Sunday, January 27, 2008

By Dint of Explanation

I found it amusing that a couple of the comments for my last post believed I was inveighing against some kind of "straw man" with that bit of satire. Obviously there was some exaggeration - but there really was very little in that post that was not representative of reality as seen on the ground in some aspect of the comics retailing world past or present. Straw men or not, there's (almost) nothing on that list that I haven't at some point encountered firsthand, or worse, propagated myself.

(I didn't even mention the two stores I frequented in the mid-90s which I am pretty much 95% sure were drug fronts. Or even touched on the kind of music played in those stores - I used to like They Might Be Giants.)

One thing that gets overlooked in the ongoing discussions over the evolving role of the comic book store is the fact that the "old school" model, for all it's obvious faults, also had a few virtues. It is undeniably true that the stereotypical "comic book store" has a lot of problems, isn't particularly forward-thinking in its business model, probably serves to actively keep new readers out of the industry, etc etc. But for someone who grew up reading comics and spent decades buying comics under the old system, at a number of "old school" type establishments, there is also something indefinable missing in the rush to modernize the industry.

The "clubhouse" mentality gets a bad rap, deservedly so. But at the same time, the clubhouses served a purpose. They existed - and still exist - for a reason. We're not talking about pushing the medium of comics forward with intelligent, insightful retailing decisions. Buying comics in the direct market in the 80s and 90s, there weren't a lot of shops around that didn't exclusively reflect the dominant paradigm of superhero comics in almost every aspect of their retail model. The good shops aren't exactly ubiquitous now, but there are many of them, and by now most intelligent comics readers have an idea in their heads of what a good comic book shop should look like. A lot of good retailers have spent a lot of time trying to build an audience for a new type of direct market, and I will not say anything to gainsay their immense contributions to the increasingly positive shape of the modern comics industry.

But still.

There's a shop near where I live, whose name I won't mention, which I believe is probably a model of what a "good" comic book store should be. They've got a well-lit, family-friendly interior, deep backlists of alternative, "art" comics, manga, strip reprint and even superhero trades on nice bookshelves. They've even got a nice used section. No scruffy longboxes to be seen anywhere, and just a handful of RPG books sequestered at the rear of the store. They do sell Magic cards and Heroclix, but again, it's not up-front, it's clearly a sideline and not their raison d'etre. The staff are friendly, there are always lots of women and children browsing, and the whole store is really well put-together.

But here's the catch: I hate shopping there. I feel really uncomfortable whenever I'm in that store. For the most part, if I buy comics I try to avoid buying them at this store. Again, I can't accuse the store of doing anything wrong: it's pretty much exactly what I think a comic book store should be in the twenty-first century. But it nonetheless rubs me the wrong way, because it goes against decades of conditioning. Used to be, there was no comics market for women, no comic market for casual browsers, no distinctive comic market for kids. There was only one comics market, and it was a bunker mentality.

If you are roughly my age - maybe a little older, maybe a little younger - you didn't grow up in today's modern, ecumenical atmosphere. If you read comics and you were old enough to appreciate girls, you were part of a deviant subculture. Chances are you were a comics fan because you got something out of the hobby that you didn't get elsewhere in your life. For every five kids who dropped comics when they hit puberty, there was one who didn't, and who stayed with the medium because it filled some kind of gap in their lives. Instead of being a passing phase, superhero comics were a lifeline, because they were fat, they were nerdy, too skinny, too pale, covered in zits, their parents fought, their parents were divorced, their parents had left, they were sick, they were angry. It wasn't necessarily something that coincided exactly with puberty: there are older comics readers and younger comics readers, but if you've read comics continually throughout the last twenty or thirty years, with no abatement, through the darkest days of the 80s and 90s, chances are at some point comics for you stopped being a passive indulgence and instead became an active psychological crutch. If you can look back on the last twenty or twenty-five years and point to an unbroken record of comics reading, you had to overcome a lot of obstacles. You've got battle scars.

As strange as that sounds, in the comic shops of yore, there was a sense of camaraderie, a shared experience of being a misfit on some profound level. If you frequented comic book stores in the dark days of the mid-90s, you were one of the hardcore. When you walked into a comic book store, you were manning the battlements against a cruel and uncaring world - or at least, in your mind. There may have been nowhere in the world you felt you fit in, or nowhere you felt you could be yourself, or nowhere safe from the pressing concerns of the world, except for the confines of your comic book store.

What we consider the modern comics industry grew to a large degree out of the ruins of this mentality, the superhero hobbyists bunkered down in their "No Gurlz Allowed" fortresses. This kind of fannish behavior was never really attractive, and it has obviously curdled as so many younger comics fans have grown older but not necessarily wiser. Superhero hobbyists have more reason than ever to feel embittered, in the context of their already-paranoid worldview, because their clubhouse has been invaded by hordes of strangers looking for books like Naruto and Fun Home and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But before we entirely castigate the Android's Dungeons of yore, let's take a moment to reflect: it would be disingenuous of us - most of us, at least - not to admit that for a time these stores served a purpose, and served it well. I think I've grown out of that mentality, just as my tastes in comics have grown and changed, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the old ways, at least a little bit.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Wave of the Future

I get nervous in comic book stores that are well-lit.

I don't like when comic book stores have natural lighting.

Windows should be covered in posters or with palettes of longboxes stacked high.

When I see retailers making a point to cultivate casual customers, I feel jealous and unwelcome.

I want to feel when I walk in the door of my comic book store that I am entering a dark, wet womb which envelops me and protects me.

I like to be able to look around the shop and see isolated, sullen loners buying their comics.

I like feeling that the majority of people who buy comics have long ago ceased to love the hobby and instead regard it as a parasitic forces in their lives.

I like knowing that my fellow customers and the clerks in my store hate the hobby as much as I do, and hate it for the same reasons: I hate comics because of the person they made me.

I wish that all of comics had one single face so I could see it scream as I drowned it in a bathtub.

I don't like comic book stores that maintain kid-friendly reading sections, because children remind me of death.

And whenever I see a child with his mother I think of the fact this his mother had to have sex to make that child.

I like it when comic book stores do the bulk of their business with advance orders through Previews, because the formality of a catalog transaction reminds me of prostitution.

I like comic stores that have a large portion of their floor space devoted to role playing games because it reminds me that there are people in the world more loathsome than myself.

I like when comic book store floors are made of dirty linoleum, or at least industrial carpeting.

It's really hard to get industrial carpeting clean, best not to even try.

I like it when stores have promotional posters on their walls dating back to the Reagan administration, because it advertises to me that the store has a good sense of history.

Particularly if you have the old Adam Hughes' Vampirella promo posters from the early 90s Harris relaunch, those are probably the classiest pieces of comic art ever produced.

I like it when comic book stores use a cigar box for their transactions.

Extra bonus points if the owner still does not own a computer, either for the store or their own personal use.

Comic book stores should be clubhouses.

People who go to comic book stores on a regular basis desperately need to feel that they belong somewhere, because the alternative is to acknowledge that no one would care if they died tomorrow.

The price of every single back issue in the store must be updated at least every year to reflect changes in Overstreet.

Comics that are actually popular must be cycled through at least every month to reflect changes in Wizard.

The retailer reserves to the right to spontaneously reprice a comic, between the point when your selection is made and when the comic is purchased, to reflect changes in Wizard.

It's OK to call fags "fags".

Buying Black Panther makes you a racist.

Why is Kirby's OMAC getting a deluxe reprint when Byrne's OMAC remains criminally out of print?

I would sleep in my comic book store if I could, because I hate my house.

Comic book store owners reserve the right to blame their customers for downturns in fortune.

If I hear someone discussing anything related to comics, I have to interject my opinion.

If I cannot prove the strength of my opinion through reason, I will increase the volume of my voice.

If I cannot prove the strength of my opinion, it means I am less of a person, because this is all I have.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Down the River, Part One

As some of you probably surmised from this recent post, I was thinking about Philip Jose Farmer recently, specifically his Riverworld series. I read the series for the first time a long time ago when I was very young, and for some reason they popped into my head again over the last few weeks. I had some time on my hands, so I reread the books to see how well they held up compared to my memory.

Rereading books you recall fondly from your childhood is always a dicey proposition. I'm glad, for instance, that I didn't actually get around to The Lord of the Rings until I was in High School, and old enough to enjoy the books for what they were while still keeping a somewhat jaundiced eye on some of Tolkein's rather questionable stylistic cul-de-sacs. (Of course, it's not just kids who get too swept up in Tolkein to see the forest for the trees, but still. Best Tolkein is still The Silmarillion, perhaps because at the time the book was constructed the old man was too dead to screw it up.) Riverworld was an especially frightening proposition for me because, frankly, I remembered having problems with Farmer's writing back when I was twelve.

The most pleasant surprise, therefore, was the fact that To Your Scattered Bodies Go actually held up better than I remembered. A lot better. The later books in the series did not hold up so well, and in fact, represent pretty much a textbook example of how writing for larger series kills the impetus for a lot of science fiction books. If I had been Philip Jose Farmer, I would have looked at To Your Scattered Bodies Go and said, you know, this is just about perfect as it is. Really. If I elaborate on this concept any more, I might dilute the appeal. Sure, none of the big mysteries are really solved, but you get at least a glimpse of the bigger picture. And isn't the essential mystery what makes the core concept so fascinating?

Farmer's biggest asset is also his biggest problem. He has a mania for consistency: more than just about any other major writer in the genre's history, he is fascinated with the concept of world-building, of creating isolated fictional universes that are totally and absolutely consistent in the context of themselves. Not just Riverworld, but also the World of Tiers and Dayworld series present absolutely cohesive worlds, the elucidation of which almost seems more interesting than the plot or characters in and of themselves. (Obviously, Farmer's Wold-Newton universe is in a class by itself, in terms of OCD-level consistency.) Tolkein is a great counter-example, because for all his faults he discretely kept the worst of the world-building off in the wings for the bulk of The Lord of the Rings, providing enough information in discrete chunks throughout the book to keep the wheels of plot moving forward but rarely enough to loose track of the narrative through-line.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go is just short enough to avoid some of the problems of extended world-building. To begin with, the premise is strong enough to keep the book interesting on its own merits for quite a while, without necessarily needing to explore anything more of the underlying cosmology. It's without a doubt one of the single most compelling high-concept premises in the history of science-fiction: every human-being who ever lived, from about 100,000 BC up through an indeterminate point in the middle of the Twentieth Century, wakes up on the banks of a long river on a planet far from Earth. Every possible physical need is taken care of, from the universally temperate climate to the copious food and drugs provided by the magic grails strapped to every resurrectee's wrist. Even death is meaningless, for every time anyone dies on the Riverworld they are simply resurrected the next morning somewhere else along the banks of the million-mile long river.

The sequence at the beginning of To Your Scattered Bodies Go which describes the moments immediately following the "great awakening" on Riverworld is one of the most immediately visceral passages in the genre's history. Science-fiction is uniquely situated to ask many important questions about life and society, but for the most part (there are, of course, exceptions) the notion of after-life is elided by virtue of the fact that most sci-fi exists in the context of an atheistic cosmology. (Even those science-fiction authors who are not atheists have to at least concede the non-interference of divinity in human affairs to be able to work in a genre in which human ingenuity is the zenith of achievement, either for good or ill.) The Riverworld series tackles this cognitive dissonance head-on by beginning at the exact moment beyond which any science-fiction should rationally be able to explore: the moment we die.

Everyone begins on the same page because no one on the Riverworld - at least that we know - has any more insight into the circumstances of the resurrection than anyone else. Whether you're a 20th century dialectic materialist, a 9th century Christian or a 10th century BC Egyptian, being reborn along the banks of an infinitely long river to relive your life seemingly in perpetuity is no-one's conception of heaven or hell, let alone the oblivion of atheistic death. There's a moment of numinous, incontrovertible wonder at the heart of the concept that gets to the heart of the most primal fears and fascination of life in a way that is, frankly, almost impossible in the context of a supposedly enlightened post-religious mindset. Regardless of whether or not you are actually an atheist (I assume, simply based on statistical extrapolation, most of the people reading this are not atheists), it's still not a mode of thinking most people are used to exercising in this very modern world. The demon-haunted, impermeable mystery of Medieval Christianity is not something that even modern Christians can easily comprehend, but the primal, irrational uncertainty at the core of the religious impulse is front and center from the very first pages of this book.

If Farmer had done nothing more than establish this single concept, the book would already be one of the most genuinely frightening, rigorously thought-provoking exercises in the history of the genre. Of course, it didn't end there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Count my Tipos

Word is starting to come in from the first parties to order a copy of my book from Amazon. I am surprised that it was printed and shipped so soon, I'll say that: given the nature of "print on demand" I was expecting a much more leisurely roll-out. And yet, from what I have heard, folks have been receiving their books in about the same amount of time you'd expect a regular book to ship from the Amazon headwaters.

If you order a copy of the book, don't be shy about it, OK? Tell me what you think, even if you hate it, feel free to leave long comments on the Amazon page recommending it to all and sundry, tell your friends and coworkers to take the plunge.

One sad fact to report - not necessarily unexpected, but unfortunate all the same - is that there are still a number of typos in the finished manuscript. This was to be expected, alas - despite having gone over the manuscript half-a-dozen times myself, besides half-a-dozen or so people having read through the final draft over the last couple years, a few typos still survived. And boy, now that the book is printed between two covers the typos are unavoidable. Oh well, you do what you can with the resources you have.

So yeah, if you bought the book, sorry about the typos. If the book sells enough copies to warrant it, a hypothetical revised edition would obviously be typo-free. The typos will be proof of your copy's provenance.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Mastermind Revealed
If I Ran The Comics Industry, Part Thirty-Six

(If this has you scratching your head, check here, here and here.)

Part Thirty-Five
Part Thirty-Four Part Thirty-Three
Part Thirty-Two Part Thirty-One
Part Thirty Part Twenty-Nine
Part Twenty-Eight Part Twenty-Seven
Part Twenty-Six Part Twenty-Five
Part Twenty-Four Part Twenty-Three
Part Twenty-Two Part Twenty-One
Part Twenty Part Nineteen
Part Eighteen Part Seventeen
Part Sixteen Part Fifteen
Part Fourteen Part Thirteen
Part Twelve Part Eleven
Part Ten Part Nine
Part Eight Part Seven
Part Six Part Five
Part Four Part Three
Part Two Part One
Oh Mama!

In the comments section for my last post I was asked what I thought of Barack Obama. To which I reply:

Barack Obama is a 46 year old first-term senator from the state of Illinois. He is a light-complexioned African-American male whose father came from Kenya and whose mother came from Kansas. He is running for President. He is six feet two inches tall.


Oh, I gotta say more? Sigh.

The problem with Obama is that everything I've ever read about the man tells me he has no great ideological conviction besides a commitment to the broadest platitudes. He has the soul of a moderate. It's probably necessary, because as tricky as it is for an African-American male to try to reach across color lines to white voters, it's also necessary that said African-American male be as "presentable" as possible: i.e., not a firebrand. It's a necessary impulse in a politician but that doesn't mean I have to be excited about it. He's a great orator, or as close to great as you're likely to find in our degraded political culture. I think that makes him seem more revolutionary than he really is, considering there is very little substantively different from his opinions than those of his Democratic opponents.

He is a damn fine speaker, though. Listening to him talk, he seems uniquely poised to capture the enthusiasm and ability of youth, to be an avatar for exactly the kind of change he so assiduously assures his audience he personally embodies. He really does seem capable of inspiring the kind of inspirational loyalty that has so long been missing from the political stage. But... after the speeches are over, I can't help but reflect on Socrates' critique of Gorgias, and the inherent immorality of oratory and rhetoric when put to the purpose of persuasion. I can't think of a single good reason to distrust Obama, besides the fact that he wants so very badly to assure us of his trustworthiness. I like him, I'd certainly vote for him, but the gap between his inspirational ambition and his actual capabilities is an unknown quantity in my mind. There can be no doubt: he is an inspirational figure. A friend of mine pointed out recently that progressives are by definition always resurgent, and Obama seems to understand this instinctively. Whether or not he can channel the righteous indignity of enough Democrats and Independents to sway the nomination is another matter.

Hillary is hardly the perfect candidate. She voted for the war, and the only explanation for such a vote is pure and simple cowardice, based on the raw political calculation that being wrong about a good war would be worse in hindsight than being right about a bad war. Of course in a perfect world politicians would not make such calculations based merely on ruthless tactical considerations. And I certainly can't defend her vote, or the odious realpolitik instinct from which it springs. But if you were to ask me who I thought would be more effective, an inspirational speaker with doggedly centrist convictions or a ruthless political machine who tacks to the center despite what are almost certainly deep-seated leftist impulses? Well, that's not necessarily a choice I want to make, not on those terms.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Requiem for a Lightweight

Richardson, Richardson

You know, it doesn't really matter that Bill Richardson's platform reeked so strongly of mewling DLC anti-populism, there's still something a bit sad about the fact that he was unable to gain any traction. Just listening to him during the debate last Saturday reel of his voluminous list of accomplishments, it was a little bit surreal, to realize someone with all those wonderful qualifications couldn't get arrested for dog catcher of East Podunk. Richardson is one of the least sexy candidates I've seen since the heyday of Dick Gephardt's quatriannual exercise in 0.5% futility. But does the fact that he is probably the most qualified candidate from either party mean anything, or were people not even paying attention?

I like Hillary, I really do. I don't care if she's one of the DLC's mainstays, I don't care about "dynasties" - dynasties work pretty well for Southeast Asia. Can't we at least try to aspire to India? I notice that Hillary's idea of semi-formal wear usually revolves around some kind of Nehru jacket, so it's obvious she's aware of the connotations. Her rather eclectic clothes send a very clear message to the electorate: if you vote for me, I will promise not to drink my own urine. Mike Huckabee, however, probably starts every day with a big tall glass of man pee.

I like just about everything John Edwards says but I can't muster up any enthusiasm for the man himself. I look at Edwards, and I think, is it even possible for a Muppet to get flop sweat? I want to see the man who has his hand up Edwards' ass.

McCain - why does nobody else seem to notice the slurring and the palsy? I mean, besides the fact that he's one of the most despicable figures in the entire spectrum of American politics. The man is 72 years old - he'd be one or two years older than Reagan was. And honestly, exaggeration aside he really does seem like he's slowing down: whomever in the GOP wants to see McCain go the long haul in a torturous months-long general election campaign must really like the spectacle of old men embarrassing themselves. And I know that the bread & butter GOP voter really likes voting for surrogate Daddy figures, but seriously, if McCain is your daddy than your mom is some weird trophy wife who had no problem having sex with a senior citizen in order to inherit some huge fortune. So, basically, McCain's natural constituency is Tony Randall's kids.

(And seriously, just how despicable is John McCain? People used to think he had conviction. Then he got railroaded by the Bushes in North Carolina in 2000 in the dirtiest election in recent memory. I mean, seriously, race baiting and everything. And what did he do? He rolled over on his back to let W. rub him on the tummy like a good little Golden Retriever. At this point, about the only good thing I can say about the man is that he doesn't seem to reflexively loathe his Democratic colleagues and opponents. It was notable at the midpoint of Saturday's debates that he was pretty much the only Republican who didn't act like a deer in the headlights when they brought out the Dems to shake hands and say hi. But if the best thing you can say about a candidate is that he is halfway to meeting the bare minimum of being a decent human being, well, shit, you got problems.)

And good old Mitt? He's the absentee dad who makes his kids call him "Sir", and only really speaks to his children on holidays when he gets a few bourbons in him and starts complaining about how much a disappointment they all are because nobody wanted to follow in his footsteps with the family business. The family business is probably asbestos or something else that causes cancer. Then he gets blind raging drunk after someone mentions whichever kids daddy disowned because they moved to San Francisco or whatever, breaks his glass over the fireplace mantle and threatens to break his his wife's back with the fire poker. I have known many Mormons in my life and they are all really nice people, but Jesus Christ would I not want any of them to be President, ever. If you went to high school with me, nod your head sadly.

So yeah - give me Hillary. When it comes to the President, I want to vote for someone who looks like they could break walnuts by staring hard enough. I'll say one thing for her: she's got more will than Bill does. I anticipate that if she gets elected she will be a centrist Margaret Thatcher. The only saving grace for this formulation is that the center has moved slightly towards the left in the last few years. There really isn't anything that liberal-progressives can get too excited about, but hey, maybe she could stab Justice Scalia at some kind of state function? Rip his liver out during the State of the Union and pass it around to the party leaders so they could absorb his power?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Help Me, Help You

Normal (non-promotional) blogging will resume probably tomorrow, but I want to make another appeal to my regular readers not simply to take a chance on "RAW YOUTH" but to help me spread the word about the book throughout the blogosphere. I've set up a new website devoted specifically to previewing the book, consolidating the eleven preview chapters previously available here into one place.

I've prepared half-a-dozen small buttons which can be placed into the sidebar of your blog or website, which link to the preview site. If you've ever liked this blog or anything I've written, please think about taking the thirty seconds necessary to cut-and-paste one of these VERY simple HTML tags onto your website code:

150 x 50

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150 x 600

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Brand New Day

I would like to take a few minutes out of your day to talk to you about the New Amazing. No, not the new Amazing Spider-Man, about that I could care less . . .

If you direct your eyes to the top of the left-hand sidebar, you will see a new advertisement, in the place of honor previously devoted to humping hamsters, "Rachel Ray Must Be Stopped" and the ever-popular "Have Fun Jackin' It". What you see has been in the works for quite a while, and I'm pleased to be able to bring the news to you now, in the first week of the year 2008.

"RAW YOUTH" is my book. It was finished, roughly, sometime in the year 2005, and it has waited patiently for the right time before being loosed upon the unsuspecting world. You might recall that for a while I was serializing chapters of this book on the blog - you can still find about the first fourth of the book, online, for free, beginning with chapter 1 and proceeding in order throughout chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. Even though the book is now available for sale I have no plans on taking these excerpts offline, and will probably be placing permalinks to these preview chapters onto the sidebar soon.

After devoting a good year and a half to trying to find either an agent or a publisher willing to take a chance on me and my book, I've decided to kickstart the process myself. Accordingly, "RAW YOUTH" is being printed by the good folks at The decision to essentially self-publish was not one I made lightly. The book-publishing world is a different animal than comics, and while I would never want to be accused of making gross generalizations about an entire field, the fact is that for the large part of contemporary prose publishing history the idea of publishing your own work through some kind of "vanity" press operation has been seen less as a stepping-stone for up-and-comers (a description that could accurately describe the career trajectory of many popular comics creators in both the mainstream and alternative realms) than the ultimate destination of wannabes and dilletantes, the "not-ready-for-primetime-players" of the book world. The stink of the bush league has retained strong enough negative connotations that it is only very recently that we've seen these things beginning to change. The instrument of that change has been the internet. As recently as two or three years ago it would be inconceivable for a young writer, trying to make an honest stab at a career in the realm of fiction writing, to self-publish without casting serious aspersions on their abilities or potential (either critical or commercial).

But things have changed. I am in no way shape or form an expert on the publishing world - perhaps an expert of getting rejection notices on major-firm stationary. So I asked a few people I knew. The consensus seemed to be that yes, the invention of the internet had changed a lot of things, among them being the automatic assumption that self-publishing carries an automatic stigma for those trying to make a long-term career in the book world. (I'd like to especially thank John, owner of Bully and publishing muckety-much up at WW Norton [I believe?] for taking a few moments to answer my questions.) So, with that in mind, I took the plunge.

So - here's my book, for sale. I've got a copy myself - the first proof - and it looks pretty rad. I don't like the default font they used (I would have liked to use a nice Electra, the same font used for the Norton Critical Editions series). It costs a few dollars more than a comparable trade paperback from another house, but every copy you order is printed "to order", so none of the economies of scale that you get from normal book publishing apply. With all that said, I still think it looks pretty nice, myself. If you like my writing, or what I do here at The Hurting, you should really think about ordering a copy. Every copy of my book that gets bought means the world in terms of proving that there is a market for this book and my writing. And if you buy it, read it, and do like, don't be shy about it, either.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Things Which Made Me Happy

A guy in a tunic karate chopping a robot to death, with the accompanying sound effect "SQUEEEE", in a comic book written by Jim Shooter. How many people caught that one?

You know, there's a lot of water under the bridge, and Jim Shooter certainly ain't the same man who premiered on the Legion way back in 1966. But I've always liked his writing. My love for early Valiant is well-documented, and you'd have to look pretty hard for someone who didn't love the Korvac saga, or, even, the first Secret Wars. (Yeah, it's cheesy as fuck but don't you wish more superhero comics these days at least made the effort?) Star Brand was pretty good, too, in a totally-weird-subconscious-roman a clef way. Shooter may have been an arrogant prick in a lot of ways - now isn't the time to rehash that - but his instincts as a writer of science-fiction-based superhero stories has rarely strayed him wrong. (I still can't explain Plasm.)

And sure enough - with one issue back, the Legion actually feels like The Legion again. No offense to the folks in charge of the book these past years, but there's something to be said for trying to write kids that actually act like kids, and not thirty-five-year-olds in teen drag. Mark Waid's Legion read, honestly, more like a spec script for a Star Trek spin-off, and it was all pretty damn staid for a book explicitly about teenage rebellion. It's not rocket science, people - a book about teenagers with godlike powers who live in Outer Space and want to fuck each other's brains out should not read like the minutes of a UN subcommittee meeting.

(Edit: I should probably point out that the Legion itself was never traditionally about teenage rebellion, but that was the tag line for Waid's reboot.)