Friday, 17 February 2012

.1 Issues...The Good and the Bad

Recently Marvel has been putting out ".1" issues of their comics.  As I understand it, these .1 issues are meant to be a jumping on point for new readers.  When they first came about I thought they were going to be a one-time thing, but I keep seeing solicitations for new .1 issues so I guess that isn't the case.

I'm of 2 minds on these issues.  The long time comic book reader in me doesn't really like them.  I do like stand alone issues, without question, but since the .1 issues are usually done by a different creative team the tone of the .1 books just doesn't resonate with the rest of the series, at least in the ones I've read.  If I'm going to go back and reread a run (which I enjoy doing), I don't care for the .1 issue throwing off the tone of the main creative team.

Due to that lack of consistency, it seems to me that the .1 issues are also a way to pad the time the creative teams have to put out their book.  I'd rather see a planned fill-in issue than a mad scramble or delay, so if that's part of the strategy then that's fair enough.

I do, however, like Marvel making an effort to reach out to new readers.  Dan Slott commented on Twitter that for everyone who complains about the Amazing Spider #679.1 issue numbering, somebody else tells him that the numbering is why they picked it up.

I guess part of what bugs me is I don't care for the Big 2's "creative accounting" to get to milestone issues.  I've detailed this before using the Thor books as my example, so I won't go too deep into it here.  Basically, I don't like how books are canceled and relaunched with a new #1, only to revert back to the original numbers to get the sales boost of a #1 and a #500.  With the .1 issues, this approach to issue milestones can get even more convoluted.

I really do think that comics should look at adopting a volume system.  You get the sales boost of a #1 and a "final issue" every year or two, however long you decide a volume is going to be (I would say at minimum 12 issues since that's two-6 issue story arcs).  It would also make it far easier on new readers to break in and be able to follow along; to be honest, if I hadn't of bought the Thor books as they came out, trying to follow the story through the numbering system alone would be a nightmare (again, see the linked post for details).

So good on you Marvel for reaching out to new readers, but I think there is still work to be done as that same approach is going to make things even more confusing in the long-run.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Digital Comics...When & Why I Buy Them

I have to say, I really enjoy reading comics on my tablet.  With that said, I'm pretty choosey about what I purchase.  Not necessarily because of the content, I like reading a variety of books, but moreso because of cost.

I generally will not pay more than $1.99 for a single issue, and even then it has to be something I really want.  However, if I can get a digital book for $.99, then I'm willing to snag a bunch.  I know that debate rages about the price of digital books, and I don't pretend to know all of the costs involved with digital, but I do know what the value is to me.

If I shell out $3.99 for a physical comic book, I own something.  If I resell it I'm probably not going to make a profit, but I am probably able to get something for it.  I can't do that with a digital book.  What happens if the company I bought the digital book from goes under, and I suffer a data loss?  I'm now out that money, whereas with a physical book once I have it I have it, barring something like a basement flood or fire I'm not going to lose them; and even if I do, I have insurance on my physical books, you can't do that with digital.

That is why I will not spend $3.99 on a digital comic book that takes me 5 minutes to read.  However, there are times when I am willing to spend that much or more, and I wish that more of these collections existed.

While browsing around on the Comixology app on my tablet, I happened across an X-Men/Spider-Man digital pack for $5.99 that was over 150 pages, containing team-ups of Marvel's merry mutants and their friendly neighborhood arachnid from various comics over the years.  Now this is exactly the kind of initiative that can be done easily in the digital comics world. I mean, you made the money on the content the first time around, why not offer it in a bundle like this to entice readers to try out something they haven't read before?  In fact, this was created to promote a (then) upcoming crossover between the two teams, that's great marketing!

I would love to see more stuff like this...why not put Bloodties together in a digital pack for $5 as marketing for the upcoming Avengers vs X-Men?  Or in the lead up to the Galactus-Asgard snorefest war put out a bundle of cosmic Thor stories, such as his battles against the Celestials, Ego the Living Planet, etc.  Marvel has made their money already with these stories, so why not use them as gravy to marketing upcoming events?

Really my only beefs about the X-Men/Spider-Man bundle was one of the stories within ended on a cliffhanger and the resolution wasn't included.  My other beef was that I already owned 4 of the issues in the pack, and there was no way to read what issues were included before purchasing.  Fix that little mistake and I'd be very satisfied.

Feel free to steal this idea Marvel, DC, any comic company that wants my money!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Smell Like An Avenger

I was reading an article today about a line of Avengers colognes and perfumes coming out in advance of the movie, and while at first I scoffed at the notion, I will admit based on the descriptions that these guys actually did their research.

Patriot, inspired by Captain America, pays homage to the "confident, stand-up-to-bullies average Joe" in every man, with "hints of green lime and white pepper, and finishes of dry oak, sandalwood and tequila."

Okay, this one doesn't knock my socks off, though the tequila finish kind of caught me off guard.

Mark VII smells like mandarin and jasmine with light patchouli, reads a company release, for an Iron Man-like "I don't play well with others" confidence.

Okay, I almost laughed out loud when I read that the principle odour in Iron Man's fragrance is mandarin.  While at first I thought this was just really ironic, as I kept reading I get the impression these guys actually did their homework.

There is also a "Russian spy/trained assassin" perfume, called Black Widow; a Nick Fury-inspired scent, called Infinity; and a "dangerous-sexy" unisex scent based on the villain Loki, the bad brother of Thor.

Okay, giving Iron Man a scent of mandarin as opposed to WD40 could have been a one-off, but the fact that they named the Nicky Fury scent "Infinity" really leads me to believe these guys put some thought into these.  For anyone reading this unaware, comic book-Nick Fury owes his longevity to a little chemical cocktail called the Infinity Formula.

I skipped posting the details of Thor and the Hulk because nothing really struck me there, you can read them at the full article if you wish (  Well done JADS, well done.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Reading GIT Corp on Android

I've posted before about reading comics on a tablet, and how the Asus EEE Pad is perfect for digital comics. The aspect ratio is pretty much perfect for a comic book page, they don't fit as nicely on an iPad's screen.

I've also made mention of the GIT Corp DVD collections that Marvel put out some years ago. Before Marvel created their online subscripton service, they were licensing their books to GIT Corp to create DVD's containing entire runs of books like Amazing Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Hulk, etc, stretching from their inceptions in the 60's until a cut-off in the early to mid 2000's (when the discs came out). At the time they were a tremendous deal, between $40 and $60 for 40 years of comics. Some of the collections are hard to find now and as a result very expensive, but I have collected almost all of them.

I never cared for reading comics on my desktop computer, so I didn't read the GIT Corp collections as much as I wanted to. When I got my tablet, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to start reading them more. The question was, what app would be best to read them on?

The books are PDFs, and there are a number of PDF viewers available in the Android market. The trick is, most of these readers display a MARVEL watermark on the books, which can be read through but is annoying.

After some trial and error I finally found an app, for free no less, called Perfect Viewer, that lets me view my GIT Corp comics without the Marvel watermark.

GIT Corp comics are a little different than current digital comics; the GIT Corp comics are all 2-page spreads (think of a comic book opened up and laid flat on a scanner...since that's what they are!), meaning that they read a little bit small even when the tablet is horizontal. However, Perfect Viewer will let you invert the comics and then zoom in so you can view one (comic) page at a time, you just need to swipe across. This lets you read the GIT Corp comics like current digital comics, very easy to read!

You'll need to download the PDF plugin for Perfect Viewer, but it's also free so that's no big deal. For all my fellow Androids out there, here is a link to the Android Market where you can download the viewer!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Marvel's Birds of Prey

If Marvel were to have an all female book ala Birds of Prey, what would the cast look like?  I know Marvel has the Lady Liberators, but I don't really care for the name and I'm not even totally sure what the concept is.

And that is important, why would an all-female team exist?  I saw this topic on a message board and it looked to me like some respondents were just listing their favourite female characters.  There needs to be a reason for these people to come together as a team, and why these characters in particular are the best fit. 

Therefore, for my all female Marvel team, let's go with the concept of a group of women who want to do things smarter; they want to target the source of the problem, not the symptoms.  In the super-powered Marvel universe this will still lead to fight scenes, don't worry action lovers, but it will also provide a platform to air a women's perspective on things.

So who wants to change the world for the better but also isn't afraid to throw down if things go south?  Here are my picks.

Team Leader: The Invisible Woman
Sue Richards is a pretty busy lady.  She is a mother of two very exceptional children (four if you count the antics of Ben and Johnny) and is a full time member of the Fantastic Four.  However, her husband is the undisputed leader of the team, and it can be difficult to try set your own direction for the group when the smartest man in the world is calling the shots.  I would view this team as something "just for Sue", where she can get away from the family and pursue her own agenda without Reed being there to influence what the team does.

Tech Support: Shadowcat
Kitty Pryde and the Invisible Woman just seem to be a really good fit, and I could see Kitty actually looking up to Sue.  Kitty would rather use her brains than her fists any day, and therefore I think she could be a pretty good fit.

The Rookie: Lightspeed
Lightspeed has been added recently to the cast of Avengers Academy, but I really think it's important to have that younger perspective on the team.  Without a character like Lightspeed, like it or not the "inexperienced" role is going to fall to Kitty, which I absolutely do not think is right.  It's been insinuated by a fellow teammate that Lightspeed is homosexual...could make things a little uncomfortable for her on a team of all women.

The Muscle: Big Bertha
I know that the obvious choice is She-Hulk, but that's just too obvious.  I'd like to see Bertha venturing into adventures without her teammates to see how she does.  And while Bertha is comfortable the way she is around her goofball teammates, does she still feel that way when on a more serious team of beautiful women?  She is a model in her civilian identity, but by stepping out onto a larger stage will she end up having issues with her superhero appearance?  Body image is a very real issue for girls and women that could really be explored here.  Or go the other route, and show Big Bertha being completely comfortable in her own skin.  Either way, it can be explored.

The Agitator: Emma Frost
Emma rubs a lot of people the wrong way, as opposed to when she was a stripped at the Hellfire club (Bazinga).  Kitty really doesn't like her, and I can't imagine the rest are huge fans of hers.  Emma is on the team for similar reasons to Sue, as Cyclops is undoubtedly the alpha male of his team of X-Men.  Unlike Sue, however, Emma is arrogant enough to think this venture is doomed to fail without her involvement.  And I will admit, Emma helps boost the star power in the book for the readers.

Intelligence: Sharon Carter
Sharon isn't really a superhero, but her resume is pretty impeccable as an agent of SHIELD.  If this team of proactive superheroines wants to tackle certain problems at the knees being forewarned is going to important, and Sharon in an intelligence expert.

The Difference Maker: Firestar
The New Warriors, when they were first created, didn't have a lot of direction.  As the series progressed though they developed an informal mission statement of changing the world for the better, which is exactly what this team is trying to do.  I can see Firestar taking on a sort of mentorship role with Lightspeed, and it doesn't hurt that she is a former Avenger.  I think I'd go with a Firestar who is perhaps a little too over eager at times, but still respecting that she is a veteran superhero.

I'm still trying to think of a name for this group...any suggestions?

Friday, 27 January 2012

Thursday, 26 January 2012

All Ages Book Gets It Right

Today I stumbled across a free (and legal!) online copy of Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #11, and I have to say, the characterization in this story was better than that in a lot of the 616 books these days.  You can read the story (I don't know for how long!) at  Go ahead, I'll wait.  Note the solicit and the comic don't match, so don't panic when Thor doesn't show up.

Without spoiling too much, the book starts out with the Hulk seeking out the Thing for his help.  Hulk found something (I won't spoil what) and he didn't know who to turn to for help in finding out what it is, so he sought out the closest thing he has to a friend, the Thing.  As Hulk put it, "Rockman is strong and smart".  So off the pair go to investigate.

The other part of the book features Steve Rogers and Richard Rider, but I want to focus on the Hulk and Thing part of the story.

The Thing and the Hulk take the Fantasticar to investigate the Hulk's findings, and the Thing notes that the Hulk is uncomfortable and a little withdrawn.  He asks if the Hulk is afraid of flying, and Hulk replies that he is just scared he is going to break the vehicle and then the Thing would get mad at him; everything breaks easily for the Hulk.

After Hulk uncovers his discovery Ben calls in the Invisible Woman to help them out.  I admit I was surprised that he didn't call in Reed, but things are obviously a little different in the All Ages universe; for example, Sue says that she runs the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, while in 616 Marvel she is not a member of the Avengers.

Anyway, it becomes apparent why Sue was summoned, and it's for story purposes; she has a bit of a heart to heart with the Hulk, talking about friends.  Hulk says he doesn't really have any, and it's kind of heart breaking.

There's a fight at the end and a conclusion, but I've spoiled enough!

The Savage Hulk is a tricky character to write, but Paul Tobin really does a great job with him.  Hulk isn't a monster; rather, he is misunderstood.  His lack of social skills (he punches the Thing when they first meet in this issue because he's scared the Thing will punch him, whereas Ben then tries to explain the concept of a handshake as a greeting instead) combined with his immense strength lead him to a lot of the conflicts he finds himself in and would rather avoid. 

This book illustrates two things that are lacking in a lot of comics these days:

1. A story can be told in a single issue but still be a part of an over-arcing narrative.  I haven't read any other issues of Marvel Adventures Superheroes, and I had no trouble following the story.  I wasn't expecting Sue to be the leader of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, but it was explained very quickly and easily.

2. Characters drive the story.  Sometimes it feels like a writer has a story to tell and they will try to mold the characters to fit the narrative even if they have to act out of character to do it; in this story, it feels the opposite.  The characters are driving the story, which makes for a far more enjoyable reading experience.  It also adds a lot more impact to action sequences; I want a reason for characters to fight, especially when it is a hero-vs-hero match.  There are 2 fight scenes in this book, and both happen for a reason; the first one in particular has a lot of oomph due to the relationship between Hulk and the Thing even though it is a skirmish at best.

I have to admit, sometimes I wonder if switching over entirely to the All Ages line would be the way to go, as I find I am rarely disappointed when I venture into those books.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Rating the Thor Scribes

At the Thor Message Board the other day a challenge was put forth to rate out of 10 the writers on Thor going back to Dan Jurgens.  I tweaked the criteria slightly and said I would only rate the writers on the ongoing title, not mini-series or one-shots.  I thought I would expand on my reasonings here.

Kieron Gillen - 10/10
I've said this before and I am sure to say it again, Kieron Gillen is the second coming of Walt Simonson when it comes to Thor.  Like Simonson, Gillen has a great grasp on Norse mythology and weaves it seamlessly into Marvel's interpretation of the worlds of Asgard.  His dialogue, a tricky subject when it comes to Thor and company, is great, a perfect updating of the old "thee and thou" days.  His villains are layered, and have many aspects to their plans; watching Loki and Mephisto verbally spar with each other was a real treat.  What is especially impressive with Gillen's contributions is he has never been annointed the regular scribe on Thor, it's always been to pick up the pieces of somebody else's work.  I would love to see what Gillen could do with Thor if he as free to set the direction of the character, and if you're not reading it you have to check out Journey Into Mystery, one of the best books Marvel puts out and is written by, surprise surprise, Kieron Gillen.

Mike Oeming - 9/10
Oeming's Ragnarok storyline was perhaps one of the best send-offs a character could ask for.  Lots of great nods to past continuity and Norse mythology, real character growth and evolution, it was a great read.  The story itself I would rank a full 10/10, but Oeming had an advantage over the other writers in that he knew he didn't have to put the toys back in the sandbox when he was done, meaning he could effect some really drastic changes and developments that normally wouldn't be possible.  As such, it didn't seem fair to give him the full 10/10, but if he were to come back to the title I'm sure he would be embraced with open arms by the Thor faithful.

J Michael Stracynzki - 8/10
What I really liked about JMS' run was the slow boil of the story; you could tell he was building to something, and each issue advanced the plot nicely.  Most of the issues could be enjoyed as a somewhat standalone story, a rarity in today's market.  Some people think there wasn't a lot of action, but we got to see Thor take on Irom Man, the Destroyer, Surtur, those are some real heavy weights.  Fights need to have a reason for being, and every battle Thor entered was charged with personal or larger stakes; with Iron Man he was expressing his displeasure at Tony's actions in the Civil War, with the Destroyer he was fighting to save his people, against Surtur he was fighting for the life of his father, there were real consequences beyond something as simple as a grudge match.  The only real problem with the title was the delays, it really derailed the story and is the only reason I knocked JMS' ranking down.

Dan Jurgens - 6/10
I'm the opposite of a fair number of fans, I liked Jurgens later run on the title compared to his earlier issues.  I think part of that was the art; John Romita Jr. is a master storyteller, and a lot of guys could learn how to tell a story from him, but I've never cared for his sketchy/blocky style (I was a huge fan of his old style when he was working on Amazing Spider-Man the first time around).  But I didn't care for the story elements too; I thought Thor's dialogue was atrocious, for starters.  I didn't care for the whole Jake Olsen thing, so that didn't help either.  However, I absolutely loved Jurgens "King Thor" era, which slowly saw Thor turn into Odin, essentially.  It was a phenomenal way to explore and extract aspects of the character that hadn't been explored before.  Yes, Thor was returned to the status quo for Oeming to tidy up the series, but man Jurgens was cooking in the later part of his run.

Matt Fraction - 1/10
I'm probably being generous giving Fraction the 1 point, but he's had great artists doing his stuff, even though the colourist destroyed Pascal Ferry's art on his first run.  Anyway, Fraction seems to have simply ignored the work done by JMS and Gillen, taking away the more contemplative and mature Thor we were enjoying and replacing him with a hot tempered brute.  The dialogue, as I've chronicled before on this blog, is atrocious.  The story concepts are great, but the execution is horrendous.  I love Thor, and have a full run going back to volume 2 of the book, so Fraction not only got me to drop a book I was invested in emotionally, but also as a collector.  That is very hard to do.  I look forward to when he leaves the book and I can come back to it, and the collector in me has resigned himself to maybe getting the Fraction books in the dollar bin in future to re-complete the collection.

Friday, 13 January 2012

New Warriors

Okay, I promised a post this week about the New Warriors, so here we go!

Over the holidays, I read pretty much every issue of the original volume of New Warriors, excluding 2 regular issues and the annuals.  I wasn't in a position to purchase the New Warriors when it first came out, but I am assuming they were a fairly big deal based on the all of the spin-off titles (Night Thrasher, Nova, Speedball, and I think Justice got his own too).

To be honest, I'm surprised the Warriors lasted as many issues as they did.

The team's origin was, well, pretty lame.  Batman Night Thrasher wants to exact revenge against the criminal underworld for the murder of his parents, so he bullies teenage superheroes into working with him.  I mean, he tosses Nova off of a building to jumpstart his powers, and says he didn't really care if Richard Rider lived or not (for a guy who's mission is motivated by the death of loved ones he sure doesn't have any concern for anybody else's feelings).  I really didn't understand why the rest of the Warriors didn't kick the crap out of Thrash and turn him over to the cops.  I also don't get why the angry and brooding Thrasher has a skateboard that doubles as a shield and stabbing weapon; seems kind of whimsical for a character to focused on his mission.

The team doesn't really have a real reason to exist until around #50ish, where they start trying to effect more change in the world than just reacting to super-menaces that might pop up.  A superteam needs a reason for being, a mission statement if you will.  The Avengers have banded together to face the menaces no single person can face, the X-Men are about equal rights, the Fantastic Four are primarily explorers, etc.  The Warriors have no such reason to exist.

The series produced no memorable villains other than the Sphinx (and I suppose Hindsight Lad, if you read the Civil War tie-ins), the rest were, well, characters created in the 90's.

That being said, I love these characters, so I stuck with the reading.  The banter between the team was fun.  I absolutely loved the storyline about Marvel Boy/Justice and his abusive father; I've long known that he killed his father in self-defense and served time, but unlike a lot of times when I go to read the backstory on such an event this was very well done, definitely my favourite arc in the series.

The addition of the Scarlet Spider was fun while it lasted, though it felt weird to have a veteran hero (at the time I believe Scarlet believed himself to be the real Peter) on a team of lesser-knowns like the Warriors.  Full credit to the writer though, he acknowledged that and worked it into the story, with Justice feeling Scarlet wasn't respecting his leadership.  It was well done.

I can't quite nail down why I have such a soft spot for these characters, but I do.  Whenever the trio of Justice, Firestar, and Nova get together now it feels special, they're the Big 3 of the Warriors (despite Night Thrasher's creation of the team) and with good reason.  I saw glimpses of the hero Nova would become during and after the Annihilation event, witnessed first-hand the moral conviction that makes Justice the man he is today, and absolutely loved Firestar as the team powerhouse.

It's not the best superhero comic series I've ever read by a longshot, but the seeds were certainly planted for the later evolutions of the characters and the name of the New Warriors.  If you're a fan of the team it's worth checking out to see the team's origins.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Batman: Arkham City = No Man's Land?

Lately I've been playing Batman: Arkham City, and I have to say that it is possibly the greatest video game of all time.  When it comes to my reading choices I'm more of a Marvel guy than DC, but man, Batman AC is absolutely phenomenal.  I haven't completed the game yet by any stretch, I have to grab little hour or so snippets here and there when I can, but I could easily lose myself in this game for awhile.

What really makes the game so good is the story.  With a character like Batman, who has been around forever and has been featured in so many forms of media, it gets harder to tell an original story.  Batman AC has come up with a phenomenal story that I absolutely lose myself in. 

Not only is the story good, but so is the action.  I was actually disappointed when I went to confront Two-Face and his 40 thugs and 20 or so of them just ran off.  The combat is so good I relish jumping down into an entire pit of punks that need a good thumping.

I do think the concept of an "Arkham City" is a bit far-fetched, I can't see any city just walling off a pretty significant chunk of real estate and chucking all the criminals in, even in crime-infested Gotham.  However, I've found myself lately pretending that this is actually No Man's Land, a pretty bold story from the comics themselves.

No Man's Land was a Batman event where Gotham City is cut off from the rest of the United States because an earthquake has ravaged the city beyond repair; it's basically cheaper to just wall off Gotham than to fix it.  Right before the bridges were bombed and the city cut off, the inmates at Arkham and Blackage were set free.  So not only do you have regular citizens who chose to stay battling against a lack of electricity, food, and shelter, you also have to deal with unprecedented gang activity and a pile of supervillains running the show.  It was a pretty fantastic story.

Arkham City looks like No Man's Land pretty much to a tee.  I almost wish they had gone with an adaptation of No Man's Land for the game, but the story in Arkham City has been pretty fantastic, and is, as far as I know, an original story to boot.  I believe there is a comic book adaptation that I'm tempted to get, but I actually don't know if it could measure up to the game!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

I decided to take a bit of a break over the holidays, but it's time to get back to bloggin'!  I read 73 issues of New Warriors over the holidays, so I'll be sharing my thoughts on that next week!