Announcing: Graphic Content – Josie and the Pussycats!

Graphic Content, The Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre and Comics! The Blog present:

Me-ohwhat'sthepoint

That’s right, folks!  Nine months after our first Graphic Content presentation, we’re back for more!  We’re absolutely as pleased as can be to announce that on Tuesday, November 20th at 9pm, we’ll be teaming up with the Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre and Warp One Comics and Games to present a screening of the greatest comic book movie ever, Josie and the Pussycats!

The screening is part of an incredible series called Graphic Content that the Metro Cinema puts on to encourage cross-media literacy to promote and explore the relationship between film and sequential art.  Each month, they present a movie adapted from, inspired by or otherwise related to comics and curate a list of thematically-relevant comic books.  They won our hearts early by presenting Batman 1966 (the greatest Batman movie) in 35mm on the big screen and have continued their mission with lots of other great movies, like Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and even a few non-Batman ones like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Worldwe guess. 

THE MOVIE:

Based on the iconic Archie Comics characters created by Dan DeCarloJosie and the Pussycats tells the story of three lifelong friends and aspiring musicians, Josie, Valerie and Melody, who are trying to make it big with their band The Pussycats.  When a big record label deal falls at their feet (or almost hits them with a car, whatever), the girls jump at the chance to achieve their dream.  Before they know it, they’re over their heads in one of the darkest realms of opulence, treachery and crime around: the music industry!  Can the girls stick together despite the pressure?  Will fame go to their heads?  Will Parker Posey ever make a better movie?!

The jury’s still out on that one.

No lies, this is the movie that we are excited to present more than any other one possible.  When we first met with Graphic Content to discuss the Scott Pilgrim screening, James was actually begging to present this movie before we’d even settled on the details of the first screening, if that gives any indication of our excitement.  It’s our favourite comic book movie, and if you show up on the 20th, we’ll tell you why it’s the best.

THE DETAILS:

As seen on the gorgeous poster by Sylvia Moon above, the movie screening is on Tuesday, November 20th at the Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre.  The movie starts at 9pm, aka Rock O’Clock.  Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students/seniors, and Metro Passes will be accepted!

But wait, there’s more!

The best comic book movie deserves more than just a screen and a showtime.  Before the movie, there will be time to mingle and meet other Josiephiles in the lobby, and there will be a selection of specially curated comic books available for you to peruse and buy.  If you’ve ever wanted to meet Brandon and James (and let’s be honest, our egos demand that you do), this is the time to do it.

Immediately before the movie starts, we and our co-presenters will introduce the movie and talk about what it and the comic mean to us on-stage.  We’re especially excited to talk about exactly why Josie and the Pussycats isn’t just a great movie, but the best comic book movie to date, and why it actually has a surprising amount to say about our society.  Plus, the whole thing is not-for-profit, so you can stick it to the man at the same time!

COMING SOON:

In the week before the show, make sure to keep checking Comics! The Blog and Graphic Content for daily articles about the curated book list and for some special articles about what the movie and Archie Comics mean to us.  It’s gonna be ballin’, son!

THE FINE PRINT:

Metro Cinema Society

Metro Cinema is a community-based non-profit cinema in Edmonton, Alberta, devoted to the exhibition and promotion of Canadian, international and independent film and video. To this end, they exhibit an eclectic blend of film, video and media arts, that are not screened anywhere else in the city. Their focus is on presenting a broad selection of educational, cultural and innovative works. They screen films 7 days a week in the historic Garneau Theatre on 109th street.

Twitter: @themetrocinema

Facebook: facebook.com/metro.cinema

Warp One Comics and Games

Warp One Comics and Games has been providing Edmonton with its geek fix for the past 25 years. A one hundred percent home-grown business, Warp prides itself not only on having a large selection of comics and merchandise, but also on their knowledge of the comics field. The store is a landmark in the popular Old Strathcona area and a mainstay in the local comics community. They are located on Whyte Avenue and 99th street and operate two other satellite stores in the north and south ends of town.

Facebook: facebook.com/warp.one.comics

See you there, chochachos!

You Read These With Your Eyes | October 31st, 2012

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. 

BATMAN: LI’L GOTHAM #1 (DC Comics)

Continuing their initiative of great digital-first/only comics, today DC releases a great little series that will be incredibly easy to miss if you don’t pay attention to digital comics, and with this one, that would be a damn shame.  Batman: Li’l Gotham has a lot of great things in its corner:

(a) A top-notch creative team, with writer/artist Dustin Nguyen joined by Derek Fridolfs as co-writer.  Nguyen is often known best for his dark, moody art, but here he sets that aside to use a very different style – let’s call it watercolour-chibi – to evoke an entirely different mood;

(2) It’s all-ages!  A lot of the Bat books, even when they’re amazing, often take on a lot of the more adult themes of the character’s world, and as a result, kids and fun-lovers of any age can get left in the lurch.  With this series, there’s no risk of that; Nguyen‘s great sense of character meshes with his unique style combine to tell a story anyone can love, and that’s basically the whole point of comics;

(#) It’s got a great concept behind it!  Every month, the book will feature a story around the month’s major holiday.  The rest of the year will see Thanksgiving and Christmas-themed issues, but this month it’s Halloween in Gotham, and Damian Wayne has to learn the true meaning of the holiday (candy!) while trying to tell the difference between villains and kids in costume as monsters and villains!  I anticipate adorable violence.

Buy it now!

BEDLAM #1 (Image Comics)

Nick Spencer is best known for his combination of action and mystery in series like Morning Glories and Thief of Thieves.  Riley Rossmo is known for his visceral, frequently terrifying art in series like Green Wake and Rebel Blood.  Today, a new series arrives from the pair: Bedlam.

Bedlam is all about Fillmore Press.  A long time ago, Press was known by the name Madder Red, and he was a criminal and murderer who terrified and abused the town of Bedlam for years.  We’re told he got better.  We’ll see, I guess; Bedlam is about what happens next.

Spencer is a master of elevator pitches that bring in readers but don’t give much of anything away.  His “Runaways-meets-Lost” description of Morning Glories assured a lot of curiosity before the series’ intrigues made them devoted fans.  Bedlam will no doubt be no different.  We know enough to expect violence and mystery.  Who knows what that will actually turn out to be, but with Spencer, we can be sure it will be good.  Similarly, Riley Rossmo is one of the most unique artists in comics, and his style is incredibly-well suited for a series like Bedlam; he’s one of the best artists around at conveying fear and uncertainty on a page, but he never sacrifices the humanity behind it all.  Rebel Blood was so effective not just because of how well his loose, violent lines looked when showing gore, but because he could tell a scene of longing and despair on the next page.  Horror works best when the storytellers don’t lose sight of its characters’ emotions and what drives their fear deep down.  Good horror lets you identify with characters so that their dread bleeds off the page, and from the looks of it, Bedlam will thrill you even as it unsettles you for an hour after you finish reading it.

COW BOY: HALLOW’S (Archaia Entertainment)

Spooky!  Scary!

Earlier this year, Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos released Cow Boy, the first installment in their series about a young boy on the frontier hunting down his ne’er-do-well family members.  It was a mixture of humour and deep emotion that would be incredible for any comic, let alone one that’s perfect for people of any age.  It’s rare to find a book with the same delicate touch to somberness and regret, but Cow Boy did it, and today, we get more.

Cow Boy: Hallow’s is a mini-comic continuing Boyd Linney’s story, designed as a special treat for shops to hand out to trick-or-treaters – or, in my case, twenty-seven year-old aspiring writers who think dressing up in a baseball jersey they already own counts as a costume.  It’s a complete story about Boyd facing off against Billy the Kid (!) and not only is it great for anyone as bait to get them hooked, it’s sweet salve for those of us eagerly anticipating any new material in that world or our Artists’ Editions to arrive in the mail.  It’s a slice of Free Comic Book Day in October and it’s just what we all need.  Cow Boy is peerless and this is just another notch in Cosby and Eliopoulos‘ belts.

Plus, did I mention it’s free?  You literally have no reason not to make yourself happy.

JOE KUBERT PRESENTS #1 (DC Comics)

Earlier this year, the comics industry lost one of its titans.  Joe Kubert wasn’t just a revolutionary artist, but the founder of a school for cartooning, comics and graphic art that has influenced generations of creators since.  DC is justifiably paying tribute to the man, and Joe Kubert #1 is the first issue, featuring art by the man himself and some newer artists.  48 pages for $4.99 and a great way to remember one of the industry’s most defining talents.

WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #19 (Marvel Comics)

Well, uh… let’s all have some fun times in comics’ happiest series?

For those not in the know, Wolverine and the X-Men‘s previous issue, #18, ended with a big, violent shock, even though most of the cast remained oblivious.  That was Jason Aaron‘s way of ending his series’ first year, and it left people… upset.  There may have been some words and some tears.  At least one reader asked us why Aaron hates us.  It was intense.

It’s also the mark of a great series that people can feel so emotional over a character they only met a year ago, in a series that had a lot of humour and lighter moments.  With that fierce fanbase still reeling from the cliffhanger, Issue #19 arrives this week to usher in the next year for the Jean Grey School.  New teachers.  New students.  Laughs and tears.  Let’s do this.

And for god’s sake, buy CAPTAIN MARVEL #6 and the final issue of THE MIGHTY THOR!

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.

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 44 – We’re On Our Best Behaviour, Danica

We're trouble.

Once more, Wednesday has fallen upon us and we celebrate with this, the Sacrament of Poorly Named Podcast.  Let us share this aural benediction and worship at its altar.

Suck it, Pope.

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 44 – We’re On Our Best Behaviour, Danica

This week, the boys record in the strange, uncomfortable hellhole that is Brandon’s apartment instead of James’ home.  You’d think that would mean they couldn’t discuss TV because they didn’t have the cable subscription available to watch it on, but you would be wrong!  Shame on you for thinking we need to actually watch TV to be able to talk about it.  Hope you like week-old Happy Endings discussion!

Even better, after a little bit of comics talk – hint!  We really like Journey Into Mystery – there’s something even better: a surprise guest!  And not a crappy surprise guest, either!  In this episode, the elusive and lovely Danica appears!  Brandon’s sweet baboo is our very special guest to talk about being new to comics and maybe slap Brandon.  It’s all a mystery!

Also, it’s Halloween or something.

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”):

http://comicstheblog.libsyn.com/rss

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

C!TB’s Best of the Week | October 29th, 2012

With Canadian Halloween weekend over, and the haunted horse-squatches vanquished for another year, it’s time to talk comics! And guys, if Brandon ends up turning into a ware pug in the middle of this, just go with it. Things got a little weird this weekend, and we’re gonna just have to take the good with the bad.

DOES WHAT EVER AN IRON CAN

“First things first. Let’s start off with my five biggest nightmares.”

I had been working at the comic shop for just a little over a year, still a double secret probationary comic shop guy in training, and a little more than apprehensive about the movie. While Fraction had been doing wonderful things with the character during his brief appearances in his post Civil War era team book The Order, I couldn’t help but think that spending more than the briefest of moments with the character on his own would prove to be trying. I had actually intended to skip even watching the movie until it was out on DVD, but after a long visit from friends on Free Comic Book Day, I found myself heading off to a theatre to check out just what Marvel had put together for the big screen. Needless to say, I was impressed. I left the movie craving more Iron Man, which was the first time I had ever experienced that feeling. Luckily, the first issue of Fraction and Larroca’s Invincible Iron Man ongoing was set the release on the following Wednesday, capitalizing perfectly on that feeling so much of us had. The only bad news? I knew for a fact that we hadn’t ordered enough comics to meet demand. Numbers on his previous series had been anemic for quite a while. After launching strong with Warren Ellis at the helm during Marvel’s big New Avengers push, the book had been shedding readers at an astonishing rate – first, when Ellis’ run became problematically late, and then when the Knaufs took over the book and delivered something that… well, that wasn’t Ellis, the heavy drops continued. Things became even worse when Tony was painted as the unintentional villain of the big Civil War story arc, with readers becoming turned off at this apparent heel turn, coupled with a few fill in stories that needed to be inserted to keep the book on time and accompany the Knaufs’ very busy Hollywood schedule. It was a bad time for Tony in comics – but in the end, that was just what the guy needed to stage a giant comeback.

“Nightmare #1: That I get drunk tonight.”

Comics were burnt out on Tony Stark. He was everywhere, doing everything. He was “the man” in charge of SHIELD. He was “the man” hunting down his friends. He wasn’t a terribly good person, even though his intentions were largely good. Hitting a low point meant that he could become better, become something more. Someone could come in and redeem him in a way. In that moment, Marvel turned to Matt Fraction to make the character great again, and he did, by writing a Tony Stark that he wanted to read. His Tony had the problems, and he re-introduced himself to the readers by listing his five biggest fears. For a man that played things so close to the vest, who fancied himself as the smartest man in the room, a man who put forth a very put-together image of himself, this was remarkable. The language of comics afforded both Fraction and Stark the opportunity to be frank with the audience, to peek inside the mind of a man who would never ever give you a proper look into his mind, all under the auspices of building a personal account of events. It made him more human without having him sacrifice any of that wonderful swagger that made him Tony Stark. It also provided the framework to the rest of the series, Fraction providing the roadmap of fears we would encounter alongside Tony over the course of his run.

Tony’s second nightmare involves the Iron Man becoming easily replicable. The third, that someone – anyone –  other than Jim Rhodes or himself would start piloting the Iron Man. The fourth is that the concept would become desposible like a cell phone. Then, there’s the fifth nightmare.

“The big one. The bad one. That the person who would make the Iron Man cheap, easy to use, and disposable wouldn’t be me.”

Iron Man 2.0 – something faster, something better – outside of his prevue, beyond his control. As Tony accounts for his biggest nightmare at the end of the first issue, you are shown what he desires beyond anything else in the world: control. Whether it’s being the smartest man in the room or being the man with the best toys. He wants to be able to be the guy, both on a personal level, and on a professional level, even beyond the parts where he needs that control in order for the world to be safe. For Tony Stark, even though he would never want to admit it, world safety is secondary to his desire to be witnessed as a saviour rather than a destroyer – and he wants to save the world by being the best. Good just isn’t good enough.

These nightmares inform the majority of Fraction and Larroca’s run on the book, each encountered in different ways as Tony’s story progresses. When we get to the final issue, we revisit these ideas. The final issue (#527) opens much like the first issue did nearly five years ago. A terrorist act is being committed using modified Stark technology. In the first issue, this ends in tragedy. In the final issue, as a direct result of confronting his nightmares, Tony is able to shut the man down before anyone is harmed. The rest of the issue then goes to great lengths to show the various ways he has grown and regressed during the series. He’s still a man who is in desperate need of control. He still drowns his sorrows by pretending he has none. He avoids personal connections and actively seeks out frivolous pursuits – but, he’s a man who can deal with endings. He can deal with the idea that his ideas are not timeless, and that every era has its ending. And while he still keeps people at an arm’s length, he’s better able to lean on them when he needs their help, in his own way. He is a new man, and he’s an old man, a better man, and a flawed man. He’s Tony Stark, winner of this week’s The Man Inside Me Award. (B)

SEXY WAREWOLF COMIX

It started with a porn comic about a girl sneaking a wolf dick through a security check point so that she could sew it onto her boyfriend for his birthday.

Shortly after 9-11, when Brandon Graham was living in New York, making Flash animated Pepsi commercials by day and porn comics by night, he climbed into a cab after a long day of work, and started chatting with the driver. The old Chinese man told him, after the topic of girls was breached, that if you wanted to satisfy a woman, you needed “multiple war heads”. He never thought the phrase made any sense, but it stuck with him, and turned into a that aforementioned porn comic of a different name. Now, years later, Graham is returning to those characters he introduced long ago in an ongoing series entitled Multiple Warheads. The series (named literally for Nikola’s status as a two-dicked warewolf) is about a couple of organ smugglers who have decided to explore the world after their house was destroyed by a falling space ship. The ship is one of the remnants of the long-concluded “Wolf War III” (a space battle between warewolves and aliens that took place years ago), which is just one small bit of a myriad of different oddities that make up this book. Much like King City (Graham’s most famous work), Multiple Warheads tends to focus on strings of fanciful ideas, rather than sticking closely to a specific plot. He drops you into the story with Nikola and Sexica (and their somewhat sentient car “Lenin”, named as such because it’s not Stalin) on their road trip, and he focuses on every tiny little bit of their trip. In most books, this would be boring, but the worlds that Graham crafts are so interesting and strange, that you can’t help but become sucked in by the so-called mundane parts of life in this world. Granted, he tempers this road trip with a bit of high stakes organ smuggling in this issue, as we follow the side story of a smuggler named Nura and her smuggle boss Pumpkin (who is a Cthulhu looking alien who claims to be a god) during a fairly bloody acquisition. That action is played quite well, and on a grand canvas, but all things considered, its the stranger, quieter moments in this book that really shine. If you’re in the mood for something quite far off the beaten path, definitely check this book out. As the cover claims (in a gleefully pun-intended fashion), it’s an “Eyes Cold Russian Werewolf Comic” and it’s rad as hell, thus earning it out coveted What’s Cooler Than Being Cool Award. (B)

Better than alllll the rest

Last week, there was one comic in a field of great ones that stood apart, a comic so brilliant and so rewarding that the standard Best of the Week formula was upended and the usual alternating practice was suspended:

This is going to end well, right?

Journey Into Mystery #645 wrapped up Kieron Gillen‘s run on the series, wrapping up the two years of stories and this era of the character of Loki going back even further to Siege: Loki.  And guys, it was stunning.

Gillen‘s final issue is one that takes delight in subverting expectations, right to the very end.  Journey Into Mystery has been a series that has reveled in surprising readers and undermining their expectations the whole way.  At its start, it took the character of Loki, a long-standing villain, and challenged us to think he might change.  Throughout the other issues of the story, readers were faced with a character that could be playful, threatening, funny and surprisingly sympathetic, depending on the moment.  As each storyline unfolded, every assumption that they (okay, I) had about the character could be confounded at the turn of a page.  Is Loki good?  Is he evil?  More than almost any other, the series teased with cliffhangers and surprises, resisted giving away its secrets and lived up to its name.

Its greatest sleight of hand, however, was something else entirely: it made us care about Kid Loki.  What could have easily been a merely intellectual exercise in basing a series around a villain instead gave us a character we could feel for.  Virtually every significant twist in the series was based around this growing relationship; readers would exult when Loki played against type and be worried when he didn’t.  We wanted him to be good, we wanted him to save everything and we wanted him to, for once, be worthy of his brother’s love and trust.  The fact that this empathetic uncertainty was created not just with a pantheon of characters whose entire identity is based around the circularity of their stories, but in a medium that resists a genuine third act, is marvelous and worthy of study and praise.  Kieron Gillen and his artistic comrades made us truly wonder of Loki could change, if the rules of the metatextual game could be broken.

And now, we have our answer.

Journey Into Mystery #645 wraps up the run and the Everything Burns storyline with the only villain worthy of facing off against Loki: Loki himself.  Or, rather, that lingering shadow of who he used to be, who ultimately reinforced the idea that even if the new Loki may end up being worthy of our trust, the old one certainly wasn’t.  The result was, in the series’ true form, a battle not of armies but of exposition, a rolling sequence of Princess Bride and Columbo-esque just-one-more-things that highlighted the series’ wit and why a smartmouthed kid in spandex should never be taken lightly.  Each trickster tells his tale, and in the end… nothing is ever as simple as winning and losing, right down to the end.

Special notice is due of Stephanie Hans, the series’ cover artist, who delivered an entire issue of painted wonders that shifted and curled to tell whatever they needed to.  The Lokis have never looked more threatening or innocent.  A sunlit field filled with young love makes you smile pages after you cried at young heartbreak, and a page before you’ll cry again.  And there’s no one who could have illustrated the final scene with the same gentle, powerful touch.

Yes, I cried while reading the issue.  I’m crying right now just thinking and writing about it.  I defy you not to shed tears at what Gillen and Hans have done with this issue, wrapping up a story like this that built and built with every issue, in a way that rewarded fans of the series’ complexities, both in plotting and character.  No other ending would do, and no other creators could have done it.  I imagine making the Internet  cry – true, heartbroken sobs –  is not something to be done lightly, and what’s remarkable is the care and respect with which Gillen undertakes it.  There’s nothing manipulative about it; this is the ending, the only one there could ever be, and there’s an affectionate, friendly voice throughout the issue that lets you know things will be okay, even as you’re realizing Young Avengers is going to be very, very different than you imagined it.

Journey Into Mysetery #645 was released during a week when three other long-term, titanic Marvel Comics runs were ending, and which justifiably received a lot of attention.  This is an issue and a run worthy of being remembered alongside those, that if there is any justice in the comics world will be remembered as one of the best runs ever.  Those aren’t words to be used lightly, and I invoke them now without a hint of hyperbole.  Under Kieron GillenJourney Into Mystery was one of the greatest comics of all time.  It deserves to be treasured and reread for years and decades.  I will miss it very dearly.

Damn, I’m crying again. (J)

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

Um, Actually | October 25th, 2012

Um, Actually…

Missives from and to the internet, delivered by a series of tubes.

Welcome, dear readers, to our Thursday feature – a letter column of horrors culled from our inboxes. There will be things that are real and decidedly unreal – but hopefully all content presented here will be entertaining.

That said, WE ARE LOOKING FOR LETTERS! We are hiding in your bushes, metaphorical or otherwise. We crave your sweet correspondence. Contact us by clicking on that handy contact button right above the site banner to save yourself from our sweet lips on your power bills.

Letters might be edited for space, but not for intent.

Thank you, internet.

———-

Andrew (@andrewhorton) asks: So there are a lot of new Marvel comics coming out. Which ones should a fellow pick up?

Brandon: Well, that depends on the person. Luckily, I know you! You have a file at my store!

For a man of discerning taste as yourself, I would say you’re going to want to dig deep into Fraction’s new Fantastic Four and FF books. The first is going to be about a family going on a vacation through space and time and the second is just going to be some crazy times. Also, I’d suggest you drop in and check out Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers. I’m not even completely sure what this will be about yet, other than it’s going to have Kid Loki and some other rad characters doing rad things. Although, we’ll probably just do what we always do: I’ll read a thing and recommend a thing, and if I think you like it, it will end up in your file. Sound okay?

James: If you’d like to go by my pull list, the answer is damn near all of them.  I’m… uh… pretty jazzed for Marvel Now!  I of course wholeheartedly second Brandon’s suggestions, and he knows more about your tastes than I do, so I can’t recommend anything without doing so blindly.  That said, I’m looking forward to the next eras of Journey Into Mystery (from writer Kathryn Immonen) and the new Iron Man series being written by Kieron and drawn by Greg Land (and yes, I am recommending a Greg Land comic, that’s how much I’m looking forward to it overall; plus, I think his style is suited for a comic where large portions will feature people in robot suits and thus is slightly less likely to fall prey to the trappings of his established style).  There’s also Avengers Assemble from Kelly Sue DeConnickJonathan Hickman‘s work on those other  Avengers series and Nick Spencer‘s return to Marvel with that other Avengers book.  I dig Bendis so All New X-Men is an obvious purchase and I like Mark Waid so I’m looking forward to what he does with the character of the Hulk.  Oh!  And Sam Humphries writin’ the heck out of some X-Force!  Dan Slott‘s new Spidey gig looks neat, too.  Like I said, I’m jazzed.

I could keep going on, and a big reason for that is because Marvel is doing something extremely smart with this relaunch.  Because I – and a lot of other readers – follow creators as much as or more than we follow individual characters, by basically rotating creators, they’re increasing the number of books I want to buy, something they did well when they relaunched those street-level books like Daredevil last year.  I’d never buy a Hulk book normally, but I’ll buy basically whatever Mark Waid writes and so there we go.  Meanwhile, I’m sticking with other books because previous creators have made me a fan of those characters, and the result is a cycle of picking up more and more books until I do a periodic revisit of my pull list.  Marvel‘s got an incredible stable of creators right now, maybe the best it’s ever had, and by rotating them like this there’s almost no attrition in terms of titles I buy and some new series runs coming that I wouldn’t have checked out otherwise.  It’s kinda maniacal and I dig it.

———-

Sarah (@sjleask) asks: Does Danica need to wear #14 Welders Glasses to bed?

Brandon: Because of muy blinding sexiness? Yes. Yes she does.

James: The blinds also have to be closed, not just for privacy, but because otherwise Brandon will get moonburn and she’ll get blinded from the reflection.

———-

Devin (@Doctor_Teeth) asks: What is the most badass thing you’ve ever seen?

Brandon: Fun story: a few months ago, I discovered the bro version of myself on twitter, and he says the best things. And by best, I mean worst. And by worst, I mean he said, “The Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw concert was probably one of the most badass things I’ve seen,” and that’s some kind of god damn delightful.

Anyway, to answer your question, I would probably say it was the time that I was at that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles concert, and the Turtles defeated the Shredder through the power of music and togetherness.

James: Women’s rugby.  I mean seriously, that sport is insane.  Rugby is already a pretty rough sport, but it’s also referred to as the “Gentleman’s sport” because as rough as it is, it all gets left on the field and then you go for a beer with each other.  Women’s rugby, on the other hand, is just fuckin’ terrifying.  The things I’ve seen and the things I’ve heard… they’re almost unbelievable.  Those women will cleat the shit out of your ears if you give them a reason.  It makes men’s rugby look like tea time and games like Aussie Rules Football look like badminton.

I once dated a girl who had played rugby and that was unbelievably sexy.

———-

Devin (@Doctor_Teeth) continues: What is your favourite restaurant and what is your favourite dish to order there?

Brandon: To this day, I still love George’s in Red Deer – the biggest city around my hometown of Penhold. It has the best lasagne I’ve ever tasted, and it holds a lot of good family memories. And yes, my favourite dish there is still the lasagne.

James: My favourite restaurant is a little family-run Italian place in Edmonton called Piccolino Bistro.  It’s small, which means that if you’re going for anything but lunch you need to make a reservation at least two days in advance, but the size also means that it’s nice and cozy and the staff don’t get so overworked they forget you.  The portions are big – most pasta dishes could easily be a lunch or dinner the next day as well – and the prices are good.  More importantly, the food is spectacular.  I’ve been to a world-famous Italian restaurant in New York that couldn’t hold a candle to anything on the menu at Piccolino.  However, it’s hard to really pick a favourite dish because everything is so good.  I’ve spent years eating my way through the menu and there’s no clear favourite.  However, they have a gnocchi al forno that will blow your mindhole and a penne del mare that is maybe the best seafood pasta dish I’ve ever had.  Their pizza is top notch, too.  If I’m there for a special occasion, I might treat myself to the lamb medallions with rosemary truffle oil or the Ossobuco.  As an appetizer, we often get the calamari, but order it in a garlic white wine sauce instead of the red sauce that’s on the menu.  

Piccolino is not modern cuisine – it’s closer to rustic Italian food made according to family recipes, by some great people.  Lino, the owner, is a great guy, and because I spent my teen years working at the grocery store he shares a parking lot with, I’ve known him for a while.  I’m always impressed with his work ethic but also his ebullience; if he’s in the restaurant that night, he tries to personally thank every table for coming before they leave, and has been known to follow them out the doors to wish them goodbye if he doesn’t get a chance inside.  While I go less frequently now than I used to because I don’t live in the same part of the city anymore, it’s still my favourite restaurant around.

———-

Devin (@Doctor_Teeth) rubs his splendid beard and posits: Do I need a makeover? If so, why?

Brandon: Clone High style? Yes. I think you would make a beautiful slutty-“John” of Arc.

James: Two words: reverse mohawk.

———-

Devin (@Doctor_Teeth) croons: What 80s pop star do you want to sing at your funeral and what song that is NOT theirs would you want them to sing?

Brandon: Buh. I’ll pick the guy who sang about Der Kommisar being in town, and he would sing Don’t Stop Believin’.

James: If she hadn’t passed away (and had been in good shape before that), I’d have picked Whitney Houston because “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” is fuckin’ perfect and I’d want her to sing that as well as a song by someone else.  However, since she has passed, I’ll go with Lee Aaron singing “I’m on Fire.”

For the record, I didn’t pick Bruce Springsteen because he is timeless.  Also, his first hits were in the 70s.

———-

Erin (@Erin_Bourne) asks: Are you guys dressing up for Halloween?

Brandon: I believe I’m putting together a hipster Green Arrow costume? Because… well, because I had most of it. I just can’t go as The Doctor two years in a row…

James: might.  I almost never do, mostly because I never really do anything for Halloween, but this year I’ve been invited to a costume party and I’d like to go just to see my friends, so I guess that means I’ll probably dress up.  I’ve narrowed my choices down to two, namely a lazy option and a super lazy option.  

1. Lazy option: R.A. Dickey – R.A.’s my favourite pitcher in baseball, and after reading his book Wherever I Wind Up I have a lot of respect and admiration for the man.  Plus, I recently bought a Mets jersey with his name and number on it and a Mets baseball cap, meaning I really have my costume ready already.  Plus, since he’s got dark brown hair and wears a beard, I don’t even have to shave.

B) Super Lazy Option: A ghost, Charlie Brown-style

Depression maybe included.

I’ll even have the trick-or-treat bag with rocks in it and everything.

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) asks: What is your favourite superhero couple?

Brandon: Despite the fact I have yet to read a single issue of Amazing Spider-Man where they were together properly (and not in a flashback), I’m going to say Pete and Gwen Stacy. For all I know, their relationship was terrible… but manufactured nostalgia always had me rooting for those two crazy kids.

James: Listen, it’s hard to beat Superman and Lois Lane.  While there’s been a lot of complaining in the last year about how they’re not together in the New 52 (hint, guys: that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen), lots of stories have depicted their courtship (and marriage) really well over the years, and in consistently rewarding ways.  

One reason why they make such a good couple is because they’re so complimentary.  Both of them are dedicated to truth, justice and the American Way, but because of who they are, they come at it with different personalities.  Clark is a largely invulnerable demigod raised by kind and goodhearted farmers to basically embody all of our best traits.  But because he’s invulnerable, because he’s never really in danger, he can be inherently trusting and benevolent.  It’s been written about elsewhere (probably by Chris Sims), but one of the things that makes the Superman/Lex Luthor relationship so great is that Superman – when he’s written well – never abuses his powers because if he did he’d justify every single paranoid, hate-mongering thing Luthor said about him.  But he doesn’t, and he just keeps on trusting, because he never has any reason not to be.

Lois, however, isn’t an invulnerable demigod.  She’s a human being and because danger is real for her, she’s a lot more mistrustful than Superman is.  She’s an investigative journalist, so it’s actually her job to be.  She ferrets out truth and justice with relentless determination, and it’s easy to see why the two inspire each other, because each has a different skillset than the other.  More importantly, together, they inspire us.  Superman serves as an example of all the goodness we can be, and Lois is an example of how to fight for that goodness in a day-to-day life that rarely involves supervillains.  It’s important to note that even though Superman is Lex Luthor’s archnemesis, it’s Lois, via her investigation and writing, that actually puts him away a lot of the time.  Between the two, they basically embody almost everything intrinsically superheroic that we can learn from, and they do it at the same time that they provide an example of a healthy, loving relationship where neither party feels threatened by the other’s brilliance.

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) continues: What is your favourite non-super fictional couple?

James: Son, if you’re not down with Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence, you and I are gonna have to have some words.  If, for some reason, 90s TGIF sitcoms aren’t your bag, I present for your consideration President Josiah Barlet and First Lady Dr. Abigail Barlet in The West Wing.  A character like President Barlet – brilliant, principled, charismatic – needs a partner who’s similarly talented and so you get Abby, a thoracic surgeon who’s his intellectual equal.  More importantly, she needs to be someone you can feasibly believe could go toe-to-toe with the Leader of the Free World and not be intimidated.  The relationship between the President and basically everybody else on the show, even his best friend and Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, is one where his position puts him inherently higher than them and makes them deferential to him by virtue of his office.  Abby, then, is the character who calls him on his shit and can do so without being threatened with being fired.  She can tell him things nobody else can, not even his trusted advisors, and that doesn’t just make for a great character role, it makes for a good relationship.  While it had its ups and downs, their relationship was a lot like Superman and Lois Lane: one of equals.  Together, they faced difficult events and harsh truths, and they did so without ever giving in to their weaker instincts.  They’re pretty amazing.

Brandon: ‘Pengers and Cory, absolutely. Despite the absolutely massive continuity shredding changes to their back story and how they grew up, they were pretty awesome to watch blossom. I am also partial to Ned, the Pie Maker and Charlotte Charles from Pushing Daisies, but considering the fact that he can bring back the dead for a little bit, and she used to be dead, I don’t think they count as non-supers.

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) rabbles: What is your favourite real-life couple?

Brandon: I’m not quite sure how to answer this one, because talking about someone seems a little invasive? And talking about someone I know feels like I’m judging someone else’s relationship. So I’m going to cop out, and go with what would be my real answer anyhow, and say mine, with the wonderful Miss Danica.

James: This is a hard one to answer, because I don’t really see the inner workings of any real-life couples like I do fictional ones.  Moreover, the Hollywood couples I get intrigued by are the ones who live private lives, so I don’t really know anything about their actual relationship.  Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick seem cool.  Nick Offerman talks about Megan Mullally in a really amazing way.  Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are people whose work I enjoy and who make adorable babies.  Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton are endlessly fascinating.  Fraction and Kelly Sue seem like cool people, but I’ve only met them briefly and don’t know much of anything about their actual relationship.  Any one else I’d say would just be friends or relatives.

So… uh… my dead grandparents?

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) hides his fatigue well enough: Can you offer me suggestions for a Halloween costume?

Brandon: This guy seems to have a good idea.

James: Just pick one of these.  How about Sonic the Hedgehog?  Or one of these?

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) coughs consumptively: What would you like to control but can’t?

Brandon: Is it weird to say the weather? It was honestly the first thing that came to mind. Or marmosets. 

James: I’d be fine not having the occasional near-panic attack over my own impending mortality, but hey, whatcha gonna do?  All things must pass.

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) shudders arrhythmically: What is the first thing you remember using the internet for outside of a school setting?

Brandon: Outside of school? Well, setting up a Hotmail account, and then looking through Marvel solicitations on their website. And then finding places to talk about comics. Yeah, I’ve pretty much always been like this.

James: My dad has been a computer fanatic for longer than I’ve been alive, so we had computers all throughout my childhood.  When Windows 95 made the internet more widely available, or at least moderately easy to use, my dad got our first computer with internet access and I pretty quickly got a Hotmail account, under his guidance.  I didn’t really use it for anything, but that was the first time I ever really used the internet.  Sometimes Encarta had links to stuff, I guess.

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) sloughs fingernails: Who is your favourite obscure American President?

Brandon: Uuuuuhhhh is Lincoln obscure? Fuck it, I’m going with Grover Cleveland because his name amuses me. I know nothing about the America presidents that I know nothing about. I wish I lived in the future so that I could be reading from Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s Action Presidents series.

James: It’s hard to really call any American president obscure, so I can only really answer the question in terms of presidents not remembered as belonging to the list of Greats.  Plus, due to race and gender issues, it’s hard to really be a fan of most pre-2oth century presidents.  I guess what I am saying is that fuck Andrew Jackson, let’s talk about how great Jimmy Carter is and was.

Carter is a guy who gets a pretty bad rap for stuff that’s not entirely fair.  He was a peacenik, which still angers defense hawks, but helped reach peace with the Camp David Accord and was ultimately proven right regarding the Iran Hostage Crisis, though by that time his approval had eroded and he’d lost the presidency to the worst president in American history.  A lot of the things that seemed like weaknesses during his presidency – indecisiveness, mistrust of Congress – were reflective of what I believe were good qualities, namely seriousness, introspection and moral steadfastness (he was mistrustful of congress because of the influence of special interest groups).  His presidency was certainly hampered by inflation and his unwillingness to stand up to conflict, but overall I believe he was a good rebuttal to the cynical idea that a good man can’t become president.  It’s telling that a 2009 poll of his approval ratings more than doubled his ratings when he left office, figures which were certainly helped by the fact his political activity and activism post-presidency have been some of the most notable in that nation’s history; he’s grown from his inexperience in office to be a skilled diplomat who doesn’t shy away from conflict when it’s necessary.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize for it, for goodness’ sake.  He’s basically the closest thing America has had to their own Lester B. Pearson, and I mean that as high praise.

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) looks very confused and very scared: What do you wish you knew more about?

Brandon: At the moment? American presidents. In general? Anything that’s not about comics. I generally feel out of my depth when anything else pops up because it’s my hobby, and my job. Comics. More specifically, I’d like to know more about woodworking. I love woodworking.

James: Butchery.  I love to cook, and I’ve been trying to improve my knowledge of different meats and cuts, but I’m still inexperienced with this.  I’d like to take a class on butchery, actually, especially learning how to break down an animal into its primal cuts and then into individual cuts.  Living alone, I’d rarely actually use this on a macro level since I just don’t need that much meat, but I want to take that element of my skill and work on it from a top-down level so that I can understand everything that much better.

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) looks very confused and very scared: What era of the live-action Sabrina the Teenage Witch series was your favourite?

Brandon: Whelp, I didn’t have much in the way of television, and they never really aired Sabrina much on the peasant vision… so most of what I’m going for comes from very small bits and pieces from various seasons. I gotta say, I liked the later years because there was a touch more serialization to them. Plus, I always like it when you mix up the formula of something, and for the most part, I found what they did worked rather well. But again, I saw episodes quite randomly, here and there.

James: While the later elements of the series had their strengths – I really liked the final season when Sabrina was living in her aunts’ house with her roommates – it’s hard to beat the first three seasons of the series.  High school provides a good framework for stories, especially sitcoms, for three main reasons.  First, it provides an inherent set of tropes to investigate and play with, and with a series that was largely about subverting the world by adding, “…And there’s magic!” to it, that was a good thing.  Second, it operates as a microcosm of society.  You want to tell a story about struggling with authority?  Boom, you can do it.  Want one about friendship and pressure?  Politics?  Whatever?  You can do it, easy.  All the pieces are there because it’s those kinds of people that will grow up and populate the rest of the world, too.  It all serves as one big metaphor, as Buffy taught us.  

Better yet, and bringing me to the third reason, is that you can have the characters make mistakes in a way you can’t later when they’re older.  Being older implies a certain level of confidence, a certain level of being able to buckle down and get stuff done.  Towards the later seasons, the show’s nature required Sabrina and her friends to still be wacky and get into hijinks, but it became harder to balance that with the fact that they were supposed to be people who were out of college and had jobs and could do them competently.  Sabrina causing a catastrophe because she’s not certain if her adult coworkers think she’s cool doesn’t work in the same way that it does when she’s in high school.  In high school, you’re figuring out who you are and those broad, outlandish qualities and characters really do exist.  Sabrina‘s brand of magic isn’t out of place there.  As you get older, those jagged corners generally get softened as you figure out who you are and go out into the world, which makes it harder to gel with the outrageous aspects inherent to the show’s nature as being about magic.  In high school, they fit right in.

Of course, the fourth season was also about high school, but I didn’t include it in this era of the show.  Why not?  I could talk about how the tension of Brad, with the Witch Hunter gene and Dreama, basically a Season 1 Sabrina, didn’t quite work or how the writing out of Harvey seemed as perfunctory as it was needed.  But no, the reason the season wasn’t fundamentally as good as the earlier ones, despite being similar in many ways, was simple: the characters of Libby (played by Jenna Leigh Green) and Valerie (played by the always wonderful Lindsay Sloane) left, and they were two of the show’s best characters.  Especially Valerie.  And you can’t just replace them, even if you do so with Castle‘s Jon Huertas.

Guys, you should send in a question about why I think Lindsay Sloane is so wonderful.

———-

Danica (@DanicaHere) asks: Is Scott Williams my nemesis?

Brandon: No, I’m Scott Williams’ nemesis, dating back to when I was writing fiction about the people who worked at the old comic site we were all a part of and asked who wanted to be my enemy. He even stole my fictitious girlfriend.

Yes, all of that is exactly as terrible as it sounds. If you’re industrious, you might even be able to find it all on the internet.

James: I’d always thought I was, but I guess you don’t feel the same way.  Whatever, Danica.  Whatever forever.

(Scott’s nemesis is HIV.)

———-

Danica (@DanicaHere) continues: If I were to have a nemesis in the comic world, who would you pick for me?

Brandon: Probably the Toyman, from the Superman comics. Not only is he cluttery with all his toys, that clutter would also try and kill you. Which would be bad.

James: I would pay good money to see you throw down with Emily Astor from Phonogram.

———-

Danica (@DanicaHere) continues: What was the last pop culture reference you made?

Brandon: “I’ll sleep, when Iiiiiiiiii die.” Abe Lincoln, Clone High.

James: That’s hard to say, because I have a terrible memory and often don’t pay attention when I make the references anyway.  I made a joke about West Side Story a couple of days ago, but that almost definitely wasn’t the most recent one.  I talk a lot about Cougar Town, after all.

———-

Danica (@DanicaHere) continues: What was the last line of dialogue you quoted? 

Brandon: Same thing!

James: I honestly have no idea.  I think I sent Liz some texts quoting the season premiere of Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 on Tuesday.  I don’t actually do direct quotes a lot – I prefer weird, obtuse references because they’re easier to toss off and to combine.

———-

That’s it for the thirty-first installment of Um, Actually!  Check in every Thursday for a new batch of questions.  If you have anything you’d like answered, hit up our Contact page!  If you submit anything via Twitter – to @blogaboutcomics@leask or @soupytoasterson – remember to include the hashtag #UMACTUALLY so that we don’t lose it.  Remember: you can ask us anything.

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 43 – ¡Loco Al!

We're trouble.

It’s Wednesday!  Enjoy this new podcast episode or go sit in the corner or something..

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 43 – ¡Loco Al!

This week, the boys catch up after the Edmonton Comics and Entertainment Expo – the new sister event to the annual expo in Calgary – which Brandon attended and James didn’t.  Why did James choose not to go?  Find out!  The boys also discuss a celebrity lookalike on The Walking Dead, the Happy Endings live show that could never, ever air on television and the entertaining lack of narrative tension in Taken 2.  Wrapping up with a discussion of comics, the boys wax rhapsodical about a lot of great comics, but none moreso than Hawkguy #3 and Captain Marvel #5.

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”):

http://comicstheblog.libsyn.com/rss

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

You Read These With Your Eyes | October 24th, 2012

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.

A-BABIES VS. X-BABIES #1 (Marvel Comics)

With the dust settling on the whole Avengers vs. X-Men event, it’s time to take a breather and have a bit of a laugh. Marvel usually publishes a fun little one-off like this after most of their events. Last year it was the Shame Itself one shot, and sometime before that, there was the Captain America: Who Won’t Wield the Shield bit that saw Fraction and Brendan McCarthy rock out a spectacular Doctor Strange story. Often overlooked, these more humourous bits feature some of the best bits that the company puts out – and this offering won’t be an exception.

Skottie Young and phenominal art team Gurihiru have put together a very fun book, featuring the cast of Marvel’s latest events as… well, as babies. There’s fighting, and hilarity, and all kinds of radness, and also? It’s the cutest damn thing you’ll ever see. Definitely check it out if you’re in the mood for something that’s pure fun.

ADVENTURE TIME #9 & BRAVEST WARRIORS #1 (Kaboom!/Boom! Studios)

This week features a double dose of Pendleton Ward, and the fact that we live in such a world makes me believe we live in one of the better realities. The Adventure Time series – including the Marceline and the Scream Queens mini that has accompanied it – captures the spirit of the show quite well, while playing towards the medium’s strengths. Adding The Bravest Warriors to the mix here should prove to be interesting, another concept in another universe. I’m very excited to read both of these.

ENDINGS AT MARVEL

It’s a big week at Marvel with a few big runs drawing to an end. Ed Brubaker is wrapping up his run of Captain America after eight long years, Fraction is finishing with Invincible Iron ManHickman is saying good-bye to the FFKieron Gillen is bidding adieu to Journey into Mystery (though, not Loki), and Jason Aaron is leaving The Incredible Hulk (suck it, thesaurus!). These are probably terrible books to jump into, but for those of you who’ve been on board, you’re probably champing at the bit to read these as much as I am. If you’ve missed out on any of them, please try and find the first volumes of each series – all of them (except, I believe, for Jason Aaron’s Incredible Hulk) are out in paperback right now, and ready for you to rock.

PUNISHER: WAR ZONE #1 (Marvel Comics)

Talking about endings, Greg Rucka begins to wrap up his run on Punisher here, as Frank draws the attention of the Avengers and… well, things need to happen. It will be sad to see this series end, but if it has to go out, it looks like Rucka will be blowing things out in style.

MULTIPLE WARHEADS: ALPHABET TO INFINITY #1 (Image Comics)

And finally, Brandon Graham returns to writing and drawing some crazy comics with the return of Multiple Warheads. The first little bit of this came out from Oni Press oh-s0-many years ago before receding into the ether, and now he’s brought it back as an ongoing series of minis.

The book itself is quite hard to explain. Let’s just say it’s a strange thing, taking place in a world post Wolf War III, where a couple survives by somewhat illegally transporting organs. It’s a fun, strange book and the first issue of this clocks in at an astounding 48 pages. READ THIS WITH YOUR EYES.

These are five several 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.

C!TB’s Best of the Week | October 22nd, 2012

Comics etc! Listen, it was a hell of a weekend, let’s just pretend that there was some nice banter that encouraged you to read what’s next.  You know, that part about the best comics of last week.

LA CAPITAN? LA CAPITANA? I’M NOT GOOD WITH SPANISH

Listen, I was just gonna not write about Captain Marvel again after I wrote so emphatically about it last week.  And then I actually read Captain Marvel #5 and all hopes of shutting up about it went out the window.  Because people, it is just that good.

The reason is pretty simple, actually: this comic is made by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire, which is basically the real life version of all those movies where teams of badasses come together to do a job nobody else can.  The whole issue is simply stunning.

The plot of the issue – time-traveling Carol Danvers and the past version of her hero, Helen Cobb break into a government facility to steal something back after they’re mistreated – sets the scene for several things that DeConnick does very well: dialogue and  purposeful action.  Very seldom are the two married better – in comics, period – than in the first scene of the issue, a conversation between the two that takes place during a jet fighter flight.  As Carol and Helen talk and jab at each other, they soar and weave in the air.  These two dramatic elements – the discussion of politics and the actual flight itself – are married perfectly by DeConnick and Rios, and the issue is full of scenes like this, where craft meets drama and humour.  I’ve only had it for one issue, but I would read an ongoing series about Carol Danvers and Helen Cobb as a crimefighting adventure team.

It certainly helps that DeConnick and Rios are one of the best creative pairs in comics today and that each of their comics should be bought sight unseen (remember this when Pretty Deadly, their revenge western comic from Image, comes out next year).  They just work together so fluidly, and it’s never more evident than in the humour.  When DeConnick writes a joke, Rios nails the physical elements like the facial expressions that set the tone.  Humour in comics often seems to be considered the purview of the writer, but Emma Rios‘ work highlights the importance of the artist in not just representing the physical humour, but everything else down to the timing.

Similarly, the unsung heroes of comics are often the colourists and letterers, but Joe Caramagna and Jordie Bellaire‘s work here is impeccable.  Like the artist, a letterer has a big influence on how humour flows, and Caramagna coaxes just the right sense of time out of everything.  Bellaire is, simply, one of the premiere colourists in the industry (if you need more proof, check out her work on John Carter: The Gods of Mars or Doctor Strange: Season One, the latter of which also featured Emma Rios!).  This is a comic that is all about a celebration of craft coming together to tell a funny, emotional story, and it should not be missed under any circumstance.  It’s earned this week’s All For One Award.  And then some. (J)

BRANDON

The current arc in The Sixth Gun features two of the main characters slowly freezing to death out in a frozen wasteland over the course of several issues. For some strange reason, we here at Comics! The Blog identify with this scenario.

But beyond that, this week’s issue (#26) featured quite a few deft bits of story telling. Cullen Bunn continues to mine the depths of the supernatural by finally showing us just what Drake and Becky are dealing with out in the cold, and the answer is simultaneously satisfying and bone-chilling. Married to the story is a bit of a flashback to times gone by with a certain beloved character, and a B-plot wherein our other hero, Gord Cantrell, attempts to run away from a group of men who are on his trail with the help of an old west grifter and a giant, gangly mummy. Because you know, that’s happening.

Along with the story, you get some fantastic images by the art team of Brian Hurtt and Bill Crabtree. The series has always been big on action and oddities, and both are showcased well here, as the horse-chase scene with the cure-all wagon full of exploding coloured bottles and the giant mummy worked incredibly well. It should have been ridiculous, but the tone of the art and the story made the stakes feel genuine, with danger lurking tangibly through-out. This is matched by the creepiness of Drake and Becky’s situation, which takes a sharp turn for the even worse at the end, when Drake discovers just why the fort they stumbled across was bereft of women and children. All in all, another fantastic issue, well deserving of our Are You My Mummy Award. (B)

Better than alllll the rest

I’m pretty sure y’all already know what this is going to be about.

Bows and, I dunno... javelins?

It’s Hawkguy #3!

Every issue of this comic has been fantastic.  More than that, each issue has highlighted a different strength of the creators involved: Matt FractionDavid AjaMatt Hollingsworth and Chris Eliopoulos.

From a writing and story standpoint, Fraction does maybe his best job yet in the series of marrying the twin tones of the series, superhero comics and The Rockford Files.  Not only does he continue to nail his lead character’s “average guy” voice, but he continues to find ways to have Clint Barton need to do Hawkeye things to basically survive the movie Bullitt.  A frequent bit of fun fans have at Hawkeye’s expense is his use of trick arrows, but in Hawkguy #3Fraction brings them up so well, so methodically, that looking back it’s hard to imagine the issue doing anything else.  Through the character of Kate Bishop, Clint’s friend/sidekick/tormentor, the reader has an “in” to get to have their fun laughing at Clint but also be impressed by everything he does.  Add in the fact that the issue is hysterically funny and the issue’s writing becomes simply breathtaking.

Of course, when you’ve got guys like AjaHollingsworth and Eliopoulos backing you up, it’s a little easier to look that good.  Aja is nothing short of spectacular.  In the first issue, he nailed small-scale street crime.  In the second, he did a great job playing with a heist almost gone wrong.  In Issue #3, he draws an entertaining car chase.  Let’s slow that down for a second:

He draws an entertaining car chase.

Car chases shouldn’t work in comics, or at least the conventional wisdom goes.  They work in television and movies because you can see the actual movement, whereas comics can only approximate it.  In most comics, a car chase looks static and repetitious.  In Hawkguy #3, however, the car chase (as Clint’s car gets progressively totaled) is riveting stuff.  Aja picks his angles and his snapshots of the action so perfectly that you’d swear it’s actually moving.  That’s the best thing a comic artist can do, after all: make the page come alive in a way that makes you forget about the supposed limitations of the medium.

Hollingsworth continues to amaze with his colouring.  Using blocks of colours instead of gradients, his work meshes with Aja‘s pencils and inks to look simultaneously classic and modern.  More than that, he continues to pick his palette impeccably; whereas the first two issues were about the blue and greyness of the city, Issue #3 includes more greens and browns in his backgrounds; it fits the feel of the issue as harkening back to 70s car chases and cop films.  The anchor throughout this shift in palette is his accent colours, like the two Hawkeyes’ purple clothes and the shocking reds of Clint’s new car and the woman he buys it from.

Chris Eliopoulos is one of the best letterers around, and shows why he’s got that reputation in this issue; his work never distracts from the art, and with layouts as consistently unique and innovative as Aja‘s, that’s genuinely difficult.  With artists like this, the letterist’s job sometimes seems like it’s just to keep up with them; here, Eliopoulos makes it all seem effortless, like keeping the tone of the conversation while helping draw the eye through some of the most individualistic pages in comics isn’t its own art form.  His work, like everybody else’s in the issue, looks effortless until you drill down into the details, at which point it blows you away.  In Hawkguy #3, it all comes together in a perfect panel:

The only way it could be better is if it was winking.

Funny, beautiful and filled with motion in everything right down to a single static panel.  This is why Hawkguy #3 was the best.

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

Um, Actually… | October 18th, 2012

Welcome to the Como Murder Palace

Um, Actually…

Missives from and to the internet, delivered by a series of tubes.

Welcome, dear readers, to our Thursday feature – a letter column of horrors culled from our inboxes. There will be things that are real and decidedly unreal – but hopefully all content presented here will be entertaining.

That said, WE ARE LOOKING FOR LETTERS! We are hiding in your bushes, metaphorical or otherwise. We crave your sweet correspondence. Contact us by clicking on that handy contact button right above the site banner to save yourself from our sweet lips on your power bills.

Letters might be edited for space, but not for intent.

Thank you, internet.

———-

What a couple of weeks it’s been!  First, James lost the site to Liz after being unable to answer an Um, Actually question.  Next, Liz came in and did a great job on Um, Actually last week, proving herself to be a natural at belligerently answering questions.  Finally, James defeated her with knowledge of the movie Bad Teacher and won the site back, so we hope you enjoy hearing about baseball again!

Suckers.

———-

Jay (@jayrunham) asks: Which basketball team do you think each one of the (movie version) Avengers would cheer for?

James: Jay, I’m surprised you think they wouldn’t all cheer for the same team.  This isn’t Avengers Disassembled; I like to think they’d all cheer for the same team because they’re all on the same side.  And they’d probably cheer for a team much like themselves – comprised of different people with very different talents and personalities who, when working together, are the very best at what they do.  For this, there are only two acceptable options:

1) The 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls, objectively the greatest NBA team of all time.  First, they’re from the past, much like Captain America.  They were wealthy, much like Tony Stark.  They had Dennis Rodman, an uncontrollable wild man just like the Hulk.  They had a really big blond dude (Thor/Steve Kerr/Luc Longley if you squint) and someone frequently forgotten but who was super talented and had badass hair (Toni Kukoč/Black Widow).  A super talented man brought them all together and operated behind the scenes (Phil Jackson/Nick Fury).  They were also the first team to reach (and surpass) 70 wins in a season, and the first year of the infamous three-peat of championships.  They were clearly the best team ever, and there’s no other NBA team the Avengers would identify with and like more.

This also has the added benefit of not having to make me do any research.

2) The 1992 USA Men’s Olympic Basketball Team, aka “The Dream Team”.  They might actually be more on the nose than the 95/96 Bulls as a team that matches the Avengers the most, because they weren’t just comprised of different personalities, but ones from entirely different franchises.  With this team, each player came from a place where he was generally the unquestioned top dog – much like his own comic book – to be part of a team comprised of equals. Much like the Avengers, they even came together for a higher purpose (embarrassing Eastern Europeans).  They even still had an uncomfortably intense blond, white dude (Larry Bird)!  They were undefeated champions and are regularly hailed as one of the greatest sports teams ever assembled, but that’s not why they resemble the Avengers the most.  There, the answer is simple:

Losing was never in the cards for them.

Let’s be honest, any drama of the Dream Team’s victories was manufactured by its historic nature (the first Olympic team to have NBA players), fan love or writers, which pretty much describes superhero comics.  They were never going to lose, not even a single game.  They were just that good, and they were up against largely nameless villains who were there mostly just to give the team something to be against.  Just like you don’t write an Avengers story where the Earth is destroyed, you don’t get a loss when NBA players play a bunch of guys from the European leagues who would never even get drafted.  Kang’s a great villain – just like Croatia – but you never for a second think he is going to win.  The Avengers – and the Dream Team – are just the champions by their very nature.

Brandon: Oh basketball. I know almost nothing about it other than… well, I guess I know the fundamentals. We had to study that for phys ed when they began mandating tests on the rules of certain games. Anyway, I kinda hate basketball, if only because my height caused every adult ever to ask me if I played basketball, like they were all some kind of height racists. Do I go around asking you if you eat ponies if you’re small? No. No I do not.

Wait, that should be ride ponies, like a racing jockey. Whatever. My point still stands. Don’t be height racists, you honky tonk, milk toast, white as fuck crackers.

———-

Joy (@joydreamz) asks: What would it take to get you to eat a tater tot?

James: Some background: I hate tater tots.  I don’t generally hate any foods, actually.  Except tater tots, which I regularly decry as being “the devil’s tater.”  Joy knows this.

That said, the answer is pretty boring: just serve them to me.  I might hate tater tots, but if you are feeding me a meal, I’ll try what you put in front of me because it would be rude not to.  For me, sharing food and cooking for others is a very powerful, almost shamanistic thing, and I take it seriously.  If you want to torture me by making me eat a tater tot, you don’t need to be a Bond villain; you just need to show up with one.

Brandon: Oh great, now I got the ideas. Danica, next year for my birthday, can we put together a tot-straviganza? No reason.

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) asks: What is the best individual line in the song “Summer Girls” by LFO?

James: Good question, Scott.  Good question.  It will surprise exactly no one that I have actually spent considerable time thinking about this before – the same goes for The Barenaked Ladies’ hit “One Week” – and have an answer basically ready.  Because the song basically involves two types of lyrics – pop culture non sequiturs and stuff that actually means something, anything – there are two answers here.

For the non-sequitur, I actually have to put “Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton” in second place, behind “I’ll steal your honey like I stole your bike,” because it’s supposed to be funny and dirty but actually makes no sense whatsoever, and that is basically the core of what I want from any summer jam.

For the meaningful lyrics, it’s hard to top “And I think it’s fly when girls stop by for the summer.”  Behind all the bluster of the tight wifebeaters, frosted tips and surprisingly aggressive stances for a band whose name stands for “Lyte Funky Ones,” the song is fundamentally a wistful one, despite all of the ways it tries to hide it with humour and nonsense.  That one line evokes both images and memories of sunny summer days, beautiful girls and Beach Boys songs, and simultaneously reminds us that ultimately those things are impermanent.  In the end, a lot of what we take for granted leaves us, like the titular girls of the song, and you should treasure them while they’re there.  And what better way to do that than in a pop song?  I can’t think of one, no sir.

 And since the song was basically a joke track that accidentally ended up being released and becoming a hit, I think that’s officially the most thought anyone has given “Summer Girls.”

Brandon: Fun fact: the obituary article on E!Online for LFO’s lead singer begins with the line “Rich Cronin liked it when the girls stopped by for the summer.” That’s a very real thing that happened.

As for the answer to your question, I think the Michael J. Fox line is up at the top, but I also like the chunk that reads:

You love hip hop and rock n roll
Dad took off when you were 4 years old
There was a good man named Paul Revere
I feel much better baby when you’re near

If only because of the melding of a cripplingly depressing childhood moment with a love of hip hop, rock and roll, Paul Revere, and summer love. So great.

———-

Scott continues: How would you rank the James Bonds?  Please include Peter Sellers if at all possible.

James: Scott, I appreciate this question because it is one of the things I have surprisingly vehement opinions about.  I have actually gotten into at least one screaming match with a friend over my Bond rankings, or more specifically, his categorically wrong ones.  So I’d like to present to you the right order:

1. Sean Connery – It could never be anyone else.  The first and the iconic.  He captured not only the suave smoothness of the character, but the other side of the character present in Ian Fleming‘s novels but not in all the actors’ portrayals: the danger.  There is a decided edge to Connery’s portrayal.  Part of it is in his look – his dark brow and fierce eyes make him look like a caged animal at times – but a big part of it is in his portrayal.  He growls.  When Jill Masterson is killed in Goldfinger (spoiler alert for a 48 year-old movie, guys!), he’s enraged.  Some Bond actors portray the character as icy and aloof, but that’s a mistake – he’s more emotional than that, and Connery‘s deft handling of that makes him the best.

2. Daniel Craig – This could be understandably critiqued as being too premature or too presumptive.  After all, you judge a Bond by their whole collection of films in the series, and Craig‘s tenure is still in progress.  He could be terrible in Skyfall, for all we know.  But I don’t think so, because while we’ve only seen him as much as we’ve seen Timothy Dalton in the role, I think we can grade his approach and its success.  Simply put, Craig takes a lot of what was great and iconic about Connery‘s portrayal, namely the sex, precision and danger, and modernizes it.  Craig‘s Bond has to co-exist with characters like Jason Bourne in a way that Connery‘s didn’t have to, and he’s done a good job by emphasizing the characfer’s duality, especially in Casino Royale.  In that movie, we see the tender side of a young Bond, but we also see his icy fury.  Simply put, Daniel Craig is the first James Bond that I am actually scared of.  He’s brutal.  He doesn’t fuck around and he takes beatings like nobody else.  Can you imagine another Bond taking the wicker chair torture scene in Casino Royale like that and coming out joking while he grimaces?  I doubt it.  The closest we’ve seen to that is Pierce Brosnan‘s torture beard in Die Another Day, and even then we didn’t see anything.  With Craig, we can see the tough stuff and he makes it work.

3. George Lazenby – Lazenby takes a lot of undue flak for his performance in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  At the time, it was decried as a flop and Lazenby was run out of the franchise, but in the 40 years since, it and its lead actor have started to get the respect they deserve.  On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a Bond movie like no other.  It’s dark and tragic, with the series’ first truly unhappy ending.  A movie like this required a different type of Bond portrayal, and in Lazenby, audiences got a Bond who wasn’t always in control, who got nervous and powered through those feelings to win… until he didn’t.  The movie’s final scene, with Bond cradling his wife’s – his wife!  This movie featured James Bond truly in love! – body brokenheartedly, is shocking and I doubt any other Bond except perhaps Craig could have pulled it off.  Everything Craig did in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace involving Vesper Lynd was pioneered by Lazenby decades earlier in a jarring, masterful performance.  

4. Pierce Brosnan – A good Bond with mostly poor films.  Brosnan was an effective action Bond and arguably the best since Connery at delivering the humourous lines.  He was smooth and suave, but capable of looking believable as he cold murders someone, and he got one very good movie, 1995’s Goldeneye, to showcase these strengths.  That movie gave him a chance to be sexy, to be dangerous and even to emote at Alec Trevelyan’s “death” and betrayal.  The problem is simply that each successive one of his Bond films was an exercise in diminishing returns.  As the movies went on, the emphasis on product placement, cars and gadgets overrode the actual substance of its lead actor’s portrayal to an increasing degree, and by the end, Die Another Day was just a really good-looking action movie that had none of the deeper style of the series.  But Brosnan got at least one great Bond movie, which is more than you can probably say for the next two on the list.

5. Timothy Dalton – Another good Bond who was maligned by poor films.  Both The Living Daylights and License to Kill suffer for being movies of their time and embodying a lot of those eras’ worst excesses.  That said, Dalton was capable of bringing both a warmth and coolness to the role, able to handle stoic silence well.  Had he had better scripts – and let’s be honest, there hadn’t been a good Bond script for a while by the time Dalton got to the role – I believe he would have been better received and more loved.

6. Roger Moore - The single worst Bond in the franchise’s storied history, bar none.  People talk about the 1967 Peter Sellers version of Casino Royale as a spoof, but what’s remarkable is that Moore made Bond spoofs for a solid decade, except they were presented as both official and serious and lacked any of the Sellers movie’s wit or charm.  Not only were his movies unwitting pastiches of the series’ worst excesses, but those were embodied by Moore himself and his portrayal.  He was ineffective as an action or spy hero – he had no presence, leading the series to become dependent on ever-increasing villains and cliches to distract from it.  As believable as ConneryCraig or even Brosnan was at conveying the danger of someone who has a license to kill, Moore lacked any semblance of that.  He was a cutout that the movie existed and moved around, with a joke presented occasionally.  And god, Moore‘s comic delivery was awful.  Limp and smirking, he barely delivered a single joke properly in the whole series, mugging to the camera and treating every line as if it came with an inappropriately knowing wink.  If you think Pierce Brosnan‘s “I thought Christmas only came once a year”/”I always wanted to have Christmas in ___” jokes in The World Is Not Enough were awful, consider that they were pioneered almost completely by Moore‘s tenure as Bond except with less skill.  Moonraker and Octopussy make those lines look like classics.  God, I hate Roger Moore‘s Bond movies.  They are literally the Worst Thing.

Brandon: Fun fact: I have watched exactly one and two halfs of the Bond movies. The only full Bond movie I’ve watched was Quantum of Solice, which was GREAT, and I watched… most of a Connery (I think Goldfinger) on CTV one night, and a bit of a Brosnan (whatever the one is with that one villain who maybe is invincible because of a brain defect? I can’t remember) on a marching band bus. So my rankings would be ridiculous.

———-

Scott goes on: Can you think of any examples of TV shows that are massively retooled with great results?

James: One show we’ve talked about here before, Boy Meets World, did a pretty good job (even if it threw Eric Matthews under the bus).  A lot of sitcoms end up doing that just to keep things fresh by changing the situation of the comedy – for instance, I think the addition of Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik to The Big Bang Theory was a brilliant decision because it opened the door to a different type of story that the series can tell.  However, two series has done it better than any else:

Cougar Town and M*A*S*H.

Now, I’ve written in depth about Cougar Town‘s change in tone before, so I won’t repeat that whole article.  But basically, midway through the first season, the show retooled itself as a show about adult friendship and aging instead of being about Courteney Cox fucking younger men, and the result is one of the best comedies on television.  If you’re not watching it, you should be, and if you don’t want to work through the first 6 episodes of the series before the retooling began, just start with Season 2.

M*A*S*H‘s retooling was much more drawn out.  Series co-creator Larry Gelbart, responsible for the series’ defining comic style, left after the fourth season, and  Larry Linville (Frank Burns) and executive producer Gene Reynolds left after the next season.  As a result of this (and Alan Alda‘s increased role in the production, writing and directing of the series), the series underwent a visible change in tone, from a comedy that had some darker dramatic elements to a more overtly dramatic and political series, albeit one that was still fantastically funny.  This divides the series into roughly two different eras (with Season 5 in a kind of no-man’s land), and each has its merits.  The lighter comedy of Seasons 1 to 4 is spectacular, because Gelbart was a master of his craft.  Seasons 6-11 tackled heavier issues more regularly, and its newer cast members like Harry MorganMike Farrell and David Ogden Stiers were well suited for this.  These seasons not only introduced me to the true horrors of war, but also to even more experimental episode styles, like the use of dreams (“Dreams”), point-of-view (“Point of View”), real-time narration (“Life Time”), or the supernatural (“Follies of the Living—Concerns of the Dead”).  The series had always experimented with its form, but it was the Alda-Metcalfe years that were brave enough to add truly surreal and jarring elements to an already successful show’s formula.  Larry Gelbart probably couldn’t have made the brilliant series finale, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.”  I love both eras of the show, as different as they are.

Brandon: Again, James is spot on with these, so I’m gonna go with something completely different: Doctor Who. Yes, it’s probably more of a relaunch than a retool, but you can’t argue with the amazing results.

———-

Scott doesn’t stop: Does Danica know the awful truth about Brandon or has he managed to keep it hidden for a year?

James: It’s kinda hard to miss an entire room filled with puppy skulls, Scott.

Brandon: I’m waiting until the wedding night to reveal the deepest darkest secrets, so that she’s stuck with me. There’s no taksies-backsies in marriage, right? Wait, aren’t my parents divorced?

———-

Scott beseeches us: What should I do if I am being cyber-bullied on the internet?

James: Keep asking questions, that’s what, wimp.

Brandon: Don’t contract AIDS?

———-

Scott cries: What’s it all about, really?

James:

Brandon: Something tells me that I blew the AIDS joke early, in that I have no response for this. God dammit, I think I lost this round.

———-

That’s it for the thirtieth installment of Um, Actually!  Check in every Thursday for a new batch of questions.  If you have anything you’d like answered, hit up our Contact page!  If you submit anything via Twitter – to @blogaboutcomics@leask or @soupytoasterson – remember to include the hashtag #UMACTUALLY so that we don’t lose it.  Remember: you can ask us anything.

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 42 – SARS Blanket

We're trouble.

One more Wednesday down on the relentless trail to the grave, kiddles.  Best settle down by the book fire with a nice new podcast episode to keep you warm.

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 42 – SARS Blanket

This week, James tries to avoid catching Brandon’s illness by putting a barrier between them as the episode goes on.  Before Brandon’s throat and voice give out, the boys discuss the return of The Walking DeadGravity Falls and a big pile of comics from last week.  There are also two big announcements for C!TB events in November!

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”):

http://comicstheblog.libsyn.com/rss

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