Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm a winner!

Recently, I won a "Caption Contest" that was organized by Christine, who runs the Daredevil centric blog The Other Murdock Papers. I received the package yesterday and here's what was inside of it...

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A copy of the paperback called "Parts of a Hole", that collects the second story arc in Daredevil Vol. 2, written by David Mack and illustrated by Joe Quesada. I had read this before from the library, but I didn't own it.

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And a Daredevil comic all in Swedish. It's actually part of Frank Miller's run on the title, so for Christine to have parted with this, it probably means that she has three other copies of it. I'm not sure you can see it very clearly on the photo, but Daredevil is saying "Nej! Sluta... Sluta." Typical sexist Daredevil, calling women "slutas".

*looks up the translation* Oh, that's not what it means? My bad.

Inside the package there was also some Swedish chocolate (currently in the fridge, trying to un-melt itself back together) and a letter from Christine assuring me that there was neither swine flu or anthrax in the package. Good to know!

So yeah, thank you Christine! And everyone else, make sure to check out her blog, specially if you are a Daredevil fan.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Printing Press

I am staying home today from work because I am still somewhat sick. What does that mean? BLOGGING SHALL ENSUE!

As some of you know, and some of you are about to learn, I work in a office supplies and legal bookstore store. It is a family owned company that has been pretty much in the same family for over a century! The building where I work has also been around for over a century, and the company also owns a printing press that has been around for about the same amount of time.

The printing press is now moving to a smaller, and cheaper place, because nowadays most of the printing is done digitally, and the older (and bigger) machines had become obsolete and useless. I was lucky enough to visit the printing press on the last day of the move. My verdict? The place is indeed old. I took some pictures that I wanted to show, make sure to click on them if you want the full view.

Here's an outside shot of the printing press from the building right in front of it. I am not very knowledgeable about architecture, so I don't know what particular name those structures on top of the building have, but it does look a lot like something you would see in a medieval castle.

Here's another photo, but this time from higher up, where you can see those structures a bit better, and the size of the building in of itself. Again, this was taken from the building across from the printing press. How did I gain access to it? We'll get to that in a second.

Here's an photo of the inside of the printing press. The bottom floor is now almost empty, but that's where all the machinery used to be. The second floor hadn't been used for some time, but in yesteryear, it was used to store the paper that was already printed, as well as covers, paper blocks, and all other kinds of material.

And here's another angle of that same floor. This part is almost completely empty, with only trash left there. In the back, you can see some of the offices that the place had. You can infer the size of the whole place by comparing it to the man (Jose/Pepe, a coworker) who looks tiny in this photo.

Here's a close-up of those huge pieces of furniture that were in earlier photos. These were used to store the metal letters that were used for the printing press. Each drawer would have different sizes and different fonts of letters, numbers, and symbols.

The workers would sit in front of these tables and compose a page, and you can see an assembled on there on the left of the photo. On the right, there's lots of tiny little blocks of metal. Do you know what those are? They are the spaces that they would have to leave between words and to indent paragraphs. Because of the way that the printing press works, you needed to assemble a complete line, even if there was only a single word in it.

Here's some more of the typographic letters that they would use to assemble a page. We are actually selling most of the by bigger fonts at the store where I work, as a memento. People can assemble their own names, company names, or numbers. They can also work as rudimentary stamps (although regular ink won't stick to it as much as it would do to rubber)

Here's something else that's very interesting. Our company works a lot with city halls and other government institutions. These are the logos and symbols that you would see on their official paper and envelopes, that the workers at the printing press had to hand craft in order to be able to print. I have no idea how long it would take to make one of these, as they have an intricate amount of detail carved on to them, and they are made out of metal.

I don't remember exactly what all these machines did, but I know for certain that the one on the left was used to melt metal. I think the other one was to make them into metal bricks, but I am not sure. Basically, when the metal typographic letters got old or damaged, they would melt them and make new ones. This is also the place where they would craft the custom symbols as seen in the previous picture.

Most of the usable machinery was either sold or moved to the new place by the time I visited, but this antique still remained. I wish I had taken a better photo of it though, but basically the paper would be fed manually on one side to be printed and it would come out from the other one. My guide (the aforementioned Jose/Pepe) told me that he once saw a coworker get his hand stuck there. Yes, I shivered.

This is another relic that was used to cut the paper in different formats. Most paper is delivered in huge sheets that must be later be trimmed down to the common sizes. This machine still works, but they use more modern machinery now. There seemed to be no grisly stories about this one, thankfully.

Now, remember earlier I said that I was able to get into the building directly in front of the printing press? Well this is the building. It is also owned by the same people. You see, back when this place was built, people didn't really travel to work, they lived and worked in the same place. So directly in front of the warehouse that houses the printing press, there are a group of houses where the workers used to live. I was able to explore parts of that building too, although not all of it, because there's still sections which are still being used. I took photos in the abandoned sections of the building. Oh yeah, and it has an honest-to-god clock tower. That's pretty damn cool.

This room is the stable. That should give you another notion of how old this building is, as houses back then were built with stables for the livestock they had. They kept a couple of horses in here, that they used to pull the cart that they would use to deliver the material from the printing press.

This is a close-up of the the clock tower, taken from the roof of the building. It would be pretty cool to go in there, right? Well, guess who has two thumbs and went in there? THIS GUY.

Ever wonder what the behind of a huge clock looks like? Well, here's your answer. The surface of the clock is made up of marble, so it must weight a lot, but the machinery doesn't work anymore.

And here's me at the top of the clock tower. You can see the roof of the printing press in the back. There was a really nice view from up there.

So that is it for today! Hopefully you guys enjoyed this educative ride. One of these days I will take my camera to work and I will take pictures of the place where I work day-to-day.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Potato Moon

As you all know by now, my comic related writing is all concentrated on The Weekly Crisis, but this is one of the few times that I wrote something that does not belong in tWC AND it's a piece of fiction (as opposed to my usual OP/ED) pieces.

What is it?

It's a chapter of POTATO MOON, which is being written by readers' over at Peter David's blog. I contributed chapter 25 to it, which you can find here. Now, you are probably asking yourself what the hell POTATO MOON is. It is a parody of an upcoming book that will use Twilight characters without the permission of the author Stephanie Meyer, just because the names are changed. You can find how this all started here or you can go read all the chapters here. Trust me, you don't need to have read Twilight to enjoy (or even join in on) the fun. I know I certainly have not read any of those books, and I contributed a chapter to it! So go read it, it's fun, there's baked potatoes and Dick Cheney involved in the whole thing.

No, seriously. It wasn't me that introduced Cheney into the whole thing though.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Keyword Search

So I was just checking to see what keywords are leading people to my site, and I thought it might be an interesting read. They are in order of most to least used:

ampersand comics
bruce wayne ampersand review
"expect the unexpected" batman
"hate joe quesada"
captain america magic
download the walking dead comic
guepardo muscles
joey q hates mary-jane
marvel nextwave -wireless
peter and mary jane
peter milligan the programme
quien vigila o los vigilante translation
soviet russia comic
superheroes in comics are shown to give comfort to readers during the cold war
the simpsons lost in translation
translation debate movies
why did loeb change ultimate thor
 expect the unexpected mission

I have no idea what that last symbol actually is.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


This is basically my State of the Union address about this blog.

Last week, Kirk of the Weekly Crisis asked me to start contributing to his blog and I responded with something along the lines of "#@&% YEAH!". Kirk runs probably my favorite blog out of the many I read, and to even be asked to contribute to such a popular site is a huge honor for me. Today marks my first entry in the Weekly Crisis, A Look at Female Superheroes

This is the reason why I haven't been posting in my blog a whole lot this past week, the preparations and other things backstage have been keeping me busy. I had initially decided to try to keep updating both blogs, but later decided that it would be a little too much on my schedule. I want to contribute my very best effort into writing, and I felt that spreading it over two blogs would be detrimental to that cause. So from now on, all my comic-related entries (read: rants) will be in the Weekly Crisis.

If you enjoy my comic related writing, you should definitely head over to the Weekly Crisis, where I will be updating at least once a week. Additionally, you will also get to read the weekly comic book reviews by Kirk and the paperback reviews by Eric Rupe, who also just joined the blog.

This blog will also stay around, for all my non-comics related entries. I may also keep posting the Magic cards, haven't really decided yet. The posting schedule is basically "whenever I feel like or have time for", at least I get the handle of writing more and more on a weekly basis.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Magic - Fastball Special

This marks the first card that I have posted that it is not a creature. I really like this card, and I could see people actually using it in gameplay. The downside? Colossus and Wolverine both have Green attributes (will post them some other day), so you would need a Green and Red deck, which is kind of rare and hard to use.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rarely Asked Questions

Today marks the one month anniversary of my blog. It seems only yesterday that I was ranting about Final Crisis and Secret Invasion, yet here I am one month later, having accomplished a lot in a short time (at least with the goals that I had set for myself). And hopefully, there are bright things in the future of the blog. To celebrate this anniversary, I wanted to assemble a F.A.Q. about the blog and myself, even if no one is really asking these questions out loud.

1 - Is your name really Matt Ampersand?

Negative on both accounts. I've used the nickname Matt ever since high school because some of my classmates and my professors could not properly pronounce my real name (Matias). And I stole a play from the Ramones , using a fake last name that is more memorable and interesting.

2 - What's an Ampersand?

It's the symbol that comes up when you press Shift and 7, commonly known as the "and" symbol. More importantly, it is also the name of a character (read: monkey) from Y - The Last Man, one of my favorite comics ever.

3 - What's up with the monkey on the banner up there?

See above, and stop skipping questions!

4 - Why do you write like that?/ What's up with your writing style?

You have my AP English teachers to blame for that. Both of them pushed us very hard to develop our writing, both by teaching us new words (like eddy, it's a centrifugal whirlwind force usually in bodies of water) and by forcing us to write lots of essays. Somewhere along the way, I learned to intuitively and automatically make my writing seem more grandiose: no matter how much teachers deny it, good essays tend to be the longer ones, and that means going into lots of details.

5 - Hey, can you write about *insert topic here*?

I always like to hear suggestions from readers and I always consider them. I write about what I know about, and about the comics I read. Sometimes I won't feel comfortable talking about certain topics because I feel that no matter how much research (read comics or Wiki) I do, I won't properly be able to make interesting points or good arguments. I do read more Marvel than anything else, so the bulk of posts are probably going to be Marvel-related. I always try to keep things as fair and balanced as I can, but don't expect to see a series of essays about the Legion of Superheroes.

6 - Did you design the blog?

No, it is mostly a template (the information is at the bottom) that my wife and I tweaked here and there.

7 - I want to give you a job in the comic writing industry, with lots of cash and a brand new car, where can I contact you?

You can e-mail me at cassandratic at gmail dot com. I also accept all other kinds of email, with the exception of spam and any e-mail from African princes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Magic - The Sentry

I like how this card came out, I think it properly represents the Sentry without taking into account his most recent appearances during Dark Reign (he's seriously gotten hardcore lately). I think it may be a little too expensive though, maybe 1 or 2 mana less or make his attack score higher would make this card more playable?

Lost in Translation

Careful readers probably have picked up on this already, but I do not live in the United States at the moment. I currently reside in the Mediterranean country of Spain, which puts me in a rather awkward position regarding comics and other media. For the most part, I do not like to purchase or read translated material very much because even the best of translations lose something along the way, and in my mind it feels as I am reading or watching a different material altogether. I have had the chance to read some titles both in English and Spanish and there is a noticeable difference in them (at least to me). Luckily through the Internet and a local shop that carries material in English, I can keep up with my comic reading habit. I wanted to talk a little about some of the things that occur with translations, and one very special case that I have not decided what I am going to do about it.

The most obvious problem in translation is the names of superheroes, and the way they decide to translate them are rather uniform. Some characters have the same name as they do in English, such as Thor and Superman (even though this one could easily be translated into "Superhombre"). Of course, not all of them are as straightforward, for example Spider-Man is mostly called just that, but people pronounce it using a Spanish pronunciation (roughly, espeedher man) and Batman is also called by his rightful name, but his alias Bruce Wayne is instead called Bruno Diaz in some Spanish-speaking countries. There are some straightforward translations, such as "Mister Fantastico" instead of Mister Fantastic and "Linterna Verde" for Green Lantern. Some work and some don't, especially when the translation leads to multiple words like Nightwing being "Ala Nocturna" or Hawkeye being "Ojo de Halcón". Additionally, Captain America becomes Capitan America, which is also pretty straightforward, but his nickname instead of being "Cap" is "Capi" which sounds kind of diminutive to me. And finally, there are some cases where whoever translated the comic books took great liberties. Deadpool for example is known as "Masacre" in some countries, and Martian Manhunter is "Detective Marciano". To make matters worse, different countries have different translations. When I was younger I used to watch the 90's X-Men animated series in Argentina (where I'm originally from), Rogue was called "Titania" and Wolverine was "Guepardo" (the literal translation), but here in Spain, the former is known as "Picara" and the latter as "Lobezno" (which translates into Wolf Cub, I have no idea what they call Wolf Cub from New/Young X-Men). Team names also suffer from some of these same problems, like the X-Men called "Hombres X" or "Patrulla X" depending on the country and the Avengers are known as "Los Vengadores" (which makes me wonder what the catchphrase that replaces "Avengers Assemble!" is).

Another problem that I have with translations is the actual interpretation of the text. When you read titles like Spider-Man, Cable and Deadpool, or any other comic that has a big comedic portion to it, puns, jokes and one-liners are greatly lost in translation. I have not read any comics in Spanish featuring the Riddler, but a lot of his riddles are play on words, so I can't imagine those making a lot of sense either. Curses and insults are another problem altogether, where sometimes literal translations end up sounding not as threatening or just downright goofy (I can't imagine what reading a Garth Ennis comic in Spanish would be like). And I do not if it is just me on this one, but when I read a character speaking Spanish, it sounds completely different that the voice I hear in my head than I would if I was reading that comic in English instead.

Aside from also suffering from the above problems, voice translations when it comes to movies and TV series, have a whole new set of problems. First of all (and I have no idea why) apparently there isn't a whole lot of Spanish voice actors because sometimes you are watching a dubbed movie and you will notice it is the same voice actor as something else you have watched previously. Basically every little girl in any movie that is put on TV will have the same voice actor as Lisa from the Simpsons. Other times, actors are given voice overs that do not match the original voice, or a combination with the point I was making earlier, like Jim Carey and Bruce Willis getting the same person doing the voiceover in different movies. And this is where my problem comes in: I want to see the Watchmen movie, which opens next week (March 6th), and has the same name in Spanish. It's odd that it is not translated somehow, and I think the closest translation would be "Vigilantes", and in that case the tag line would be "Quien vigila a los vigilantes?". For some reason, movie theaters here do not show movies in the original languages with subtitles, I would not mind watching it like that. Instead, they opt for completely dubbed movies and as I have stated which I find to be detrimental to the movie. On one hand, I really want to see the movie (which looks absolutely gorgeous visually and appears that it will be very faithful to the original material) the week it opens, and on the other I want to wait for the DVD release, where I would be able to see the finished product as it was intended. Decisions, decisions. What do you, my faithful 15 readers, think I should do about this dilemma?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A New Way

Parts of the Internet comic book community is on fire. The arsonist? Apparently, Peter David. The whole "discussion" (because at this point it has evolved into little more than an Internet fight of epic proportions) is because the Livejournal community of scans_daily, a place where pages of comic books were posted, sometimes in very large quantities, was shut down after David supposedly reported the website to Marvel. You can read his whole entry about it here. I have talked and lauded about David in my recent post about X-Factor, and while I don't personally agree with the notion that access to pirated comics hurt sales (as an aside, it would certainly be very hard to prove if hurts or helps), I certainly agree it is his right to report violations of this kind once he becomes aware of them. While I personally did not visit scans_daily, it seems that what they were doing was in a very grey legal ground, and Livejournal is just trying to avoid a potential lawsuit. Apparently the community was very big and active, so I don't understand why they did not move to their own server, where they would have had more liberties and less worries about something like this happening. Instead of talking about the issue of Internet piracy, which would take a really long time and arrive to no solid conclusion (and maybe alienating readers), I wanted to talk about some of the alternatives that the comic industry could implement in order to avoid matters like these.

One of the biggest draws of scans_daily was that it allowed people to read (partially, apparently) comic books that they would otherwise pay no attention to. The people lamenting the demise of this community are claiming that there are no other ways to check out rare and or not as popular comics. One of the probably most underused methods to check out new comic books is actually very much free: public libraries. Libraries are increasingly carrying more and more paperback, hardcovers, and original graphic novels these days (and even more so for manga). While this obviously depends on the scope and size of your library, it is definitely worth checking out to see what they have. While the local library where I reside now has a shameful collection (it is very small and I do not live in the US, so it is understandable), the one in the city I lived before had full collections of many comics such as (Birds of Prey, Exiles, all the Ultimate books, Daredevil, Sandman, Invincible, Walking Dead, etc.) some of which I had never bothered to check out before (like Fables, Runaways or Jonah Hex, and I actually read Watchmen for the first time from the library). In addition, they had pretty much all of the Essential and Showcase books (those big, black and white ones) so you could easily read up on old stories of classic comic books. While it may take time, libraries will start carrying more and more collection of comic books. Companies (Marvel especially) are getting better at releasing the collection of both new and old comics, which is going to lead to a bigger amount of comic book in libraries, free for everyone to read and discover them. I do not know what kind of deal comic book companies have (if any) with public libraries, and it is not in their (from a marketing perspective) interest to promote readers to check out their books for free.

Then there's the option of online comic books. As it stands now, only Marvel is offering a digital service (more of that in a second), but for all other companies you are mostly out of luck (I read about some applications for the iPhone where you could download comic books to it, but the catalogue was rather small). There is always the option of downloading pirated comics, which is not that hard to do or to find a place where you could do so if one were intent on it. While the legality of it all is questionable, there's no denying that it is a very easy way to discover comic books that readers may not deem worthy of a second glance while they are in their local comic book shop. Marvel's digital service sounded like a good idea at first, but sadly the execution of it fell short. The service offers the chance to read an unlimited amount of comic books for a low monthly subscription. The problem stems from the flash-based reader that Marvel decided to use, which was incredibly slow and hard to scroll through (and my connection speed was pretty good when I had the free trial), low resolution image of the comics and the fact that you could not download the comics to your computer. Additionally, the service (while still growing) did not feature the possibility to read newly released comic books, which were only released weeks after the issue hit the stands (probably until it was off the shelves). I understand Marvel's point of view in this, if the readers get to see the new comic books online, they are not going to buy the actual comic books. But if you are trying to provide this service as an alternative to buying the single issues, it is imperative that subscribers have access to the newest comic books.

And finally, my crazy idea for a new way to check out comic books: renting them. Alright, so it probably is not *my* original idea, surely someone has thought about this before? But the notion is practically unheard of in comic book circles, even though movies (and games) have been doing it for decades now. It is the same concept, and I have no idea why it has not been done for the comic book industry: a movie originally comes out in theaters (analog to singles issues), and is later collected in a format that is easier for people to digest such as VHS, DVD, or Blu-Ray (hardcovers or paperbacks). If it works for one form of entertainment, why couldn't it work for another? So here's my (very rough) plan: first of all, no reading in stores, a rule that some comic book shops already have in place, but others do not. The change may upset readers, which are used to flipping through some books while at the shop, but you can't see the movie that you are renting on Blockbuster either. The renting could be done in two ways: in-store and regular renting. For in-store you would need a place where people could read (a lounge area if you will) with seats and charge a small price (I am thinking fifty cents) for an allotted amount of time (thirty minutes should be plenty of time for most comic books, but not a long enough time to get more than a second reading) to read the comic book. Of course, this system has its flaws, such as comic book stores needing the appropriate space to handle customers sitting down to read and most people like to read in the comfort of their own home, which is where the second way of renting comes in. Just like you would rent at your local video store or blockbuster, you could pay a fraction of the price of the comic book (one dollar per rental has a nice ring to it) and you could take it home for one or two days to read at your convenience. This brings another set of problems, such as needing information (maybe a credit card number, like video stores do) from customers, so they don't run off with your rental, and the danger of customer damaging the comics (which could later be sold at a discount price if needed). In both cases, a customer could decide to purchase the rental by just paying the difference between the cover price and what has already been paid, or just directly buy the item without renting it first (which is what most of us do anyway). At the prices I have mentioned, you could read 6 comics in-store for the same amount you pay for a regular-priced single issue ($2.99), or take three issues home to read at your own leisure.

I think it would be a good business model, and it could also possible be applied to collections ($5 for a week rental), but sadly I have no idea if there is any market for it. Comic book fans take pride in also being collectors of said items, so I do not know if they would even use this system. What do you guys think? Could it possibly work, or am I just delusional?

(P.S. I apologize for such a long entry with absolutely no images, it is probably an eyesore to read, but I do not think there are appropriate images to go along with this entry)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Magic - Captain America

As I mentioned the other day, I will run something different on the days that I do not get to write an entire blog entry. This is one of my other geeky aspects, Magic: The Gathering! I used to play a lot when I was in high school, and although I never really joined a tournament or anything, playing it with my friends was always fun. I hope at least some people enjoy this, as I tie Magic with comics. Today I bring you:

Captain America

This one was fairly easy color wise, as Cap has a lot of white attributes. The tap ability is supposed to represent the use of his shield.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Elseworlds

One of the first comics that my father ever bought me was called "Batman - Brotherhood of the Bat", back in the mid-90's. At the time, I did not know it, but this was my first exposure to the DC imprint Elseworlds, where "heroes are taken from their usual setting and put into strange times and places - some that have existed, others that can't, couldn't or shouldn't exist." In hindsight, I should have realized this wasn't a regular story (the fact that Batman is dead was a sure giveaway), but back then I was just getting started to read comics and I did not know about ongoing comics, or mini series, or elseworlds and it was all the same to me. This particular story stuck with me for a long time, because it is a cool concept (or at least it was to my pre-teen mind), Ra's Al Ghul comes back to Gotham 50 years after Batman died and uses a gang of people dressed in different bat-costumes, including some never seen before. In repeated readings, it has not stood to the test of time, with some of the dialogue being particularly cheesy, but back then I remember me and my friends discussing which Batman costume we wold wear if given the chance. Today I wanted to talk about the Elseworlds imprint, which is sadly no longer among us, and why I would like it to come back.

First of all, a little bit of history: "imaginary tales" have been around for a long time in comics ("Not a dream! Not a hoax!"), where writers could come up with the weirdest stories they wanted to and run with it without fear of repercussion from fans. It wasn't until 1989 that DC published the successful Gotham By Gaslight (by Brian Augustyn and Mike "Hellboy" Mignola) which led to the creation of the Elseworlds imprint and retroactively named that title the first official Elseworlds comic. Over the years, DC has published many Elseworlds of many different natures, while not all of them have been critical or commercial successes, some of them rank among the most favorite stories among fans. Superman - Speeding Bullets, JLA - The Nail, and Batman - In Darkest Night are all very popular among comic book fandom, but there's two Elseworlds that rank higher than all the others: Superman - Red Son and Kingdom Come. Red Son is the tale of what would have happened to the world if Superman's spaceship had crashed in Soviet Russia. Kingdom Come, on the other hand, is a tale of the latter days of DC superheroes, which must fight a new and more violent generation of superhumans. Both of these stories usually appear in "Best-Of" lists, or recommendations for new readers to the DC Universe, and both of them were popular enough to warrant their own set of action figures. Additionally, in the current JSA title, by Geoff Johns, a lot of events are inspired by what happens in Kingdom Come, to highly positive fan reaction.

According to Wikipedia DC stopped publishing Elseworlds title around 2005 because of low sales and lack of critical acclaim. The mini-series Batman - Year 100 is the last official Elseworlds published. That same year Infinite Crisis hit the stands and re-established the multiverse which was previously eliminated during Crisis on Infinite Earths, and many of the popular Elseworlds officially became one of the alternate 52 Earths that existed in the DC multiverse. Apparently, some of them were featured during Countdown, but I do not know to what extent as I did not read that title (a wise decision, I am told by many). Coincidentally, 2005 was also the year that saw the birth of the All-Star line of DC comics, where acclaimed writers and artists are allowed to work on more iconic versions of beloved characters without any restraints from regular continuity. Sadly, not much has been done with the All-Star imprint, only two titles: the critical darling All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, and the commercial juggernaut All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder by Frank Miller and Jim Lee(as a side note, both titles are/were plagued by delays). Both titles could have easily worked as Elseworlds series, with the exception of the fact that they were ongoing series. To the best of my knowledge, however, all other planned All-Star titles will not be seeing the light of day anytime soon (I vaguely remember some announcement from NYCC, but I could not find it).

DC had a good idea with the All-Star line, in narrowing down the ideas and using the most popular stars of the comic book industry they achieved what they were aiming for. But since it is apparently no longer used, maybe it is time to bring back the Elseworlds imprint. What they could do is combine the best of both imprints, using popular creators to create these new worlds like All-Star did, and stick to mini series or one-shots like Elseworlds did. Furthermore, there is a lot of unpaved ground if DC decided to publish "What-If" titles, like Marvel does. While a lot of Elseworlds work in the same concept of disconvergent time lines like "What Ifs" do, most of them concentrate on the origin of the heroes, but rarely to past important storylines. I think there's room in the market for comics like "What if the Green Lanterns had lost the Sinestro Corps War?" or "What if Batman had not shot Darkseid?". Of course, the most difficult thing to do would probably be to come up with a new title, I think Marvel has the "What If" title copyrighted.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Magic - Spider-Man

As I mentioned the other day, I will run something different on the days that I do not get to write an entire blog entry. This is one of my other geeky aspects, Magic: The Gathering! I used to play a lot when I was in high school, and although I never really joined a tournament or anything, playing it with my friends was always fun. I hope at least some people enjoy this, as I tie Magic with comics. Today I bring you:


Spider-Man was actually very hard to properly portray. The white obviously represents his penchant for law and order, while the green is his ties to nature (and Spiders are usually green creatures, with reach), and finally the blue for his "trickster" and intellectual side (the ability is supposed to represent his web shooters).

In Soviet Russia

Writers, specially in comic books, tend to have fixations with two groups that are normally used as enemies: Nazis and Communists. I don't know where this fixation comes from, if it is part of the propaganda efforts of yesteryear or just from cultural differences, but there's a big difference in how they are portrayed sometimes. Nazis are always indubitably evil (not saying they were not), while Communists are sometimes portrayed as being caught in the bigger machinations of the political powerhouse that was Soviet Russia. While it would be almost impossible to depict a Nazi character in a wholesome light (and would probably lead to some kind of public outrage), Communist characters can sometimes be portrayed as tragic heroes whose misguided love of their country, led by corrupt individuals, turned them into something they were not originally. Today I wanted to look at two specific books about the fallout of the Cold War and the implosion of the Soviet Union, coincidentally both put out by the Wildstorm imprint, The Programme and The Winter Men. Both titles are about Soviet super powered soldiers, although very different in nature.

The Winter Men was a neat little mini-series that wrapped up last year, which suffered from tremendous delays (three years for six issues), created by Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon. The protagonist of the series is Kris, a former soviet super soldier of some kind (his powers are never really clearly defined) who finds himself useless and drowning his mind with vodka and doing some odd jobs for the local government. There is a couple other remaining super soldiers that were part of the same program, all working different jobs in the new Russia, a very different country from the one that originally produced them. This is the greatest strength of the series, showcasing a post-communism Russia and how citizens must work in the new world order. Our protagonist, much like every other person that inhabits this world (with the exception of those in power) are just doing everything in their power to survive. The series also introduces the concept of how Russians setup, both in government and in mafias, their organizations: always arranging countermeasures and competing parts inside a system, a knowledge that Kris uses to his advantage later in the series. The plot centers around how a little girl is given a transplanted liver from a former super-powered individual, only to be kidnapped because of this. The protagonist attempts to recover her from her captors, a trip that takes him through the underbelly of society and leads to many discoveries about the super soldier program. Despite his many flaws, the main character of Winter Men is shown to be inherently good person, willing to put himself in the way of danger in order to protect this girl, even if he commits plenty of criminal acts along the way much like other anti-hero archetypes (such as The Punisher).

The Programme was a twelve issue mini-series released in 2007 through 2008, created by Peter Milligan and C.P. Smith. The Programme features some very different Russian super soldiers, they are insanely loyal to the government and system that created them and will do anything that is asked of them and are (apparently) completely amoral. Originally created during the Cold War, they are revived in modern times and wage a war against the "imperialistic empire" that is the United States. Of course, the United States government is not very happy about this and decides to unleash their previously-failed super powered individuals against the Communist ones. In this series, their powers are never exactly defined either, almost to describe how inexact the process of creating them was, but we see them using some kind of eye beams, super strength, force fields, and some strange method of offensive teleportation where the subject of the teleportation disappears for some time only to reappear days later. The battle that follows is one of the most brutal and realistic ones, very reminiscent of the London battle in the pages of Miracleman where civilian passersby suffer the consequences. The ironic twist that the book delivers is that, in trying to battle it's enemies, the United States goes to the same lengths that their enemies have, essentially becoming like them. The same thing happens to America's super weapon, Max, initially a person just trying to survive in the world, and quite a "spineless liberal", turns into a ruthless killing machine that does whatever his government asks of him. The end of the series is quite shocking and it definitely tries to make a political statement about the nature of empires and how events can unite them, with hints of themes familiar to readers of Watchmen.

Both series are great reads, about the nature of the beast that was Soviet Russian and how it would have been if our world had been in fact populated by super beings during the Cold War. But at the same time, I think that both series make a point of saying "we are not so different after all", we are all either trying to survive in this world to the best of our abilities and trying to help our country during hard times.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Expect the Unexpected

X-Factor has been the name of three different groups or organizations, but currently it is the name of a detective agency that deals with issues and cases regarding mutants. The current X-Factor, which spun out of the events that happened House of M and the previous success of a mini-series called "Madrox", is one of the best titles out there on the market and most definitely the best "X" title on stands right now (and there's plenty of competition from Carey's X-Men, Kyle and Yost's X-Force, First Class by Jeff Parker, etc.). While it is not a huge commercial success, it is very different from other team books. One of the tag lines of the series when it began was "X-pect the unX-pected " and Peter David, after forty issues as the sole writer of X-Factor, continues to deliver the unexpected. The series has struggled during it's run for various different reasons, which I is what I want to talk about and explore in this entry.

First of all, the most obvious shortcoming the series had is the protagonists: none of them are A-listers and probably (at least before the series started) no one's favorites characters. The leading role belongs to James Madrox, also known as Multiple Man, a character that Peter David has written before in the old X-Factor team (from the late 80's) and the aforementioned mini-series. Rounding up the team are two former teammates of Jamie, Strong Guy and Wolfsbane, a former Generation X character, Monet, two former members of X-Force, Syrin and Rictor , and an almost-original character, Layla Miller. Like I said, not exactly popular or well known characters, but Mr. David has fleshed out the personalities so much on the course of his run that it would not be weird to hear comic book readers proclaim James Madrox or Layla Miller as one of their favorite characters. Even though Multiple Man is the clear leading man of the drama that is X-Factor, every character gets the spotlight at one point or the other, where they get to shine or at least deliver some great lines. A great example of this is issue thirteen of the series, called "Re-X-amination" (they just love to use those X puns), where the whole team is psychoanalyzed by Doc Samson, and all the personalities are wonderfully showcased by Peter David, with each character having his or her own voice and personal psychosis. The fantastic character work done is complimentary to the noir aspect that title often dwells in, something not very common in mainstream comic books, and it probable lead to the title struggling to find the right audience during it's beginnings.

Another aspect where X-Factor has struggled is in the art department: if comic books were bands, X-Factor would be Spinal Tap. All jokes aside, it is incredible just how many artists this series has gone through: Ryan Sook, Dennis Calero, Ariel Olivetti, Renato Arlem, Roy Allen Martinez, Pablo Raimondi, Khoi Pham, Valentine De Landro, Scot Eaton, Larry Stroman and Nelson (no last name, apparently) have all contributed to the series. This is especially troubling when you consider that the series is only forty issues long, an average of less than 4 issues per artist (although some have repeated their art duties, and some others only contributed for only one issue). In my humble personal opinion, and not to undermine some of the great artists that have contributed to the series, Pablo Raimondi is the X-Factor artist (he also provided the art for the original Madrox mini) as he seems to have the best handle on all of the characters. I wish he could be (and I have no idea why he is not) the regular artist for the series month in-and-out, that way X-Factor could have a look as consistent as the writing. Sadly, X-Factor suffered from having what I consider to be the worst art I have ever seen in a Marvel series from the last couple of years, at the hands of Larry Stroman . I have mentioned before that I do not like to complain about art, because I have zero talent when it comes to drawing, unless it is completely detrimental to the story. Stroman's art definitely falls under that category, and I was not the only one to think so. I heard plenty of people stopped following the title when he came on board and sales numbers seem to confirm that, with issue 33, the first one he was in selling around fifty thousand copies, while subsequent issues selling around thirty-four thousand or so units.

And the final hardship that the current X-Factor series has had to suffer is something that many fans complain about, and something I have mentioned before, event fatigue. Since X-Factor is not a straight out superhero title like all others, the events tend to hinder the normal plot and character development of the series which is normally more down-to-Earth, at least in the "missions" that the team goes through. X-Factor has been affected by almost every major event in the last couple of years (with the exception of World War Hulk), and the title hits some of it's lowest points during said events. During Civil War, the team made a stand against the registration act, which put it in an awkward position, as the rest of mutants stayed outside of the events (well, for the most part). Endangered Species did not effect the title very much, as it was more of a status quo than an actual event. The real damage came from the event that affected all X-Men teams called "Messiah CompleX", which lead to X-Factor losing not one but two of it's members (and Multiple Man got a tattoo). Wolfsbane ended up joining X-Force, a good book, but one where she is extremely redundant and almost not her former self from X-Factor. Additionally, Layla Miller got stuck in an alternate dystopian future (that's comic books for you) with apparently no means back. Trying to read the title during this event without additionally reading the other titles involved in the event is almost futile, as most of the current plots take a back seat to the events involving the rest of the X-teams. I hardly doubt that this was part of Peter David's original vision for the book, and during Secret Invasion, he filled those empty roles in the form of Longshot and Darwin. Sadly, during Secret Invasion, the book also fell to the standard "Who's a skrull?" game that every other book was doing at the time.

Despite some of the misgivings and missteps that X-Factor has gone through, it is still an excellent read. The last two issues (thirty-nine and forty) have driven the title back to the original "expect the unexpected" form of storytelling, where the reader is not sure what is going to happen next. I wish I could say more about it, but Mr. David has urged readers and reviewers alike not to spoil it for anyone, and I intend to listen to him. After all, he has provided me with plenty of entertainment and I owe at least that to him. But if you are not reading X-Factor, because you stopped during the events or because of the art or you just never bothered to check it out, you are seriously missing out on one of the best titles in stands today.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blogily Planning

You may have perhaps noticed that I have been slacking in updating the blog. This is not without a reason, for I have started a new job that consumes a good chunk of my day and because of the circumstances surrounding it, I don't have as much free time as I used to have. Does this mean the end of the blog? Most definitely not! I just have to start managing my time better, and for that, I have started doing this...

The mix of the bad quality of the picture and my "chicken scratch" (as my old boss used to call it) handwriting may hinder your ability to make out what it says, but the headline is "Ideas for Blog" and a bunch of things underneath it. Basically, during the public transportation ride to the place of my employment, I'm going to be writing down ideas and rough drafts for my writing pieces. This way, when I get home I already have a good idea of what I want to write about and how my post is going to look like. I have also something planned for the days that I do not get a chance to update with a full piece, which I hope some people will enjoy (not sure how many, as it deals with one of my other geeky habits).

Also, on the pictured, you may notice there's some entries with check marks (the ones I have already written) and some are marked as NMR, which stands for "Needs More Research". This means that I need to go back and re-read something before I write about, that way I avoid making a fool of myself like I did the other day with the Sandman/Batman entry. These entries are the ones that take longer to produce, so they are on the backburner until I get more free time (such as on the weekend) to read said comis. Some of the ideas I have written down are tied to specific events, releases and dates, so it may be a while until I actually get around to writing them (akin to the Valentine's day post). And finally, that is me behind the notebook, and I must say that I do not have big bags around my eyes as the picture would lead you to believe.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Marvel's New Noise

First of all, I would like to say that I am a bigger Marvel fan than a DC fan, both in the comics I prefer to read and in the quantity that I consume them. The whys and wherefores of this are a matter of discussion for another day, but I wanted to point out before I go about today's blog. It feels to me than Marvel is better at attracting and helping new writers develop a fan base than DC. I am obviously not saying that Marvel has better talent (not to mention that such a claim comes to down to a reader's preference), as DC has some great writers such as Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Kurt Busiek, etc. These writers are all great professionals that have been in the industry for a long time, and that's where the "problem" comes about. It is important for a company to foster new or rarely heard voices in the industry in order to create new ideas and stay relevant. I believe that Marvel does a better job in this aspect of their company, "grabbing" and fostering new writers and giving them high profile jobs.

One of my favorite writers currently working at Marvel is the wonderful Jason Aaron. According to Wikipedia, Aaron's first work was for DC's Vertigo imprint with the The Other Side mini-series and the still ongoing Scalped series (which I highly recommend). Even though he is still working on Scalped, Aaron has moved on to writing for Marvel, getting exponentially bigger assignments over time: first a back-up Wolverine story, then a critically acclaimed four issue story on the same title (Get Mystique), the main writing duties of Ghost Rider and a fill-in for Black Panther's Secret Invasion tie-in which I have already mentioned. Finally, Marvel has given him a new title, featuring our favorite short Canadian superhero with metal claws, called Wolverine: Weapon X. In just a couple of years, Jason Aaron has gone from his Vertigo critical-darling creator owned work to writing one of Marvel's most profitable characters, earning plenty of praise from fans and critics along the way.

Five years ago, Matt Fraction was writing comics and graphic novels in indie presses. Much like Aaron, Fraction was given increasingly important writing jobs, first working alongside Ed Brubaker in the popular revival of the Immortal Iron Fist. A couple of years later, and he has under his belt a two year run on Punisher, a ten issue almost-creator-owned series in the form of The Order, and a group of very critically acclaimed Thor one-shots collectively known as the Ages of Thunder series. Fraction is currently writing two of Marvel's flagship titles, Invincible Iron Man and Uncanny X-Men. Even if Fraction is somewhat hit or miss for me, to the point where I either hate or love his work (and I will abstain from going into a full list of which titles fall under each category), I have to admire the man for getting so many promotions in such a short period of time so he must be doing something right.

I could go on for a very long time, but it's usually the same story over and over. Marvel has writers like Greg Pak (who in a few years single-handledly reinvigorated the Hulk franchise among other works), Fred Van Lente (writing one of the best ongoing series, Incredible Hercules, and other fun mini series), Jonathan Hickman (co-writer of Secret Warriors and who is set to take over Fantastic Four), Christos Gage (having written more awesome fill-ins and mini-series that I can count) and Duane Swierczynski (currently writing Cable, Immortal Iron Fist and Punisher: Frank Castle) to compliment their older veterans like DnA, Warren Ellis, Mike Carey and Peter David. Of course, DC also has some new or young writers, like John Rogers (Blue Beetle), Marc Andreyko (Manhunter), G. Willow Wilson (Vixen), Sterling Gates (Supergirl) and Peter Tomasi (who has been working in the industry for long time as an editor but only recently started writing comics), but it seems to me that other than Tomasi the new writers get stuck in the back alleys of the DC universe and it is a lot harder to get a spot in the flagship titles. DC has a lot of up and coming writers, but they are mostly under the Vertigo and Wildstorm imprints and only some of of them also write super hero comics for the main universe.

In conclusion, it seems that either by design or by practice, Marvel has a younger set of writers than DC. I personally believe it is good that the company foments new talent, even if it is not always a commercial hit or critically acclaimed. I personally have been enjoying the current direction in the Marvel universe, and so have a lot more readers if the sale numbers are to be believed. Should DC start tapping into younger writers to help shape their universe? Or is it fine as it is, being handled by professionals that know what to do with the characters?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Putting My Bias Aside (The Umbrella Academy)

My Chemical Romance is a popular pop-punk/emo band (although I don't think they can really be considered either) known for it's popularity among what is commonly known as the "Hot Topic" crowd. I will openly admit that I did like a couple of songs from their first and second album (Give'em Hell, Kid was one of them) but found them for the most part not interesting enough to consider myself a fan of any kind. Eventually, the band got really popular and relied way too much on theatrics rather than music, which led to me disliking them. This is the same reason for which I do not like a lot of other bands that rely on an appearance or theatrics to gain popularity only to change the style once the fad is over. Anyway, this blog is mostly about comics and there is a reason why I am writing about My Chemical Romance. Front-man and lead singer, Gerard Way, wrote a comic series for Dark Horse called Umbrella Academy.

When they first announced it, I found myself groaning (a big part of the music community was groaning too), thinking that this was just another blatant attempt to cash in on the popularity and image of the band, and that the storyline was probably going to pander to lower common denominator of their teenage-girl fan base. The comic, written by Way and illustrated by Gabriel (from Casanova), eventually came out and started getting very good reviews. At first I just dismissed it, maybe out of the dislike for the band or maybe out of lack of interest. But I kept coming across people mentioning how good it was, so I finally decided to check out what all the buzz was about. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Umbrella Academy - Apocalypse Suit.

The story, in it's core, is about a very dysfunctional family of superpowered individuals that do not get along. Pretty straightforward basic set-up, something that the Fantastic Four did more than 40 years ago. Using this formula, Way delivers a very fresh of breath air, even if the characters are a bit of cliches (the rebel, the good guy, the loner, etc) their strange superpowers and personalities help make this family stand out from the comic book racks. When you see the way the siblings argue, you know exactly how they feel because we have all been there in one point or the other in our lives (unless you are an only child). The world of Umbrella Academy is very fantastical and left (purposely) open to interpretation so either the reader can guess how the world got there, or leaving options open to explore further in other series (another series, The Umbrella Academy - Dallas is being published now, although I have not read it). There's a few missteps here and there like some disjointed storytelling or some lines that were just a little too cheesy, but overall, I have to say that it was a very fun read. Bá's art was also very fitting to the story and delivered a really memorable team. There's all kinds of insane and surreal things that inhabit this world, and delivers plenty of material to entertain the art and compliment the plot of the series. I do not want to go into a full summary, because there is a lot going on and you will probably enjoy it more from reading it yourself.

As research for this story, I checked the sale numbers that this series had and they were surprisingly low. The first issue sold about 37,000 units, not exactly a hit but not a complete bomb either, and the collection of the series sold around 7000 books, the fifth highest selling on that month, but numbers quickly and abruptly dropped the month after that. I have to say that this comes as a surprise for me, because My Chemical Romance (and Gerard Way by default) has some very rabid fans that would probably buy anything related to the band. While I did not expect the book to be the highest selling comic that month, I sure expected some bigger numbers on the collection. But then I realized, the numbers posted on the website I use for research are for "comic specialty stores", which I am guessing does not include Borders or big bookstores like that. As I mentioned before, My Chemical Romance is very big among the "Hot Topic" or sometimes called "Mall" crowd, so I would not be very surprised if a good majority of the sales (and I particularly remember both Borders AND Hot Topic carrying single issues of Umbrella Academy) came from stores in malls, that to my knowledge do not count as specialty stores and therefore do not post their sales on Diamond.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Addendum - Part I

Addendum - Part I

One of the best parts of the blogging and Internet journalism as opposed to written, old-fashioned journalism, is that nothing is ever static. Sources are always updated, details are always added, and corrections are always made. Of course, one of the downfalls of this, much like when newspaper print corrections, is that not all of the readers will see the corrections or updates. Because of this, I feel that the best way to go about this is to dedicate a whole entry entirely dedicated to such matters. And that is what "Addendum" is for, to catch everything that fell through the cracks. I will be running these as needed, if there is nothing of importance to be added, then you won't see them pop up. So here is the first part!

During the first round of the Eternal Debate, where I discussed Martian Manhunter's death in Final Crisis, reader bottleHED pointed out that we do not yet know the nature of the Black Lanterns, and they could possibly be like "cosmic undead", which would mean that they could go back to being dead after the event is over. This is a good point, we are still in the dark (no pun intended) about the Black Lanterns. I still feel they could have left Martian Manhunter rest, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

I also mentioned my surprise at the lack of spin offs from Final Crisis, which despite some polarizing reactions, sold well. Not too long after my original post, DC announced during New York ComicCon that there would be four mini series dealing with the aftermath, including one with the Super Young Team. Sadly, I feel that these mini series should have started coming out the moment Final Crisis was over, instead of May, where the DC Universe will be right in the middle of the next big event, The Blackest Night. That is some pretty bad timing, if you ask me, unless they plan to tie in the Aftermath issues with Blackest Night.

When I made my post about Loeb on the Ultimate titles, two readers (amd098 and Kozmic) mentioned the well-known rumours of Mark Millar eventual return to the Ultimate universe he co-created. As above, during New York ComiCon, Mark Millar announced/confirmed that he would be working on a title called Ultimate Avengers, one of the couple of Ultimate Comics that will launch after the events of Ultimatum, which will end with the cancellation of all current Ultimate comics and some special "Requiem" issues.

In my analysis of Neil Gaiman's latest comic book, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, I compared it to one of his previous story arcs on Sandman and concluded that maybe this is Batman's dreams or at least an exploration of said dreams. I am surprised none of my readers mentioned it, but in the very first page the mysterious co-narrator explicitly states that Batman is not dreaming. Woops, my bad. I got so lost in all the excitement of the issue, that I probably forgot that line completely. Can you blame me? Additionally, Kevin over at Comic Book Legacy made an excellent point/conclusion about the kid that is watching cars in crime alley: he is probably the pre-Crisis Jason Todd, known for trying to steal the Batmobile's wheels.

And finally, during the my latest post about NextWave , I mentioned that even if no other NextWave series was ever published the characters would still live on in the Marvel Universe. In Warren Ellis' (very very active) Twitter account had this to say: "Also, I seem to have accidentally had an idea for a new NEXTWAVE comic. Hmm." Additional twitters also had the following messages "NEXTWAVE: STRONTIUM WHORES OF THE ATOMIC LIGHTHOUSE BRIGADE is a title I just thought of that will not be used on a new NEXTWAVE comic." Confusing messages, but then again, this is what Warren Ellis is all about.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

NextWave is Love

To continue with the theme in yesterday's post, where I discussed love in comics, today I will discuss one of the more primal reasons why I love comics. Sure, characterization is important, and a compelling storyline is almost essential for most readers. Most people first fell in love with comics when they were young children, and what caught our eyes the most at that age were huge explosions and mindless violence. NextWave - Agents of H.A.T.E., a 12 issue series from 2006, is basically explosions, mindless violence, taped together by an insanely thin plot. Warren Ellis, the writer of the series, admittedly came up with the idea when drunk, and basks into the decadence of the super-hero genre. Instead of trying to give the readers something deep and thought provoking, it completely embraces the insanity of comic books and created (what I think) is a modern masterpiece of comic books.

The series only lasted a bit more than a year and was never a huge commercial success, with sales number usually in between twenty and thirty thousand units (even with a Civil War tie-in cover). The real success, fueled by Warren Ellis' absurdity and Stuart Immonen's sometimes surreal drawings, was the lasting impact it had on the characters. The team was made up of four rather unpopular heroes (Photon/Monica Rambeau, Machine Man/Aaron Stack, Elsa Bloodstone, and Boom Boom/Tabitha Smith) and one original creation (The Captain) and put them together. The members of NextWave were crude, mean, petty and sometimes downright stupid, constantly bickering and insulting each other, a great departure from their previously heroic personalities. Besides, the out-of-character persona of the protagonists, the story in NextWave also feature flashbacks into other Marvel characters acting oddly, such as Captain America telling Photon to get him dinner and the Celestials calling Machine Man a "total $#!&". From the beginning, it seemed like NextWave would be set outside of regular Marvel continuity (Ellis and Quesada both stated so), but once the series ended and the dust settled, a lot of other creators picked up on the events in NextWave and slowly did their best to make the 616 universe mirror the series.

For example, during Civil War (by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven) we see Monica Rambeau wearing the same trench-coat that she wore during NextWave (and according to the script by Ellis, the coat was part of the uniform of the team)

The whole team appeared in a promotional art/cover for Avengers - The Initiative (right under the "THE"). And in the pages of Civil War - Battle Damage Report, it says that they all have registered with the Super Hero Registration Act.

In a story from X-Men - Manifest Destiny (by James Asmus and Chris Burnham), Tabitha Smith has the airhead and materialistic personality that she had in NextWave and she even claims to have been part of the team (and Beast doesn't know what that is).

Additionally, after the marriage of Black Panther and Storm (by Reginald Hudlin and Scot Eaton), the newlyweds receive a gift from a certain "Kirk" of the Beyond Corp. (one of the antagonists of the NextWave team).

The big winner of the whole series was Aaron Stack, after NextWave his popularity skyrocketed. He appeared in the pages of Marvel Comics Presents (by Ivan Brandon and Niko Henrichon), where it is revealed that he was currently living in the floating city that NextWave stole at the end of the series and he also mentions the part with the Celestials.

Machine Man also appeared in the pages of Ms. Marvel (by Brian Reed and company) where she joined the regular cast of Ms. Marvel's team. In this series, Machine Man solicited, as part of his deal with SHIELD, a Life Model Decoy of the aforementioned Monica Rambeau which he ends up using as his back-up body.

And finally, he was given the main role in the third series of the popular Marvel Zombies franchise (by Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker) where we see more of his now trademarked dislike for the "fleshy ones", especially of the undead kind.

So as you can see, I was not the only one that loved NextWave - Agents of H.A.T.E. Hopefully the higher ups at Marvel will decide to grant us another series, Warren Ellis himself stated that he would like to continue working on the team. And even if that never happens, at least I know that the characters will continue to receive love from all the other writers that also seemed to enjoy the explosions, insults and mindless violence.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Peter and Mary Jane (Or How I Came To Hate Joe Quesada)

Perhaps hate is a strong word, more along the lines of dislike. Tell the truth, I respect the man for helping Marvel out of bankruptcy, but I find that every time he gets involved in trying to tell the stories for the writers, the outcomes is horrendous. The biggest screw-up in his career, in my humble opinion, was the debacle of One More Day, where Peter Parker sold his marriage with Mary Jane Watson to save his octogenarian aunt from death. It has been more than a year since that happen and I have not bought any single issue or collection of Amazing Spider-Man since then in boycott to what I consider to be incredible lazy and uncreative writing. Am I bitter? Maybe, but I think I have a good reason to do so.

I have always been a fan of Spider-Man ever since I was a kid, but I never really started reading the ongoing comics until the J. Michael Straczynski years. Despite what people think about him and his run on ASM (I think Sins Past was a stupid idea as much as the next guy) one of the best things that JMS did was making Peter Parker grow as a person. While responsibility has always been a tenet of the Spider-Man mythos, during his tenure on the title, he gave Peter Parker something else, stability and maturity: Peter was no longer a freelance photographer, he got a job as an elementary school teacher, he had to finally face Aunt May about his alter-ego, and he worked out the problems and issues him and Mary Jane were having (another writer had previously separated them). During the writer's run, Peter and MJ's relationship went through trials and tribulations, but at the end their love was strong enough to mend all injuries. One More Day's greatest crime was not the fact that it undid the marriage (I'm hardly a "sanctity of marriage" kind of guy), but the fact that it destroyed the long-time relationship that these two characters had over time. They weren't always the perfect happy couple, they argued and sometimes they became jealous of each other, but those are things that all real couples must face at one point or the other. Their interests aren't exactly the same, Peter is probably not the kind to be interested in the modeling world and MJ is probably not going to be cracking open a biochemistry book, but that's how people are in real life too.

One of JMS' points about their relationship was that these characters loved each other so much, that without each other they could not function, and that is something that reverberates with me. I have a lovely wife, Janett, and together we have gone through so much that we both have grown as human beings, because our love has kept us together. When we first started going out, her hair was long and red and I have always been the perpetual nerd, so I would jokingly call her (in what is either really cute or really geeky, depends how you view it) "The MJ to my Peter Parker". In an almost petty way, it feels like Quesada and Marvel took that away (even if we still have the older stories), in order to reverse the character to what it was 30 years ago. What is the message that I am supposed to get from this? Married people are not interesting? That if the devil offered me a really good deal, I should give up my wife for it? Or maybe that I am just not the target audience for Amazing Spider-Man anymore (even though I am not that old)? In that case, I guess then it is not incredible petty of me to decide not to buy the comics anymore.

And to end this post of a happier note, I would also like to wish a very happy Valentine's Day (it already is the fourteenth here, but the blog seems to be on U.S. time) to my wife, who I love very much and who also likes to read my blog. I really did hit the jackpot when I met her, and no editorial mandate is going to take her away from me.