Review: Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #1

BUTCHER BAKER, THE RIGHTEOUS MAKER #1 (Image Comics)
by Joe Casey, Mike Huddleston and Rus Wooton

Synopsis: At one time, BUTCHER BAKER was the preeminent, All-American superhero. Now, he’s getting laid.

01. I stole that line from the book’s solicitation information. Just thought you should know that.

02. Joe Casey is tired of your bullshit. Or at least, that’s what he says in this book. Once a devout follower of the superhero genre, his recent trips to the comic shop have left him wanting – and so, he created a book to fill a void.

Butcher Baker is a very loud book. It arrives on the scene with solid gold dildo doorhandles and steams right through a sea of boobs before getting to the point: the every day way of doing things just isn’t working anymore – not for the titular character, nor for the world that he lives in. In short order, he is taken off his leash by (somewhat inexplicably) Dick Cheney and Jay Leno and then shit starts to go bananas.

03. At this early juncture, I’m not exactly sure how to describe this book. At turns, its a superhero comic, but it makes no bones about discarding the idea of super-heroics in general. When referenced, the “old ways” are treated with a sort of contempt and a new way of getting action is openly advocated. Also, there’s a lot of swearing and nudity. Graphic nudity.

Often times, such a book can be a recipe for disaster, but Butcher Baker seems to steer clear of common traps. For instance, a lot of books that try to push into the realm of graphic language, violence and nudity try to carry an air of maturityhowever those often confuse shock value for critical thought – which is the real mark of a mature comic. Butcher Baker makes no bones about what it is: its big, and its gaudy, but while it plays fast and loose with its morals, there’s a purpose to the book – a desperate plea for an audience to recognize that they can still read superhero comics, but expect something more, something different. Mixing equal parts of irreverence with purpose, it manages to feel substantial. It will need that to weather the months to come

04. You haven’t seen art like this before. I know I sure haven’t – and I’ve been following Mike Huddleston ever since he originally did The Coffin with Phil Hester over at Oni Press. What you see inside the pages of Butcher Baker is something special – an artist that’s perfectly matched with a concept, one that he feels so passionate about that he strives tirelessly to make every note as perfect as he can make it. Here, Huddleston is not only providing pencils and inks, but he’s going full out on the colours too. This singular vision for the art really allows him to go for exactly what he wants, and makes for a lot of interesting colouring choices. You’ll notice that most of the book does not feature colour like you would normally see it in a comic – caking the spaces in between line art, and filling up the page. Here, it’s used mostly to provide extra punches to the eye-gut, stretching your senses and blowing your mind with each turn of the page. You really have to take a look at what he’s throwing down on the pages here. It’s really quite amazing.

05. Butcher Baker is going to be something you either love or hate. There’s absolutely no question. Personally, I’m on board for the ride. You should try the first issue and see if you are too. If not, no hard feelings.

Recommended if you like: The Boys, Bomb Queen, Godland, and good comics.

The Culture Hole, Issue 6 – The James M. Cainsening

The Culture Hole! For all your cultural orifice needs (logo adapted with love from http://emnla.deviantart.com/)

Issue 6 – The James M. Cainsening

It occurs to me there are a few “safe” opinions.  One of them is liking bacon a lot.  Another is picking Batman in a “Who would win?” argument, even if he wasn’t one of the choices.  But there’s one that really, really bothers me, and it’s one that seems to pop up every now and then, particularly in forums, comments sections and various social media outlets:

Remakes of old movies/TV shows or English language versions of foreign language ones are evil and wrong, and should stop forever; they are a mark of the end of creativity and what is wrong in Hollywood.

Now, that’s pretty wordy, I will cop to that, but it felt like it needed to be to capture the two different aspects of the shockingly common opinion, namely:

(1) Remakes are terrible

(b) Hollywood is evil for making them

But here’s the thing, Internet: I absolutely do not understand either part of that opinion.  I just don’t.  Usually, when it comes time to write one of these columns where I make a heartfelt plea for people to be rational and focus on things they like, I find it relatively easy to write a part of it where I relate to the people I disagree with, usually by means of a personal anecdote where I felt or experienced something similar before coming to a different conclusion.  This is half a means to keep the topic grounded within my own personal experiences and keep it from being too chiding, half a rhetorical device designed to break up the pieces so they’re not a solid block of my disapproving, baleful text.  I like it.  It’s an approach that I feel works.

But I can’t do that here, I just can’t.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever thought any kind of variation of that phrase, it’s just something that’s alien to me.  I’ve seen remakes and adaptations, English language or otherwise.  A large part of my post secondary education involved English language adaptations or translations, because apparently Henrik Ibsen didn’t write in English, the lazy bastard.  I once saw a post-modern English language adaptation of a play originally written in German that was an unofficial sequel to a play written in Norwegian, and if I wasn’t okay with adaptations I think that might have given me a stroke.  Regardless, I’ve loved some adaptations, disliked others and avoided others still.  I haven’t seen anything to encourage me to make a blanket statement about them.

INDIFFERENCE AND OWNERSHIP, WHATEVER.

But you’re in luck!  I do have an anecdote for you, just not one of mine.  On January 7, 1977, renowned hard-boiled crime fiction author James M. Cain sat down for what would be one of his last interviews.  Originally a reporter and journalist, Cain found fame for his sordid stories of sex and murder; my favourite professor once described The Postman Always Rings Twice as so dirty she felt she had to take a shower after, which she related with an ecstatic moan.  Like Chandler and Hammett, a few of his pulp stories were adapted as films, achieving incredible amounts of fame and success, including Double Indemnity, which was adapted for the screen by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler and directed by Wilder.  And it was… well, let’s just say it was a bit different from the original text.  Years later, this is what Cain had to say about it:

People tell me, don’t you care what they’ve done to your book? I tell them, they haven’t done anything to my book. It’s right there on the shelf. They paid me and that’s the end of it.

How could you say it better than that?  Nothing happened to the original book.  Absolutely nothing.  It wasn’t ruined.  35 years later, it was still exactly where Cain left it.  End of story, or so I’d thought.

HOW DO YOU SAY, “WHAT’S IT TO YOU?” IN SWEDISH?

Last year, friends of mine were getting loud and upset about two English language adaptations of Swedish films, Let Me In (adapted from the original Let the Right One In) and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (adapted from the original of the same name and directed by David Fincher).  The consensus was pretty clear: can’t Hollywood leave well enough alone?  Can’t they make any original stories?  Stupid Hollywood! Besides being kind of amused at the irony because the original films were actually adapted screenplays from books and not original at all, I was also confused; what did it matter to them?  Hadn’t they seen the foreign language movies and loved them?  Wasn’t that something that the adaptations couldn’t erase?  John Ajvide Lindqvist, who wrote Let the Right One In, actually loved both adaptations of his book.

I maintained then and I maintain now that these newer versions are nothing but additive.  The other films still exist.  So do people’s experiences of them.  English language versions don’t write over those memories like VHS cassettes.  Only the magic powers of substance abuse and dementia (listen, I never said it was a good power) can do that, and David Fincher isn’t slipping moviegoers an English language roofie.  In fact, the attention from newer adaptations could even bring more viewers to the original just from being mentioned in the same breath so many times, just like how sales of the books movies are based on go up when the film adaptations come out.  Brandon, back me up here.

Hell, they don’t even need to be particularly good adaptations to be good for business.  I never saw it, but just about all of my friends who saw the movie The Golden Compass, based on Philip Pullman‘s novel of either the same name or Northern Lights, depending on which side of the road you drive on, said it wasn’t a particularly good movie.  And okay, I’ll take their word on that until I see the movie myself on some rainy Saturday afternoon.  But a good friend of mine actually said it ruined the book, that it was so terrible that it had to have driven people away from an otherwise great book, and that just didn’t fit, because the local book stores were stocking mountains of the book in giant displays almost 15 years after its initial publication.  Random House, the book’s publisher, backed me up, saying, “The Golden Compass has hit USA Today‘s Top 50 Best Sellers list, having seen a 500 percent increase in sales over the last three months [at the time of the movie’s release].”

And I’m calling that one a win, you know?

GUNS TO ALL OUR HEADS, OH WAIT

At the end of the day, I have room for both the Coen Brothers‘ version of True Grit and Henry Hathaway‘s in my love sack.  I’ll probably ignore the new Arthur for the time being, no matter how many times I see actors I like in the trailers.  And this Sunday, I’ll turn the channel to AMC and watch The Killing, even if I have no idea what a Forbrydelsen is.

You know what?  You can insert your own Ikea joke, it’s late and I am very, very tired.

There are only so many stories out there, and some of them just happen to be adaptations and remakes.  Some of them are even pretty good!  I’ll always encourage people to give things a chance, because that’s how you discover awesome new things, by going outside your comfort zone.  You might like some, you might hate some.  That’s OK.  But before you get angry about them, before you blame Hollywood for ruining things, remember:

The originals are right there on your shelf.

Drunk Comic Recaps | Uncanny X-Men #422

Hey you guys! Just… hey! It’s Tuesday, which means it is absolutely time for some Drunk! Comic! Reeeeee-caaaaaaps! The rules, as always, are mostly simple. Tonight, I read comics and then write about what I read, and then in the morning? When I wake up? I can’t change nothing unless it’s to add like a picture or tags or junk.

Okay, so last week, I promised that I would probably try and recap something that wasn’t Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men this week but I liiiiiiiied, mostly because I was lazy tonight, and partly because this bitch? Has some Alpha Flight threatening to steal small children from the X-Men. Also, it’s double sized. HEY! Did you know that a double sized comics in Canada used to cost $5.75? And we all complain about the price of comics these days.

For shaaaaaaaame.

Uncanny X-Men #422: Rules of Engagement Part Two, starring TV’s David Spade

We begin! With Havok, Polaris and Nightcrawler on a sex archiological dig! Or so one assumes, because Havok and Polaris are on this trip because they are getting married and Nightcrawler is a priest. Right at the beginning of the book, Polaris is on the phone with her moms saying that she was thinking of six bridesmaids and a maid of honour because bitch is crazy. Anyway, apparently Havok was invited on this dig because the dig master knew him back in the day. The dig master is super glad that Nightcrawler tagged along – and soon the group discovers why: not only is Nightcrawler seemingly drawn into some old ass hyroglyphics but there’s also angel bones or something. The dig master starts to say they’re actually the bones of super old mutants, but then he gets shot by some dudes who end up committing suicide, and all the while, Polaris continues talking to her moms, saying “I just haven’t got the patience for stupid people these days.”

Meanwhile, back at the mansion, Angel is looking for Stacy X who has left him a video of her jump roping naked, in order to show him what he missed out on. Paige ends up walking in while he’s watching it, and she’s all like, look, whatever, there were girls before me and this one happens to be jump-roping naked. Whatever. There’s a problem in the basement, and it involves CANADIANS. He stops her from just pulling him down to the fray, saying that Stacy means nothing to him and that she already means “sooo” much to him and with each day, he only loves her more. She says she’d kiss him, but doesn’t want their first kiss to be during naked jump rope – which is when her ex shows up and she leaves the room. Stacy, on her tape says “that’s the last you’ll ever see of me” and it sounds as though Chuck is winking at the camera saying, say good-bye to that one girl who was a legitimate whore, because I only work in subtly, bitches!

Outside the house, Xavier is on the phone, trying to deal with the situation. Alpha Flight are rounding up his kids and they’re only Canadians. That shit can’t be legal, right? Also, why is it happening? The Samsquanch looking fellow talks to the guy in the maple leaf costume and says things are going dandy. Maple leaf asks where Sammy the fishy squid boy is, because as a Canadian kid, he’s the only reason why they are there in the first place. Sam, turns out, is playing catch with the Juggernaut, rating ladies on their looks. Because at the X-mansion, we respect women. Jean is a 10, Annie the nurse is a 9 and Emma is a “Dude, you’ve seen that reverse X-bra thing she wears, right?” Juggernaut admits that Emma is the hottest, and that she might as well just walk around the mansion naked, the way she dresses. “Except for the boots, maybe. She should wear the boots all the time.”

This is about when the Alpha Flights come to take Sammy, and the Juggers is super cranky about it. Puck tries to take Annie’s kid and then everyone starts fighitng and yelling, and the Samquantch and Juggers end up doing a double punch out. But it doesn’t end there, They both get up and there is more fighting, which is nice and all, but no one is saying anything super ridiculous, so it’s a little boring. One of the Alpha Flights says something about why they are there in hte first place, which is apparently, the mom of Sam has been phoning, and no one has been answering, so they talked to the governor and agreed that the Canadians should take all the children.

Somewhere in the middle of the fight, Chamber (who is Paige’s ex) and Paige talk about their feelings it ends with Paige asking “Why couldn’t you have loved me like I loved you Jono?” right in front of Angel, who she was going to make out with a little in front of a girl who was naked and jumping rope. It all ends shortly later when Sammy agrees to go back to Canada if it stops all the fighting and the child endangerment involved in saving the children from child enangerment.

And that’s the end!

Next week! Who knows! At this point, I’m thinking of taking a week break from the Drunk Comic Recaps to recharge my batteries, but maaaaaaaan, I almost did that before and that didn’t happen. So! Come back when there’s more? Or, you know, just read the site! Until next time,

Komitchwa bitches!

You Read These With Your Eyes! — March 30th, 2011

Read about these, earth-man.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

JIMMY OLSEN #1 (DC Comics)

Ohhhhhh, this one has been a long time coming. Ever since DC announced they would be cutting the second feature program in favour of $2.99 comics, I’ve been worried about the status of Nick Spencer’s Jimmy Olsen story. As the last serialized part hit Action Comics, we discovered that the conclusion of the story would be found in this: seventy pages of hot ginger goodness.

For those uninitiated to the book, it basically plies an All Star Superman style of storytelling to Jimmy Olsen, giving him some silver age stories within a context of modern storytelling… and that’s rad. Because dammit, if you don’t want to see Jimmy stave off an alien invasion by convincing the whole of Metropolis to be as boring as balls? Then we can’t be friends. And that’s science.

BUTCHER BAKER, RIGHTEOUS MAKER #1 (Image Comics)

They had me at Mike Huddleston. I know he hasn’t been on any huge books? But trust me when I say, the guy’s art is amazing. And hey, Joe Casey? He’s not that bad either. He’s the dude doing the Jack Kirby-meets-weed mash-up that is Godland and did the amazing first eight issues of the recent Youngblood relaunch that mashed the superhero genre with reality TV. Oh, and he’s one of the Men of Action, who together created Ben 10 and Generator Rex and will be writing the upcoming Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon with Brian Michael Bendis and Paul Dini. Whatever.

Anyway, this book is going to be rad – and would you look at that? It sold out of its first print run about six days ago- so what your comic shop ordered is what they are going to get for now. Oh, and the first page of this thing seems to have Jay Leno and Dick Chaney reaching for some kind of mystical golden dildo door handle, so there’s that as well.

Buy it.

TITMOUSE HC (Titmouse)

So this cartoon company – the one that made the little Scott Pilgrim vs. The Animation short and a heap of other amazing animation stuff is putting out a book that they call 1/3 Heavy Metal, 1/3 Mad Magazine, 1/3 Juxtapoz, and 1/3 Ralph Bakshi film-on-paper – so revolutionary, it occupies 4/3rds the referential time and space of normal media.

Also, they claim their art director is French, and so you know the art is good. Either way, this book looks like it will be pretty rad. Though, you don’t really have to take my word for it – they have a bunch of preview art up on their site. So, you know, check that out.

STRANGE TALES II HC (Marvel Comics)

Basically, for the past two years Marvel has hired a bunch of indie comics people to do some comics about their characters, and they are pretty much always super weird and rad. This is the second collection of such works – and it includes some Kate Beaton in it, which caused a ton of hipsters to FREAK THE FUCK OUT about it about two months too late (sorry everyone who came into my store – we had copies for weeks, but I guess you didn’t find out about it until it was cool – ZING!).

GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS #1 (IDW Publishing)

So look, normally I wouldn’t be pushing a Godzilla book, but this thing? Should be crazy. It’s written by Eric Powell, he of The Goon fame and art by Phil Hester, he of… well, of Green Arrow, and Nightwing and The Irredeemable Antman and a whole lot more! You might not know it, but Godzilla has a tradition of absolutely insane comics – and this will probably be no different!

These are just five books being released this week! You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

C!TB's Best of the Week | March 28th, 2011

Ta-daaaahhh

Welcome, ladies and gentledudes, to a brand new week of Comics! The Blog goodness! As always, we like to kick shit off by handing out a couple of awards for things and shit, so uh… let’s… let’s do that. With our hands.

He just wants to give you a hug!GIVE US A SMILE NOW

Norman Osborn is a sick, sick motherfucker.  We all know that, but sometimes we have to take that a little bit more on faith than we do on other occasions.  I mean, it’s been how long since he murdered Gwen Stacy, and what’s he done in the meantime?  Well, sure he was the head of H.A.M.M.E.R., and he wasn’t exactly all sunshine and roses.  Asgard probably wouldn’t say he was a nice guy.  But in Osborn?  He is absolutely terrifying.

Maybe it’s the way Kelly Sue DeConnick writes him as a calculating, megalomaniacal monster willing to embrace that insanity to build an army and then turn around and spit on it because hey, he’s not like them, he’s special.  Or maybe it’s Emma Rios‘ skin crawling, crooked depiction of him as an angular, grinning devil.  Between these two, however, Norman is the scariest he’s been in years; for once, he really feels like the biggest Spider-Man villain of them all for more reason than something he did 38 years ago.  For terrifying us so well, C!TB gives Osborn #4 the Jeepers Creepers, Where’d You Get Those Peepers? Award. (J)

BLUFFIN’ WITH YOUR MUFFIN

Pokerface is a man that has a poker in his face. He runs a secret underwater casino that is advertised to the super rich and famous through a secret internet. He is the best character of 2011 and he’s found in the pages of last week’s Power Man and Iron Fist.

Now if you’ve wasted pretty much any kind of time on this site, you know that we’re a big fan of Fred Van Lente. The man not only knows how to write fun comics, but he also researches the holy hell out of them when the time comes. Anyone who has read Action Philosophers and Comic Book Comics knows what I’m talking about – the dude is well read, and he can turn cold hard facts into fun with a few turns of phrase – and that is no easy task. I will readily admit that, out of the two of us, James probably lives a bit more in the real world and obtains facts by doing things like actually listening to the news and reading non-fiction booksbut look, that doesn’t mean I don’t like knowing things. I just have a hard time dealing with the real world sometimes, when fiction just seems so much more fun. But if I’m afforded the opportunity to learn about THINGS in a slightly more entertaining package (like The Daily Show or The Bugle or the aforementioned Fred Van Lente comics) I’ll do it. And heck, I’ll buy all the other comics the guy does, because sometimes? He even slips in some learning inside of them! Like his Dark Reign: Mr. Negative mini-series that dropped a heap of real-ass Chinese mafia/immigration stuff into it, or his Incredible Hercules comics that dig through bits of, uh… “real” mythology to inform superheroic slug-‘em-ups. The dude is just an amazing writer.

Now I have to admit – I’m pretty sure this book had absolutely no learning in it what-so-ever (unless Mister Professor Van Lente knows a little something about the internet that the rest of us don’t) and so that long, rambling gush fest was really nothing more than me getting some love out of my system in a way that doesn’t involve police. But whatever. This book was rad, and absolutely all of you should be reading it – and not just because of Pokerface or Fred Van Lente, but because we’re awarding it the highly coveted Chairface Chippendale Award for Excellence in Villainy.

Better than alllll the restPicking something for this slot seems to get harder and harder each week, because – let’s face it, there’s a ton of great comics out there, and if you’re doing this right? You’re enjoying quite a lot of them. I know last week, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realized it was James’ week to pick out something from the flood of amazing books that hit the stands last week. But dammit, if this week didn’t stab me in the eyes with awesomeness too.

And so my pick this week is made not because it outshone others, but because, goddammit, I couldn’t stop smiling as I read it, and I was just in the mood for something big and silly this week.

Damn RIGHTS.

In this issue, not only do we get another appearance by the current Batwoman, but the old Batwoman shows up inside these pages, and details exactly how Bruce learned the dreaded tango of death. Once again, Grant Morrison’s ability to seamlessly blend silver age Bat stories in with the more modern “serious” Batman takes this little story to a very special place, in which I start getting the vapors. Plus, new rotating series artist Chris Burnham explodes out of the gate by nailing some pretty stunning artistic transitions – from channeling J.H. Williams with the current Batwoman scenes, to matching silver age art beat for beat with the flashback stuff (and hitting some Paquette style moments near the end). The guy is amazing, and DC definitely made the right choice with locking him down right away.

The next issue of Inc. should be on the stands in a few weeks – and if the quality maintains? We’ll be in for a great ride.

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcasting week.

The Culture Hole, Issue 5: "Out of Character" and that comic wherein Batman straight up kills a dude

The Culture Hole! For all your cultural orifice needs (logo adapted with love from http://emnla.deviantart.com/)

Issue 5: “Out of Character” and that comic wherein Batman straight up kills a dude

“It’s just so out of character.”

Have you heard that before?  Probably.  But I’m willing to bet that chances are, it wasn’t an expression of worry about somebody you care about.  In fact, I’m guessing you heard it said as a term of disgust or disapproval about a fictional character by a fan of that character.  I’ve heard it said about Glee, about Superman and just about every other popular fictional character I care to know things about.  Hell, yesterday I read someone complaining about a Spider-Man storyline that hasn’t been published yet in a series they’re not reading, all because four years ago someone else wrote a different Spider-Man story that committed a great sin…

Spider-Man acted out of character.

What does that mean?  Well, Brandon wrote an article related to the same storyline, but I’m going to take a more general approach, because I think the audience is often as responsible for their reaction as the story mechanics are.  Now, I could explain why, genre and medium-wise, certain things are exactly within the purview of a show before something becomes “out of character” and that unless Batman tells Robin, “We don’t kill!” immediately before straight up murdering a motherfucker, it’s hard to say he’s acting out of character, but that doesn’t help understand why the accusation gets laid, so I’ll do something different. Because I have a degree in guessing how people feel – asking how they feel is my next one.  Because it’s something that happens in more than just comics.

The thing is, these people, they like Spider-Man.  Even if they don’t like a certain portrayal of the character, they still like others.  So what’s different?  What makes something out of character to them?

BATMAN LOVES GUNS EXCEPT WHEN HE DOESN’T

Because actually story-wise, there’s not much that’s off limit.  Each character has their core – “Truth, Justice & the American Way,” “I will become a bat,” “With great power comes great responsibility” – but beyond that, there aren’t really many firm rules.  Superman, Batman and Spider-Man don’t kill.  Well, except for the occasional stories where they do.  But despite this, each of the characters still has that core, that fundamental essence.

Is that core the original version of the character?  Do Bob Kane and Bill Finger get to say what’s “in character,” forever and ever?  Well, Batman originally had a gun sometimes, which is verboten these days (unless it’s to kill Darkseid, or, you know… all these other times), so… no?

Man, he straight up WRECKED that nosferatu.
This is not a dream, Bob Kane drew this in Detective Comics #32.

Here’s the thing: Batman has been many different things over the course of his career.  He’s been dark, camp, Dick Grayson, you name it.  But they all happened.  They’re all “in character.”  Spider-Man has been a loner, an Avenger, a schoolteacher, a disgraced tabloid photographer, and a scientist at a think tank for geniuses.  No matter what, he was still Spider-Man.

INTROSPECTIN’

So after all that, what’s left?  If little story devices are still on the table, what does it mean for a character to be “out of character”?  To explain that, let me tell a quick story:

I’ve never been a big Superman fan, or at least not as much of one as I am of, say, Spider-Man.  But when I read All Star Superman?  I was immediately smitten.  For years, I hadn’t been able to really connect with the character, and now I was face to face with an iteration of him that I really liked.  It felt like the Superman I had in my head.

Hold onto that phrase, it’s important.

And then I started reading some other Superman comics.  Some of them clicked with me.  Some of them… didn’t.  Eventually, I found myself reading a version of the character I really didn’t care for, who I actually found quite off-putting, and I found myself thinking a familiar thought:

This is so out of character!

Suddenly, I understood it.  What made something “out of character” was… me.  Just me.  Because I was hearing a lot about how other people loved the Superman that I didn’t, how he was exactly what they had in their heads.

There that is again; it’s probably the single most important thing I could possibly have learned about comics.  When I said a certain Superman was out of character, what I was really saying was that it wasn’t All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.  When Batman seems off, it’s because he’s not the cartoon version I used to watch in my PJs eating cereal.  And when I like Dan Slott’s Spider-Man, it’s because it satisfies that insatiable hunger for wavy lines over a man in tights’ head that the first comic I ever read left inside me, in a shockingly similar way.

Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to shit on other people’s genuine love of comics, the ones that seem just right to them.  The thing is, that’s every comic.  Everything’s in character to someone, as long as Peter Parker doesn’t suddenly turn into a jive-talkin’ gangster with an Uzi he calls “The Spider”.  Maybe even if that happens.  That’s what the multiverse is for.  However, in the meantime, I’m laying a challenge.  Instead of complaining about how a certain hero is acting out of character, instead of asking writers and editors to “have the characters behave logically again” (a Real Thing I’ve Heard), if you absolutely cannot bring yourself to appreciate a certain artistic team’s vision for a character…

Just remember the comics you love instead.

You're Welcome, Internet | March 21 – 25, 2011

Drawing sex pictures for the masses.

Well hello there, readers!  You just caught us making people angry.  Don’t worry, it wasn’t you.  Probably.  But who are we to tell you what does and doesn’t make you angry?  Nobody!  Who are we to tell you what Internet Things you’ll like?  Well, we’re us.

You’re welcome, Internet.

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Roger Biebert, at your service.

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Brandon is a better dancer than this, James is worse.

Ignore the text, love the image.

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I don't even what is this oh my so COOL.

Lucy - Benjamin F. Guy

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In the midnight hour, she cried, "MORE MORE MORE JACKIMALS"

God, I love Jackimals.

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LEASK: I absolutely dropped the ball on this one.  I had a new Culture Hole in the works, based off an idea I’ve had since before the site started, and then sat down to write it and… nothing came out.

But, as always, thank Moses for Brandon, because he came up with a dickens of a post for today, and it is excellent.  Meanwhile, you’ll get to see the new Culture Hole on Monday.  You might even get to finger my Culture Hole twice next week, if you’re lucky.

Excelsior!

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SCHATZ: Anytime I hear someone thank Moses, I hear Seth Cohen talking about Moses and Jesus – THE SUPER TEAM – working together to give Ryan Atwood a Christmukkah miracle. You guys, I still miss The OC. But anyway, it’s been another great week here at the site, and we’ve already got content for next week ready to roll! It’s the most ahead we’ve been in a long time.

And you know something, comics have still been amazing lately, and that doesn’t look like it’ll let up any time soon – which is why we are so excited to write for this site every single week. If you keep reading, we’ll keep writing. And, uh… even if you aren’t reading, we’ll probably keep at it.

Anyway, until next week…

You’ve been reading Comics! The Blog. This concludes our broadcast week.

Me vs. The Angry Mob #4: LCS Etiquette Tips

Do you think that I'm funny?

The other day, a crazy person threatened to stab one of my customers in the heart. This, after the crazy person had shown the customer a comic he had pitched to Image – a pitch they did not approve – and the customer offered him some honest critique. The situation was brought to an end when I threatened to call the cops, and the crazy person left. After this, the customer looked at me and went, “You must get this a lot at a place like this.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, “Not… really? I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Like the people who come in here,” he said, “They have to be a bit crazier than normal, right?”

It’s a refrain I hear often from people – usually when one of our more eccentric customers says or does something a little… off center. The “weird” person will leave, and another person will walk up to the till and say, “You must get that a lot.”

But we don’t. We really don’t. We just get in your random, everyday assortment of people – and some people? Are crazy. That’s just science.

Now, recently it’s come to my attention that it’s not just customers that think comic shop inhabitants are social reprobates. There’s another group of people who seem to think that comic store customers are stupid and weird and should never, ever leave their homes: the people who work at comic stores. And honestly? These people should know better than to assume that from their customers – but more and more, I’ve been finding content on retailer sites that accuse all of their customers of being stupid and weird. Which… seriously? SERIOUSLY??! You’re going to openly berate your customers on your store’s website for being less than perfect? That’s not only a stupid, terrible thing to do, but it’s poor business sense.

I think the absolute worst thing a proprietor can do is openly yell at their customers on their store’s website. But hey, that doesn’t really seem to be stopping anyone. In fact, over the past two weeks, one retailer has been providing his customers (and the internet) with a list of things they should do to make sure their comic shop feels appreciated – as if their customers owe the store anything for providing them with guaranteed weekly business. The bullet points of the list itself are pretty harmless, telling people that they should probably let the shop know if they are moving, and to shut down their file when they do so – but the bile that spews forth in the “commentary” section below each point is… something.

And so, in the interest of helping this retailer (and the internet) I am going to fix his list by providing the real text that should go below each of those bullet points.

As always, you’re welcome.

 

Me vs. The Angry Mob: Issue #4

LCS Etiquette Tips

#1: If you’re going to move, (please) let your shop know beforehand so your store doesn’t order stuff you can’t buy.

You get busy when you move, and that’s cool. I’ve moved before, and I know how it is. And if you forget, hey, no big deal. It’s really my fault for not asking you how you’re doing and what’s been happening in your life. Because you come here every week, right? Or at least frequently enough that I’ve noticed your absence. And hey, you know, we’re sad that you can’t make it in anymore, but if you ever move back or visit, stop on by! We’d love to see you again.

#2: If you have “financial difficulties”, close your file or significantly reduce the number of comics on your list so the store you liked doesn’t order stuff you can’t buy.

Ah, sorry. That bullet point sounds a little harsh, doesn’t it? We should’ve probably typed something to the effect of, “if you’re a little short on cash, let us know! We can help you out by shaving a few titles from your list, or even transitioning you to some trades as story arcs wrap up”. Because we’ve all been there. The first time I moved away from home was an epic failure. I was just scraping by, my car had blown a tire, and I just couldn’t afford life in general, let alone my comics. And man, my comic shop guy was so nice to me. He got a hold of me, asked what was up, and when I told him all about what was going on, he helped me get back on track – even let me pick up a bunch of my stuff at cost just so I could re-align myself and get back on track. After that point, he talked to me about cutting back a few of my titles into something more manageable, and even gave me some tips on, you know, the whole “finally off on your own” thing. Man, that dude was rad – and he’s pretty much the basis of how we try to treat our customers here – with respect, and understanding.

#3: If you call on Thursday, and ask your shop to hold something for you, you don’t need to call on Friday to ask again.

You won’t need to call again, because we’ll let you know exactly how our holds policy works. And hey, if you can’t make it in before the deadline, no worries! I’m sure we can work something out.

#4: It’s not really a big deal that there’s a female in the shop. Leave her alone, and don’t stare. This goes DOUBLE for female store employees. Don’t stare at people

It’s a little creepy. But look, you already know this, why am I even bringing it up?

#5: If there’s only a few left,  ask before you grab more than one of something (we’ll let you know if there’s a limitation). Sharing is a basic skill.

Unless it’s a special promotion, you can pretty much grab whatever you want – and if we have limits on anything, they will be clearly posted – because, you know, common courtesy.

#6: Use only the kind of language that you would use in a job interview. Foul language is not necessary, and bothers some other people.

Yeah, salty language can be fun – but we’re also hanging out in public. I know you’re a person of intelligence – you read comics and you frequent our store! – so, you know, be cool, and everything will be awesome.

#7: If you hate the latest issue of something and want to drop it, (please) let your shop know RIGHT AWAY.

#8: If you love the latest issue of something and want to add it, (please) let your shop know RIGHT AWAY.

But really, we know what’s on your file. We hand it to you, we talk to you frequently about the books you’re buying, about what you’re enjoying, what you’re not enjoying, and we try to recommend things that we know you’re going to like, so… we should pretty much be on top of this ourselves. But hey, we love hearing your opinions, and if you think something hasn’t been up to snuff lately, we’ll take that puppy off your file for you. Or if you’ve been enjoying that thing you’ve been grabbing off the shelf, we’ll add it! Really it’s no skin off our nose, just so long as you’re enjoying the books that you read!

#9: You may love talking to your shop owner/employees, and they to you, but if there’s a line behind you, walk away.

Hey, don’t worry about this point at all. We’re all adults here, and when there’s a line, that’s where our focus will be. It’s not up to you to let us do our job, that’s why we get paid the big bucks!

#10: All discussions about who will beat who in a fight have the same one answer: Whomever the writer wants to win.

Or Batman. But seriously, go nuts. That’s the fun of being at the shop! Just don’t insult each other personally, and we’ll have no problems.

#11: Don’t put items from your hold file back on the shelf. Hand them to the employees and have them take it off your file.

But again, we do hand you your file, and we do talk with you about it. We’ll be able to catch most things, this way, but sometimes, things slip through. Never, ever feel bad about cutting a book from your file, and always feel free to let us know when you’re no longer interested in a book. We’d much rather you enjoy comics, rather than have you treat it like a chore, you know?

#12: Cash is better than debit or credit. If you write a check, make sure it’s good before you write it.

Hey, whatever is most convenient for you, go nuts! Though, we usually don’t accept cheques, using any form of debit or credit is openly welcomed. Because why would we want to inconvenience you?

————————-

There. Fixed! Now apparently, the shop will be posting more of these on Monday. Which, hey, good for them. But seriously, whoever is writing them should take a good hard look at them, and decide how it makes them look.

Never treat your customers as if they are stupid, or remedial – because they aren’t. They are people, and people are flawed. Hell, you are flawed, as evidenced by your willingness to yell at the people who are giving you money. And yes, while there are some people who might be a little more infuriating than your more typical customer, by no means does it give you the right to punish them all.

You’re an adult now. You run a business. Grow up, and deal with it like a grown up – and maybe if you start treating your customers with the smallest bit of respect, you’ll be afforded the same level of respect.

 

BACK MATTER

Point seven and eight of this list details protocol for books you either want to pick up, or don’t want to pick up. Sometimes, customers find it difficult to add or drop titles for various reasons. Usually, the adding thing is problematic because… well, they’re already getting so many titles already – and the dropping thing is hard because… well, what if it gets good once they stop? They’ll have a gap!

There isn’t a fool proof way to get customers to add books they enjoy or drop books that they don’t, but there are ways to make that process easier. Recently, I’ve devised a program that helps massage the process.

STEP ONE: Talk to your customers about the books they are getting. Get a sense of what books they are loving and what books they are just getting.

STEP TWO: If you keep hearing negative things about a book month in and month out, flag it. The next time that book comes out, make a note of it. Put a sticky note in their file reminding you of this point

STEP THREE: Find a book that they will enjoy, but is not on their list. If you’ve been talking to them about their comics, this should be easy to do. Take a look at their pull list, and dig through your memory banks, and come up with a title. Grab an issue of that book (a jumping on point is best, of course, but work with what you have) and put that book at the bottom of their file.

STEP FOUR: When the customer walks through the doors, hand them their file. Make a point to mention the fact that another issue of that book they’re not enjoying is out again, and when they complain again, offer them a deal: you’ll sell them this new comic, that you know they’re going to like this week, and you’ll keep the issue of the thing they don’t like in their file. Tell them they can go home and read the book, and the next time they’re in, they can tell you what they thought. If they love the book, you can add it to their file and drop the book they’re not enjoying. If they don’t like it, tell them to bring back that new comic, and you’ll exchange it for the book in their file, straight across. They get to try a new comic, and you get to sell more of a new, great series – and if it doesn’t work? No one is losing any money.

This system has worked quite well for me. It’s a bit of logistical work, but in the end, it’s well worth it, because I know my customers are enjoying the comics that they are reading – or at the very least, I know they are happier with the list that they currently have. It’s win-win.

Solving Everything – Issue 1 (of 5): The Bridge

THIS CAN’T BE EVERYTHING.

Because I want to be a writer, and I want to get paid for writing. Because I want to get laid on a more consistent basis. And most importantly, I want to fight dinosaurs on the moon.

Because I have been to the future, and I know only two of these things will happen, and they won’t all happen at once. Because who can write while they’re fighting dinosaurs?

But somewhere out there, in different timelines, in different realities, these things are happening right now. There’s no waiting, no hoping, no whatever. It just is.

God dammit, I want to go to there.

ARC ONE: THE BRIDGE (Dark Reign FF #1-5)

Reed Richards is a troubled man. Over the past few months, he’s made some huge mistakes, and they’ve almost cost his family their lives. So he does what any self-respecting genius would do: he constructs a machine that can look at every reality so that he can determine once and for all if he’s really made the best decisions – and if he hasn’t, how he might go about correcting them.

It’s the kind of idea that you can only get away with in the realm of comics. More specifically, superhero comics, where the fantastic is not only tolerated, but expected. In his exploration of all possible realities, Reed is not only searching for answers to his own problems, but Jonathan Hickman is opening his grand Fantastic Four run with a look at all of the places this book could be at specific points in other realities. It’s an opening concept that announces quite loudly that this will be a different book, one that will use ideas to push outwards in different directions, unbound by the laws of any specific thought patterns – a train of though emboldened by the story’s concurrent plot points.

As Reed explores all realities, Ben, Johnny and Sue end up getting trapped in a batch of collapsed space time. As the book continues, the trio is sent around different eras, letting residual bits of where they’ve been before cling to them as each compression occurs. A lot of people saw this storyline as filler to what was going on with Reed and the children (which we’ll get to shortly), but in the context of his larger story, it seems like Hickman really wanted to drive the point home that this book, his Fantastic Four, would be a book about ideas, and none would be too big to shuffle off. And so there are dinosaurs. There’s Ben Grimm wearing a monocle, declaring it to be the “Clobbering Hour”. There’s pirates and cowboys and rayguns from space pulps and of course, things get big and complicated. But just when things seem their most dire, Hickman has the characters pass this thought through compressed time and alternate realities:

“No. It’s never over. There’s always a way.”

Which is pretty much the foundation this book is built upon. There is a solution to everything. There’s merit to ideas and the future, but people have to be bold enough to go forward, and to dig hard for those solutions.

This thought is even shared by the storyline carried by Franklin and Valeria. Left to their own devices with Reed traversing realities and the other grown-ups trapped in compressed time-space, the kids are left alone to deal with Norman Osborn and the forces of HAMMER. They do this using everything at their disposal: Val’s new-found intelligence, Franklin’s childish fearlessness, and a well of bravery pulled from having such fantastic roll models. They stand on their own and come up with stalls that take them to a point of safety, and in the end, Franklin saves the whole family by turning an idea into surprising reality.

Hickman’s first arc ends with tendrils that reach out into the future. Reed makes a promise to Sue to dismantle the machine he used to look into all those realities, and he does so – only to rebuild it in another room. After all, once it occurs to him that elsewhere, there were Reeds that built similar machines, there remains the possibility that he does not have to carry the burden of coming up with ideas to by himself – which is the thrust of his second arc, aptly titled Solve Everything. In another reality, I would continue onward and start delving into the intricacies of that arc – but in this reality, I have to finish ordering comics for May.

And to think, somewhere, I am punching dinosaurs right now.

Until next time.

 

You Read These With Your Eyes! — March 23rd, 2011

Read about these, earth-man.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

That's a sex mustache if I ever saw one.CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BALTROC (One-Shot, Marvel Comics)

Finally, a Captain America villain who has nothing to do with Nazis!  Now, Batroc the Leaper has actually been around since 1966, but he often gets overshadowed by guys like the Red Skull or Baron Zemo, who were like Hitler’s best friends or something.  They even had hateful little picnics.

Anyway.

Marvel is continuing its celebration of Cap’s 70th anniversary with a series of one-shots looking at his friends and foes, and they’ve tapped C!TB favourite Kieron Gillen and Renato Arlem to delve into the character of Captain America’s most dashing, most Gallic enemy.  As we prepare for a big Nazi-heavy event (Fear Itself) and a Nazi-heavy summer blockbuster movie (Captain America: The First Avenger), it should be a nice palette cleanser to keep things from getting played out.  Because Nazis?  They’re the best villains, but mustachioed Frenchmen will always have a place in my heart.

What?

FF#1 (Marvel Comics)

We all miss Johnny Storm.  He was one of comics’ greatest characters, the kid brother in Marvel’s First Family and Spider-Man’s best friend.  So where do Reed, Sue and Ben go from here?  How do you keep going about your life when a part of it just… goes away?

We’re about to find out.  FF, the new adventures of the former Fantastic Four, from the team of Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting, begins tomorrow.  Despite the hugeness of Johnny’s death, we know there are still stories to tell.  Reed knows the world will end, and soon.  Dr. Doom and Valeria still have their secret deal.  The Four Cities are still going to go to war.  Nathaniel Richards is back.  And we’re about to see all this happen, even as Spider-Man fulfills his lifelong dream of joining the team.

The death of Johnny wasn’t the end.  It wasn’t a gimmick.  It was part of a story – a big one – that’s still being told.  Let’s see what happens.

Oh Ryan Kelly, making me fall in love with imaginary women.NEW YORK FIVE #3 (Vertigo)

I only watched part of the first season of Gossip Girl, but I like to think that if the show was more like New York Five, I’d have kept watching.  Brian Kelly and Ryan Wood’s story of four New Yorkers trying to get by in school, deal with their families, with even a little bit of romance and bad boys thrown in.

Now, I get if this doesn’t seem like something you’d like.  It sounds like it could be pretty damn trashy.  But you know what?  It’s not.  It’s a beautifully told, wonderfully drawn story about interesting people, with the backdrop of New York in all its glory, expertly rendered by Kelly and Wood.  So check it out.  Tell yourself you’re doing it to see little neighborhood dives and classic New York architecture so expertly rendered it’s practically a character itself.  But you’ll keep reading, because the whole thing is just damn good.

OSBORN #4 (Marvel Comics)

Norman Osborn stories are hard to tell.  They just are.  He’s evil.  He’s crazy.  He smart.  We get it.  But this?  Osborn?  This is something else.  Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios are telling maybe the most interesting Norman story we’ve seen in years.  He’s not the Green Goblin, he’s not the director of H.A.M.M.E.R., he’s a prisoner.  A prisoner with smarts, power and a crazy cult of supporters, and that could be all he needs.  What are his goals?  Can one reporter find the truth and break the story?  How big is the Goblin Cult?  I can’t wait to find out.  Because this is comics in all caps, that’s how much fun I’m having.

Does he ever get his claws tangled?WOLVERINE AND JUBILEE #3 (Marvel Comics)

Every time I read one of her comics, Kathryn Immonen needs to make more of them.  I mean, look at this!  Vampire Jubilee and Wolverine go on an adventure in Siberia, except things go sideways, and how.  How is that not one of the greatest things you’ve heard today?  Nobody writes the way Immonen does, and her talents give a great spin on the classic Logan/Jubilee relationship.  To Logan, she’s still the kid he used to keep an eye on, to whom he was a second father.  Except now she’s a depowered mutant, a vampire and kind of pissed about the whole thing.  She’s not too thrilled about being reliant on a supply of his blood, either.  But hey: family; what are you gonna do?

I’m gonna read this, that’s what.

And there you go.  Those are just five of the incredible-looking comics hitting the shelves this week.  Does it look a little Marvel-heavy?  Well, don’t worry, because DC also has some great series out, like Batman Incorporated #4 and the next two instalments of War of the Green Lanterns.  Last week, I was telling Brandon about how after a couple of heavy weeks, this one would be a bit lighter, and he just laughed and laughed and laughed.  Now I know why.

You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.