Monday, May 25, 2009

Jumping On Points for New Readers

One of the many contest entries we've gotten caught my eye this week and I wanted to take a look at it. If you haven't entered the contest yet, get to it! You've got until May 30th! I'll be listing the complete prize pack at the end of this posting.

One thing a lot of people seem to love about comic books is their rich history and back story. When the hero stands facing that same old villain, sometimes there is this sense of glee that can only be enjoyed by a true fan of the series who realizes that they're fighting in the villain's original lair, or perhaps the spot where the hero lost his sidekick years before, or something like that.

But there comes a time when it becomes so convoluted the casual reader can't understand what in the world they're reading. "Who's the guy in the Captain America mask?" "Why is the Hulk red?" "Where's Spider-Man's wife?" So for those who wonder, here's my take on safe titles for casual readers and those who are going to require some explanation.


Believe it or not, Clark's not working for the Daily Planet anymore. As a matter of fact, he's almost impossible to find in his own title! Instead, the world has been taken over by a bevy of Kryptonians, some good and some bad. Mon-El (from the Legion of Superheroes) has become Metropolis's protector while Supes is away. Flamebird and Nightwing are also there to help, along with a mysterious new Superwoman and the Guardian. If you're just starting in this title, you're going to need to go back about a year to catch up with the current storyline. You can pick up the "Superman: New Krypton" TPB to get up to speed.


Pity the fool who thinks they know enough about the character just because they've watched Christian Bale in action. Bruce Wayne is dead--twice--or he's trapped in the Stone Age somewhere. Anyway, since he's been gone we've had a little bit of a tussle amongst the folks who believe they should be the next in line for the suit.

Tim Drake (Robin) is wearing it out of loyalty. Jason Todd (Red Hood) wants it to make Batman the bad dude he's supposed to have always been. Meanwhile, the obvious choice, Dick Grayson (Nightwing) doesn't want the costume (yet) but doesn't want Batman's memory sullied by pretenders. That results in several versions of Batman running around at once and fighting each other.

If you're a new reader, you can possibly pick this up by just going back about six months. Take my word for it that Batman is dead, find the first two issues of "Battle for the Cowl" and wait for the third. If you want the backstory on who everyone is and why they're fighting, it's going to take a little while. Go back about three years to see the Jason Todd/Nightwing dynamic, and about two years to see the Tim Drake/Damian Wayne conflict.

Captain America

Steve Rogers is dead, but even the most casual reader knows this since it made national headline news when it happened. Bucky (his old partner who was considered the standard for dead characters for years since he never came back) has returned and now wears the suit. He was a bad guy named Winter Soldier, but he gave that up to honor Steve's memory. And yes, Captain America is carrying a pistol now.

To make things slightly more interesting while we wait for Steve's inevitable return, the Captain America from the 1950's is wandering around out there still thinking he's Steve Rogers as well. Both Caps have fought before, and it's safe to say they'll do it again.

You can catch up to this one with the Captain America Omnibus, and the two TPBs that follow. Or just remember that Bucky is Cap, Cap is dead, the Red Skull is behind everything, and Steve's coming back.


This one actually isn't that bad. Green Hulk is still around, and yes it's Bruce Banner. But there's also a Red Hulk running around as well, and we have no idea who he is yet. At one time it appeared they were going to make it Doc Samson, but that's been proven wrong. Now I have no idea. He's someone with some serious issues in the past with Bruce Banner, and he's someone with absolutely no qualms about killing or maiming.

If you want to follow this one, it's easy. A six-issue story arc has just ended this month, so pick up next month's issue and keep reading from there.


Here's one you might be a little confused on if you haven't read it in a few years.

Mary Jane and Peter aren't married, and never have been, in fact. This is due to a deal with Mephisto that Peter made to save Aunt May. In order to make sure the old bat didn't die, he gave up his life with the woman he loved and all memory of it right to her face.

Now roughly the past 20 years of Spider-Man continuity is gone...but only in this book. Venom is still around with a hatred for Spider-Man that comes because the Symbiote used to be a part of him--even though it technically wasn't because it never happened. However, instead of losing this valuable character Marvel just figured the fans would be to stupid to figure it all out. Likewise, Harry Osborn isn't dead, and neither is Norman Osborn.

To get caught up to speed, pick up "One More Day", "Brand New Day", and everything in between. Roughly a year or so back to get caught up again.

The Flash

Barry Allen is back. This is the perfect time to jump into this series if you've missed it. With the "Flash: Rebirth" miniseries just starting out, even older fans will have something to grab on to. Barry Allen, Bart Allen, Wally West, and Jay Garrick are all actively involved in the title, so somebody named Flash is bound to be familiar to you!

You currently don't have to go back at all to catch up to this. Barry Allen was dead but is back. Bart Allen went through time and grew up, became Flash when Wally West disappeared, and then lost his powers and died when Wally came back...and now he's back as a kid again. Wally West was Flash, has kids, and is still Flash in a way. Jay Garrick is and always has been the Golden-Age Flash. Now you're ready for the next issue. This series has been throwing some wonderful bones to long-time readers lately, but it's not so impossible to follow you'll be lost or anything. Jump on in!

These are obviously just the big heavy-hitters in the comic book world. There are several other smaller titles that you can jump in on and not need to know a lot, but here are a few to avoid unless you want some serious back story reading:

* X-Factor
* Green Lantern
* Iron Man
* Wolverine (read X-Force instead)

And now, the contest prize pack! Don't forget, we're holding a drawing on May 30th for some great prizes. All you have to do to enter is send an email to me at with an idea for a future posting. I may or may not use your idea, but even if I don't you automatically get an entry into the random drawing and could win some great stuff.

Here's the Prize Pack:

* A digital copy of "Comic Book Confidential", the documentary about comic book history that includes interviews with Frank Miller, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, and many other great artists and writers! You'll need an iTunes account to download the gift from the iTunes store, but the account is free and almost everyone has iTunes on their computer already.

* A copy of "Was Superman a Spy?", a new release book about comic book urban legends. Which white superhero was supposed to be the first black one? Which famous mutant was actually supposed to be an animal that evolved into a man? Who looked exactly like Mister Incredible with wings in his first incarnation over 50 years ago? All these great questions will be answered and a lot more. It's a fun read!

* A dozen different comic books from the Modern Age! These are from my collection and will hopefully introduce you to some titles you might have missed, along with some that are well-known like Spider-Man, etc.

* One mystery superhero action figure! This will be a superhero figure that is new in the package and in great condition. I don't know if you're an action-figure collector or not, but it would make a great gift for any comic fan you know who is.

* I'll also be throwing in a copy of my latest novel, "Stolen Lives". While this has nothing to do with comic books, you still might find it a fun summer read.

All this just for sending in one little email! So hurry up and get with it! We're on our last week of the contest. You can enter as many times as you'd like as long as you give me a different posting idea with each one. So if you've ever had a burning comic book posting question, now is the time to make it known!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Comic Book Pet Peeves

While I'm the first to admit I love comic books, there are those things that really have a tendency to get on my nerves about them. Here's a few little quirks they seem to have that need to be seriously looked at.

1. Covers that have nothing to do with the story inside.

Look, I understand the need to sell books, and I know that a good cover does that, but why put two guys fighting on the cover when you know good and well they won't fight in the story?

When I was growing up I didn't understand this, and I still don't. It makes it hard to decide on a comic book to purchase online since I have no idea if the story will even be happening or not.

Or how about generic covers? They're just "hero shots", with poses of the hero on the cover doing absolutely nothing. I understand the whole "iconic look" thing that is supposed to say "Don't mess with me", but give us a reason to want to open the book!

Back in the day, heroes and villains fought on the cover and then you bought to book to find out how the fight went! Let's do it!

2. Wolverine guest starring in every other title on Earth.

There is such a thing as overkill, and I think we've reached that point and gone well beyond it with the world's most popular mutant.

Yes, I love the movie. Hey, I think the character's awesome! When I was a kid, if you wanted to sell me a comic book all you had to do was put Wolverine on the cover. I still remember that old X-Men story that had him facing off against the Hellfire Club alone in the sewers. It was the first real solo-type Wolverine adventure, and I loved it.

Then he got his own series. Cool! More Wolvie goodness every month! And then the X-Men got 2 titles...and he was in both. Then he showed up in Captain America...and Spider-Man...and Hulk (again)...and Daredevil. Now the character shows godlike omnipresence by being in no less than six different titles every month as a regular star, and guesting in at least 2 or 3 others. Maybe it's time to give him a little vacation?

3. The "vow of silence" we have on the covers of today.

They used to scream threats, or yell battle cries, or cry in despair of how the world would end if they didn't stop that villain! Today, it's nothing but one silent poster after another. Whoever came up with the idea that a cover should be nothing more than a static picture was obviously not a comic book reader.

I can still remember grabbing the latest issue of Spider-Man and seeing Doctor Octopus or the Green Goblin giving Spidey the what-for of how they were going to hurt him. The cover could basically be considered the splash page of the book.

Today, we get one more iconic pose after another. Maybe the villain is there, and maybe he's not. More often than not, you're left to basically interpret the cover for yourself. Is it meant to convey what's coming in the book, or is it meant to just show you the hero? Is there some deeper meaning in the cover painting, or did they just find an artist who'd paint a bunch of generic covers for cheap? Who knows.

4. The ever-increasing single issue price.

Look, I know we're in desperate times here and it's a financial crush for businesses everywhere, but what's going on with $4 for a regular comic book?

It used to be $3 a book, with the higher prices reserved for "special issues", but now Marvel has moved most of their titles to the $4 mark. I understand we're using this acid-free paper that makes the colors more vibrant and helps the pages last longer and junk like that, but throw that stuff back on newsprint if it'll bring the price down below $2!

They say comic book sales are slipping, and there may be a very good reason for that: anyone who follows a title regularly either has to skip eating or wait a few months and buy the collection in a six-issue trade paperback. Maybe you should find some of those talented unknown artists who hang out at comic book conventions and give them a shot at drawing some stuff. They'll do it for a lot cheaper and do just as good a job as most of the guys out there today.

What about you guys? What needs to be fixed in today's comic books?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Our First Contest!

We are having our first contest giveaway!

I've been wanting to hold off on doing a contest until I had something really unique to give away, and I can safely say this is pretty good.

The great folks down at New Video Digital have been kind enough to give us a copy of their documentary film "Comic Book Confidential" that we can give away to one lucky reader! The documentary deals with the history of the American comic book and includes interviews with some of the greats like Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, William Gaines, and Stan Lee. It's especially good to see these guys get to talk about their craft since 3 of those 4 are now dead and gone.

This isn't some boring documentary like you'd have to watch in school. Keeping in mind the potential audience, Ron Mann has kept this thing moving like a real-life comic book! Historic comic book scenes are creatively animated or narrated to give you a feel of the time. The music playing in each scene sets the mood for that particular decade and for the interviews that follow.

For one of my college classes, I did a 15 page report on the history of the American comic book (I keep threatening to post the thing here someday as a monster post that should answer any questions about where this stuff comes from). During my research, I thought I'd found out most everything about comic books, but there were things in this film I'd missed. Not only that, the interviews and insights allowed those major events like the creation of horror comics and the death of hero comics to make room for cowboys and Disney characters as World War 2 ended really added depth.

Eventually, comic books were seen as a danger to children since the gruesome crime comics depicted some pretty harrowing things. Horror comics were attacked next, which led to the infamous banning and burning of comics during the 50's after the release of "Seduction of the Innocent". Real news footage is interjected throughout and in all honesty, the examples they use are valid. If I were to see my kids pulling out some of those books, I'd throw them away myself. However, they really went to the extreme back then. At one point, a black-and-white news reel shows boys reading crime and horror comics in the woods. One boy gets up after reading and begins to stab a tree with his pocket knife, while another picks up a big rock and looks like he's about to kill another little boy with it. It's laughable today, but back then I guess it really scared those parents good.

Eventually comics were saved by the advent of the humor format. The origin of "Mad" magazine is here, and it makes for an interesting viewing.

An interview with Frank Miller gives insight into his contributions to comic books, and the movie brings us into the age of the graphic novel "The Dark Knight Returns" before it all ends.

Here are the rules of the contest: If you have a comic book topic you'd love to see us cover here, send an email to with the subject line "Contest Entry". On May 30th, I'll draw a random winner from those submissions and we'll award them the free copy of "Comic Book Confidential", along with a few other comic book goodies from my personal collection. On top of all that, any idea submitted might just get written up here if it's something I can work with.

So send those ideas in to me! You've got until the end of the month. If you've ever thought "Why doesn't he ever talk about _______?", then here's your chance to make me write it up!

By the way, if you're interested in learning more about "Comic Book Confidential", you can follow the link below to find it in the ITunes store.

Comic Book Confidential

Monday, May 4, 2009

Comics versus the Movies - Villains Edition

Last week we looked at how closely the movies followed the appearances of the heroes from the comic books. Iron Man and Spider-Man were the two winners of our poll, and I have to agree. They were both pretty close in appearance to their comic book counterparts.

This week I thought it would be fun to look at the bad guys. Without a doubt, the bad guys in the movies have been radically changed from the comic books in almost every case. Were any of those changes for the better? Let's take a look and see.

The Green Goblin

In the comic books, he's Norman Osborn, a freaky guy who puts on a rubber mask and flys around throwing pumpkin bombs at Spider-Man. For some reason, the guys who put together the first Spider-Man movie didn't feel that was scary enough or something to be taken seriously. Instead, they decided to put Norman in a Power Rangers suit and let that be tough enough.

It didn't work like they'd planned. When the first pictures of GG hit the internet before the movie came out, it caused serious doubts in the minds of many fans as to whether or not the movie would be worth watching. It was a really stupid choice, as they'd gotten Willam Dafoe to play the Green Goblin, so all they really had to do was just put green paint on his face. The guy was scary enough as is!

Doctor Octopus

Now this one seemed a hard one to pull off, but they really managed to do a great job with it. While the comic book version of the villain always ran around in green and orange spandex (and for someone with his figure, it didn't flatter him), the movie version stuck with a trenchcoat and dark glasses.

His arms were more streamlined and a lot more sinister looking than the comic book version, but you have to admit they stayed fairly faithful to the concept at least. And Alfred Molina made you actually manage to care about the bad guy in this one. I liked how they were able to let him die a hero in the end.


Trying to find pictures of Venom from the Spider-Man 3 movie isn't easy. That's due in large part to the way they pretty much kept him from showing up in the movie until the very end--and even then it was mostly Topher Grace with fangs.

In the comic books, he's this hulking monster with an oversized mouth and tongue that you just know is going to eat you alive. In the movie, it's Topher Grace. You make the call.


As far as appearance goes, I don't think any villain on this list has come closer. The costume was a dead-on match for how he looks in the comic books, and the powers were pretty much in line with the books as well. They even got the little striped shirt right! Thank goodness they didn't go for the old Fearsome Four look.

Church was at first considered an odd choice to play the Sandman, but I think he pulled it off.

Doctor Doom

As far as appearance goes there toward the end, he was pretty close. I mean, he's in armor and a green hood/robe thing. Of course, in the comic books he wears the armor, while in the movies he actually was the armor and had this weird electric power thing going on.

And in the comic books, he was scarred and mutilated beneath the mask. In the second FF movie, he was back to his old good-looking self. No points for Marvel in this one.

If there was ever a huge rip-off in comic book movies, this is the one. When it was announced that the Silver Surfer would be showing up in the second FF movie, the internet was buzzing more about the possibility of seeing Galactus than it was of even seeing the Fantastic Four! Would they remain as faithful to him as they had the Human Torch and the Silver Surfer...or would they pull a Doctor Doom and mess it all up?

As the opening date of the movie drew closer and the studio continued to refuse to release even a casual glance of Galactus, people started to get worried. I think the director realized far too late that he had messed up big time by going with the planet-eating cloud, but by then he couldn't do anything about it. The second movie was critically panned, and Galactus didn't help it. The single-greatest supervillain they ever could have brought to the movies, and they make him a dust cloud. Boooooooo, Marvel!

The Abomination

With the reboot of the Hulk in the second movie, we waited anxiously for a glimpse of his villain in the film. We all knew it was going to be hard to pull of those crazy fin ears, so would they even try? The answer was a resounding "No". Instead, we got this weird deformed thing.

While the CGI Hulk was dead-on with his comic book counterpart, the movie version of the Abomination was a huge failure. I can understand it was supposed to look like a freak, and I can appreciate the whole "super soldier serum" thing was a set up for the Captain America movie in the future, but they went way too far in the wrong direction with his looks.


The weird helmet thing was something they could have chosen to scrap and we would have understood. We wouldn't have been happy about it, but we'd have understood the reasoning behind it. But for once the writers really stayed close to the original. While the colors were a little off and the helmet had been altered to show more of Ian's face, for the most part it was faithful to the source material.

Ian definitely had the regal bearing going on throughout the whole movie. You honestly believed this was a man who could someday rule the world as its king. And he managed to keep such a real friend/foe relationship going on with Stewart's Professor X that it just added to the role.


This one is special because he's one of the few Marvel movie villains to be played by more than one person. The first time out it was Tyler Mane, and for the new Wolverine movie we have Liev Schreiber. Both men approach the character with big differences. I have to say though that Tyler actually was closer in bringing the comic book version of the villain to life as far as appearance goes. He was a little too "stupid sidekick" for personality, but he had that hulking, beastial appearance that the comics portray.

Fortunately, they've all stayed away from the orange spandex. Big props there. However, the "let's stick him in a trench coat" thing is starting to wear thin.


I'm not sure how you mess this up, but leave it to Fox to find a way. You have a villain specifically named "The Merc with a Mouth"...and they put him in the film and sew his mouth shut. How did that make sense to anyone? Ryan Reynolds was perfect at the beginning of the film with the wisecracks and one-liners. He absolutely was Deadpool personified (with one of the coolest scenes in the film as he takes out an entire room of gun-wielding bad guys) and then they screwed it up by giving him swords coming out of his arms that would have made it physically impossible for him to bend his elbows unless they were extended all the time. Sure, the teleporting thing was awesome...but how much better could it have been if they'd let Ryan make wisecracks during the fight like Deadpool does in the comics?

I wonder sometimes if there will ever come a day when the writers will actually read the source material rather than just create a whole new concept for the characters. They took what could have been an incredible spin-off movie and destroyed everything cool about the character. This was almost a Galactus-level failure.


Another bold change in interpretation, this Marvel villain runs around in black and white spandex. When it was time to make a movie, someone thought that didn't work well in screen tests so they came up with the brilliant idea of giving him this weird scar on his forehead and letting him wear a trench coat.

While Marvel loses points for changing his appearance so radically, they have to be given credit for the Bullseye/Elektra fight. A lot of that dialogue was straight from the original Frank Miller story, and the way the fight ended was also pulled from that. It was very cool to see that awesome fight hit the screen (even though it was dramatically shortened).

Lex Luthor

A bald guy in a suit. Let's be honest, you'd really have to try hard to screw this one up.

Kevin Spacey wouldn't necessarily have been my first choice, but there were so many other things wrong with the "Superman Returns" film that it hardly matters. As far as appearance, Spacey's Luthor was very faithful to the comic book version.

And the winner for best improvement in a movie version goes to...

The Joker

Two words here: "magic trick".

Do a Google Image Search for "The Joker". When you actually have to go three pages into the search before you actually find an image of the comic book version of the villain, you know you've found the actor for the part. Sure, Ledger's death gave the entire role this iconic feel that'll never be repeated...but you have to admit he was one freaky dude onscreen.

While the comic books and cartoons had given the Joker this almost harmless feel over the years, Ledger turned him back into a psycho again. Big points to DC for the fake out at the end as well. When Ledger started falling to his death, visions of Jack Nicholson doing the concrete dive flashed through my brain. Fortunately, Nolan had other ideas for this villain and let him live. Unfortunately, no matter how many Batman movies they make from here on out I doubt we'll ever see the character again. What actor would even try to step into that role now?

So that's a look at how the bad guys were treated on film. As you can see, for the most part they aren't given that much respect. Maybe that's why they always want to kill everybody all the time!

Now get out there and go see "Wolverine" at the theaters!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin