Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Is He Pictures

Blogger was being a total dink yesterday and I could not get all of the images I assembled into the post without completely mangling the text, so here they are in all their glory!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

If He Be Worthy

I'm fairly certain anyone reading this blog is familiar with the stipulations attached to wielding Mjolnir, but just to cover the bases here is how it works.

Fans love to debate exactly what constitutes "worthiness" of the hammer, and who can lift it.  The following is a post I made at the Thor Message Board on the subject, though I've had to adjust it a little after the events of Fear Itself. 

In general, I think we can all agree that to be worthy of Mjolnir you have to have a heroic nature. Self-sacrifice, honour, desire to help others, that is all a part of the package. Describes a lot of heroes though, doesn't it?

Spider-Man is certainly self-sacrificing, arguably even moreso than Thor. He lives by the adage "with great power comes great responsibility", and Mjolnir is obviously a great power. However, Spider-Man is more motivated by guilt than a purely altruistic nature, and I think that is what takes him out of the running to lift the hammer.

If there is one character around who I personally think would be worthy, it's Ben Grimm. Ben is a hero's hero, sacrificing his own happiness to turn back into the Thing when others need him. He has dedicated his life to helping others as a member of the Fantastic Four. His never-say-die attitude is legendary (eg. his battle with the Champion). So why isn't Ben worthy? Quite recently we saw him try to lift the hammer and fail. I think the reason is Ben's own self-loathing and insecurity about his appearance. He doesn't have the self-confidence/esteem needed to wield Mjolnir.

This brings me to Captain America. Cap certainly embodies everything discussed thus far, without the guilt or self-loathing to weigh him down. Confidence is certainly something he doesn't lack. Cap has lifted the hammer on two occassions now, and it is worth noting that both times he has not undergone a transformation into a Thor-like being.  My feeling here is that while Cap had need of the power, he has never intended to take it from Thor, rather he has borrowed it. 

This leads me to the conclusion that to lift Mjolnir, you must have need of it. Beta Ray Bill certainly had a need, as his world's champion against Surtur and his hordes. Superman managed to use it once, and that was when the entire DC and Marvel universes were at stake. When there was no longer a need, even though he was just trying to return it to Thor (in far less perilous circumstances than when Steve did the same), Superman could not lift it.

Which ultimately leads us to why isn't Superman worthy. Again, this comes down to need. Superman doesn't need the power of Thor, he is just as powerful on his own. He exemplifies many of the same characteristics as Thor, but since he has no need of the power of Thor, he cannot lift the hammer either.

And before anyone asks about Wonder Woman, as far as I know the only Marvel/DC crossover that is actually in continuity is JLA/Avengers. That being said, you could argue that Wonder Woman was fighting for her entire universe, and since she lost to Storm (due to fan voting) she obviously could have used the power boost.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

More Digital Musings

I've been reading, and researching, more on digital comics over the last few days, and while I still like my idea of a digital download code being standard with the print version of the comic, I have to wonder how the Netflix model would work with comics.

For anyone unfamiliar, Netflix charges you $8/month and lets you then stream as much of their content as you like.  They rotate through what is available and what isn't, but I've seen a fair amount that interests me and I just signed up for a free trial last week.

So could a NetComics fly?  Marvel does, or did, I'm not sure, have their own digital subscription service that let you pay a monthly fee to read their digital content, but I've always felt that initiative suffered due to the rather random assortment of books available.  When it comes to the older books, don't put up a random smattering of titles, at least do it by story arcs.  The titles available were pretty random, without much rhyme or reason to which books were available.  I'd rather see more complete listings rotated on a monthly basis than random books here and there.

I'd like to be able to use an app like Comixology to pay a monthly fee, and I can read as much or as little of what is available as I want.  Give me an option to pay to download the comic to my hard drive, or to order a print copy.  This way readers can sample a wider variety of titles than they might normally and could lead them to purchasing more titles.

I love my print comics, but I am really enjoying reading digital comics on my tablet as well, but the current digital model exactly having me rushing to purchase digital comics.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

When the Preview is the Best Part

I admit, I got burned on a recent Marvel purchase.

*X-23 #17 Spoilers!*

I saw the preview for this comic and it looked like a lot of fun, so I thought I'd get purchase the digital copy to read on my tablet.  Something I think a lot of comics miss these days is the fun factor, and from this preview page alone made me think this issue would be a lot of fun.

Full preview can be found at

That last panel alone lead me to think this would be great fun, so I downloaded it.  Now to be clear, the previewed pages are a lot of fun!  X-23 is an assassin trying to learn how to live like a normal girl, and babysitting is a pretty common activity for young girls (and boys; my first job was a three times a week babysitting gig).  Throw in the shenanigans kids can get into, then amplify that by the setting of the Baxter Building, and we're in for a fun ride.

The problem is, the preview pages were by far the best part of the issue.  I made the assumption the preview pages were the opening pages of the book, and I would therefore be treated to 20-22 pages of babysitting adventure.  In actuality, the preview pages didn't show up until the middle of the book, after dealing with some Schism housekeeping details that I'm not terribly interested in.

The book ends with the kids and X-23 off on a madcap adventure, but I had hoped I was getting a one-and-done when I bought the book.  I'm going to have to research if #18 wraps everything up or if this will be a 4 part arc, because I'm not willing to shell out full price on a digital run of a comic; the odd issue here or there is okay, but not on a regular basis.

The issue is a fun one; if I hadn't of already read the preview pages I would have liked it more.  The art is good, the story is good, the dialogue is good, it's not a bad issue at all.  It's just too bad that the best part of the issue was in the preview pages (or too bad I bought the book not knowing I'd already read the best pages!).

Friday, 18 November 2011

All Ages Does Not Mean "For Kids Only"

One of the criticisms levied against the DC Heroes Reborn New 52 was that the content in some of the books is too adult (the biggest examples being Starfire in Red Hood & the Outlaws and Catwoman in her own mag), and not all-ages friendly.  The response from some readers was that comics aren't necessarily for kids.

Now, I certainly think there is a place for more adult story-telling in the comic book medium; I'm not going to give an 8 year old Batman: The Killing Joke or the Watchmen to read.  But I do feel that there is a distinctive difference between books suitable for all ages and those intended only for kids.

A good all ages story has elements that kids can enjoy, that adults can enjoy, and that everybody can enjoy.  If you want to look outside of comics, Pixar's movies are a perfect example.  The movies are marketed to kids, but adults enjoy them just as much or more.

Comic books, at least the mainstream Marvel and DC books, all used to be all ages!  Stan Lee made a point of not writing down to his readers, instead he did his very best to challenge the reader to keep up!  As a kid I always did well in subjects like language arts and spelling, and was told that I had a very large vocabulary.  I attribute that directly to my love of comics, because I was exposed to these big words and concepts that prose books aimed at my age level could give me. 

I look at my progression with Spider-Man as a good example of how stories can cater to all ages.  As a kid, I was drawn to Spider-Man.  He was brightly-coloured, funny, had awesome powers, and fought cool supervillains.  In Grade 3 I tried my hand at my own Spider-Man comic, which was painfully brutal (but my Mom saved all the same, I wonder if she still has it...); the story featured Spider-Man foiling Electro from robbing a bank. 

Here is the important part of that comic I tried to make; Peter Parker wasn't in it, it was all about Spider-Man.

As I grew older, I came to care about Peter Parker, the man behind the mask, more and more.  I'm at the point now that I'm far more interested in Peter than Spidey; when I came out of Spider-Man 2 in the theatre, I commented that the movie was so good I didn't even care if he ever put on the Spider-Man costume.  The life of Peter Parker was far more interesting.

Thus Spider-Man, for a very long time, was an all ages book.  Kids might focus on the cool powers while adults (who still appreciate the powers and the fights, don't get me wrong) catch more of the nuances of the plot.

It takes real skill to do a good all ages book.  The best example I can think of, in any medium, of all-ages writing is Calvin & Hobbes, by Bill Waterson.  Kids love the strip, and adults love it just as much or more. 

It's easy to throw in some T&A and make verything dark and gritty to make a book "adult" and "edgy".  It's far harder to craft a story that everyone can enjoy, and it's a shame that more Marvel and DC titles aren't even making the attempt.

The other night my son was crying in the car, so after awhile I pulled out my tablet to read him a story.  Unfortunately I discovered the storybooks I thought I'd downloaded needed an Internet connection, so I got the idea to read him a comic.  I had downloaded some free comics from Marvel and DC's Comixology pages, and I figured I could just adapt the story to the pictures as we went; he's only 7 months old, he's not going to know the difference!

I chose "Billy Batson & The Power of Shazam", and let me say, I enjoyed the story more than my son did!  Reading about a kid with the power of Superman, and how he uses it, was a wonderously fun adventure.  The little touches like Billy transforming into Captain Marvel and then putting on civilian clothes to go to Parent Teacher interviews as his own father, that's exactly what a kid would do if they had the power to do so!  I think the rest of the series is only $.99 an issue for the remaining 5 so I am going to be picking this up next time I am on Wifi.

All ages does not mean just for kids, there are lots of great stories out there without blood, guts, and women in thongs.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Asus and DigitalComics

Recently for my birthday (and Christmas) my wife got me a tablet.  I have been wanting a tablet for quite some time, but she's always told me that I couldn't get one, which of course didn't stop me from doing a lot of research on the cheapies out there.  Anyway, she surprised me with an Asus EEE Transformer, with the help of my buddy who owns a computer store, and I absolutely love it.

One of the primary reasons I wanted a tablet was to read digital comics.  I love my hard copies and don't intend to stop collecting them, but I have all these Git Corp collections that I want to read, and I hate reading digital comics at my computer desk.  I want to relax on the couch or lounge in bed, like I do with a physical comic.  I was looking into cheapie tablets for this purpose, and was about to launch into serious research on the Amazon Kind Fire before I got my Asus.

Fortunately for me, my Asus is good for a lot more than just reading comics.  However, if reading comics will be a priority if you get a tablet, the 10.1 inch model is perfect perusing your favourite titles.  The dimensions of the screen are better suited to a comic than an iPad, as a page fits perfectly on the screen.  When I get to a two-page spread, I just tilt the screen and everything fits.  While there is a zoom option I find that I don't really need it, I can read everything quite easily.

Now if only somebody would create an App that would let me play VS system on my tablet...a touch screen computer for a card game would be pretty darn awesome.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Real Men Wear Skirts...Don't Believe Me?

I mentioned that Darkseid, before Jim Lee got his hands on him, could rock his skirt, but he's not the only comic book tough guy who can make the look work.  I could keep going, but here's just a smattering of superheros and villains who aren't afraid to define fashion.  Here's proof!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Real Men Wear Skirts

DC unveiled Jim Lee's redesign for Darkseid, a character that I didn't really think needed one.  Much like the rest of his redesigns, it looks very nineties.  Sometimes less is more, but I don't think that Lee has ever adhered to that.

This look is very busy, and needlessly so I feel.  Having the Omega symbol plasted all over every aspect of this design is like Superman being covered in S-shields, or Batman in Bat-symbols.  A logo or symbol should be a single focal point, not plastered over the outfit over and over again like we see here.

I liked the old Darkseid look far better; few men can wear a skirt and still look badass doing it (hello Dr. Doom), and Darkseid is one of them.  Here is his original look, as interpreted by Michael Turner.

The look is very simple, but he still looks like a guy I don't want to mess with.  The focal point on Darkseid should be his face, as it is his distinguishing trait, not at multiple Omega symbols all over his body.

And as always, I feel that if a character is going to be popular, kids need to be able to draw the character.  Darkseid is one of the premier, if not THE, premier supervillain at DC Comics.  Kids should be able to draw him.  Alex Ross made this point recently, and it's very true.  Look at the most popular superheroes out there; Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, etc, are all simple enough for kids to draw.  This new Darkseid is going to give professional artists problems, let alone the amateurs out there.

Maybe comics would be delayed less if their costumes were easier to draw!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Let's Get Digital

I came to the computer today planning to write an entry about how the major comic companies should be letting someone who buys a physical print copy of a comic access to download it as a digital comic for free.

Then Comics Alliance posted that Marvel has announced they are doing just that.

Now, they are not doing it for every comic they publish, for now it is just the Ultimate line.  However, this is a really big step towards where I think digital needs to go.  I am not willing to pay the same amount for a digital copy and a print copy, as digital copies are one hard drive failure away from being lost, which is far more likely to happen than a flood or fire destroying my print comics.  However, I absolutely love reading comics on my Android tablet (Asus EEE Transformer ftw!).

This is the perfect solution for me.  I still buy my physical comics, can hold them in my hands, but if I'm away from home I don't have to haul my comics along with me (risking damaging them in my travel bag even though they are bagged and boarded). 

I don't think that polybagging every comic sold is going to be an option, but for now to get the ball rolling it's acceptable.  If I'm on the fence about picking up a book not being able to flip through it can be a deal breaker.  It does remove the "this is not a library" problem though I suppose, but realistically polybagging the books is an extra cost Marvel is going to want to eliminate.

My first thought was have a code you can scan with your device to get the book, but then someone could just scan it on their phone in the store and in effect "steal" the digital copy.  Maybe each store is given a list of codes for the comics they ordered, and they give them out upon purchase?  The bonus there could be is that after say, 2-3 months, the store could sell the upload codes separate from what are now back issues, which would be a nice show of support for the stores.  I can see problems with that system too, but I'm sure something can be worked out.

I do wish that digital titles were priced at $.99, as I would end up giving Marvel more money every month than I do know, as I would buy some titles digitally and others in print form (though I'd hope for the free download of that comic as well, as I've suggested).  I can see how that might be a concern to the brick and mortar stores though, as that price would cause some people to switch entirely.

Still, good start Marvel!

Friday, 4 November 2011

What Makes a Good Superhero Movie?

Due to the close release dates of Thor and Captain America the two movies get compared a lot, unsurprisingly so.  After seeing Captain America, one of the guys at my local comic shop asked my opinion on the two, and I said without hesitation that Captain America was better.  He said that he had heard conflicting sides on that debate, but he put a lot of stock in my opinion because I am a big fan of both characters (as almost all of the books in my pull box are Captain America or Thor related).

To clarify, I thought Thor was great.  I may have dreamed of seeing a Thor movie in my lifetime, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever see a good Thor movie, let alone a great one.  But I still think Captain America was better.  Why?

The character development in the opening act was so good I didn't care if there was any action at all.

Now of course I wanted to see Captain America's mighty shield standing up for freedom, but there is a man behind that shield and he is a great man indeed.  Before being exposed to the Vita-Rays and taking the Super Soldier Serum, Steve Rogers was a sickly, small man.  He had a list of illnesses pages long, but he still tried to enlist in the army 5 times, coming back after every rejection.  Why?  Because he doesn't like bullies.

I am far more interested in this man, who does everything he can to join the army, not for glory, but because he wants to help.  This man, who threw himself on what everyone thought was a live grenade to save a group of soldiers who had shown him nothing but contempt.  This is a guy I want to see more of.

Often I spend superhero origin stories just waiting for the hero to emerge, but when the story is told as well as this one, I don't care if he ever picks up that shield.  I felt the same way about the second Spider-Man film; I was so invested in the story of Peter Parker I didn't really care if he starting shooting his webs.  The first Iron Man also did a good job on focusing on Tony Stark more than Iron Man.

The Dark Knight is interesting because it is obviously one of the most successful superhero movies ever made, but I was far more engaged by the Joker than I was by Batman.  I didn't care at all about Bruce Wayne or Batman, I wanted to learn more about what made the Joker tick.  And really, Bruce/Batman came in a distant third because the fall of Harvey Dent was equally as captivating.  I almost wish they were not making a third film in this franchise because I doubt it can top the Dark Knight.

What is funny about this is that Stan Lee was doing this in the comics years and years ago; he took cardboard cutouts with different superpowers and gave them personalities, made them real people.  It's a wonder that so many superhero films can't seem to grasp that.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Aunt May vs Ma Kent

I saw this yesterday and had to share it, it's hilarious!  Ty Templeton does some hilarious stuff, and this is no exception.  Thanks to Battle Wizard over at the Comic Battle Board for sharing!