dc comics

This week the New 52 trading cards, created by Cryptozoic, came to my local comic store. I was really excited when I heard that they were going to release these cards, which urged me to write a previous article about collecting trading cards here at ShortBoxPodcast.com. So, when the day came for them to be sold at store, of course I had to get some packs of cards.

New 52 CardsFirst off, these cards are not game cards like Magic, they are trading cards. The have a certain character of group on the front and a description or bio on the back. The bio is the up to date bio of the character for New 52 continuity. Each pack contains 5 cards and usually costs between $3.00-$4.00. In each box of trading card packs, there is always a chance that you could get a special sketch cardbecause there is one inserted into one of the packs.

The main cards that you can get in a pack are the normal character cards. Some of the characters are harder to find than others. For example, I have bought a few packs already and not once received a Batman card, but I have received a few Flash cards. I actually seem to hardly get any doubles. This could seem like a good thing, but it is also a bad thing if you are wanting to trade. Doubles are usually used for trading purposes. You will also come across some foil cards from time to time, which are just foil versions of regular character cards. Recently got a Wonder Woman card call “Work In Progress” (WIP) which shows you the process of drawing, inking, and color when you look at the card from different angles. Of course, there is the sketch cards which are incredibly rare to find, but are cards the are actually drawn by artists. There is also a group of cards called “Lantern Cards” which are few but contain characters from different Lantern Corps.

Hal Jordan Lantern Card

My biggest complaint is that the cards don’t have that much information on the back. I mean, the updated New 52 bios are nice, but I would like to have a little more. Back in the day a company called Fleer used to make the DC Comics and Marvel trading cards. The backs of the cards would have all sorts of stuff on the back. The cards would have some character stats on them and the artist name who drew the card. My only way to see who drew the card is by reading their signature on the art, which is sometimes impossible to figure out, or by knowing who the artist is already like Greg Capullo’s art on the Batman card. Sometimes it is a total unknown. It may have been a change to put a QR code onto the cards to make it more interactive with the internet.

Fleer Marvel Canonball Card

Fleer Canonball Card Back

So far I have really enjoyed the packs that I have gotten. One of the first packs I opened had a Talon card in it which was pretty cool. I epically like getting characters that I really enjoy. That is really why I was hoping to open a pack and receive a Batman card, being one of my favorite. My biggest complaint is that very few people are buying packs, so I really have no one to trade cards with. There are over 60 normal cards to this first series to collect and it is a good way to understand who some characters from DC are.

Cryptozoic also makes the Walking Dead trading cards. You can usually find these cards at your local comic shop and if they don’t, check and see if they can get some in. They are a fun pass time and it is fun to see what characters you can get. Also, this is a good way to get your kids into reading comic books. A lot of people that I know got into reading comic books because of the Fleer trading cards back in the day, so give them a shot and see if you get some of your favorite characters.

Continuity Notes From A New Universe

Instead of reviewing the DC Comics #0 issues, I am going to just give you the facts of what we’ve learned. The Zero Month initiative is suppose to give us more information on the history of this new universe. Let’s see what we’ve learned about the new continuity.

Week 1

Action Comics #0 -

  • Clark purchased 200 Superman shirts. He knew he was going to get into some scrapes!
  • Clark’s first job was at the Daily Star.
  • Jimmy Olsen is rich.
  • Superman’s cape can’t be destroyed.
  • Clark lives in an apartment owned by a Mrs. Nyxly who’s husband is a magician known as “Mystic Mr. Triple X” who wears a derby. Have we seen the first of Mxyzptlk in the New 52?
  • Lois coins the name Superman. Classic!
  • Captain Comet is briefly introduced before he heads to space. He warns that Earth is on a list of planets that will be destroyed.

Animal Man #0 -

  • Arcane killed the previous Animal Man
  • Buddy Baker was never going to be chosen as Animal Man. He was only a temporary solution until his daughter came of age.
  • Buddy Baker was an actor who believes he gained his power from aliens. The aliens were a ruse created by the Red in order to get him active as their avatar sooner.
  • He had a career as a super hero, actor, and animal activist.

Batwing #0

  • As soon as David left the the the rebel army he was forced to join, he started fighting criminals (as a child).
  • David was raised by Rene Diallo and Matu Ba to be responsible and help others.
  • David spent his days on the police force and nights as a vigilante working with other heroes against criminals and super criminals.
  • His war on crime caught the attention of Batman who trained him further and gave him the tools he needed to become Batwing.

Detective Comics #0 -

  • Bruce Wayne studied under a Zen-Buddhist Monk Warrior named Shihan Matsuda.
  • Shihan Matsuda was trained in mind control and martial arts.
  • Bruce came to see Shihan Matsuda and his wife Matsuda Sama as a surrogate mother and father during his training.
  • Bruce learned a cold lesson that closeness to someone can bring misery.
  • Alfred held together the Wayne Corporation while Bruce was training.

Dial H for Hero #0 -

  • The H-Dial actually steals the powers of super heroes from other universes and bestows them to whoever uses the dial.

Earth 2 #0 -

  • Terry Sloan was one of Earth 2′s greatest champions and the smartest person on that Earth known as Mister 8.
  • Terry Sloan discovered the multiverse.
  • Terry Sloan turned on Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman and destroyed cities and countless lives to win a victory against Darkseid.
  • He survived and has plans for Earth 2 based on his knowledge of other Earths.

Green Lantern #0 -

  • Simon Baz is a Arab American living in Michigan who experiences years of prejudice in America after September 11th.
  • Simon Baz was a car thief who was set up to steal a car with explosives in it. He is picked up by the authorities and detained.
  • As he is about to be tortured, Simon gets a Green Lantern Ring that says “Simon Baz of Earth. You have the error ability to overcome great fear.
  • Amanda Wallar and Cyborg both know about Simon.
  • His ring has a message for him but he is passed out.
  • Sinestro and Hal Jordan are in a world of shadows.

G.I. Combat #0 -

  • The Unknown Solider finds out that there has always been an Unknown Soldier in all wars. He may be the reincarnated soldier.
  • Before he flatlined in combat, his fighting skills were not nearly what they were when he was revived.
  • His superior inherited fighting abilities and his scientific enhancements make him one of the most dangerous people alive.

Green Arrow #0 -

  • 19 year old Oliver Queen was rich and irresponsible when his father sent him to run one of his oil rigs.
  • Oliver pays Tommy Merlyn to train him in archery.
  • A super villain “Iron Eagle” shows up to the oil rig and attacks. Oliver fights him off but ends up getting the rig destroyed and his friends killed.
  • Oliver wake up on an island and makes a bow to survive.
  • Oliver makes it back to the United States somehow and find Roy Harper. He bails him out of jail and asks him to use his skills with weapons and hacking to fight crime.
  • Tommy Merlyn ends up alive and scared.

Phantom Stranger #0 -

  • A man tries to commit suicide in the distant past for betraying his closest friend.
  • This man is judged by Wizards along with two others and are called “The Trinity of Sin”.
  • We know the other two as Pandora and The Question. The star of this title will become the Phantom Stranger.
  • His punishment is to walk the Earth until he works off his crime and to be a stranger to all of Humanity.
  • He sets in motion the creation of the Spectre

Stormwatch #0 -

  • Adam One is still alive (thought to be killed in issue #5).
  • Adam tells Jenny the story of the Century Baby from A.D. 1013.
  • That Century Baby fought with an early incarnation of the Demon Knights.
  • The Demon Knights were the first incarnation of Stormwatch.
  • Adam One is centuries old and possibly immortal (and it looks like he physically ages backwards).
  • Adam One is actually Merlin.
  • The 12th Century Century Baby was taken by the Shadow Lords (masters of Stormwatch).

Swamp Thing #0 -

  • Arcane killed many Avatars of the Green (Swamp Things) including the one of 1897.
  • Arcane killed Alec Holland before he could be the prophesized warrior king and greatest Swamp Thing of all-time.
  • The Green re-creates Alex Holland so he can embrace his destiny.

World’s Finest #0 -

  • Earth 2 (E2) Catwoman helped train her daughter to be E2 Robin against her husband’s (E2 Batman) wishes.
  • E2 Lois Lane died in the war against Darkseid.
  • E2 Supergirl is E2 Superman’s secret weapon.
  • E2 Catwoman died in the war with Darkseid.
  • E2 Supergirl (Power Girl) met E2 Robin (Huntress) right after Catwoman died.

President Captain America Chooses His Cabinet

By now many of you have heard that the Captain America of the Ultimate Universe is going to become President of the United States in his respective universe in Ultimates #15. If you don’t read any of Marvel’s Ultimate books I can tell you that…things got pretty bad for the United States. It’s post-war landscape that was decimated by Mutants and Sentinels. This United States has lost states to succession and things look pretty grim.

Click on any of these images to see how it goes down.

captain america president

Ultimates #15
(on sale 9/19)

marvel comics review short box

Cap takes the Oath of Office

Captain America president

Cap is a very different kind of President

My question to everyone is, if you could pick a super hero presidential cabinet dream team for Captain America…who would you pick? It can be any super hero (no villains…it’s America!) from any universe living or currently dead (who are American Citizens).

Here’s my picks

Secretary of State US Agent
Secretary of the Treasury Ozymandias
Secretary of Defense Red Hulk
Attorney General Daredevil
Secretary of the Interior Swamp Thing
Secretary of Agriculture Superman
Secretary of Commerce Booster Gold
Secretary of Labor Luke Cage
Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mid-Nite
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development John Stewart
Secretary of Transportation Cloak
Secretary of Energy Iron Man
Secretary of Education Professor X
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Punisher
Secretary of Homeland Security Batman
marvel comics reviews short box

Agree disagree? Who are some or all of YOUR picks! Let me know below!

Poor Aquaman

geoff johns aquaman super friends cartoon

When Seth Green and Matthew Senreich team up with Geoff Johns and Zeb Wells, you know that there is everything needed for a definitive DC parody. With this pedigree helming the project, they were able to get to get the A-List voice talents of Neil Patrick Harris, Alfred Molina, Nathan Fillion, Megan Fox, Breckin Meyers, Alex Borstein, Tara Strong, and Paul Reubens!

comic books parody episodeInstead of getting too into the overall story (an unusual element to a Robot Chicken episode in the first place), let’s get into the broad appealing jokes and then spend more time with the fanboy Easter eggs.. The jokes that were approachable to non-fanboys were mostly centered around Aquaman. He has been the butt of both Family Guy and Robot Chicken jokes for years. What I found great was that one of the writers of this, Geoff Johns, is currently writing a Aquaman series that directly deals with these jokes in a somewhat meta way. Besides the Aquaman jokes, the other very approachable parodies include call backs to the much-loved Super Friends cartoon. Much of the set-up of the universe is based on Super Friends and it works.

As a hardcore comic fan, I’m more interested in the more niche jokes.

Let’s go over a few of them here:

Hot off the heels of his Dark Knight Rises role, Bane gets to show everyone what he’s famous for:

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As a Green Lantern fan, I’ve put up with some extremely goofy characters over the years without even thinking about it. If I explained that I like and have an action figure for a alien squire-ll space cop…well…I wouldn’t win anyone over to trying comics. Especially if I said I like Ch’p better than B’Dg.

What? You don’t have a favorite H’lvenite?

dc comics parody robot chicken H'lvenites

Ah…the Super Kiss. One of the weird powers made up for the Superman movies. This gets a lot of criticism from modern fans but trust me…the Silver Age was rife with random powers Superman just happened to have (super-hypnosis and super-ventriloquism to name just two). This one, though, seemed REALLY convenient and weird. Robot Chicken masterfully takes this odd scene to the next level of creepiness all while dropping a shout out to the insane golden age origin and motivation of Lex Luther from Adventure Comics #271 (Superboy causes a lab accident that cost Lex his hair).

robot chicken parody dc

There sure are a lot of ice-themed characters in comics. Sure DC has a ton but so does Marvel What’s nuts is that the ice villains of the DCU seem to rarely team-up (notable exception in the first Superman/Batman arc: “Public Enemies”). That story was their high point and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ice puns (referenced perfectly here) must have been their low. This isn’t even all the ice villains in the DCU!

When a museum in the DCU opens an exhibit that plays to a popular villain’s theme they must just expect it, right? The 60s Batman show would have the Gotham museum constantly adding exhibits that were cat, joke, and riddle themed! Why not just stop showing this stuff off? King Tut, I get but this…come on!

robot chicken parody short box

Earth-C

Here we go! I love the more obscure stuff and Earth-C is that. The Death of Captain Carrot? How can anyone take this characters serious…even at a funeral? Hal just loses it here and Nathan Fillion (everyone’s favorite Hal Jordan voice) really sells the struggle to attempt not to laugh in the faces of these absurd characters. The Zoo Crew was the JLA of this funny animal world. They were they best their world had to offer. Imagine what their version of The Outsides must look like! “We’re so sorry Little Cheese.”

zoo crew earth-c dc comics

Of all the amazing voice actors on this project, one stands out for me – Paul Reubens as the Riddler. He really sells this character as insane and laughable. He’s practically the Legion of Doom’s Aquaman, if you think about it. On a team full of geniuses, he only offers a built-in mechanism to get caught. That’s what makes Paul Reubens shine in this…he does pathetic so well! His new team, the Punctuation Posse, needs to show up in a comic series somewhere. I think Grant Morrison could make it work.

dc comics robot chicken

Mister Banjo is a real character. Seriously. He was an early Captain Marvel “villain” who leaked sensitive government secrets to the Nazi’s during World War II via…his banjo. He even had a very very small cameo in Kingdom Come. This character might be so lame he wouldn’t make the cut of our D-List Discussion except for this Robot Chicken appearance. Maybe we haven’t seen the last of him…

d-list villains short box books

There was a lot more to this story because it was a rare Robot Chicken long-form arch vs. just the quick parodies. Everything tied together at the end and you could tell that Geoff Johns was committed to redeeming Aquaman…just a little. As a big DC fan, I loved this and I’m hoping for a sequel…maybe with Batmite!

that's bane batman parody

by Colin McMahon, owner of Pittsburgh Comics

colin podcast local comic shop

Retailer Brian Hibbs did a Tilting at Windmills Column yesterday about variants

Bleeding Cool reported on a interview Diamond did with Marvel’s SVP Sales, David Gabriel

A few weeks ago I think I mentioned during a podcast that I was giving up on reaching for Marvel variants because they pushed me too far and it was no longer worth the effort.  Both of these articles made me want to further explain my position.

A caveat up front: Variant sales are not guaranteed. Just because there is a 1:100 variant, it does not mean that that is a guaranteed $100 or $50 or $25 sale. I see a lot of comments on the articles that “a retailer can recover the extra expense by selling the expensive variant.” Not necessarily.

Over the years, Marvel has developed a pattern where, in order to be able to order a variant cover or get a special sale price, you have to exceed you order number of some prior book. My favorite is when you need to order more copies of #4 than you did of #1. Rarely do books sales go up between 1 and 4. 99% of the time they go down.

Last month’s Previews kind of did me in. It was the end of AvX and the beginning of Marvel NOW! These 2 things made my head hurt and caused me to give up.

pittsburgh comics short box podcast

AvX #4 Variant by Patrick Zircher

AvX Consequences:

  • #1 1:20 variant
  • #2 1:25 variant
  • #3 1:30 variant
  • #4 1:40 variant
  • #5 1:50 variant

So, if someone wants all of the variant covers to this series, I need to order 50 copies of #5. Looking at history, the point 1, 2 and 3 of Fear Itself sold about a third of what Fear Itself sold for me. I was selling 100 copies of AvX through the first 5 and it has dropped since then. #10 only sold 73.

50 copies of Consequences #5 is very unrealistic. And since I can’t get the last variant, there is really no reason for me to bother worrying about any of the others.

So, I ignored the variants when ordering this one.

Uncanny Avengers #1.

The first Marvel NOW! book.

Olivier Coipel's variant comic books

Olivier Coipel’s Uncanny Avengers #1 Variant

It has 11 variant covers!
Blank (order more than AvX #5 – 101 copies for me)
Avengers Var (101 copies)
Uncanny Var (101)
Deadpool Call Me Maybe Var (101)
Pichelli Var (101)
Young Baby (101)
Acuna (1:50)
Granov (1:75)
Coipel Var (1:100)
Coipel Sketch Var (1:200)
Cassedy Sketch (1:300)

Unless someone tells me that they want all of the variants, how do I order these? If AvX won’t be selling 100 copies for me at the end, do I bother ordering high to get the ones that I have to order 101 for that will just sell for cover price?  And how many of each of those do I order?

Because for most of those, the sale of the variant will take away from the sale of the regular cover.  So if I sell 25 variants, my potential sales of the 75 regular cover I am expecting suddenly becomes 50 and I’m left with an extra 50 copies of a $4 book. And as Hibbs says, I have already spent far more time thinking about how to order this that I should have to. I should just order the 75 I think I can sell and move on to other things.

joe quesada cover retailer incentive

Iron Man #1 Joe Quesada Sketch Variant

In the new Previews here’s what I am looking at:

  • Avengers #1 – 4 variants
  • Indestructible Hulk #1 – 6 variants
  • Uncanny Avengers #2 – 2 variants
  • All New X-Men #1 – 5 variants
  • All New X-Men #2 – 1 variant
  • Iron Man #1 – 6 variants
  • Iron Man #2 – 2 variants
  • Thor God of Thunder #1 – 6 variants
  • Thor God of Thunder #2 – 1 variant
  • A + X #2 – 3 variants
  • Captain America #1 – 6 variants
  • X-Men Legacy #1 – 3 variants
  • X-Men Legacy #2 – 1 variant
  • Fantastic Four #1 – 6 variants
  • FF #1 – 4 variants
  • Deadpool #1 – 3 variants
  • Deadpool #2 – 1 variant
  • Avengers Assemble #9 – 3 variants

So, for 18 books, there are 63 variant covers, 81 covers in all. I’m sorry, but that’s insane.

What are your variant buying habits? How much are you willing to pay for a variant you REALLY want?

Let me know below in the comments section.

Best Bets August 2012

We want to apologize right off the bat for Nick’s sound quality. His Skype connection gave him a cyborg-like tone to his voice. That said, we get to talk about some of our favorite comics of August 2012 in this episode.

The intro and outro song you hear is the theme song for Superman The Animated Series.

Green Lantern Annual #1 – Rise of the Third Army starts here.

The cover is suppose to remind you of Superman #75′s Death of Superman.

short box podcast reviews

This is what the soldiers of the Third Army looks like.

green lantern comic book short box

Justice League #12

This is the controversial cover that got major media attention.

Short Box Podcast Comic Book Review Jim Lee

This kiss heard ’round the world:

comic book review short box podcast

Here’s the lineup of the new Justice League of America book that we mentioned:

david finch new 52 comic books short box

Wolverine and the X-Men #15

Iron Man and Broo become quick friends!

Ironman avx x-men avengers

The last page of Wolverine and the X-Men #15. Reminiscent of the original X-Men.

x-men avx avengers marvel short box

Batman Beyond #7

Here’s the cover from the image which shows this different version of the Batman Beyond costume.

short box new 52 reviews comic books

Batman Inc. #3

This issue was put on hold for over a month because of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado. This is the scene that held the book back.

inc comic book review short box podcast

This is what Batman looks like as Matches Malone.

short box podcast comic books

Here’s the fist look at Damian’s new “Red Bird” costume. Nick called him “Red Wing” by mistake.

short box podcast comic book reviews

Damian as Red Bird looks to be teaming up with the as yet to be revealed Wingman (as seen on this upcoming cover):

comic book review jean paul valley azrael

No one knows who Wingman is except Batman. It’s someone who knows who Bruce is and has a reputation to salvage. Jason Todd? Jean Paul Valley? We’ll find out!

jason todd red bird short box

Alan Napier (1960′s Batman) as Alfred doned the Batsuit as a way to protect Bruce’s identity.

short box podcast comic books reviews

Batcow is back!

alfred comic books comics

Animal Man in Grant Morrison’s run is a vegetarian. At one point during his run, Animal Man actually confronts Morrison himself who reveals himself as a comic book writer who control’s Buddy Baker’s life. This is what he had to say about him being a vegetarian:

DC Vertigo Comic Books Short Box

Buddy Tells his wife he is a vegetarian and his whole family will be now too:

vertigo comic books short box

After looking into it further, it seems like Poison Ivy gets her sustenance from the sun…like a plant.

comic book reviews short box

Next up is our question from Shortbot. You can send your questions to him at @TheShortBot on Twitter.

Here’s a great link to alternative versions of Superman. Many of these are based on different people, other than the Kents, finding the baby Kal-El and raising him.

The story of Superman being raised by the Waynes is called Superman: Speeding Bullets. It’s was an Elseworld story written J.M. DeMatteis and the artwork of Eduardo Barreto in 1993. Here’s the cover:

elseworlds 90s comic books reviews

His Kryptonian powers manifest the first time while his parents are murdered leaving him to use heat vision to kill Joe Chill. Later he discovers the Batcave and decides he too is a bat!

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Martha Kent from Superman For All Seasons.

martha kent comic books reviews

Here is the actual nail from: Justice League The Nail, that stopped the Kents in this reality from finding Kal-El and adopting him.

martha kent jonathan comic books

Dont forget to leave your question for Shortbot!

So which kind of comic book reader are you? Do you have a “pull list”, which is actually overkill because you’re at the door to greet the guy who opens up your local comic shop every Wednesday so there’s no chance anyway that you’d ever miss any of the 7 variant covers of the newest X-Men #1? Or do you scoff at those fanboys because they have to wait a month between issues while you just have to wait for the omnibus edition that weighs 11lbs but at least you have a single volume that contains the entire story? Along with the character design sketches, the script of issue #1, an interview with the writer, a cover gallery, and a word-for-word transcription of the international phone call during which the writer & artist decided which color the hero’s sidekick’s cape should be.  Or… are you both?

Even with the advent of digital comics on top of the trade paperback market, there’s still much to be said for original issues.  For the most part, they are still the first place that you’ll see a story.  They are still the most important format for the secondary, collector’s market (altho’, jeebuz, after they go out of print, those Marvel Omnibuses could give a mint copy of Action #1 a run for its money).  If you’re merely curious about whether or not you’ll like a book, it’s still a great way to explore what’s out there, rather than committing $19.95 or more to a trade paperback.  And dammit, it’s fun to wander into a comic shop on new book day and see that wall of new issues, each one brimming with possibilities.  I’m also of the mind that certain creators gear their work toward the monthly format, to the point where the experience of reading issues one at a time is different with a purpose.  Layered, dense stories like the iconic Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns read well in a single volume – you can appreciate the big picture and it’s easier to connect the dots that the writers laid out.  Then other writers who I enjoy, like Brian Michael Bendis, are easier to swallow in small doses.  I love his first New Avengers series, but it’s hard to imagine wrestling with 500 pages of the team as talking heads debating whether or not to beat up Norman Osborn.

The annual Free Comic Book Day event is one of many ways that stores help to fire up the fan base.

The more I planned for this article, the further convinced I became that the pros & cons of each reading practice are too many to mention.  So I will prioritize.  Between the digital format on nearly any hand-held device, and collected editions that sell for almost half the price online, I fear for locally owned comic book shops.  If it were any other commodity than an artistically driven one, this would be progress.  But the camaraderie, the sharing of tastes and ideas, and the community that comic shops provide for us, let’s face it, socially awkward types, should be valued.  Name any other product that promotes art and the imagination on a regular schedule andthat requires you to come out in person, select it, and purchase it.  That element combined with the monthly schedule are fairly unique.  This, above any desire to follow the latest story lines and own the hottest new issues, is the reason to support the single issue format.

In defense of collected volumes, I’m utterly selfish.  I love the way they look and the security of knowing that I’ve got the whole world in my hands.  They’re convenient to buy and convenient to reference, even if they’re not convenient to read (who wants to put money on how long it’ll take for someone to release an unabridged dictionary-style stand marketed for nerd use?).  As one who used to be a collector but is now almost exclusively a reader, I enjoy the fact that I’m more likely to read an omnibus multiple times – so much so that it almost makes me forget about the intimidating cost and limited printing practice.  An aside to any marketing researchers from Marvel or DC who are reading this: You would have all the money that I put aside for Hot Toys figures if you just kept your omnibus editions in print!

What can I say? I like having my cake and eating it too.  I’ll always buy at least a few monthly books, cause I’ve gotta be in-the-know.  I’m too impatient to wait for a story to end before I get to enjoy the journey.  But I’m also a big enough nerd that I’ll get sucked into buying trades and hardcovers whether I read the original books or not.  I expect that for at least one more generation, this will continue to be the case for a lot of you.  And by then, economics will probably have changed the landscape of the comic book market for all of us, regardless of our reading habits.

PART II: BEFORE WATCHMEN

So, DC comics has, for the past few months, been putting out their BEFORE WATCHMEN series of titles. I understand this is old news but whatever. I’m new to this whole ‘blog’ thing so bear with me. The announcement of said BEFORE WATCHMEN caused an uproar in the comics community that has, thankfully, died down a bit as the books have been released and proven themselves to be nothing more than good comics. GREAT comics, in some cases.

Disinterested Comedian is disinterested.

There were three schools of thought on this project: Those who thought the entire idea was utter blasphemy and DC were nothing more than money-grabbing whores who were pooping on the legacy of Mr’s. Moore, Gibbons and Higgins (we’ll call them the “No Ways”), those who were on the fence about the whole thing (we’ll call them the “We’ll See’s), and those who really couldn’t care less because they either read WATCHMEN and hated it, or never read it and don’t care to (we’ll call them SPAWN fans). I was a “We’ll See”. I liked the characters of the original story (‘liked’ may be the wrong word. None of them are really very ‘likable’ but you know what I mean) and was curious to see more of their past. I don’t care to ever see a SEQUEL nor do I think you can. Everything that needed to be said about the ends of their careers had been said. But EARLY stories? Sure. Why not?

Tales of days gone by...

By now, the No Way’s have quit complaining about it (for the most part) and have just dealt with the fact that the books are out there and there’s nothing they can do about it. All of the yammering on about how DC ought to be ashamed of themselves by making money off of Moore’s characters struck me as funny considering A) All of the characters in WATCHMEN are not-so-loosely-based on the Charlton comics group of heroes that DC had acquired in 1983 (Dr. Manhattan is Captain Atom, Rorschach is The Question and so on) characters who were created by people other than Alan Moore and B) For the past nearly 15 years Moore’s made a habit of building his stories off ot other people’s characters. LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, anyone? LOST GIRLS, anyone? TOM STRONG is Doc Savage. PROMETHEUS is Wonder Woman. Any writer in the business who has written a SUPERMAN story and isn’t named “Jerry Siegel” is working with someone ELSE’S characters. Same goes for BATMAN if you arent’ named “Bob Kane” (or, more likely, Bill Finger, not to open another can of worms) or pretty much ANY Marvel character if you aren’t named “Stan Lee”. I mean, that’s the BUSINESS.

Moore’s contract with DC stated that the rights to the characters in WATCHMEN would revert back to him if and when the book fell out of print. It never has. It never has because it’s awesome and makes DC money. DC is a business. They exist to make money. They make money by publishing books that entertain us. Books that CONTINUE to entertain (such as WATCHMEN or DARK KNIGHT RETURNS or SANDMAN) CONTINUE to stay in print and CONTINUE to make DC money (in trade paperbacks, Absolute editions, and so on). Books that don’t entertain fade into obscurity (I’m talking to YOU, AUTOMATIC KAFKA. I loved you with all my heart, but the rest of the world just didn’t understand). That’s the nature of the beast. Alan Moore’s a mad genius. Of that there is no doubt. And some of DC’s contractual and business practices were probably not-so-honest (you could say that about any comic publisher, really…The internet is littered with “Artist/Writer screwed by so-and-so” stories) but the point of fact his, he isn’t stupid. He knows the score. He’s just cantankerous is all.

He’s also a witch, apparently, so if he was REALLY upset high-ranking officers at Time/Warner would have been turned to frogs by now, but I digress.

Oooohh...SCARY...

Point is: It is well within DC’s rights to publish comics using characters from THE WATCHMEN so they have and, as I mentioned before, they’re good. REAL good. Some of them are GREAT.

I have to admit to, at this point, having not read either the RORSCHACH or DR. MANHATTAN titles for no reason other than I simply don’t have the dough to pick up my books.

I am thoroughly enjoying SILK SPECTRE, which may be the best of the bunch (this seems to be the consensus) by Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner. Cooke’s my favorite guy in the biz right now. Has been for a few years. He’s a double threat, that guy. An incredible artist who also happens to be a hell of a writer. Cooke writes and draws MINUTEMEN, a mix of golden age styling and ‘modern age’ grit. The truly interesting and, at times, humorous dynamic between NITE OWL and Rorschach is brought forth in the former’s solo title. Wonderful inking by the late, great Joe Kubert on his son Andy’s pencils and written by J.M. Straczynski. OZZYMANDIAS by Len Wein is worth it for the beautiful Jae Lee artwork alone, and COMEDIAN by Brian Azzarrello and J.G. Jones focuses on the titular character’s exploits during the VietNam war after the Kennedy assassination.

This is the only real point of contention I have with any of the books so far. The Kennedy’s, according to the first issue, were good friends of ol’ Edward Blake and that sort of contradicts something I may be wrong about: I have always been under the impression that it was Blake himself who pulled the trigger that day in Dallas. They never come right out and SAY it in the original WATCHMEN series, but there are road signs that point toward that possibility, including a bit of promo artwork done at the time:

Back and to the left...

So, the point of this article seems to have lost me…OH YEAH: All of the “No Way’s” are missing out on some damned good comics. You may be a “No Way” yourself and I have to tell you: You. Are. Missing. Out.

Why do we read comics? Because we enjoy them. Because we are entertained by them. Because we love getting out literature and art bits diddled at the same time. The creative teams working on these BEFORE WATCHMEN books are masters at diddling those bits. Seriously great stuff, all around. Maybe some day, hopefully, you in the “No Way” camp will reconsider and give them a try.

Next up: I will yammer on a bit about the unluckiest comic book never to see print.

See you then.

Justice League Unlimited Box Set Reviews

Nick unboxes 3 Matty Collector exclusive action figure sets.

The first is the Fan Collection 7-pack called “Fan Demanded”. They feature the last characters who were officially members of the Justice League team on the animated series. This series includes: Crimson Avenger, Creeper, Doctor Midnight, Gypsy, Johnny Thunder, The Thunderbolt, & Speedy. This series came out in November 2011 right after the 3 3-packs available at select comic conventions and was reported to be the very end of the series. Later in 2012, we found out that there would be a few more releases. The next two are the first releases of 2012 taking us right up to fall.

Read a great review on these figures here.

comic book review

Photo from TheFwoosh.com

short box toy reviewsThe second box only has one new figure: Mongul. This move, so late in the game, is pretty annoying for us collectors. Yeah sure…these are the important characters in the first appearance of the character on the show… But we all have dozens of Batmans and Wonder Womans! It’s the end of this series! Give us something new…even if it is just a repaint. That all said, this Mongul is the right color and scale. It’s the figure we’ve been asking for and it’s appreciated.

For a great review of these figure click here.

The third box set features figures from the Batman Beyond and JLU series: Micron, Aquagirl, and Future Static Shock. What’s perfect about this 3-pack is that they are all first time figures that appeared in the show AND they are also characters from the popular Batman Beyond universe. This was a big win and I’m glad to have picked this set up.

For a great review of these figures click here.

toy reviews short box dc comics

PART I: A little bit of WATCHMEN info…

First of all, for those of you, somehow, may be unfamiliar with what, exactly, WATCHMEN is: It’s a comic book. A twelve-issue “maxi-series” written by Alan Moore with art by Dave Gibbons that was published by DC comics from 1986-87. But it’s certainly more than that.

short box review article I will admit to being a proud supporter of the “but it’s only a comic book” school of thought. I think people get a bit too pretentious about comics sometimes. And, usually, these are people that ‘discovered’ comics in college or something, not people who rode their bikes to the newsstand or five-and-dime when they were kids to grab the latest issue of G.I.JOE or SECRET WARS or ATARI FORCE (don’t laugh. It was a great comic). USUALLY these are people who use the term “Graphic Novel” incorrectly which drives me utterly batty.

Such as the quote below:

“[WATCHMEN IS] A work of ruthless psychological realism, it’s a landmark in the graphic novel medium. It would be a masterpiece in any.”
–TIME, TIME MAGAZINE’s 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present

YES, it is “A work of ruthless psychological realism”. And it most certainly is “a landmark”. But it is NOT a “Graphic Novel”. It is a comic book.

“But, Mikey,” you say, “I bought WATCHMEN and it’s a big, fat, book with lots of pages. SURELY that is a Graphic Novel!”

No, it’s not. It’s a “collected edition” or a “trade paperback” if it is softcover. I know, I know, the term “Graphic Novel” has come to encompass collected editions as well, these days, but I’m anti-that and will remain anti-that until the day I die.

“OK, Mr. Smarty-Pants,” you say, “Then what IS a Graphic Novel?”

 Author/Artist Chris Ware on Graphic Novels vs. Comic Books

A “Graphic Novel” to me needs to meet three certain criteria (and, please, this is MY opinion. If you disagree with it, fine. You’re WRONG, but, fine):

  1. Is it more than 22 pages long? If NOT, it’s a comic book. If SO, it MAY be a Graphic Novel, but not necessarily (BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE, for example, is 48 pages long, but it isn’t a “graphic novel”. It’s a one-shot comic book. But BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM is 216 pages. DEFINITELY a graphic novel.) I tend to be of the belief that a ‘Graphic Novel’ needs to be at least 90 pages in length. Again, that’s just my opinion.
  2. Is it one continuous/complete story from cover-to-cover? If YES, then it MAY be a “Graphic Novel”. If NOT (if it’s, say, a collection of shorter stories by different artists that may SHARE an idea or concept but are still un-related to each other) than it is an ANTHOLOGY . SO, for an example, SUPERMAN: INFINITE CITY? Graphic Novel. 24 SEVEN? Anthology.
  3. Has it or any part of it been previously printed in the standard ‘pamphlet’ (meaning: floppy) comic book form? If it HAS, it’s not a “Graphic Novel”, it’s a “collected edition” (WATCHMEN, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, BATMAN: YEAR ONE – each of the ‘chapters’ in those books were originally sold individually on a monthly (or nearly-monthly) basis). The fancy-pants hardcover edition of the aforementioned KILLING JOKE is STILL just a comic book. YEAH, it’s a comic book with a hard cover and dust jacket, but that’s just because it’s dressed up to hang out in polite society.
Graphic Novel or Comic Book

Comic Book Historian, Scott McCloud, defines Comic Books

SO…Taking WATCHMEN into consideration: Is it (in it’s readily available form):

A) More that 22 pages long?

It most certainly is. It’s actually a whopping 416 pages (the paperback edition).

B) One continuous story from beginning-to-end?

It is. And it’s a helluva good story, too.

C) One single unit that’s never been printed in serial form?

Well, no. No it isn’t. It originally came out in 12 parts.

AH HAH! So is it a ‘Graphic Novel’?

Well…No. It CAN’T be because it doesn’t meet all three criteria.

Correct. It is a ‘collected edition’ or, if you’d like, a ‘collection’. But it’s not a ‘graphic novel’ so stop calling it that.

Next up is a question that many MANY people get WRONG, including the people at DC Comics themselves:

Who are the Watchmen?

The short, sweet answer to this question is: Nobody.

But that’s not entirely true.

graphic novel comic booksThroughout the comic we can see, in the background, graffiti that reads: “Who Watches the Watchmen”. This comes from a quote from the Roman poet Juvenal: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” which actually translates more like: “Who shall watch the watchers themselves?” or something like that. Meaning, of course, “Who’s keeping tabs on the people keeping tabs on us?”

In the course of the comic, it comes to mean many things. Who’s keeping tabs on the masked heroes? Who’s governing the government?

The story takes place in an alternate 1985 where Nixon is still president and America is on the verge of Nuclear war with Russia. The U.S. government put into effect something called the Keene Act in 1977 that outlawed masked vigilantes (the only ‘super-hero’ on the planet is Dr. Manhattan). The main characters are former masked heroes Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan, and Rorschach (who is still active working against the Keene Act). Rorschach responds to the murder of a man named Edward Blake and discovers that Blake was the former costumed vigilante/government agent known as The Comedian. Rorschach gets it in his head that someone is trying to kill off masked heroes and it goes on from there but, y’know, I ain’t gonna read it FOR you.

So, the WATCHMEN are the main characters. It’s the name of the team, right?

Wrong. There is no “team” to speak of. From 1939-49 there was a team called The Minutemen, and, briefly in 1966, there was a failed attempt to form a team called The Crimebusters but there is no team called The Watchmen. Not once in the book do they refer to themselves as such nor does anyone else refer to them as such.

The term “Watchmen” refers to nobody in particular. Calling the characters in WATCHMEN (and the title is WATCHMEN, there is no ‘THE’ in front of it) is incorrect. Just like calling The Monster in FRANKENSTEIN “Frankenstein” or referring to the risen-from-the-grave Eric Draven as “The Crow” is incorrect. Frankenstein is the guy that MAKES the monster, not the monster, the Crow is the bird, not the guy, and WATCHMEN is the name of the book and a blanket term for ‘those who are in power’ and that’s it. Don’t be embarrassed, tough, if you thought otherwise. In issue 25 of DC’s reference series WHO’S WHO IN THE DC UNIVERSE, they incorrectly have the group listed as ‘The Watchmen’.

And that brings us to the third part of my manifesto:

Some of you have read WATCHMEN and have decreed “Meh. Who cares? I didn’t like it very much. Nothing I haven’t seen before.”

Those “Some of you” are fools. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. You’re misguided.

NOW…For those of us who have read it and enjoyed it and understood it, well, it’s not like we’re an elite group who have secret handshakes and discreetly wink at each other. If you feel like we are, then you’re doing it wrong. Comics stay alive because we keep them alive. We pass them on from generation to generation. It is our duty as fans of the medium to pass on our knowledge. Remember that. When the movie came out, more and more people asked us “what’s the book like? Is it any good?”. It was our job to tell them that YES, it IS good and here’s why.

For the rest of you, well, hopefully you will one day read and fully understand the impact this comic had on comics in general and American comics in specific.

watchmen graphic novel comic bookSee, the Brits had been doing this kind of stuff for years prior with anthology books like 2000 A.D. and WARRIOR. And the French had been doing if for years prior with METAL HURLANT (Heavy Metal) and others. And, sure, even here in the States we had our own version of HEAVY METAL. But that “European storytelling sensibility” hadn’t quite invaded American mainstream comics yet. There were little hints here and there such as CAMELOT 3000 in 1982 (which is important for a series of firsts: It was the first ever maxi-series, it was DC’s first ever direct-market title, and it was the first comic I ever read with boobies in it) which was written by an American, actually, but still had a very ‘British” vibe to it, and comics like IRON MAN and GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW which both approached serious subject matters (alcoholism and drug abuse, respectively) in the 70′s (1979 and 1971 respectively).

But they were just the warm-up. WATCHMEN was the big show.

The eighties were a VERY important time in American comics. American comics came of age in the 80′s and lost it’s virginity in ’86. In February of that year Frank Miller and DC initiated foreplay with DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, but it was WATCHMEN that broke its cherry. It was a serious, mature take on the ‘super-hero’ genre. But the glory really is in the presentation. The detail of each panel is astounding. The structure of the chapters is innovative and unusual and unlike anything mainstream comic fans had ever seen before.

Now, you need to keep in mind, it was 1986. Since then, it has been ripped off, replicated, rehashed, ‘homaged’, and ‘inspired by-ed’ a million, billion times. The ‘grim and gritty’ take on comics is commonplace now. WATCHMEN is the grand-daddy of all of that.

If you love and appreciate WATCHMEN and if you have $125 bucks lying around (or if you, like me, have a ton of toys just sitting around collecting dust that you can trade in somewhere) I highly recommend picking up the one-two punch which is ABSOLUTE WATCHMEN and WATCHING THE WATCHMEN. You could probably pick them up for much cheaper used via Amazon Marketplace or the dread eBay. The pairing of the two is like a two-disk Special Edition DVD. ABSOLUTE is disk 1, all digitally remastered and recolored with some pages of commentary in the back, and WATCHING is disk 2, with all of the behind-the-scenes info. WATCHING THE WATCHMEN is crammed with so much preliminary artwork and sketches and roughs etc. that your eyeballs will pop out of your head.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In Part II of this little manifesto, I will discuss BEFORE WATCHMEN and how awesome it is and why all of the people crying foul should put a sock in it.