One of my favorite things about cons is back-issue diving. And one of my favorite things about that is discovering insane old Silver Age books. I thought I’d share a few I found at Denver Comic Con. None of these were a quarter, but they were all under $2.
Free Comic Book Day 2012 has come and gone, and judging by the crowds of excited people I saw at every store I went to (5 over about 4 hours that morning) it was a pretty big success. But how were the comics that were given away? Well, I managed to come home with a pretty big stack of them, so let’s take a closer look.
- Adventure Time/Peanuts – The classic Peanuts stories are great, the new stuff leaves me cold. Okay, that half of the flipbook out of the way, let’s talk Adventure Time. This is a great example of what Kaboom is doing with their AT series. The main story follows all the style guides (and fits within the gutters of issue one), but there are also a couple short stories by indie creators where they can go off and tell whatever stories they like. It’s a good, fun mix of a good, fun series, and an excellent representation of what you’d get in an issue of Adventure Time.
- Archaia Presents Mouse Guard and Other Stories – Man, did Archaia raise the bar with their FCBD issue, giving out a 41-page (unless I miscounted) HARDCOVER sampler. I can’t say every sample was good — Cursed Pirate Girl was somewhat illegible and I had to skip past it — but the Mouse Guard synopsis story (I really need to be reading that!) and Cow Boy by Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos were excellent. Cow Boy is definitely going on my next order. Another fun surprise: a Labyrinth story! There’s no branding on the story itself but once I recognized Hoggle (okay, it’s not that hard), the other characters came flooding back to me. THIS is what FCBD should be about!
- Atomic Robo/Neozoic/Bonnie Lass – Even though Archaia put out this Free Comic Book Day’s strongest issue, the Atomic Robo team of Brian Clevenger and Scott Wegener yet again put out an amazing offering this year. Usually reserving FCBD for a Robo/Dr. Dinosaur fight, this year they teamed up! Well, in a way. As always it was hilarious, and as always you should be reading it year-round. The other samples in here didn’t offer content nearly as strong. Neozoic hopped from scene to scene (and even from person to person in the same conversation) so much it felt like panels were missing. Transitions definitely were. Bonnie Lass was fine, but nothing remarkable.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron #0.1 – This is a good FCBD choice from Marvel. High-profile (or rather more importantly, highly talented) creators, recognizable characters appearing in a movie opening the same weekend, and the first part of what will obviously be a huge storyline. It’s well-written and well-drawn, but after going through it 3 times, I just can’t decide on it. Is it for the new reader or us established folks? It definitely feels like part 1 of 13. The return of Ultron is great, but it feels unusually built up. I just have no idea about this one. Strategically it’s a good call, but it mostly left me cold. Maybe that’s just a reflection on my relationship with mainstream superhero comics than anything else.
- The Censored Howard Cruise – Outside of the obvious creators Crumb, Pekar, and Sheldon I’m not terribly knowledgeable about the original Underground Comix creators, so this joint effort by Boom! (really!) and the CBLDF was a nice addition to the day. And it really is censored for the FCBD edition, though the upcoming releases will not be. I was trying to come up with a good way to describe Cruise’s work until Charles Brownstein put it much better than I could have in the backmatter: “Cruse’s technically accomplished line style has a wholesome quality that provides a stark contrast to his candid discussions of sexuality, drug use, and censorship.” A great offering for the student of both comics and comix. It’s also worth noting that Boom! has a new Roger Langridge collection coming out called “The Show Must Go On” that we’ll both need to keep our eyes peeled for.
- Dinosaurs vs Aliens – Since we’re discussing how comics work, DvA fails completely, offering only 8 pages of actual comic book and filling up the rest with sketches, concept art, and text pieces. It’s an interesting book, but not really enough sequential art to qualify as a comic. Skepticism ruins the rest of the goodwill I have for this title. Movie director comes up with painfully obvious mash-up (since those are all the rage), hires the best comic writer in the business to write a screenplay, then does a comic to provide street cred (see also: Cowboys vs Aliens). Oh well, at least the art will be beautiful.
- Image 20 – Image takes their shot this year with a sampler of their upcoming titles. Going with a book full of teasers is probably a good call (although I’m obviously biased towards a full comic) but nothing I read inspired me to pick any of them up.
- The New 52 – Despite my DC boycott I still picked this up, figuring it at least wasn’t putting any money in the Time-Warner coffers. Another teaser book, this kicks off the backstory behind Pandora, the mystery woman who appeared in each of DC’s 52 #1 issues. No disrespect intended to the creators involved, but a passing familiarity with Greek mythology and a play-through of God of War is probably all the Pandora stories we need.
- Spider-Man: Season One – This whole “accessible universe” thing is getting out of hand. A decade ago Marvel kicked off the Ultimate line with the intent of luring in new readers. Then DC launched their Earth One line of OGN’s for bookstores and rebooted their whole damn universe. Unwilling to be beaten at their own game, Marvel then launches THEIR line of bookstore OGN’s, doing the exact same thing every other relaunch has done since John Byrne did Spider-Man: Chapter One. If you love modernized Spider-Man reboots this will be right up your alley, but otherwise this is pretty inessential.
- Stuff of Legend/Finding Gossamyr – I’m always charmed by the soul and charming artwork of the Stuff of Legend books, though I don’t see it on the stands often enough to keep up with it. (Fortunately, there’s an ad in the back for a collection of the first two volumes, which I will definitely pick up). Finding Gossamyr was a little confusing…It looks like a young boy solves a math problem that leads to a portal to another dimension, but tI had a little trouble reading the transition between the two worlds. The artwork was a nice cartoony style, and the story was intriguing more than mysterious for it’s own sake. If you enjoy Narnia-type alternate world stories, this is a title to keep an eye out for.
- Transformers: Regeneration One #80.5 – My love of comics started with the original Marvel Transformers series. I was given a three-pack innocently enough, but suddenly it’s 30 years and thousands of issues later. There will always be a soft, biased spot in my heart for those Robots in Disguise. Sure, their adventures were mainly used to reinforce toy lines, but by the end of the original 80-issue run we got to some truly original stories as we reached the final battle with Unicron written by Simon Furman and (mostly) drawn by Andrew Wildman.
Yes the Cybertronians were victorious, but in the aftermath were some of the grayest, bleakest stories I had ever read as the Transformers struggled to find purpose again. Furman got to tell stories that didn’t require introducing new toys and could focus on the characters. Wildman, who if I recall was a pretty divisive art choice at the time, was my favorite TF artist ever, able to draw alt modes and robot forms equally well and distinctly. What really set him apart were the distinctive (and dare I say, human) faces with spittle frequently flying and battle damage showing they may be robots, but they’ve clearly been to Hell.
Together they got away with telling some truly weird stories. Galvatron travels to kill his past-self before realizing he would cease to exist. Megatron and Ratchet fuse into a Two-Face robot. And then five issues after defeating the ultimate evil they were gone.
Their run based my entire opinion of what Transformers COULD be. Even though it’s been a while since I’ve gone back to see how they hold up, make no mistake: I know full well that most of the comic series was pretty bad, not to mention some truly awful cartoon episodes. But those issues…well they showed a lot of growth and potential for more.
Wildman and Furman have teamed up many times since that series end, even on Transformers, with Armada. Those darker issues seem to have inspired other approaches to the characters as well, but none of them have worked for me. The names and characterization are roughly the same, but the Armada or Energon Optimus Primes just aren’t the
same to me like the G1 Prime is, just like Alan Scott is not Hal Jordan is not Kyle Rayner.
Now here we are, 21 years after that series ended, and Furman and Wildman are back, picking up where they left off. Or rather, 21 years after they left off. They do so fairly seamlessly. Furman’s story could have been more linear rather than bouncing around, but we’re definitely going to get back to the original (and if I may be so bold, my) characters. And Wildman’s art returned to exactly where I remember, without all the overly-angular jagged faces obviously inspired by the movies. This is a very good comic, and I’m really excited to see where they take us.
(Now after having written all this, I feel like I’ve done Geoff Johns a disservice by my griping about him turning DC into what he loved most as a kid.)
- 2000 AD – The surprise find of FCBD 2012! I’ve never seen a 2000 AD FCBD issue before; I didn’t even know they participated. The first pleasant surprise was the large magazine size, so it stands out from all the other offerings. Then it gives several complete chunks of comics. Sure, some of the stories were a part one but it’s an accurate representation of what to expect from 2000 AD. Then the contents showcased a little bit of everything: classic sci-fi, some horror, a vintage Alan Moore story, and a superhero satire. I’ve never read an individual issue of 2000 AD before, but after this I think I might need to add it to my pull list.
- Valiant 2012 – Even though this was just a teaser book, it worked. I’m sufficiently piqued for the Valiant relaunch this summer. Unfortunately, it’s still a bad free comic. Marvel and DC put out things like this monthly; it’s a promotional item.*
* Yes, they’re all promotional items, but the point of Free Comic Book Day is, you know, a free comic book.
- Yo Gabba Gabba – I really don’t know what to say about this one, since I am neither a small child nor a guardian of small children. It definitely won’t appeal to anyone whose age is approaching double-digits, and there’s no hipster cred other than some nice work by Mike Allred and Evan Dorkin. But might it get small children into appreciating comics? Yes. Yes it might. And that’s one to grow on.
And that was my 2012 Free Comic Book Day. I think it was a raging success, even if not every book was. I hope you found some great comics out there and have maybe been inspired to track down a few new things. And only 11 months until next year’s!
As regular readers know, I’ve been pretty pumped about the Denver Comic Con (two words, thank you) and Literary Convention, set to come to the Mile High City in June. We got the chance to chat with Matt Deragisch, DCC’s Social Media Coordinator, to talk about the con, the literary conference, and try twisting his arm into giving us a guest exclusive.
L.E.M.U.R. – There have been plenty of hotel cons and indie gatherings in the Denver area, but as far as I know this is the first time anyone has tried to put together something of this size and scope. Why is now the right time for a large-scale convention in Denver and how did DCC come about?
Matt Deragisch – Now is the right time for this kind of comic convention because the comic scene in the greater Denver area and Colorado at large has been brewing. It’s time to showcase that body of interest. There’s so many different angles and interests that come from the people organizing this convention, yet they all share the same passion for comics. That’s the place this convention is coming from as it’s all to support the Comic Book Classroom.
L.E.M.U.R. – Since the con is a fundraiser for it, what is Comic Book Classroom?
MD – Comic Book Classroom is a 6 week curriculum where students learn to read or advance their reading proficiency through the use of comics then are tasked to create a comic themselves. CBC uses state standards and has put together a curriculum that is being asked for across the state, and starting to be asked for outside the state faster than materials and teachers can be tapped. There’s clearly a need and a desire for this program and part of Denver Comic Con is to showcase that.
L.E.M.U.R. – Comic conventions are no longer only the province of San Diego or Chicago. Other than a good cause, what will DCC offer that no other con has?
MD – Passion. We’re not another ReedPOP convention, or a simple vendor floor convention now in Denver. Those cons are great as well, but at the end of the day everything they’re doing is to throw a great show and make some money. We also want to have a great show, but we’re raising money for Comic Book Classroom, nobody behind this con will directly make any money from Denver Comic Con. We care about comics, we care about the program we’re promoting. We care about putting together the best show we can possibly give Denver. I think our attendees will feel that difference come June.
L.E.M.U.R. – Most people think of comic cons as just a fun weekend, but there’s also a literary conference attached to this one. What was the motivation behind adding the literary component, and what is the goal of those three days? Is it a lit conference attached to a con or is it the other way around?
MD – The Literary Conference is its own animal. It takes place June 13-15, Wednesday through Friday, while the Convention will 15-17 Friday through Sunday. Dr. Christina Angel has been the real heart and soul of the Literary Conference. I think it’s great that we can have this component as well, to show the literary potential held in comics. With this conference in one hand and supporting the Comic Book Classroom in the other, all being headed by Denver Comic Con, we really embody this full argument that comics are a noteworthy medium. We can get people reading with comics, they can be great forms of entertainment and fanfare, then we can show that they have the same potential for artistic and literary creativity as any other medium.
L.E.M.U.R. – What kind of community/retailer involvement do you have lined up?
MD – We are working very closely with local retailers to make sure this convention will be as successful as it can be. We know that our first line of interest, and our most vocal supporters will be all the local comic book stores. Ideally we can make a big enough spark locally to garner some new customers as well, and that’s what the retailers are hoping for, it creates a great synergy. We’re even working with locally started Drawer Boxes to make the most of what the local scene can offer.
We’re tied to the community beyond that though. We have ties to the Denver Drink and Draw, and to Homebrew Comics from Boulder. There’s a lot of different people from different walks of life working to make sure this convention succeeds.
L.E.M.U.R. – Which panels are you looking forward to the most?
MD – I’m going to break form on this question and answer this personally, as we’ll be covering so much fandom between our animation, media, and comic guests. If you look closely we have an amazing line of Vertigo talent and seeing if we can fit all of that talent in one room would be a blast. Also Zach Howard who’s a local talent did the art for an amazing IDW mini, “The Cape” and having the opportunity to hear him talk about that process is something I’m looking forward to.
L.E.M.U.R. – What kind of experience can fans expect on the convention floor? Publishers? Retailers? Pros?
MD – You’ll see the Retailers, Pros, local artists, and a little bit more. Despite everything we’re still a first year con. We’ve had a lot of interest and it’s been one of our hardest struggles to try and get publishers on the floor. We have a great deal lined up and are fitting in everything we can, I feel positive that we’ll have something lined up by the convention weekend. Something you can expect to see is the graduates of the Comic Book Classroom on the floor signing their work side by side with the pros.
L.E.M.U.R. – What are you most looking forward to showcasing?
MD – The community. Having lived in Colorado my entire life it always felt odd that Denver didn’t have a big comic convention. Having the chance to show that there is a community and there is an interest here in Colorado is huge, and it feels like a victory to see this whole event coming together.
L.E.M.U.R. – There have been several big-name guests announced from all areas: Jason Aaron, Mike Allred, Billy West, Wil Wheaton…Can we convince you to tell us someone who hasn’t been announced yet?
MD – I wish! I really do, but when we announce and how we announce guests can be ‘a thing’ with agents and contracts involved.
While he’s already been announced I can say our most overlooked guest is Noah Van Sciver He has a graphic novel about Lincoln coming out soon called, “The Hypo”. He also has an amazing indy comic series named “Blammo”. He’s even still turning out weekly strips for the Westword, well worth your time to check out his work.
Denver Comic Con runs June 15-17 and the Literary Convention is June 13-15. Tickets, guest lists, and more info can be found at denvercomiccon.com. For the latest breaking info, follow @DenverComicCon on Twitter and hit their page on Facebook.
It’s strange to take a look at the week’s releases and see almost all of DC’s output is #1 issues. I’ve had a bit of a change of heart on the DC relaunch. If you recall the DC preview Matt and I did last week, while I wasn’t thrilled about the event or the necessity, there were a few books I didn’t feel I could help but pick up. Well, that’s all changed.
It kicked off with Chris Sims and Caleb Goellner’s review, which was about what I expected. Matt’s Game Tape pretty much backed that up. But then I checked out the preview pages.
You may recall that Matt and I have both been pretty horrified by the sheer dickishness in Flash Rebirth when Professor Zoom went back in time to kill Barry’s mother (and push Barry down a flight of stairs for some reason). Like a dick. It was the worst attempt at “story” since Brad Meltzer decided it would be a good idea to have Dr. Light rape Sue Dibny. Then the whole Flashpoint/DCU Reboot is predicated on THAT? Thanks but no thanks, DC.
Say what you will about Brian Bendis’ master plan for the Marvel U, but at least it’s not based on the worst travesty of story in the last 5 years. So as Flashpoint ends…So does my time with the DCU. Maybe I’ll pick up an issue here or there when I find them in the discount bins, but as far as seeking them out? Nope. I’m out. Thanks DC, it’s been a fun 22 years.
As for this week’s comics, here’s what’s new and noteworthy that I’m not completely fed up with.
- ATOMIC ROBO GHOST OF STATION X #1 (OF 6) – New Atomic Robo! Break out the banners, there’s at least one thing right in the comic book world!
- GODZILLA GANGSTERS & GOLIATHS #4 (OF 5)
- HEROES FOR HIRE #11
- HULK #40
- PUNISHER #3
- THUNDERBOLTS #163
- WOLVERINE #15
If there’s anything more divisive in the comic community (aside from organic vs mechanical web shooters) I can’t think of what it is. With as many creators as it takes to create a line of comics nothing can stay 100% consistent. That’s
okay, we’re all human. Stan Lee invented the No-Prize as a way of poking fun at just that thing and we’ve all found our own ways to adapt with the ever-shifting reality of our favorite fictional worlds. But the real problem with continuity is that all of us have different burdens of acceptability for variation.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen someone ask how Spider-Man can be fighting the Scorpion in Amazing at the same time he’s fighting Doc Ock in Web or Spectacular. I’ve never really had this problem: comics don’t operate in real time. One issue is probably several hours to a few days (out of 30 in a month) so there’s plenty of time for Spidey to be somewhere else. Yes, it is an insanely nerdy solution to a nonexistent problem, but that’s how it works in my head. I didn’t ask for it, that’s how it happens. But even that example shows I buy in to the very idea of continuity. There must be a place and order for everything that happens.
Even with my (eminently reasonable and sensible) rationalization* I’ve been struggling with continuity lately. I’ve set up what I consider a relatively low bar for continuity: I just want to know where everything fits in. Normally this isn’t a problem. We have the DCU and the 616 Marvel U. The Ultimate line is its own consistent universe. The Adventures line (along with DC Kids/Johnny DC) is the all-ages line that focuses on done-in-one stories and doesn’t worry about continuity. No problem there. But then there are books like Thor: The Mighty Avenger, anything involving the Legion of
Superheroes, or umpteen one-shots and mini-series (like the recent glut of Captain America titles) that feel like they should have a place in core continuity but don’t.
While some of these are very good stories, I want them to fit in. Somewhere. Anywhere! And that they don’t fit into a certain established chronology is frustrating me to no end. Marvel launched their Ultimate line as a means to escape the burden of continuity and start from scratch without making the same mistakes. But now, 10 years in, Ultimate comics are in the exact same predicament. It’s just by the nature of serial storytelling that a backstory gets built up. The Adventures line is great, and you can miss any issue without missing a critical piece of story, but then again none of the stories in the have as much weight, because everything has to be reset by the end of the issue. There’s no character arc. In addition, these stories cheat in a sense, because we already know the characters from years of their primary stories already established. As much as I love Jeff Parker’s MA Avengers, they wouldn’t work as well with brand-new characters. To some extent it is by piggybacking on established continuity that he is able to skips the characterization and focus on the adventures.
It’s not just comics in this dilemma. Less than a decade after Spider-Man finally made it to the big screen, relaunched Batman and Superman movies are looking to get rebooted, too. Where does X-Men: First Class fit in? Good luck figuring it out! Imagine if comics worked like the movies, where three stories represented a burden of backstory and required a reset!
It looks like I’ve been picking on Marvel, but stay tuned for Part Two next week, where I finally share my thoughts on DCNu and explain why I’m so befuddled by the whole thing.
*Your reasonable and sensible rationalization is neither reasonable nor sensible because it’s different than mine. That’s just how it works for us comic nerds, sorry.
This week and next I’m out of town and away from my LCS. So I have no new books to review; that’s the bad news. The good news is that there is something I can review… well two somethings.
Somewhere around the time I bought an issue of Uncanny X-Men for the third time I realized it was time to create a more faithful list of my comics than the one in my head. I looked into simply using an Excel spread sheet, but that’s no good when you’re deal with the volume of data we’re talking about with a collection bordering on 8,000 books. I saw it as impractical to input all of that with the various fields I wanted (creators, plot notes, story arc/crossover info). Plus, I wanted cover images for shopping convenience. That’s when I started looking to see what was out there already. Surely some programmer has already created the databases I’d need to access and is willing to sell it to me along with a handy viewing/ report generating feature. Turns out there are several. They range from little more than spreadsheets to the ideal collecting compendium. Today I’m looking at two on the latter end of the spectrum.
In the beginning, I was managing my comic book collection using ComicBase, and I love this program. LOVE IT. Each edition has been more streamlined than the last. ComicBase offers four versions of each edition: Free (limited to entering 500 comics), Express (handles any size collection and has 5,000 cover images), Pro (28,000 images and syncs to various portable devices and smartphones), and Archive (20 gigs of images and a few other whistles and bells that the others don’t have. They range in price from fifty dollars to three hundred dollars. All versions support scanner wands for entering you collection by scanning the UPC, but the greatest thing that all of the versions share is the pdf report generating abilities. You can generate lists of what you have or want lists, they’re also customizable by the pre-programmed fields. So it’s pretty handy when you plan on doing some shopping at a convention. Finally, if you’re interested and keep up, the program calculates the value of your collection. It can also tell you the number of issues you own by publisher. There are only a few drawbacks to ComicBase.
1. It’s a big program and database that takes up a pant-load of RAM. On my slightly older machine this meant occasional crashes.
2. There is no version for Macs. Since I moved to a Mac last year, I’ve been pretty much screwed.
3. There’s a subscription involved if you want to keep up with current issues and pricing information.
The second program is one that LEMUR friend Rakmo suggested to me. Collectorz Comic Book Database is pretty decent. The Mac version came out a couple of weeks ago, and I’m using some of my vacation to fiddle with it before getting home to do the major work on my collection. So far I’m liking it. To begin with, Collectorz has several other database products; they’ve tailored a basic program to fit different collecting needs. They’ve streamlined it and it isn’t a drain on the RAM. Like ComicBase, this one supports scanner wands. In Collectorz favor over ComicBase is that this program’s interface is much more visual and in some ways easier to navigate. Searches are easier, and the information per issue is not presented in the spare spreadsheet form. These are definitely major advantages over ComicBase’s drab look. Collectorz will also synch with more smartphones. The downside is a big one though. The reporting features are severely handicapped. Basically you can have a list of what’s in your collection or what you are looking for to fill your collection. Not bad by any means, just a big drop off from ComicBase. Collectorz is also significantly more net dependent. If you’re not online, you’re cut off from much of the information (including cover images for all individual issues). Price wise, this one is a bit more attractive. The standard edition is thirty dollars while the higher end pro edition is fifty. So far I’m liking the Collectorz. We’ll see how it goes when I start entering large amounts of books.
If you’re looking for some way to keep track of you books, these are the two I can recommend. It’ll come down to how much you want to spend and which features are most important to you. If you’ve got one you can recommend, post it in the comments section.