Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Listmania part 2: Favorite individual issues

Daredevil #181 “Last Hand” April 1982: Frank Miller was just hitting his stride and the character of Elektra was becoming hugely popular.  I remember picking this one up at the local newsstand and thinking it was just going to be cover hype.  I was already a jaded fan at that point.  By the time I was done reading this I had a new interest in comics.

Justice League of America #0 “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” September 2006: This was more like favorite single page.  Each of the short scenes in this story are interesting, but the single page that references Batman’s reaction after Superman was killed by Doomsday redefined the character for me and put a lump in my throat.  You don’t often think of Batman as human and this changed that for me.

The stunning wraparound cover to Mage #14

Mage #14 “…Or Not to be” August 1986:  This was the issue after the series lost the character that was the emotional center of the book and set out the direction for the lead Kevin Matchstick.  Drawing the parallels to King Arthur seemed odd on the first page, but by the last page I could not imagine a time when I couldn’t see them.

Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children #21 “Dances with Cows” February 1991:  There was never a point I didn’t love this forgotten series from Piranha Press (a DC precursor to Vertigo), but this issue was funny and sad and odd all at once.  I really wish they would collect this anthology series in bookshelf volumes.  There is a large amount of creator owned and fringe material that is all but lost to readers now unless they search out the original back-issues.  This series was uneven at times, but so different from what was out there then, and still very readable now, that it could not help but find a new audience today.

Miracleman #22 “Carnival” August 1991:  It is very hard to pick a single issue from this amazing series, and picking a Gaiman issue over a Moore one might be considered a bad choice, but this issue had an emotional core that would resonate with anyone, even people who had not read the preceding 21 issues.  It touched on much of what had come before without ever relying on it and made this a stand-alone issue that really packed an emotional punch.  Now all we need is for these to be reprinted.

Avengers Annual #10 “By Friends — Betrayed!” 1981:  An uninspired Al Milgrom cover (nothing against Al, the cover just didn’t work for the book) covered up the first appearance of Rouge, and began a run of X-Men stories that would see the book rise in sales to be Marvel’s biggest book for many years to come.  The fact that it was in an Avengers book, and that the X-Men are only in a few pages of it messed with my head a bit, but this really is more of an X-book than an Avengers one.  Art by the amazing Michael Golden with inks by Armando Gil gave this book a look that no other book at the time had.  This is collected (finally) in Marvel Masterworks X-Men vol 7 and the Claremont omnibus.  It had been reprinted before, but never in an edition where it really worked, and certainly not as nicely as it is here.

Lord Julius and a “like-a-look”. Cerebus #137

Cerebus #137 (& 138–sort of) “Epilogue” August 1990:  This was a single story that Sim used an issue and a half for, but the first part is the best.  It has never been collected in the phone books since it was a fun filler issue that really does not fit in either the book before it (Jaka’s Story) or the one that followed it (Melmoth), but gives a silly look at Lord Julius and his “like-a-looks”, explaining a lot about the character in a funny way.  It is available ONLY as the original issue(s) or in Cerebus #0 which collected the other in-between issues that are not included in any of the phone books.

Toad Men!?!?

Sensational She-Hulk #2 “Attack of the Terrible Toad Men” June 1989:  The first issue seemed like a fluke or a one-off, but when they did this one I was left in awe of how funny this book really was.  Byrne left the book after issue 8 over a flap with editorial and the book never quite recovered, until his return in issue #31 that is!  Then he left at issue 50 and the decline started all over.  Dan Slott did some fun stuff with Shulkie later, but this series is still the best there has been.

Alpha Flight #12 “… And One Shall Surely Die” July 1984:  I freely admit I was one of the zombies that jumped on this Byrne book when it arrived, and I loved it for the first years’ worth of stories.  Byrne himself has said he never really saw the point of having an AF book, but it didn’t show for most of his time on the book.  This issue was a surprise in every way.  Yes, they advertised that a major character was going to die for weeks in advance, but how often had we heard that before only to see some turd third stringer die?  Yes, death in comics has since become a revolving door plot hammer.  Never in a million years did I think Byrne would GUT the heart out of the team and kill someone as important as that!  Naive of me?  Maybe, but I had not become so jaded at that point and just didn’t see it coming.  This book gave me chills, and still does when I read it.

Uncanny X-Men #186 “Lifedeath” October 1984:  The single most beautifully drawn mainstream issue of the 1980s.  Barry Windsor Smith as inked by Terry Austin was too much for many at the time. It was a challenging story that made me expect more (too much) from my comics after that.

Superman #712 (had to sneak this one in) “Lost Boy: A Tale of Krypto the Superdog” August 2011:  I was never a huge fan of big blue and have only occasionally read his adventures.  What I AM is a dog person.  This was an inventory story used to fill time while the Grounded arc needed to get caught up.  This issue was better than ANY of those.  I defy any dog person out there to not be an emotional wreck after reading this book.

This was a REALLY hard list. To just come up with ten (OK, eleven) was really tough, and if asked in a month I would think that there would be changes.

Feel free to start throwing chair and arguing, but I would really rather see some other people’s lists.

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A little listmania! part 1: favorite stories

Blogger wwayne got me thinking about my favorites;  Favorite story arcs and favorite single issues.  Putting the definitions as simply as possible ( since us geeks love to argue about the definitions ) we get….

Story arc:  a  story occurring within an ongoing series.  OK, that is not going to work for me, dammit!  Since I am a trade waiter and have been for 2 decades, some of this will have to be at least a little in the self-contained series vein.  But I will try to justify and explain as I go.

Single issue:  Just like it says on the tin, a single issue of an ongoing series.

So, in no particular order except the order if find them on the shelf….

Concrete:  Strange Armor.  (1997)  This is where the definition gave me trouble as Concrete creator Paul Chadwick didn’t really DO an ongoing Concrete series, just connected limited series, the definition became an issue.  Also in the age of trades and collections the actual issues of a particular arc are harder to recall.  This one I did read as the single issues when they came out in late 97 and early 98.  A 5-issue limited in the continuing story of Ron Lithgow, this was the story that finally gave the full and definitive origin of the character, and fleshed out the back story greatly.  The “series” of concrete stories that Chadwick has done are an amazing character study with its roots in the sci-fi and super hero stories he grew up with and have more heart than any other book(s) I have read since.  All but the most recent DHP series have been collected as trades and are still powerful today.

Cerebus #139 to 150 (Melmoth). (1990) The was the story that followed Jaka’s Story and is one of the shorter Cerebus arcs.  A beautifully written and drawn book, it explores the final days of Oscar Wilde as seen in this fictionalized universe.  Taken directly from contemporary accounts of friends of the dying writer, this is a powerful and sad story.  It is available in “phone book” number 6 of the Cerebus run.

Action Comics  #866 to 870. (2008) Geoff Johns and Gary Frank update and redefine the Brainiac character.  One of the most successful updates DC has ever done.  Gary frank’s art is at its very best here.  Available as the Superman Brainiac trade.

Justice League of America#1 to 7  (2006)  Brad Meltzer is a polarizing figure in comics thanks in large part to the love it or hate it Identity Crisis series.  (loved it)  This arc started up the new volume of JL with artist Ed Benes, and is a story that actually made me interested in JL.  What got me into the story in the first place was my affection for Red Tornado, and this story focuses on him and his existence heavily and is a great team book to boot.  Available as The Tornado’s Path trade collection.

Planetary #7 to 12 (2000)  After setting up the world of Elijah Snow and his team in the first arc, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday outdid themselves on this arc (available as Planetary:  The Fourth Man collection).  The jumped into the homages of the comics with both feet here.  They did versions of Transmepolitan, Hellblazer, Doc Savage and touched on the origins of the big three at DC and still managed to keep the main story moving forward without the meanderings that affected some of the later issues.

My Jill Thompson sketch in my Absolute edition

Sandman #41 to 49 (1992)  This was the arc that really made the series sing for me.  After the A Game of You arc cooled me on the series (It took me years to learn to appreciate it) this series just sang with life.  Gaiman was really flying here and this is the run that made me love Jill Thompson’s art.  This is available in the Brief Lives collection or in Absolute Sandman vol 3.

Fantastic Four #242 to 244 (1982)  I still go back and read these every few months.  In fact the whole #240 to 250 part of John Byrne’s run is just crazy fun to read!  This was the first Galactus story I read that I actually liked.  Available in several reprint volumes from FF Visionaries vol 2 to the big-ass omnibus collection of the Byrne run.

Uncanny X-Men #165 to 168 (1982)  Paul Smith’s first issues on this title were the wrap up to Chris Claremont’s Brood story.  ( I include 168 here as the epilogue to that story–because I CAN!) To this day, his art in these issues is amazing to look at.  Collected in too many versions to count.

Mage #1 to 15 (1984)  Technically this was a limited series, but to my mind, when you know that you are just going to do a series of limited series, it is just a series with breaks.  In the case of Mage the break between the first and second series was a little more than just a break.  The same is true with the ongoing wait for the third series.  This story by Matt Wagner was lightning in a bottle.

Avengers #198 to 200 (1980)  This was David Michelinie and George Perez’s last regular issues on the title(in a run anyway) and they rent out with a great story that was a follow-up to the Claremont/Golden story in Avengers Annual #10.  This run is not yet collected.  Hopefully the Marvel Masterworks will continue long enough to get to these.

Well, I stuck to 10.  I omitted runs where there was a single good issue that MADE that run, and I avoided genuine limited series.  Maybe that will be another list.  Next up…

Favorite single issues…

 

 

 

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Oh pleaseopleaseohpleeeeeaaseeee!!!!

There has been movement in the ongoing saga of Miracleman/Marvelman…

With the abandoning of the Miracleman trademark by Todd McFarlane and the registering of the Marvelman trademark by Marvel, there has been a glimmer of hope that this character may return to the pages of a comic book in new stories. 

A bit of history for those not in the know.  The sad thing is that I have followed this since the 80s, and it has only gotten worse up to this point. 

In the mid-50s Fawcett stopped publishing Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family books in response to the completion of the DC copyright infringement lawsuit.  Claiming that the Big Red Cheese was a Superman clone, DC forced them to stop publishing.  That and the drop in sales made them decide that the book was not worth the effort.  In Great Britain, they needed something to fill the void, so Mick Anglo came up with a less than original idea for the Marvelman Family.  Jiggering the origin of the main character some, there was almost no difference in the new books.  Even the art style was a pretty loose copy of the Captain Marvel books.  Much of this material has since been reprinted by Marvel.  The new books were even more popular with the British fans and the books lasted for nearly a decade, ending in 1963. 

The characters lay dormant until 1982, when Warrior magazine started running an updated version of the character by Alan Moore.  It is these stories that have kept the industry interested in the character.  Without Alan Moore, Marvelman would be no more remembered than The Green Llama and other Golden Age has beens.  The Moore version of the character kept almost every part of the stupid 50’s origins and folded them into a much richer and more intelligent tapestry that made sense of the ideas and poked fun at them at the same time.  Complex and powerful serialized stories in Warrior continued until issue 21, when they stopped without completing the story.  Creative issues between Moore and artist Alan Davis coupled with the problems within Warrior cause then end of the series, until 1985 when Eclipse comics started reprinting the Warrior stories, with the name changed to Miracleman to avoid the wrath of Marvel.  They repackaged the stories to fit in a monthly book and MM was suddenly a major title in the US.  Moore’s run ended with number 16, his run completed (new stories continuing where the Warrior ones left off started at issue 7) and now one arc in 3 books. 

Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham took over with issue 17, getting all the way up to issue 24 before Eclipse’s financial issues caused the end of publication.  I remember a signing where I met Neil Gaiman.  It was during the Kindly Ones run on Sandman, he and artist Jill Thompson were at a comic shop in Wisconsin.  This was a few months after the last issue had come out and the full picture had not emerged publicly about Eclipse.  When I asked Neil about it, his response was that they were still going to do them as soon as Eclipse started paying them again.  Then that was it.  It was not long after this that the legal issues began to crop up.

The ownership of the character has always been muddled.  When Warrior started the Moore run, everyone thought the rights were fine.  Moore and his artists had a share in ownership and that was that.  But Warrior never owned it officially and Mick Anglo continued to dispute it.  Once Eclipse had it, they too thought they had all the legal bases covered.  They didn’t.  Todd McFarlane bought all of Eclipse’s assets at auction for a song in the hopes of getting MM back in print and creating new stories.  But his engulf and devour style pissed off everyone.  Neil Gaiman sued, and then Marvel got involved on Gaiman’s side. (This partnership gave us the amazing series 1602)  Now mixed up in the legal issues surrounding Spawn and some of the characters Gaiman created for that book, things got even messier. 

Now the status appears to be the above mentioned trademarks, apparently resolved.  Marvel bought the rights to the classic stories, characters and some of the Moore stuff.  The artists still hold the rights to their work.  This may end up being an even bigger issue if Rick Veitch and others choose not to work with Marvel.  So it APPEARS that the main legal hurdles are cleared at this point.  It is just a matter now of getting everyone together.  Gaiman and Buckingham are willing to finish their story.  After that Marvel could have it’s very own Superman in Marvelman.  They need to do whatever they can to make this happen.   Even if they botch up new stuff, the Gaiman run completed will sell HUGE for them.

My main concern if these do see print again is that they are old.  They have been copied and ripped off for decades no.  What was once Alan Moore at the top of his game with a groundbreaking and original story may seem to a younger, more cynical reader to be just more of the same thing that they have seen for years.  Much of what Image and Wildstorm did in the 90s was a rip off of these stories, some blatantly so.  Presented correctly, I think these older stories will be fresh and powerful to new readers, but that is a big IF.  Marvel is not very good at this sort of thing. 

So here’s hoping that the last few cogs in the machine fall into place and get things moving forward.  This is one of those stories that the industry needs to have in print, if only to be able to put it behind them and say that it was resolved for the better.

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Black Orchid Deluxe Edition HC review

Black Orchid Deluxe Edition HC

2012 DC/Vertigo

176 pages

Cover price $24.99

Originally released in 1988 by a pre-Vertigo DC Comics, this three issue prestige format mini-series was an important book at the time.  Predating the Sandman series that would make Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean major forces in comics and graphic novels, Black Orchid was a bit ahead of its time.  It sold as well as DC expected and was a huge critical success, but never managed to have the broad appeal and pop culture significance of Sandman.

There is a great deal here to enjoy, but this is far from Gaiman’s best work.  It is at this point where he is learning his craft.  The magical and imaginative “treasure-house of story” as Stephen King has called him, is very much evident, but the master storyteller he has since become is not yet here.  McKean’s work was at a high point though.  This book displays much of his earlier style, since abandoned for a more iconic, representational style.  The art here is similar to both Arkham Asylum and Violent Cases, but this is much richer and more colorful.  While very beautiful, the art has a fragile quality, very much like the flowers so much a part of the narrative.

Some of the interior art

This series was an attempt to revitalize another of the 1970’s oddball DC properties, and integrate an updated Black Orchid character into the DCU.  While this part of the plan ultimately failed (much of the work Gaiman has done in comics over the years has floundered after he has ended his direct involvement), this series did not disappoint.  It took the silly 70 era character and created a darker, more complex portrayal of the concept.  Tying in to the DCU at the time, this book had narrative ties and debts to Swamp Thing’s series, and featured nods to or appearances by several DC players.  While there is clearly the Vertigo pedigree at work here, the book does not quite manage to keep the character interesting beyond the 3 issue run.  This is a fine self-contained work that never translated well into the ongoing series format that DC wanted.

The hardcover is a very nice looking book.  The art is well served by the better print quality of the new volume, which is just a hardcover printing of the early 90’s trade collection, with a small addition of text supplements.  Fans of the prestige series or the trade will be pleased here, as this is the presentation this book deserves.  My only complaint on this book is that they did not include the complete original covers.  The art IS used as chapter pages, and works.  I can see why they did not include the full covers, they would stand out too much, but I am old-fashioned enough to think that their inclusion here as originally printed (in the back as bonus content) would have been a nice touch.

The original cover to the first issue.

For those fans new to this world, this may be a hard book to enjoy.  It’s appeal is most certainly limited, but fans of Gaiman or McKean will find it the perfect addition to their libraries.  This is a rare DC collection that does justice to the original material, and to the deluxe hardcover format so often poorly used in recent years.

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Why not these comics as movies & TV…?

With all the effort and money being spent on movies and TV shows based on comic book properties, I was thinking about some of the untapped potential out there to convert comic properties into either movies or TV series.

The first one that seems to get the most regular fan service is Sandman.  Personally, I think this would make an awful movie, or at least need to be so changed to translate, that it would offend every fan of the book out there.  Make no mistake, I am a fan of this book, but this is just not going to make a good film.  It would make a great TV series though.  I know they are working on American Gods and I hope that it translates well giving Gaiman and the producers the desire to try it with Sandman

Another book I would really like to see done for TV is Mage by Matt Wagner.  The style of this story would lend itself well to the format and be a very fun series.  Despite the need for some serious special effects in the story, they are manageable; the cast would be a relatively small one.  To be honest though, I would just be happy if the final book of the 3 book series would show up before I die.  Wagner’s other property; Grendel would also make for a pretty decent ongoing TV series.

Something that might make a fun all ages film is Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy.  It could be done as light or as dark depending on what the film makers want.  The story is something that could be very malleable without wholesale changes and is a touching and involving story that can reach any audience.  Another good potential source for another all ages film is I Kill GiantsThis is still one of my favorite books and I cannot imagine this one failing if it were done by someone good.  Hey, Pixar, jump at it!

Why Strangers in Paradise has not been done as a TV show is beyond me.  Terry Moore’s masterpiece has it all.  Drama, complex relationships, sex, violence and plenty of room for melodrama of the prime time soap variety.  It crosses most of the adult target demographics and still manages a very powerful and intense story.  This would most certainly need to be on a network like HBO, as the content would need to be fairly adult, but this show just screams “must watch”.

Paul Chadwick’s Concrete might translate well to either medium, really.  It is such a well told story that just about any way you decided to tell it, could work.  There is the sci-fi/fantasy element and the dramatic aspects that could really set a show based on this one of the coolest offerings in either medium.

Am I the only one out there that would love to see another Rocketeer movie?  Slap Zac Effron or Taylor Lautner in the helmet and that is a movie that makes a pile of cash. (The wife unit agrees strongly on this one)

Since Hollywood is doing so much rebooting, it would be nice to see some of the books that were ruined back in the day, be given a proper treatment.  Dr Strange could be super cool now and Marvel is said to be working on it.  The 1978 made-for-TV movie starring Peter Hooten was so cheaply done that it is actually a little trippy and cool, but with all the play sparkly vampires and young monster hunters get these days, just make him a 20 something (or a very youthful and cool 30) and this film sells itself.

I would like to see another try at Isis too.  The Saturday morning Shazam/Isis Power Hour was fun for the mid 70’s and could probably be well done today.  But that is just me wishing. 

A failed attempt to bring Wonder Woman back last year shows that the mainstream is not ready for this one yet.  Either David E Kelly tanked it or a Linda Carter-less show is just not going to fly .  Speaking of failed tries, Global Frequency had lots of potential but Warner Brothers soured on it when they failed to grasp the viral quality of fans on the internet. At least the pilot is out the to be downloaded.

These and all the great series that have made good cartoons series like FF, Justice League etc; there are piles of worthy material waiting to be tapped.

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Doctor Who

I have been a fan of the show since the late 1970’s and have liked all of the Doctors to one degree or another.  The era I enjoyed the most of the classic series was Peter Davison’s time in the box.  I liked the innocence he seems to experience.. As if it was all new to this Doctor.  He was finally beginning to become a character rather than the caricature that he had started to become in Tom Baker’s last season.  I should say at this point, I am a fan of Mr Baker’s version, I just felt that his last season didn’t work very well.

With the new revived series in 2005, we were treated to a slightly darker Doctor, but not in the way that modern revisions of classic properties generally go.  This darkness was earned, not just imposed.  This Doctor cared about those around him, but carried in himself a coldness and distance from everybody.  With David Tennant the Doctor relaxed and began to enjoy his life in a way we have never seen before.

And now there is Matt Smith.  He so effectively mixes the past eccentricities of the other versions, that for the first time in the series history, we really feel the Doctor’s age.  Never mind we still don’t really know how old he is.  Even in the new series, they have been giving us contradictory info.  He is an old soul finally, but we see him gain a sense of utter joy and wonder at everything around him.  That combined with a growing awareness that he is getting older, nothing explicitly stated in the show, just my own impression of the character.  That is one of the things that Smith has done.  A performance so deeply nuanced that everyone watching brings something with them that seems to be directed to just them.

The stories from Matt’s first season were uneven, the new season so far, even more so.  But this season in particular hits high notes so powerful, that even the non arc episodes end up with moments to love.  Being a Neil Gaiman fan, I was so pleased that the story he contributed to this season was good, I was almost giddy.  Adding to that was the huge helping of fan service, making the most geeky fun the series has been since it’s return.  The very old (the messaging devices from The War Games) to the much newer (the Eccleston/Tennant control room) made this a great geek-gasm.  It is interesting to me that in all the chatter about the most recent episode The Rebel Flesh, that no one has made mention of the obvious possibility that this story has a connection to the opening story of the season and it’s still unresolved death scene.  Don’t worry, no spoilers.

I have not offered anything new to the huge wibbly wobbly timey wimey thing that is Doctor Who, I just wanted to spend a few minutes appreciating something that fills me with the same feeling it did 30+ years ago.  Better even than that really, because now the show allows me the warm glow of nostalgia, something I didn’t feel a lot of in my teen years.

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Douglas Adams

It is every year around now that I start to feel a little sad.  May 11th 2001, one of my favorite authors died.  I still get a little blue when I think of it.

I first discovered Adams about the time science fiction in particular and reading in general had begun to lose my attention.  When I first picked up The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I had no interest in reading.  I was just starting to hit the teens and the discovery of girls had ruined all those nasty habits like reading and thinking.  It didn’t take long to make me want more.  Over the next decade and a half as the full 5 books of the trilogy (do i really need to explain it to anyone at this point?) and the Dirk Gently novels came out, I never lost interest in Adams.  In fact, since that time and even now, Adams influence has kept me reading.  Thanks to him, I read Woodhouse, Rendell, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Cerf and he even helped me make the jump from Neil Gaiman’s comics to his other works.  Anyone that enjoys Adams but has not read Gaiman’s Don’t Panic is only getting half the story.  My interest in science and technology was fed by his non-fiction writings.  Last Chance to See is a masterpiece that cannot be ignored, particularly by anyone claiming to be environmentally friendly.  It is one of the finest first person accounts of endangered wildlife ever written and his passion for the subject comes through clearly.

I have been lucky enough to meet almost all of my favorite writers, as most have lived during my lifetime.  I have met Neil Gaiman a couple of times, and Christopher Moore is a treat like no other.  If you get a chance to hear him speak at a bookshop or whatever, jump!  He is a hoot.  But every time I pick up one of the Guide books, Dirk Gently novels or even the not-terrible …And Another Thing, written by Eoin Colfer, I feel a little pang of the sads.  It only lasts a moment though, as Adams would no doubt prefer, once I am in the world of the books all is forgotten.

The spirit of Douglas carries on though.  In the friends and colleagues that are public figures today.  Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins come quickly to mind.  In the annual world-wide celebrations of Towel Day, celebrated annually May 25th.  At the H2G2 website he help create.  In the silly video game Starship Titanic sitting on the shelf across from me right now.

I wanted to let everyone know that they should go search out all of these thing.  If they are a fan, to refresh and celebrate.  If they are new to the absurdity and wonder that is a Douglas Adams prose selection, to invite them to try it for themself.  I dare you not to like it.  Or if you prefer non fiction, try Last Chance to See or go to the website H2G2 and learn something new.

I miss him terribly despite never having met him, but that is the way greatness in an artist works.  They never know how far their reach will extend.

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