Saturday, August 22, 2009

Handbook in November

Nearing the which I mean I'll still be blogging about these for most of 2010.



Marvel Universe's comprehensive guide continues featuring the most arachnoids ever assembled under one hardcover! Spider-Girl, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man, Spider-Man (2099 AD), three Spider-Women, Spidercide, Spider-Slayers, Spider-Mobile, Symbiotes, and more! Don't worry, the Stacy Family ˆ Captain George, Gwen (and her clones), and Gabriel and Sara ˆ stop by this volume as well! Can this volume contain the thunderous power of Storm, Thor Girl, Thunderstrike and not one, but two Thors? Lets do the time warp again with the Golden Age characters Spirit of '76, Spitfire, Super-Axis, Thin Man, and Sun Girl! Help answer questions burning holes deep inside every fans brain! Exactly what do They Who Wield Power and Those Who Sit Above In Shadow do? Are the Thunderbolts justice like lightning or Marvel's most wanted? Do any of the three Swordsmen have something to do with SWORD? What Spymaster has tried to sabotage Stark Industries? Can Styx and Stone really break your bones? All this and Stark Tower's kitchen sink... and much more! 240 PGS./Rated T+ ...$24.99 ISBN: 978-0-7851-3108-3

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Peter Briggs

On the exhibit floor of San Diego Comic Con 2009 there were many (too many) booths set up to promote movies, television programs and video games, often interfering with the traffic around the comic book booths. You know, comic books. The thing one would expect to find at Comic Con.

So, I wasn't really at San Diego to be saddled up with promo cards or glimpse celebrities. I had my list of people to see and products to locate and I didn't make space for the Hollywood side of the business.'s not as though I was against wandering the floors. I only ever passed the video/movie/tv booths on my way to a comic booth, but I spent a fair amount of time walking through the comic book areas, looking around aimlessly.

That's how Peter Briggs caught my eye. He grabbed me with a question: "Did you like Hellboy?" referring to the 2004 motion picture. In fact, I did like that movie a lot. "Well, I wrote it." was his response. So I moved in and started talking to him, telling him how I appreciated the movie, especially as I hadn't read any Hellboy comics prior to the film.

Briggs was there to promote his upcoming film Mortis Rex and had a numbered supply of promotional posters to hand out. He autographed it as he passed it to me; he did the same for everyone who stopped for a poster. But, here's the thing: he stopped to talk with me first and asked questions about me, rather than making a hard sell for his picture. I was especially floored when he asked "Michael, have you ever thought about writing for the movies?"

A lot of talent at conventions find the daily grind overwhelming; some keep to themselves and have to be drawn out by their visitors. Many squeeze in work during their convention time, especially the artists. Some have so many priorities that they don't have time to chat, they need to move on. I appreciate that (I've worked the other side of the table after all), but the convention encounters I recall most fondly are those from lively, animated guests. By engaging me as a person, Briggs ensured that I would remember the encounter; by learning about me and personalizing his autograph, he made his promotional poster into an item I treasure. I enjoyed my brief time with Briggs so much that I returned the following day with my cousin so that he could collect a poster.

I found that Briggs actually has an interesting resume, made up of screenplays with natural appeal to the "geek" crowd. Unfortunately, with the exception of Hellboy his scripts (Aliens vs. Predator, Judge Dredd, Highlander: The Source) were not the final drafts; some of them were jettisoned entirely. If Hellboy is typical of his strengths as a writer, then it's certainly a pity.

It's also good to know that Mortis Rex is on its way. What's it about? Well, if I tell you it's about Roman soldiers fighting giant monsters you should know if it's up your alley or not. Check out the website.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Index in November


Continuing the chronicle of the Marvel Universe, starting with Spider-Man (from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 (1999) on), Iron Man (from IRON MAN #45 (1998) on) and the X-Men (from UNCANNY X-MEN #423 on). Follow the history of the Marvel universe as it unfolds month by month with the All-New Official Index to the Marvel Universe. Each issue provides synopses for dozens of individual comics, including back-up strips, introducing you to the characters, teams, places and equipment that appeared within, providing vital information about first appearances, where they last showed up and where they appeared next! 64 PGS./Rated A ...$3.99

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: Warlord of Io and Other Stories

Today, I'm looking at another book I purchased at San Diego. Bear with me, there's a bit of background to get through first.

Slave Labor Graphics (SLG)'s Warlord of Io and Other Stories was the next project by James Turner following Rex Libris. Those of you who know me know that I love Rex Libris. You would assume that when Warlord of Io came out I would have been lined up for a copy and that's a fair assessment...except it didn't happen.

Sadly, I, like most comics readers, did not buy Warlord of Io. Not for lack of interest, but because I didn't know it existed until it was too late. I only learned of Rex Libris back in the day because of an ad banner at Comic Book Resources and somehow, SLG wasn't able to reach me this time - whatever promotion they had didn't penetrate to me so the first I heard of it was the week it was released.

Well, that might be problem for most comic fans but not me, surely? I have a fine local shop - Another Dimension - which stocks everything. I could simply get a shelf copy, right? Uh, or not.

Then the dire news broke from SLG: orders on Warlord of Io and Other Stories were so low that they could not continue the series. I was mortified; had I but known, I would have ensured that Warlord of Io was on my file, just as Rex Libris had been. The fate of Warlord of Io inspired a lot of internet commentary from the pundits, eager for stones to throw at Diamond or to promote their "print is dead" agenda. It's sad to think that this is the biggest news story James Turner's work has made on the internet. Me, I was one of the few who was genuinely upset to miss out on what I knew would have been a good thing.

I was so happy to see SLG at San Diego so that I could purchase a few of their items (yes, they have an internet store but...well, that's another story). And they complimented me for wearing my International Order of Librarians t-shirt. Now I finally had Warlord of Io; so, just what is the blamed thing anyway?

The main feature, Warlord of Io, introduces us to Prince Zing, son of Emperor Zong. When his father decides on an early retirement, Zing is promoted to the throne. Zing has no particular ambition, but just to impress his ladyfriend Moxy he decides he'll bring about sweeping democratic reforms for all the races he rules over and cut the military budget in half. The military of Io aren't too pleased with this, as you can assume. And so, a conflict is set up...

It looks as though Warlord of Io was being set up with a stable line of antagonists, unlike Rex Libris which changed villains with each storyarc. I sense that Turner was looking to develop a more linear story here than Libris and it would have been interesting to see it play out. It's also interesting to note the difference in his art. It's still unmistakably James Turner, but while Rex seemed to be built from Lego, Zing and Moxy are as round and pleasing as a Hanna-Barbera creation. Just as Rex Libris#1 featured a "director's commentary" at the bottom of the page that most people didn't like (I did), Warlord of Io runs an encyclopedia at the bottom of each page which explains something about the scenery or terminology. I have to say, this time I'm not into it; it distracts too much from the story at hand. Perhaps I'll enjoy it on repeat readings? Click for legible version

Then there's the "Other Stories" part of the equation. These include "Hell-Lost," a tale of competing demons done in the style of Turner's book Nil: A Land Beyond Belief. Then there's "The Democrat of Globcorp," "Tales of the Inanimate Chair," and "Supreme Commander Dan in Terror of the Tiki Space Pirates!" So you get a bit of the wackiness Turner delivered in Rex Libris; the latter three use art styles nearer to his Libris days as well.

Although I've taken a somewhat funereal tone in examining this book, I should note that it's not necessarily the end - SLG is offering a pdf download of what would have been the second issue. Will the series continue on the net or as a graphic novel? Perhaps. At any rate, I need to buy a copy now before I miss out again...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Review: ...Ditko Continued...

While I was at the San Diego Comic Con I found a vendor dealing copies of the various comics Steve Ditko has published through Robin Snyder. Although he's officially retired, these books have been coming out with seeming regular frequency of late. I decided to take just one book so that I could sample the fare. I chose "...Ditko Continued...," which was released earlier this year.

"Ditko Continued" is an apt title because many of the stories are continued; some are interrupted mid-story for an unrelated feature. Some end with the word "continued" and are never resumed. I suppose a subsequent issue may pick up on these stories?

The comic is only 32 pages but is jam-packed with stories, including features like the Grey Negotiator, Mr. A and a new super-hero called simply "Ditko's Hero." Hero's costume reminds me a little of Jack Kirby's Hydra uniforms:

If you've been with my since my first blog, you may recall that I don't really care for Mr. A. All of the material in Ditko Continued is of that type; Hero is the only straight-up adventure tale. For all that, I was glad to see Mr. A if only because he's familiar to me, unlike the other features. How blunt are the stories?

Pretty dang blunt.

You may also find the above panels difficult to read. Well, this is raw Ditko - I'm not even sure if it was originally produced for publication or if Ditko produced these for his own pleasure. Many of the dialogue balloons have sketchy dialogue where characters express themselves like an Arch Oboler character, ie:

It might be helpful to think of Ditko Continued as a sketchbook, a chance to see the artist with his hair down. As an admirer of his work, I'm always pleased to see a sample of his work. Ditko's faces, gestures, poses, shadows and weird swirls of energy are among my favorite comic book visuals. As an art book, I liked it.

Information on ordering copies of Ditko's recent output is available here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Check out the Kidnapped hardcover

This recent release collects the Marvel Illustrated adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Kidnapped, as rendered by Roy Thomas and Mario Gully. It's the classic tale of young David Balfour, who is kidnapped and pawned off on a ship's crew, only to find a heroic ally in the Jacobite Alan Breck Stewart.

This hardcover collection also contains a special feature - a biography of Robert Louis Stevenson written by a distant relation of his: yours truly (according to family lore).

I campaigned for this feature on the strength of my family ties, but I'd really like to try my hand at adapting a Stevenson story myself - the Suicide Club, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Markheim, the Bottle Imp - there are still plenty of great tales by Stevenson worthy of adaptation.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Alan Moore predicts 2005

From the Tomorrow Syndicate (1993):

If only Moore could harness his power to predict DC crossovers for good...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mark Gruenwald: 13 years already?

It's hard to believe that 13 years ago today, Mark Gruenwald passed away of a heart attack, still in his early forties and still a powerful force in Marvel Comics at the time.

In the 11 years I've been on the internet I've posted a variety of remembrances on this day in a multitude of locations; I've also posted a collection of his Mark's Remarks editorials to my website (it's on Geocities just now; look for a new address soon). This year I'd like to consider Mark's Remarks itself.

In its time, Gruenwald's Captain America was my favorite comic book series; his Marvel handbooks had an obvious impact upon me, I truly enjoyed Quasar and I was deeply moved by DP7 & Squadron Supreme; but the place where I was first struck by the weight of Gruenwald's intelligence was in the Mark's Remarks column of Marvel Age magazine.

Issue #100's Remarks was my favorite; I photocopied it so that I could tape it on my bedroom wall and I could quote most of it by heart (still can). Gruenwald's sense of humour came through in many of the editorials and I enjoyed that, but it was his frankness about the comics industry which I truly appeciated. I had never seen a professional comics writer speak so openly about what goes into the production of a comic; when Gruenwald would write an entry on how to break into comics he was his most controversial because he gave the wanna-bes the straight dope - that they didn't have a good chance and that it would be hard work. Many of Gruenwald's essays explored his love of the Marvel Universe and his thoughts on how to make it function as a proper whole, but he also delved into the process of plotting a script and discussed scripting styles. He spoke with authority, approachability and passion. Gruenwald made me realize that while I might never break into the comics field, if I did I would want to do what he did - write, edit, teach.

Rest in peace Mr. Gruenwald; you are still missed.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Index in October


Continuing the chronicle of the Marvel Universe, starting with Spider-Man (from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #429 on), Iron Man (from IRON MAN ANNUAL 1999 on) and the X-Men (from UNCANNY X-MEN #416 on). Follow the history of the Marvel universe as it unfolds month by month with the All-New Official Index to the Marvel Universe. Each issue provides synopses for dozens of individual comics, including back-up strips, introducing you to the characters, teams, places and equipment that appeared within, providing vital information about first appearances, where they last showed up and where they appeared next! 64 PGS./Rated A ...$3.99

Monday, August 10, 2009

RIP: Harry Alan Towers

On July 31st of this year, Harry Alan Towers passed away. As a film producer, he's probably best remembered for his series of Fu Manchu films from the 60s which starred Christopher Lee. Although I'm a fan of the Fu Manchu character, I don't consider those films to be at all good (of those I've seen) and so his work is mostly appreciated by lovers of schlock - b-picture fans and their ilk.

What I'll remember Towers for is his work in raido. He produced a number of dramatic programs for the BBC in the 1950s which were subsequently distributed to North America. They offered repetitive musical scores, similar casts and sparse sound effects. Nevertheless, they persist.

One of these programs was The Lives of Harry Lime, drawn from Graham Greene's the Third Man (made into a 1949 film starring Orson Welles). One of the benefits of this program was that it starred Orson Welles as Harry Lime and retained the movie's distinctive zither score. The series told about Harry Lime's adventures prior to the events of the Third Man and cast him as something of a likeable rogue who fleeces people that deserve fleecing. The stories had a fair bit of sameness but there are a few that really stand out in my mind, such as the one where Lime chases a music box containing a secret fortune and another where Lime tricks a woman into loving him so that he can get at her father's money - only to find she has her own plans. The series didn't invite favorable comparisons to Graham Greene's own work, but it was often fun.

Orson Welles also hosted Towers' program the Black Museum. Outside of Welles' narration, the best thing about the show was the concept: an anthology crime series which reveals the stories behind the objects in Scotland Yard's Black Museum. When the program would recount the crimes themselves it was often good; when it followed the interchangeable square-jawed Scotland Yard inspectors solving the crimes, it was duller than dirt.

Lastly, there was Towers' Sherlock Holmes program. This one had an astounding cast: John Gielgud as Holmes, Ralph Richardson as Watson and (in a few episodes) Orson Welles as Moriarty. If nothing else, Towers must have helped Welles pay off the IRS! This was a fine series, the best radio adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories that I've heard.

Towers' work will endure; hopefully more than just those shlocky Fu Manchu flicks.