Saturday, May 31, 2008

Water Baby: Love and Rockets Drawn By Frank Quietly

Please don't take my assertion -- that the ambiguously romantic relationship between Brody & Louisa in the Minx graphic novel Water Baby resembles that of Maggie & Hopey from the acclaimed Love and Rockets -- to mean that the book is derivative. It's just that the dynamic between both sets of characters, a push-pull of freedom/possession and frustrated/fulfilled desire, is very similar.

The freak shark attack that deprives main character Brody of her leg arrives fairly early in the story, leaving the rest of the graphic novel to focus on the trifecta of Brody, her best friend/occasional girlfriend Louisa, and handsome deadbeat Jake. However, the shadow of the accident hovers over the entire proceedings, in a series of gruesome-but-poetic dream sequences.

Ross Campbell's art resembles very much that of a softer, more organic Frank Quietly, managing to make Brody's truncated leg and even her occasional nose-picking sensual.

Is it ok if I say that Ross Campbell's Water Baby transcends the Minx imprint and sort of stands on its own? Will it get lost in the various "nooks" each comic book retailer and book store carves out for this line, or will it get racked up among the other graphic novel current releases? If not the latter, go hunt it out when it hits stands July 2nd.

(Oh, and apparently Mario Van Peebles makes a cameo appearance at the end...)

Friday, May 30, 2008

What 5 Graphic Novels Or Trades Should I Read This Summer?

picture of graphic novel/trade paperback bookshelf from Wild Pig Comics

Honestly, every time I go to the comic shop I feel more and more inclined to invest in one or two graphic novels or trades rather than floppies, unless the monthly series is like Incredible Herc or The Goon and I'm following it.

If I had to read five GNs or trade paperback collections this summer -- must-reads for a comic-literate person -- what would you recommend?

Final Crisis #1: Great Art, Meh Writing

First, the great: the art by J.G. Jones on Final Crisis #1 is, for the most part, a real treat. He seems to have the most fun with non-superhero stuff like the caveman sequences, in which his work really shines.

Second, the meh: Don't get me wrong, Grant Morrison is a great writer. But this is not his best work. It's not terrible. But it's "meh." I wasn't drawn in emotionally. In the parts with the Monitors, my eyes glazed over; they were opening their mouths and speaking, but in my mind all I could hear is "blahblahblahmultipleearthsblah." The "death" of one character was done in an anti-climactic, throw-away fashion that you could have missed if you blinked. And the assumption that the reader has been following DC continuity for the last three years is still there.

That last point is probably why I wasn't drawn in emotionally. Final Crisis #1 certainly might be a treat for a regular DC fan. But where does that leave new or returning readers?

Faced with Final Crisis #1, I have three choices:
1) Buy a number of trade paperbacks so I can understand what is going on better.
2) Struggle with the series without knowing the background, thus greatly reducing the emotional resonance the series might have for me.
3) Give up and buy the Starman Omnibus, showcasing a series that knew perfectly how to integrate the rich history of the DC Universe with a narrative that new and old readers could enjoy.

Well, I've already bought the Starman Omnibus.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Comic Book Day Thoughts

Okay, I dropped by a local comic shop at lunchtime just to "take the temperature" of new comic day (one day later because of the holiday). Me & the BF have a "new comic book day" shopping ritual so I won't be purchasing until the evening.


Spoilers, people.

Starman Omnibus seems to be sold out in several comic shops in Manhattan, at least.

Johnny Ryan's "Angry Youth Comix" -- lots of sh*tting.

Flipped to the end of "Batman RIP" -- well, it has "one of those endings." You know what I mean. I won't bitch about it until later so as to give it room to breathe.

Flipped to the end of "Final Crisis" #1 -- so here's the difference between a book like FC and Batman RIP. I flip to ending of Batman RIP & it's like "shocking ending!" Dramatic trumpets. Easy to grasp. The end of FC #1, on the other hand, is like "Cavemen Looking Meaningfully In The Distance!" Which means it requires some actual reading to determine if I care. Dammit.

Dave Sim's Judenhass -- pretty powerful stuff. Sort of a history of not just the Holocaust but libel against Jews over the years, quotes from Martin Luther, Marlon Brando. A range. Be interested to see how the book is received by the blognoscenti.

Fred Hembeck Omnibus -- how can you not like something like this?

Marvel 1985 -- I really want this to be good. I'm hoping it's good.

Virgin Comics stuff -- You know, I'm such a big fan of Indian mythology (and mythology in general), I'm not sure why I don't pick these books up more. India Authentic: Lakshmi looks good.

All-Star Superman -- it's disorienting seeing a new issue of this title so soon after the last one. Like it's not even real.

Xena Meets Army Of Darkness -- Sigh. Does Bruce Campbell as Autolycus make an appearance in some bizarre cross-world reincarnation? Why? Why why why??? $. I know. $$$$$$$.

Northlanders -- I'd almost pick this up if it was the start of a new arc.

Skydoll -- I think this came out a week or two ago, but I would still like to pick this up. But $5.99...It almost makes me wish it was squarebound or something

Giant-Size Hulk (or whatever it's called) -- probably

there is probably more ,but I don't remember. Well, on to the other comic shop @ 6:30.

Dark Knight "Got Milk?" Ad

There's a Heath Ledger riff on this ad in my brain somewhere, I'm not going there...

No, I'm not doing it.

No, I'm not photoshopping it. No, I'm not doing it.

I'm going to my meeting. Putting computer away now. Karma is clean. At least for the next hour-and-a-half.

(via Bitten and Bound)

Val Reviews The Young Liars

David Lapham's smart and dangerous Young Liars is clearly a Vertigo title that could have benefited from a direct-to-trade release and a focused marketing campaign as an original graphic novel. While followers of Lapham's acclaimed Stray Bullets series and a comic reader with a cultivated taste for indie work in general would appreciate Young Liars, I think getting something like this out to the wider book-reading audience would have been a plus.

Young Liars features Sadie Dawkins, an unfortunate young woman with a bullet lodged in her cranium. The injury has impaired her impulse control and grasp of morality; hijinks ensue.

To be honest, I'm always a little wary of the "Paean to A Suicide Girl" type storyline, where the Normal Dude (stand-in for the reader) waxes poetic about this crazy chick he both loves and fears. Thankfully, Lapham stocks Young Liars with a host of gonzo, Kurt Vonnegut-on-crack type touches, like Sadie's pervert supermarket mogul father.

As we get to issue #2, the tone changes somewhat, gets more "local," and focuses on the life of our hapless Normal Dude, Danny. I liked this realm a little more than the over-the-top "set pieces" in the first issue, which felt like a lot of information and exposition was crammed into 22 pages. Hence the problem again I have with some Vertigo titles presented in the monthly format. It will be interesting to see what direction the story takes from this point.

Young Liars is a an ongoing monthly series from Vertigo Comics, and is recommended.

Attack Of The Legally Blondes

I came across an army of blond young women dressed in bubble-gum pink evening gowns and heels in Madison Square Park yesterday. They were part of one of those reality shows. In this particular show, they all model their lives after Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde."

Oh, the pathos, so many things I could say and ask.

How did they find these girls? Why are they doing this? How many dyed their hair especially for the show?

As I walked further to pick up some lunch, I noticed that there were straggler Elles everywhere. In the lobbies of buildings, bending over and brushing their long blond hair out. A pair of Elles running across the street, carrying their fake pink plastic purses with the logo of the show on it.

As I walk even further, a big pink double-decker bus with the logo for the Legally Blond reality show bounds down the street, heading for Madison Square Park, presumably to scoop the Elles up.

Aging Hipster And Other Subway Moments

Yesterday on my train ride home I stood next to an aging hipster sitting and listening to his rap music really loud on his headphones. I mean, if I could hear that music, he was playing it really loud.

He wore a corduroy professor's blazer and had a copy of Blender or something like that in his hands. I kept thinking that maybe he wrote for one of those magazines.

Sitting next to him was a middle-aged African-American man -- about the same age as Aging Hipster, actually -- with an Army cap. He was reading a book on how using the right words can transform your life.

And everywhere people were cradling their Blackberries and iPhones. I mean, a least 2/3rds of the train.

They didn't just hold their PDAs like they were merely another gadget, inert plastic and computer chips. They cradled them, they held on to them like a child does to a favorite blanket. Except "favorite" doesn't really convey the need with which these people held the phones.

A woman who had been burdened by carrying several plants had finally got a seat, but then immediately gave it up again for a pregnant woman.

I didn't get a seat this time. I just stood next to Aging Hipster, listening to his rap music, watching his expressionless head make a sudden quick nod every once in a while to acknowledge what he was listening to.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pippy, The Begging Kitty

On "Sex In The City" (In A Recession)

Daniel Holloway said on Huffington Post last week:

"...I now look forward to Carrie Bradshaw's big screen debut about as much as I look forward to the day when I arrive in hell and am told David Spade is my roommate."

I have to admit that I share some of his sentiments, especially as regards to the intertwined areas of the aesthetics and economic practices the show seemed to extol on a regular basis. As we are within spitting distance of a recession -- and the price of a gallon a milk is quickly approaching that of a pair of my Payless shoes -- how relevant is a "Sex In The City" movie right now?

I think "Sex In The City" fostered an unrealistic portrait for women working in NYC to aspire to, especially if they weren't pulling over $70,000 a year. I think "Sex In The City" is responsible for a fair amount of credit card debt run by women who felt that, like Carrie Bradshaw, they should be wearing expensive designer shoes on their bullshit salaries -- because they have to enjoy life, dammit!

I blew $100 on a purse a few months ago, though I could ill-afford it. And to the "Sex In The City" aesthetic, that's still a cheap bag. Carrie Bradshaw wouldn't wipe her ass with a $100 handbag.

And then there are all the episodes where Carrie learns that "it's better to be alone." Oh, those fun episodes!

"Table for two, madam?"

"No. For one. I'm treating myself this time."

Of course, maybe the real thing that consoled Carrie Bradshaw about being alone and unmarried was that it reduced the danger of her getting pregnant and having to share all the money she was spending on those Manolo Blahniks on a friggin' baby. Because once you have another mouth to feed, even on that magical columnist's salary she was apparently pulling down, things change.

But isn't this always the way with TV shows? Take "Friends," for example. Another show I couldn't stand. Once again we have the magical salaries that allow the protagonists to have perfectly designed wardrobes and apartments. Sure, they had to take in roommates. But they were rooming with Courtney Cox & Matt LeBlanc. Wouldn't you take on a share with Courtney or Matt? Where's the sacrifice? I mean, if your roomie was a bi-polar piano teacher on disability who smelt like cat pee, that's a sacrifice.

Where were all the common, everyday hells for Carrie or Rachel or Joey? The shitty packed subway ride in from Brooklyn, filled with downtrodden angry people who will throw their heads back and emit primal yells of discontentment as you accidentally jostle them with your shitty $100 handbag that you could ill afford?

That's the television show I'd like to see be turned into a movie. My daily train ride.

New Disney Line Of Comics

From the press release:

"The Walt Disney Studios has signed a multi-year deal with Ahmet Zappa, Harris Katleman and Christian Beranek to oversee the newly christened Kingdom Comics, an innovative new venture of developing graphic novels to create new film projects for the Studio as well as re-imagining and rejuvenating motion pictures from the Disney live-action Vault"

Some thoughts:
  • I'm happy to see new Disney comic book content
  • Straight to graphic novels, eh? No floppies? <---that's the trend, folks
  • "developing graphic novels to create new film projects for the Studio" sounds a little like the Virgin Comics deal, though the idea of using the comic as R&D for the movies is sort of pervasive at this point
  • "re-imagining and rejuvenating motion pictures from the Disney live-action Vault" -- how 'bout those Kurt Russell flicks, huh? "Computer Wore Tennis Shoes."
oh, and one more:
  • Son of Frank Zappa now working for Walt Disney.

Five Problems With American Comic Books

Kurt Amacker in his Comicscape column on Mania points out 5 specific problems with American comic books:

1. Convoluted Continuity
2. Crossovers and Tie-Ins
3. Delays and Scheduling
4. Overemphasis on Superheroes
5. The Fans Who Encourage/Put Up With It

I think the mainstream comic book industry's investment in all of the above as a long-term strategy is a mistake. And I think the industry is sort of schizophrenic on the issue, producing a lot of the same old thing while at the same time undermining that with new stuff. Probably not so much schizophrenic as hedging their bets and seeing what shakes out.

Personally, seeing how much Big Media is putting the pressure on their print divisions to create more web content and less paper products -- with traditional print publications like TV Guide all but extinct in favor for their digital counterparts -- I don't understand how the writing on the wall could be more clear. At least as far as digital comics go.

I just don't see the changes in all these things going on in incremental baby-steps anymore. Used to be, at least where I sat, innovations were brought in and often quietly strangled in their cradle -- because they would ruffle too many feathers, cause too much awkward moments in the transitional process.

The traditional model of mainstream American comics is like planet Krypton. It's comforting, we have a lot of real estate there, and we just installed a swimming pool. But it's gonna blow.

Black Leather Sci-Fi Chicks

The costumes for The Baroness in the new GI Joe movie, the Underworld chick, and Trinity look kind of similar, no? Even Sienna Miller & Kate Beckinsale kinda look the same...

It's the black leather corset. A must-have crime-fighting accessory.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Val Reviews Hercules and more Hercules

Hercules #1
Radical Comics is not bulls**ting around. The first issue of their new Hercules mini-series is elaborately painted and contains an engaging, well-written story. At $1.00 for a square-bound first issue with a cover by Jim Steranko, that's not too bad.

With his Dirty Dozen type band of misfit, bad-ass warriors, Hercules almost seems like a superhero team book. But what separates the title out from a superhero-ized version of the Greek god is the grittiness and amount of detail that you would find in a traditional fantasy novel. Hercules is a comic for adults who like a good fantasy read with some teeth in it.

Hercules, a five-issue mini-series by Radical Comics, is recommended.

Hercules #117
Marvel continues to put out a solid, entertaining monthly read with The Incredible Hercules. Of course, this issue has the nifty "Secret Invasion" banner on it, which admittedly makes me nervous. Luckily, the tie-in involves Skrull gods and general world mythology, so it's not too much of a stretch from the main theme of the series.

One of my favorite aspects of the Marvel Universe is their use of the gods and goddesses of various traditions. DC does this too, but not to the extent (at least in my opinion) of the rich tapestry that Marvel has presented for over 40 years. Here is a pretty good directory of most of Marvel's offerings in the mythology department. In this issue we get not only the goddess (and former Alpha Flighter) Snowbird but badasses Tecumotzin, Amatsu-Mikaboshi, and Atum, father of the Egyptian gods. The regular superheroes sort of pale in comparison.

The Incredible Herc, an ongoing series from Marvel Comics, is recommended.

41% Of Large Companies Paying Staffers To Read Employee Email

Just another dose of paranoia to send you along into your lunchtime hour...

A recent Forrester Research study indicated the following:
  • 41 percent of companies with 20,000 or more employees are paying staffers to read/analyze the contents of employees' outbound e-mail.
  • 44 percent of the companies investigated an e-mail leak of confidential data in the past year.
  • Specifically, companies were worried about employees leaking confidential information -- "spoilers," if you will -- on blogs, YouTube, and other forms of social media.
  • 11 percent of the companies disciplined workers for improper posting on message boards and blogs.
This type of stuff is pretty standard, by the way -- the only twist is adding the blogs and message boards into the mix.

(via CNET)

No, That's Not Beating A Property Into The Ground

The New York Times reported yesterday that a direct-to-DVD Watchmen spinoffs/tie-in is in the works: "Tales of The Black Freighter." That's right, the pirate storyline in the original graphic novel. Because pirates sell.

"The immediate goal is for the parallel release to help start a potential new movie franchise. As television advertising becomes less effective because of declining TV viewership, movie studios need to reach a mass audience somehow, and having what amounts to ads sitting on store shelves is seen as a crucial antidote."

I remember me and my friends were discussing Sunday over homemade sangria Alan Moore's strong negative feelings about movie adaptations of his work. Annnnd...this is probably why, you know.

But do you think this will help finally restart the pirate comic book genre?

Monday Morning Meditation...

...on segments of the comics blogosphere, and why I increasingly blog about other topics.

My Headline: "New Thing Launched"
Commentary: "That thing is terrible! It ate my cat! How dare you cover this!"

My Headline: "This Art Is Ugly And Trite"
Commentary: "This art is beautiful! If you weren't so afraid of good clean sex between a man and a woman, you'd appreciate it as much as I do!"

My Headline: "Will This Character Die?"
Commentary 1: "This character died three years ago and came back as an albatross!"
Commentary 2: "This character already died -- and came back as an albatross! Duh!"
Commentary 3: "Didn't you remember that issue where he died only to return triumphantly as an albatross?"

My Headline: "Don't Forget To Check This Out!"
Commentary: "You're the sister of the letterer! You've got a nefarious vested interest! You're not allowed to show your support! I mean, I've got connections too -- but I'm a serious journalist!"

My Headline: "Racist?"
Commentary: "No, you're racist! F**k you!"

My Headline: "Sexist?"
Commentary: "No, you're sexist! F**k you!"

My Headline: "Not Sexist"
Commentary: "Stop hating your gender!"

My Headline: "Maybe The Industry Should Grow And Develop"
Commentary: "Why do you hate the retailers?"

My Headline: "Chicken Crosses Road"
Commentary: "I wrote a post with that subject 8 months ago! In fact, I invented chickens."

My Headline: "Women In Comics Shouldn't Be Defined By Just How They Are Oppressed By Men"
Commentary: "But then who will I continually blame for my failure and bitterness?"

My Headline: "Interview!"
Commentary: "This person ate my cat! And killed Jimmy Hoffa! And is a racist! And stole my idea for the chickens!"

My Headline: "Change Is Coming!"
Commentary: "F**k you!"

My Headline: "Here Is This Positive Thing I Found"
Commentary: "Here are 50 negatives, and also why you suck."

My Headline: "I'm So Sick Of This Petty Bullshit"
Commentary: "Oh, I see somebody is on the rag!"

So I'm pretty much just going to blog about my life, the books I like, etc. on here for now on, and keep it more like a LiveJournal thing. If you're a fan, and you enjoy the blog, that's great and it's appreciated. If you want breaking comics news, it probably will not be here. At some point I may launch something like that, but it wouldn't be an extension of Occasional Superheroine. I will also be reviewing a lot of independent comics as opposed to mainstream -- I'd say 2/3rds independent to 1/3 mainstream.

In addition, I want to get as much cross-pollination going on between those in comics and those who are outside of it but are into other things like film, art, science-fiction, etc.

And, in case you haven't noticed, I've launched a new blog, which is more of a "cool s**t I found" thing. It's only a week old, so that stated purpose might develop and change.

Finally, there are two other blogs/journals I might like to try: one on just my writing, and one focusing on the cool arts and development going on in my Brooklyn neighborhood.

As for the cranks...

Monday, May 26, 2008

TOKYOPOP's "Pilot Program"

So TOKYOPOP has their own Zuda-like webcomics thingie: Pilot Program.

I didn't even realize they were hosting webcomics.

As their site specifies, Pilot Program is not a competition, but more of a "proving ground" in which comments and feedback by fans help direct editorial as to what comic should go on to a full-length run:

"Manga Pilots: You Read and Review--You Help Decide What We Publish!

TOKYOPOP is launching an exciting new stage in our manga development program--and we need your help. We want YOU to read, review and tell us which TOKYOPOP Manga Pilots should be made into full-length manga.

In this new program, promising manga creators are selected and hired by our editorial team to create a 24-to-36-page “pilot”—a short-form manga that will be used to determine whether or not a full-length manga will be created. The Manga Pilot will be published online for TOKYOPOP community members to review, rate, and discuss.

The Manga Pilot program is not a competition. It's a proving ground that will give manga creators exposure to an enormous audience and help TOKYOPOP develop the next generation of manga superstars. And we want YOU be part of this process. Your positive reviews, for example, may very well catapult a pilot into the stratosphere!"

The flash comic reader mimics real page turning & fits the entire "book" comfortably on the screen. Of course, there is a right-to-left page navigation.

This is on top of the fact that with blogs, private messages, fans, "clans," and more, TOKYOPOP is turning their site into an honest-and-for-true social network. More on that another time -- but it's something I think publishers are going to have to get more and more into.

My pick for Pilot Program?

The Hidden, by Barb Lien-Cooper and Preston Park Cooper.

You can read it, rate it, and leave feedback about it here.

A Question Not Of Prudery, But Taste

"It's an appealing picture of two very attractive people making out, which makes it sexy in a much more inclusive way than a lot of imagery in comics."
You know, I watched one of those soft core porn movies on cable the other day -- "Kinky Sex Club," I think it was. It did nothing to arouse me. NOTHING. Perfect bodies, 2-dimensional actors, lots of tongue as to distract us from the fact that because it's soft-core cable porn they can't show anything else. Tacky execution, no passion. After a while, I had to just scroll through it to get to the end. I think my exact quote 3/4ths into it, during the French maid threesome scene, was, "you know, if a vampire would burst through the window right now, it could almost save this movie."

That's what I think of when I see this cover.

It isn't a question of my "prudery." It's question of taste. This cover doesn't even rate as a "so bad it's good" example of fun campy/trashy erotic art. If other people think that this cover is "hot," that's fine. But, I don't.

And if this cover is presented as an example of what our industry can do in terms of erotic art -- well, that's just one more thing that makes people outside the industry roll their eyes at us. It isn't what I would use as an example. My God, I'd rather give them 4 of the better Adam Hughes covers, some Alex Toth Black Canary, and Milo Manara and call it a day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Soft-Core Titans Action

This latest Titans cover was brought to my attention via Your Mom's Basement under the title, "Dear Penthouse, I Mean DC,"

"Really, DC? Was this necessary?

You know, when actors are simulating make-out sessions in movies, we never see the tongues. You know where we do see the tongues? Porn."

Here is a close-up view:

Obviously, this Titans series is trying to compete with the vast underground Teen Titans fan-porn community. Which isn't exactly what I meant by, "go and find out what the fans actually want." But brownie points for expanding their horizons.

Val Reviews American Dream & DC Special: Raven

Marvel's American Dream and and DC's DC Special: Raven are two superheroine solo mini-series aimed at a younger, teenage market. I hesitate to say "teenage girl market," because there is really nothing in these comics that would really be enjoyed by one gender over another. They just both skew younger; the cringeworthy use of the word "emo" on the cover of Raven #1, and the cribbed "High School Musical" blurb on the second issue, sort of testifies to that.

DC Special: Raven follows the exploits of the apparently reincarnated (or whatever) Raven as she tries to fit into high school. This gives her a chance to wear goth clothing and those cute striped leggings, thus following up on the gothic cred the character received in the late great Teen Titans cartoon series. But whereas the Raven in the cartoon was a Daria-type witty independent teen, the character in DC Special is sort of...whiny. A lot of lurching on the floor with her head in her hands going: "Oh, my psychic powers! Someone's gonna die! BUT WHO?" She alternates between this and the old standby, " just trying to fit in."

A lot has been made of Damion Scott/Robert Campanella's art and Sigmund Torre's rather stylistic and psychedelic art on this book. Some parts work better than others, but in general I don't see a serious problem with it. It's obviously geared to reach a younger, more manga-savvy audience.

That said, such an attempt to reach the teen market, possibly the female market, and maybe dare we say the new reader market, gets stymied by this maniacal insistence on shoehorning "Crisis" mentions and nods. Why is this necessary in this mini-series? The "cliffhanger" at the end of issue 1, for instance -- that mask would only be of significance to I'd say fair-to-middling DC continuity fans. It has no meaning in-and-of-itself to a new reader. Why even put it in there? I just don't get it.

American Dream, for those who don't know, is the female "version" of Captain America in the Spider-Girl universe. Written by Spider-Girl scribe Tom DeFalco, the book is in many ways a similar book, the only difference being that American Dream is older and works with a team.

The mini-series is amiable enough and the character of Shannon Carter is well-defined and multi-layered. Unlike the headstrong spunky Spider-Girl, Carter as American Dream is more straitlaced and somewhat of a workaholic. Both characters make excellent female superheroes for younger readers to enjoy.

The plot by DeFalco, involving illegal immigration, a gang of evil Avengers analogues, and these mysterious crystal men, is not as tight as that of the Spider-Girl monthly, but still enjoyable. Penciller Todd Nauck, along with inker Scott Koblish, seems to be taking a page out of Art Adams' playbook with every page, and it is a definite evolution for him as a penciller from his more angular and cartoony Young Justice days.In sum, it's great to see competing solo mini-series about young superheroines out on the stands. Will they get into the hands of the audiences they are seeming to target? Or does that happen when they are reprinted in manga-sized format?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Beer Is Recession-Proof

Just a bit of positive economic news to get the edge off of the imminent recession and high price of gas: this article that states for the record, just in case you were wondering, that beer is indeed recession-proof.

One brewer interviewed for the piece said:

"During good times and during bad times, people want to drink their beer..."

Now if we could just find a way to combine beer with comic books...


Dash Shaw's Bottomless Bellybutton (Fantagraphics Press, 2008) is an epic tale about an accumulation of seemly unepic events. The Looney family reunion starts with the 70+ year old matriarch announcing she is divorcing her husband. As can be expected, the news has an impact on rest of the family, all in different ways. As they struggle to understand why someone in presumably the tail-end of her life would decide now to make such a decision -- and presumably live and even die alone -- they all learn a little something about themselves.

Clocking in at 720 pages, Bottomless Bellybutton might seem a pretty hardcore reading assignment. But, the length merely means you get the actual equivalent of a novels-worth of story and detail. Its similarity to an actual novel in terms of scope and subject matter leads me to think this book might also be perfect for a non "fan" friend or family member who you would like to introduce comic book reading to.

I devoured this book in 2 1/2 days, by the way, a few hours every night after work. A pleasure, with a understated but moving ending that lingers with you long after the book is done.

Bottomless Bellybutton
By Dash Shaw
Published by Fantagraphics Press
Available at your better-stocked comic shops, larger book-selling chains, and a bunch of places online.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Penny Arcade Uses Flamebait From Critic As Promotional Material

The creators of the webcomic Penny Arcade used flamebait from one of their harshest critics, Denis Duckfat, in the promotions for their new game on Xbox Live. This unusual promotional strategy flies in the face of contemporary wisdom -- that one should push the gushing glowing quotes, not stuff like:

"Penny Arcade sucks and is unfunny..."

Personally, I think it's brilliant. And inspirational.

Just think of it:


"She Cries Like A Girl! Ha-Ha!"
--The Artist Formerly Known As Nelson Muntz

"I deserved that magazine article more than that untalented slag. How dare she. In fact, I am so nonplussed by that banal creature that I think I shall blog about her all the time just to emphasize how unimportant she is."
--Dick K. Philip

"Occasional Superheroine provides me with a platform with which to express my deeply repressed hatred of strong women by hiding it behind a bunch of manufactured outrage over bullshit. For that...I am strangely grateful. Thank you, Occasional Superheroine."
--Theodore "Teddy Bear" Parsley Jr.

"My growing resentment of her is slowly supplanting my previous backhanded compliments."
--Lancha Elsechester

"Nice girls don't use that word."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Direct-To-Trade: Vertigo Should Do This!

Brian Wood asks on his LiveJournal:

"Let's suppose a book like DMZ stopped coming out monthly and instead you got a 150-page original graphic novel every seven months or so, same production values as the trades, same everything as the trades. But obviously the cover price would have to go up...

So how much would you pay for it? What's the highest that price tag could be before you decide it's too expensive to buy it?"

Of course, this is the model that Vertigo should be doing. At the very most, have 2-3 strong-selling monthly floppies (if any), and everything else would be in graphic novel form right off the bat. Be easier to sell, get them right in the bookstores, easier to market, easier to promote.

6 issues for $20. Squarebound, decent paper, suitable for viewing upon your bookshelf.

This is indeed the wave of the future.

And should this model apply to regular ol' DC and Marvel comics as well?

I'm trying to be conservative about this. Let's just say Vertigo. For now.

Richard Dreyfuss To Appear At Comic Book Convention?!

Okay, the girls from Heroes I understand. Val Kilmer raises my eyebrows a bit -- but I get it.

But Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss?!

Is it a sign of the recession? Is he just not getting the gigs he used to? Is he doing it for Roy Scheider?

Look, there is no shame at appearing at a comic book convention. If anything, the Dreyfuss appearance tells me that these comic cons are changing, are become more like general pop-culture festivals and less comic book-oriented. This was surely evident at the last New York Comic Con.

But Richard "The Goodbye Girl" Dreyfuss? Really? At Big Apple Con?

I will be hanging out with Captain Lou Albano, personally.

Following Both Final Crisis and Secret Invasion Will Cost Over $400

Via Newsarama, who swears that "no editorial judgment" went into this assessment; just unbiased math.

"...if you’re one of those people who are looking at both, and we know you’re out there, together, both will set you back $432.12 for 133 books from now through the end of the year.

There you have it. We’ll no doubt revisit both Secret Invasion and Final Crisis totals as future solicitations come out, and we discern individual issues of import to add. Happy shopping!"

Dude. We're on the edge of a recession.

This just doesn't work. Readers can't be forced to follow this many books to understand the story. I'm not saying this because I think huge events like this are wrong from a personal standpoint. But from a business standpoint -- this publishing model only really benefits from the hardcore readers who were buying all the books anyway. Any new reader is going to view their checklist and freak the f**k out and say "this is way too much of an investment for me."

This isn't an editorial judgment either. I'm just telling it like it is. I know people who are considering ending their cable service in order to save money. I know people who won't go out with everyone else at lunchtime at the office in order to eat in and save money. Everybody is trying to save money. Who has $200 to spend on a large comic book story, much less $400? Not only does this discourage the new reader, but it puts many committed readers in a bit of a pickle.

I don't collect events. I just keep buying my regular titles, even the crossover issues, and hope that the story will be comprehensible enough. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. But that's the way I'm doing it. Not because I hate events. Because I don't have the money -- and, to be frank, the quality of events over the last 5 years has been a mixed bag. Does DC expect readers to shell out at least $200 for Final Crisis after expecting them to buy the weekly Countdown for a year?

Where is the incentive?

Indy 4 Gripe (Spoilers)



No, do not tell me that frickin' aliens show up at the end of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull" like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

No. No way. C'mon, people!

The Indy mythos to me always seemed wrapped up in a pre-atomic age world of movie serials and pseudo-religious supernaturalism. I think introducing aliens and stuff -- especially to that blatant extent -- really waters down the brand.

It's like Star Wars/ET meets Indiana Jones -- which, given the persons involved, would be appropriate, but still rather self-referential and unnecessary.

Oh, man.

Also, I don't think I've ever seen such a huge collection of lukewarm positive reviews for a movie. It's all like: "Well, there was no need for the film, and it really wasn't that great, but you know Indy is a cultural institution and I'm not the one who is going to pee in the punch."

But still looking great for her age:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

400 Pages Of John Byrne

IDW is offering up for sale 400 pages of John Byrne's early 90s series Next Men in one big volume next week...

"Now, John Byrne's Next Men series is back, collected in thick, black-and-white volumes, the first one offering 400+ pages of fantastic story and art. The first, “honkin’ phonebook-sized”—so described by Byrne himself—of John Byrne’s Compleat Next Men will be in stores May 28.

In addition to the first 12-issues of Next Men, IDW Publishing’s collection of John Byrne’s Compleat Next Men, Volume 1 includes the series’ original story, the 64-page 2112 graphic novel, as well as the MIV back-up strips that ran in the original comics."

Does anybody know how much this is going to cost?

This is sort of like Byrne's renaissance over there at IDW...

The Perils Of Contentment

2006: Size 0

2007: Size 2

January 2008: Size 4

May 2008: Size 6

Don't get me wrong, I don't think that size 6 is overweight and I'd rather be happy than unhappy. But as I went shopping for shorts at Express today, I couldn't help but notice.

Some of this is due to being at a job you like that feeds you really, really well. How can I resist the giant chocolate chip cookie in our pantry at 3:00 when my energy is flagging? It's like offering crack to a crackhead. There is no way I can turn it down. It's a soft chocolate chip cookie. Many chips. I eat it and: instant energy! I zoom through the e-mails in my inbox. I scan the 300+ blogs on my feeds. Multiple postings. Zip, zip zip!

Is it unhealthy? Will I not be attractive anymore at 6? What if I reach 8? Will it all be over then?

I should start an exercise program.

On the up side, I actually am in possession of a bottom now. When I was a size zero, I had no bottom. But now I have one. So that's grand.

I really should start an exercise program.

I was reading in this women's spirituality magazine the other day that we should honor the belly because it is the woman's seat of power. I don't know about that, but I feel less fragile as a size 6. Size zero or two, especially at my height, is a bit fragile.

F**k it, I'm enjoying the rest of my day.

The Hit Of 1998: DC Heroes Versus Mortal Kombat

Um, I think "hooray" and stuff for a new DC game, really, and the graphics are good --

But why a Mortal Kombat Krossover? Now? In 2008?

Shouldn't Superman and Batman be going after Nico from Grand Theft Auto or something?

Jack Sparrow and Tarzan Allegedly Molested At Disneyland

A former Jack Sparrow for Disneyland spills all to Los Angeles Magazine, and alleges that him and Tarzan used to get propositioned and molested by female patrons.

"Disney warned us we were going to have a lot of horny women coming on to us. "

Specifically, he said that there was "excessive pinching of Tarzan’s ass by the park’s female visitors," and that one woman humped his leg. He also claims to have been given X-rated notes and offered blow jobs by women infatuated by the Pirates Of The Caribbean character.

But because we live in a patriarchy and men hold the power in society, it was all rather adorable and inoffensive.

Fun fact: where did this Disneyland Captain Jack get his start? You guessed it -- dressing up at San Diego Comic Con!

Shia: Flesh and Fantasy

I don't understand why I can't be left alone to enjoy Shia for the months or weeks left he has before the American zeitgeist declares him overexposed. It's all so full of hope now; so innocent. It could even last longer than Hayden Christensen.

That said, looking over the GQ photos of Shia, I have to say he just doesn't come off with a hell of a lot of personality. Those candid photos of him smoking and ducking the camera are far more real and compelling. In those photos we see the real Shia LeBeouf, the "what the f**k?" Shia, the Shia that exists between takes.

Gone are the puppy dog eyes, gone is the earnest but blank expression, gone are the painful hours of blowdrying his hair straight, and in its place the real deal, the "f**k it's early" Shia, or the "f**k it's late" Shia. In fact, his name really isn't Shia in those photos. It's Frank. Frank LaBeouf.

Frank LaBeouf

Except in this photo, in which his name is clearly Goober:

Cigarette Martyr

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mother Of All Rants

Yesterday, I did a series of tongue-in-cheek posts regarding the Zuda competition. It has been brought to my attention that there are some people who didn't get the joke. I was going to post an Andy Kaufman clip as a response, but I was afraid there would be a series of posts in response entitled "Valerie Posts Clip Of Crazy Man On Bongos." And of course, we don't want that.

Every day I check over 300 blogs across three feed readers. I do this for my job, my personal blogs, and my entertainment. I have the blogs separated out in every category you can think of: environment, politics, movies, music, arts and design, etc.

As time passes, my number of comic book feeds get smaller and smaller. I look at them less and less. Not because I hate comics. Not because I don't think comic books are relevant as a topic of discourse and news.

But take for example the "news" story yesterday regarding a "women in comics roundtable."

All over my comics feed were posts about this women in comics thing.

And I think to myself: well, this must be this intriguing thing!

But what is it really?

The same questions, and very similar answers, as most of these women in comics roundtables.

Hey, I thought the women in comics panel Friends of Lulu had was great. I mean that -- it was a truly magical time.

But how many times can you read/listen to/answer the same questions and the same answers?

It's banal, already. Surely a female in comics has more interesting insights to espouse than why they think there aren't enough women in the biz. Like about their art, for instance.

I'd love to go on one of those panels and just give unexpected answers:

"Who is your favorite female mainstream comics writer?"
"Brian Michael Bendis."

See? Unexpected.

"Do you think there is sexism in the comic book industry?"
"Well, I certainly think there is a lot of sex in the comic book industry. Broom closets, on top of conference room tables..."

But then you would get a post like

"Occasional Superheroine Degrades Legitimate Concerns About Sexism"

And everything I said would be scrutinized and parsed and quoted, a passel of remarks spanning from the anal-retentive to the snarky to the flat-out bitchy.

"Occasional Superheroine Uses Sexist Term Bitchy"

Other headlines:

"Gail Simone Named Most Popular Female Superhero Writer With A Regular Paycheck."

That's like saying

"Valerie D'Orazio Named Most Popular Italian-Brazilian Comic Book Blogger Who Wears Size 4 Pants and Has A Flaw Under Her Right Eye."

What's comic book news? That I chose to moderate my comments? That certain segments of the comic book blogosphere were so utterly lacking in anything interesting to write about that they actually did posts on that topic, as if this was their version of Meet The Press, the best they could do?

Comics Blogosphere Hot Topic: Val moderates comments
Environmental Blogosphere Hot Topic: Extinction of polar bear

Really, anybody with the time on their hands to go take this or that post I've made and turn it into their little cause du jour -- God bless you. Get it out of your system. Make this blogosphere that much more insular and self-referential. I do not give a shit anymore. There comes a point where it's like -- this shit is beneath me.

"Occasional Superheroine Says This Shit Is Beneath Her; Hates Comics"

I'm not interested in insularity and in-jokes -- I'm interested in how to present comics in a way that people outside the niche can appreciate. The f**king inbreeding in all facets of comics -- from the books themselves to the media who covers them -- has to end (and trust me -- it's ending whether you like it or not. The mainstream publishers aren't as clueless as you think). I have no interest in the inbred facets of the comic book maelstrom anymore. I'm not interested in reading about the one billionth generic "women in comics" interview. Sometimes I'm not even interested about discussing sexism in comics anymore, because it's like repeating the same old story of woe over and over again:

"Then he said he liked fat girls...and looked at Me!"

How many times do we need to tell this story? Isn't it archived on the Internet already? Can't we do a Google search on "Occasional Superheroine + F**king Sexist Pig" and get everything I've ever spoken on the subject?

I want to f**king move on, man! I gotta hear this "oh, he called you out on his blog" shit, like I am in f**king high-school. Like I'm supposed to respond, like I'm supposed to meet up with them after school and reenact the switchblade scene from "Rebel Without A Cause."

"She slashed your tires, man!"
"Now I've got to walk home from the observatory! F**k!"

I am 34 years old. I help create blogs and online social networks. I write comics (and I can't wait for the bitching to start on that -- that's going to be good). I'm interested in spirituality, politics, and environmental issues. I have an academic background in American Literature, focusing on Mark Twain, and Shakespeare. I buy about 3-5 comic books a week. My current favorite comic creators are Kevin Huizenga, Eric Powell, and anybody who reminds me of Kevin Huizenga (whether they're legitimately reminiscent of Huizenga or not).

Between my job, my personal interests, my writing, and being the President of Friends Of Lulu, I don't have a lot of free time. I've had to scale the blogging back. I'll blog what I want -- it's my dime.

I don't have the time anymore for the self-referential snark orgy that this here blog thing seems to ensnare me in. Honestly, if it's not from an associate, a friend, a fan or somebody with an offer to help me make more money so I can feel financially secure enough to have a child before my ovaries turn into eggshells: I do not give a shit.

So ends Mother Of All Rants. Copyright 2008. For your signed copy of Mother Of All Rants, printed on lovely cardstock suitable for framing, contact me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Experiment: Let's All Vote For Brendan McGinley On Zuda

Sure, I like Brendan McGinley and Mauro Vargas's Hannibal Goes To Rome strip on Zuda --

But this is more than that.

I'm curious as to how many people we can get to vote for Hannibal Goes To Rome in the competition.

How vast is the reach of Occasional Superheroine?

See, if we get this down, then we can all mobilize and vote in Jesse Ventura as president.

Click over to, register and vote before May 30, add the comic as your favorite, and then copy and forward this email to at least two or three friends.

Be sure to write in your comments for Hannibal Goes To Rome that you were directed there by Occasional Superheroine. :-D

If you for some reason don't like Hannibal Goes To Rome, then why not try Neil Kleid's Action, Ohio and vote for it?

(Of course, if Neil wants me to do a "Let's All Vote For Neil Kleid" post, I could do that and really screw with the whole process...)

George Takei To Marry Long-Term Partner

One day after the California ruling overturning the ban on gay marriage, Star Trek's original Sulu George Takei announced his intention to marry his long-term partner Brad Altman. Takei wrote on his website:

"The California Supreme Court has ruled that all Californians have a fundamental right to marry the person he or she loves. Brad and I have shared our lives together for over 21 years...He is my love and I can't imagine life without him. Now, we have the dignity, as well as all the responsibilities, of marriage."

Good for him! I hope this overturn sticks and we can all move past this issue. If two people really love and are devoted to each other they should be able to get married.