When Dracula realizes that Santa can go into any house whenever he wants, he launches an all-out war on Father Christmas and all his holiday allies. W...moreWhen Dracula realizes that Santa can go into any house whenever he wants, he launches an all-out war on Father Christmas and all his holiday allies. What follows is a witty, goofy, knock-down, drag-out brawl. It’s Frosty vs. Frankenstein’s monster! It’s Igor vs. Mrs. Claus! It’s elves vs. emo vamp kids! While the story arc is pretty shallow, the comic does exactly what you’d expect. There are lots of funny quips and clever ideas (such as Santa’s security force being called the “Silent Knights”). Power and Dejesus even set up the comic for a sequel. Well worth a read.(less)
A superhero comic where the hero ain’t so super. A man stuck inside a cyborg concrete body decides to go adventuring, helping people sometimes but als...moreA superhero comic where the hero ain’t so super. A man stuck inside a cyborg concrete body decides to go adventuring, helping people sometimes but also testing the limits of his new body’s endurance. This could have been a corny superhero story, but instead it ponders the difficulties of someone stuck in a bizarre situation. A thoughtful and well-written comic.(less)
Tye tells the story of Superman through three lenses. First, the tale of two young Jewish men in the 1930s who wanted to make comics. Jerry Siegel and...moreTye tells the story of Superman through three lenses. First, the tale of two young Jewish men in the 1930s who wanted to make comics. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were a comic writing team (though Tye very much portrays Siegel as the wheeler-dealer who abused Shuster’s trust) who shopped around several versions of Superman before they sold it to Detective Comics. The tumultuous relationship between the artists and DC sprung from the usurious contract they had to sign in order to work and to the astonishing success of the character. Tye also gives plenty of room and credit to Ellsworth, Weisinger, and Schiff for their editorial control and publishing expertise. Siegel and Shuster may have created a legend, but these three marketed the hell out of him.
Second, Tye focuses on the marketing and commercial angle of the character. Superman is perhaps the epitome of synergystic success as a brand. He’s been successfully steered through all number of cultural problems and maintained his commercial appeal across a massive industry of branded items. Tye reminds us that the unspoken definition of “the American Way” which concludes Superman’s motto is “make money hand over fist.”
Third, the book explores the character himself, his origins and his sociological and cultural meaning for the country. Particularly apt is Tye’s description of the way Superman navigated World War 2 and how his publisher helped the character steer clear of being identified with the war effort (and thus becoming irrelevant once the war was over) without looking uncaring or cowardly.
A few thoughts:
- Tye follows Siegel and Shuster through their whole careers, generally taking their side (in terms of their poor treatment by DC), but not shying away from their many faults. It’s stunning how many times Siegel and Shuster and their heirs sued DC, settled for a bunch of money, signed an agreement not to sue again, and then sued again a few years later. - Particularly interesting are Tye’s detailed discussions of the direction meetings taken by the different Superman writers in their attempts to keep the comic relevant. - The chapter on the 1975 Christopher Reeve film also brims with juicy stories and stunning revelations. It’s amazing that such a good film came out of such a disorganized and misanthropic production team. - At times, Tye’s psychological reading of Superman and his relationship to Siegel and Shuster’s experiences as boys was a bit over-wrought. It’s always dangerous to read a psychological condition into the author of a text, so I was particularly dubious about that passage. - I love the long list of super side characters, like Super Dog, who emerged in the 1960s and the 1970s, and the vicious way the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline murdered many of them for the sake of continuity.
As always, Scott Brick does an excellent job with the narration. He’s still my favorite. A good read, especially worth your time if you like comics and/or Superman.(less)
Meant to be a funny riff on superteams, Nextwave was moderately funny, but suffered from the boundaries it put on Warren Ellis’ delightful (but usuall...moreMeant to be a funny riff on superteams, Nextwave was moderately funny, but suffered from the boundaries it put on Warren Ellis’ delightful (but usually debauched) sense of humor. A good effort in the context of Marvel, but The Authority (also by Ellis) and The Boys (by Garth Ennis) are better yanks on the same chain.(less)
More highlights from Warren Ellis’ Bad Signal email list in the early 2000s. It’s an interesting snapshot of the mind of a good writer, watching how E...moreMore highlights from Warren Ellis’ Bad Signal email list in the early 2000s. It’s an interesting snapshot of the mind of a good writer, watching how Ellis works through certain ideas over time and proposes notions that challenge comics industry gospel. Not for the general reader, but the Warren Ellis fan will appreciate it.(less)
Volume 3 of the League has lurched into the challenging territory that most long-running Alan Moore comics wander, a kind of self-imposed inscrutabili...moreVolume 3 of the League has lurched into the challenging territory that most long-running Alan Moore comics wander, a kind of self-imposed inscrutability in which narrative threads become so entangled that the reader struggles to find purchase. If I’d only read the first twenty pages of this 80 pager, I would probably have been pretty disappointed. But then things snap into place and the end of the whole project is pretty darn entertaining. Moore has to be a bit more opaque about how he brings new literature into the story, but let’s just say at one point the League wanders through a wall between two platforms at a train station. Oh yes.(less)
Superman on Trial is a BBC Radio dramatic presentation created in honor of the Man of Steel's 50th Anniversary.
A few quick thoughts about this 1-hour...moreSuperman on Trial is a BBC Radio dramatic presentation created in honor of the Man of Steel's 50th Anniversary.
A few quick thoughts about this 1-hour programme (I spell program in the British way since this is a BBC production):
If you aren't very familiar with the comics, some of the stuff in this show is a little weird. Mostly, they don't do a very good job of explaining who the judge (Ganthet) is. He just rumbles and sounds ominous, as if Michael Clarke Duncan were the judge. Maggs' decision to put Supe on trial by using testimony from creators of comic books demands a suspension of suspension of disbelief. In the world of the story, the Superman tales were created as promotional/ documentary material about Superman, but the show conveniently takes the Umberto Eco "Myth of Superman" approach, forgetting that if the comics were documenting real events, Lois and Lex would both be elderly. Once you're willing to forgive that convenient collapsing of time, it's an amusing development. I particularly like the sections in which Batman appears, testifying both as Adam West and as the Batman himself. In the case of the latter, Lex brings up the uncomfortable idea that Batman's own worries about Superman's potential as a world-changing force spawned the Superman/Batman fight in The Dark Knight Returns. Oddly, despite the fact that Lex calls Dave Gibbons to testify, he doesn't bring up Gibbons' own exploration of this very subject through the character of Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. William Hootkins does an excellent job chewing the scenery as Lex Luthor. Most amusing, for my money, is his angry rant to the Luthercorp legal department at the end, in which he delivers the credits by threatening to sue all the people involved in the radio play, especially William Hootkins. The end wasn't all that satisfying to me, as it returns to the overall message of Superman itself: nurture beats nature.
An amusing audio play, well worth the time. I'm not sure it's worth the money though.(less)
As the grand-daddy of modern, grown-up superhero comics, Alan Moore has earned a large credit in my “willing to read it” account. That applies especia...moreAs the grand-daddy of modern, grown-up superhero comics, Alan Moore has earned a large credit in my “willing to read it” account. That applies especially to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the first comic I remember re-reading immediately after I read it. Alas, the continued storyline of the series has gotten less-and-less enjoyable as Moore has continued its chronicles. Century: 1969 focuses on Swinging London and the mysticism movement there, continuing the story from Century #1. It’s a trippy, weird, sex-filled book that doesn’t have the gleeful literary rapaciousness of the earlier works (perhaps because any books published in the era are still copyrighted and thus out of bounds for Moore’s particular remixing). The result is a poor addition to the series, less satisfying, even, than The Black Dossier. Let’s hope part 3 is really great.(less)
I got this comic a while ago from a friend, but only just got around to reading it. According to Kirkman's introduction, it sounds like he was prodded...moreI got this comic a while ago from a friend, but only just got around to reading it. According to Kirkman's introduction, it sounds like he was prodded into writing Marvel Zombies and tried to get out of it by being outrageous. Instead, they published what he wrote, which involved zombified classic Marvel characters tearing apart humans and uninfected superheroes in their quest for something to eat. It's a funny comic for what it is, but it's really strange and a little odd, and somewhat annoying to see as a story that starts in medias res, even though being structured that way gives Kirkman the best path to the part of the story he finds interesting to tell.(less)
Axe Cop tells the story of a badass crime-fighting cop who uses his axe to chop heads off "bad guys," and to poison them. It's moderately funny most o...moreAxe Cop tells the story of a badass crime-fighting cop who uses his axe to chop heads off "bad guys," and to poison them. It's moderately funny most of the time, with some very funny moments and, as with all humor comics, a few misses. The novelty of the comic's creation story--the writer, Malachai, was five years old when the comic started--held my interest long enough for the overall feel of the comic to draw me in. There are plenty of moments that feel just like a five-year-old's sensibility, but the consistency of the narrative and the ever-rising ridiculousness of it work very well.
In particular, the constant changing of super-powers and allegiances feel a lot like the strange narrative that has emerged in mainstream superhero comics, just much more accelerated, and filtered through the simple framework Malachai brings to the world--a very George Bushian "you're with us or you're against us" mentality. Overall, the comic reminds me a lot of The Flaming Carrot, which has a similar ethos, and The Goon, which has a similar mania for injecting disparate or unexpected elements.(less)
A short-story collection of Harry Dresden stories from throughout the run of the book series by the same author. An enjoyable romp, though I think I w...moreA short-story collection of Harry Dresden stories from throughout the run of the book series by the same author. An enjoyable romp, though I think I would have waited to read it until I'd read up to the publication date in the series, as it gives away some plot points. Since I've only read three of the books so far, there were quite a few points available for spoiling. The Dresden stories range all over Chicago as well, and it's fun to see events happen at Millennium Park, or Wrigley Field, or the Woodfield Mall. Pretty enjoyable.
A couple thoughts:
In the first three books of the series, Butcher's need to escalate tension by putting Dresden in more and more danger makes the stress he undergoes a bit outrageous. It's nice to see how he grows as a practitioner of deadly arts as the books progress, and he's less often stuck reaching down to the depths of his soul to find the magic he needs. I've always thought Dresden reminded me a bit of a certain kind of high school outcast, and this book reinforced that aspect of the book's fantasy for me. He's a thin, gangly, tall dude wearing a duster and carrying a staff. Of course, he can make fire shoot from the staff, but still. I love the short story where Dresden and his friends are playing Dungeons and Dragons. He's constantly bitching about how the magic works in the game, since it doesn't work that way in real life. Now I know what it's like watching television with me. I also like the way Dresden pulls in all sorts of diverse mythologies: they're all real in this world, folks. The best example of this practice is in Fool Moon, which features no fewer than three different kinds of werewolves. Throughout the short stories in the book, we see vampires, werewolves, Valkyrie, handmaidens to Dionysus, Grendelkin, and some watery Lovecraftian gillmen straight out of Innsmouth. Finally, in one story, Dresden's tracking spell gets threatened by rain (which can apparently disrupt magic). He comments that he needs to "get a hat." I couldn't help but comment on that idea, since the staff-wielding scowly dude on the cover of the Dresden Files books always wears a hat. I think they should airbrush the hat out of the early art in favor of a mop of Hansen hair.(less)