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CSBG Archive

Sunday Brunch: 4/4/10

Brunch? Hah! The semi-new format begins here, as a full meal of links, musings,  reviews, and unwitty witticisms awaits you beneath the cut on this Easter Sunday.

QUESTION(S) OF THE WEEK: With the new Twilight graphic novel selling heavily despite being blindingly awful, it’s got me thinking: Should comics adapt prose works? Which novels would make for good comic book adaptations?

BRAVE AND THE BOLD DEPT: “The Power of Shazam!” by Steven Melching

BnB Shazam

The creators of this show hew incredibly closely to the original Golden and Silver Age comics from which they draw their inspiration. The Captain Marvel mythos remains just as our inner children remember it, right down to the C.C. Beck style of drawing pupils with no eyes around them, and the brutish caricatures of the Seven Deadly Sins– I mean, Seven Enemies of Man. Dr. Sivana and his two evil children appear as well, torn from the original Beck-drawn pages, and now with gloriously silly English accents, and zany evil inventions. Sivana summons Black Adam back from his millenia-long banishment, and together the two take on Batman and Captain Marvel.

Billy Batson’s quest for kinship and family takes the thematic forefront in this episode. We see his dreadful life at the local orphanage, where bullies roam free and that old bitch Miss Minerva makes his life a living hell. Desperate for a connection, he goes easy on Black Adam, who bears the symbol of Shazam– and he pays for it, with Shazam in jeopardy and Sivana in his quest to steal all the power for himself. Batman, of course, identifies with Billy’s situation, and eventually connects him with his lost sister. Perhaps Batman is the Dark Knight, but in this episode, he’s a big softie, scaring bullies off during the day and giving a kid a chance to belong, a family Bruce Wayne never had.

In the pre-titles teaser, however, the Starro subplot builds to a head, with the Faceless Hunter from Space (no, really) subjugating the various heroes of the DC Universe. I’m interested to see where this is going.

RANDOM THOUGHT! (What? Yes.) I bought the new Barenaked Ladies album. It’s not bad! I was concerned, what with the lack of Steven Page on this one; it’s like the Beatles going on without Lennon. You know what, though, I like this one; I’d rank it somewhere in the middle of their oeuvre if you twisted my arm.

ITEM! Multiversity Comics provides a “gateway” article for the works of Grant Morrison. It turns into a bit of a shitstorm in the comment section, but the article itself is powered by unabashed love of G-Mo comics, and I can’t find fault in that. See for yourself:

Too many authors seem afraid to throw you off the deep end, but you can imagine that within five pages, you might just be very confused via tricky dialogue or scenery. If you’re willing to put in the effort like I am, you end up with highly rewarding tales time after time after time, and ultimately this aspect of multiple reads required makes Morrison’s work some of the best books on the market as far as bang for your buck is concerned. If you would rather sit back and read a book, get it, and go home? You’ll need to look elsewhere.

ITEM! Good ol’ Colsmi has again been too busy thinking about comics,and shares those thoughts with us again. This time around, it’s an article on happy endings (not that kind), or as he puts it, “talking about continuing series with long-established characters where someone carelessly and skillfully screws up by accidentally ending the whole series without anyone noticing.” He turns his attention to Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Slott and Templeton’s Spider-Man/Human Torch. It’s a brilliant piece of writing:

Do I tell you this because I think it’s interesting in itself, or because I imagine those memories in themselves illuminate “Born Again”? No. I certainly do not. I do it to show you that these failures, these stories which refuse to permit their narratives to continue for me beyond their immediate closure, were so powerful that they triggered a memory not only of themselves, but of all the trivial details which framed my lonesome reading of them. They in effect froze time for me in real life in addition to closing it off for future creators where these specific characters were concerned.

ITEM! Over at MGK, the man himself dips a toe back into the pool and provides one more reason why he should write Dr. Strange.  C’mon, Marvel, throw a few issues at the guy. How could it hurt?

ITEM! Speaking of MGK, he also takes a baseball bat to Blackest Night’s kneecaps. And ribs. And, er, head:

A Geoff Johns event book, to me, always reads like the literal translation of an algorithm designed to create A Good Event Storyline. Like, if you put together a trend line, and the Y-axis was “How Well The Heroes Are Doing,” you’d get a squiggly line in most books: the line starts out at about the midpoint or slightly below (IE, “normal”), then dips down sharply when the baddies start kicking hero ass, then pops up a bit as the heroes get their second wind, then goes down deeper when the villain turns out to have a serious master plan for which they weren’t ready, and then climb to the finish. Whenever I read a Geoff Johns event comic, I feel like he looked at that line in advance and then wrote his storyline to hit those beats exactly, regardless of whatever story he wrote.

NON-ITEM! Does anyone’s browser refuse to let them access Newsarama, due to malware issues? Fear not, it appears to be a hiccup with an ad, and the site is as safe as ever. Just in case, you should probably get all your comics news from Comic Book Resources, right? Right. (As of Sunday, Firefox is loading Newsarama again. That’s the last time I write anything ahead of schedule!)

OBLIGATORY CHRIS SIMS DEPT: It falls to me to update our faithful readers on Sims’ shenanigans now that Brad Curran’s got that unfortunate restraining order. Over at ComicsAlliance, Chris Sims went a bit wild with the April Fool’s gags. There’s the announcement of DC’s follow-up to Blackest Night, news of 14 new Green Hornet titles (I would like to pre-order Green Hornet Meets the Harlem Globetrotters) and Mark Millar’s adaptation of Finnegan’s Wake. The best of them all, however, had to be the press release for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1988, featuring– well:

LOEG 88

I’d buy that in a hot second, even with the apparent lack of Thomas Magnum, Jessica Fletcher, Harry Callahan, or Ash.

ITEM! Plok, or Pillock, or Jackson Pollock, or Prog Rock, or whatever he calls himself these days, has issued a challenge: come up with new and exciting space fiction ideas, for our amusement.

ITEM! Over at the Savage Critics, Abhay conducts an interesting interview with comics writer and filmmaker Donald Glut, whose career credits include Captain America, Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, He-Man, and Countess Dracula’s Orgy of Blood, among other things.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Oh man, you guys, two Abhay posts in one week, it’s like some kind of non-denominational holiday! In this one he writes a bunch of capsule reviews, and hell, I haven’t read it yet, so go see for yourself. I bet it’s brilliant.

ITEM! Justin Zyduck, he of the world’s coolest surname, continues his look at the Communists of the Marvel Universe with my personal favorite Commie menace, the Red Ghost. Previous installments have looked at Igor (the dude that blew up Bruce Banner) and the Chameleon. To wit:

So stripped of era-specific politics, what “Soviet-ness” seems to mean for Stan Lee here (and elsewhere, notably in a Captain America/Hawkeye/Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch Avengers story with a Vietnam analogue) is exploitation, and that’s something you can always find a relevant outlet for. In fact, it’s interesting to see how Marvel’s anticommunist themes of the early 60s morph into the antiestablishment themes of the late 60s – they’re both about taking a stand against The Man, whether that Man is an American establishment figure or the Soviet high command keeping the little guy (or ape) down.

ITEM! Need a cure for optimism? The Beat has posted its monthly sales analysis of Marvel, DC, and Indie titles in the Top 300 for February 2010.

DOCTOR WHO DEPT: “The Eleventh Hour” by Steven Moffat

New Who 1

Right then. First impressions? Steven Moffat’s opening episode of the “new” new Doctor Who is his weakest effort yet on the series– which means it’s still damn good television. New Doctor, new companion, new Tardis, new clothes, new screwdriver– but underneath those young eyes lies the wizened soul of a 906+ year old Time Lord, and underneath that lies the heart of a child, and somehow, Matt Smith pulls it off with a bumbling grace. I didn’t want to like him, I really didn’t– David Tennant wasn’t just the Doctor, he was my Doctor– but in comes Smith out of nowhere, giving us a mad, arrogant, funny, ingenious, powerful Doctor. The Doctor, the one and only, as ever. The same madman with a box, but with a new face.

Karen Gillan, meanwhile, dazzles as the new companion, one whose relationship with the Doctor feels unique, thanks to Moffat’s wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey storytelling methods. She’s got a fire to her, and it’s not just the red hair; Amy Pond’s looking to prove something, methinks, and not to the Doctor, but to herself. It should be an interesting ride.

As for the other details? The main monster was a bit “naff,” as the Brits say, the CGI felt below par, and the new theme tune will, er, take some getting used to. The new Tardis, however, appears quite gorgeous, and I look forward to getting to know her better. As I sit here typing, and the seconds tick off, traveling into the future, I’m liking it more and more. New new Doctor Who looks to be as good as ever. Glad to have a Smith on board.

NOT COMICS DEPT: Noted aesthete and technophile Stephen Fry– yes, the Stephen Fry– writes a glowing article for Time about Apple’s new iPad. Yes, you could say Fry is biased, as he played the Adam to Douglas Adams’ Eve way back in the 80s, when he first bit into the Apple, but the article acts as a nice remembrance, treating the iPad not as a new toy– though it is– but as something newer, more magical:

It is possible that the public will not fall on the iPad, as I did, like lions on an antelope. Perhaps they will find the apps and the iBooks too expensive. Maybe they will wait for more fully featured later models. But for me, my iPad is like a gun lobbyist’s rifle: the only way you will take it from me is to prise it from my cold, dead hands. One melancholy thought occurs as my fingers glide and flow over the surface of this astonishing object: Douglas Adams is not alive to see the closest thing to his Hitchhiker’s Guide that humankind has yet devised.

Now, as far as the iPad relates to comics– well, I don’t see myself buying one anytime soon. What do you think? The iPad: hero, or menace? U-Decide!

21 Comments

Tom Fitzpatrick

April 4, 2010 at 9:43 am

I thought that “random thoughts” was copyrighted by that canuck guy Chad something?

If so, you Mr. Reed, could be sued for infringement, eh?

Justin Zyduck, the writer who is almost a Pokemon.

Which novels would make for good comic book adaptations?

I actually did a column riffing on this idea a while back. I don’t know that any of my basic suggestions really have changed much since then…. though it tickles me that Queen And Country has apparently crossed over the OTHER way, from moderately successful comic to a (relatively speaking) MORE successful book series.

What I always wonder about Twilight is, where were all these swooning teenage girls when Buffy and Angel were having all their heartbreak? Was the writing not bad enough or something?

Crap, I didn’t even know BNL had a new album out.

Crap, I didn’t even know BNL had a new album out.
P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

April 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I had some trouble with the Colsmi piece, mainly because it’s such a personal kind of essay that I was more distracted by the disconnection between his and my own reactions to the comics being discussed. He reads Morrison’s Animal Man as “a one-dimensional family man,” considers Frank Miller’s “Born Again” a reaction against the brutal violence that characterizes all of Miller’s work to date, and treats the Spider-Man/Human Torch miniseries as a resoltuion to Spider-Man’s decades-long emotional arc.

The essay is so impressionistic, so very much about Colsmi’s personal reactions to these stories, that he seems to read each arc in a vacuum. That’s a valid method, of course, but the essay is so much less about the comics than it is about one person’s rather specific, ungeneralizable impressions of them. It’s a personal, not a critical piece.

What I always wonder about Twilight is, where were all these swooning teenage girls when Buffy and Angel were having all their heartbreak? Was the writing not bad enough or something?

In kindergarten, I presume. Season 2 of Buffy was like 10 years ago.

Lord Paradise

April 4, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Did Buffy really not have a swooning teenage girl fanbase? Obviously it wasn’t quite as ubiquitous, but I thought that made up as big a part of Whedon’s fanbase at the time as the nerd crowd.

In kindergarten, I presume. Season 2 of Buffy was like 10 years ago.

Well, yeah. I should have said, ‘that era’s generation of swooning teenage girls.’ My point is, though, that was on TV, reached many more people than one presumes a novel would, and I don’t recall any sort of similar groundswell. Buffy was a geek thing, not a teen girl thing. I never understood why it worked that way. Even Smallville seems to have a bigger teen following.

Buffy was a geek thing, not a teen girl thing. I never understood why it worked that way.

Part of it was the movie not being good and the premise being a bit goofy. Part of it was by design; Xander and Willow were clearly designed to be viewpoint characters for nerds, a lot of emphasis was put on doing research in a library, and stuff like computers and robots were being referenced in 1997. Willow taught a computer course! By comparison, Twilight has a main character whose main purpose is to get married and have vampire babies. That’s fundamentally different crowds.

QUESTION(S) OF THE WEEK: With the new Twilight graphic novel selling heavily despite being blindingly awful, it’s got me thinking: Should comics adapt prose works? Which novels would make for good comic book adaptations?

Chaykin already did Stars My Desitination, but I think Alfred Bester’s other sci-fi The Demolished Man, would benefit greatly from a comics adaptation – he had to use some crazy text layouts to get his ideas across as it was.

My point is, though, that was on TV, reached many more people than one presumes a novel would, and I don’t recall any sort of similar groundswell. Buffy was a geek thing, not a teen girl thing.

From what I understand, in the novels, the main girl is almost a blank slate – very easy for a teen girl to imagine herself as that character, with the brooding shirtless hunky vampires in love with her.

The only characters you could project with in Buffy, if that’s your thing, were Xander and Willow, hence the geek appeal!

Hands-down, the best prose to comics adaptation was Joe Kubert’s Tarzan.

The one I would most like to see today is Garth Ennis and Michael Gaydos adapting Robert B. Parker’s Spenser.

Torsten Adair

April 4, 2010 at 6:00 pm

I think Doc Smith’s Lensman series would make a great comic book.

Seriously… I know Dark Horse has the official comics rights for Burrough’s work, but if Disney releases their John Carter movie, then Marvel should give Frank Cho a huge pile of money and let him adapt the first novel. Technically, the first five (?) novels are in the public domain, so anyone could adapt them, but I suspect that Disney wants to play nice with the Burroughs estate.

I do wonder why no one has republished the Hitchhiker’s Guide graphic novels. The first three books were published as prestige comics, but only the first title was collected by DC. Random House has the US prose rights, so they could easily make an arrangement with DC.

When will HarperCollins import the Agatha Christie graphic novels?

If Disney still has a relationship with the Roald Dahl estate, then I want to see everything adapted!

(And I’ve heard rumors of a classic Newberry Award winner being adapted by Macmillan…)

I’ve felt that the ‘Literary Comics” (which I assume are still around; Robinson Crusoe, Frankenstein, etc.) did a fine job for essentially giving a stripped down story of the actual work; you get the gist of what’s going on with the story without reading 150 some pages (or more).

As a potential lead -in to the actual literature is where I think literary to comic adaptions would work best. Now, we’re talking “Twilight,” so whatever (frankly, the writing surrounding the vampire has been so bastardized in the last 25 years or so starting with Lost Boys that it hardly rates as a worthwhile monster anymore; it’s either a random, driven by bloodlust beast that we can’t understand or something that wants to go to high school and make out or that wants to become part of society in some way…see any number of bad Moonlight or Forever Knight episodes; they need to be a balance of pure evil and personality…it’s hard to find that nowadays).

If the comic work in question gets someone to pick up the actual book, then I’m for it, since the comic will never have the richness of the original work (you’re looking at someone else’s visualization of the books events in the comic rather than your own). I see the format as a bridge.

As for why the Buffy/Angel romance never caught on like Twilight, season 2 was the high point, and midway through, it was over as Angelus took center stage. Then the relationship was hot/cold for season 3 before Angel got his own show and it was permanently iced for all extents and purposes (very few mentions in either show aside from singular episodes, and I always felt it was a kind of “oh, and then we’re back to status quo” deal whenever they crossed over). It was probably too short lived to get the kind of following Twilight had.

At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’ve long thought that Candide would make a great comic book, if the right writer and artist handled it.
And MightyGodKing’s latest Doctor Strange idea is absolutely brilliant. I haven’t liked all of his ideas, but Marvel definitely needs to hire him to do this one.

Peter Woodhouse

April 5, 2010 at 9:39 am

April Fool for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1988: who’s the fella with the penknife in the pic?

MacGyver. Not a yank, I take it?

Bill, I’ve seen the flip side of the Barenaked Ladies split — Stephen Page’s solo live act at an outdoor music festival. The average person didn’t seem to recognize him, at least until he played something they recognized (eg ‘Brian Wilson’) and even then a few people asked “who’s the guy covering the BNL?”

Sad, in a tragic way.

He also joked on stage about not being able to play certain BNL songs becuase “he doesn’t know the lyrics to the verses he doesn’t sing” but I suspect it’s a contractual agreement of the type that usually kills the respective careers of both parties dead, short of being Pink Flyod and Roger Waters. What Page should have done is had a guest singer or an audience member do the other parts, lawsuits be damned. The ‘brand image’ of the BNL could use a few rough edges.

How about an adaption of Robert Shea’s and Robert Anton Wilson’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Grant Morrison and either Frank Quitely or Cameron Stewart? Be careful – thinking about it too much could give you an aneurism. Fnord.

@Rob: After reading here that BNL’s new album was out, I happened to track down an interview with the remaining members of the band. They talked about the split with Page, but the most they said about the new approach to live shows was that they have to re-arrange the catalog and give Page’s parts to someone else.

It may be a case where BNL is allowed access to the catalog, but Page isn’t allowed to cover certain songs. Of course, at this point, I don’t necessarily put a lot of stock in Page’s statements.

@Bill (or anyone that’s heard the album): Where does it fit with regard to the Barenaked Ladies Are Me/Men duo? I didn’t enjoy anything after Stunt until I heard those two albums.

Where does it fit with regard to the Barenaked Ladies Are Me/Men duo? I didn’t enjoy anything after Stunt until I heard those two albums.

I loved post-Stunt albums Maroon and Everything to Everyone, so maybe I’m not the guy to ask. If I was to rank the albums, “Are Me” would be way down at the bottom with Gordon, and “Are Men” would be towards the top with “Maybe You Should Drive.” The new album is tied with, I dunno, “Pirate Ship” or something.

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