Comics Should Be Good Mailbag for 10/29
Here’s the first installment of a weekly (well, we’ll see) reader interactive segment on the blog, where I answer reader-submitted e-mails to email@example.com (and other e-mails that don’t require responses).
Da Fug wrote in to ask:
This is kind of a stupid question, but back when the blog was getting all negative on The Dark Knight (movie) you were amazingly silent if I recall correctly (though I could have missed a comment somewhere). Your silence seemed to indicate that you were just not going to get in on that mess and not going to take sides. Or maybe you were just busy
So I was always wondering what you thought of The Dark Knight (better than Begins? Disappointing? Satisfying movie experience? Hong Kong scene good/bad? etc.)
That’s a good point, I don’t think I did give a review of the film on the blog.
By the by, I kept meaning to do a New York get together to watch the movie, but it never materialized. Sorry, Gina! Maybe a screening party when it comes out on DVD?
Anyhow, as to my thoughts on the movie, I liked it well enough. Probably not enough to recommend it, but it was mostly an entertaining movie. I said to my girlfriend when we left the theater that what struck me was just how simple the movie was, in the sense that we shouldn’t be stunned when superhero films are as good as Dark Knight is (as some of the reviews at the time certainly were suggesting) – good films should be the baseline of what we expect. Films should off the bat be as good as Dark Knight (or Iron Man, for that matter) and then strive to be better. We shouldn’t, like, reward competence in superhero movies just because so many of them have been incompetent.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that you shouldn’t enjoy the movie – Dark Knight was an enjoyable movie, although I think it’s fair enough to note that the film seemed to want its proverbial cake and eat it, too, by having it be a rollicking action film while also being “realistic” – it’s extremely difficult to mix the two, and if Dark Knight HAD achieved that mix, then I WOULD think of it as a film to recommend, but as it were, this film was mostly for people who are impressed when an action film is smarter than, say, Die Hard 4 (a film that also was credited mostly for not being as dumb as, say, Die Hard 3).
The Hong Kong scene was a lot of fun, but the film probably would have been tighter without it.
One thing I absolutely loved, though, was the way they did not explicitly tell the audience whether Joker lied about the addresses where Harvey and Rachel were being held. Very nice.
So yeah, fun movie that I liked well enough, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
A nice publicity lady, Margot, sent me a link to a thing where you can transform yourself into the Hulk!
I, sadly, did not have a lot of good pictures to use on the internet (you need one where you’re starting straight ahead), but this is the closest I had, so enjoy seeing what happens when I see someone say “revert back”…I get so ANGRY!!!
Click here for my rage
Here‘s where you can do your own.
Reader Michael V. wrote in to say:
Did I miss something or has someone pointed out that one of the big components of the underlying premise of Marvel’s Secret Invasion (the hidden sleeper agents already in the Marvel Universe) was done by DC for the Millennium crossover with all of the sleeper Manhunters – none of which were detectible beforehand.
All too often, when DC or Marvel has a universe wide crossover, the other company is doing a similar one (or already did that cross over). For example, in Civil War heroes and villains took sides on whether or not the registration act was a violation of civil rights. Was that much different from Identity Crisis in which heroes dealt with the civil rights violations incident to Zatanna’s mind-wipes.
Michael, Michael, Michael…they’re COMPLETELY different! In Secret Invasion, they’re Skrulls – in Millenium, they’re Manhunters! TOTALLY DIFFERENT!
In all seriousness, yeah, you’re not the only one – in fact, note how DC has recently collected both Invasion! and Millennium into trade collections, while they had basically ignored both crossovers for years? It’s almost certainly to tie in with the similarities between the three crossovers.
That said, while I definitely do allow that a lot of these big crossovers tend to blend together, thematically, I think Civil War and Identity Crisis are a bit of a reach compared to each other, particularly since Marvel had already done the Superhuman Registration Act storyline in the late 1980s (where Reed Richards argued the completely opposite side that he argued during Civil War, but hey, who’s keeping score?).
I don’t think it’s particularly a big deal – I think the execution is a lot more important than similar general plot lines – heck, if you want to go with similar stories, Secret Invasion is a lot more like Battlestar Galactica’s Cylons than anything, right? I think they’re just general ideas that would occur to any writer involved with shape shifting characters.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun teasing these things on how the plots are all fairly generic. Heck, I, myself, did a bit where I teased Secret Invasion for its fairly formulaic opening issue…
Reader Steve B. asked:
When Marvel created the Not Brand Echh and What The ? comics was there any backlash from DC or the other publishers that were parodied and how come DC didn’t jump on the bandwagon and release their own version of the comics?
Also just as a little neat thing, I recently read Volume 2 of The Doom Patrol and in I think issue 9 where they are up against a load of plastic men in the background you can make out Plastic Man popping up with a smile, are there any other comics featuring similar situations and I mean stuff where it’s the actual character rather than a non lawsuit type version?
Well, Steve, as has been seen, while comic parody comics can be quite excellent, there was never exactly a big market for them, so I think that’s why DC did not try to match Not Brand Echh – it really didn’t sell all that well. It only lasted 13 issues. DC did, however, try their own take-off of a humor magazine that DID sell well, Mad Magazine. DC did Plop! Marvel later did their own version of Mad, too, Crazy, the same year Plop! came out. Plop! was probably more critically acclaimed (it had Sergio Aragones!), but Crazy lasted much longer – 24 issues or so for Plop! while almost 100 for Crazy.
As for the appearance of other companies characters in comics, you’re right, I can’t recall off the top of my head seeing, say, a Superman comic appear in an issue of Spider-Man. I’m sure it has happened, though. Someone out there, find it for me and Steve!!
Amanda, from the 92nd Street Y wrote in to tell me of a neat cartoon exhibit they’re having until January, 2009.
It features the work of Lauren Weinstein, Tom Hart, and Matthew Thurber.
92nd Street Y
1395 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10128
Check out the website for the 92nd Street Y here to view information on cartooning classes and some upcoming lectures, including a discussion between Neil Gaiman and Chip Kidd about the 20th Anniversary of Sandman!!
Reader Dan C. wrote in to ask:
In the past year or so, and maybe as a reaction to the decompressed stories I was loving four or five years ago, I’ve been gravitating towards titles that have more “meat” to them – ones that take me more than 5 minutes to read. So, I’ve been enjoying Fred Van Lente’s work (both for Marvel and his self-published stuff), Jonathan Hickman, Grant Morrison, Abnett and Lanning, and a few others. My question is: what should I be looking at? What are the densest comics that more people should be reading?
Interesting question, Dan.
I initially replied with giving you a list of writers that I felt fell into this category, but then as the list got bigger and bigger, it began to occur to me that I think a LOT of comics give you a lot of “meat” in them. I just think that the “problem” is that a lot of the most popular comic books out there really don’t, like Secret Invasion and Loeb’s Hulk.
This doesn’t mean that a decompressed comic book is BAD – a lot of the issues of Northlanders are fairly sparse, but they’re still excellent examples of storytelling through visuals more than dialogue/words.
That said, Image has a few titles, Casanova and Fell most prominently, which are specifically designed to be EXTRA compressed – heck, they fill in more story than most comics in LESS pages than other comics, which is why they’re only $2.
Reader Drew wrote in to say:
I”m reading the Watchmen for the first time ever (I know!). Just got through the arrest of Rorschach. So far I’m more interested in the ship-wrecked pirate than any of the unlikable superheroes. Yeesh. Also, did the original pamphlets have the backups from the novels, etc. They’re really annoying.
The pirate story WAS good. Not my favorite part of the comic, but it was good.
And yes, the original comics had the backups.
Reader Frank F. wrote in to ask:
I stumbled over your web page while doing a web search for a Joseph Keppler cartoon from 1887. It’s called “European Equilibrist” and it shows Otto von Bismarck juggling the European nations. I can’t find a good quality image online and I was hoping you have access to it and would be so friendly and scan it for me. I am a teacher at a secondary school in Germany and I would really like to use it in my class (Also, it is driving me nuts not to have it. I remember seeing the cartoon when I was a student and since I became a teacher it’s been haunting me). I’d be much obliged.
How could I let Frank down?
Here you go, Frank, “European Equilibrist,” by Joseph Keppler….
Reader Chris J. wrote in to ask:
I know that Jim Shooter was the youngest to start doing comics at 13, but do you know how old some of the runner-ups are? I’m 17 and I’m itchin’ to break some records!
Well, Chris, contemporary to Shooter was Cary Bates, who was in his late teens at the time. Back then, guys in their early 20s (sometimes late teens) hung around fandom and the Marvel and DC offices and eventually got some gigs writing books.
That doesn’t happen anymore, so unless you have an independent hit when you’re in your teens, or had some other notable hit like a hit novel or something like that, you’re not going to become a writer at Marvel or DC when you’re in your teens.
If you draw, however, then that is generally a pretty level playing field – if you can draw, you will likely find some writer who needs an artist, and if Marvel and DC see it, they WILL try to hire you if you’re good.
Reader Reid (of Reidaboutit) had the following rant:
After a few years of only reading comics in TPB form, I decided to get back into the monthly grind. After something else I was subscribing to got cancelled, my subscription got transferred over to The Mighty Avengers. I figured I’d give it a chance, so I read the first two issues together.
Of course, they’re both Secret Invasion crossovers. In the first one, it’s revealed how Spider-Woman is a Skrull, and the current plot has existed all the way back through House of M. The newest issue features the Hood, and how the supervillains are reacting to the Skrulls’ plans.
Both were good issues, decent plot, good artwork. They fit right into the Secret Invasion pocket. What’s the problem with them?
Yep, two straight issues and there’s not a single superhero in them. These are two issues that are completely parts of the Secret Invasion whole. They’ll look great in the trade paperback, where they’ll make perfect sense. However, if I were a new reader picking up my first issue, there would be no way I could follow what’s going on, and I’d wonder where the Avengers were. Had I bought them for my kid, I might be upset I just spent six bucks on books with no story and no superheroes, only villains.
I don’t feel like I bought an issue of a comic book. I feel like I puchased an interlude.
That’s definitely a problem with the current issues of Marvel Avengers and New Avengers, as they’re basically useless unless you’re reading Secret Invasion.
Still, if the issues are good, I don’t think it’s a major problem. Remember when Byrne gave Doctor Doom the focus in a classic issue of Fantastic Four? That was awesome.
It’s definitely an odd stylistic decision, though.
Those Skrull homage covers, however, they make me so angry.
NBM wanted to let us know about an upcoming exhibit starting November 19th at MoCCA featuring European comic book artists.
In mid-November, the Cultural Services Department of the French Embassy in the United States is bringing to New York a group of French cartoonists, including NBM Publishing writer-artists David B. (EPILEPTIC, NOCTURNAL CONSPIRACIES) and Nicolas De CrÃ©cy (GLACIAL PERIOD). From Wednesday, November 19, through Friday, November 21, the artists will visit the School of Visual Arts and Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) for events including a gallery opening, a book-signing session, and discussions of contemporary culture.
Follow MoCCA’s web site for more information as it becomes available (click here).
Chris wrote in to tell me that the season finale of Captain Blasto has begun, so check it out on their web site here.
Michelle from the Sundance Channel wrote in to tell me about a new episode of Iconoclasts, featuring Iron Man director, Jon Favreau, discussing the differences between directing Iron Man and Swingers with Tony Hawk.
Here‘s a clip.
The episode airs tomorrow, Thursday Oct 30 at 10p E/P
Finally, Adam wrote in to send me a link to a political debate on his web site here between Dr. Doom and General Zod.
That’s it for this week!
Be sure to send me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading “Mailbag” if you want to be included in next week’s mailbag!