No Capes Tuesday!

Archaia's Tale of Sand

It’s no news to say that I’m a big fan of the Muppets, but it’s more accurate to say that I’m a fan of Jim Henson. These two ideas are not necessarily the same. A great many people love the Muppets, Sesame Street, and the Fraggles without every appreciating or “get”ting Dark Crystal. And that same crowd has almost certainly never seen Henson’s experimental film “Time Piece.” If you’re honest with yourself and think of yourself as more of a Muppet fan than a Henson fan, Tale of Sand is is not something you should buy simply because Henson’s signature is writ large on the front cover. Tale of Sand is decidedly non-Muppet.

Briefly, for those unfamiliar,  Tale of Sand was co-written over a seven year period, starting in 1966, by Jim Henson and Muppet head writer Jerry Juhl. To put it in perspective of Henson’s career, during that time period Henson was guest appearing regularly on a variety of television shows (Jimmy Dean, Ed Sullivan, etc…), developing the concept of Sesame Street, and producing television specials featuring the Muppets telling fairy tales. With all of these projects going, Henson and Juhl were also looking for money to make Tale of Sand. At some point they stopped shopping it around, and it ended up forgotten in a file drawer until recently. Henson Associates decided it would make a good graphic novel. The weren’t wrong.

Story-wise, this is straight forward in a convoluted way. Basically a man is on the run. Neither he nor we as an audience find out why. The disorientation, seemingly surreal events, and betrayal that occurs is actually reminiscent of The Prisoner. Even through the end, there’s no clear answer to any question a reader will have. There isn’t much dialogue so the bulk of the story is carried visually.

At first glance, Ramon Perez’s style is similar to Jeff Smith’s in RASL. His figures are fluid and distinct. There’s a nice realism that verges just this side of caricature. From his novel layouts, I cannot imagine that it was easy translating the screenplay and it’s multitude of descriptions and scene changes. As a final nice touch, pages of the screenplay are visible in the gutters between each panel. Perez and company made the best choice in avoiding coloring everything in the book. The minimal coloring in this book keeps the layouts and visuals from being too busy. This is a truly stunning book to look at.

This is a great book for students of the graphic novel form; the visual story telling here is phenomenal. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’d warn again, this isn’t a Muppet book. If you can wrap your brain around that, it’s a great piece of art and Jim Henson history.

This Week’s Comics

A strange assortment of books this time around, but enough to be enthusiastic about!   Here’s this week’s new and noteworthy titles.

  • FATALE #2 – Hellblazer Noir, I’d call this. A book worth checking in on, to be sure. I think it’ll be a fun one, and Brubaker and Philips tend not to overstay their welcome too long, so it’s not likely to be a six-year committment or anything.
  • HULK #48
  • REED GUNTHER #8 – I put out a call for good all-ages books on our Google+ page a while back and got a very enthusiastic response for Reed Gunther. So I’m going to give it a shot.
  • TWELVE #9 (OF 12) – If Matt wants to dive back in to The Twelve, it’s back. If I had to put money on it, he doesn’t.
  • VENOM #13 – This is a $4 title, so I’ll have to back-issue dive for it in the future, but Remender is doing a callback to the 90s’s “New” Fantastic Four with X-23, Red Hulk, Venom, and the new Ghost Rider. I admit it, I’m curious!
  • WINTER SOLDIER #1 – I haven’t followed Brubaker’s Captain America run with any regularlity, but I’m intrigued enough to plunk down $3 to give it a shot. See how easy that is, Marvel? Solid creators and a reasonable cover price makes it easy to hook a new reader when the cost of entry is essentially disposable income.

In the past couple weeks I’ve gotten a chance to sample two Marvel .1 issues. Uncanny X-Force 19.1 and Secret Avengers 21.1 were both written by Rick Remender, so that’s a pretty good control variable to sample how they’re doing. Ostensibly a “good jumping-on point” for new readers, I was pleased to find them because I’m getting back on the monthly Marvel bandwagon but still have a little catching up to do on the regular series.

What I found with these was definitely a mixed bag, though. UXF was fairly impenetrable to me, and I’d read everything up to issue 11. I had no idea what was going on or why, and though I think I’d have enjoyed it a great deal if I were current on the series, I wasn’t, and thus the whole point of the Point 1 was negated. Secret Avengers did a much better job at getting me up to speed, though that was potentially just due to it being Remender’s first issue on the title. We find out that Captain America and Hawkeye are on a covert mission on foreign soil, and Cap is evaulating Hawkeye to take on a leadership role with whoever the rest of the team will be going forward. And as a jumping on point it worked great, but as a book in and of itself I had some issues. To wit:

  • A dude dressed like Captain America is NOT a fit for a covert mission. Though they address that in-story, it just feels like the wrong solution. I tell you, for all the times it feels like a character gets a new costume for a toy line or because the artist wants to put their own mark on a character, this is one of the times it would have made sense if he wore something else.
  • Hawkeye’s moviefication. Come on, Marvel, you know it won’t last. Hawkeye’s digs are iconic. You should make the movies conform to you or just let them be separate.
  • Hawkeye can fly now? Oh, sure, he’s firing some sort of rocket arrow, but that’s some serious Silver Age weirdness there. There’s even one panel where he’s swinging off like Romita’s Spider-Man. What the what?
  • The Avengers should be a bright and shiny superheroic example to the world, not a covert ops team. There’s a place for those teams (see: X-Force), but other than branding it doesn’t need to sit under the Avengers umbrella. There are plenty of unused Marvel trademarks, let’s use one of those. Or better yet, invent a new team name!

If I’m honest, the only issues of SA I’ve enjoyed at all were Warren Ellis’ brief run. I’ll give Remender a few issues because he’s usually great, but after that I’m willing to call the whole thing off for disinterest.

That’s enough ranting and raving for one week. What’s looking good to you?

Last Dispatch: Wizard World New Orleans.

So…yesterday was a good day at the convention, but today was a great day. Like most other conventions, Sunday is the day to really get to talk to people and move around. There just aren’t as many people around. If you’re daunted by the price of the two day admission, but you want to get some autographs, some books, and chat up some pros, trust me when I say that the Sunday beats the Saturday. Everybody from looky-loos and casual fans to hardcore fans on a budget go on Saturday. Sunday is much more relaxed. So it was again this year at this con. There’s only one downside to Sundays: sketches are hard…if impossible to come by. I’ll post some time about getting sketches from folks, but for now suffice it to say that the artists are working during the second day to fill the obligations of the first…mostly.

But my general thoughts on attending a con are not why you’re here. You probably want to hear about the Stan Lee panel and the William Shatner Q & A.

As you might surmise from his exuberance in the media, Stan Lee looks like he’s genuinely having fun. His interactions with the crowd at the Q&A were warm and friendly. The man seemed to enjoy being there and interacting with the people. Sure there wasn’t anything revelatory today, (after so many years that wasn’t likely anyway) but it was a joy to listen to him speak about his career and his creations. As an English teacher, the greatest part of the session was his genial insistence on proper grammar. He corrected the moderator and a fan. It was a hoot! For an 89 year old man, there was a great deal of sharp give and take with the crowd. It was easily the best panel I’ve ever been to, and most likely ever will go to. AND I got to take a picture with him! It’s a rare thing for me to smile outside of laughing, but standing next to Stan Lee in that photo is a fool with a huge goofy grin.

The Shatner panel was a fairly different tone. Although he was standing in front of the table the entire time, there was a greater sense of distance between him and the audience. Mr. Shatner was entertaining, and he certainly knows how to work a room, but the tone was more like a monologue than a conversation. After he mentioned that he’s about to open a one-man show, I realized that this panel was probably a rehearsal for his show. Answers to questions were followed by anecdotes that didn’t always tie to the question. It felt like he had these set things he was going to say come hell or high water. Distance and all aside, it was an enjoyable panel.

Another thing worth noting about this year’s convention is the increased presence of costumes. There were some really impressive ones too. You’ll see a couple below taken by friend of the blog Southall. Remarkably, steam punk seemed to outnumber any other theme. There were quite a few Dr. Whos and Star Wars stormtroopers. Regrettably there were also a hand full of goddamn furries.

Well, that’s it until next year.

Dispatch from Wizard World: New Orleans

In its sophomore year, Wizard World New Orleans is working hard to impress. Last year they were testing the waters to see if New Orleans could support a convention. The problem was that everything about last year’s convention was small. Don’t get me wrong; I had fun last year. I got to meet Adam West, Walter Koenig, and Kevin Maguire, but the convention didn’t have much else going. Few panels and relatively meager offerings in terms of vendors. It was…small and unimpressive… especially if you’re trying to convince people to attend annually.

This year everything is bigger. It’s much more in line with my other experiences in the comic book convention world. For starters, there have been some impossibly huge draws as far as guests go. Both Stan Lee and William Shatner are appearing. In addition, George Perez, Norm Breyfogel, and Mark Texeira have tables in the artist’s alley. Last year, there was a dearth of comic vendors with backstock much less bargain books. This year it’s very different. Tons of boxes of books as well as no less than three booths with substantial $.5o boxes.

Unlike last year, there was also much more in the way of fan costumes. Although there was more in the way of steampunk than the law should allow, there was also fair representation of the comic book world… including a phenomenal Aquaman and Mera which I’ll post tomorrow.

The con has room to grow though. The main area for improvement needs to be the lack of presence by any of the major comic companies…or the minor ones for that matter. To my mind, it’s still essentially a local con until the companies make an effort at attending.

I’ll have picks and panel summaries tomorrow. For now, suffice it to say that this is a good second year in a convention’s life. Today was a good day... oh… and there was beer sold on the convention floor.

The Man with the Amazing Screaming LIST

This week’s challenge was to fill in the bubble. Here were our gems.

Why did I touch goats INAPPROPRIATELY?!?

Mom warned me this would happen!

So this is what they mean by the, ‘the old ginger fingers.’

Welllllll… It’s better than being Aquaman.

This isn’t the Irish Curse I was thinking of!

Which one of you slept with my wife!?

I don’t care how much you sons of bitches cry, we have to give Mom her
backrub tonight!

My fingers… tiny men… I’m speechless!

You never dress sexy for me anymore!

Ready? All right, let’s go f- up some little people.


Longshot — Secrets!

The worst thing about only having 4 fingers is that it's harder to do card tricks. Fucking Gambit...


I was the highest rated reality show on Mojoworld for 16 seasons. Until a scandal ruined my goodwill with the audience.


If I have any regrets, it's hooking up with Dazzler that one time. Bitch be trippin'! (That's the right way to say that, right?)


The star on my jacket represents a fiery inferno, like after Storm would make chili.


I'm 1/4 pheasant on my father's side. That makes what we used to do at night on the farm illegal in 47 states.


This Week’s Comics

A light batch this time around.  Here’s this week’s new and noteworthy titles.

  • FANTASTIC FOUR #602 and FF #14 – I confess I don’t know why Marvel decided to release these both on the same day rather than spacing them throughout the month, but I’m getting them both, so I suppose it doesn’t matter.
  • GODZILLA KINGDOM OF MONSTERS #11 – And the monsters keep on rollin’.
  • SECRET AVENGERS #21.1 – I’m caught up through 17 and looking forward to seeing how Rick Remender takes over.  

Last week Prophet #21 led the new Extreme relaunch, surprising just about everybody, myself included.  I recently re-read (if you can call it that) a few older issues and even with the reliable Chuck Dixon scripting I found them fairly incomprehensible and Stephen Platt’s — which I remember being impressed with at the time — had not aged well at all.  
The conventional wisdom is that this is a European-style book, and while I can’t vouch for that description, it is unlike anything else on the stands right now.  The book allow for absolutely no knowledge of what’s come before, and yet contains many of the Liefeldian tropes you’d expect, like giant knives and orbiting space station acronyms.  The art is highly detailed, yet easy to read and follow.  Earth teems with fauna unlike anything I’ve seen represented in a comic before, a nice sign as to the creativity of the creators.  The plot, though a little on the complex side, is definitely easier to follow than the original series.  

Prophet #21 is currently sold out, but should you find a copy, snag it.  And let it lure you into sampling more of the Extreme 2012 relaunch.  Glory, especially, looks to be a winner, and we’ll finally get the rest of Alan Moore’s Supreme scripts with Erik Larsen providing the art.

That’s it for this week.  What looks good to you?