Am I weird for...

... having the two people I most wanted to have a long conversation with at WonderCon by Heidi MacDonald and Tom Spurgeon? Mission accomplished, too.

Fun time tonight at the Cartoon Art Museum's party -- thanks to SF's own Comic Outpost for stepping up and paying for the refreshments.

Less than 24 hours to our own bacchanalia -- I think it is going to be epic!


If you're going to WonderCon on Friday...

2:00-3:00 Everything You Wanted to Know About Comics Retailing—But Weren't Afraid to Ask!— Join ComicsPRO board members Joe Field (Flying Colors Comics, Concord) and Brian Hibbs (Comix Experience, San Francisco) for a free-wheeling exploration of the world of comics specialty retailing. Field and Hibbs are two of the industry's most vocal leaders dedicated to improving the profession of comics retailing. Get the inside scoop on ComicsPRO, Free Comic Book Day, the new edition of Tilting at Windmills and the proverbial more! Room 232/234

Hope to see you there!


Over, Under and Through: Jeff's Reviews of the 2/28 Books.

Wow, Wondercon. Wiped me out, man. And I didn't even go! Well, okay. I did go, but like for maybe two hours? On Sunday? And then I just had to leave: thanks to the awesomeness that is Drunken Master, I spent fifty bucks over my budget, found myself overwhelmed by all the other books and this sudden creeping--what? antipathy? shyness? exhaustion?--and cut out. If there was an olympic sport for lameness (as opposed to just most olympic sports being lame), I would've certainly been made the U.S.'s number one draft pick.

But, yeah, Drunken Master is awesome: they're like the PETA for fans of asian films as they refuse to carry bootlegs. So sometimes you have to have an all-region DVD player (or have hacked your DVD player to play all regions) but you can rest in peace knowing that the dudes who busted their hump making an awesome flick like The Host (which I highly recommend you catch when it comes to theaters next month) get paid. Plus, the guys there know their shit, so when you need help finding that kinda obscure Wong Jing flick, they generally know what you're talking about. I've nearly made dudes in Chinatown burst into tears trying to understand that, no, I don't want God of Gamblers, I want that spoof of God of Gamblers. You know? The one with the kid? Thanks to DM, I finally have a copy of Saint of Gamblers on DVD... and Osaka Wrestling Restaurant...and Welcome to Dongmakgol...and this digitally remastered copy of John Woo's Bullet In The Head...and more than a few others. It's awesome, but now I think I'm gonna have to rob a 7-11 to make it 'til payday.

So there you have it--the world's most retarded Wondercon report: they have non-bootleg DVDs there and I bought some. The End.

As for the week's books:

52 WEEK #43: Well, fuck. I really liked Sobek, so I wasn't thrilled by those last two pages (and you know I've been on the wah-wah wagon the last couple months about the casual use of explicit violence in several DC books, so I won't bore you with that) but I did think they were effective. Also, it probably counts for a lot that these were two characters created for this story and to serve the storyteller's ends (as opposed to, say, if the scene had happened between Capatain Marvel, Jr. and Mr. Tawny). So Good work for the most part, even if though it left me kinda pissed.

ACTION COMICS #846: If this was shipping on time, I'd be more-or-less stoked about it. I'm surprised that a book this late can still feel so slapdash (if nobody ages in the Phantom Zone, as Jor-El states, how do you explain the kid?) but it looks pretty and I appreciated the extra thought Kubert put into finding new angles from which to show someone being punched through a building. So at the least, it's on the high ranges of OK. Really shows how you late shipping can sap momentum from an extended stoyline, though.

ACTION PHILOSOPHERS #8: Probably their densest issue yet, I think, as I could feel the smoke flowing out my ears from the Hegel/Schopenhauer story alone. But I even made it through that (if just to read the rest of the jokes), which is a testament to the skill and humor with which Van Lente and Dunlavey build their narratives. It's not what I would give to someone as their first issue, but the exceptionally well-crafted "Immanuel Kant: Epistemological Attorney" story makes this issue a Very Good read all by itself: the rest is just gravy.

BLUE BEETLE #12: The great thing about Hibbs doing more reviews is I can now pick on him mercilessly again. Like, when saying good things about this book, he says it's his favorite "Not-Superstar" book from that's supposed to make a lick of sense to the rest of us. (Does he mean, "Not-Superstar" creators? Or "Not-Superstar" characters? I mean, I think he means the latter, but he's also a guy who's got a lovely portrait of Ma Hinkel hanging on his walls, you know?) For me, the only problem about this issue is that the art is little more than functional: yeah, it's effective, but there's a weird mix of factors (maybe there's too much happening for the layouts to really breathe? Maybe the Beetle's overly detailed outfit doesn't jibe with the low-key storytelling tact?) that keeps this issue from being more than a Good comic. If you're reading this book like I am, you'll dig it. If not, this wouldn't be the issue I'd try to change your mind with.

CITY OF OTHERS #1: I've never been that impressed with Steve Niles' work, as I think I've mentioned here before, so I was surprised I liked this. That Berni Wrightson art helped a great deal, particularly with José Villarrubia doing an amazing job on the color (that panel where the protagonist leaps into the snow with the rest of The Others knocked me on my ass), but there was something that kind of caught me in the narrative voice and the, I dunno, dream-like nature of the narrative. It'll probably all fall apart by issue #2 as I imagine the creators would like you to believe this story is actually happening, and isn't just a deliberately unreal story that later reveals itself to be an imagined narrative (a la The Singing Detective, say). But hey, it could happen, and just the fact that I believe that's a narrative possibility says worlds about how much stronger a piece of work this is compared to Niles' usual work. I found this highly OK, and hope it somehow manages to stay that way.

CIVIL WAR FRONT LINE #11: Completes the Tony-Stark-as-Ozymandias comparison as Ben Ulrich and Wassername show up and proceed to reveal Tony as the guy with the master plan who saves the world (and loses, if not his soul, then his ability to share the depths of his soul's sacrifice). The problem is, these two devoted passionate reporters--who've cast aside previous job security to strike out on their own--then go, "Of course, we couldn't tell anyone that because it'd really screw everything so don't worry, we won't! See ya!!" To bring the Watchmen comparison back in, it'd be like if there was an extra two pages at the end of Watchmen, where the guys from The New Frontiersman read Rorshach's journal and say, "Wow! For the good of the world, we can never tell anyone!"

In short: no, I don't think so. Sub-Eh.

CONNOR HAWKE DRAGONS BLOOD #4: Considering I just started reading last issue, yeah, OK. I have no idea why so many Green Arrow narratives of the last five or so years have to have a mystical component, but for what it is, it's pretty decent.

CROSSING MIDNIGHT #4: After an exceptionally slow start (I read issue #1 and maybe #2?), this book finally kicks into high gear, with exceptionally lovely art and the high concept (imagine Spirited Away adapted by the writer of Hellblazer, basically) made manifest: on Friday, I not only sold more copies of this issue than all the other issues on all the other Fridays combined, but I had people asking for back issues which had all disappeared. I hope it's not too little, too late, because I read this issue and felt like "Oh, I get it now. That's pretty cool." Good, and worth looking for--I'll be curious to see what where it goes from here.

DAREDEVIL #94: I think I see what Brubaker was going for here--he was trying to show how Milla and Matt have one of those co-dependent relationships where one member realizes that the whole thing is just going to go through the same thing but worse, time and again, and yet can't break away. More than that, I think he was trying to have us feel what it's like for Milla, with the very extensive recapping giving us a similar feeling of watching what we already know get played out again and again. (It's probably also a way to craft a new jumping-on point with readers.) Unfortunately, it felt less like that and more like an overextended recap story that went nowhere. A cool idea, but very Eh execution.

DOCTOR STRANGE OATH #5: A very satisfying wrap-up to a very strong miniseries, and with Vaughan taking his tongue out of his cheek long enough to give us some very cool little character moments and refine his vision on how this character can still be interesting. Very Good stuff, and should make a satisfying little trade.

ETERNALS #7: Maybe I suffered from too-high expectations on this one, because I read Hibbs' review and picked this up not long after I got in the store on Friday. But far from rescuing the mini, I thought this was another wet fart of an issue with only the merest flashes of Gaiman cleverness(Gaiman is still one of the few guys that can make a non-violent superhero seem not just sensible, but actually cool) rescuing this from total drudgery. I don't know. I guess I just feel if I pay out almost thirty bucks for your miniseries, I deserve a bigger finish than "Is it true that I'll save the world but suffer as no one ever has?" "Beats me. Race you to Sao Paulo! Yeehaw!" Eh.

FLASH THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE #9: Obviously benefits from comparison to the ugsome issues before it, but I like how Guggenheim doesn't throw the baby out with the bath water, and takes some of the concepts from the original arc (Bart as a telecommuter to his own life; a romantic life that, as befits a speedster, moves too fast). I didn't love it (in fact, I'm now hard-pressed to remember what happened in the superhero parts of it) but I can honestly say I want to pick up next issue and see how things develop. Hard to gauge, but certainly no worse than OK.

GREEN LANTERN #17: Again, I'm with Hibbs: that opening sequence with Batman was really, really cool. I'm going with a high OK because the rest of it, while competent, didn't really fry my burger. It was certainly a better issue than the previous issue led me to expect, though.

IRON MAN #15: Making Iron Man the director of Shield has a certain logic to it because I can't think of two concepts in the Marvel Universe more broken than (a) Iron Man, and (b) Shield. Still, I think Knaupf does OK work with the hand he's dealt, by playing up the cororate mindset (or at least a near-parody of the Silicon Valley version of it) against the military mindset (as personified by a guy who's been wearing a non-regulation bowler for over six decades). I'll check out next issue, but even all the good will and high concept smarts in the world may not be enough to make me excited about two played out one-note concepts joined together.

JLA CLASSIFIED #35: I liked the last few issues, why'd this one feel like a big suck-out? Somehow this issue took all the nuanced momentum and removed it, making it feel like just one more issue in a story that should've been three issues shorter. Awful.

KILLER #3: An anticlimactic end throws off an otherwise strong issue, but that amazing sliced-up bit of action on page 21 trumps any number of bad chapter breaks. Very Good stuff, and well worth you seeking out if you like gorgeously illustrated crime stories.

SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #27: Despite me not being a big fan of big cosmic wars (which always seem to happen in this title every ten issues or so), I thought Waid and Kitson gave us an enjoyable, highly Good issue. But even better was the passionate, edifying and touching tribute to Dave Cockrum which really laid out in no uncertain terms Cockrum's tremendous contributions to the LSH. I thought that was exceptionally classy and noteworthy.

TRUE STORY SWEAR TO GOD #4: Wasn't until I re-read it that I realized Beland more or less put two self-contained stories side-by-side (I re-read it because I couldn't remember the first part to save my life) which is a pretty neat trick--although it might've been better if the two stories flowed into each other a bit better, it probably reads far better than if Beland had devoted an issue to each. A highly Good read.

WALKING DEAD #35: I agree with Hibbs again on this one--a very strong issue, and I also hope the end is a fake cliffhanger. Although the art is awesome as always, I really appreciated the shorthand Adlard is using here--that little set of panels on the top tier of page 9 reads as incredibly thrilling and violent even though, when you really look at it, it's barely more than abstraction. Adlard's managed to find that sweet spot where he barely has to put any detail on most of the zombies and the reader fleshes them out with their own fears and details. A pretty neat (and time-saving) trick, that. Very Good.

WOLVERINE #51: Hibbs giving this an AWFUL but encouraging those of you who buy this sort of thing for the art to do so seems baby-splittingly wise, and yet I can't follow suit--not only is Bianchi wasted on this story, but he's kinda wasted drawing Wolverine and Sabretooth, generally. Maybe I'm wrong and Bianchi thinks it's great he's getting paid hundreds of dollars a page to draw two hairy rednecks with bad haircuts fuck each other up, but I think it's kind of a waste. Sub-Awful, unless you've been looking for some material to add to your hot S&M bears-with-mullets slashfic story in which case, hey, this is the book for you.

X-FACTOR #16: An exceptionally strong issue, and the one I would use if I had to pitch a Madrox TV pilot--David really takes a swing for the existential fences here, and does it without going for the glib. Unfortunately, the art was flat and I couldn't care less about the B-story, so it just gets a plain ol' Good. But it's worth hunting up if you're not reading the title already.

PICK OF THE WEEK: I don't know, really. Action Philosophers? Walking Dead? Killer? Last issue of Dr. Strange? Love is in the air, baby!

PICK OF THE WEAK: You'd think I'd go with Wolverine, right? But, no. JLA Classified made me feel like a sucker, retroactively, and I can't imagine the last two issues will redeem that.

TRADE PICK: I want to do an all-trades post, hopefully this week, so I'll go into more detail later, but, yeah, BECK MONGOLIAN CHOP SQUAD VOL 7 was great.

Et tu?

Hibbs on 2/28 (part 3!!)

Just back from WonderCon -- Fridays are generally slow there, so its definitely the right day to go. I expect Saturday to be Madness. MADNESS, I say! WC moved yet again -- this time to Moscone South, or "The Big Moscone", which made it seem even more slow, but, if I had to guess, attendance was probably up a little bit, just spread out over a bigger area.

Pro attendance seemed kind of low to me, but this may be a function of Convention Season Death March, with Florida 2 weeks ago, NY last week, and LA in 2 weeks from now -- how can people do THAT MANY shows in a row?

Ben came with me for a couple hours in the morning -- he's so adorable out in public; and the purchase I allowed him, after doing the whole show floor to make sure what he got what was he REALLY wanted, was a mummy pen and a sarcophagus pencil case. He loved showing that off to every adult we spoke to, and virtually every adult was pretty stunned to see such a little man know that it was called a "sarcophagus", and what Hieroglyphics were. Kid has himself an amazing vocabulary.

Got 2 new JSA pieces for the gallery from Matt Wagner -- Hourman and Mr. Terrific. They are awesome, and I will punch you if you don't think so. With the speed that I move to get things framed, it will probably be 3-4 months before they make it on CE's walls, so if you're at the store, ask and I shall show. We're just down to 4 pieces left... Atom, Spectre, and (Golden age) Superman and Batman. Maybe we'll even be finished by 2010!

Um, didn't read a lot of comics yesterday (as you'll see below) -- decided to get caught up on TV, and the week's worth of DAILY SHOWs backed up, etc. I desperately want to stop watching LOST because it keeps on spinning and spinning and spinning its wheels (LAST week, I *literally* screamed at the TV to HAVE SOMETHING [ANYTHING!!] HAPPEN!!!! and STOP INTRODUCING NEW FUCKING 'OTHERS', WE DON'T CARE YOU FUCKS!). The only reason I keep watching is because I feel like I invested some sixty hours of my life at this point, and I'd like that to fucking pay off, thankyouverymuch. THis is almost certainly a fool's errand at this point.

Didn't much care for THE BLACK DONNELEYS, but I'll give it one more episode to see if it's going anywhere.

Dude, have you seen the "Back To The Future" commercial for DirecTV with Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown? It bothers me. Deeply. Not just because I'd rather if every beloved movie wasn't whored out to shill for something. And not just because I kinda assumed Christopher Lloyd was the kind of savvy actor who had such a string of visible memorable roles that I kind of figured he was set for life at this point, and didn't need to do commercials. But really because it violates the very logic of the thing that it's trying to use to shill. Marty, after the rescue at the clock tower in the 1950s, zooms, well, back to the future, and Doc Brown comes running up and say "Great Scott! I forgot to tell Marty about DirecTV!". Yeah, except this is 1950s Doc Brown, who hasn't time travelled, and won't for another 30 years, and HE DOESN'T KNOW ABOUT ANY SUCH THING. Further, even if he DID tell Marty, what the fuck could Marty DO with that info? Marty is going back to the 1980s -- he's at least 10 years from even the possibility of ubiquitous wide-spread satellite TV. Fuck, sell out if you HAVE to, but at least have the shit make sense, wouldja?

Whaaaaaat? You want comics? Well, between last night and now I've only read three:

CITY OF OTHERS #1: I'm torn. It's really fucking pretty. Like "man, that's god-damn amazingly wonderful looking!"; and it has one of the strongest voices Steve Niles has ever delivered yet with a cold, disassociated killer. But, it's all in the service of what is pretty sub-NIGHT GALLERY story. First off, the killer is stupendously, no... RIDICulously! competent. TORE me out of the story. Second, what the fuck was up with that train? Third, isn't that pretty directly ripped off from "Midnight Meat Train" in Clive Barker's BOOKS OF BLOOD? Fourth, didn't Niles either directly adapt, or at least edit the adaptation to comics of "Midnight Meat Train"? (I may be wrong on that score, but am too lazy to google it) Fifth, (paraphrasing) that last line of "And that's how I knew it was zombies.... and vampires!" was truly truly cringe-inducing. Sixth, the fawning editorial page where she declares this, in effect, the second coming of horror comics, and how awesomely amazingly awesome it was, was just salt in the wounds. I dig she has a she-woody for Wrightson -- and hell, his art is really really damn fine handled this way -- but keep it in your pants. An editor should never come on the page and tell you how great something you just read was. (JOe and Dan could learn that lesson, too) It's... well, it is simply unseemly. How do you balance an AWFUL (the story) with a GOOD (the lovely lovely art, and the specific scripting)? I'll go with EH.

WOLVERINE #51: Oh cripes. Second verse, same as above. BEAUTIFUL looking little thing. HORRIFIC thing to read, filled with jibber jabber and blah blah blah and nonsensical nonsense about pretty much nothing. Marvel is offering a color-free version of the book (still $3, though! HAHAHAHAH!)... what about offering a words-free version? If it was just Bianchi drawing 22 pages of whatever-the-fuck... well, I wouldn't have "enjoyed it", but I'd be a lot closer to "Cool!", but this is dragged down by the script. Sorry, we average out to AWFUL in this case (though, again, I FULLY SUPPORT those of you buying it for the art)

X-FACTOR #16: Art was much less likeable this go round (and likely drops it a full "grade"), but this was a really strong episode of Madrox Finds Himself. Didn't really care about the Monet/Siryn thread too much, though. Monet is too one-note to continue to be entertaining. With the possible (and not always) exception of ASTONISHING, THIS is the best X-book being published each month. GOOD.

I'm sort of undecided about this "daily" experiment. I'm probably writing more than I would, and it's not "Oh, God, block out 3 hours..." chore that writing a big one entails, but more manageable 30-60 chunks, but I also know I really can't maintain this over the longer haul. Let me know if you like it like this, or if you prefer the longer single-entry-for-a-week entries...

I'll be back tomorrow with more (assuming I get to read any more)

As always.... what did YOU think?


Hibbs on 2/28 (part 2!)

Lost a couple of hours today because some DC staffers popped in the store before WOnderCon, but I should be able to get this done before midnight, and keep my schedule... Speaking of WonderCon, I've got a panel on SUNDAY:

11:30-12:30 Comic Retailer Roundtable— Join moderator Dan Shahin (Hijinx Comics) and fellow comic retailers Joe Ferrara (Atlantis Fantasyworld), Joe Field (Flying Colors), Brian Hibbs (Comix Experience) and Ryan Higgins (Comics Conspiracy), for an up to the minute look into the realities of modern comic book retailing. Special focus will be placed on recent industry changes and how retailers are adapting and planning for the future. Room 228

Do feel free to come and yell things at us...

ACTION COMICS #846: Horrifically crippled from the scheduling problems (We had, what? 50 years where ACTION shipped 12x a year or better?), I've lost some of the thread here, and a significant part of my interest. Still, despite feeling lost in several places, this was an OK enough issue. I'm less comfortable with some of the grafting of SUPERMAN-THE-MOVIE continuity in here, but probably more from seeming to contradict the SUPERMAN II continuity more than anything else. But, yeah, highly OK

BLACK PANTHER #25: A week later, this seems pretty "yeah, and...?" to me. I may have enjoyed this more last week, WITH CW #7. EH.

DAREDEVIL #94: Great cover. Lotsa recap on the insides. I felt like there were really only 2-3 pages of "new" content in here. So, gonna go with EH.

ETERNALS #7: If you asked me what a Neil Gaiman-written ETERNALS comic would be like, this issue would be very very close to that answer. That is to say that I kinda thought this single-handedly "rescued" the whole mini, and gave them at least an adequate new purpose in the Marvel U, if anyone follows up on it. I'll go with a GOOD.

GREEN LANTERN #17: That one sequence with Batman and the Sinestro ring makes the whole thing worth it to me. It could have been followed by 19 more pages of Hal picking his nose and saying "Dur!" to the camera, and I still'd probably have liked this. Well, maybe not, but still: great moment. GOOD.

JLA CLASSIFIED #35: Yeah.... don't care. AWFUL.

RUNAWAYS #24: BKV's run ends nicely. This has been a fun little book, and I hope that Whedon (and who ever is post-WHedon) can keep it up. GOOD.

SUPERGIRL AND LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #27: Too many characters, too much chicken-with-head-cut-off running around. It's not BAD, but too busy to be any fun. EH.

And... believe it or not, that's everything I've read so far now.

OK, off to pay bills (WHERE THE HELL DID FEBRUARY GO?!?!) and get some more pre-WC stuff done... More (maybe, probably) tomorrow...

What did you think?


With her satin tights, fighting for your rights: No reviews for 2/1 from Graeme

Normally at this time, I come here and bitch about what books have appeared this week while trying to be funny with varying results. This week, however, I've managed to fail to get to the store, and therefore have nothing to review. Well, nothing apart from the programming schedule for next week’s Wondercon here in Sunny San Francisco, of course. "With over 90 hours of programming over 3 days, WonderCon’s programming schedule has something for everyone," claims the official website, which means that somehow they’re adding in an extra six hours per day for your pleasure. Time means nothing to these people, I’m telling you.

I have a love-hate relationship with conventions that can best be described as "I am scared to talk to people whose work I like, equally scared to talk to those whose work I dislike and have said as much in public where they could see it and may want to hit me as a result (Greg Rucka, for example. Will it help if I say now that I really enjoy his novels and liked his Wonder Woman before it was derailed by Infinite Crisis? Probably not), and all those people in homemade outfits make me nervous”. With some love being added in somewhere, of course. Nonetheless, I’ll be headed to Wondercon like everyone else, lured in by the promise of some of the following:


Amongst some of the many things that I’ll miss because of that thing I call "my job" are panels with Ramona Fradon (whose great work graced the recent DC Showcase Presents Metamorpho collection), Mike Mignola, and Mike and Laura Allred. Gerard Jones gets a panel to himself to talk about his wonderful Men of Tomorrow book, and New Yorker illustrator and Neil Gaiman favorite Gahan Wilson also has an hour of Room 2018 to fill. Being the first day, the running themes of the Con get started: Obsessive Firefly/Serenity fans, and DC’s corporate panels. The Whedon Worship gets underway with the world premiere of "Done The Impossible: The Fans’ Tale of Firefly and Serenity," a documentary about how Joss Whedon’s fans did the same as Star Trek’s fans, only about ten years sooner, and Dan Didio gets to host "Modern Architecture: The Architects of The DC Universe," with guests Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison and Mark Waid, talking about post-One Year Later DC. That panel will be nothing like Saturday’s "DCU 2006: The Best Is Yet To Come", which also features Rucka, Morrison and Waid talking about DC post-One Year Later and is hosted by Didio, nor will it resemble Sunday’s "DC Comics’ Crisis Counselling," which has the stellar line-up of Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison and Mark Waid, all talking about post-One Year Later DC with host Dan Didio.

Highlight of the day may possibly be the mysterious "Special TRON event" that ends the night. As the blurb explains, "It’s a special TRON event! The fan-favorite, groundbreaking movie from the 80s is becoming a comic book in April, published by SLG, with story and art by Landry Walker, Eric Jones, and Louie De Martinis. This new comic series continues where the TRON 2.0 video game left off, chronicling the adventures of Jet Bradley, a talented young programmer who is trapped in a computer mainframe. Known for its incredible use of computer graphics before they were widely used in film, TRON makes the jump from movie to comics! Join us for this exciting event!" Anyone who can explain exactly what the nature of this special event is, feel free to tell me. I’m hoping that Jeff Bridges zaps all the attendees into a computer where they can fight that massive tank thing, myself.


If it’s Saturday, it has to be Hollywood day! Sure enough, this is the day that holds your best chance to see clips of movies before your friends see them online that evening. Bryan Singer has a Superman Returns panel with exclusive clips, JJ Abrams has a Mission Impossible 3 panel where lots of people will ask questions about Lost, just to piss him off, and Pixar celebrate being bought out by Disney by showing clips of Cars, their upcoming movie about those horse-drawn carriages that everyone’s talking about these days. Other media types around will include Kevin Smith, Wes Craven, Lucasfilm’s Steve Sansweet, and a collection of animation writers like Paul Dini, Mark Evanier and Adam Beechen.

If it’s comics folk you’re after, then be prepared for panels starring Grant Morrison, Frank Cho, Eric Powell, Peter David, Mark Waid, Terry Moore and Greg Rucka where you can ask them whether Civil War really is Marvel’s rip-off of Infinite Crisis or whether than honor falls to Annihilation. Alternatively, you can go and see the premiere of Ultimate Avengers and have that burning question – "Why not take Marvel’s over-the-top reimagining of the Avengers and tone it down for a wider audience who have suddenly decided that they want to watch a cartoon version of the Avengers?" – answered once and for all. There’s some grooviness happening out in the fringes of entertainment, though: A panel about "The Girls of Peanuts," as hosted by the Charles M. Schulz Museum, for one (I admit it; I have a crush on Peppermint Patty). Sergio Aragones doing a panel where he answers questions with drawings, for another, as well as Scott Saavedra’s Comic Book Heaven Live (Scott Shaw!’s also doing a live version of his Oddball Comics column which should be fun for those of us who like cheap laughs at other people’s hard work). Fans of Firefly and Serenity can entertain themselves with the "Sacramento and San Francisco Browncoats Meetup," although Browncoats from anywhere other than those two cities – even somewhere closeby, like Oakland – will be shot if they try and sneak in.

This is the traditional "If you can only make it to one day, make it this day" day – All the big solo panels, with a couple of exceptions, are on Saturday, and the amount of movie-related events (There are quite a few horror things that I’ve not mentioned because I couldn’t be bothered), mean that this is easily going to be the busiest day of the three. So if you have a fear of being in an enclosed space with lots of Imperial Stormtroopers, this may not be the day for you. Just a warning.


Last minute addition to the guest list Frank Miller gets his turn to shine on the last day of the con, having his panel run with no other big name guests appearing elsewhere as competition (But there is a new episode of Spongebob Squarepants premiering); the programming promises that there’ll be some Comic Book Legal Defense Fund-related surprises at this one, so place your bets about what that means. Other than that, the con does its normal Sunday winding down, which means that the panels stay interesting but will probably be calm affairs – There are panels about the future of comic retailing, how comic books can be brought into classrooms and libraries, and a bunch of robot-related nerds arguing whether Robby The Robot could kick MechaGodzilla’s ass (Hint: No). Those poor under-served Firefly fans get their own charity prize drawing as well as a charity auction, Chris Bachalo explains why he really hasn’t lost his talent after Shade The Changing Man, and there’s an entire panel about whether Star Trek is dead after the cancellation of Enterpise, or whether it lives on in our hearts and alternate universes where we all have goatee beards.

The real reason to go on Sunday, mind you, is to try and grab some cheap comics from all the dealers just before they close up for the weekend. That complete run of Kickers, Inc. is yours for the taking, dear friends… All of that said, looking into my crystal ball, I can see myself spending all of Sunday apologizing to Kate for wanting to spend the weekend before Valentine’s Day at a comic convention, but that might just be me.

So there you have it: Wondercon 2006. Looking ahead, my pick of the weekend is more than likely going to be the Grant Morrison panel, just to hear whatever he’s thinking about these days. My pick of the weakend has to be the Tron event, because, well, it’s a Tron event. For the nerdier of the San Franciscans like me, all of Wondercon may be eclipsed by Sarah Vowell doing an appearance at A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books this Wednesday, however...

Jeff does reviews below. Go read them, because they're more interesting than all of this.

Comics for 2/16/05? Sure, What the Hey....

Like Hibbs, I also thought Wondercon was a pretty great show. Normally, I find myself getting antsy and worrying I'm missing some panel or some personage signing, and find myself dashing around until I get exhausted and cranky and miserable. (In short, I'm a con newbie.) This year, I just stuck to wandering around the floor, taking the time to take in the sites and dig through dealers' stock. I was worried for a long time that I couldn't find anything I considered enough of a deal to plunk down money on, and then found a guy selling all of his stock at a dollar a book, and found some old Kamandis, Fantastic Fours and Brave and The Bolds (Batman and Ice Cream Soldier team up to beat up an anemic German schoolgirl, courtesy of Bob Haney and Jim Aparo!) Also, I've really got to give it up to Drunken Master--not only were they really nice and really knowledgeable about Asian cinema, they're 100% bootleg free and reasonably priced. Not only did I pick up two or three Seijun Suzuki films I had no idea had gotten statewide release, I went home and found I didn't pay insane convention prices for them. Really great. Anyway, I'm leaving lots of the juicy titles alone in case Hibbs wants 'em. But here's what I thought about:

AMAZING JOY BUZZARDS #2: My biggest problem here is Dan Hipp's art--like the opening pages where, for example, a TV showing Mr. Ed looks like a picture of Mr. Ed on the wall, and the guys watching it aren't even shown facing it, or the results of a rochambeau match aren't immediately clear because the artist didn't work the tell-tale spiked wrist bracelet prominently enough into the early pages to provide the pay off--and yet at the end, when everything's going to hell, and people are getting lost and disoriented running through a dark collapsing cave, the art works perfectly. It's a problem of scope, I think--the artist just can't figure out what details to put in and which to leave out in things like establishing shots and big splash pages (that island splash page seemed both under- and over-detailed which is a n accomplishment). Weirdly, Mark Smith has the opposite problem--he's good at cramming the script with a lot of action and twists, but hasn't come up with any reason for me to care about the characters: the only reason I cared about that kiss between geek guy and geek girl was because Hipp made it lovely. If they can figure out how to cover better for each other's weaknesses, this could really work well but at the moment, it's barely OK. A shame because this is the kind of book I very much want to like.

APOCALYPSE NERD #1: Ha...ha? Bagge's tale of a Microsoft nerd and his low-life pal possibly tossed into a post-apocalyptic setting is supposed to read as a comedy, but I actually found the whole thing horrible and unsettling--maybe my love of dark humor doesn't run as deep as I thought. I also had a problem with the small details--I've travelled with tech geeks and they've got pagers, cell phones and wi-fi PDAs they check every so often to see if they're still connected--so the idea that the duo could never really find out what actually happened seemed unbelievable to me: the tech guy would check his pre-loaded list of possible wi-fi spots to surf the web and check out what had happened on BoingBoing and that would be that. I kinda wish the whole book had been Founding Father Funnies because those worked great for me. Eh, but Bagge's work just hasn't been doing it for me for a while so you may feel very differently.

CONSTANTINE: Yeah, I went and saw it this weekend. I apparently am a soft touch with comic book movies (liked Daredevil, thought LXG was okay) because even though this probably ties the Cathy Lee Crosby Wonder Woman TV movie for fealty to the source material, I still thought it was more or less OK. The visuals are great, I thought the script did a pretty good job introducing all of the various "rules" of its magic and keeping them mostly consistent, and some of the performances were effective (Rachel Weisz, Tilda Swinton, and Peter Stormare's hammy but utterly menacing Lucifer). But everything you think would be wrong because it was a big Hollywood movie was wrong--Constantine's final gambit can't be a con, so there's none of the great "Rake at the Gates of Hell" feel to it, and if that wasn't bad enough, we had to get a final two minutes clearly dictated by test screenings to wipe out any ambiguity the character might possess. If anyone ever needed an example of how much freedom there is in comics as opposed to "big" media, there's no better example than comparing Constantine to any issue of Hellblazer. But it was some damn pretty eye-candy and I enjoyed it while it was on. Go figure.

EX MACHINA #8: Vaughan's talented enough to make that gay marriage scene amusing--"I don't want this to sound judgmental, but how long have you been with the G.O.P., Mr. Dunst?"--but it also seemed preachy, somehow (maybe it was having the characters exchange information that they all seemed aware of). Like this week's Astounding, perfectly fine but not nearly as strong as previous issues. Good.

HAWKMAN #37: Nothing's worse than "Sam & Diane" syndrome: it's disappointing when the couple doesn't get together, and it's more disappointing when they finally do get together. Here, Hawkman and Hawkgirl finally get together and it feels like too much, too soon. On the other hand, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who got tired of the relationship going nowhere, so I feel for the creative team here. And there's a sexy devil chick with short hair quoting Pat Benatar so I didn't hate this, but the relationship change and the weird behavior of characters just to get to the last page reveal made me feel very coolish and Eh about this.

HUMAN TARGET #19: Probably my favorite issue of the run--not just because it brings back Chance's fucked-up protege, but because of the suggestions for a few pages that he might just be a creation of Chance's even-more-fucked-up psyche. The last page suggests something a little more mundane, but we'll see and it's still Very Good work. I'm gonna miss this title.

LIVEWIRES #1: I'm a pretty big Adam Warren fan, so I'm stoked to finally see this first issue. As always, Warren works his ass off--the script is a nonstop action scene, an introduction to all the characters and themes, and a viewpoint character--but it almost worked a little too hard: I can't figure out if the nonstop action and the nonstop casual conversation kind of cancel each other out, or if, like a Michael Bay movie, the continuous acceleration just grows monotonous. And the same use of self-awareness for story shorthand (some of the characters describe each other with lines that sound straight out of the initial pitch session, i.e., "Ben Grimm in black babydoll lace") that bugged me on Peter David's recent issue of The Hulk is a little too evident here. Despite all of the above, I did like this--definitely Good--I'm just kind of bummed I didn't love it.

OCEAN #4: Lots of good stuff here--strong snappy dialogue and a great scene explaining the motivation of the villain--but this issue didn't feel as strong as the first three: to get to the great scene with the manager we have to believe that Kane is going to try one more time to settle things peacefully, and I just didn't buy it. A lot of screenplays suffer at exactly this same point for what I'd assume is the same reason--the lag as the transition from Act II to Act III gets set up--but some of the pacing problems in Ellis's Ultimate work has me a little wary. It's either a very weak Good or a very strong OK, I guess.

PROMETHEA #32: I've read several issues of Promethea that made me feel like I was on drugs. This final issue was, I'd have to say, the bad shake issue of Promethea: I felt a little trippy and dizzy at its completion, but I also had a headache and was cranky and a bit nauseated. Even as I appreciated the construction--I loved turning the pages and becoming lost repeatedly--I found myself really challenging some of the statements being put forward here, even the ones I think I agree with. Now, I haven't read this all seventeen different ways and my impressions may change drastically once I get the poster doo-dah (I'm assuming it's going to have, at the least, a personalized kaballah like the wonderful opening of Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man) but this felt like a rehash of some of the amazing formalistic achievements in this series but nowhere near a trumping of them; more a lovely whimper than a beautiful bang. OK.

RUNAWAYS #1: Filled with wit and intelligence on every page, and just as lovely to look at as the first time around, so I hope I'm alone in liking it less now that it's set so squarely in Marvel Universe. All of the Marvel touches are fun and clever--who wouldn't like "Excelsior," the group of recovering teen superheroes?--but rather than being an American manga book with superpowers, it's now an extremely quirky Marvel title. And even if readers could find this title (and/or the money for it) in the wild bramble of all those Spider-Man, X-Men and FF Titles, I think most of Marvel's readers don't want quirky, they want really strong traditional work--and so I think all this will do is shoot a hole in the supposedly strong sales being seen in the traditional bookstores. Don't get me wrong, it's a Good book--maybe even Very Good--but I don't think this reboot is gonna pull it off. I hope I'm wrong.

SHE HULK #12: Slott uses some very clever metacommentary to critique hypercritical fanboys while advancing his story and also riffing on Avengers: Disassembled. I still miss Bobillo's art, but this was quite a Good comic and I hope it comes back strong.

SIMPSONS COMICS #103: After being off for a couple issues, Boothby gives us another top-notch issue that would have worked just fine as an episode of the series. I could've lived without the Mary Tyler Moore sequence but even that, with its complex Marge/Rhoda/Brenda throw-away in-joke, is the sort of thing the series would try. Very Good.

There. That leaves at least four juicy books (Astonishing, GL: Rebirth, Andi Watson's Little Star and Wolverine) for Pa Hibbs to riff on. I may pop up again to talk about some of the week's trades.

Oh, WonderCon, my WonderCon

Well, I had a terrific time at WonderCon this weekend. WC has been a weird show for a while -- the last few years in Oakland had what looked like declining attendence, and tumbleweeds in the aisle, and the sale of the show to the San Diego ComiCon brought the show to San Francisco 3 years ago. The first two years at the Moscone can be charitbly descibed as marginal, where the show was dwarfed by the space around it, but 2005 was the year that broke big.

Friday's attendence looked solid (for a Friday), but the place was reasonably quiet. This was actually great because it gave me a good chance to get some business done, talk to people I pretty much only see at conventions and the like. More than anything else, it reminded me of a San Diego show from BEFORE the move into the new convention space -- those years when SD was THE place to be, yet you were still able to have half hour conversations with people while they manned thier booths. For me, as a person who would never ever SET UP at a show, yet has lots of comicy goodness and business to handle, that's a perfect as perfect could be.

Saturday, the place exploded. Probably because of Whedon and Kevin Smith, yes, but the convention floor itself was pretty steadily packed full of people wandering AND, it seemed, spending money. The show opened at 10 am, and at 1:30 that afternoon, there was STILL a steady 100-person long line to get in, which kind of blew me away. Especially since, by that point, it was thudding rain down. I was told that they actually ran out of badgeholders, and they had to take scissors to the exhibotr and guest badges in order to meet demand. It also seemed that they ran out of those as I saw someone with thier badge STAPLED to thier t-shirt!

There were a couple of minutes on early Saturday where it was nearly downright unpleasent to be on the convention floor -- the 10 minutes to walk 10 feet, because there are so many bodies in the place thang, and the for the love of god, turn on the air conditioners thang -- which I took as a good sign, actually. Business seemed to be solid and steady.

I was struck by how few publishers actually came -- DC, Image, Bongo and SLG were the only 4 traditional publishers set up (I very much missed Top Shelf and Oni, both of whom I wanted to discuss a few things with, and who were here last year) -- but I think if WC continues its growth curve, this has the potential to become an excellent show.

I learned a lot of interesting things, almost all of which were of the "just between me and you" variety, so you don't get to find out about any of them, but, in the end, I just had a terrific time.... something I haven't said about a comics convention in a decade or more. (Probably since the Pro/Con years at WC)

Ben went with me on Saturday morning, riding up on my shoulders most of the time. He charmed the hell out of both the ladies and the chaps, but he could only handle about 2 hours before his baby brain started to get overstimulated. The beauty of having a show in my home town was being able to take him all the way home, and still being able to make it back to the show within an hour.

Saturday night was the party at the new location for Comic Relief. Traditionally, Rory and I swap off years for store parties, and this year was technically our turn, but with his new venue, I was happy to cede it to CR. Helping out a fellow retailing brother is much more important than banging my own drum.

CR's new space is nothing short of impressive. Hell, given that they'd only had it for 18 days, and they had to prep WC, the quality of the presentation was nothing short of mind blowing. Comic Relief's staff and family should be amazingly proud of what they've been able to accomplish. Y'know, a lot of time me and Rory (and most other visible retailers, for that matter), get conflated with our stores. We'll say "Good Job, Rory" for anything that happens with CR -- but that does a great disservice to the people who actually MAKE the store what it is. CR has an excellent crew, and the victory of the new store is something they should all take individual pride in, and ownership of.

I can't say enough good things about the new space, however. It's huge, it's gi-normous; it's a big as a whale, and it's about to set sail! It is the kind of retail space that makes old men and young girls weep. It isn't there yet (only 18 days old), but I think that a year from now (especially if a store planner is brought in, modern signage installed, etc. etc.) this has the potential to be the single best comic book store in the WORLD. Seriously. I'm jealous.

So, that was my weekend. Now I'm just waiting for Lester to send me the final bits for ONOMATOPOEIA (Don't you love it when conventions and monthly deadlines collide?), so I can work all afternoon and evening. Hurray!

I might possibly squidge in with a few reviews on Monday (Here's a quick free one: PROMETHEA #32: I'm too old to read a comic that needs constanly turning and flipping, and has mostly yellow lettering on light blue backgrounds! It hurt my widdle head when I contemplated it. INCOMPLETE), but, honestly, I wouldn't expect it. I thinking I'm coming down with a cold, too.