Friday, April 30, 2010

Free Comic Book Day is Coming!

Tomorrow is my first Free Comic Book Day in Phoenix, and I've mapped out all of the stores I'll be frequenting in an effort to collect all of the issues available. Of course, the experience and the issues I acquire will be thoroughly reviewed here.

Alas, the buzz of the day is the first picture of our Marvel Movie Universe Thor! It isn't much, but I like what I see so far . . .

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gunplay #0

Gunplay #0, March 2008, Platinum Studios
writer: Jorge Vega
artist: Dominic Vivona
colorist: Nei Ruffino
letterer: Shawn DePasquale
“Penny Dreadful” story writer: Priest
“Penny Dreadful” story illustrator: Keith Mellon
editor: Dave Collins

Since the Jonah Hex trailer went live today, let's look at a western comic: Gunplay #0. This issue, featuring material that won the 2007 Comic Book Challenge, is an interesting zero issue offer, because it isn’t a prologue to an upcoming ongoing series; instead, Gunplay #0 is a preview edition that (presumably) reprints the first twenty-two pages of an eighty-eight page graphic novel. It’s a daring gamble, selling content that will be available again later, in its entirety to boot, yet, for only a dollar, readers have a chance to see if Gunplay is an investment they’d want to make in the first place. In an analogy suiting this issue’s story, it’s a high noon callout, and Gunplay is daring us to join it in the street in front of the saloon.

Ah, but if you were looking for happy-go-lucky western fare, Gunplay is not the book for you. Inside of just these twenty-two pages, the reader is faced with the bitter truths of slavery and racism, the merciless, hands-on violence of a pre-industrial age, and the perversion of religion. I can only wonder what the remaining sixty-six pages of this graphic novel have to offer. Despite its callousness, Gunplay #0 is an thought provoking reading experience, not to mention a steal at a measly ninety-nine cents, considering that the lead 22-pager is followed by the first three chapters of a short fiction western piece by Priest and Keith Mellon. Both stories boast the same crude themes and engrossing violence and offer a no-holds-barred insight into how wild the west really was.

Unfortunately, this issue did take a few liberties in its presentation that distracted me from its content. Namely, on the first page, our hero, a black Union soldier forced to roam the countryside with a supernatural gun, mutters something to himself, evidenced by a speech balloon with tiny lettering, probably a two-scale font. You can tell that it says something, so I strained my eyes to make it out, and read, “This font is so small we can’t make out what he’s saying.” Now, why even have the speech balloon if I’m going to feel like a fool squinting to read it, or, if what he mumbles is actually important to the story down the line, why not just imply speech with some traditional squiggly lines? This unnecessary blurring of the fourth wall took me out of the story before it’d begun, and only the shock value of the following pages’ violence sucked me back in. It was an unnecessary rollercoaster ride.

So, will I step out into the high noon sun for a showdown with the Gunplay graphic novel? Honestly, I don’t think so. I’m not familiar enough with the wild west genre to actually embrace it for what it really is -- a crude game of life and death in the shadow of our country’s developing moral compass. You’re more likely to see me cowering behind the swinging saloon doors, seeing who comes out standing. Yes, holding true to the analogy, I might just wait to read some reviews of the whole thing before I use this #0 to gauge my interest. Leave it to a comic book to give the call to draw.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Darkwing Returns!

My most anticipated series of the year, thus far. I'm not kidding. DW is back! Now, as an original comic book, Darkwing Duck has the potential to satirize many of the trends that birthed his satirical character in the first place. Fingers crossed from a superhero book that doesn't take itself too seriously, while still telling a serious superhero story!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Iron Man in USA Weekly

Robert Downey, Jr. and Scarlett Johansson were interviewed in this week's USA Weekly, a Sunday newspaper insert, but John Romita, Jr.'s poster was much more engaging. Check out this detail, courtesy my camera phone. Between this and Kick-ass, I hope Hollywood is giving JRJR his due!

Weekend Box Office

Unfortunately, The Losers and Kick-ass failed to impress at the box office this weekend. Doesn't help that I haven't seen either of them yet.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

No kitchen is complete . . .

. . . without an autograph from Stan Lee! Thanks to my buddy Konrad for scoring this one!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spiderman: Grim Hunt

For several months, Marvel has distributed free comics to tease significant upcoming events or titles. I haven't collected a Marvel comic in at least a year, so I appreciate the glimpse into what's going on, even if it doesn't entice me to make an actual purchase. A few months ago, a Spider-man preview comic revealed that the web-head would soon be up against some of his most classic foes, some of whom had been revamped with a modern look (I guess Electro's mask is a little dated -- like it was "cool" back in the '60s!), and I admit a tug toward the wallcrawler, a hope that the return of villains like Vulture and Mysterio would hearken a simpler age . . .

Of course, I was wrong.

Apparently, Spidey's foes returned as agents of Kraven the Hunter's family, seeking revenge for their long-dead patriarch. In the latest free offering, Spider-man: Grim Hunt, Peter Parker experiences a hallucination via a captured Madam Web, as she tries to show him the Kraven family's scheme. While Michael Lark's art is clean and dramatic, this teaser chapter only inaugurates another unnecessarily dark chapter in the web-head's life. Okay, yes, Stan Lee decided to make Spider-man a hard-luck superhero that faces every day problems like his young readers. Parker's world was never meant to be as cheery as, say, Superman's, or even the Fantastic Four's. Still, ailing aunts and bouts of unemployment are a far leap from tackling identity-threatening clones and deals with the devil. I can't relate to a Spider-man battling forces on a spiritual level, or that falls victim to intricate ancestral conspiracies. Where's the "neighborhood" for that "friendly neighbor Spider-man" -- hell?

Spider-man's ongoing problems, while heart-wrenching, shouldn't dominate the otherwise wise-cracking hero he was intended to be. If the problem is too dark for a quip, it's too dark for Peter Parker, period. It doesn't jive with his world -- and if it ever did, he'd never face it without the help of a mystical partner, like Dr. Strange. Also, those original tales never choked the life out of months' worth of story. Sure, Aunt May was in and out of the hospital -- but at least she made some pies in between! How long did that "clone saga" last? Years?! Now, how long has the Kravens' plot been brewing under our noses? How long will we be subjected to it before "everything you knew about Spider-man will change -- again?!" It's a tiresome, unimaginative circle. For this True Believer, the grimmest hunt of all is a modern, effective single-issue Spider-man story. You know, something I can show the kids -- the kids that inspired Peter Parker in the first place.

Marvel Comics has made Spider-man: Grim Hunt available on-line, too.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kick-Ass Kicks . . . Well, You Know

Kick-ass and How to Train Your Dragon were neck and neck for the number one spot in this weekend's box office, but Mark Millar's brain child pulled ahead. From Kick-ass to The Losers to Iron Man 2, the next few weeks promise to be very generous to comic book fans. Let's see if the fans will return the favor . . .

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Reese's/Iron Man Commercial

My girlfriend and I visited Southern California last weekend so A Comic A Day took a brief hiatus. Before we left, I quickly posted my amusement about the latest Iron Man 2/Reese's campaign, and when I tried to look up the commercial on-line today, I found this press release. Apparently, there's no wrong way to take a stab at fifteen minutes of fame!

While I still can't find the commercials on-line, I'm sure you'll catch 'em (especially the Dr. Pepper one featuring a Stan Lee cameo) during prime time until the beginning of May, but in the meantime, Reese's Iron Man site is amusing in itself.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New York's Real Superheroes

Via Yahoo. I'm grateful the article treated these folks with respect, but it's a fine line before they face their greatest Kryptonite: mockery.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Eight is Enough

On the heels of Patrick Jean's Pixels sensation on YouTube (it's awesome), someone has broken the Asteroids record. When it comes to bits, I guess eight is enough.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

An Evening with Kevin Smith

Like countless others, I first met Kevin Smith via Clerks. I don't remember if my old pal Travis and I rented it or found it on cable, but I was mesmerised by both its pop culture complexity and raunchy simpleness. Since my young mind couldn't wrap itself around this black and white enigma, this one part purely innocent/one part perverted cinematic blip, I dismissed Kevin Smith altogether (in retrospect, an ironically black and white decision), until his writing stint on Daredevil several years ago. Suddenly, the amateur filmmaker that talked about comics and science fiction was contributing to it, so I just had to take a peek. His scripts were lofty and ambitious, but I appreciated Smith's respect for the comic as a storytelling, character-driven medium. By the time Kevin was resurrecting Green Arrow, he had found his stride and pulled back on that panel-choking inner monologue text. By then I had seen and developed a better appreciation for his films, too, especially Chasing Amy and Dogma. I had become a Kevin Smith fan.

So, years later, on Saturday, April 10, 2010, my girlfriend and I are sitting in the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix, and the guy next to me shares that he had driven from Albuquerque that day to see his hero, Kevin Smith. He asks if I have the Zack and Miri Make a Porno DVD -- because apparently Smith's lack of commentary is disappointing and he wants to ask if Kevin will eventually record one -- and I respond honestly, that I don't. (I don't have the heart to tell him I haven't seen the movie at all.) Stunned, he asks why I'd even come to see Kevin live, then, especially considering the presumed cost for our excellent seats. (Again, I don't have the heart to tell him I scored the seats from Craigslist.) I'm tempted to tell him that origin story, the night at Travis's, the gradual discovery and admiration of Smith's self-funded journey into movie-making and comicdom, but I simply reply, "I like his comic book stuff." The guy nods knowingly, forgives my ignorance, and guides our conversation in a direction easily tread by a View Askew novice like me. I'm grateful.

Kevin strolled on stage, his Silent Bob overcoat replaced by a bathrobe, and on the heels of his recent debacle with Southwest Airlines, he told an engaging story about a road trip to Canada in his gay friend's "prom bus" and how it inspired him to rent a tour bus to Phoenix. It was a funny, let's-get-this-out-of-the-way monologue, a great way to harsh that topic and move on to the Q & A session that fuels these evenings with Kevin Smith. I don't remember the first question, which he answered within just a few minutes, because the second question was about his latest flick Cop Out, and he spent a good 20 minutes talking about that experience. Apparently, Bruce Willis is something of a diva, which I suppose isn't too surprising considering his length of time in the industry. Still, Willis has starred in several comic-inspired films (Unbreakable, Sin City, The Surrogates), so I thought the two would share that camaraderie. If they did, the connection was shattered by Smith's ignorance of camera lenses -- "Never tell an actor you don't know your lenses!" Willis hissed at Kevin during filming. Fortunately, Smith's ability to conjure the ghost of Willis's Moonlighting character during one tender scene in Cop Out was enough to make the strife worthwhile.

Amidst a slew of inquiries that focused primarily on film and Hollywood, I was happy my fellow funnybook fanboys represented with a few decent questions, the best of which was if Kevin "hears" any particular actors' voices when he's writing comic characters. Like many others, I was overjoyed when he answered that he hears the Batman: The Animated Series cast for those iconic characters, i.e. Kevin Conroy for Batman and Mark Hamill for the Joker. When asked which non-powered DC character he'd wish to be, Smith comically dismissed the question by answering Barbara Gordon, so he could look at himself naked in the mirror all the time, and chill in a wheelchair and surf the web as Oracle, something he tends to do a lot anyway.

Another highlight of the evening was Kevin's recollection of George Carlin. I had the pleasure of seeing one of Carlin's last performances in Anaheim just months before he passed away, so the subject is a dear one for me, as well, and I was grateful for Smith's candor and compassion. He spoke of his family's love of George (ironic, considering the strong Catholicism of Kev's childhood), how they watched his HBO specials together, how Kevin was happy to become friends with Carlin via filming Dogma and Jersey Girl. Kevin explained that George took the acting process very seriously, even comedic cameos like in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, how it was indicative of his inherent inquisitive nature. "Even in death," Smith shared (and I'm paraphrasing), "George was generous, because he made people reconsider Jersey Girl. Critics ripped that film to shreds, but when George passed, they had to reconsider it because it was his largest role." Kevin summed up George's life best when likening it to his last book, which he recently read: "When it was over, I just wanted it to keep going. Kind of like George himself; it was just over too soon."

By the end of the night, after witnessing a Hollywood filmmaker talk so endearingly to his fans, I didn't blame myself for shunning Kevin Smith in my childhood, because even now he remains an enigma. I mean, how many bona fide directors would show up in your hometown, stroll on stage in a bathrobe, and engage in a no holds barred conversation with his fans? Interestingly, Smith confesses that he doesn't count himself a director at all, but storyteller, which makes sense since he's such an engaging one*, behind and without a camera. I'm glad I was smart enough to realize that in time.

* I didn't touch even half of what Kevin talked about, due in large part to its adult subject matter, but I'm sure you can YouTube "Kevin Smith Phoenix" and find what my fellow attendees recorded. That's even cheaper than Craigslist!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

To Be Thor Not to Be, That Is the Question

Wearing a Thor shirt on a restaurant patio in Phoenix, a passer-by blurted, "Whoa, nice shirt, bro! You know who's playing him in the movie, right?" I indulged him the moment and asked who. Sometimes fellow geeks just gotta get it off their chest, via something on mine.

An Evening with Kevin Smith, prologue

Look at what I did tonight! Full write-up tomorrow . . .

Friday, April 09, 2010

Deadpool & Ninja Unite!

My girlfriend and I tried and failed to get into a sneak preview of Kick-ass last night, and even though we weren't in time to see the movie, we were treated to this sight. Thank you, Atomic Comics costume contest!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Coming Attractions . . .

Front page of Yahoo this afternoon. Seriously, who could've predicted that Iron Man would lead Marvel's stable of cinematic masterpieces?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Thinking Outside the Long Box

I'm alphabetizing my comics again.

Until now, I've had them divided by companies, with DC, Marvel, and Image in their own boxes, and a slew of indies in the rest. Now I'm putting them all together, like in most comic book shops, so I can easily file new purchases. This is no easy task; this random pic represents a third of the collection. Makes me wonder how other collectors do it, if at all. Suggestions?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Hulk Smash Egg!

This must be "acknowledge April holidays a few days too late" week, as my girlfriend and I dyed Easter eggs yesterday, and I'm posting this picture today. Talk about "green eggs and ham!"

Monday, April 05, 2010

April Fool's Day . . . A Few Days Late

I really glossed over April Fool's Day here, but I'd like to take this opportunity to share my favorite comics-related gag from the day, courtesy Action Figure Insider. Click the link to enjoy. Great job, guys.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A Marvelous Easter

Two steadfast Easter traditions: making baskets and seeing movies (a new tradition for any big holiday weekend). Here are Marvel's contributions to the festivities: a Spider-man basket, and a massive Iron Man 2 stand-up at my local theater. Didn't have to look too hard to find these Easter eggs.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Arizona Ghostbusters . . .

. . . were at the First Fridays event in downtown Phoenix last night. I snagged some pics -- thinking about submitting to the EPA.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Welcome Back, Cloak & Dagger

I'd like to personally thank writer Stuart Moore for bringing my favorite comic book couple back into a title of their own, if only for a one-shot. Cloak and Dagger are among the founders of my comic book fanaticism; when my father brought home a box of abandoned comics from his moving job here in Mesa, Arizona almost twenty years ago, I was swept away. Strange Tales, volume two, was among those ragtag issues, starring Cloak and Dagger, two runaways whose latent mutant abilities were triggered by experimental drugs. A big part of their appeal is that original Peter Parker factor, when Stan Lee set up Spider-man as a character his readers' age, facing similar problems. From an ailing aunt to streetwise drug dealers, sure, times have changed, but the viability is still there.

In this issue, on the heels of the latest X-titles crossover, Cloak and Dagger apparently aren't mutants, after all -- just victims, now still looking for their place in the world. Moore (with artist Mark Brooks' help) does a great job making the characters current while retaining the awkwardness of their humble beginnings: Tandy's overwhelming beauty, Ty's insecurity and speech impediment. Just as these traits strengthen their dynamic, it makes them vulnerable, as Cloak nearly succumbs to an anti-mutant group attempting to psychologically suppress his powers. Dagger saves the day, which, in a twist from their original script, makes her the codependent one -- and consequently, us readers, as well.

This issue would be a great launching pad for a series, if Cloak and Dagger retail that social relevance with which they were originally conceived. After all, what is adolescence if not one's search for identity in the world, one's retreat from cloak and dagger subterfuge into things like a box of discarded comics left at the end of your bed?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Graffiti Art

Last night's Fox 10 news in Phoenix featured a story about the legitimacy of graffiti art. Keep an eye out for a certain symbiotic Spider-man villain in the background throughout.