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In which I complain about reading too few comics.

§ October 4th, 2023 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, nancy, this week's comics § 5 Comments

So it’s been a while since I’ve done just straight up reviews of the new comics on this site, which is primarily because I don’t tend to read the new comics during the week they’re new. Either I’m reading things well ahead of time (as the Marvel and DC books usually show up at the shop a week before their on-sale date), which is rare, or I read them well after release, which is more likely.

My eyeball troubles during their initial phase, when my vision was cloudy or just blacked out entirely, kept me from reading more or less anything for about a year and a half. I was able to read text on my computer screen by enlarging fonts, doing high contrast white-on-black colors, etc. But comics were a no-go for a while. And while I still continued to accumulate books to read during this period, they went unread for quite some time.

I’ve got quite the backlog, even with deciding to give up on some titles to thin out the stack. Adding to the problem is that now I’m able to read again, I’m not reading as quickly as I used to. And this is just comics. I’m not even bringing the prose books I’ve gathered up recently into this.

I’m trying to make time to read comics and get through these stacks. I have entire series that I’m eventually going to have to sit and buzz through their runs. I just did this with Ahoy Comics’ Second Coming and The Wrong Earth, and Howard Chaykin’s Hey, Kids! Comics! is up next.

Graphic novels are kind of a roadblock in this process, in that I could read 1 graphic novel or I can read (x) number of comics in that same period of time. Again, I read more slowly than I used to, so it’s a real decision to make.

But it’s no decision at all when Bill Griffith gets a book out:

I mean, of course I’m going to read a biography of Nancy creator Ernie Bushmiller. It’s a dense retelling of not just Bushmiller’s career, but of the history of comic strips in general, going into details of the business from Bushmiller’s era. It’s not as emotionally devastating as his previous biography, Nobody’s Fool, the story of real-life pinhead Schlitzie, but watching Bushmiller’s rise and developing his methods of operation are both compelling and exciting.

There are several asides, from Nancy and Sluggo themselves (using redialogued Bushmiller art), and from Griffith himself, making appearances as the curator of an imaginary Nancy museum. Certainly strange, certainly fitting given the comics being discussed.

Good book, well worth spending the time absorbing this work. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested not just in Nancy and Bushmiller, but in the business of strips.

I do love the cover, taken of course from one of Bushmiller’s more nightmare-inducing strips:

…which I of course used as a wallpaper on my original flip phone, and also appeared in my Sluggo Saturday feature. (I see someone else out there is using the “Sluggo Saturday” name — ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES.)

The book does bring up his use of assistants of course, which I was aware of even when I bought this original Nancy strip a few years back. Like I said in that post, even so it was nice to have something produced under Bushmiller’s watch. And seeing that period of Bushmiller’s career in Griffith’s book, it was nice to think “I have something from this point in his life.” It’s a solid, real connection to this story, and in its way, maybe Three Rocks is as affecting as Nobody’s Fool, at least to me and my personal minor link to Bushmiller.

Get yourself Jupitered.

§ July 24th, 2023 § Filed under indies, pal plugging, this week's comics § 2 Comments

It’s here, it’s here, in my hot little hands direct from Jason Sandberg himself, as predicted by prophecy, the new Jupiter #1:

Jupiter was a black and white indie publisher too briefly in the 1990s, and I discussed that run here. Then in 2018 Jason put up a digital compilation of the best of Jupiter. And now, here we are, with a brand new color comic featuring his weird and wonderful cartooning.

Now, ever since I wrote that first blog post about Jupiter way back when, Jason and I have been online pals, chatting regularly, me hopefully being encouraging about his work, and he sending me the occasional goodie in the mail (like when he sent a stack of mini-comics he did for me to give away on Free Comic Book Day).

This time, he made sure I had plenty of the new Jupiter on hand, along with a few extra bits of business just for me.

First, he sent me a signed copy. That was nice!

Then there were the membership/fan club cards:

And of course, the official Jupiter coin:

Then, inexplicably, or perhaps entirely explicably, this WildC.A.T.s promo trading card:

He also sent me a personal note, but that’s personal, like I said. MIND YOUR OWN BEESWAX

Last but not least, yours truly gets not one, but two mentions within this mind-shattering publication, including a plug for the very site you’re theoretically reading right now:

…as well as for the store I reportedly own:

“Drop?” “Drop in?” “DROP IT, PUNK?” “Dropout Boogie by Captain Beefheart?” You’ll have to buy the comic, or surreptitiously sneak a peek in the shop, to see the whole pulse-pounding prose Jason attached to mentions of ME ME ME.

Anyway, there it is. YEARS IN THE MAKING! I’m glad Jason’s funding campaigns were a success, and that hopefully more people will get exposed to his wonderful cartooning.

I think you can still order it from that Indiegogo link? I’m not sure. But while supplies last, you can order them from me! Tell me I sent you!

The nexus between price and value.

§ February 27th, 2023 § Filed under publishing, retailing, this calls for hyperspeed, this week's comics § 15 Comments

Nexus by Mike Baron and (usually) Steve Rude has been one of my favorite comics for a long time, dating back to almost, but not quite, the beginning of the series. I started reading Nexus (and Baron’s other book, Badger) when First Comics started publishing them. Fortunately, this was relatively early in both titles’ runs, so picking up the relative handful of previous issues published by Captial Comics wasn’t so onerous a task. However, I did pick up First’s trade paperback reprinting the original three Nexus black and white magazines, instead of buying all the originals. (I did eventually get the third magazine, because of the included flexidisc.)

So anyway, I’ve been a fan for a long time, and look forward to any new material featuring Nexus. After a bit of a dry period, we got some serialized stories in the 2011-4 run of Dark Horse Presents (reprinted as the Into the Past TPB), the Nexus Newspaper Strips TPB (which I think reprints material produced through Kickstarter or something similar, someone correct me), and there was also that 3 or 4 issue run (depending on how you count it) published in 2007 or so by Rude himself.

And then, this past week, we got a new Nexus graphic novel, Nefarious. It’s written by Baron, and illustrated by Richard Bonk, who does a good job, I think, and you can see sample pages over at Dark Horse’s site.

The story is relatively simple…Nexus gets accidenntally stranded on what amounts to being a prison planet without his powers. And, as it turns out, the prisoners may not deserve to be there. It moves quickly, with Nexus gathering allies (and encountering one strange old “friend” that I hadn’t expected to see again) and, probably not a spoiler, going after the person responsible for these unjust imprisonments (and worse).

It feels like classic Nexus, like the pre-First era, in that events are almost…dreamlike in their progression, no time is wasted on long exposition or explanations. Sometimes it is to the detriment of the narrative (like, I’m not sure entirely what happened when Nexus had to prove his identity to a pair of aliens early on…maybe I’m forgetting something from the original series involving that particular race), but overall it’s a fun read.

My main issue with this release is the format and cost. While it’s marketed as a “64 page hardcover” the story itself is 54 pages, with 8 pages presenting black and white copy-free artwork from that story, and a final page with an ad for the newspaper strip book. I know this is a format Dark Horse has used in the past, like with some standalone Hellboy stories (such as 2016’s 56-page Into the Silent Sea for $14.99), but $17.99 for this book seems…just a little too much. Maybe there are publishing and/or economic reasons for not just releasing this as a staplebound one-shot for, I don’t know, $6.99, where it would likely have stronger sales off the new comics rack.

I’m sure “longer shelf life” is a big part of it, and getting it into bookstores, too. But it was bit of a sticker shock when I saw that price. I’m not trying to pick on the Nexus book here, as this format at $14.99 I feel like was pushing it. $17.99 just seems like going a little too far, even with consideration for inflation and such. As a store owner, I have to consider perceived value, what prices would my customers consider reasonable for certain items. This has been a problem as comic periodical prices slowly creep up and up, but graphic novels have, at least, seemed to maintain that price/perceived value balance, more or less. It simply seems to me that this Nexus book is too far on the “less” side, which does a good comic a disservice.

Eventually every character in limbo from Grant Morrison’s Animal Man will return, I guess.

§ December 14th, 2022 § Filed under this week's comics § 16 Comments

It was mentioned in the original solicitation, so I must have read it back then when I was placing orders on this book. Nevertheless, I was both a little tickled and a little proud of myself as I was reading this comic and it suddenly dawned on me that it was going to incorporate all the characters that had appeared in DC’s 1970s Showcase-esque try-out series 1st Issue Special. Now, it didn’t occur to me ’til Atlas showed up in the middle of the story, so I’m not too proud.

I’m a little surprised this series didn’t get the upscale printing treatment as writer Tom King’s other “modernized” updates to DC characters, like Human Target, Strange Adventures, and Mister Miracle, with the cardboard covers. But this series is styled like them, with a story image on the back cover instead of an ad. And the content is similar, with edgier, more “adult” updates to classic and not-so-classic characters. It’s interesting so far, and I like the gimmick of the book using this specific character set. We’ll see how it holds up for 12 issues.

I feel like this is being overlooked a bit as compared to his other Image series, the excellent Eight Billion Genies, but Charles Soule (along with artist Will Sliney) is doing some fine occult-y adventure work on this book. Using the premise of our protagonists pressed into service to hunt down coins from hell (literally, Hell’s actual currency) as a framework to discuss and critique actual economic and financial issues is a clever one, and so far not overused or overbearing. Focus is definitely on the pursuit of the coins, a nice hook driving the plots, though I expect the series to become more than a simple “get the coin” story every issue, like Eight Billion Genies going from “look how wishes mess with our characters” to “look how wishes have altered all of society.” It’s a solid book that I’m enjoying, and I hope more people catch onto it.

Okay, this actually came out a couple of weeks ago but I just now got around to reading it. It’s…fine, and I’m sort of feeling like how folks felt when they finally got their Dark Knight sequel a couple of decades back. Like, “huh, this is different from what I was expecting.” Casey from the original series carries over, as she and her son (who was obviously fathered by the eponymous Ronin himself) fight a demon roaming the city. There’s a lot of ‘splaining to do in regards to the premise of this series, but it’s only the first issue so presumably said ‘splaining is to come.

Story is told in mostly two-page splashes, written and laid out by Frank Miller and finished by Philip Tan and Daniel Henriques, so it’s certainly visually distinct from the original, as well as missing the rich coloring from that first series. As I said, I like it so far, but I need to see where it’s going exactly, which I suppose is a sign that this first issue did its job.

It’s a lot to read, but at least click on the “Pariah” link for an old classic ProgRuin post from back when the site was good.

§ July 8th, 2022 § Filed under this week's comics § 5 Comments

[SPOILERS for Dark Crisis]

I suppose I’ll have a more comprehensive post on this series when it’s over, if I have anything to say about it in the context of DC’s ongoing Crisiseseses. (I should note that I asked the Bits Boys over on this episode of the War Rocket Ajax podcast about whether or not DC should retire the word “Crisis” from their events…a hint as to my suggested replacement is in the episode’s title.)

Like many of DC’s events, we’re dipping back into that Crisis on Infinite Earths well, where the character of Pariah, introduced in that 30-year-old series, is back as the apparent antagonist of this current story. How this will eventually play out in the inevitable “make Crisis on Infinite Earths never not-was” conclusion, I don’t know yet, but maybe this will get it out of the publisher’s system and we can finally go back to crossover events where heroes are, I don’t know, saving the world or something and not just puppets in the latest metatextual rejiggerings of their fictional milieu.

But as someone who read said Crisis on Infinite Earths way back when, who experienced it as it should have been experienced, in real time, anticipating building for each monthly issue to see what new, irrevocable changes have been made to the DC Universe. Anyone coming to it after the fact misses that primary ingredient of the event, the expectation that what we’re seeing really is big, permanent change, and the combination of uneasiness and excitement at what was coming. The story of COIE itself is a sloppy mess, though beautifully drawn by George Perez, but the story is almost beside the point. The point is Big Events, Worlds Living, Worlds Dying, Things Never Being The Same, and the plot just drives you from one happening to the next one.

Ever since, I’ve had an ongoing interest in all these regular multiversal shenanigans. Sometimes it’s genuine interest in the story, too often it’s the rubbernecking at a car wreck, and overall it’s the continuing observation of figuring out new and even more convoluted ways to either undo COIE or route around its damage. So far I haven’t quite gleaned how that’s going to happen in Dark Crisis yet, though hints have been dropped. We’ll get to it when we get to it, I suppose.

The secondary purpose of the series is to establish the importance of the “next generation” of heroes in the DC Universe, following the “death” of the Justice League. Look, we all know the JLA ain’t dead, at least not all permanent-like, and that the “new generation” will never take over for the regular heroes. Superman will always be Clark Kent, Batman will always be Bruce Wayne, etc., barring a huge industry-wide shift away from superheroes like what happened in the late ’40s/early ’50s, providing a natural break to introduce new versions of old characters (though Supes, Bats, and Wonder Woman didn’t change over even then). At best Dark Crisis may support the ongoing viability of DC’s various new mostly-legacy characters, introducing them to the new readers via this crossover event. A primary goal of team-up books is to expose readers to other characters, and this latest event is no different.

As to the actual contents of the comic itself…it’s fine as these things go. Nicely drawn, an interesting subplot of the new Superman, Jon Kent, trying and not succeeding at forming a new Justice League, a knock-down, drag-out fight between Nightwing and Deathstroke, a good fake-out with Beast Boy. Oh, and Black Adam is featured in this series, too, because he’s Coming Soon to a Theater Near You, so why not. Actually, I sort of like Adam’s new status as Adversarial Sometimes-Ally, which is more interesting than yet another Pure Evil Guy, which we’ve been getting for a while. And two members of the Justice League who did not “die,” Green Lantern and the Flash, have important roles to play as well (particularly with GL in #2), so by and large I’ve liked these first couple of issues. There’s a lot happening, it’s got that COIE tie-in that I’m both tired of and compelled by, and it looks nice. Pretty much what I want from a dopey superhero comic.

Also I wanted to note that I really liked this variant cover for Justice League: Road to Dark Crisis #1:

I think DC just dropped a hint at the secret identity of Flaming Carrot.

By which I mean the current Hulk #1, not the previous three or four Hulk #1s.

§ November 26th, 2021 § Filed under hulk, this week's comics § 1 Comment

[spoilers for Hulk #1]

So my first Hulk comic was Incredible Hulk #293, cover-dated March 1984 but released in late 1983. I’d been mostly a DC Comics kid, but I’d been sampling various Marvels here and there for a while, enjoying just how different they felt from their crosstown rivals.

I was of course familiar with the Hulk…I’d seen the TV show, I read the Origins of Marvel Comics paperback featuring his origin, and I’m pretty sure I’d encountered funnybooks of his before. I certainly read the 1981 Batman/Hulk crossover. I just wasn’t picking up his own monthly title on a regular basis.

Well, for whatever reason I picked up that #293 off the stands, probably because of that image of him whaling on the Fantastic Four and wondering what was going on (SPOILER: dream sequence). I was also in for another surprise, in that the Hulk with which I was the most familiar, the one that in fact is the dominant version of Hulk just about the entire world knows, is the “Hulk Smash!”/”Madder Hulk Gets, Stronger Hulk Gets” character. Not very bright, speaks like a child (or not at all, as per the TV show), alter ego Bruce Banner wandering from town to town in his purple pants…that’s Hulk.

I started reading Incredible Hulk with that #293, and once a month (or two or three times a month, given Marvel’s bonkers release schedules of late) I’ve been getting a Hulk comic ever since. And for the majority of that time, that prevailing popular perception of the Hulk had not been the basis for the stories.

In that first issue I’d read, Bruce Banner had been in control of the Hulk’s body for quite some time. However, gears were beginning to slip a bit as we pushed forward to #300, with Banner losing more and more control until finally, we ended up with a Hulk that was entirely savage with no trace of Bruce Banner at all. Plus, there began to be a heavier focus on the psychology of Banner/Hulk, introduced by Bill Mantlo and picked up by Peter David during his long run.

Over the ensuing decades, we saw lots of permutations of the Hulk, with Ol’ Jadejaws “Smash Puny Humans” edition only appearing incidentally. And the focus was heavily on the psychology of the Hulk and Banner and how they related to each other. And after this latest iteration, Immortal Hulk, which dove deep, deep, deep into the workings of the Hulk — or rather, multiple Hulks — it was hard to see where else they could go with the concept. Especially since the series was so highly regarded, and for good reason (though ultimately going down in history with an asterisk next to its name due to some issues with the primary artist).

For one thing, I’m kinda surprised/kinda not surprised that Marvel immediately jumped back on the Hulk train so soon after wrapping up such a high profile series. Surprised in that the quality of the series casts a long shadow that any new series is going to have to try to escape in order to get its own thing going. Not surprised because it’s Marvel, restarting series with new #1s over and over again is kinda their brand.

But here it is, a new Hulk #1 for me to read after almost 40 years of reading the darn things. And yes, they seem to have found yet another permutation of the Hulk/Banner relationship…one that seems to present a more antagonistic Banner, literally pictured as piloting the Hulk’s physical body from whatever mental seating he has within. The Hulk has been outfitted with rocket-ship-y doodads and thingamajigs, apparently for Banner/Hulk to depart the Earth, fueled by the caged-in-mental-realm Interior Hulk’s rage.

I gotta say, didn’t see that coming. While I do appreciate that it retains the bones of the classic “madder Hulk gets etc.” idea, I especially like the idea of Banner being more explicitly a menace, as opposed to the “puny” “milksop” victim he’s usually portrayed as. The thesis statement of the book appears to be “the Hulk is there to protect us from Banner,” so I expect to see variations on that theme over the course of series. It reminds me a little of that bit at the end of Peter David’s (first) run, where a darker, yet more put together Banner surprised Rick Jones in his room at night, and as he leaves, he turns and Rick sees a glint of gamma green in Banner’s eye. Just the slightest hint of danger that’s now fully in Banner’s grasp.

So, yes, this comic’s got my attention. I don’t know about “Hulk as spaceship,” but I do like a more motivated-by-self-interest Banner portrayed as being possibly more of a problem than the Hulk himself. It’s still going to be compared, favorably or disfavorably, to the Immortal Hulk that wrapped up just before it, but hopefully it’ll be good enough for fans to approach as Its Own Thing.

Anyway, look, after all this time…it’s not like I wasn’t going to read it, right?

We are the walking distributor.

§ October 6th, 2021 § Filed under retailing, this week's comics § 7 Comments

What’s great about this newest issue of Walking Dead‘s color reprints is how they just lean into the somewhat notorious “we ARE the Walking Dead!” declaration Rick makes in the issue. All but one of the variant covers features the phrase itself or a paraphrasing thereof, giving a hearty “take that, haters” to everyone who razzed the…on-the-noseness of it all.

I don’t know how the actual regular readers of The Walking Dead responded to the issue at the time. The color reprints also include the original letter columns, so I suppose I’ll find out myself in a month or two. My guess is that the fans invested in the book found it profound, while the comicsblogosphere of late 2005 probably happily snarked away at it out of its regular context. And while I don’t think I commented on it then, I would occasionally reference it for a gag, such as this recent tweet.

I’m pretty sure I’ve noted before that I am now reading The Walking Dead in its color reprint form, as I missed out on the series the first time. I mean, sure, not like there wasn’t plenty of ways to catch up on the book, what with all the trade paperback/hardcover/omnibus options, but I never seemed to get around to it. And now that it’s coming out in single issue form again every fortnight or so, it’s easy for me to just grab ‘n’ read them as they arrive.

Aaaaaaand…even in context, after having read issues #1 through #23, the “WE ARE THE WALKING DEAD!” exclamation at the end of #24 still comes across as perhaps just a tad overwrought. Too much Cochrane in First Contact saying “you’re all astronauts on some kind of star trek?” level of forced, dragging what should be subtext into just straight up text. On the other hand, if I wanted subtlety, I suppose I wouldn’t be reading a comic book called “The Walking Dead.”

All that said, it does come at the end of an effective extended speech from Rick, marking a turning point for our characters in this series. It’s essentially Rick emphasizing over and over that the old world, the old ways of doing things, are over, that everything you were used to is gone, and that they were going to have to get accustomed to doing things that were previously unthinkable in order to stay alive…not that “living” really means much of anything anymore. It’s bleak, it’s hopeless, and yet you still kinda want to see where things go from here, which was probably a hard trick to pull off.

Then there’s the two-page spread of Rick capping everything off with…well, you know, and I guess if you’re determined to get the title of the comic into the actual story somewhere, this is as good a way as any. Like I said, still a bit hokey, but, you know, what the hell, worse things happen at sea.

Also, if you’re wondering, of the many variants, the one pictured above is what I picked for myself, because it made me laugh.

• • •

A brief retailing update: I received my first order of Marvel periodicals from Penguin Random House this week. For me, anyway, it was a fairly auspicious debut, as everything I was expecting was actually in the boxes, which was a nice change of pace. There were damages, with four comics having some pretty badly dinged corners, but I couldn’t tell if it happened in transit, during the packing process, or maybe they just came that way from the printers, who knew?

Now, I think I may have been lucky, as the boxes used to ship the comics didn’t seem to be as sturdy, or as sizable, as they needed to be to safely transport comics. The boxes were small, just barely large enough to surround the comics, and honestly one big bump along the way on a conveyor belt in the sorting plant, or being bounced aaround on the delivery truck, could have easily damaged whatever was inside. However, each box was packed with instructions on how to report any shortages or damages, and also had an actual packing slip with the name of the person who did that packing — certainly not anything I was used to.

By contrast, the regular distributor’s shipment…shorted me entirely on a Star Wars comic, shorted me about 1/6th my order of one of the new Bad Idea comics, and had a few plainly avoidable damages. You’d think having fewer books to sort and pack would cut down on that sort of thing, but, well, habits die hard I guess.

The shipment from my DC Comics distributor was exemplary as usual, though I keep hearing tales of other stores having immense problems with them. Maybe I’ve just been lucky so far. Once I had all my copies of one title not get packed, and there’s been the very rare single copy damage or shortage, but 99% of the time, the shipment is flawless. It’s nice to not have to worry about at least one distributor…I mean, not yet.

Look, I’m calling them “Aliens,” you can call them “Xenomorphs” if you want.

§ September 22nd, 2021 § Filed under this week's comics § 7 Comments

First, let me say I really have been enjoying this new Marvel era of the Alien comics, after not having read a whole lot of comics based on this franchise for the better part of…what, twenty years now? Has it really been that long? That’s not a judgement on the quality of the Alien comics that had come before…I’d simply had my fill and gave decided to give it a rest.

It seems like there are only two types of Alien story: people gotta get their hands on Aliens and things go badly, or Aliens suddenly show up where people don’t want them and things go badly. Oh, and the third type, “fighting Predators/Batman/Superman/etc.” And maybe a fourth type, “weird-ass story written by Jim Woodring.” And several stories, including the very first movie, are mixes of the two. In general, though, tales tend to lean one way or the other between those first two possibilities.

The first story arc was more “people want to get Aliens,” and with issue #7 and its new story arc, we’ve swung over to the other side and we’re getting “Aliens show up and distress ensues.” Which is perfectly fine, given we’re invested in the characters involved and the circumstances in the Aliens find themselves. The trick of course is making these things just as, if not more, interesting than the Aliens themselves.

I realize that’s very much a “your mileage may vary” sort of situation, in that perhaps not everyone finds the Aliens as interesting as I do…I mean, I could read a comic that’s just, like “A Day in the Life of the Aliens” that show ’em building nests, carrying eggs around, salivating, that sort of thing. But, you know, this is an Alien comic, and if you’re picking it up I’m presuming Aliens have at least some appeal to you, and you’re not just reading it for, I don’t know, romance between the lead human characters or anything.

This new story arc is off to a good start, with an infested ship crashing into a colony that’s just on the verge of independence from Earth, with a lead human character who’s put off having her terminal illness treated to ensure the colony’s survival. By which I mean contractual survival, not survival of an Alien attack, but I imagine we’ll be seeing more of that next issue. Anyway, she’s introduced as a strong and relatively deep personality, which will make for a good POV for the Alien fun to follow.

It’s only been a week since the last issue, which is a littly annoying from a retailing point of view, but from a comic-reading fanboy POV, it’s good timing as I’m really enjoying this “Johnny stuck flamed-on all the time” storyline. What I’m enjoying is how much story is put into each issue…still not a patch on how much Lee & Kirby would cram into their pages way back when. But still it feels like a lot of stuff is happening, and we’re getting plenty of new and weird situations, which is what I want from an FF book.

A long time ago, when I was but a wee Mikester, I had a book that contained a whole lot of Norse myths. One of the stories that stuck with me into adulthood was where Thor ‘n’ pals encounter the Giants and then are tasked with multiple challenges that they should be able to take on easily but are handed humiliating defeats. The secret behind how the Giants won these victories has amused me for decades, and how here it is in illustrated form. Not much to say here except “glad to finally see it.”

Honestly, I think he’s a grown-up Herbie Popnecker (and that he’s teamed up with Herbie does nothing to dissuade me).

§ September 15th, 2021 § Filed under fantastic four, flaming carrot, this week's comics § 4 Comments

This issue of Marel Two-in-One was the first Fantastic Four-related comic I remember reading. Sometime after that I remember looking at some random issue of Fantastic Four my cousin had, which one I can’t remember, but I do know it was in the middle of some ongoing story and it was weird and strangely fascinating to someone mostly used to DCs and the occasional Charlton.

It wasn’t until the early ’80s that I began my full-on dive in Marvel Comics readin’, and my gateway was…an issue of The Thing, which brought me to John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four (starting with the then-current issue and picking up the previous ones as I could) and then on to just about everything else Marvel-ish.

Fantastic Four, though, was one of the main two I stuck with (the other being Incredible Hulk and all its later permutations). I would occasionally not follow the title (there’s a big chunk of ’90s FF I skipped) but I have all those Byrne issues, the Waid run, the Millar run (which I still think is actually pretty good), Fraction and Hickman, Simonson, and now Slott…all readable, enjoyable and imaginative. I’ve also since read all the original Lee/Kirby stuff, with all its primal energy, laying the foundation for a fictional universe that is essentially dominating all popular culture today (even if its mostly been without the FF’s direct interaction, though not for lack of trying a couple of times).

None of this really says anything about the comic, so let me just say it’s a fun tribute to the team’s long history, with cute “chapter break” images that really drive home the time the team has spanned. You will not be surprised at all by one of the story’s “twists,” but really, it’s a wild trip though the FF’s history and that’s entertainment enough. It’s mostly a standalone book (though one major subplot does carry through from the previous issues, but the exposition train pulls into the station long enough to catch you up) so if you haven’t read FF in a while, it’s a good sampler of the title’s current status, and worth checking out.

• • •

On a copmpletely different topic, I was looking at my old Flaming Carrot action figure the other day. It has a feature where if you twist the little plastic plume of “flame” that sticks out of the top of his head, it will light up. Or would light up if the battery wasn’t long dead, I thought as I twisted the doodad, but lo and behold:

…LET THERE BE CARROT LIGHT. I wondered just how old this figure was, as I couldn’t recall exactly when I picked it up from the previous place of employment. A peek into Diamond’s database revealed 1) it was still listed in said database, and 2) it came out in December of 1998. Nearly 23 years later, that little light is still working. Amazing. Now if we can only fnd out what the Carrot’s actual secret identity really is, and where that speaker in his chest came from.

The official Dark Horse Comics site still has a page devoted to the figure (which gives a release day of November ’98). A closer look is in this pic I “borrowed” from an online source:

All that does is make me wish I hadn’t discarded the packaging for my figure.

Yes, and introduce the modern Suicide Squad, too.

§ September 10th, 2021 § Filed under ambush bug, this week's comics § 12 Comments


What this reminded me of, when all was said and done, was the Legends series DC published back in the mid-1980s, where the ultimate result of the series was to introduce the new Justice League (to some measure of success), or even DC’s Millennium, published a little later that decade, where the endgame was to introduce the New Guardians (to slightly lesser success).

Which, you know, is fine. That’s the goal of every comic book crossover…to get you to buy more comic books. They do it either by trying to turn you on to characters you didn’t normally read but were exposed to in the event, or they spin off new titles from the event that they hope you’ll be intrigued enough to sample. In this case it’s Justice League Incarnate, a team comprised of superheroes from across the multiverse, attempting to prevent Darkseid from breaking into the Omniverse and bothering Mark Gruenwald, presumably. And a handy footnote in Infinite Frontier directs you to said series, Coming Soon to a Newsdealer Near You.

Again, this is all fine. It’s just how comics are. And I like the idea of Justice League Incarnate and think the idea of jumping around the multiverse sounds like fun. But…DC’s spent the better part of three decades trying to roll back Crisis on Infinite Earths after realizing that maybe putting a whole bunch of restrictions on a world of imaginative fantasy was perhaps not a great publishing strategy. I enjoyed at the time the weird frisson of Crisis, where for perhaps the one time in superhero comics history you really did have the feeling that perhaps nothing and nobody was safe. But the price we paid was DC putting out an event series every once in a while that tried to get those worms all back in the tin, or at least get those worms to line up neatly and consistently so they could say “this is how things work now, for sure this time.”

The result is a pastiche of a memory of a time that the creators responsible are likely not even old enough to have experienced firsthand. All the terms and ideas are there, the Earths with numerial designations, all that jazz, but it doesn’t feel quite the same. This is a Me Problem, not perhaps a Those of You Who Are Younger Than Me Problem, as I did experience the old DC Multiverse firsthand in the funnybooks I got off the newsstands and I compare my memories of what was to whatever attempts are going on now to recreate it, and…I’m just gonna have to tear down that nostalgia wall in my brain and get used to what’s happening now, because unless Marv Wolfman steps in and knocks the entirely of DC continuity back to the 1980s, “nothing will ever be the same,” to borrow a phrase.

Anyway, Infinite Frontier #6 also promises the return of an old friend in 2022, so okay, they got me on the hook with that. Jerks.

The return of Ambush Bug to whatever passes as mainline DC continuity, in what I presume is a small attempt at Deadpool-izing him by having a fourth-wall aware hero interacting with what would generally be considered a straightforward superhero adventure book. Of course, my awareness of Deadpool comes mostly from the movies and his appearances in one of the Marvel Lego video games, having only read one actual Deadpool comic in my lifetime, so I could be misunderstanding something here. Also, I though Harley Quinn and DC’s Deadpool, a character not necessarily bound by whatever demands are put upon stories by current continuity.

Anyway, Ambush Bug beat ’em all to the punch, being set aside from the regular DCU to do his own metacommentary thing (despite being introduced in regular continuity as, well, a murderer, and making the occasional appearance there, like this oddball thing). He retains his awareness that he’s a comic book character for Suicide Squad, which is treated by the other characters as being a sign that his bean is off-kilter…except he repeatedly demonstrates (at least for the reader) that he is correctly aware of his comic book existence. We’re in late 1980s Animal Man territory here, my friends…maybe he can team up with Grant Morrison.

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