (which adapts that novel, and has a shorter adaptation of another book, THE SEVENTH). Very disappointing. It was a slog to get through, even though it's much shorter than the other books. Parker spends most of the story alone, trapped in an empty amusement park planning for his eventual confrontation with some other criminals, so you don't even get him playing off other characters, where the heart of the series lies. A few clever visual bits, as you usually get from Cooke, but not enough to redeem the book. The short adaptation of THE SEVENTH is a little better, but mostly inconsequential. 

Okay, that's enough for now. Maybe later some thoughts of MULTIVERSITY, WYTCHES, CHRONONAUTS, BLACK MAGICK, THEY'RE NOT LIKE US, MOON GIRL & DEVIL DINOSAUR, PAPER GIRLS, PATIENCE, NAMELESS, FIGHT CLUB 2, some of DC's "Rebirth" comics and more. If anyone is actually reading this, let me know what you'd like to know more about.

Let's see, how about TV. Mostly watching older stuff on DVD these days. The only "new" series I watched over the summer was PREACHER, and that mostly with trainwreck fascination. I'm not a huge fan of the source material, but I did think it had some good points, especially in the first year of the book. The TV show captured almost none of those, in either substance or tone.

Older stuff, I watched the first four seasons of VEEP, and really enjoyed it. Fast, funny, with lots of unexpected twists. Watching some of the other HBO sitcoms occasionally too (SILICON VALLEY, GIRLS, ENTOURAGE) and like some aspects of each, but VEEP is definitely the stand-out among those. Even better than CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, which I watched last year. Although all still pale next to LARRY SANDERS.

Rewatched the first few seasons of KEY & PEELE, which were as amazing as always. Possibly my favourite sketch show of all time, one of the few to regularly have episodes where every single sketch worked, and I can watch multiple times. Also in sketch, watching some PORTLANDIA, INSIDE AMY SCHUMER and CHAPPELLE'S SHOW. All have some great material, but can really be hit or miss, and almost always have at least one sketch per show that drags (I'd only watched "Best of" episodes of CHAPPELLE before, and didn't realize how huge the disparity between the "Best of" and the "Average of" was.

Watched the last few seasons of LOUIE and THE LEAGUE. Both shows on FX. Both shows I enjoyed the early seasons of. And both shows pretty awful in the final years. Almost painful just how little of what worked on both shows was still in evidence at the end.

Been rewatching MAD MEN, in anticipation for watching the final season for the first time soon. At its best, which is frequent, the show is great, maybe one of the best dramas ever. But almost every season has one or two episodes I can't stand, and which make me consider stopping cold. I can't say I'm really looking forward to the final season, based on some stuff I've heard about it, but at this point I need the closure.

The only talk show I was watching consistently start to finish was THE NIGHTLY SHOW (Wilmore). With that gone, I usually watch about an average of half of each DAILY SHOW (Noah), a third of THE LATE SHOW (Colbert), a quarter of each LATE LATE SHOW (Corden), CONAN (O'Brien), maybe a few minutes of THE TONIGHT SHOW (Fallon) and LATE NIGHT (Meyers). Gives me almost a complete hour when none of them are in repeats...

And, as mentioned up top, I can always make time for an old FRAGGLE ROCK or MUPPET SHOW.

Should probably watch some more movies, but then I'm not terribly impressed with what I have been watching. I did kind of enjoy some of the kids movies I saw with my niece (ZOOTOPIA, FINDING DORY, GHOSTBUSTERS), which is almost the only time I go to a theatre rather than waiting for home viewing.  The best movie I've seen recently was probably SPOTLIGHT, but given that I'm comparing it to BATMAN V SUPERMAN, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, THE HATEFUL EIGHT and DEADPOOL that might not be high praise. I think I might go back to old movies for a while. There are a bunch of supposedly good ones I've never seen, and a few great ones I could always stand to rewatch.

As long as we're going around the horn, music. I spent most of the summer listening to the Broadway cast album of HAMILTON, well over 100 times. Since then my most common playlist has been HAMILTON (minus a few songs), IN THE HEIGHTS (Lin-Manuel Miranda's previous musical), five versions of LES MISERABLES (minus Javert solos from the film), two versions of SWEENEY TODD and two versions of WEST SIDE STORY. So lots of showtunes. I'm sure I'll get over it soon, and go back to mostly Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and classic rock, where my tastes mostly atrophied circa 1990.

Spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, as well. Generally I listen to every episode of Never Not Funny, SklarBro Country, House To Astonish and Extra Hot Great, and select episodes (depending on subject/guest) of WTF, The Majority Report, The Comic Book Page Podcast, Comedy Bang Bang, Wait What, Maltin on Movies, Doug Loves Movies and a few others.

Well, that's more than enough, possibly crossing over into too much. See you either tomorrow, or sometime next year.
Weblog by BobH [bobh1970 at gmail dot com]