Monday, December 31, 2007

Haw Haw!

Well, they did it . . . but boy, I have to admit they didn't do it like I thought they'd do it.

Joe Quesada has been so adamant about ending Spider-Man's marriage for so long that I honestly though that when he finally got the chance to undo it, he'd at least try to make it more convincing. But no, this isn't really any kind of conclusion to the marriage. What this is is a trial balloon with a foolproof escape hatch for when the creators get cold feet. They'll have an easy way to get the marriage back when they need to boost sales in 12-18 months, while also serving as a way to get rid of a few less popular changes permanently. For instance: the whole secret identity blown to shreds in Civil War thing? Organic webshooters? Spider-totems? "Sins Past"? The Other? Aunt May knowing his secret identity? All swept under the rug, and none of them will be missed much. (Maybe the Aunt May thing, that was a popular decision.) But when they undo this undoing they'll be able to take back the marriage while leaving all that other stuff safely in the past.

I am reminded of New Coke. Because, obviously, they want the readers to think they're really invested in doing things this way. I think, probably, Joe Quesada would be perfectly happy to let this be the new status quo. But the fact is it won't stick, and the fact that they left themselves such a huge back door is telling. I imagine - and this is simply conjecture, understand - that as much as Quesada would like to think the change will be popular and lasting, he's not stupid enough to think it couldn't easily be undone. He might even be the one called on to undo it. So: best lay the foundation now instead of having to bend over backwards in the future to undo a more "permanent" fix. Usually when editors and writers want to fool themselves into thinking a change is "permanent", they're just going out of their way to make it as hard as possible for the next set of creators to undo it. Look at Hal Jordan: they screwed him over so royally that his eventual return became of the most convoluted retcon jobs in the history of superhero comics. The Powers That Be at DC circa 1994 really wanted Hal Jordan gone, but even given that, he eventually returned. Just made more work for the next guys.*

I have to admit that even after my interest in the stories has receded to being primarily forensic, I am still fascinated by how these kinds of editorial processes are influenced by / interact with the demands of the marketplace. Has anyone else noticed that The Other has been forgotten? Even before "One More Day", the crossover had been forgotten. Its only real after-effect was a subplot in the b-line Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man book - hardly the paradigm-shifting status-quo upheaval that had been promised. The fact is that while the story itself had little or no impact, it did represent a turning point for the series - perhaps not the turning point the creators had initially intended, but sure enough, after it was over the books were obviously casting about in search of a new direction. When Civil War came around, they leapt at the chance to take Spider-Man in the most extreme direction possible, because they were probably already planning some kind of massive revamp to fix the fact that they'd painted themselves into a corner in a number of different ways. Take everything apart before you put it back together. I knew as soon as they did it - the secret identity thing - that they had a plan to put all these toys back in the box. And, it only makes sense that they'd try to see just how much other accumulated crap they could get away with negating when they did it.

I think one of the reasons why "One More Day" seems so anomalous is that Marvel doesn't make usually do these kinds of sweeping reboots. Since 1985, DC has had a pathological mania for internal cohesion that would put Martin Luther to shame, but Marvel - ostensibly the more "consistent" publisher, at least based on their calcified reputations circa 1969 - has always been much looser. For instance: about a decade ago they revealed that Tony Stark had been, since 1965, a mind-controlled double-agent for Kang the Conquerer. The "real" Stark was then subsequently and replaced with a teenage counterpart from an alternate universe. Thankfully, the whole "Onslaught" / "Heroes Reborn" thing happened, because it gave them a cover with which to back away from the story. And how exactly did they clear up the matter and restore Stark to his previous status quo? They didn't, they just hit the ground running after "Heroes Reborn" and never looked back.

Or, look at the Clone Saga. They went out of their way to repeatedly establish that the Peter Parker who had been married to Mary Jane and had served as Spider-Man for the previous twenty years was in fact a clone. And then, at the end of the of Clone Saga, it turned out that Ben Reilly had in fact been the clone all along. How was this so, after they had asserted so many times that Ben Reilly was in fact the real deal? They never mentioned this surprise reversal again. They also never mentioned Baby May again. (Leastwise, never in regular continuity.) Despite the clamor of a very vocal minority, the issue was dropped like a hot potato.

Joe Quesada probably thinks, if he has any sort of historical perspective, that the end of the marriage will be like the end of the Clone Saga, a quick unsatisfying fix that is ultimately just a means to an end. But I think it's much more likely that, regardless of the success of "Brand New Day", the decision will prove unpopular enough to be eventually reversed. They're smart to give themselves an easy out, because chances are they'll need it.

What is the long-time reader's initial reaction to the newly-single Peter Parker we see at the end of "One More Day"? He's cheating on MJ, whatever else he does. Even Mephisto acknowledges the sacrament of their marriage in the course of the story. It's laid on so heavily, in fact, I have a hard time believing we're really supposed to be able to warm to whatever new blonde hipster chick they're selling as his new romantic interest. They must think we have the collective attention spans of a cocker spaniel. One moment - everlasting love that will endure any hardship; the next - oh I can has blonde hipster chick? I begin to see why J. Michael Straczynski wanted his name taken off this story - there's too many plot hammers striking in contradictory directions. For all you can say about some of the questionable stories he put his name to while writing the book, they were still his stories, for better or for worse. This, however, isn't a story that has any real purpose other than to enable other stories - not the first time that's ever happened, but boy is it obvious.

* Of course, it's not like creators haven't been known to complicate things unnecessarily as well. When they "killed" Green Arrow back in the mid-90s, to be temporarily replaced by Conor Hawke, they ("they" being Chuck Dixon) did it in such a way that the next writer could bring Oliver Queen back with no fuss whatsoever: there was a plane crash in Metropolis, no body was ever found, and Hal Jordan / Parallax was seen at the site of the empty grave after the funeral. You had a no-muss, no-fuss resurrection right there: Parallax swooped in to save Ollie before the plane crashed and hid him someplace where Superman couldn't find him. But no, when Kevin Smith brought the character back he had to think up the most ass-backwards convoluted ten-issue-long resurrection story conceivable. I could have done it in the space of a page, and saved the world from a "grim & gritty" update of Stanley & His Monster in the process.

Monday, December 24, 2007

It's Christmas Time in Hollis, Queens

In keeping with the season, I guess I'll take the week off. Not because I necessarily don't want to blog, but because experience has taught me that the audience for comics blogs is severely curtailed around this time of year. And, honestly, that's as it should be - most people are doing stuff that does not involve trolling the internets for Green Lantern-related witticisms. I myself will have time on my hands, and it will be a very quiet Christmas. I do have plenty to keep me busy, don't worry. I purchased a small chicken to bake, and I think that shall be my Christmas dinner.

So, since I probably won't post again until the New Year, I'll take this opportunity to thank you all for coming, day in and day out, and making this blog what it is today. Exactly what it is, I don't know, but it's something - either the most cynical comics blog or the most deluded, I can't tell which? January of 2008 represents our fourth anniversary - who out there thought I'd still be doing this four years in? Anyone? I certainly didn't. It seemed, back in the day, as if new comics blogs were popping up right and left, and this blog was only one of many. Now, there really aren't that many of us left who've been publishing continuously the entire time - even Dirk, the spiritual godfather for so many of us "Class of '03" bloggers, went away and came back. So, ha ha, you lost your seniority, sucker.

So, thanks to everyone for reading. I'd like to extend especial thanks to Tom and Milo for extending the hand of friendship to this blog and myself. And an extra special shout out to Neilalien - who has personally gone above and beyond the call of duty on more than one occasion to ensure that this blog - and this blogger - keep on truckin'. I don't often say thanks - it's not that I'm ungracious, just easily embarrassed. And the support I've gotten from Neil, as well as Milo, Tom, Mike, Dorian and everyone else, simply represents an embarrassment of riches. It's certainly far more in the way of legitimate, lasting friendship than I ever expected to get when I signed up for this chintzy Blogger account lo those many years ago.

So, enough of the sappy shit. Let's go forward and make 2008 the year we finally kill comics for good! Yay!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

To Your Scattered Bodies Go

There is no field in publishing more cursed with lame book covers than that of fantasy and science fiction. Even romance novels, for all the lame romance covers in the world, usually succeed in advertising the basics of their contents on their covers with some modicum of dignity (hot, pulsating dignity, but dignity nonetheless). But in the realm of the dreaded fantasy / sci-fi section at Borders, crap is king. And even the best covers are doomed to obsolescence, as they'll only be undone in a few years when the publishers cycle through the backlist and put new covers and trade designs across everything. The "golden age" of sci-fi book covers is undoubtedly the 1960s, but unfortunately you rarely see those classic covers designs used anymore. Big-name authors usually have unified trade-dresses that may look nice spine-out on a shelf but which minimize the effect of art in favor of design. (And, frankly, current series design for authors like Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick is abominable.)

This isn't even touching on the biggest bane of the book-cover world, movie covers . . . for about a decade there the only version of Starship Troopers you could find in the store had the 1997 movie poster on the cover. You still can't find a copy of Solaris without George Clooney on the cover (obviously they overestimated the demand for movie tie-ins for an art-house Stephen Soderbergh remake of a Russian film adaption of a highly cerebral Polish science fiction novel. I hate movie covers on principle, as I think most people do.) Anyway, the following covers have been lovingly filched from this site.

By John Stevens. This is the current paperback cover for Philip Jose Farmer's To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the first volume in the "Riverworld" saga. This is simply dreadful - while it gets points for attempting to accurately the river valley's dimensions (still kind of cramped), the presence of gigantic orange colored corpses floating through the picture is a poor choice. For the record, there are no gigantic floating orange corpses in the book. And the way the lettering of the title is obscured by what appears to be an attempt at a waterfall design . . . less said of that the better. This would look great airbrushed on the side of a van, however.

By Don Ivan Punchatz. This is the image from the unified paperback trade dress used for the 80s printings. Slightly better, because it's at least not incredibly repulsive. But an especially poor transliteration of Riverworld's physical dimensions nonetheless. The fact that the characters on the cover appear in period clothing is distracting, since there was no way to manufacture culture-specific textiles on the planet, and also, the men should not have any facial hair. And the anonymous Greek dude there is apparently chilling with a male prostitute straight out of the Tenderloin circa 1975 - not that Greek dudes didn't love other dudes, but an odd choice for a mass market paperback book cover nonetheless. Probably not what they intended?

By Bob Eggleton. Mucus! Plus, also, things that don't exist in the book, like giant yellow half-dome brain things.

Here, Socrates and Joe Dallesandro seem to be chilling at midnight. You can sort of hear "Everybody's Talking" in the background.

By Keith Scaife. This is probably the best of the bunch, in that it is 1) a competent painting that seems to have been made by someone with functioning eyes, 2) well-designed with an eye towards not crowding out the text elements and 3) a fairly accurate representation of the physical dimensions of the Riverworld. I'd quibble, again, that the mountains would probably need to be at least twice as high to be in proportion with the river, but it could work if the relative sizes of the boat and grailstones are exaggerated. This is pretty much exactly how I've always envisioned the river valley.

By Joe Petagno. A striking central image but, um, just not a very good one, or a particularly accurate representation of the scene in question. Why so much icky green?

By Vincent Di Fate. And this 1980 book cover design succeeds in showing us things that don't exist in any of the Riverworld books. I mean, is this supposed to be the Grail Tower at the north pole (which isn't even described until the second book)? Why is Big Brother watching over bodies as they are inexplicably being levitated into outer space? And what the heck are those other weird buildings?

By Patrick Woodroffe. This seems to be a metaphorical representation of events and settings that, while appearing in the book, do not appear in anything resembling this fashion. This is an incredibly ugly cover and would probably make most people recoil in horror from having anything to do with the contents of this book. Also, while nudity is pretty much omnipresent in thes series, and it's good to see the cover acknowledge that fact, they could have probably picked a much more tactful way of hiding Sir Richard Francis Burton's wang.

Unknown. This is the cover for the British first edition hardcover. Obviously not the American edition. There is a lot of sex in the book, as well as psychoactive drug use, so this at least has the virtue of being a vaguely accurate representation of portraying an event which actually happens between these two covers.

This is the first Berkeley paperback printing of the book, and it is surprisingly very ugly. I say "surprisingly", because it's a Richard Powers cover, and he usually did good work. This? Not so much. There is apparently only so much that can be done with the motif of showing naked hairless bodies floating in featureless space.

By Ira Cohen. Original hardcover dusk jacket. I like the yellow type, but the rest of it just doesn't work. Remarkably dated and just sort of ugly.

As bad as these English-speaking covers are, foreign printings of sci-fi books usually have covers that are orders of magnitude worse. To Your Scattered Bodies Go does not disappoint in this regard, and you can see some of them here - I really wish the scans were bigger, though. My favorite is probably the Corinne Gosset cover to the Danish printing of Genopstandelsen, although the Hebrew one that looks like a Tool video is growing on me. And the Russian cover by Martinenko & Soinov seems to have wandered in off the street from the back of a high-school composition book, which is always a good thing. It gets bonus points for actually illustrating a scene in the book that doesn't involve naked bodies floating in the ether, i.e. Alice Pleasance Liddell Hargreaves kicking some ass with a bow and arrow. Or at least, that's what I think it is, and not some random illo from a Terry Brooks novel.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

To the Citizens of New Hampshire:

I hardly need to remind you of the importance of the New Hampshire Presidential primary -- both to the candidates and to the country. This importance stems from more than the fact of its being first. It stems also from the spirit in which New Hampshire's voters approach the election, keenly aware of their special responsibility, of the broad influence of their votes.

In 2008, your responsibility is greater than ever. The nation is in grave difficulties, around the world and here at home. The choices we face
are larger than any differences among Republicans or among Democrats, larger even than the differences between the parties. They are beyond politics. Peace and freedom in the world, and peace and progress here at home, will depend on the decisions of the next President of the United States.

For these critical years, America needs new leadership.

During fourteen years in Washington, I learned the awesome nature of the great decisions a President faces. During the past eight years I have had a chance to reflect on the lessons of public office, to measure the nation's tasks and its problems from a fresh perspective. I have sought to apply those lessons to the needs of the present, and to the entire sweep of the 21th Century.

And I believe I have found some answers.

I have decided, therefore, to enter the Republican Presidential primary in New Hampshire.

I will try to meet as many of you as I can -- Republicans, Democrats and Independents, those who will vote in March and those who will vote in November. I will invite your comments. I will answer your questions. I will discuss with you my own vision of America's future, and I will ask for yours.

I have visited New Hampshire often -- as a candidate, as a public official, and as a private citizen. I appreciate the many courtesies you have paid me. I am deeply grateful for your support in past elections. But in asking your support now, I ask it not on the basis of old friendships. We have entered a new age.
And I ask you to join me in helping make this an age of greatness for our people and for our nation.

Richard Nixon

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

By Adrian Tomine

I've been sitting on this book for a while. I've wanted to talk about it since I first got a copy, but I haven't really known how to approach the topic. This is one of the year's biggest books. The plaudits have been almost universally enthusiastic. This is obviously a significant work that places Adrian Tomine near the head of the class of modern cartoonists.

And yet . . . and yet . . .

I can't help but feel disappointed. Considering just how many very intelligent people have praised this book, I feel almost miserly. Now, I've certainly never been one to shy away from voicing unpopular opinions -- but the fact in this case is that I really, genuinely like Adrian Tomine. I think the first few issues of Optic Nerve, combined with the early minicomics compiled in the 32 Stories trade, are probably some of my favorite comics, ever. I like them that much: even though Tomine was nowhere near as masterfully skilled a cartoonist as he would eventually become, those early stories remain pretty powerful. Powerful, perhaps, because of the fact that his style was nowhere near as polished as it would become.

"I liked your old stuff better": what a cop-out, what a perfectly insulting thing to say to such a hard-working artist. Hardly the basis for any kind of measured aesthetic judgment. And yet, a funny thing has happened over the past few years: I've come to dread the release of new issues of Optic Nerve. I still buy them, I still read them, but every issue brings with it a faint cloud of unease, the unavoidable acknowledgement that something very essential has gone missing. He's obviously talented, and despite his slow work rate he's undeniably one of the most conscientious cartoonists currently working. He puts a lot of effort into his work, and it shows. But a long time ago it occurred to me that the hard work was a bit too evident for my comfort. And the solidification of Tomine's "mature" style also codified a number of reflexive "ticks" that had annoyed me from the days of his earliest work.

Tomine's style is almost crystalline in its accomplished form. There isn't so much as a single line throughout the whole of Shortcomings that at all out of order. But this sense of order exerts a repulsive effect on the reader. Tomine's dogged insistence on providing such a rigorously mundane perspective for his stories -- setting almost every panel at eye-level with his characters and never deviating from this design -- makes the book, frankly, a chore to read. Add this to the fact that Tomine has some of the least expressive brush strokes in the industry and the result is an overwhelmingly sterile reading experience. Honestly, it looks like he probably spends his free time perfecting his brush-stroke so that it looks indistinguishable from a Rapidograph line. I am reminded of the passage in Eisner's The Dreamer where Billy Eyron and Lew Sharp compete to see who can produce the thinnest, steadiest line, tracing over a single mark on a piece of paper repeatedly until one of them slips up and makes the line thicker . . .

I dislike Shortcomings for much the same reason as I was ultimately disappointed in issues #22 and #23 of Dan Clowes' Eightball, and why I've had a hard time getting excited about much of Chris Ware's post-Jimmy Corrigan work. This is High Formalism at work. But whereas both Clowes and Ware at least use their pinched formal mastery to involving effect (as in Clowes' disparate narrative shifts and Ware's tactile use of the comics' page as temporal maps), Tomine takes the asceticism one step further. His narrative is completely linear. The effect is very prose-like, inasmuch as Tomine seems to be very much in line with the notion of minimalist realism. There is a reason everyone always compares him to Raymond Carver, besides the tendency of blurb writers to repeat twice-told sentiments.

Is this the best use that can be made of the comics form? I wear my prejudices on my sleeve. I cannot say that this is not an excruciatingly well-constructed book, but the result is simply exhausting. I can't help but think that it's not particularly fertile ground for cartooning -- slow, labored, and pained.

I always agreed with the popular assessment that Eric Rohmer was the weakest link of the original "New Wave" filmmakers, and watching the entirety of his Six Morality Tales recently (thanks to their timely release by the Criterion collection) only reaffirmed this opinion. Rohmer had an ear for dialogue, but absolutely no eye for moviemaking at all. Of course, his adherents would say that that's hardly the point of Rohmer's work: he is defined by nothing so much as his dogged resistance to superfluous aestheticism. Be that as it may, his films are nonetheless a trial to sit through. I have no trouble sitting with rapt attention through four-hour long Russian films about crying peasants, but Rohmer's dogged disinclination to create any kind of visual through-line for his viewers crosses over from daring and into monotony really quick. I haven't seen many of Rohmer's later films (can't say I'm rushing to put them in my queue, either), but his early work just doesn't hold up very well at all. I daresay if it weren't for his intimate connection to Godard, Truffaut and Cahiers du Cinéma, he wouldn't even be a footnote today.

As with Rohmer, Tomine's constipated perspective influences the way his characters communicate and are perceived. It's one thing to create unpleasant characters -- that's hardly unusual -- but the way that Tomine illustrates these characters' disreputable station renders them sincerely unpalatable. The omnipresent rectangular panel through which we are allowed to see this world is a periscope into an ant farm filled with rancid asshole termites.

For all the talk about how convincing Tomine's character work is, there are established types that wander through many of his books. You've got the disaffected, borderline surly youth who seems to be almost irredeemably misanthropic save for the fact that the book is told over his or her perspective. They invariably define themselves through their interactions with indefinably less "cool" individuals. Tomine characterizes cool and uncool through the monstrously exaggerated shorthand of musical taste. I am reminded of the grossly unsympathetic musician in Optic Nerve #8 who talked about setting his lyrics to a "trip-hop" beat -- que lastima! As irredeemable as Tomine's misanthropes actually are, they remain inestimably superior to those who actually do things, because invariably those who do are nowhere near as smart / smug / jaded as those who merely sit and wait.

We see this in Shortcomings with the character of Autumn Phelps, a stereotypically vapid blonde proto-hipster who plays guitar in a performance-art punk band. Her band's performance opens the second chapter of the book, and it's pretty dire stuff: naked hippies acting out weird dance moves while the band provides abstract noise; "K-RRANNG", "SKREEEEEE". There is absolutely no doubt in the reader's mind how they are supposed to interpret this kind of stimulus. As Autumn puts it, "We're taking the physicality of modern dance and the improvisation of free jazz and infusing it with a punk sensibility." Do you want to see a show with that description? Me neither. But in Tomine's cosmos it's better to be an ineffectual nihilist than to actually try to do anything, regardless of how silly it may seem.

Which is not to say that Ben Tanaka is supposed to be anything less than reprehensible. He's a pretty despicable character, unable to make a move in his life for fear of revealing his vulnerability, the story's titular "shortcomings". But he doesn't find any kind of resolution or epiphany at the end of the book. We are left instead with a long silent sequence featuring Ben returning to the Bay Area by air, and his view through the window of the airplane. It's a great scene, one of the best in the book. I wish more of the book had managed to hit the same note of ambiguous, mute melancholy.

Tomine telegraphs his ending from the very first pages of the book, in which we see the final moments of a Bay Area Asian film festival over the shoulders of a rapt audience of Asian-American viewers -- all rapt, that is, except for Tanaka. He rebels against the pre-digested, sentimental immigrant narratives on the screen, Asian-Americans coming to terms with the wisdom of their "native" culture, managing to hold onto traditional values while painlessly assimilating. I don't think Tomine directly mentions The Joy Luck Club, but the implication is unavoidable: there isn't going to be any neat resolution here, no tearful reconciliation of traditional and American values.

But wait, Adrian Tomine, I don't think I quite got what the theme of your story was: "It's almost like you're ashamed to be Asian." "It's like you're obsessed with the typical western media beauty ideal, but you're settling for me." "So I'm brainwashed by some insidious media conspiracy into thinking that blonde-haired, blue-eyed women are attractive!" "If you hang out with her one more time and don't make a move, be prepared to be banished to 'Neutered Asian Friend' territory forever!" The sound you hear is the book being scribbled onto the reading list for "Comp Lit 150 - Hybridity in East-West Culture Conflict".

I make light, and perhaps the flip tone isn't necessary. But regardless, there is something plainly schematic in the way Tomine lays out his thematic material. This is obviously a story that's very close to his heart -- these characters and situations keep appearing in his books, and the painful grasping towards a resolution that cannot be achieved is constantly reiterated. I can't criticize his sentiment, but I can criticize the execution, which never misses an opportunity to hammer home the thematic underpinning for anyone who may have missed it. This is well-trod territory.

The fact is, even despite that wonderfully ambiguous ending, the book itself is remarkably unambiguous in its conclusions. Ben Tanaka is a grade-A shit-heel, and it's remarkable he has the girlfriend he has at the beginning of the book. It's entirely unremarkable that he loses her by the end of the book. The fact that he is unable to look past his own conflicted life towards any greater consciousness is also no surprise, and the lack of ambiguity over his absolute worthlessness of a human being makes him remarkably transparent. Perhaps, then, there is something cathartic in Tanaka's failure. Perhaps in his inability to make any kind of separate peace with the world around him -- and the fact that all of his friends and acquaintances all seem to have gotten their act together fairly well by the end of the book -- we can see the stirrings of self-consciousness in Tomine himself, as "The Author". There's just nowhere he can go from here: the stylistic and thematic content here can't really be developed any further. It’s a self-defeating cul-de-sac, and the didactic, constipated results speak for themselves.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Things Which Annoy Me

Can we just call a moratorium on the Joker? I guess because he's the most famous super-villain ever (yeah, probably even more famous than Lex Luthor) most people don't notice how fucking stupid he is as a character. People talk about the "Riddler factor"* -- the mechanism by which weak / unimposing / gimmicky super-villains can be made into legitimate threats through unconvincing writing which masks the totally one-sided nature of match-ups like, say, the Riddler and Batman or the Toyman and Superman.** But the Joker is perhaps the single most significant character to enjoy the benefits of the "Riddler factor". No one even notices because he's so popular, so ubiquitous. But really, the guy doesn't have any powers. He doesn't do anything but be crazy and unpredictable. That's it. And somehow he is the most feared of all the supervillains on DC-Earth. I can understand, sort of, why Batman hasn't put a bullet in his head after all this time: it's written in Batman's character that he never kills anyone. (It's good to know that if he ever fought Osama bin Laden he'd hit him with a Batarang and drop him off at Arkham Asylum. The Joker has killed a lot more people than al Qaeda, and it's good to know the Justice League is OK with that. Because God knows the thing that matters is that they keep their hands sparkly-clean. You know, if I were President of DC-Earth, I'd make a point of telling Superman that he could crush the Joker's head. Not, you know, to go out of his way or anything, just, if it ever came up, please feel free.)

But then just about every month you've got some comic or another that tries to prove how much of a badass the Joker is by showing him intimidating everyone around him sheerly by virtue of his being The Joker. Or worse, beating up someone way out of his weight class simply because he's The Joker. So we've got Booster Gold, who is maybe not the most powerful superhero but still has a respectable array of generic attributes, getting his ass handed to him by a psychotic circus clown with a service revolver. See, if I were writing the comic I would have focused in on the part where it says Booster Gold has a force-field. I would think repelling bullets would be the very least you could expect from a standard-issue force-field. If your force-field doesn't repel bullets, you should probably buy a new one. But force-fields are nothing to The Joker -- why? because he's The Joker. Talk about the "Riddler Effect". And it's not like there's anyone who likes The Joker -- isn't he pretty much a pariah even among the DC villains? Sure, Batman and Superman might have edicts against killing, but what's to stop someone like, say, Deathstroke or Deadshot putting a bullet in his brain for being a prick? Not to mention any one of literally hundreds of DC villains who could easily squish The Joker, but choose not to because they're afraid of him. Does that make sense to anyone? At all? Am I the only one who has a hard time taking DC seriously when they insist on riding characters like The Joker so damn hard?

Speaking of not being able to take DC seriously -- man, is Arena some shoddy shit or what? Not that it was ever going to be anything less than awful, but still, you get the feeling that not only don't they give a shit, but they are advertising a barely-concealed disgust for their audience with every fetid breath that passes through their lips. I used to like Scott McDaniel's work -- seriously, I bought the first couple years of Nightwing solely because I liked his work (certainly not on account of Chuck Dixon's painfully rote scripting) -- but at some point he totally lost it. I don't know how or why or even exactly when, but somewhere along the line he went from being good to horrid.

If I were an editor and I had to put together a project like Arena, I would try to find an artist with a great deal of stylistic malleability, someone who could do a good job of illustrating characters culled from extremely disparate milieus -- someone who could make Kelly Jones' contorted Red Rain vampire Batman make sense standing next to, say, the hyper-defined Wildstorm Universe Apollo. Or, barring that, I would find someone who could hack out four issues of a weekly comic book in barely-legible fashion. Same difference. I mean, seriously, a book this bad really doesn't do anything but broadcast utter contempt for the suckers forking over their hard-earned money.

Re: the new X-Men crossover, whose very first act features a small town in rural Alaska being demolished and its citizens indiscriminately massacred by rampaging super-villains. Isn't that very similar to the beginning of Civil War? And wasn't the whole point of Civil War to bring all super-hero activity in America under federal jurisdiction, so that any incident like that would immediately become the responsibility of SHIELD, Tony Stark and the Initiative? And wasn't the whole point of the Civil War: X-Men book that the remaining mutants in the Marvel Universe were alloted the same rights as any other registered super-humans, regardless of the origins of their powers? We are expected to believe that Tony Stark cares so much about the proper implementation of the Superhuman Registration Act that he is personally dropping in on psychotic bush-leaguers like Moon Knight to make sure they get their registration cards. But on the other hand a bunch of superhuman terrorists can turn an American city into a crater and he doesn't show up simply because it's happening in the pages of an X-Men book? This is an order of magnitude different than simply wondering why, say, Spider-Man and the Avengers don't show up every time Magneto or someone tries to destroy New York. They're using story elements that seem to have been specifically designed to draw parallels to the biggest Marvel crossover storyline of the decade, but just assuming the readers won't wonder where Iron Man is when they've already made the point -- dozens of times over! -- of making sure readers know that there isn't a sparrow falling anywhere in the Marvel Universe that Iron Man doesn't know about. Sigh.

Is it my imagination or was Wonder-Woman #15 much better than #14? Maybe the pressure of getting off to a strong start made her first issue read strangely flat, but it seems as if Gail Simone is already showing marked improvement. In all honesty, I've always regarded Simone as more of a sturdy craftsperson with a strong eye for character than a definitively "A list" writer, but there are a few things in this issue that indicate the pressure of a gig like Wonder Woman might be inspiring her to take the kind of chances that could turn her from a good writer to a much better writer. The improvement between these two issues is strong enough to make me interested in Wonder Woman, which is something I haven't been able to say since roughly the first year of Byrne's run on the book.***

* I cannot remember who actually first coined the term "Riddler factor", but if you know, please mention it in the comments.

** I tried to think of another similarly uneven villain / hero match at Marvel, but couldn't off the top of my head. I'm sure there are some, but I think it's interesting that none spring to mind. Most Marvel heroes are pretty well-matched with their rogues' galleries.

*** The first year of John Byrne's Wonder Woman rocked.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


The Hurting's Holiday Gift Guide, Part Three

(Not merely an excuse for me to put up quick links for you to buy
stuff on Amazon through my site, although that never hurts.)

We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live
By Joan Didion

I’d be a liar if I were to tell you that Didion isn't occasionally an infuriating writer. Sometimes her work, especially her later essays, can feel a bit disconnected -- she is very much a product of her socio-economic environment, and as much as she may deny it she cannot escape the fact that she is petit bourgeois. (She named her daughter Quintana Roo, for the love of God.) But her prose remains singularly powerful, for all that. This volume collects, I think, her first five books -- certainly some of the most important American non-fiction of recent decades, in a sturdy keepsake volume for the ages. I admit I haven't made my way through its entirety yet, but it's not going anywhere.

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vols. 1-3

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Old Heave-Ho

There's a tendency in the blogosphere towards repetition of sentiment. (You think?) It's not enough that a bad comic be excoriated once, but that it be excoriated a thousand times by every available able-bodied blogger within typing distance of a keyboard. It's fun, admittedly, to dog-pile on the bad books, even if it is slightly counter-productive. No one has ever proved any correlation between blog buzz and sales, for good or ill, but I can't help thinking that more people talking about how bad certain comics are is just . . . well, more people talking about crappy comics for no real reason, piling excess verbiage in an attempt to get the wildest zinger in before the statue of limitations runs out. I've been guilty of this myself, and I know I shall be guilty in the future. Mea culpa.

By the way, have you heard about The Ultimates III?

People are flipping out about how bad this book is. And it is bad. I like to think I'm fairly inured to these things after all this time -- but I'm still impressed by the level of incompetence displayed here.

I am amused by just how much Jeph Loeb's recent Marvel work has been reviled. Now, again, so far as I can tell all the negative internet reviews and invective in the world has never been shown to have any concrete effect on comic sales. You could show me circumstantial evidence if you wished, such as, say, Chuck Austen's various runs on the X-Men books, to illustrate the point, but I still say it's devilishly tricky to try and judge the effect of poor writing on a book's sales. So many other factors -- good art, crossovers, institutional completist inertia -- go into a book's sales, especially when we're talking about top-tier sellers which could sell (and have sold!) respectably with your drunken Uncle Bob at the helm. Even if Loeb's recent mini-run on Wolverine was the worse comic book ever written, it is almost impossible for a short, punctuated stunt run like that to have any real effect on sales other than positive short-term gains. That's the way the industry is currently structured. I'm not just pulling this out of my ass, either: Paul O'Brien's done the hard work of compiling the numbers to prove just this point.
10/06 Wolverine #47 - 106,201 ( -1.5%)
11/06 Wolverine #48 - 99,991 ( -5.8%)
12/06 Wolverine #49 - 78,807 (-21.2%)
01/07 Wolverine #50 - 117,160 (+48.7%) - First Loeb
02/07 Wolverine #51 - 99,636 (-15.0%)
03/07 Wolverine #52 - 97,111 ( -2.5%)
04/07 Wolverine #53 - 98,441 ( +1.4%)
05/07 Wolverine #54 - 96,082 ( -2.4%)
06/07 —
07/07 Wolverine #55 - 130,707 (+36.0%) - Last Loeb
08/07 Wolverine #56 - 73,368 (-43.9%)
09/07 Wolverine #57 - 74,588 ( +1.7%)
10/07 Wolverine #58 - 83,810 (+12.4%)

Look at those numbers and tell me you can discern any notable effect from Loeb's universally-reviled "Evolution" storyline other than a massive sales spike. The fact that the creative time of Loeb and Simone Bianchi left right afterwards meant there was little in the way of a long-term sales boost, but given the nature of this kind of stunt programming I almost doubt that was even expected. There is no such thing as long term sales build anymore: if Alan Moore had taken over Swamp Thing in 2007, it would have been cancelled in the middle of his first fight with Etrigan. (If it were Marvel, they would have probably tried to boost the series with a zombie variant -- I'm trying to envision what a zombie Swamp Thing would look like.)

I'll pick on Paul for another moment, if I may. Now, I don't really know Paul, but I have had a few exchanges with him over the years -- and more than once I've asked him about just why he is so kind with ratings for books that, honestly, don't really seem to deserve his mercy. I was more or less satisfied with the answer I got: he really tries to see the best in these comics. He honestly loves the X-Men, and God bless him, because even the most kindly-disposed Marvel Zombie will admit that that has entailed eating a lot of shit over the years. But even O'Brien can only take so much, and for him Jeph Loeb represented The Limit. His review of Wolverine #55 is a classic example of just how you should write a take-down review, going through the entire book and methodically pointing out every weakness in both conception and execution. He finishes it off with an enviably terse coup de grace:
Somebody, I forget who, once said "It's easy to mock. But that's no reason not to." It is indeed easy to mock this story, because aside from the art, it is without any redeeming virtues whatsoever. I've read worse central ideas; I've seen more incoherent plots. But rarely have I seen a story that was so bad and so misconceived across the board as this one. It's truly awful.

The reason I quote from this months-old review is that I believe much of this criticism can be leveled towards the first issue of the new Ultimates book.

Used to be, Jeph Loeb was an uninspired, if serviceable mainstream writer who worked best when paired with simpatico artists, i.e. Tim Sale. I was never a huge fan of The Long Halloween, but I used to have a copy and it was a fun afternoon read (even if the supposed "mystery" was about as mysterious as a box of Corn Chex). I loaned it out to a friend and lost track of it, and I've never felt the loss. If you know me you know I am totally anal about my book collection, so my lack of concern over losing a $20 trade-paperback should give you some idea of how high my apathy level is on even the subject of Loeb's supposed "best" work.

It took me months after the fact to realize that the asinine, incomprehensible "Kryptonite meteor" plot from the first six issues of Superman / Batman was supposed to be a political allegory to the Iraq war. I don't think it's because the allegory was particularly subtle, it was just poorly conceived and poorly executed in every possible way. It was just a bad comic, period, but it sold like hotcakes. Loeb was and is still considered "hot" because he delivers sales, but I think at this point his popularity has as much to do with his having built up a strong head of steam over the last few years: he is popular because he has been associated with a string of highly-successful projects, never really sticking around very long one way or another. In most cases his contributions have been, at beast, negligible to the overall success of these projects: putting Jim Lee on Batman, you could have given the scripting duties to Harvey Pekar and still sold through the roof. These high-profile projects always have high-profile artists attached to them, and by the same token I strongly suspect the reason Loeb is such a popular collaborator with the A-list of mainstream artists is that he knows how to write for artist -- or rather, write for artists' worst impulses. Every day is 1994 in a Jeph Loeb comic, with all the splash pages and nonsensical scene transitions that implies. Those are fun to draw, and probably resell for a lot more than a page of, say, Greg Rucka or Mark Waid's talking heads.

Joe Madureira is an artist who used to be popular but hasn't done any kind of significant sequential work in almost a decade. Back in the mid-90s, he was a legitimately interesting figure, one of the first major mainstream artists to incorporate the influence of manga as a pop phenomenon into their superhero work. I'm not necessarily talking about the kind of formal influences that had been around ever since Frank Miller cribbed Lone Wold & Cub for Ronin: I'm talking about the hyper-stylized mega-super-action-GO! exaggerated elements of shonen manga which had been previously verboten in the vaguely xenophobic pages of Western adventure comics. It's not exactly an artistic revolution, but important as these things go, for the simple fact that so many of the new artists who followed directly in Madureira's footsteps were obviously and extensively influenced by him.

Nine issues of his aborted Image title Battle Chasers were released in the late 90s. At the time of the book's launch, it was considered an even bet that Battle Chasers had the potential to be the next Spawn (remember way back in the day when Spawn was Spawn?) He's been doing video-game art for many years now, and honesty, the fact that he hasn't been doing any real cartooning hinders the art on Ultimates III more than anything else -- more than the muddy colors or the disproportionate anatomy or the seemingly random design schemes splattered across the pages. Take a look at perhaps the worst example from the book in question:

What exactly is happening here? Hawkeye is running towards the reader, shooting guns at Venom. However, you can't tell because the object at which Hawkeye is supposedly aiming is, physically on the page, directly in front of him. I'm all in favor of interesting panel design, but here Madureira is reaching for a technique that is obviously beyond his present skill level: without panel borders or any indicator that time has passed between the first region of the page and the second, the eye is given nothing with which to signify sequentiality.

Hawkeye is the focus of the first "panel", but has almost disappeared in the second, dwarfed by the figure of Venom in the foreground (the horrid coloring does little to help legibility). I've illustrated below just how the reader is supposed to interpret this shift in perspective:

I tried to calculate roughly how many degrees the panel perspective shifted around Hawkeye's figure between the first and second panels, but honestly, it gave me a headache because there is no physical context given for any of these events. None of it makes sense because no relative scale is indicated. This is the absolute bare essence of competence in regards to action-adventure storytelling: you have to be able to tell what the characters are doing in each panel. There are as many different ways to make comics as there are comic artists, but when you're talking about an action sequence, you cannot disrupt or distort the legibility of physical narrative. You have to be able to see that what happens in panel one has consequences for panel two, and on the most basic level this is how comics are built. There are some not-so-horrible sequences elsewhere in the book, but for the most part this is very much indicative of the kind of disjointed action the book offers.

Now, let's look at another page of Joe Madureira art (courtesy of, this time from Battle Chasers #9:

Now, you can probably find reasons to criticize this page -- it's a bit crowded, for one, and I don't know from this how well the addition of color would modulate the balance of the page. But even given those caveats, this is a wonderfully legible bit of narrative: without knowing anything about the characters, you can roughly figure out what's happening and follow the story. Madureira's artwork was always full of expression, if nothing else, and this page uses comical exaggeration to good effect. The use of smaller, tight-shot inset panels to escalate tension is an especially nice effect.

So it's not as if Madureira never knew how to draw a good comic book page. He apparently can't do so anymore, however, because there's absolutely nothing to recommend the artwork in Ultimates III beyond the level of seeing a once-competent craftsman spinning his wheels in senescence.

I can't imagine how this book was made, except that it's executed with such stunning enthusiasm that I have to believe that the creators thought they were really cookin'. They weren't. This is a poor effort. I don't expect better from Jeph Loeb, hell, I barely have reason to expect better from Joe Madureira, besides the vague reminiscence that he was once not a horrible artist. It's a good thing this is only five issues long, for a couple reasons. First, as has been pointed out, five issues is just long enough for the series to not show too much of the kind of embarrassing sales drop that an extended run of this would have inevitably provoked. Second, and probably more importantly, five issues in a reasonable (if probably not exactly punctual) span of time is not outside the realm of possibility for this creative team. I'm not saying it'll happen, in fact, I know it won't: but it's easier to believe that we'll see five issues of this before, say, New Years' Day 2009 than that we would have seen twelve or thirteen issues finished before New York is inundated by melting polar ice caps and ravenous polar bears devour Joe Quesada in the streets.

So: short term, it'll be a sales blockbuster. It probably won't have the same kind of long-term shelf-life that Mark Millar and Brian Hitch's runs did and do, but then, say what you will about Millar and Hitch, but they have a good habit of giving a large amount of people what they actually want to read, delays be damned. I can't imagine -- do not want to imagine -- the hypothetical audience who would actually want to read this.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

That's Just How I Roll, Bitches

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Hurting's Holiday Gift Guide, Part Two

(Not merely an excuse for me to put up quick links for you to buy
stuff on Amazon through my site, although that never hurts.)

The Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1

I've got easily a dozen of these huge Marvel Essential / DC Showcase Presents volume bumming around my bookcase, all of them in various unfinished states. I don't think I'm alone here, either - unless I miss my guess it's pretty common for these behemoths to tax the stamina of all but the bravest souls. I mean, sure, that giant compendium of "classic" Luke Cage stories may seem irresistible, until you actually get it home and try to read the damn thing. Then your mind tends to wander.

These "classic" Moon Knight stories aren't even close to being Marvel's finest hour -- in fact, I daresay these would barely make the list even if it were 500 books long. In a word, these books are pretty much the definition of schlock. And yet . . . when I sat down to read, I moved through the book with an alacrity that bordered on the brisk. Fact is, while I can find very little of actual "value" in these stories, simply the fact that they are eminently readable and fiercely enjoyable on the primal level of genre entertainment makes them memorable.

The shorthand criticism of Moon Knight has always been that he's Marvel's Batman, and a poor-man's Batman at that. Reading this book, I came to the conclusion that such a criticism is more or less accurate, but there' is a crucial difference. There have been a lot of Batman-wannabes in the history of comics, almost as many ersatz Caped Crusaders as phony Man of Steels. (Oddly enough, however, DC themselves seem to have cornered the market on boring-ass fake Batmen in the last few decades.) Where Moon Knight distinguishes himself is in the sheer density of the pastiche: every single successful element from Batman's career, which itself encompasses almost every successful niche of popular genre entertainment for the last seventy years, can be found somewhere in the person of Moon Knight. What's more, they can all be found pretty much simultaneously.

You like straight-ahead superheroics? Dark tortured urban vigilantes? Kung-fu chopsockey? Blaxploitaiton? Tough-guy mercenary gun porn? Urban paranoia thrillers a la Death Wish and Taxi Driver? The soft-core pseudo-mystical horror of the Hammer studios? Millionaire playboys? Detective fiction? Glamorous swashbuckling? Pseudo-science-fiction gadgetry and deus ex machina technology? It's all here, all at the same time. Even Batman knows better than to mix tonality like this - sure, you've got gritty urban crime Batman, shirtless Neal Adams swashbuckler Batman, high-concept sci-fi superhero Batman, but usually not in the same story. Here, you get everything, all at once. Is it any wonder Moon Knight is a headcase? It works about as often as it doesn't, but even the worst overreaches still move fast enough to redeem themselves.

You just gotta admire the chutzpah on display here. Even back in the late '70s when these things first hit the stands they stood out for their reckless abandon. For a while Moon Knight was a backup feature in the Hulk's black & white magazine, itself infamous for its less-than-restrained approach to tackling hot-button social-issues such as sexual assault at the YMCA. There is absolutely nothing at all redeeming about these stories, except for the fact that they nonetheless exert a powerful compulsion on the reader. If Marvel still made mainstream adventure comics with the kind of near-autistic joi de vrie found here, well, the world would be a better place, I'll say that much. It's a lost art.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Hurting's Holiday Gift Guide, Part One

(Not merely an excuse for me to put up quick links for you to buy
stuff on Amazon through my site, although that never hurts.)

Mad Archives - Volume 2

I've been waiting for this book literally for five years -- since the first volume of the Mad Archives shipped, way back in 2002. That was hardly the first time I'd bought the material; in some cases it was actually the third or fourth time. The most recent at the time was, as I recall, a series of color newsstand super-specials put out in the mid-90s that reprinted the entirety of the original comic-sized Mad run -- good reading copies, but printed on the same shitty paper as every other issue of Mad Magazine until whenever they went glossy and lost their soul. If ever there was a book ideal for DC's occasionally fatuous Archives format, it's these classic Mads: some of the best, most important comics of all time, in a durable high-quality volume perfect for the reference library of any aficionado.

And then a funny thing happened: they stopped. I think the consensus at the time was that, basically, there were already too many copies of these stories circulating to interest anyone in yet another reprint, even if it promised to be as close to "definitive" as possible. The first volume has sat on my shelf all these years, lonely and cold, waiting for a companion, and finally, finally we see volume two. Given the rather ominous rumors about we've heard these past few months about the Archive program's dubious future, it is possible there may never be a volume three, at least in the series' present incarnation. (I will say that if any series ever cried out for the Absolute treatment, it's the Kurtzman Mads. Although they have yet to do an Absolute volume for anything earlier than the late 80s, it's practically tailor-made for the format -- extra large, just enough issues to fit snugly in one of those monstrous slipcases, easily more than enough reference material to compile some tasty extras, and major-league appeal to the casual non-comics-reading gift-book buyer. But I digress.) Regardless of whether or not we'll ever see another volume, I still intend to buy this volume, and I suggest you do the same. These are some of the most important comics ever made. They're certainly EC's most lasting contribution to the medium and to popular culture at large. The horror, sci-fi and war books may have made a splash and still command a loyal following, but their era-specific transgressive appeal dims with every passing year. Mad is still as necessary as it ever was.

It doesn't even matter that half these issues are devoted to spoofs of pop-culture ephemera which predates 75% of the current population of the United States. I also won't argue with the assessment that the later half of Kurtzman's Mad was better than the earlier issues, which depended far more on straight parody. (Unless I'm mistaken, this volume should include everything up to "Starchie", including the famous Basil Wolverton ugly girl cover.) Even given these facts, the first 23 issues of Mad remain essentially untouchable, and any caveats are strictly relative within that context.

New Young Pony Club - Fantastic Playroom

I hate compiling top ten lists, but I do so anyway in my capacity as a Popmatters writer. (Notice I never do any top ten comics lists? Because I never buy any comics anymore, because I'm poor.) It's usually an odious task involving all sorts of Solomon-like deliberations that don't really matter in any conceivable way whatsoever, but enough people who work for the site take it seriously that I try to do so as well. This year, however, before I even sat down to go over the possibilities for my list, I already knew what number one was going to be. What it had to be. There's no other album I've listened to so much this year, and I haven't been this excited about a new group since . . . well, it's been years. Maybe Bloc Party, but I don't even remember getting as excited about Silent Alarm back in 2005 as I did for Fantastic Playroom. You can read my review here. Anyway: ignore the hype or backlash or whatever you may have heard -- if you like good dance-inflected rock music with a taste of early Talking Heads thrown in for good measure, this is an album you need to own.

(I love how this video looks totally cheap, like the kind of videos you'd see on MTV back in the early 80s when music videos were filmed out of petty cash.)

(I'm glad they made more videos so I wouldn't have to post the clip for "Ice Cream" again. As much as I love NYPC, it's my least favorite track of theirs, probably the weakest on Fantastic Playroom. But if you haven't seen it, you can go here.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

To All My Homies in Hollywood

So, you've got this strike thing going. I'll bet you're pretty desperate for some scripts with which to make movies, right? Well, I've got a few doozies for you, and I'd be perfectly willing to scab for cheap.

"The Good Old Days" (tentative title)

Horror movie with a senior citizen serial killer. By day he pretends to be an Alzheimers-addled septuagenarian, but by night he prowls the city for fresh victims.

"Fast and the Furious" sequel

This once-solid franchise has fallen on hard times. The new installment introduces us to Ray, the hot-shot king of the late-night urban racing world. One night everything changes forever, however, as a race goes terribly wrong, resulting in a highway crash at 110 miles an hour. The other driver dies instantly, but Ray survives as a paraplegic. He is found guilty of manslaughter and sent to prison, where by day he endures grueling rehabilitative physical therapy and by night he is tormented by endless, gnawing guilt. Will he find the will to live in the harsh environment of a maximum security federal penitentiary?


In the vein of "Patch Adams" and "Ray" - a John Wayne Gacy biopic focusing not on his exploits as a serial killer but on his overlooked clown career. A natural fit for "America's Funnyman", Robin Williams.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


OK, apparently the "What Is Archie Reacting To?" meme did not conquer the blogosphere. Which just proves that you all suck, except for anyone who has given me money or bought items through my Amazon links. You are all wonderful people, thank you very much.

But now, the time has come, when we must put aside childish things and walk amongst the fields as Men. And as Men we must pit out useless comics trivia against one another in mortal combat.

1) When did Peter Parker lose his virginity? I suspect most people will say "Gwen Stacy" (anyone who says "on his wedding night" gets a boobie prize), but anyone who can make a legitimate case for Mary Jane or Betty Brant gets extra points. ("Face it Tiger, you just hit the Jackpot, because I put out!")

2) Can Superman tap into the "Speed Force"? If not, why not? Show your work.

3) In the mid-80s the idea was floated that Ben's inability to change into human form from the Thing was mostly psychosomatic, stemming from his low self-esteem and belief that Alicia would cease to love him if he were normal. Has this ever been mentioned in the years since?

4) True or False: Superman should be able to lift Thor's hammer. Show your work.

5) At the end of the second Kree / Skrull war in Steve Englehart's Silver Surfer, the Kree Empire was ruled by a bumbling space pirate named Clumsy Foulup. This short-lived status-quo came to an end with Silver Surfer #53, when a Kree junta led by Ael-Dann and Dar-Benn took advantage of the confusion caused by Thanos wiping out half the universe with the Infinity Gauntlet to kill Foulup with a SIlver Surfer robot. From that point on and until the Kree defeat in the Kree / Shi'ar war, Ael-Dann and Dar-Benn ruled the empire. However, as the events of their coup took place during the Infinity Gauntlet crisis, all events must have been erased when Adam Warlock used to Gauntlet to reset time to before Thanos killed half the universe. And yet, it's never been mentioned how, in the absence of that turmoil, Ael-Dann and Dar-Benn replaced Clumsy Foulup in the first place. This has been bugging me for fifteen years. Come on, people.

Saturday, December 01, 2007