Posts Tagged ‘Comic Books’

The Kindness of Strangers

In August of 2005 I sat in a farm house owned by the aunt of a friend and his family.   The news as ablaze with images of my hometown drowned like a modern Atlantis.   Not long after, the violence started.  You might have thought you were watching images of insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan, as people shot at American troops.  New Orleans had unofficially devolved into a third world nation within a week.

I wasn’t surprised.  I’m cynical, and I grew up in this city.  There are good people in the world.  Honest, hard working people.  But there are bad people as well.  And while I search for the former in everyone, I am well prepared for the latter. It was difficult to remain positive in those days.  It was 3 days of hell before I found out if my Mother and Brother had made it out okay.  I nearly burst into tears when I heard my brother’s static-clouded voice on the other side of a cell phone.  My father had remained in my childhood home.  Eventually I got in touch with him as well.  He’d stayed guarded in my room, surrounded by my hunting knife and my prized Samurai blade in case the violence spread in his direction.   He had no power and no one to turn to, but he was okay.

The worst part was the uncertainty. Most were like me; little in the way of savings and with no way of knoing when ewe could get back to work.  Would be able to return?  Would we even want to return to what was left?  I hadn’t even brought my car with me when I left. We seemed to be the last stragglers in Noah’s newest flood.   So it was at that time that I turned to the one thing that had carried me through all the toughest times in my life: comics.

Comic books had always been my greatest teacher.  Through the power of reading I’d learned all about literature, art, history and American values.   More importantly, I learned how to be a man.

Lafayette isn’t the sort of city you would know about unless you’re from here, but it’s one of the few big cities in Louisiana.    So fortunately I was able to find a local comic shop on Johnston Street.  I stepped into Acadiana Comics looking for a distraction. What I found was hope.

The owner, Ms Teresa, greeted me as I entered.  I recognized the place, though I’d never been there.  It smelled of books.  It felt like home.   Still, I suppose I stuck out.  She asked if I was one of the wretched displaced.  I nodded, and told her of my story.  I didn’t complain, but even someone a cynical as I can appreciate the dispair of moments like that.   When I was done with the search for sweet purchases, I presented her with my credit card.  I knew it was irresponisble, but it’s an indispensible part of my world and sanity.   Seeing the devil’s plastic in front of her, she pushed my hand away.   She said it was the least she could do.

I was genuinely stunned by her graciousness.  I was just another stranger on the street.  I could have been anyone.  Comic shops are modest businesses.  They are self-sustaining, but far from sustainably profitable.  

It may not seem like much to the casual observer.  Just a few comics. Just a little thing.   But that’s the point.  It wouldn’t have hurt her to charge me.  But it did hurt her financially, even in some small way.  But to me, it meant the world.  This is a person that wanted to help.  She did so in the only way she could.  And while I thanked her profusely on the two occasions this happened, I don’t know that I ever got a chance to repay her.

Today, as my job took my into the long haul to Lafayette, I passed her store in the waining hours of the day.   Surprisingly, she was there.  I asked if she remembered me, and she said that I looked vaguely familiar.  And I recounted her kindness.   And I told her how much her kindness had meant to me.   And we talked for a while.   I even bought a Trade from her.  It wasn’t much, but I wanted to pay her back in as much as I could, at least with money.   The truth is I’m not sure I could ever repay her.

She gave me a gift, and it wasn’t a book.   It was a renewed faith in humanity.  An understanding that there are still people who will reach out in kindness to others without reward or even sufficient thanks.

If you’re ever in Lafayette, Louisiana stop by Acadiana Comics and put down a few dollars for a good book.   You never know when some stranger might repay your generosity.

Advertisements

Why You’ll Love-Hate Watchmen

I don’t envy Zach Snyder.  No matter what he did, he was going to get it wrong in the eyes of one majority or another.

The problem is that there are three parties interested in a Watchmen film.  The comics fans want to see the beauty of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons comic brought to life frame for frame, syllable for syllable, a frakking giant squid and black freighter; because anything less would be sacrilege in the face of perhaps the most important comic in history.  The consumer audience wants to see another mindless, pretty, action-packed Superhero flick; the next Dark Knight if at all possible.  And the movie studio wants another Dark Knight cash cow as well, only cheaper, shorter and more efficient; and they don’t give a damn if Watchmen is anything like the book.

At least one of these groups will be disappointed, and as usual, it’s the fans.  Projects do not transfer from medium to medium organically.  Some comics just do not work in film form. Changes have to be made.  For the majority of these projects I judge them by their story-telling ability and their handling of the characters.  However with some books, such as Watchmen, that just isn’t enough.

The studio wants an action movie that will bring in millions of ticket sales.  And so does the public.  But Watchmen is not an action film.  Nor is it really about Superheroes.   It is for precisely that reason it is so beloved by it’s fans.  The essence of the story is about what makes us human, and what is the nature of good versus evil, and ultimately about whether power gives one the right to decide the fate of others.  And really, it’s about much more than that. It’s a very dense read with an incredible amount of subtext.  But honestly no one wants to see a movie about that. Movies are often a lazy medium, one where the audience doesn’t want to think.

Which leads us to writer Alan Moore’s opinion that Watchmen is unfilmable.  But honestly?  He’s wrong.  I went into the theatre having read and appreciated (though not loved) the book.  And what I saw met most of my expectations, and exceeded a few.

It isn’t the book.  But it is a decent adaptation that meets the majority of needs for all three groups, as long as you don’t go in with any expectations.   I think the majority of consumers will be disappointed in it without ever giving it a chance.  The film has been mis-marketed from the start.  Watchmen is much closer to The Usual Suspects than X-Men in content and subject matter.  There is sex and violence in it, but not nearly as much as the trailers imply.  And yes, for you purists, the ending was changed slightly.  No giant squid.  But honestly, it works.  In fact, it makes more sense than the giant squid does.  Yeah, I know I just lost loads of nerd-cred, but it’s true.  A film-maker’s job is to simplify and fully realize (emphasis on the first two syllables of the last word) any adaptation.  Snyder did just that.  And what’s more, he did a damn good job of it.

The only complaints I have are minimal.  Some of the music is atrocious.  As much as I love Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, the use of Leonard Cohen’s cover of it in the sex scene is so ridiculous that I went from sexual arousal to gut-busting laughter in the span of a second.   Likewise, the use of 99 Left Balloons at a key scene took me out of the film and made me feel like I was watching a romantic comedy.   Beyond that, the only problem areas occur because of the cinematography.  Watchmen’s style is meant to bring the comic to life.  It worked tremendously in 300, but here, there are a few scenes which feel cartoonish, particularly scenes with the Golden Age super-team, The Minutemen.  Not a huge problem, but it is a little distracting.

The bottom line is that Watchmen gets more right than it does wrong.  And like the book, it will merit multiple viewings to fully digest the menagerie of beauty and philosophy thrown at you, however precisely, like cogs in clockwork.  The bar previously set by The Dark Knight will probably not be exceeded here, in terms of revenue, style or fan response.  But honestly, I’m happier that way.  Watchmen couldn’t have been made any better by anyone else.  It is a tight, lean movie that moves at a decent pace despite it’s long run time and heavy psychological thoroughbred.  It works.

It’s not only filmable, it’s watchable.

The Shop Around the Corner

There’s a little comic store in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere.  Opened less than a year ago.   The man who owns it is about my age.   He is open 6 days a week and works every shift since he can’t afford any employees.  And each time I enter his store, I feel a sense of guilt.  Lingering in the air is the sense that his dream is dying.

What drives a man to start his own comic shop is different than the man that owns a restaurant or laundromat.  The odds are he’s been dreaming of it since childhood.   So to see someone losing the very same dream I have is heartbreaking. 

Sure, I don’t know for a fact that his business is failing.  But the evidence seems damning.  The fact that his store is in a place that cannot be found except by chance or specific determination. He has no employees and I rarely see customers.  More to the point he’s up agaist the local comics juggernaut.  His competition has been established for decades and is the most well known in the area.  In a city with very little comics community, that means everything.  I should know, I shop there myself.

I’ve developed  a relationship with the employees and the owners.  In the world of comics, that familiarity breeds loyalty.   Should I choose to spend my money at the Shop Around the Corner, every dollar that I spend is taken from the mouth of the child of my current establishment.  Having met said 1 year old daughter, I would feel especially guilty.

But still. Every once in a while I pass the little shop and buy a few things.  I consider offering to work with him on the weekends.   The things I could teach him about marketing could severely impact his sales.  But then that loyalty thing pops up.  And I shy away.

My dream has always been to own my own store.   And it scares me to think of it.  Risky business.  The future of comics is uncertain.  And it could go either way.  The Old Juggernaut.  Or the Little Shop Around the Corner.

It’s a good dream.   But is it a risk worth taking?

Books By Their Cover 10-1

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Books by their Cover, where I review some of this week’s comics merely by looking at their cover.   Seriously.

 

Batman #680

Batman #680

The Dark Knight faces off against the deadly Club of Villains.  Backed into a corner, Batman does the unthinkable!  He takes a massive dump on the floor, forcing his arch-foes to run from the stench.  Even Robin is completely grossed out at the sight of a forty year old man in a Bat costume shitting himself in a sanitarium.  “Look dude… I think it’s time I got my own place.”   This is exactly the kind of mindblowing, swing for the fences comic that makes Grant Morrison a genius.

 

Nightwing

Nightwing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Batman absent, Dick Grayson seeks to take up the slack, resulting in a deadly game of Twister! I’m not sure about the premise.  I mean, everybody loves Twister, but there’s only one chick and she’s watching.   Its a sausage fest. Pass.

 

Manhunter

Manhunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During a sleepover, Kate’s best friend gets her period. In a house without tampons, Manhunter will show us all why she kills men.

I’m sold.

 

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a very special issue, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray explore the ramifications of Jonah’s camel toe.  You had me at “camel toe”.  I was a little disappointed at the end when Jonah spends ten pages crying into his beer, whining to the bartender about having a man-gyna.

 

The Third Kryptonian

SUPERMAN: The Third Kryptonian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

198 pages of the Man of Steel walking like an egyptian. A revealing look at how the Man of Tomorrow was put here on Earth, not to save us from ourselves, but to shake what his Mama gave him.

Surprising satisfying.   Right on.

 

Marvel Apes #3

Marvel Apes #3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even as a monkey, Kirsten Dunst is a whiny bitch.

Bah.  Rehash of Spider-man 2.  But with the benefit of monkey Peter Parker not coming off really really gay.

 

Punisher War Journal #24

Punisher War Journal #24

Alone, behind bars.  Frank Castle… uhh… “takes matters into his own hands.”

I saw a movie like this once.  Dad grounded me for a month when he caught me watching it.

 

the Depths #2

Sub Mariner: the Depths #2

Namor finally comes to terms with the side of himself he’s denied all these years.  And the readers discover a new context for the name “the depths”.

What is this, Oz week at Marvel?  (OH COME ON! THIS IS CLEARLY MAN RAPE ON THE COVER.)

Well folks, thats all for this week’s addition.  Tune in next time for more inappropriate gay and doody jokes.  Bye yall.

~Adam

How I Fell In Love With Comics

I was reading one of my favorite websites/blogs, Whitney Matheson’s Pop Candy on USAToday.com. Today’s edition featured an article discussing how many creators fell in love with comics. And I have to talk about that. There are few things I love more than comics. It’s a short list that includes women, Disney World and travel.

I can honestly say that there is nothing in this world that has affected my life on the level that comic books have. It started, I imagine, with my love of reading. Most of that I attribute to my Mama buying me those illustrated books like Dr. Seuss and the Disney ones. And as I grew older, I became fascinated with mythology. In particular I loved stories about Greek myths and the legends of King Arthur. In fact, I took it so seriously, I can remember becoming upset as a child when I found out Guinevere had an affair with Lancelot. I felt sort of betrayed. Weird, huh? I think it was because I never really had any friends, and to me, these were real people. In many ways, the fictional worlds that I love are all real to me.

But I digress. I don’t remember specifically when I started reading comics, but I know it was in grammar school. I know it had something to do with the trading cards that Marvel Comics had started putting out at the time. I saw some kids in after-school care trading cards, and I asked questions. Suddenly, I was buying cards as well; learning about the Marvel Universe and all of it’s wonders. Not long after, I bought my first issue of X-Men. It was the first part of the Muir Island Saga, a crossover that re-defined the X-Men for the next decade. It was drawn by Jim Lee, a man who would come to be my favorite artist of all time. It took me all of five seconds to become hooked. And all of a sudden I became emersed in this world. A world where Gods walked among us. I wanted to be there. I wanted to live that life, and knowing that I could not… I wanted in on any way I could to be part of it. I dreamed of being the next Jim Lee. But realistically, I know that would never happen. I didn’t have the talent.

Comics are responsible for so much of who I am. The truth is, I have always been an outcast. I don’t think or act like other people. I don’t know how to. And when I was a child, no one wanted to try. Even among my family, I’m the odd man out. Often people discuss where they got their traits and their talents. But with me, the truth was, I’m nothing like my parents or anyone else I’m related to. I’m an anomaly, genetically and personally. To me, that made me a mutant. And I used comics as a form of escapism from everything. I hid within this fictional world to shield myself from a world that didn’t understand me and oftentimes hated me. It was a familiar theme to me.

But there was more to it than that. I needed something to believe in. And the world of comics was where I found that something. I didn’t have heroes or role models growing up. But I had Spider-man to teach me about responsibility and show me that things work out, even for guys like me and Peter Parker. I had Batman to teach me about hard work. Superman was all about doing the right thing. The New Warriors taught me that sometimes you aren’t just born into family… sometimes it finds you. And the X-Men to taught me about perseverence and tolerance. I needed those lessons. I needed those heroes, because when I was growing up there weren’t any. But in the world of comic books, men did the right thing, not for rewards, but because that was the right thing to do.

I had better heroes than most people to guide me.

But in the long run I gained more than that. Comics taught me a lot of things that I wouldn’t have payed any mind to in a classroom. They fostered my love of art. And ultimately, they made me want to be a writer. Writing is in my blood. It’s what I am. I learned that from reading the works of Chris Claremont, Fabian Niceiza, Mark Waid, Peter David, James Robinson and Garth Ennis. They taught me to be a man. They didn’t just change my world, they gave me one to be a part of.

And as a result, I still live in a world of heroes.

Reading is Fucking Awesome

14 Comics You Should Be Reading

I love comics. It’s one of the defining aspects of my personality. In fact, as a child when I had no real role models, it was comic books that taught me most of what I know about how to be a man. Yeah, it sounds strange. But when you think about it, most kids grow up emulating a drugged out athlete or rapper. I grew up emulating Captain America. So if I might quote Gil Harris, “Who’s the bitch now?”

Comic Books are kind of a funny subject these days. They are sort of being embraced by mass-media, yet simultaneously looked down upon. For instance, when interviewed about her role as Betty Ross in The Hulk, Jennifer Connelly initially had this to say:


It’s a comic book but I asked him (Lee) why he wanted to make “The Hulk.” He said, “It’s really a Greek Tragedy.” It’s actually a psychodrama. It talks about the rage inside all of us. It talks about fathers and sons, and Lee’s talking about using a kind of heightened format to get at something really profound that is otherwise more difficult to access. It’s really interesting and ambitious. He’s not talking about “I want to see a guy running around in green tights and I want to make a really glossy, fun-filled movie for kids.” He’s talking along these lines of tragedy and psychodrama. I find it really interesting. The green monster of rage and greed and jealousy and fear in all of us. (interview from about.com)

To be fair, Connelly has a point. Most successful comics are about more that just green skinned guys hitting orange rock faced guys. There is subtext and depth. Though I wouldn’t by any means define the Hulk as a Greek Tragedy. And if you read through what she says, it’s very much a back handed compliment anyway. She’s saying, “yeah, it’s based on a comic, but we’re not going to make it anything like a childish comic book.” That’s pretty much the way most comic adaptations are handled, which is why most of them suck. (NOTE: The Hulk is widely considered one of the worst comic films of the last ten years. That’s why Ang Lee switched to movies about saddles and anal sex) The movies that are successful, tend to be the ones that stay faithful to the source material. (X-Men 2, Spider-man, Batman Begins, 300, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) But that’s the way the media handles comics; very hands off, ten dollar hooker, “we’ll take what we want from you and leave you unsatisfied and broke.”

Anyway, today, I thought I would share some of my favorite comics/ graphic novels from recent years. Some are funny. Some are intellectual. Some are straight sci-fi. One is about as over the top, guns and tits as you’re going to get. But ultimately, they are just another form of expression. No less adult than you perceive them to be. All of these should be available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

In no particular order:

1. Scalped: Vol 1 Indian Country

Native American Mafia. Check. Drugs and guns. Check. Double crossing FBI agents. Check. Sex and violence. Double check. One bad ass Injun with a black belt and something to prove. Check check check. What’s not to love about Scalped? It’s most often compared to the Sopranos. Fair comparison, except Tony Soprano never fought twenty guys in a bar with nothing but a pair of nunchucks. And that’s exactly what happens in the first issue.

2. The Ultimates II Vol 1 Gods And Monster, Vol 2 Grand Theft America

What if the Avengers were formed in a more realistic setting? That’s the premise that starts out the Ultimates, but that’s just the beginning. Fast paced action, betrayal, sex, dead terrorists and Captain America beating the holy hell out of Giant Man. That’s what the Ultimates is all about. I chose the Ultimates 2 as opposed to the first series because it’s the better of the two, but they’re both good. Ultimates 2 also holds the distinction of being the only comic with a political allegory expressing doubt about the choices America has been making, while not being anti-American. It’s ambiguous, letting us draw our own conclusions. And that’s what good writing should do.

3 . Fables Vol 3 Storybook Love; Vol 4 March of the Wooden Soldiers

Fables is like Shrek combined with Moonlighting and … Star Wars? But more adult. These are the rules. All fictional character from legend or folklore are real and exist on other world known only as The Homelands. The Homelands have been conquered by an evil Fable they call The Adversary, forcing the few lucky Fables able, to escape to our world, where they have set up shop in a part of Manhattan they named Fabletown. Fables is about the private lives and relationships of characters such as Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, Little Boy Blue, Prince Charming, Cinderella (she’s a freaking SPY!) and Beauty and the Beast. But it’s also about their fight against the Adversary. Much has been made about the recently ended Y the Last Man (and it’s all true), but Fables is better.

4. Spider-man Vol 1 Coming Home; Vol 2 Revelations

Obviously I don’t have to sell you on Spider-man. But J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr helped revitalize this character, giving new life to the series. It’s funny, romantic and action filled. Also, Volume 2 features the September 11th issue. There are no words for how beautiful it is.

5. Preacher Vol 1 Gone to Texas, Vol 3 Proud Americans

This book is an abomination. An exercise in ridiculous sacreligious monstrosity that bypasses depravity and goes straight for hellfire and damnation. And I love it. It’s John Wayne hunting down God and killing assholes. HBO is making it into a series. I can only hope Matt Stone and Trey Parker are providing the theme. America, FUCK YEAH!

6. Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol 5 Crossover; Vol 6 Frightful

A revision of The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine. Mark Millar brings the fantastic, alongside painter Greg Land. Giant scientist whores, fish people, or zombie superheroes… take your pick. If you loved the FF movies… hell, even if you hated the movies, but still felt that they were sort of fun, this is the comic for you.

7. Planetary: Vol 1 All Over the World; Vol 2 The Fourth Man

Warren Ellis deconstructs the Superhero genre, while putting a fresh spin on it. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s awesome. John Cassaday’s art will blow your mind. Oh, and the Fantastic Four have conquered the Earth.

8. Nextwave: Vol 1 This Is What They Want; Vol 2 I Kick Your Face

The equal and opposite of Planetary. Ellis made Planetary straight intellectual scifi. For Nextwave, he decided to skip the smarty- pants routine and blow shit up. Nextwave is without a doubt one of the funniest comics of all time. It takes every cliche about comics and takes it up to 11 (yes, I really am one of those assholes who uses Spinal Tap jokes) Also, I’m getting Dirk Anger tattooed on my ass.

9. Starman: Vol 1 Sins of the Father

James Robinson created something of an anomaly in superhero comics. Starman is about Jack Knight, the son of one of the first superheroes, Ted Knight. Ted retires and needs Jack to take over. But Jack would rather sell cultural antiquities and listen to Sinatra albums in his store, Knight’s Past. Nevertheless, Jack gets taken in by the legacy of Starman. So will you. It’s about legacy, honor, and the relationship between fathers and sons.

10. Astonishing X-Men: Vol 1 Gifted; Vol 2 Dangerous

In the last two and a half years, Joss Whedon has created one of the most iconic takes on the X-Men ever. If you want to know what X-Men 3 was supposed be like, look no further. Volume 1 was the inspiration. And it only gets better from there. I’ll be crushed when the current arc “Unstoppable” is over and Whedon and Cassaday leave.

11. The Immortal Iron Fist: Vol 1 The Last Iron Fist Story

Matt Fraction, the writer, describes it as Kung Fu billionaire. FUCK. YEAH. Once you start reading, you won’t think you’re in a comic, you’ll think you’re watching a Jet Li film. It’s that good. And David Aja’s gritty noir-style art is fan-freaking-tastic.

12. Daredevil: Vol 1 Hell To Pay (2006)

Think Oz combined with a Jackie Chan movie and Tango and Cash. For this volume, Daredevil’s real identity has been outed to the press. He has to prove that he isn’t DD, while trying to stay alive in prison with hundreds of men that he put there, including the Kingpin and Bullseye. And just when you think it’s so awesome your head will explode, the Punisher shows up. You feel that? That’s your mind blowing, sugar-pants.

13. Invincible: Vol 1 Family Matters; Vol 3 Perfect Strangers

Mark Grayson was born the son of Omni Man, the greatest super hero this world has ever known, sent to protect Earth by his race the Viltrumites. When Mark turned 18 he developed powers of his own, and begins his journey to follow in his father’s foot steps… until he finds out that Omni Man is actually a murderous sociopath sent to conquer humanity. What’s a boy to do?
14. Identity Crisis

Author Brad Meltzer (The Book of Fate) combined his love of mysteries with his love of comics. What follows is part-human drama/ part-murder mystery starring the Justice League of America. It’s detective story, starring the greatest heroes on Earth. You may not know who half the characters are, but 20 pages in, you will care about each and every one of them. And just wait until you see what they do to Batman…

Those are just a few of my favorite comics. I hope you’ll give them a try. Believe me, each one is worth every penny.