Archive for the ‘Comic Books’ Category
About five years ago, flooding in the basement of our home in Rhode Island wiped out a significant portion of my comic book collection. I had to throw out thousands of dollars worth of soggy, ruined comics. I made the determination then that I needed to get rid of most of the comics I had left and just keep the ones that were special to me.
Well, surprise! I didn’t do that.1 I did put those special comics into a plastic box so they’d be safe, but rather than issue the proposed Basement Enema, I continued to move several thousand not-so-special comics with me to North Carolina and then back up here to Massachusetts. Partially it was because I never could quite figure out the best way to get rid of them — should I eBay them? donate them to a local comic book shop or reading advocacy program? burn them in a four-color bonfire? — but mainly it was because I just didn’t get around to it.
Cut to this weekend: we’re going through the basement, getting ready to move into our awesome new apartment, and my nephew pulls out the plastic box containing all those comics I actually cared about.
With the lid mysteriously absent.
And a whole shitload of wet comics and books. Not just moist… wet. As in, this wasn’t simply a humidity thing; some significant amount of water must have gotten into that box sometime in the past year.
The comics (and four or five books) in that box were moldy and stuck together and smelly and utterly ruined. 2 All of my Jim Lee X-Men (and other) comics, my X-Men and New Mutants annuals from the 80s that Art Adams drew, the run of John Byrne Superman books I’d painstakingly assembled over several years, many of my original Wolfman/Pérez Teen Titans and my Levitz/Giffen Legion of Super-Heroes… all destroyed. I’m not even sure what all else was in there; even if I’d wanted to look, I wouldn’t have been able to get most of the books unstuck to see what they were.
Many of these were the books that went a long way toward shaping my sensibilities as a comic book fan. Hell, not even just as a comic book fan — as a pop culture fan. As I said just last week when I was talking about Lost:
I love episodic drama, I love shows with huge numbers of characters, I love time travel stories, I love mysteries, I love any story which can be watched/read/enjoyed multiple times to pick up on extra details which only make sense in retrospect.
Well, where do you think I first fell in love with those qualities? Yup, comics. More specifically, the comics that had unbeknownst to me been acting as sponges for the last year-ish. Uncanny X-Men, New Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, Avengers, Justice League of America: big, frequently rotating casts. Long-running story arcs, sometimes with seeds planted years before growing to fruition. (Generally) strong character growth and development. That’s what I learned to love then, and it’s what I still love now.
But let’s set aside the particulars of the comics I lost, and even set aside the fact that it was comics at all. The fact of the matter is, something I’d been carrying around with me quite literally since I was a kid has now been lost to me. These books lived in a place of honor in my bedroom when I was a kid so I could access them easily. I once compiled a database of every comic I owned (in Lotus Symphony, I believe), so I could cross-reference my collection by creator. I distinctly remember moving these into the apartment I shared with my friend Mitch in Tallahassee. I remember where they lived in the closet of my apartment in Tampa. After Terry and I got together, I was sad when they spent a couple of years in our storage facility because our apartment was too tiny and already filled with two little kids and a huge dog.
And now the important ones are in a soggy box on my front porch, and I have friends coming by tomorrow to take the still-intact ones away from me.
I realize that I have absolutely no one to blame for this situation but me. I could easily have taken better care of them — either through the bag-and-board route, or just by keeping them somewhere where they wouldn’t get flooded. One could say that if they were that important to me, I would have done exactly that, but I didn’t.
And I don’t care about the monetary value. Honestly, I don’t. Some of these comics were likely worth a decent amount — maybe not huge, but more than nothing — though as noted, I’ve never been a bag-and-board guy, so they wouldn’t have been worth their full potential value, anyway. Regardless, I never once bought a single comic because I thought I’d be able resell it for a profit someday.
But these comics have been part of my life, part of the Me I’d drag from place to place to place, a comforting bit of my childhood I’ve always had with me. It’s stretching it way way way too far to say I feel like an old friend just died 3, but one of my few remaining tangible, meaningful connections to The Me That Was so long ago is gone. 4
I feel like I should think of this development as liberating, like I’m shedding loose a skin that no longer truly fit and had been weighing me down for too long. Maybe that last bit is true, but honestly, it doesn’t feel particularly “liberating” quite yet. Right now, I’m in a small, admittedly weird bit of mourning. My friends who saw me today might have noticed I was a bit off, and, well, that’s why.
I’ll be better soon enough. Comic books are just things, after all, and many of the lost ones are replaceable in better formats now. But I need to give myself a little time to deal with these odd feelings of loss, and realize that it’s all part of Letting Go, which will be a more and more valuable and important skill to have as my kids grow up.
For now, I’m going to go read some of the comics my boy Timmy B. sent me recently — comics which now make up the bulk of my collection.
Not really a surprise. ↩
You might think from that description that I’d be talking about an old porno collection, but no, really I’m not. Really. ↩
I’ve had that feeling far too recently, and I can say that yeah, there’s not a comparison. ↩
Yes, I just said “meaningful” when talking about my comic book collection. Deal. ↩
Today’s happy-making thing is comics/TV author Brian K. Vaughan. Or, rather, Mr. Vaughan’s writings; while I have no doubt that his personal happy-making skills are considerable, I’ve never met the guy, so we’ll just stick with the stuff he’s written for now.I’ve never read any of BKV’s output that I haven’t at least liked, and most of it I’ve absolutely loved. As I told Timmy B. a few days ago, I’m pretty sure Vaughan could write a long-form comics series focusing on the trials and tribulations of a multi-generational clan of overly-flatulent mole rats and I’d dig the hell out of it. The man can almost do no wrong by me, and I say the “almost” only because there’s always a possibility he could write something that just didn’t hit me right. So far, though, that possibility remains theoretical.
I truly love the fact that if you boil most of Vaughan’s works down to the one-sentence high-concept pitch, they don’t necessarily sound like anything exceptional, and can even border on the trite â€”Â I love it because it’s proof that execution trumps concept (at least in his case), and that’s inspiring to me as a writer who doesn’t feel like his ideas are anything exceptional. C’mon… Y: The Last Man isn’t exactly the first “last man on Earth” story ever written, but what BKV has done with the story has been moving and compelling and exciting and generally most excellent. I’ll happily leave the “mad ideas” to the likes of Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis, but I’ll take Vaughan’s work over theirs most any day. 
Some selected highlights from the Vaughan Oeuvre:
â€¢Â Runaways. Six kids in L.A. discover that their parents are super-villains and, well, run away. Vaughan makes the personalities of each of these kids distinct and appealing in their own way (especially appealing: eleven-year-old mutant Molly). Sure, BKV frequently succumbs to Joss Whedon-esque Real Kids Don’t Talk This Way syndrome (Vaughan actually turned the writing of this book over to Whedon after thirty issues), but hey, what the dialogue lacks in realism it more than makes up for in entertainment value.
â€¢Â Y: The Last Man. As noted above, not the most original concept ever, but just a terrific batch of characters and situations. Y shows off one of the things Vaughan does best: thinking through the ramifications of his setup and of the actions of his characters. Almost every issue of Y features a moment of “Well, duh, of course that’s what would happen if suddenly all the men were gone.”
â€¢Â Pride of Baghdad. A graphic novel based on the true story of four lions who escaped from the ruins of the Baghdad Zoo after the U.S.’s initial attacks on the city in 2003. Disturbing, sad, haunting… and I mean that as a compliment.
â€¢Â Ex Machina. Not quite Runaways-good or Y-good, but still damn enjoyable. One-time superhero Mitchell Hundred uses the goodwill he generated after saving New York City to get himself elected mayor. Ex Machina boasts far more political intrigue than it does big superhero action (though it has a fair share of that, too). Vaughan tries hard to strike some balance and not let Hundred’s liberal tendencies turn this into a left-wing diatribe; Hundred’s idealistic liberalism gets regularly smashed by the realities of a less-than-ideal world. Also: the first issue of Ex Machina features one of the single most breathtaking final pages of any comic I’ve ever read.
â€¢Â Doctor Strange: The Oath. I just read this one last week â€”Â thanks, Timmy B! I’ve never cared all that much for Doctor Strange; I didn’t hate him, but neither the character nor the mystical corner of the Marvel Universe he inhabits eever interested me much. Vaughan, however, wrote a Doc Strange I’d be happy to read more about: arrogant without being assholish, fiercely loyal to his friends, charismatic, possessed of a biting sense of humor and immensely powerful.
Vaughan’s been scaling back on his comics work over the last year or so as he’s now a story editor for Lost, which makes me want to watch that show again (as does the presence of Buffy vet Drew Goddard on the writing staff). But as good as Vaughan would be at the TV game if he gets pulled farther in that directionÂ â€”Â his episodic storytelling skills seem profoundly influenced by televisionÂ â€”Â I hope he keeps several toes in the comics pool, as I’d truly miss reading his words.
 Not knocking either Morrison or Ellis, both of whom consistently pump out entertaining and thought-provoking works of high quality; BKV’s just more to my taste.
Edward Norton has been cast as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, the quasi-sequel to 2003′s near-disastrous Hulk. (I say quasi-sequel in that I believe they’ll be skipping over all of the origin hoo-hah and such, acknowledging that we’ve already seen those bits without referencing the first movie at all.) Norton’s actually an excellent choice to play Banner — Banner’s supposed to be a world-class scientific intellect, and Norton, one of my favorite actors, is one of the best of his generation at playing smart.  Plus, scared and/or angry and/or conflicted Banner? Norton will be all over that.
The Incredible Hulk will be directed by Louis Leterrier, director of the Transporter movies, so we know we’ll be getting far more of Angry Action Hulk than Angsty Emo Hulk, which suits me just fine. As much as I respect Ang Lee and what he wanted to do with Hulk, it just didn’t work well. Knowing that the next movie will have Edward Norton and much more in the way of “Hulk smash?” Oh yeah, I’m there.
Unfortunately, this new configuration means I’m doubting we’ll get any Jennifer Connelly in the next movie, and that saddens me, but it’s a tradeoff I can live with.
 Jessica Alba as a genetic engineer in Fantastic Four? Not so much. Now if they’d cast Leelee Sobieski… her I could’ve bought as a big-brain scientist.
- I’m willing to grant everyone involved with the production of the kinda stinky Ocean’s 12 an Official Do-Over and pretend like Ocean’s 13 is the direct sequel to Ocean’s 11. The trailer for O13 sure makes it look like it’s going to have all of the same qualities which made the first one so much fun — qualities which Soderbergh, et al. apparently left in their other pants when making O12. This one’s now gone toward the top of my Most Anticipated Movies of Summer 2007. (Hmm, what’s that smell? *snf snf* Oh, yeah, I think that’s the smell of another blog post coming up!)
- Hey, fans of Firefly: Yahoo! TV has a four-minute video preview of Drive, the new show from Nathan Fillion and Tim Minear. (The video’s on the right-hand side of the page.) I was planning on watching this anyway just because of the presence of Fillion and Minear, but after watching the preview I’m actually interested in seeing Drive on its own merits. OK, yeah, what little bit we saw of the battered wife was pretty cliche, but the scene with Fillion was intriguing. Time to TiVo up!
- Lee Iacocca has had enough from the current administration. Yes, legendary industrialist Lee Iacocca expresses his outrage at the Republican White House — kinda says something, doesn’t it? Iacocca rightly points out that the guys in office right now might be in charge, but they’re not showing a damn bit of leadership. Big difference there.
- At long, long last, the final issue of The Ultimates 2 has gone to the printer, and Marvel was kind enough to celebrate by offering a preview of Bryan Hitch’s stunning eight-page foldout spread from that issue. I’m not sure that any comic has ever needed an interior eight-page foldout spread in it before, but I’d imagine this one does, and that Hitch artwork is simply jaw-dropping. Personally, I’m just glad this comic’s finally coming out since that gets us that much closer to a hardcover collection, which means I can get that to go with my hardcover of the first Ultimates series.
- The Inbox of Nardo Pace, The Empire’s Worst Engineer.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #2 “The Long Way Home, Part II” Joss Whedon, writer; Georges Jeanty, penciller
See, now, this is what I’m talking about. While I really liked the first issue of Joss Whedon’s continuation of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, it didn’t absolutely thrill me. I feel like I’m praising it with faint damnation when I say that, and I don’t want you to get the wrong impression about my take on #1. It was very well done — it had some typically entertaining Whedonesque banter and solid artwork — but it felt just a little bit, I dunno, slight to me. That was to be expected, I suppose, since that first issue was almost entirely setup. We only got to catch up with a handful of old characters and were dropped headlong into an entirely new status quo, so yeah, it wasn’t superb — but then again, the seven season premieres of the TV show weren’t necessarily barnburners, either. (The season finales, though? Oh, man.)
So in the end, the first issue of BtVS:S8 was really good if not spectacular.
The second issue, though… the second issue is pure Buffy.
Now we’re starting to get more of our familiar characters back — we have Giles now, we have Andrew! — and it’s almost like they’ve never been away. Ah, but that’s not quite true: they have been away, and they’ve been growing during their absence (some a bit more literally than others). The action in the second half of this issue, for instance, demonstrates just how capable the formerly useless Xander Harris has become at leading an international squad of Slayers. (Strangely enough, the character who seems to have grown the least during the gap since the end of Season 7 is the eponymous heroine herself, though I’m sure we’ll be treated to plenty of growth opportunities for her later.)
The one aspect of this issue which grabbed me most — and I can’t imagine this should come as much of a surprise — is the dialogue. The wonderful thing about Whedon writing these characters he created and worked with for so long is that he knows how they should speak better than any other writer, so it’s almost useless saying that Buffy, Xander and the rest sound the way they’re supposed to. It might be nearly useless, but I’m saying it anyway: the words Whedon puts into their mouths strike notes so perfect that I can hear the actors reading the lines in my head. I realize that for many of you, that distinction might not be particularly profound, but normally when I read (comics, novels, whatever), all of the characters’ voices sound, well, like mine. Jeanty’s art helps — the likenesses might not be photorealistic, but they’re suggestive enough of the actors that it makes hearing their voices that much easier.
We’re only two issues in, but there’s already questions aplenty to be answered: Who’s the floaty guy stalking Buffy (and her dreams)? Who is — or was — Amy’s gross, mysterious and so far unseen survivor of the collapse of Sunnydale? (Dollars to donuts both characters have Buffyverse histories, though I honestly have no idea who either is supposed to be just yet.) And one of the biggest questions I’ve got, one that hasn’t even been directly addressed as a mystery yet: where in the hell did Buffy and company get all the money to finance this massive operation? How are they affording all of this technology, room and board for several hundred teenage girls, and at least two separate compounds (since Giles clearly is somewhere other than Buffy’s Scottish headquarters)? When I watched the original series via Netflix, I usually didn’t have more than a couple of days to wait for new episodes. Knowing it’s going to be thirty days before even getting any more hints is going to prove painful.
If you’re a fan at all of the Buffy TV series, you need to be reading this comic (or at least need to pick up the collections once they come out). So far the series feels very, very similar in tone to the show, though now they’ve got the unlimited budget only comics can provide (just imagine the last page of this issue being done anywhere near as effectively on the small screen). As my boy Timmy B., a recent Whedon convert, said today: “I can’t believe that shmuck was wasting his time in TV.”