Review and Preview: Double Jumpers #1

DOUBLE JUMPERS #1 (Action Lab Comics)
By Dave Dwonch and Bill Blankenship

Synopsis: A group of vaguely socially inept gamers befalls some Weird Science style 80s shenanigans when they accidently switch bodies with their characters in the game they are play testing.

01. Much like Beauty and the Beast, it’s a tale as old as time. You’re testing out a video game, when suddenly, somebody does the Dew in a wrong way and ends up spilling it on the gaming console. This causes some serious Freaky Friday shit to ensue, and you find yourself inside the very video game you were playing, while your character has run of your body.

Ah, to be young and in beta.

02. Double Jumpers is another great new series from Action Lab Comics. If that name sounds familiar, you might recognize them as the company behind the incredible Princeless series. This new series (set to release in May) is definitely not as all-ages friendly as Princeless, but it certainly is just as fun. As noted above it follows the lives of a handful of gamers, who are play testing one of the most highly anticipated gaming releases in recent history. With deadline pressures pushing down on them and some major glitches still in need of ironing, the gang partake in a late game in order to figure out one of the game’s more glaring problems. Which is when the trouble starts.

03. As always, when I read comics, I’m looking to have as much fun as I possibly can. After all, what’s the point in seeking out entertainment if I’m not entertained? For the most part when I read something, I find myself craving a bit of levity. Even if it’s a bit of gallows humour in a very serious book, I will take that touch of humanity over a plot that will wring me dry emotionally.

First and foremost, Double Jumpers is a fun book. It takes itself just as seriously as it needs to (which is not a lot) and spends a lot of time developing a playful, adversarial relationship between the characters. It also lays the groundwork quite well for the shenanigans that ensue, making sure that rules and character are in place for when the crazy gender swapping starts and the plot really throws itself into gear.

04. Beyond that, I can’t say much about the series. As always, these things are best to experience for yourself – and towards that notion, we have a nifty preview of the first issue for you below. Check it out – and if you like it, let your local comic shop know that you want a copy. The series is in the most recent edition of Previews, which means your retailer will be setting numbers for the book later this month.

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 9 – Ghost Ridin' the Whip

We're trouble.

Dust off your earbuds and plug them into your sex holes [Ed Note: Do not actually do this], it’s time for a new episode of Podcast! The Comics!  If you can get past the title, it’s pretty good!

This episode is brought to you by Wizard’s Comics, home of the best deal on comics in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Check out their website for a list of the week’s new releases and information on upcoming Magic, The Gathering tournaments, and watch their Twitter account for news and announcements about the shop and its wares.

Episode 9 – Ghost Ridin’ the Whip

In our second consecutive week without bees (we’re as disappointed as you are), the boys cover a wide variety of subjects.  First, they wax philosophical about how perceived trends in the Big Two comic publishers may have resulted in what looks to be a MASSIVE year from Image Comics and for creator-owned comics.  Later, the boys segue into conversations about creator rights, Tumblr art theft and Gary Friedrich‘s recent problems.

But first, what you’ve REALLY been asking for: James explains Mass Effect 2 to Brandon!  You’re welcome, Internet.

As promised in the episode, the article James talks about that proposes the world of Mass Effect is the most important sci-fi universe of our generation, can be found over at Pop Bioethics.  Some spoilers, but surprisingly few of them!

Download the episode here or subscribe through iTunes.  If you want to subscribe the old-fashioned way, insert the following text into your audio program of choice (in iTunes, click “Advanced,” then click “Subscribe to Podcast”):

You can also find all the episodes to date on Libsyn’s site here.

As always check us out on on Twitter at @blogaboutcomics@leask & @soupytoasterson!

You Read These With Your Eyes | February 29th, 2012

If it's good enough for Elvis, it's good enough for you, dammit.

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

ANGEL AND FAITH #7 (Dark Horse)

One of the best things to happen to the comics Buffyverse is, I think, the unification of its two television properties, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, under one publisher’s roof.  One of the fictional universe’s strengths while it was on TV was just that: it was a universe.  Things that happened in one series could affect the other.  Characters would make visits.  Sunnydale and Los Angeles, so geographically close, were treated like they actually were.  When Dark Horse and IDW split the properties, however, that core strength was lost because the two series couldn’t really acknowledge each other in a meaningful way.  One of the great things about the reunion is Angel and Faith, a series that has spun right out of the Buffy series but with the Angel television show’s darker tone.  It’s a good series, and the excitement around it feels a lot like that of the original series’ launch.

Right at its fundamental level, Angel and Faith is about two characters from the two different comic series, coming together to tell a different story.  It couldn’t have happened without Dark Horse getting the Angel property, and they haven’t slacked on delivering the promise.  The characters of Angel and Faith had a complicated, warm relationship on the Angel TV series, one that it’s welcoming to go back to.  It’s unique in the Buffyverse, and as Angel and Faith try to bring Giles back from the dead, it’s getting a lot of attention and depth.  Check it out!


Let me just say, right off the bat, that this is a premise for a comic that is specifically designed to thrill me, so I won’t be able to stay impartial regarding it.

That said, this is a comic book where Spider-Man goes to space to defend an astronaut from one of Doctor Octopus’ plots and that is maybe the most incredible-sounding comic I have heard about in months.  Spider.  Man.  In.  Space.  If that doesn’t excite you fundamentally, you probably want to move along.  If it makes you tingle, you’re on the right track.

To me, this kind of issue – a done-in-one story with ties to previous and forthcoming arcs – is a perfect example of why Dan Slott is producing the best Amazing Spider-Man stories in years.  He can do big, seemingly outlandish stories that could be a misstep but end up fitting perfectly into the crazy world of Peter Parker.  No matter what oversized adventures Peter is having – and nobody writes them better than Slott – there’s always the constant drumbeat of Peter Parker and the events of his non-costumed life.  It’s a tether that keeps Spidey spinning out into the aether, and it’s continually and expertly done by Slott even as his artists, in this case Giuseppe Camuncoli, up the ante in terms of the book’s visual spectacle.  As things rev up going into Ends of the Earth, it’s weird to think that a story with Spider-Man going into space will be the calmest thing we see for a while, but that’s the magic of comics.


This comic marks the second half of a really cool initiative that DC is going, where they debut comics digitally and then collect them in print later.  While the recent announcement has been that this approach will be how the new Smallville comics debut, this physical release of Batman Beyond Unlimited is a great place to launch the initiative because it not only features a DC media property that started on TV (like Smallville), but also a property that was recently a pretty well-received comic in its own right.  Appealing to fans of Bruce Timm is a smart place to start off the new “digital first” approach, and I’m interested not only in the story and in its writer/artists’ performance, but in  seeing how this approach shakes out and develops in the coming months.

GREEN WAKE #10 (Image)

And with this, Kurtis J. Wiebe and Riley Rossimo‘s spooky horror comic comes to an end.  I’m still catching up on the series, but from what I’ve read so far, it is amazing.  Whether you’re finishing the run with this issue or catching up via the first trade paperback, what’s consistent is Wiebe‘s skill with making the comic’s world a believable one, and Rossimo‘s ability to craft an atmosphere of dread and discomfort.  While the series is bowing out with this issue, you can still read it after the fact and jump in on its creators’ new series that are coming up!


I am not going to lie, I am dying to read this comic.  One big reason, of course, is that it is a one-shot comic starring Ralph Wiggum, which is to say it is going to be filled with absurdity and idiocy to a hilarious degree.  While Ralph’s increasingly exaggerated simple-mindedness has annoyed some Simpsons fans over the years, it’s a quality that makes the character suitable for a one-shot comic, shunted far enough away from the (wildly shaky) canon of the TV series to a place where it can let loose.  As zany as they are, the core cast of The Simpsons is so established that anything out of the norm can be a shock.  But Ralph Wiggum, the perfect idiot who hallucinates his own fantasy world filled with a Wiggle Puppy and an arsonist leprechaun?  That’s a character designed for the world of Simpsons comics.

The comic is the first in Bongo‘s line of quarterly One-Shot Wonders, and I’m excited to see what they do with the initiative.  If the main criticism of the show (which I’ve debunked before) is that it’s stuck around too long, then I think there’s a niche for people who love the characters and world of the show but want it in a relatively limited quantity.  With a one-shot, it’s hard for Ralphie to overstay his welcome.  Would an ongoing series make sense for him?  Heck no.  But a one-shot is a nice little morsel to whet the appetite.  In three months, we’ll move onto another character and another corner of Springfield.   Cool.

Plus: Sergio Aragonés!

These are five of the many great 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.

Winter is Coming

WINTER SOLDIER #1-2 (Marvel Comics)
By Ed “ward Cullen” Brubaker, Butch “Cassidy and the Sundance Film Festival” Guice, Bettie “Stop with the damn nicknames” Breitweiser and VC’s Joe “Fine, no more nicknames” Caramagna

Synopsis: Bucky Barnes fights against those damn Commies and finds himself at odds with a Russian Gorilla with a machine gun, and a jetpack.

01. There’s nothing that I like more than a good melding of genres. More often than not, I find that the practice produces content that feels a bit more fresh than your more standard fare. For instance, early volumes of Criminal (alongside the extremely talented Sean Phillips) told fairly straight laced crime stories – heists and hitmen and dames and the like – and they were all great. But then Bru pulled out a trick where he plied the more typical noir tropes to a set of characters that borrowed heavily from Archie Comics – and the results of that had me floored. The two genres that don’t seem to go together – the all American, apple pie and baseball, Happy Days style ground up with some Chandler and Hammett and the like – but showing an equal love and respect for both, Brubaker turned out a script rife with nostalgia-made-new. Something old polished and placed in a new light.

Again alongside Phillips, he continued his streak of mixing genres with Fatale, another noir style series but with dribs and drabs of H.P. Lovecraft and other creeping horror bits.

It’s been one of their best work to date – and Bru is complimenting this series with some Marvel work that also plays with genre, in the pages of Winter Soldier

The opening pages of Winter Soldier #1 paint the book as an old school classy spy tale – and this is very much the case. Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser take great pains to give Bru’s script that high stakes, high rolling, off the cuff, sex-venture style that you’d typical find in, say, an old James Bond movie. A bit more Sinatra than Clooney, draping the proceedings with a touch of that old class, even when things veer more towards the fantastic. And things do get pretty fantastic.

Mixed in with all the dressing of an old school spy story, are bits of sci-fi craziness. The main thrust of the story comes from some old Russian sleeper agents being reactivated and used in measured attacks on the Marvel Universe. Doctor Doom gets a taste of some of the consequences, and needless to say, he’s not too happy. Oh, and also, this happens.

For those wondering, yes. That is definitely a gorilla with a machine gun yelling “Death to America”. And the kicker? He also has a jet pack.

03. The twin ideas behind the straight laced classy spy thriller and jet pack gorillas seem a bit incongruous, and under normal circumstances, they would be. There’s a reason why Bond never fought gorillas. There’s also a reason why The Middleman did fight gorillas. But together? One would seem to cheapen the other. But here? In this series? The two live beside each other, and are treated with equal validity. Neither set of tropes swipe at the other, and Bru doesn’t pass judgement on which he enjoys more. He just writes a slick, fun spy story that happens to have a talking jet pack gorilla, one that is a serious threat… and that’s rad.

04. If you haven’t managed to get your mitts on some Winter Soldier yet – trust me: you owe it to yourself to correct this mistake. Even if you are the type who has read Brubaker’s Cap run and fell away for one reason or another, you need to get this book. The work is some of Brubaker’s best – not to mention Guice and Breitweiser’s – and you can tell everyone involved is having so much fun.

And isn’t that the point of comics? Of media in general? Isn’t it supposed to be entertaining and fun? I’m definitely glad there are books like this at the big two publishers, adding a bit of style and levity to what can become a bit of a straight faced, grim fictional universe.

Extreme Measures

Rob's entry into Penny Arcade's "Pose Like Rob Liefeld" Contest

Contrary to what you may have heard, Rob Liefeld is a creator of good comics. Looking around the internet and listening to tirades in the comic shop, you might be hard pressed to find evidence of this. In fact, there are some that would would have you believe that the man is nothing but a monster, breezing in on a wave of pouches and dubiously function gun paraphernalia, hell bent on destroying everything he touches. Between frothing rants about proper anatomy and stylistic choices, you’ll hear a lot about how he’s ruined every character he has ever touched, blotting out suns and sucking oxygen from rooms. This is absolutely not the case.

It is fair to say that Liefeld is not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, I will freely admit that he is not the kind of creator that I gravitate to. As one of the founders of Image and one of the poster boys for a period of comics rife with seriousness and guns, he’s never really appealed to my sensibilities. And that’s perfectly okay. I am capable of seeing one of his books, and accepting that I probably won’t enjoy the story inside, and moving along. But does that mean the work he creates is invalid? Does it mean that his body of work, such as it is, is destructive and harmful? No. Absolutely not.

Rob Liefeld is a man who makes a specific kind of comic book. If you see his name on a book, whether you like his work or not, you are aware of what you will probably find within that book’s pages. More often than not, your assumption will be correct. But you should not get up in arms when he comes into contact with pen and paper. You should not decry the fact that he gets to make comic books. The fact of the matter is, Rob Liefeld is the guy who is the best at making comics by Rob Liefeld – and for a certain set of people out there, nothing compares to what Rob brings to the table.

You can come at me with various arguments, and trust me when I say, I have heard them all. I’ve been to that link that has the itemized list of the 40 worst pictures Liefeld has ever drawn. I’ve heard legit, professional artists decry the fact that he does not know (and refuses to learn) the basics of drawing anatomy. And yet, the man can sell a comic book, and at one point in time, sold them better than almost anyone else on the market.

Even today, his name is a draw. My new comic book shelf will attest to the fact that slapping the guy on a book will move copies for a certain audience – and they love the man voraciously. There is a market for his creations, and in my opinion, that validates his status as a comic book professional. Again, I am not included in that audience, but I would never dream for a second of taking those comics away from the people who enjoy them, due to the simple fact that I don’t. There are people out there who don’t enjoy my favourite comic books. I’ve heard long screeds on why the current Daredevil ongoing by Mark Waid and his bevy of super talented artists is ruining the character. Why Dan Slott is the worst thing to happen to Spider-Man since Ben Rielly (side note: Ben Rielly was my first Spider-Man. My love for him is deep and shameless). Do their opinions invalidate those comics? Shit no. That just means they are comics not everyone enjoys.

It’s all art. It’s all subjective. And believe it or not, that is a fact that Liefeld understands quite well.

Despite the fact that his own style of writing and artwork remains largely unchanged (at least to my admittedly untrained eye), Liefeld recognizes that the comic book market is bursting with potential for new and exciting things. A look through his twitter feed will see him gushing about books that seem to fit well within his wheelhouse, and those that decidedly do not. More to the point, he’s re-created a line of comics using his own characters that spans with width and breadth of What Stories Comics Can Tell.

Things kicked off with a relaunched Prophet. Originally John Prophet was this guy. Or more specifically, the Liefeldian ideal of a Rambo-Conan. In the recent relaunched book, John Prophet is this guy.

A Heavy Metal meets independent American comics Rambo-Conan. In space.

And dammit if I don’t absolutely love this book. The character remains the same but the approach is quite different – and the fact remains, this book wouldn’t even exist if Rob Liefeld believed that his characters could live and thrive outside of his own creative confines. Rob wants there to be comic books out there that don’t feel like a Rob Liefeld comic. More to the point, he knows where his limitations lie, and hands off ideas and projects to other people to run with. He would not be a good fit for this version of Prophet, and so he allows a creative team who can hit all the right notes go crazy and create something special. And he’s not just doing that with Prophet, but a whole slew of Extreme characters. Which means that suddenly and somewhat miraculously enough, some of my favourite new books of the year have sprung forth from the loins of Rob Liefeld – and to me, that’s a stunning thing. To you, it’s probably stunning as well. But the man is not the sum of his own creative output alone. He is not just the guy who draw pouches, who created Youngblood, and who gave Captain America quite an amazing rack.

He’s also the guy who thought Alan Moore would write a good Superman and slapped him on Supreme (a character who will also come back with this relaunch with some yet-to-be-published Alan Moore scripts). He’s the guy who is behind one of the more exciting relaunches in recent history. He’s the guy who, shortly after Chris Evans was cast as Captain America quipped on Twitter that he was a good choice, even if he didn’t have the boobs to pull off the look.

He’s a guy that makes good comics.

Whether you like it or not.

Digital Distribution & Piracy: Now with Extra Impatience and Entitlement!

Steve Jobs, accidental pimp?

[Ed Note: If you haven’t read my Friday article on downloading or the links at the bottom of it, you might want to do so first.]

Ever since the first file-sharing sites came to the attention of college students and teenagers everywhere in the late 1990s, the spectre of piracy has shaped much of the entertainment industry.  On one hand, there are the giant companies of the industry itself arguing that this change has been almost unequivocally for the worse, with countless millions of dollars in sales lost to pirates.  On the other hand, you have people arguing – supported by a not insignificant amount of non-partisan research, I might add – that while some piracy is bad, overall it’s not related to a loss of sales because it can actually encourage sales by letting people try things out & discover things they like.

Personally, I find piracy distasteful.  Now, I’m not saying it’s actually harmful, I might add.  There are certainly people who use free downloading options – legal or illegal – as a way to sample things and discover media that they genuinely want to pay for.  It’s certainly hard to argue with the growing wealth of research that finds illegal downloading correlated with actually buying media.  I know people who download illegally, as I’m sure we all do.  Some of these people do so when there is no legal option, due to broadcast restrictions or something simply being out of print.  Some of the people who download illegally that I know are actually ones who spend the most money on media because after, say, watching a video on a 13″ laptop screen what they really want to do is rewatch it on a bigger TV or on a movie screen.  There are also people who are, simply put, thieves.  They’re not going to pay it’s arguable that they never were anyway, so the industry isn’t exactly losing a purchase.

However, one interesting result of the advent of digital piracy is that it’s forced the entertainment industry to explode in terms of the sheer wealth of consumer options available.  For all its possible ills, piracy made it necessary for companies and content-owners to start selling digital content because if people were going on their computers to watch, play or listen to something, they might as well be able to pay for it.  To that effect, I’d argue that piracy has been the single biggest catalyst for industry and media distribution changes since home media.  If you’ve ever bought a song, TV series or movie in iTunes, watched something on Netflix, played a video game’s downloadable content or streamed something to your TV that you bought on your computer, I’d argue that it’s fundamentally because sometime around the turn of the millenium, people figured out how to steal in a more efficient way than ever.

Like I said, these days it’s not as simple as “theft.”  I firmly believe that, with the right price point and amount of ease, most people will pay if they’re given the option.  The success of digital distribution companies is certainly a good argument in favour of this.  The problem, however, lies in the fact that “ease” is such a variable definition with such an escalating consumer expectation, as evidenced by a recent comic from Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal.  Last week, he posted a comic titled “I tried to watch Game of Thrones and this is what happened“:

Go to his site, look around!
Click to read the whole thing at his site! (Copyright 2012, Matthew Inman)

In the comic, Inman describes his recent effort to watch HBO‘s series Game of Thrones and his continual frustration at being unable to do so legally, culminating in his decision to pirate it despite his initial reluctance.  In the week since the comic was published, the strip has been raised as a banner by consumers as a symbol of consumer’s rights and why corporations should let people buy things as quickly and easily as possible, lest people turn to piracy.

I get that, I really do.  For the record, I believe that HBO and other companies should let customers buy things early, because when so many TV series are available to stream or purchase a day after they initially air, not doing so is a license to pirate for many people.  HBO will likely be the last holdout for this, primarily because they’re the most prominent subscription cable channel out there and if people can buy a series on iTunes or stream it on Hulu for free the next day, there’s no real incentive to subscribe.  It’s the same reason why they do things like release the DVDs for Game of Thrones a frustrating nine months after the first season completed; if subscribing to HBO is the only legal way to watch the series, they’ll hold onto that for as long as possible.  I think that’s stupid precisely because people will just do what Inman did, and HBO will eventually be forced to change their practice once they’re convinced it’s more profitable to do so.

In this regard, Inman makes a compelling argument as an example of what the consequences for not selling something relatively quickly are.  My problem is that he’s making a poor argument in, at best, bad faith.  At worst, it’s outright dishonesty.

Inman‘s comic is expertly crafted to relay his argument.  It draws a straight line from “I want to check this out” to “I don’t want to steal it” to “They won’t let me buy it”, finally arriving at, “They forced my hand, I guess I will steal it.”  It’s based on two primary arguments:

(1) He can’t buy it now;

(b) Who knows when he will be able to buy it (as evidenced by the “availability date unknown” part of a Netflix window he highlights in the second panel)?

My problem here is in what he excludes or ignores.  Netflix is a great place to start because it is the most likely place to not have what he wants available, due to one simple fact: the series hasn’t been released on DVD yet, so of course Netflix can’t send them to him!  It’s also the place least likely to have a release date because unlike a retailer or rental place, a Netflix release date isn’t as simple as the DVD release date.  A release date that is, for the record, March 6th, 2012, which anyone who Googles it or goes to Amazon can find out:

It's almost like he's being misleading!
Inman isn't the only one who knows how to highlight text!

This automatically undercuts Inman‘s argument and, since he includes a different Amazon screengrab in his comic, it’s hard to imagine that he didn’t think to do a general search for “Game of Thrones” instead of just one for Instant Video. Even more damning is the fact that in the fifth panel he declares:

“I’m committed to buying this thing!”

And then proceeds in the very next panel to disprove his statement by ignoring an option to buy it.  When I discussed the comic with friends, several said some variation of, “But he couldn’t buy it!” at which point I reminded them that he posted an image of a Buy button in iTunes and showed them this:

This is the image I got after I bought the series.

This is, ultimately, the core of my disagreement with Inman.   It’s one thing to present a potential and popular justification for piracy – which he does brilliantly and to great effect, I might add, because he is a perceptive and talented man – and another to be outright dishonest by saying you’re “committed to buying” something and then taking literally the first out you could possibly have.  I’ll reiterate: you can buy Game of Thrones.  I know that because I bought it.  What Inman should actually have said in order to be less, you know, lying, was that he can’t buy and watch it immediately, which is a dealbreaker for him.

I understand that because, much to my lasting embarrassment, I actually pirated the first season of Game of Thrones myself, after missing its original broadcast run.  Eventually, the only way I could justify downloading it illegally was by making myself a promise: no matter what, I would pay for it eventually and delete my illegal copy as soon as I’d watched it.  If I liked the series, I would buy it.  If I didn’t, I would pay to go down to The Movie Studio, an amazing local video rental store, and rent it on Blu-Ray because I torrented it in HD.  In the end, I bought the series and subscribed to HBO for the upcoming second season of the show.  And yes, I illegally downloaded first.  I am genuinely embarrassed that I couldn’t wait to pay for it, and I’m trying to present my own rationalization, as flawed as it was, as honestly as I can.  My frustration with Inman‘s argument is, to a significant degree, because I perceive his argument to be fundamentally less honest, for the reasons I’ve given.

When I brought this up with friends, all of them rebutted with the argument that HBO was asking an inordinate amount of time to wait for a purchasable copy of Game of Thrones and that it was, frankly, stupid, because people like Inman would just pirate it as a result.  I’m not saying they’re wrong.  In fact, as I repeated emphatically to them and have tried to here, I agree.  I just think Inman‘s specific example is a poor one for this because he didn’t put up this comic nine months ago; he put it up a week ago, when he’d only have to wait two weeks to watch any copy he bought.  The screengrabs he includes in his comic could only have been made recently, and that’s a big part of why I differentiate between him and myself.  He might buy it eventually.  He certainly won’t subscribe to HBO because he says he won’t, and when HBO doesn’t put the second season up on iTunes or Netflix 9 months before DVD release date, his current argument would lead to the same conclusion.  HBO and Inman are both complicit in this, but only one of them is technically in the legal wrong.

As I discussed this issue, I got accused of focusing too much on Inman and not on the broader issue of digital distribution release dates.  I did focus on his example, and I did it for a very clear reason: to me, his example embodies the worst elements of the current audience that’s used to and who demands digital distribution: entitlement and impatience.

I understand both of these, to some degree.  I downloaded the series myself because I didn’t want to wait 9 months and because I had dedicated myself to paying for it down the line.  I was impatient, and to a certain degree, entitled.  I took something because I could and no matter how I justified it, I can’t escape that I ultimately did it because I wanted to.  This… is not a good quality to have.

Here is the core difference, as I see it: when I downloaded the series, there were literally no ways to purchase the series.  When Inman did it, there were several ways to buy it.  He said he was dedicated to buying it, but it turns out that dedication was only as strong as the first minor obstacle. What he is saying isn’t, “I am dedicated to buying this.”  What he’s actually saying is something far more insidious:

I am going to watch this anyway.  Whether or not I give you money for it is dependent on whether you do exactly what I want, when I want it.

This isn’t the action of a customer.  It’s the action of someone who’s looking for a reason, any reason at all, not to be a customer.  He’s holding his payment hostage, and that’s a practice I abhor in a certain segment of consumer these days, the type of person that is always and primarily a consumer, but less often a customer.

Say what you will about the limits of pre-digital distribution, it drew entitlement into stark contrast with a purchase.  If you wanted something but didn’t want to pay for it, you had to actually steal it with your hands.  With digital distribution and piracy, however, it’s a lot easier to avoid paying and it’s a lot easier to justify it.  Here’s my take: if you watch something, you’re generally obligated to pay for it if you can.  If you’re not willing to pay for it, you’re not entitled to take it just because you can shore up an argument printed on the Jolly Roger.  If I walk into Brandon’s shop, I don’t think I’m entitled to have any comic I want and pay him only if I think the price is right.  If I want it, I pay for it, and that’s something I try to follow in the digital world.

The danger of Inman‘s argument is that, as it is crafted, it is quite compelling until you look at it in depth.  In a short week, people have started to rally behind it, but they’re rallying behind an argument that’s not entirely forthright and makes some dangerous justifications.  I look forward to a day when you can buy or stream almost any show the day after it airs, where paying for something is easy and expedient.  That’s a future, I think, that is hurt by the argument that stealing is preferable to waiting two weeks or even two days.  There’s no reason to deal with someone who isn’t being honest, who will say one thing while doing something completely antithetical to it.  Whether or not Inman eventually buys Game of Thrones, he’s convinced a lot of people he’s right even if he doesn’t, and that scares me.

C!TB's Best of the Week | February 27th, 2012


Since this isn’t either work or Mass Effect, we’re just gonna get straight into the meat of it all.  These are the best comics of last week, as 100% subjectively picked by us, two Canadians who love Greg Berlanti more than almost anybody else.

Take that, Greg Berlanti’s loving family.



So what fresh hell have I been transported to, that I’m buying and actively purchasing books like Venom and Uncanny X-Force and Prophet and Glory and such? I missed out ona lot of nineties comics, partly because I was far too young to really get into the stuff. But my cousins had a lot of the things, and whenever I was allowed to read their comics (which was rare), I found myself awash in a sea of just… beyond confusing things. Plus, I wasn’t a fan of the darker fare which seemed to permeate much of comics back then (and continuing today, in a fashion).

Anyway, the fact of the matter is, never in a million years did I think I would be reading a comic starring this guy:

What a difference a few years (and a completely different creative team) will make.

The new Prophet is something seldom seen in American comics. It’s insane. It’s beyond insane. It’s a modern day Jack Kirby comic, but instead of crazy hats, there’s just crazy looking aliens. Seriously, I think one of them had a face that was a vagina? And the other ones have what looks to be several maws with razor sharp teeth that split into four different directions to bite your face. And others are actually buses of a sort, with a storage area for people.

One of the best parts of this series has to be the way that Brandon Graham and Simon Roy seem to be taking the “why not” approach. Which is to say, where a lot of comics will stop and ask why something is a certain way, or why something is happening, he just shrugs and says “why not” and lets the insanity lay on the page, speaking for itself. Its like explaining jokes. The moment you try, all the joy is sucked out, leaving the husk and guts of something that was once fun. Prophet is fun comics. Fun sci-fi, balls the the wall insanity. That’s all a person really needs, right? I mean shit, do we really need an explanation for something like The Force, or are we all just happy that shit like that just happens.

So yeah. Prophet is a book where a lot of things happen, and it’s totally great. More people should probably check it out, but for now, I suppose we’ll be content with awarding it the Rob Liefeld Award for X-ellence in Pouches and call it a day.


Every time I think I can stop gushing in new ways about Wolverine and the X-Men, well, Marvel releases another issue.  This is a series that started by giving me everything I wanted from it on the first page of the first issue and has managed to thrill me with every page since.  It’s hard to believe, but the the book, which started with a living island and some kids with guns that shot Frankensteins with flamethrowers, has only gotten more insane since, and it’s done so following a simple rule I learned from my youth:

Everything is better when it’s The Magic School Bus.

Wolverine and the X-Men is a series about life at a crazy school where you may get killed, maimed or eaten on any given day, which is to say it is exactly like everybody’s favourite book and TV series about a teacher who endangers her students’ lives in the name of education and adventure.  In Issue #6, the Jean Grey School’s faculty lead a mission into Kitty Pryde’s body to:

(a) Fight off the microscopic Brood sleazoids she’s “pregnant” with that are murdering her;

(2) Rescue Kid Gladiator, who is trying to rescue Kitty, mostly by zapping her heart and declaring himself Lord of It.

Meanwhile, Wolverine takes Quentin Quire to a space casino to get money for the school by pulling a Mutant Rain Man scam.  Quentin… comes up with a series of increasingly ridiculous cover stories and tries to get laid.

By themselves, these are just Crazy Things happening in a Crazy Comic.  The way that Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw weave it all together, though, it becomes an expertly paced action film.  Thanks to Bradshaw, no matter how ridiculous the panels get, either on the battlefield inside Kitty’s body or in the crowded casino, you can always tell exactly what’s happening, and because of Aaron‘s expert scripting, there’s a reason for it all to.  In Wolverine and the X-Men, crazy things don’t happen because it’s zany or fun, they happen primarily because there’s a clear reason for them to.  And also because they’re incredibly enjoyable.  It’s a high-tech school of the impossible in a world with Pym particles, so of course they go inside a human body.  And that kind of stuff is expensive, so of course they need more money than they can easily get from an Earth casino.  No matter how ridiculous and over-the-top things get, there’s a thread of reason & purpose tying everything together.  Crazy comics are seldom fun if they’re not tethered to something, and Wolverine and the X-Men‘s creators are so deft at doing this that you can often barely tell, letting the book be as big as it wants to be.  For this and so much more, I’m happy to give Wolvering and the X-Men #6 the prestigious Award for Excellence in Miss Frizzling.

Better than alllll the rest

I spent four years in the trenches when Lost was on. Before then. I had been keeping track of it on and off, trying to stay on top of the action despite the fact that I had marching band on Wednesday nights. (Yeah, that’s right, marching band.) Inevitably, I got behind, to the point where I thought I might as well give up. During the show’s third season, I got a job working at a comic shop, and started to get weekly updates from the customers. Soon, I found that I didn’t really have to watch the show – it was being followed for me. Not the same, I realize, but the best I was going to do for a while.

And then some things changed. I was promoted to store manager, and they moved the show to Tuesdays for the final season – which meant two things. Not only was I the guy behind the counter, the nerd equivalent to the mystical bartender, but I was being faced with 16 weeks of post show Wednesdays. A large chunk of our customers would be coming in the store, expecting… nay, demanding discussion, and if I couldn’t provide that to them, then what kind of mystical bartender was I?

So I began to consume the series voraciously in preparation for the season. I almost made it, but figured if I watched the little countdown recap episode the aired before the first episode back, I would be fine. After all, my entire life up until that point had been rife with superhero comics – and in that genre, its nearly impossible to drop into a series with a complete working knowledge of the character’s history. It worked out okay, but near the end of the season, I kind of fudged my knowledge, skipping quite a few episodes (including the finale) and adopting a bit of a “smile and nod” tact to theories that started popping up. By the end of my Wednesday, due to the sheer volume of discussion, I could start to formulate my own theories on things I hadn’t actually watched, and could fake a conversation with the best (worst?) of them. A little disingenuous, yes, but come on. Can a guy really know everything about everything? Often times, we comic shop guys are expected to, but a life of pure content consumption doesn’t give you much time to make flailing attempts at your own. But that’s an article for another day. Point is: Lost was a fucking crazy show, and I had some theories. They were moulded and concocted over the course of hours and hours of discussion, and ended up being pretty well formed. I have a very similar relationship with the series Morning Glories – the only difference being, I read the issues almost immediately when they come out, rather than faking knowledge somewhere down the line. And yes, the experience is much better.

Just like LostMorning Glories likes to play with time while throwing some genuinely large questions towards you. A little unlike Lost, however, it tempers those questions with a lot of answers and forward movement – the gift of learning from the mistakes of the past, and from telling the story in a medium that allows for (and sometimes demands) a foreseeable end point that is not dependant on the whims of executives. It’s another glorious bonus about comic books – if you can manage enough interest to keep you floating for the amount of time you need, there’s no one who can tell you what to do. It’s also a huge pitfall to comics – sometimes, when there’s no one to tell you what to do, you fall prey to the more self-indulgent parts of your creative nature. Some creators get lost in that balance, and even though it was (and I suppose is) his first ongoing project, Nick Spencer has avoided the trap of becoming too self indulgent. The story and characters always come first, and the plot moves at a nice brisk pace. Even in the midst of the series’ second arc, when each issue focused on an individual character, there was enough forward propulsion to make the book seem vital. And even now at issue 16, we’re being treated to more and more actual answers, even as bigger questions continue to unspool themselves.

The main thrust of the issue follows Casey’s escape attempt along side Miss Hodge – and the nice little logic loop it forms was quite nicely done, and well pulled off. As with other issues in this series, we see some pages reused from old stories – not a problem considering we got 32 pages of story here for a scant $2.99. Plus, the art is all done by the incomparable Joe Eisma, who continues to amaze. His work looks a lot like Adrian Alphona’s who I still miss dearly (along with my beloved Runaways), but with his own, more personal flourishes. The combined efforts of the creative team makes the book a consistant joy to read – and if you’re behind on it, like I used to be (and still am) with Lost, I would suggest that you give it a try. It’s fun and frustrating (in the very best ways) and you’re almost certain to enjoy it. (B)

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

You’re Welcome, Internet | February 20-24, 2012

Drawing sex pictures for the masses.

Hey crunk-masters! Welcome back to the jpeg and gif yiff celebration! We’ve been pretty awesome this week, so our response, as always, remains fitting.

You’re welcome, Internet.









This is my nightmare.


Left: Hillary pushing away Bill's eager hand. Right: Anthony Edwards & Meg Ryan, circa Top Gun.


Medusa, by Mike Maihack (Click for link)


Or at the very least, Carl Wilson.


I'm pretty sure that's not canon.




On the wrong side of history.


Girl,we've all been there.


Somewhere, Bill Clinton is turned on. That might be unrelated, though.


SCHATZ: And another week has come and gone! I must admit, it was fairly swanky. I got some BIG news about my future (which I can’t share until certain paperwork happens) but dang, am I happy.

Also: this weekend, I’m heading back home to Penhold to visit the family and celebrate my mom’s 50th birthday. This is a thing that is troubling me in a way? Both of my parents are 50 now and it brings with it a certain sense of… oh hey, so we’re mortal, and one day something terrible is going to happen. (You may not know this, but James and I are awesome at taking great things, and using to remind ourselves how terrible we/life can be.) So I’m dealing with a touch of that. But really, it should be awesome. We’re also having our family Christmas this weekend (by my count, the fifth and final Christmas on my roster). A little late, yes, but whatever. At least we got to it before Easter!

Boring-ish family stuff aside, the site is looking primed for a great week next week, and I’m off to get a head start on some of that! James, whadda you got for us?

LEASK: First of all, I’m not gonna call my family “boring-ish” because I love them, you dick.  Otherwise, I am probably going to start reading this week’s comics, play Mass Effect 2, finish the 4 hour PBS documentary Clinton: An American Experience and start writing an article about how illegally downloading Game of Thrones because you don’t want to wait two weeks until the first season is released while saying you’re “committed to buying this thing” kind of makes you an outrageous asshole.

I foresee no ill consequences.

Nobody is ever mean on the internet, right?


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

Classic James: On Downloading

I could smack that face while kissing it.

The following piece is actually two older ones from my personal blog, Maple Sugar, that I posted in the summer of 2010, making them as close to “classic” as anything I’ve written.  Originally, I was responding to a Globe and Mail article where a father talked about teaching his daughter that illegal downloading was always okay.  I’ve done my best to update the text to seem more modern, but for a new analysis of illegal downloading & digital media, check back on Monday.

In 2010, the Globe and Mail published a fascinating article, “Illegal downloading: How do you explain it to the kids?”, that tackles a very important question about the ethics of illegal downloading of music, TV shows, movies, books/comics and software.  Pandora’s box has been released and its contents aren’t going away, so it behooves us to have an honest and complex discussion as a society about the digital media frontier.  However, after reading the article, I need to get one thing out of the way:

Tom is an asshole.

Tom is a father and IT professional in Toronto who downloads TV shows illegally on a daily basis. When asked about it by his 7 year-daughter, who saw an advertisement that called what her dad was doing theft, he told her that it was cheaper than buying it, and that it’s just “simple math” that people do what’s cheapest.  The ad told Tom’s daughter that her dad was basically walking into a store and putting a DVD in his pocket, and in this case, that’s just about 100% accurate. Tom is a thief.

Now, I don’t think all illegal downloading is theft.  In fact, I think that it’s often relegated to the role of boogeyman by the entertainment industry to provide a scapegoat for their woes.  A 2006 report by Industry Canada concluded that illegal peer to peer file sharing of music is actually correlated with increased music sales, and that those who illegally download music are 10 times more likely to buy music than those who claim to never download illegally.  University of Ottawa law professor and Canadian copyright expert Michael Geist has written extensively on the subject, and his website is a treasure trove of information.  Check it out.

The biggest reason for this is thought to be the Sampling Effect, where illegal downloading becomes a tool for consumers to discover music and make a decision about whether to purchase it. Amongst other websites, MP3 blogs live by it (and unofficial label sanctioning or even backdoor distribution), and I can’t count the number of amazing bands who I’ve discovered through this method whose albums I’ve bought.  I once drove 12 hours to central Washington State to see many of these bands perform at the Sasquatch Music Festival.  For the duration of the drive, I blared albums by these bands, all of them legally purchased, and I spent money buying even more albums and t-shirts once I was there.  In late 2010, my sister and I flew to Los Angeles to see three more of these bands perform at the Hollywood Bowl.  I own all the albums produced by 2 of these bands and 10 albums (plus a limited edition singles collection) from the third.  All were legally purchased.  The Sampling Effect isn’t perfect, but it’s very real and should be recognized in the discussion.

Another sizeable chunk of illegal downloading goes to people who are or will be willingly and devotedly paying customers for whom illegal downloading represents a convenience but doesn’t replace an actual purchase.  Many people illegally download digital copies to complement their legal physical copies, something easily remedied by the bundling of digital copies with every physical copy sold.  Pixar does this with its movies, and many record labels do it with albums released on vinyl.  The cost is negligible, but it discourages some illegal downloading.

What about DVR recordings gone wrong?  If I pay for high-end HD digital cable and a DVR but a show is delayed, it runs over its scheduled time or the recording is faulty, it might be illegal to download that episode to catch the second half that I couldn’t watch, but is it wrong?  I’ve already paid for the right to watch it and to record it.

Here’s another example: in 2009, I showed the woman I was dating my DVDs of How I Met Your Mother and we immediately watched all three seasons that had been released.  She desperately wanted to catch up with the fourth season before the fifth started, but the DVD release schedule made it impossible: the fourth season DVD was scheduled for release more than a week after the fifth started airing.  So, I downloaded the fourth season for her and when it was released, I bought a copy on Blu-Ray.  Something similar happened with Weeds: the new season aired in the US, but no Canadian air date was announced, so we downloaded the episodes as they aired in the US.  I later watched them again in HD when they aired here in Canada, and as soon as she could, she bought the DVDs to complete her set.  I download Louie and Psych because they don’t air in Canada on my provider, but I buy the DVDs religiously.  Again: was this wrong?  I’m not sure, and I faced the same dilemma not long after the Globe and Mail article came out: I’d started watching LOST and owned the first 5 seasons on DVD or Blu-Ray but couldn’t watch the final season as it aired live because I just won’t be caught up.  I pre-ordered the final season on Blu-Ray, but it wouldn’t arrive until early September.  Would it be wrong to download a copy before then?  I really didn’t know.  I felt bad that I’d be downloading only because I was too impatient to wait for my legally purchased copy to arrive.  Ultimately, I downloaded the season and watched it, instead of waiting for the Blu-Rays I’d ordered to arrive.  I’m still not sure I made the right decision.  When it came to the second season of Sherlock this winter, I instead decided to wait for it to air in May in North America instead of downloading it as it aired in the UK or buying it on iTunes for $6.99 an episode.  Ultimately, waiting hasn’t been hard at all; I’ve got more than enough media to fill my time.

We’ve talked about me, but let’s go back to Tom.

Tom doesn’t feel bad.  Tom isn’t downloading his favourite TV shows because he’s going to pay for them or because he already has; no, Tom is actively avoiding paying because he doesn’t want to. When asked by his daughter why he’s stealing, he gave her two reasons: (a) it’s easy; and (b) lots of other people are doing it, too.  Does that sounds like a lesson you should be teaching your 7 year-old daughter?

When interviewed by the journalist, Tom goes on to explain that it should be expected that he downloads TV show illegally, because, “Why else would you sell home consumers a 2-terabyte hard drive that streams video to their television through a Playstation 3 unless you’re assuming they’ll be downloading content online?”  Tom says the industry is giving him mixed messages, that even though they say no, they really mean yes.  It couldn’t be that there are perfectly legal ways to fill a hard drive, right?  Other people say yes.  I know I do.  Tom doesn’t seem to think so.

The thing is, this isn’t what the issue boils down to for people like Tom.  He says it’s about money. If it really were, a viable option would be to rent the DVDs when they were released, sign up for Netflix or, or find cheap used copies online.  Or if he truly couldn’t afford that, he could take them out from the library or borrow them from friends.  But he doesn’t.  He doesn’t want to.

He tries to say it’s about his daughter, that when it comes to ebook piracy, it’s actually good if he steals, because that’s the difference between the 1 book he can afford and the 100+ pirated ones she could read.  Again, no mention of libraries, used bookstores, or even borrowing.  Once again, he just doesn’t want to pay at all, and I find it alarming that he uses his daughter as both a shield and as an apprentice thief.

We all rationalize.  I’ve already talked about my rationalizations about illegal downloading, and I’ve been as honest as I can.  I’ve outlined the situations when I might decide to download illegally, and in all other situations I’ll gladly pay to download through iTunes, Amazon, or Steam.  I believe in supporting the artists whenever possible, I really do.  Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I believe that most people are willing to pay, that it’s all about ease and price point.  If iTunes provided a TV episode rental service like the one they have for movies, I’d be sold, and I think a lot of people would be too.  We’d all still rationalize, and we’d all still be imperfect at it.  The Globe and Mail article provides great examples of other Canadians doing their best to raise their kids with a respect for intellectual property, balanced with the reality of illegal downloading.  I think it sounds like most of them are succeeding, and I hope I am too.  Like I said, we all rationalize.  However, I think the difference between myself and Tom is that I rationalize against paying twice; he rationalizes against paying at all.  All things considered, I think only one of us is a thief.

In the words of Craig Ferguson, I look forward to your letters.  This is an important discussion to have.

You can also check out all of my articles tagged with “Downloading” on Maple Sugar, which include a breakdown of a previous version of the Conservative Party of Canada’s Copyright bill, an analysis of why I think the punitive damages the RIAA seeks exceed the crime, and why the “traditional” methods of media distribution don’t need to be defended (i.e. from digital distribution).  The latter article (also the most recent one) has a breakdown of some research at the time that suggested downloading can actually encourage (or at least be correlated with) increased sales, challenging the idea that it always hurts the industry.  

Check back on Monday for a new look at illegal downloading from me, specifically the role impatience and entitlement may play in some decisions.

Drunk Comic Recaps | Uncanny X-Men #437

Greetings internet folks! It has been a while, hasn’t it. That must make you feel bad. Sexually?

But no matter! It’s time to brush the cobwebs from the hooch canoe, and set sail for Booze Towne! That’s right, it’s time once more! For some Drunk! Comic! Reeeeeecaaaaaaaapssssss!!!

It’s been a while (almost two months!) since our last good bout of drinking and comic reading, so a recap of the rules: I get blitzed and read a comic. Then I recap that comic for you, in the stereo surround sound that is my garbled heart thoughts. In the morning when I wake up and approve the post, I’m not allowed to touch the spell;ing or nothing. The only edits that can be made are adding a picture and tags, for easy browsing. Sound good? Whatever like you can talk. Lousy innernet.

This week, some more Chuck Austen Uncanny X-Men! When last we recapped, we were in the midst of the great Juggernaut trial, and that guy was straight boning She-Hulk. How did it turn out? Whelp, I have no fucking idea because I can’t find the issue. Instead, we’re skipping ahead to the next story – Chuck’s last on the Uncanny book! (tear) But fret not! He goes out on a crazy balls note, with a mutant adaptation of Romeo and Juliet! Also, the events of the previous issue don’t affect this at all! Shit yeah!

Uncanny X-Men #437: Wherefor art thou

We begin our tale in Kentucky, a state known for its tolerance! There, two groups of kids are calling each other ugly, like kids are wont to do (that’s right wont motherfuckers! Eloquent like a champ!). Shit gets a little real when some gang-bang talkin’ slang hustlin ne’er-do-well starts talking shit to a kid with the last name of Guthrie. Which as you know, if you’re into X-Men stuff, means the kid is probably riddled with the mutant gene. And if  you didn’t know that, congrats! You probably get laid with some kind of frequency? And that’s pretty cool.

Anyway, the Guthrie kid (whose name turns out to be Jeb! Because: The South!) gets pretty damn cranky and blasts the gang-banger wanna be in the face with a blast o powers. A sheriff gets all test about it and some other kid pops Jeb in the head with a crowbar. The sheriff is all “WTF, y’all” and the attacker says (this is word for word) “He started it! It’s them GUTHRIES and them COLOREDS all over again!” Which is not cool.

Anyway, shit gets out of hand and someone throws a crowbar and Jeb reacts by accidenlt slash on purpose blowing a car up. Which should go over well, yes? In response, the sheriff brains the kid in the face with a what’s-it-called. A bullet. Or so it appears. This is comics, you think the kid died for realsies?

We flash to the Xavier Insitute for Higher Learning, where Paige Guthrie is laying shit on the line for Angel, who she banged? Or maybe just liked? I would have to sober read some of those comics to be sure. Either way, he’s been distant. Could it be the fact that she’s almost jailbait? No matter what, she’s giving him the gears and confessing her love of Brad Pitt while she does it. She tells Angel that its not cool to be into her her and then act like he isn’t and then she cries a bit and asks if she should move on, and he’s all “pro’lly”.

Another strong portayal of women in this series of comics! Or no wait, I have “strong” confused with the phrase “women be shopping”. My appologies. ANyway, this is when she is informed that her brother Jebediah has been shot.

Whelp, we head back to Kentucky, where we see that Angel has been able to heal the kid, and then everyone has a good old fashioned discussion with phonetic southern accents! Everyone is yelling and Jeb’s mom yells at him for his action, even if it was against the Cabots, which HEY! Sets us up for a good old fashioned hillbilly feud AND means we get to see the set up for the Romeo and Juliet pitch! Anyway, when it comes out that the boys planned to attack the Cabot boy with his mutant powers, the sheriff decides to ban the Guthries and their black friends from town for reasons that aren’t racist at all, and totally legal. You can just ban people from town because they premeditated an attack and will instigate a hillbilly feud, yes? Let’s say yes.

Anyway, Paige is upset and asks where Josh is… who… is related to them? A brother? Regardless, he is preforming at The View, which in here is a restaurant and not a show with ladies? Anyway, Josh is performing at the whatever, and he’s singing a song, and he has wings. And also, this is when the narration gets super purple with its prose, as we discover a Cabot is falling in love with this Josh Guthrie fellow.


Anyway, the story ends a bit after that (after the prose implies that the kid with wings sings like a choir of angels [zing!])

What’s to happen next? Whelp, that’s a story best told another day. Because I am SO DRUNK and its past 1am? And I got work in the morning, you jerks. So until next time…

Komitchiwham, bitches!