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Random Thoughts! (March 20, 2012)

Random Thought! I partly expected there to be a ‘More You Know’ one-pager at the end of last week’s Avengers issue where the heroes decry ‘bad touching’ given the way they beat Norman Osborn. It’s Random Thoughts time! Get excited!

Link Thought! GraphiContent for comics. butterbeatleblog for popculture. 411mania for wrestling reviews and the occasional CD review.

Random Thought! I honestly cannot get the three panels where Norman Osborn goes from awesome to falling apart and defeated out of my head. Daniel Acuña did an amazing job on them. They almost make the anti-climactic ending work. Just three perfect panels that show his move from triumphant confidence to totally fucked.

Random Thought! I found it interesting the effects inking had on two DC issues I bought last week: Batwoman #7 and Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE #7. Rob Hunter inked Amy Reeder’s pencils in Batwoman and I’ve never been a fan of his inking ever since I took notice of it when Jim Starlin was doing work at DC a few years ago. Never had I seen Starlin’s art look so scratchy, unfinished, and goddamn ugly. The same thing happened in Batwoman. Horrible inking. Walden Wong’s inking over Alberto Ponticelli’s pencils in Frankenstein wasn’t bad — I just think that he took a lot of the rough, manic edge out of Ponticelli’s art. I’ve really enjoyed his approach to the art in that title and to see a glossier, cleaner version of it didn’t appeal to me as much. I can see how some would like it better, though. Batwoman, though… I honestly cannot think of a reason to keep buying that comic until JH Williams returns on art.

Random Thought! I demand every creator be credited for the work they do on characters. Bryan Hitch did the new Hawkeye costume — how about the new Thor costume? How about the Protector’s costume and personality that are so far removed from Grant Morrison and JG Jones’s Noh-Varr that the character is basically a new one? How about Warren Ellis’s new and improved Machine Man personality from Nextwave? And what about the gruff Frank Miller Batman? Marvel has opened the floodgates and, now, every bit of character detail must be credited! “Sue Storm’s hairdo designed by…” Make it happen…

Random Thought! It’s weird to hear “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin and not hear “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)” immediately following it. It sounds wrong. And I’m not really a fan of “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman).” Still.

Random Thought! The only Wondercon announcement that really caught my attention was Brian Wood taking over Ultimate X-Men and X-Men, more the former than the latter. Given his work on Generation X and Demo, I’m curous to see what he can do with Ultimate X-Men.

Random Thought! Because why not… About Alan Moore saying that, if you buy Before Watchmen, he doesn’t want you buying his work. I appreciate and understand his reasoning for that. But, it doesn’t particularly matter. I don’t usually allow the personal feelings of writers, artists, whoever… to dictate what art I choose to support or enjoy. Quite frankly, the personal lives of those people don’t concern me. They just don’t. If I allowed that to be my guide for what books and comics I read, what movies and TV shows I watched, and what music I listened to, I probably wouldn’t have much of any of those things to enjoy. I’m sorry, but you don’t get to choose who buys your work based on personal preference any more than we get to choose who writes great comics (or books or movies, etc.) based on personal preference.

Random Thought! The best part of Avengers Assemble #1: “I am Cancer.”

Random Thought! The cover to Haunt #22 is pretty awesome.

Random Thought! Yesterday, I ordered Ring of Honor’s Summer of Punk DVD set thanks to their current 20% off deal. I know there are wrestling fans that read this and would be remiss if I didn’t point out the opportunity to save four bucks on what looks like a fantastic DVD set (and only released six months too late…).

Random Thought! Marvel, you know you’re releasing too many fucking Avengers books every week when the people at my shop can’t find the order code for that “Oral History of the Avengers” book. When people who earn their living off ordering books have trouble finding a specific book of yours thanks to 38 other books with nearly the same title, you’ve pumping too much shit out.

Random Thought! I’m enjoying Captain America, but it feels so out of place. It reminds me of comics I read as a kid. Kind of entertaining and light… utterly inconsequential… I like it, but forget all about it when I’m not reading it.

Random Thought! What I hate most about the sudden heat wave is how everyone is buying Slurpees at 7-Eleven all of a sudden. That means shortages of straws, the entire Slurpee station is a complete fucking mess because people are too goddamn stupid to know how to not spill, and people who take five minutes to fill a small cup getting in my way. I miss winter. In winter, few people buy Slurpees and the station is always clean with no piles of Slurpee under the nozels or discarded straw wrappers all over the place… Basically, these people are disgusting slobs. Goddamn.

Random Thought! I’m still not entirely sure what to make of The Unwritten #35. It reminded me that Tom Taylor is an annoying protagonist and sort of did away with the Cabal in a manner that felt anticlimactic. The whole stuff with Leviathan didn’t make a whole lot of sense really. The best thing about it was that it left the book in a place where there’s no clear direction. I guess trying to kill Leviathan somehow? I don’t know…

Random Thought! This week is a small week. The end of Avengers: X-Sanction, the penultimate issue of Batman: Odyssey plus the latest issues of Batman, Prophet, Uncanny X-Men, and Wonder Woman. And, then, of course, next week is double this one in size…

Random Thought! One thing I really like about Tucker Stone’s “Comics of the Weak is the integration of older books. It captures the reading experience better since few people just read new comics. They reread old stuff or even read old stuff for the first time. It’s something that I always find frustrating about review sites — but it’s also something that crosses over to movies, music, and TV reviews, so it’s not exactly a comics-specific problem. Oddly, it’s not as much of a problem in wrestling reviewing.

***

Random Joe Casey Question! What went wrong with your Uncanny X-Men run? Why did it never quite ‘click’ like your work usually does?

Random Joe Casey Answer! I have to say, thinking back on that gig (which I rarely do, unless asked), I don’t necessarily feel like things “went wrong” so much as they just… didn’t go right. There’s a difference, y’know. But, taking your question at face value, there are really three answers, and people can put them in whatever order of importance they choose… the A-B-C’s of why it didn’t “click”…

A) The art. There was no consistent artistic vision to my stint on the book, which — even in that bygone era of “Writer-driven” comics — makes a big goddamn difference. Besides which, here are the artists I specifically brought to the X-party: Sean Phillips, Ashley Wood, Eddie Campbell, Javier Pulido. Compare that list to the artists that editors teamed me up with, without my input: Ian Churchill, Ron Garney, Aaron Lopestri. To me, those two lists are as stylistically different as night and day. Now, you can argue that the editors had more “mainstream” tastes and that I had more “alternative” tastes, but I know which type of artist I work better with. I didn’t stand up for myself the way I’ve learned to since then, and the book suffered because of it. Obviously, they’re all skilled artists, but it’s rare that I’ll have that real, lasting, creative chemistry with artists that editors hook me up with (even when I get along with them, personally). Another lesson I learned the hard way.

B) Grant Morrison writing the other book. The guy is such a tremendous creative force, there was no one who was going to either compete with or even compliment him when it came to the level of ideas and enthusiasm that he was delivering on his book. In retrospect, I don’t even know why Marvel attempted to have two “core” books, or why Grant simply didn’t write both of them. The fact that he had guys like Frank Quitely, Phil Jimenez, Chris Bachalo and Marc Silvestri drawing his stuff was like a double-whammy of “clicky-ness”. Conceptually, he was just operating on a whole other level — to which the entire Internet responds with a resounding chorus of, “NO SHIT!” — and even then, I went out of my way not to inadvertently fuck with anything he was doing, because I was also reading it as a fan. That probably made me a little gun shy, which again is all on me. Grant couldn’t have been more gracious or more generous while we were in the X-trenches together. And having said all that, my friendship with Grant was definitely the best thing to come out of my experience on that job.

C) Okay, for me, this is really the most important reason: I simply had no strong vision for the book. Nor did I have any particular love for those characters. Grant had both, when he started. Oh, I had a few scattered ideas, some of which I developed later (and to greater effect) in WILDCATS VERSION 3.0, but I really didn’t have that unique “X-Men mojo”, certainly not enough to make good on the promise to readers that a writer of that franchise should always strive to make good on. You gotta want it, deep down in the dark depths of your soul. Writing UNCANNY was mainly a career move on my part — as I believe it has been for practically every writer that’s come after me on that book — and while it did have some career benefits, in the ten years since then, I’ve learned never to take a WFH comicbook gig because it might be “good for my career”. My comicbook career is just fine, thanks very much.

And, finally, for a true “The More You Know…”-moment, if you really want to read more of me waxing quixotic about my rocky relationship with the X-Men, check this out: http://www.smartpopbooks.com/playing-god-and-discovering-my-own-mutanity/

***

Random Comments! Kind of like an interview, except not really at all. Yes, I basically said nothing right there. But, it filled space, much like this feature.

Jeremy said: Did you know this September they’re collecting Bendis New Avengers? 1200 pages of decompressed stories with the Avengers fighting Xorneto and tie-in to crossovers. I know that for whatever reason you are a big Bendis fan, so maybe something you’re interested in if you’re tired of those TPBs you already have?

Thanks for pointing that out. I’m not a big omnibus fan usually, especially when I own all of those issues already plus non-New Avengers stuff that relates to it and I have in a specific reading order that I find more appealing than simple chronological ordering like Marvel would do. Now, if Marvel did all of Bendis’s Avengers stuff, including things like House of M and Secret Invasion and presented it all in an order that made sense… maybe I’d want to give it a look then.

Speaking of wrestling, how do you feel about the upcoming Wrestlemania? Honestly, just looking at the card, it SHOULD be fantastic, but you never know with the WWE these days. Either way, I’ll be there. Gotta see Jericho beat CM Punk with a beer bottle or whatever.

I like the card so far. There are a couple of matches I’m not impressed with (the Divas, the big tag match), but the ‘big’ matches are all strong. My only concern about Punk/Jericho is that we possibly have an Edge/Jericho repeat on our hands: high expectations and a good match that doesn’t meet them. Jericho tends to be at his best when it’s his third or fourth match in a series with a guy, because he’s so good at building on what they’ve already done and avoiding the same spots… I kind of wish this was the culmination of their feud in that respect. But, no, I’m looking forward to the event, especially Triple H and Undertaker’s Hell in a Cell match.

Kevin Hellions said: Question now that you’re excited about comics again. Does this excitement transcend into your other interests now as well? Are you now also more excited for certain books, comics, DVDs, etc? I ask because I am suddenly excited for wrestling again and it is spreading into a renewed excitement for comics, novels and a ton of new DVDs I just picked up.

Not really. My interest in different media is pretty segregated. Which means being excited about comics doesn’t make me more excited about books or TV — but it also means my lack of enthusiasm for something won’t dampen my enthusiasm for anything else. If anything, the various things I enjoy help me get through those periods where something specific isn’t rocking my world as much.

jjc said: Carolla was hosed.

The entire men’s team was hosed. This week, it became very apparent that the women’s team is pretty much the worst team that’s ever been on this show — at least with respect to morale. They’re not entertaining to watch anymore. I wasn’t surprised that Tia seemed to just want to leave. Who would actually fight to remain in that environment? I’m almost convinced that Aubrey will win solely because people would rather walk away than listen to the constant stream of dumb shit that spills out of her mouth.

cich said: Thanks for suggestions, Chad! I’m not really afraid of Wildstorm continuity, but the volume 2 trades seem to be out of print.

No problem. The trades being out of print isn’t surprising, sadly — and that’s a problem that made me rethink any of my Marvel suggestions I had since they’re so bad at keeping books in print. That’s a problem with Casey’s body of work: it’s full of uncollected work and most of what’s collected is out of print by now. You pretty much have to go longbox diving.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Later.

23 Comments

Wow. I thought it was a different artist on Frankenstein. I checked the credits but assumed I was misremembering the name. I hated the inking. Bleh. The scratchy art was awesome!

People are disgusting slobs all over the place man…and it pisses me off.
Nothing gives you a unique hatred of people, as a group, like working in a place where people are allowed to leave shit anywhere they like because it will be cleaned up for them afterwards. For me, it was a movie theater. People are disgusting slobs.

Agree about The Unwritten. While the status quo changed considerably (trying to avoid spoilers), it felt very anticlimactic.

JH Williams art is really the only thing about Batwoman I like. Without it the series feels lackluster. I also don’t care for Walden Wongs inks on Frankenstein. It takes away its style.

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I find that bit about Alan Moore not wanting people to buy his work if they buy BEFORE WATCHMEN.
How would he even KNOW if anyone buys BW and doesn’t tell him in the first place. (if they’re smart not to mention it to begin with) ;-)

Hell’s bells! People will do what they damn well want, and consequences be damned!

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I find that bit about Alan Moore not wanting people to buy his work if they buy BEFORE WATCHMEN.
Meant to put “funny” at the end.

You know, that’s an excellent point RE only reviewing current issues. My guess is that many sites want to cover what is new and hot and thus dedicate all the time to the brand new releases. But what if you want to read about old issues? I love finding things out about comics that I never knew before. With thousands of issues made over nearly 100 years there is always something new to discover.
I’ve been debating why wrestling fans and sites are different. The only idea I can come up with is that it comes off of the tape trading days. It wasn’t that long ago that wrestling fans had to hunt for anything more extensive than a WWE/WWF home video. Ads in the back of magazines, tape traders, bootlegs at conventions, it became a point of pride to find something from the past that none of your other wrestling friends had ever seen before.
Its not that comics don’t have people that love to dig through the past, its that its a smaller group. I love reading Back Issue and Alter Ego. Throw in specific people like Mr Silver Age in CBG or Greg Hatcher.
There really should be more “classic” reviews. Especially when its so easy and cheap to find comics to review. Quarter bins, or even the random comics packs at stores like Five Below or Ollie’s. I’ve even found these packs at TJ Maxx and Marshall’s.
Now I need to find some old comics (and wrestling) to review and put my blogging where my mouth is.

Given how obsessed comics (specifically superhero comics) are with the past, it’s a little surprising, yeah.

I am not buying Before Watchmen. I have zero interest in anything Watchmen that is not written by Alan Moore. Having said that, I find it funny that Moore is so childish sometimes. “If you don’t do what I want, I will hate you forever.”

From the interviews I’ve read of him, Moore is very judgmental. Anyone who is not up to his standards of personal integrity is to be held in contempt. Even though my politics often align with Alan Moore’s, I find it distressing that so many leftist, freethinking fellas are really so judgmental when you get down to it.

For a guy that says he doesn’t believe in objective “evil”, Alan Moore really seems to view people and entities that don’t see eye to eye with him as malignant. And the older he gets, the circle of things he doesn’t consider evil gets smaller and smaller.

Oh well, he is still the best comic book writer I’ve ever read.

PS: If we credited people for every bit they added to a character, then you’d have long lists of creators for all of Marvel and DC classic characters.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I demand every creator be credited for the work they do on characters.

And I demand that every time they are, you get a full page ad of the character in their old costume on the very next page!
Marvel got a good laugh out of me with that ad placement.

I seem to remember an interview where Casey, talking about Uncanny, said that between Superman and Uncanny he was making too much money, and was coking it up whilst writing X-men. Once I’d read that, the book fell into place for me – it does read a bit like that, all ideas, but no follow through.
It was a big letdown for me, as I was hoping for the magic that Wildcats V2 had, but that annual he did made up for a lot. That book was perfect.

That’s a problem with Casey’s body of work: it’s full of uncollected work and most of what’s collected is out of print by now. You pretty much have to go longbox diving.

They show up used on Amazon/ebay from time to time.
I had them in singles, but bought the trades from Sean Phillips on Amazon, and he did amazing “sketches” (seems an understatement) in the inside covers.

Wildcats 3.0 is 99c an issue on Comixology, which seems to be it’s permanent price, rather than a sale.

Whereas I’ve not bought anything by him since the 1980s, since to me all his work after Watchmen sucked (and even Watchmen had issues once you moved away from the heroes). His position almost makes me WANT to buy Before Watchmen just to spite him.

Rene, pretty much by definition, anyone who can be defined as “leftist” ( as opposed to being simply liberal) or “far-right” (as opposed to being simply conservative) is oxymoron fodder if you add the word “freethinking” to the same descriptor. Moore crossed that Rubicon a long time ago.

Moore is a prime example of how their paranoia of things that are “different” feeds on itself as they get older (on the other side of the political spectrum, you get people like Mike Savage, who makes Limbaugh look like Hillary Clinton in comparison). The problem is that those that DO fit those descriptions tend to refer to even those close to center in the opposition as being their opposite descriptor.

Which, when it really comes down to it, reinforces “Who Watches the Watchmen?” as a way of life – just because you agree with someone on issues A&B, doesn’t mean you should let them do your thinking for you on issues C-Z.

The thing about Brubaker’s Captain America is that it’s lost all the dark, espionage stuff the run was built on. Brubaker is at best when his characters are playing in the shadows. It really felt like he had this big arcing plan in the first fourty something issues, and you couldn’t turn away to see what happen next. Is this Winter Soldier guy REALLY Bucky Barnes? Holy fuck, it’s Bucky Barnes! How does Steve and the supporting cast react to this? Well, now he’s dead!? Who’s Captain America then? Bucky is Captain America!? How is THAT gonna work!? There was this constant build to big actions, the big actions happening, the consequences/fall-out of that building into MORE big actions, like one big story. But after around 50 issues of that, it became obvious that Brubaker didn’t have anything else to say about the character. He brought Bucky back, he made him Cap, had a few adventures and uh…yeah. All he could do was keep bringing back enemies from his past over and over and over again. He just ran out of things to say with the character. Bucky is off in his own book now, but he’s still bitching about his dark past, which is dark and full of bad stuff and I gotta redeem myself, and here’s ANOTHER enemy from my dark past.

But despite how crazy derivative Winter Soldier is right now, it’s still a million miles ahead where Captain America is as a comic right now. Winter Soldier has Brubaker’s trademark noir stylings, Captain America is just generic superhero book, fighting goons and “oh noes my powers”. There’s no mystery, no sense of danger or unpredictability, or even an interesting overarching plot except “bad guys are doing bad stuff in the background”. We don’t buy into Steve losing his powers, he’s fine and dandy in all the AvX previews.

Furthermore, Brubaker has yet to to tap into the core of Captain America as a character, and that’s the fact that he is a man dressed like the American flag. You have to use that as the main driving force behind your stories, like Englehart fighting evil Nixon, or Stern’s Cap running from president, or Gruenwald’s Cap coming to blows with the government and losing his title, or even Mark Millar’s Cap that disagreed with the current actions of the US government and went renegade. You have to make Cap a political figure, but most writers are just too damn scared, Brubaker included. They keep bringing back enemies from the past because they’re afraid of doing anything in the present. They’re afraid of pissing anybody off. “My Captain America wouldn’t say that! Captain America wouldn’t think like that!”

So, here we are, Captain America fighting generic goons like the Serpent Society and Hydra.

This is too long of a comment about Captain America comments, and I apologize.

Add me to the list who prefers Ponticelli without Wong. I wonder if it was a time thing, or if editorial wanted a different look for the book? If it’s a time thing I’d gladly sacrifice an issue to a fill-in artist every several months to get the normal art. And if it was an experiment in style I hope they decide against it in the future.

The Brian Wood news made me kind of sad… I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten everything he’s done since Channel Zero except for Gen 13. I think he’s a fantastic writer, but I’m just not going to be able to make the leap back into “universe” comics now that I’ve finally managed to drop everything from the Big Two except Daredevil… It was difficult enough to start buying Conan (a character for which I just have no affinity whatsoever) and that Wolverine mini-series… but I’ll stick with those… and The Massive. I suppose I have a couple of weeks to decide, but I’m sure the X-Men will do just fine without me.

Jeremy, I thought your comments on Captain America were fairly spot-on. Part of why I was pulled back into comics when Bucky first took over after Cap “died” was that the arc felt so relevant to me, even with the Red Skull as the bad guy. There was a parallel between the story and current events that made the patriotism inherent to the character shine all the brighter. I barely made it through the first few issues of the new series before dropping it since it just felt like another superhero comic, even if the art was spectacular.

Does Joe Casey plan on bringing Zodiac back into the fold at Marvel anytime soon?

This will be the first Wrestlemania I watch on the day it airs, and I hope I’m not disappointed. The most exciting part to me is the match-ups this year seem fairly even across the board. I was a big fan as a little kid cheering for guys like Bret Hart, Eddie Guerrero and Mick Foley, but dropped out with the new millennium. The shoots and talking parts got way too numerous (and boring!) for my tastes, and it looks like that still hasn’t changed much. I only got back into wrestling because RAW came through town recently and it gave me a rush of nostalgia.

Re: Before Watchmen

I’m just going to copy and paste Tom Spurgeon’s comments because I totally concur with them:

“I think the weirdest thing at this point is how many people get worked up about the kind of objection Alan Moore is making in a way that suggests they feel they have some sort of significant — or even equal — interest in perpetrating their consumption habits exactly the way they’d prefer to maintain them as he does reacting to what he perceives as a cycle of abuse over a quarter century of his professional life. It seems to me like there’s enough material out there to enjoy that doesn’t involve an aggrieved creator. I guess some folks disagree with that notion, though.”

Travis Pelkie:Man-Thing

March 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Wait, did Casey actually get Eddie Campbell on an X comic? Please to be letting me know which one so that I can find it.

And thanks to Francis for pasting in Spurgeon’s comments so I can say “hear hear!”

Campbell worked on Uncanny X-Men #400. It is an amazing looking comic. Lots of great artists.

Travis Pelkie:Man-Thing

March 22, 2012 at 2:47 am

Woo hoo, bleeding cool reporting that the Marshal Law Omni (with just the solo stories, crossovers possibly in the future) coming out in about a year! About damn time!

And the Flex HC should be out in 2 weeks. Maybe. Day-um, comics is good!

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 22, 2012 at 5:00 am

@ Travis Pelkie: should’t that be “Giant Sized Man-Thing”? (in reference to Alan Moore & Marvel Comics)

;-)

Didn’t wanna brag, Tom :)

Has Joe Casey ever commented on his X-Men: Children of the Atom series?

Casey sounds overly critical of his X-Men work, like many people are about their own efforts. I thought it was a perfect pairing to what Morrison was doing. The strongest period in post-Claremont X-Men history was the time when Morrison, Casey, and Claremont each had their own book with a distinct team.

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