Friday, December 31, 2004

Best of 2004

Okay, yeah, I could go on and on about all the good comics I read in 2004. But you don't want to read it and I don't want to write it. So, briefly, here are the three comics which I think were the best of the past year:

Tiempos Finales, vol. 1
by Samuel Hiti
original review here

by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
original reviews here and here

Making Rain
by Ursula Murray Husted
original review here

There may have been better comics, but I probably didn't read them. And there were many many good comics. But these are the three comics which either touched me or showed me something exciting and different, pushing the medium forward. Comics which demanded to be experienced over again.

Here's looking forward to 2005!

Quick Manga Reviews

Ai Yori Aoshi, vol. 2
by Kou Fumizuki
At the end of the last volume, Aoi's family agreed to let she and Kaoru be together. That would have made a decent end to the love story, but if the series is to continue without being a constant stream of the two young lovers making googly eyes at each other there needs to be some complications. Complication number one arrives in the form of living arrangements: while Aoi & Kaoru can be together, they are not allowed to be together 24/7; Aoi & Miyabi, Aoi's family's assistant, get to live in a spacious American-style house while Kaoru is relegated to sleeping in the small guest quarters out back. The second complication arrives in the form of the photography club at Kaoru's college, particularly two attractive female coeds: Tina, a brash American (raised in Japan); and Taeko, a shy, clumsy and very busty freshman. Both girls end up as boarders in the house, and though there are many typical pratfalls involving accidental groping, Aoi is not the least bit threatened. She should be though, because both of the new girls have tons of personality compared to the boring Aoi, who only seems to care about making Kaoru happy. There's actually the potential for an interesting series here, one in which Aoi's being brought up to be the perfect wife for a boy she barely knows is examined in light of modern society. But we are never privy to Aoi's internal life, and she remains a bland 'dream girl' with no real personality. It's a shame, because Fumizuki's art and storytelling are quite good, even taking into account the numerous scenes of gratuitous nudity. Ai Yori Aoshi stands on the line with the potential for being rather good, yet it keeps shooting itself in the foot with its young male fantasies.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Angelic Layer, vol. 1
by Clamp
Twelve-year-old Misaki has just moved to the Big City, where she discovers Angelic Layer, the game of remote-controlled combat dolls that is all the rage. With the assistance of a strage and somewhat creepy middle-aged scientist-type she purchases an Angel of her own (hatched from an egg) and begins to compete in the miniature battles. While not a completely unique set-up, there are echoes of something different make the story a bit above the typical kids-with-combat-drones story, including some very subtle subtext about creation and godhood (Angel controllers are called 'Deuses'). Unfortunately the art is miserable; the action scenes are impossible to follow, and the people have a tendancy to be suddenly rendered with freakish squid limbs when the artist is too lazy to do proper rendering. I've seen much better art out of Clamp before--this is just bad.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Making a Profit

One of the best TV shows you never saw is finally coming to DVD!

TV Shows on DVD has the news that Profit, the extremely short-lived (just four of ten episodes aired) FOX series will be out on DVD by the end of the summer.

(via Crocodile Caucus)

Now if only we can get Cupid, EZ Streets, Misfits of Science, and the second season of Twin Peaks on DVD, I'll be a happy lad.

Quick Comic Reviews

Queen & Country #26-28
by Greg Rucka
In "Operation: Saddlebags," Tara Chase and her new Minder 3, Chris Lankford, undertake what should be a routine mission to Russia, but after it goes all fubar it causes crises of conscience all along the chain of command. It's another great spy story from Rucka, its only fault being that I read it so soon after the superlative A Gentleman's Game novel. Norton's art is at the top of his game, providing clean and sharp interiors along with some great covers. If I had my choice, Norton would be the regular artist on the series instead of the round-robin art (although most of the artists have been quite good in their own right). After this I think that I'm going to switch over to trades for Queen & Country, since I seem to be holding all the individual issues in a story to read all together anyway.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Shaolin Cowboy #1
by Geof Darrow
So, you might see this comic in the shop and be entranced by the pretty cover. Then you might pick it up, leaf through it, and say to yourself: "Hey, this comic has some very nice artwork. I'm going to buy it and take it home and read it." Stop right there! Yes, the artwork is very pretty. But there's no story. None. Nada. It's just a silent guy (with a talking horse) killing a bunch of scum in the wild west. That's it. No plot. No characterization. I only wish I'd been able to warn you all ahead of time. If you see this in a quarter box someday, by all means take it home and look at the pretty pictures. Otherwise, leave it on the shelf. You'll thank me.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)

Savage Henry: Powerchords #3
by Matt Howarth
They thought they had stopped the other-dimensional alien invasion, but a copy of the infamous dimension-shattering Bulldaggers concert escaped destruction, and unless Henry can stop it from being unleashed we'll all be overrun by The Loud Ones. Can the world be saved? Yes, but only with the help of Lord Lyre, England's Musical Diety, and through the power of... mellow banjo music. Yes, this conclusion may smack a bit of Deus ex Machina, but when you have an Elder God as a member of your band you have to allow for a little divine intervention now and then. As a bonus, this issue also features an in-story discussion of the ethics of bootlegging.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Quick GN Reviews

Gatecrasher: Ring of Fire
by Mark Waid, Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Evil other-dimensional aliens are opening trans-dimensional gates and invading Earth, and only the Gatecrashers, an elite secret miltary force, can stop them. The Gatecrashers' secret weapon is Alec Wagner, high school senior and human/alien hybrid. Unfortunately for Earth, Alec would rather go to the prom with his hot girlfriend than save the planet from aliens, much to the dismay of Hazard, the unit's commander. Waid shows an early talent for writing non-super-hero action (though admitedly it's not far from that particular apple tree) and Conner & Palmiotti are in their element with sci-fi action and alien monsters. This is not deep stuff by any means, but it is pulpy good fun.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Enemy Ace: War in Heaven
by Garth Ennis, Christian Alamy, Chris Weston, Russ Heath; Robert Kanigher & Joe Kubert
It's 1942, and Hans Von Hammer, Germany's Ace pilot during the first World War, has been reluctantly convinced to come back and lead a fighter squadron over the Russian theater. Von Hammer does this only out of concern for the young German fighter pilots, not for any love of the Nazi regime, which gets him into trouble with those more loyal to the National Socialist ideas. But his kill rate and the survival of his squadron cannot be ignored, so Von Hammer is allowed to stay around, until he learns too much about the horrors of modern war. It's nearly impossible to read this and not see parallels with certain present-day armed conflicts, but I suppose that has more to do with the general themes of all war stories. Ennis seems to be strongest when he is writing war comics, and his Enemy Ace is no exception; I suspect that, given his druthers, Ennis would prefer to stay with war stories, as even his horror & super-hero work usually have strong military characters and themes. The art in the first chapter, by Chris Weston over layouts by Christian Alamy, is astounding; I don't think I've ever seen aerial battles depicted in a comic with such fluidity, grace and power. The art in the second chapter is by the legendary Russ Heath, and while it is quite good, it suffers a bit in comparison to the first chapter. Heath appears to be attempting a Joe Kubert look rather than staying with his own style. The colors in both chapters are by Matt Hollingsworth, and they also seem much more vibrant and alive in the first chapter than in the second. It would have been better to keep a consistant look throughout (the story was originally published as two separate 'prestige format' issues). Rounding out this collection is a classic "Enemy Ace" story by Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert; it's nothing much special, but I'm never going to turn down a chance to look at some Kubert artwork.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Quick Manga Reviews

FLCL, vol. 1
by Gainax & Hajime Ueda
I really wanted to like this. The art by Ueda has a unique, rough style that melds a manga flavor with something resembling Jhonen Vasquez, and the premise--a boy in a slightly surreal Tokyo suburb must help an alien fight robots from destroying Earth--held promise. The problem is that the only reason I know that's the premise is because I read it on the back cover blurb. The story here is totally incomprehensible. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I like to at least have a chance at understanding what my comics are about.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)

Imadoki! Nowadays, vol. 1: Dandelion
by Yû Watase
Ah, see, now this is how you do a shojo comic. As a new scholarship student at an elite academy, bubbly Tanpopo Yamazaki only wants to make friends. And no matter how much the rich students snub her, she's goign to keep trying until they come around. Her tactic? Start a gardening club! Watase's art is in top form, with strong characters and backgrounds and dynamic yet easy-to-follow storytelling. But it's the personality of the heroine that draws you in. Compared to many mopy shojo protagonists, Tanpopo's sunny disposition and never-say-die attitude is a welcome change. While I tend to burn out on shojo series after a few volumes as they become repetitive (e.g. Kare Kano), I hope that Imadoki! will remain fresh for a while. (Note: Viz rates this 'T+' for 'older teens' though I have no idea why, as there's no reason why younger kids couldn't read and enjoy this. Perhaps things get more intense later in the series?)
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Making Music

Jon Silpayamanant over at Mae Mai has posted a cover of "Dancing Queen" by his band Il Troubadore. Some time back I urged Jon to try this ABBA classic, so I'm glad to get a chance to hear their version, done in a Renaissance band style on mandolin and cello.

And since one musical turn deserves another, I've put up a song I created a few months back: "Peach Pit". Enjoy...

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

New This Week: December 29, 2004

Based on the NCRL list for this week's comics shipping from Diamond, here are a few things to look for at the local comic shop tomorrow:

The pick of the week is the third collected edition of Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio. If it seems like just a couple of months ago that the pick of the week was Girl Genius vol. 2, well, you're right. And since I know that you enjoyed it, I'm sure that you'll want to pick up volume 3 as well.

In other comics:

Antarctic has the collected edition of Rob Espinosa's Courageous Princess; if you've enjoyed Rob's Neotopia, you'll want to pick up the collection of this earlier work in the same vein. Antarctic also has the sixth issue of Ben Dunn's Heaven Sent.

Avatar has the second of Warren Ellis's Aparat one-shots, Quit City, with art by the wonderful Laurenn McCubbin.

Dark Horse has the first issue of Concrete: Human Dilemma.

DC has the fourth issue of Adam Strange, the debut of the once-again-rebooted Legion of Super-Heroes, and the conclusion of Ed Brubaker's Tom Strong two-parter (issue #30).

Image has Wildguard: Fire Power, a one-shot follow-up to Todd Nauck's mini.

Marvel has the delayed third issue of the latest Kabuki series, a new issue of the much-delayed Ultimate Nightmare (#4), a new issue of Supreme Power (#14), and almost all of the What If one-shots.

Viper has the final issue of Daisy Kutter (#4).

Viz has new volumes of Fushigi Yugi (v. 13) & Inu Yasha (v. 20).

Remember when the week between Christmas & New Years was a true skip-week, and DC and Marvel didn't publish any comics? It was a great time to break out of the mold and try an indy comic or two. So even though DC & Marvel are publishing some comics this week, make it a point to try something off the beaten path; give a title from Oni or AiT/PlanetLAR or Slave Labor/Amaze Ink or Fantagraphics or Drawn & Quarterly or Alternative a try. Who knows, you just may find something that you like!


Last night I dreamed of Marv Wolfman.

I'm not really sure why--I've never actually met the man, and while I've certainly enjoyed many things he's written over the years, I don't think I've read anything by him recently. But dream of him I did.

Marv didn't show up until the third part of my dream; the first part involved me helping out at a public library (but not any public library I've ever been to in real life...) creating a series of displays of children's books for each major section of the Dewey Decimal Classification. This somehow transitioned into a dream where I was in the Babylon 5 universe, aboard a giant Earth battleship. We captured a malignant alien entity and were holding it captive in a stasis prison (whose other captives included one of the Shadows and Mexican General Santa Ana...) The evil alien entity escaped by possessing the body of a female vice-admiral, and as the entity/vice-admiral wandered the corridors of the battleship I found my perspective in the dream morphing into the vice-admiral's, where I was in my body but unable to affect it's actions as I watched the evil alien entity go through its nefarious paces (oh, Freud would have a field day!)

Which brings me to Marv Wolfman. As I turned a corner in the battleship I found myself back to being me again and in control of my own body. I was now in what appeared to be a shopping mall but in the dream I took it to be a convention center. As I turned the corner, I ran into Marv Wolfman. Now I couldn't tell you what Marv looks like in real life, but in my dream he was tall, with slightly greying hair and a goatee, and I instantly knew him to be Marv Wolfman despite the lack of any sort of identifying badge. I wold him how much I liked his wook on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, which is odd because he's never written any. But Marv took my compliment in stride, and asked me which of his works I liked best. I told him that I of course liked his work on Teen Titans, but what I really thought was underrated was his work on the Star Trek comics; I was thinking of the early DC Star Trek, but Marv didn't write those either, although he was the series editor for a time. I was just about to mention his work on The Adventures of Superman when Marv said that he had to get back to a panel he was on; we shook hands and then I woke up.

Not much point to retelling all this actually, except to thank Marv Wolfman for being a consummate professional to a blathering fanboy in his dreams.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Christmas Loot

Thank goodness for Amazon wish lists, as my comics-naive relatives don't have to wonder what I want, or try to negotiate with clerks at the mall bookstore to figure out exactly what's on my list.

So on Saturday morning I opened up packages containing: The Complete Peanuts: 1953-1954; the Strangers in Paradise Treasury Edition; The DC Comics Encyclopedia; and The New Smithsonian Book of Comic Book Stories: From Crumb to Clowes.

As if I didn't have enough stuff on my to-be-read stack!

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Monkey Covers

Sunday is Monkey Covers day here at YACB. Because there's nothing better than a comic with a monkey on the cover.

For our return to regular Monkey Cover features I present Murphy Anderson's cover to 1955's Mystery In Space #23. I can think of no better way to end the year than with "Monkey Rocket to Mars!", illustrating Otto Binder's story of Earth's first visit to the red planet.

Image is courtesy of the GCD. Click on the image for a larger version.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas Covers - December 25

For each day of December until Christmas I'm featuring a Comic Cover Advent Calendar. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal today's special Holiday comic cover. Click on the image to get a larger version from GCD.

Today's cover is a scene of the nativity from 1946's Treasure Chest vol. 2 #9, by an unknown artist.

Christmas is finally here, so that'll do it for our Comic Cover Advent Calendar for this year. I'll be back next December, as there are plenty of good covers left, and each year brings even more holiday-themed covers to add to the mix.

(You can find more comic cover Advent calendars at Polite Dissent and Raw Feed.)

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Covers - December 24

For each day of December until Christmas I'm featuring a Comic Cover Advent Calendar. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal today's special Holiday comic cover. Click on the image to get a larger version from GCD.

Today's cover is 1943's Captain Marvel Adventures #19. Legendary artist C. C. Beck shows The Big Red Cheese and Mary Marvel helping Santa on his rounds while the reindeer are grounded.

Just 1 more 'get-up' until Santa!

(You can find more comic cover Advent calendars at Polite Dissent and Raw Feed.)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

CBLDF Goal Achieved!

We've now reached our goal of 10 first-time donors for the CBLDF fund drive!

Right after I finish this post, I'll be heading on over to the CBLDF Website to make my $250 donation.

Big thanks to the following donors for making our goal possible:

David Welsh of Precocious Curmudgeon
Jeremy of The Pickytarian
Gordon of Blog, THIS, Pal!
Marc, the Howling Curmudgeon
Guy from Comic Book Commentary
Kevin of BeaucoupKevin
Will Pfeifer of X-Ray Spex
Steve Pheley, the Gutterninja
Michael of Riverside, CT (no blog)
Nevin Steindam from Ohio (also no blog)

But it's not over yet...

Nevin, our tenth and final donor, has generously offered to match any more $25 donations between now and tomorrow, the 24th (up to a limit of 10). Forward your email confirmation from CBLDF to me and I'll pass the info on to Nevin.

Also, a big YACB thank you to everyone who linked here to spread the word. We couldn't have reached our goal without you!

Have a happy holiday!

Quick Holiday Comic Reviews

The Punisher: Red X-Mas
by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, & Mark Texeira
Punisher kills bob bosses. Mob bosses wives hire assassin to eliminate Punisher. Punisher defeats assassin, takes revenge on wives. Sounds like just about every boring Punisher story you've ever read, right? The only thing that makes this an X-mas story is the fact that Frank is posing as a sidewalk Santa in the opening scene. Yes, it's nice to see art by Texeira, but there's really no good reason for this comic to exist.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)

X-Men #165
by Chris Claremont, Salvador Larroca & Danny Miki
It's Christmas at Xavier's, and Claremont uses the opportunity to check in with just about everyone who is currently affiliated with the X-Men. It's not so much a story as it is a series of vignettes, but this is the sort of thing that Claremont is good at, and he does it well. Larroca's art is great as always, and I particularly enjoyed the entry of The Beast dressed as Santa Claus. I'm feeling the Christmas love.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Jingle Belle #2
by Paul Dini, Jose Garibaldi, & J. Bone
The main story features a mystery writer who--haunted by a brief encounter in his childhood--puts off writing his next best-seller to research a book about Santa's ellusive daughter. Dini's story works wonderfully, giving a sense of depth and history to a character who is often presented as flighty. Garibaldi's art works very well, especially the WWII flashback sequence. Dini's back-up story about Christmas in Mutant, Texas is senseless fluff, but it doesn't distract from the strength of the lead story.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch #63
by Tania Del Rio & Jim Amash
It's not really a holiday story, but "Cabin Fever" features a winter-time story with the gang and Aunt Hilda (as chaperone) taking a vacation to a cabin in the woods. Harvey and Shinji get trapped in a blizzard, and I'll be darned if Del Rio isn't making an effort to actualyl move the characters forward. There's a tendency with Archie comics to keep things status quo, but hopefully the manga influence that Del Rio is bringing to this series will break out of that mold.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Christmas Covers - December 23

For each day of December until Christmas I'm featuring a Comic Cover Advent Calendar. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal today's special Holiday comic cover. Click on the image to get a larger version from GCD.

Today's cover is 1998's Impulse #34. This cover by Craig Rousseau & Wayne Faucher shows Bart living up to his super-hero name on Christmas morning.

Just 2 more 'get-ups' until Santa!

(You can find more comic cover Advent calendars at Polite Dissent and Raw Feed.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Quick Christmas GN Reviews

Archie's Classic Christmas Stories, vol. 1
by ?????
This volume reprints selected holiday stories from various Archie comics of the 1950s & early 60s. The stories are all just a few pages long (typically six to ten pages) and read remarkably well given their age. Sure they may be a bit dated in their outlook, but all of the stories are told without narrative captions or thought balloons, just like most modern comics. However, they eschew the decompressed style that is prevalent in many comics today, taking just a few pages to tell a complete story. Most of the stories revolve around either Archie tryig to please Veronica's father, or around kissing, with mistletoe being a primary factor in more than one tale. The biggest disappointment is the utter lack of any creative credits for the stories; while I know that Archie was never really big on crediting creators and that records for old stories may be hard to come by, I would think that with a little effort at least some of this information could have been tracked down and included.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

The Vampire's Christmas
by Joseph Michael Linsner & Mike Dubisch
It's Christmas Eve, and Esque the Vampire is cranky. He'd rather sleep through the holiday, but having been awoken by a bell-ringing Santa he now needs blood. But Christmas is a horrible time for hunting, and Esque is frustrated at every turn. Linsner tells a story that is consistant with the whole Goth-Vampire ethos in which this story resides, yet still manages to tell a somewhat heart-warming tale, relatively speaking. The art by Dubisch is painted over Linsner's pencils, and it tells the story well while maintaining the proper mood. I was surprised to find myself liking this more than I thought I would.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Christmas Covers - December 22

For each day of December until Christmas I'm featuring a Comic Cover Advent Calendar. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal today's special Holiday comic cover. Click on the image to get a larger version from GCD.

Today's cover is 1958's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer #9. This cover by an unknown artist proves that nothing says Christmas like Santa & Rudolph on a rocket ship.

Just 3 more 'get-ups' until Santa!

(You can find more comic cover Advent calendars at Polite Dissent and Raw Feed.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

New This Week: December 22, 2004

Based on the NCRL list for this week's comics shipping from Diamond, here are a few things to look for at the local comic shop tomorrow:

The Pick of the Week is Ariel Schrag's Likewise #3 from Slave Labor. I'm not a huge fan of autobiographical comics, but Ariel's diary of her high school days is raw, earnest and real. Yes, it's over a year late, but I'm sure it will be worth it.

In other comics:

Alternative has Bipolar #5.

Antarctic has a new issue of Gold Digger (#58), plus a fourth Gold Digger Pocket Manga and the first Twilight X Pocket Manga.

Burlyman has the second Matrix Comics anthology, plus the first issue of Shaolin Cowboy.

Dark Horse has a new issue of The Goon (#10), the second volume of Samurai Executioner (finally!), and the fifth volume of Seraphic Feather.

DC has the first collection of Darwyn Cooke's exquisite DC: The New Frontier, the third issue of Green Lantern: Rebirth, the second issue of Grant Morrison's JLA: Classified, and Richard Corben takes over for the second issue of Solo.

Fantagraphics brings Charles Burns' Black Hole to a conclusion with issue #12.

If your comic shop didn't get last week's Pick of the Week, Thieves & Kings vol. 5, last week, it should show up this week. (Unless they foolishly didn't order any copies at all, in which case you need to use a better comic shop!)

Image has a new printing of JMS and Gary Frank's Midnight Nation trade.

Marvel has new issues of Astonishing X-Men (#7), Black Widow (#4), New Thunderbolts (#3), and holiday stories in Punisher: Red Xmas and X-Men #165 (now with 100% less Chuck Austen!)

Oni has the penultimate issue of Ojo (#4) and a new Queen & Country (#28).

Penny Farthing has the final issue of Stuart Moore's Para (#6).

The guys at Win-Mill have their second issue of Following Cerebus.

A lot of good stuff this week. I hope that you're all done with your Christmas shopping, because after tomorrow's trip to the comic store you won't have much cash left!

More contests, more donation opportunities

BeaucoupKevin is sponsoring a contest where you could win a copy of Julius.

And on the philanthropy front, Prism Comics is looking for donations to eliminate their debt. Despite their name, Prism Comics is not a publisher, but rather a "nonprofit organization that advocates for greater inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) characters and creators in the comic book industry." So after you've donated to CBLDF, Prism Comics could use a bit of help too.

(both items here via Precocious Curmudgeon.)

CBLDF Update

An update on my matching funds drive for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:

As you may recall, I've pledged to donate $250 to the CBLDF if 10 first-time donors donate $25 to the CBLDF by December 24.

As of this posting, 4 people have taken up the challenge, which means that we still need 6 more first-time donors by Friday to meet our goal. (Or, as they say on my NPR station: *you* and 5 other first-time donors.)

To answer a few questions I've received:

Yes, memberships at the $25 level count the same as $25 donations.

Yes, if less than 10 people donate I'll still match what was donated. (e.g. at this point with 4 donors I'm locked into donating $100--hopefully it will be more!)

Yes, the holiday season isn't the best time for this, but I wanted to get it in before the end of the year for the tax advantages. (Besides, it's the season for giving!)

Yes, if you live in the U.S. and itemize your deductions, you can probably get a tax deduction for your donation. (I say 'probably' because I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant--ask your financial advisor if you are unsure.)

There are just four days left, so let's get to it! (Full details are here.)

Christmas Covers - December 21

For each day of December until Christmas I'm featuring a Comic Cover Advent Calendar. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal today's special Holiday comic cover. Click on the image to get a larger version from GCD.

Today's cover is 1984's DC Comics Presents #67, which teamed-up Superman with Santa Claus. The cover by the incomparable Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez illustrates Len Wein & E. Nelson Bridwell's story of Superman & Santa teaming-up to defeat the Toyman and, of course, save Christmas! (Interior art was by Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson, making this comic a must-have for all fans of super-hero holiday stories!)

Just 4 more 'get-ups' until Santa!

(You can find more comic cover Advent calendars at Polite Dissent and Raw Feed.)

Monday, December 20, 2004

Anya's Least Favorite Holiday Movie

From Angry Alien Productions: It's a Wonderful Life in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies. (via the Daily Illuminator)

Quick Holiday Comic Reviews

Marvel Holiday Special 2004
by Tom DeFalco, Roberto Aguire-Sacasa, Takeshi Miyazawa, Roger Cruz & Victor Olazaba, Duncan Rouleau & Aaron Sowd
The opening story by DeFalco & Miyazawa is a re-telling of A Christmas Carol, with J. Jonah Jameson filling the Scrooge role. It works pretty well, as DeFalco uses the occasion to look at the roots of Jameson's dislike of vigilantes, but there have been so many re-tellings of the story through the decades that it loses any sense of drama. The two shorter back-up stories are both written by Aguire-Sacasa: The first is an X-Men tale feature Scott and Emma staying at the school over the holiday break to look after a mutant who can't go home, while the second has Franklin Richards asking the members of the Fantastic Four about their holiday traditions. Both stories are okay, though the FF suffers from what comes across as religious wishy-washiness from both Sue and Reed (Franklin's a bright enough boy that surely he's asked his parents about their religious beliefs before, I would think.) I did like Ben Grimm's line about he and Kitty Pride being the only two openly Jewish super-heroes.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Jingle Belle #1
by Paul Dini, Jose Garibaldi, & Stephanie Gladden
If it's holiday time, it must be time for another round of Paul Dini's Jingle Belle, the tales of Santa Claus's not-quite-naughty but not-quite-nice daughter. In the opening story, Belle is miffed that no one in the real world knows who she is, so she concocts to star in her very own Christmas special. There are some fun scenes with thinly-disguised versions of characters from the classic Rankin-Bass shows, and when the network suits show up to meddle one gets the feeling that Dini is drawing on his own experiences with Hollywood. The back-up story is about Polly Green, one of Belle's friends, who is a teenage suburban witch (a la Sabrina). Fun ensues as Polly teaches her greedy family a lesson about fulfilling every desire. The only mystery with this series is why Dark Horse would schedule it so that the later issues will come out after December.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Spider-Man's Tangled Web #21
by Darwyn Cooke & J. Bone
Peter Parker has brought some lost field trip kids to the Daily Bugle Christmas party; meanwhile, Sue Storm, Janet Van Dyne & Crystal are Christmas shopping at Macy's where Flash Thompson is dressed up as a dpartment store Spidey & The Puppet Master is staging a robbery. If that all sounds like wacky fun mayhem to you, then you're absolutely right. Darwyn Cooke merges a 60's vibe with modern storytelling to bring us a fun tale of holiday hi-jinks. So hunt through the back-issue bin (or find it in the Spider-Man's Tangled Web, vol. 4 collection) and give yourself a holiday treat.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Win Swampy!

Mike Sterling over at Progressive Ruin is having a contest where you can win the Swamp Thing: Bad Seed trade. It's easy to enter, so if you haven't read Andy Diggle's Swamp Thing--go for it!

Christmas Covers - December 20

For each day of December until Christmas I'm featuring a Comic Cover Advent Calendar. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal today's special Holiday comic cover. Click on the image to get a larger version from GCD.

Today's cover is 1989's The Amazing Spider-Man #314. Artist Todd McFarlane shows poor Peter and Mary Jane getting evicted from their apartment just before Christmas. Although since the Toddster recently filed for bankruptcy he may find himself re-enacting this cover...

Just 5 more 'get-ups' until Santa!

(You can find more comic cover Advent calendars at Polite Dissent and Raw Feed.)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Christmas Covers - December 19

For each day of December until Christmas I'm featuring a Comic Cover Advent Calendar. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal today's special Holiday comic cover. Click on the image to get a larger version from GCD.

Today's cover is 1976's The Spirit #12. The legendary Will Eisner presents The Spirit getting into, well, the Christmas Spirit.

(Sorry, no Christmas monkey cover today--I couldn't find a third :( Monkey Covers will return next week.)

Just 6 more 'get-ups' until Santa!

(You can find more comic cover Advent calendars at Polite Dissent and Raw Feed.)

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Christmas Covers - December 18

For each day of December until Christmas I'm featuring a Comic Cover Advent Calendar. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal today's special Holiday comic cover. Click on the image to get a larger version from GCD.

Today's cover is from Mutt & Jeff #32 (Date uncertain--probably 1945). Bud Fisher's cover shows Jeff, in the spirit of the season, giving Mutt some gifts that he can truly use.

Just 7 more 'get-ups' until Santa!

(You can find more comic cover Advent calendars at Polite Dissent and Raw Feed.)

Friday, December 17, 2004

A different kind of 'contest': CBLDF Donations

Every pledge drive, our local NPR station has a 'new member challenge': if 10 people become new members for a certain amount over the course of an hour, a local business will match that donation.

I'm now making a similar offer, but for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF).

For the period between now and December 24, if 10 people make first time donations of $25 to the CBLDF, I will donate $250 to CBLDF.

(To donate, go to the CBLDF Website and click on the link across the top that says 'donations').

Just email me the confirmation email that you get from CBLDF when you make your donation. I'll post again once the goal has been met. (Please mention in your email if it's okay to identify you, or if you'd prefer to remain anonymous.)

(Of course, if you've previously donated to CBLDF I encourage you to do so again, but the purpose here is to drum up new support.)

From the CBLDF site: "The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1986 as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of First Amendment rights for members of the comics community."

Owly Contest

Johanna of Cognitive Dissonance is running a contest where you could win a copy of Andy Runton's Owly. Go check it out. (I have yet to read Owly, but I've heard enough good things that I'll probably get it at some point.)

Christmas Covers - December 17

For each day of December until Christmas I'm featuring a Comic Cover Advent Calendar. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal today's special Holiday comic cover. Click on the image to get a larger version from GCD.

From 2001's Superman #165, this cover from artists Ed McGuinness & Cam Kennedy depicts Clark & Lois trying to decide which of their special edition JLA ornaments to hang on their tree.

Just 8 more 'get-ups' until Santa!

(You can find more comic cover Advent calendars at Polite Dissent and Raw Feed.)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Page 123 Meme

Meme from Jen Contino, via The Johnny Bacardi Show

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

Thomas, Douglas. (2002). Hacker Culture. Minneapolis: Universty of Minnesota Press.

In 1988, a hacker who went by the handle "The Prophet" entered a BellSouth computer system and downloaded a file that documented improvements in the 911 emergency services that were soon to be implemented.

Christmas Covers - December 16

For each day of December until Christmas I'm featuring a Comic Cover Advent Calendar. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal today's special Holiday comic cover. Click on the image to get a larger version from GCD.

Today's cover is 1947's Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #76. We once again have a cover by the legendary Walt Kelly, this time depicting those lovable scamps Huey, Duey & Louie attempting to help their Unca Donald fill-in for Santa.

Just 9 more 'get-ups' until Santa!

(You can find more comic cover Advent calendars at Polite Dissent and Raw Feed.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Christmas Covers - December 15

For each day of December until Christmas I'm featuring a Comic Cover Advent Calendar. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal today's special Holiday comic cover. Click on the image to get a larger version from GCD.

Today's cover is 1948's Batman #45. Artist Win Mortimer shows that even when Batman & Robin have been transformed into hideous half-snake creatures, they can still find the time to take a break from their busy crime-fighting schedule to deliver presents to upper-middle class suburban families. (I guess when you're Billionaire Bruce Wayne, just about everybody is less fortunate than you.)

Just 10 more 'get-ups' until Santa!

(You can find more comic cover Advent calendars at Polite Dissent and Raw Feed.)

Christmas Mix

Gordon at Blog THIS, Pal! wants to start a meme for Christmas Music mixes, and I'm more than happy to oblige.

Here then is my personal in-the-car Christmas 2004 mix:

Disc 1

1 Christmas Time Is Here - Ivy
2 O Come All Ye Faithful - Jeremy Camp
3 Emmanuel - Alathea
4 Little Drummer Boy - Martha's Trouble
5 Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Martina Sorbara
6 I'll Be Home for Christmas - Nickel Creek
7 Frosty the Snowman - Fiona Apple
8 A New York Christmas - Rob Thomas
9 O Holy Night - Avril Lavigne & Chantal Kreviazuk
10 Some Children See Him - Alice Tatum
11 Maybe This Christmas - Ron Sexsmith
12 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel - Belle and Sebastian
13 It Came Upon Midnight Clear - Sixpence None The Richer
14 Carol of the Bells - The Calling
15 Christ Child's Lullaby - Kathy Mattea
16 Holy Emmanuel - Terry Scott Taylor
17 Aspen Glow - Love Spirals
18 It's Christmas Eve - Barbara Bailey Hutchison
19 This Christmas - Ashanti
20 Silver Bells - Rockapella
21 Red Lights (Merry Christmas) - Dreams So Real
22 Christmas for Cowboys - Jars of Clay
23 Same Old Christmas - Hilary Duff & Haylie Duff
24 Last Christmas - Sarge

Disc 2

1 This Time of Year - The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
2 Baby, It's Cold Outside - Jessica Simpson & Nick Lachey
3 I Can't Wait for Christmas - Mindi Abair
4 Glad It's Christmastime - Universal Honey
5 Elf's Lament - Barenaked Ladies feat. Michael Bublé
6 Santa Claus Is Coming to Town - Chris Isaak
7 Donde Esta Santa Claus? - Guster
8 Christmas - Cowboy & Spin Girl, Donna Esposito & Frank Bednash
9 Family Christmas - Lizzie West
10 Christmas - Leona Naess
11 The Christmas Song - The Ravonettes
12 The Christmas Song - Drea Ryding
13 The Holly and the Ivy - Iberis
14 Do You Hear What I Hear - Copeland
15 Joy to the World - Vanessa Williams & Brian McKnight
16 Little Drummer Girl - Alicia Keys
17 God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Rascal Flatts
18 The Christmas Shoes - 3 of Hearts
19 Christmas Song - Lizanne Knott
20 Mr. Christmas - Joe Diffie
21 Christmas Wish - NRBQ
22 Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Kortney Kayle
23 Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Red Baron Remix) - Berlin Symphony Orchestra
24 Angels We Have Heard on High - Da'dra Crawford, Carl Marsh, Monroe Jones, Nee-C Walls

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Yes! Yes! Yes!

The greatest Marvel solicitations text ever:

Do you like Ninjas? Do you like zombies? Do you like Wolverine? Would you like to see Wolverine fight ninjas and zombies? THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU!!!

(Thanks to BeaucoupKevin for the link and the quote.)

New This Week: December 15, 2004

Based on the NCRL list for this week's comics shipping from Diamond, here are a few things to look for at the local comic shop tomorrow:

The Pick of the Week is Thieves & Kings, vol. 5: The Winter Book from Mark Oakley & I Box. If you're looking for something to fill the fantasy void left by the ending of Bone, you should definitely check out M'Oak's Thieves & Kings. It's the story of Rubel, a young thief who is caught up in royal intrigue and a 1000-year-old war between sorcerers. The story is told in a combination of comics pages and illustrated prose passages. The Winter Book collects issues 37-45 of the series, so if you haven't read any Thieves & Kings before you may wish to start at the beginning with the first volume (The Red book).

In other comics:

Abstract has the third Strangers In Paradise Pocket volume.

Bighead has the Probablity Broach GN, adapting L. Neil Smith's novel of a Libertarian utopia.

DC has new issues of Adventures of Superman (#635), Birds of Prey (#77), Ex Machina (#7), Ocean (#3), Plastic Man (#13), the first issue of Trigger, a second White Lama volume, and the final issue of a little-known mini-series called Identity Crisis (#7).

Fantagraphics has another Krazy Kat compilation: Krazy & Ignatz 1933-34 Necromancy By The Blue Bean Bush.

Marvel has the first collected volume of Joss Whedon & John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men; the seventh Powers collection (Forever), and new issues of Daredevil (#68), Fantastic Four (#521), Madrox (#4), and Ultimate Spider-Man (#70).

Random House has the new American Splendor collection, Our Movie Year.

Scary-Go-Round is making several titles available via Cold Cut, including the sublime Girl Spy!

Viz has three second editions of manga volumes in case you missed them the first time around: Banana Fish, vol. 5; Maison Ikkoku, vol. 8; and Phoenix, vol. 2.

Another light week, so attend to your slush pile and use your saved pennies to buy your mom a nice present.

Quick GN Reviews

Saint Legend, vol. 1
by Andy Seto
Alien demons threaten humanity, and only the Eight Immortals--former humans with the powers of gods--stand in their way. The art by Seto is great, with exciting action and vibrant colors, and the large format of this collection allows it to shine. The story, alas, is total tosh. It has all the depth of an early Image comic, with super-powered being showing up, posing, and fighting each other. It also reminds me of The First from CrossGen, which also featured mega-powered immortals fighting. It's just that the art is a heck of a lot better.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Marvel Knights 4, vol. 1: Wolf at the Door
by Roberto Aguire-Sacasa, Steve McNiven & Mark Morales
The underlying plot--the Fantastic Four lose their fortune and have to take jobs like normal people--is entirely ridiculous. But since that was handed down by editorial decree, you can't really blame Aguire-Sacasa for it. Thankfully he makes the best out of a bad situation, and except for that lapse in the plot he writes a very good Fantasic Four, getting their personalities and interactions down well. The art by McNiven & Morales with colorist Morry Hollowell is, well, fantastic. Lots of detail and energetic when it needs to be. This could have been much worse, but the creative team rises to the occasion.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Egg Story
by J. Marc Schmidt
Sad and joyful, playful and terrifying. Egg Story is the story of Feather & Five Spots, two young eggs who are ripped away from their home soon after being layed. They are gathered together with four other eggs in a carton and purchased by Julie, who stores them in her refrigerator. When Julie leaves on a trip, they escape and try to live their lives as free eggs. It's a sometimes funny and soemtimes touching story about the human condition, with a dollop of eggistential angst. It's a story that has a lot of heart. And eggs. And a ninja.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)