Thursday, November 27, 2008

To My Readers: Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a good one, folks. May it be filled with popcorn & jellybeans.


The Significance Of The Marvel Comics Thanksgiving Float

To me, the crucial turning-point in the licensing of superheroes, post-Mego action figures in the 1970s, was the first Marvel Comics float at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, circa 1987. Watching this short segment on my TV as a comic collecting teenager was a rare and unexpected thrill.

First, a little background. The licensing of superhero characters took a sharp nose-dive after the demise of Mego Toys in the early Eighties. Sure, in the early-to-mid 1980s we had the Secret Wars and Super Powers toy lines. But they were relatively slim pickings, with not a tremendous amount of ancillary products or TV adaptations.

Furthermore -- as an X-Men fan, things were even more slim pickings for me. The Wolverine and Magneto action figures from the Secret Wars line. That was it, the only acknowledgment outside of two "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" cartoons that the X-Men existed outside of the comic books I was dutifully collecting on a weekly basis.

But enter the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Marvel float. For the first time, I saw an X-Men character "in real life" -- an actor dressed up like Wolverine. This was *huge* for me.

Plus: Emma Frost(!), Luke Cage (!!), and even Robocop (!!!)!

Was Marvel's deal with New World Studios the impetus for this float? Was this, and the float in 1989, the publisher's attempt to stick its big toe into the wider world of media and gauge the popularity of these characters?

Whatever the reasons, by 1990 a whole new golden age of licensing and TV and movies dawned for both Marvel and DC superheroes. Toy Biz in a way became a more successful version of Mego, producing tons and tons of toys, dolls, playsets, and other products starring Marvel characters both popular and obscure.

Fancy a Wolverine figure? (from Radapaw's Wolverine Figure Gallery)

Some might point to the success of the first Batman movie as the beginning of this new "age of superheroes" -- but I think it started with that very first Marvel Thanksgiving float.

Wow, I'm a nerd.

1987 Float

1989 Float

Giant Thanksgiving Balloons

Those giant balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade used to both fascinate and scare me. I used to have nightmares where I'd look out my window and a huge balloon face (perhaps Kermit) was looking in on me.

As of late, I've noticed that a lot of balloons that haven't necessarily "earned" a spot in the parade are being used -- you know, relatively new characters that are basically "debuted" at the parade to advertise something. I think the "Ask Jeeves" balloon was the one that started me questioning the balloon selection process.

Still, am hoping one day that an Occasional Superheroine balloon makes its way through Midtown. :-D

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fred Sanford Comix And Stories

"Where I now see the primary weakness of Final Crisis is that the DC universe itself isn’t vital enough or interesting enough or dependable enough as a starting point or filled with enough creative energy for me to give a crap as it all slips away. It’s hard to take seriously a crisis paired with an adjective, even an alarming one. A greater sense of peril was engendered by one of Fred Sanford’s heart attacks."

-- The Comics Reporter (via The Beat, can't find the direct link)

See, I actually would follow a Sanford & Son comic book event. As long as it didn't involve those last episodes where Lamont came back and was phoning it in.

"The Comic Book Geek" Now Power Broker

"Power Geek" Archetype:
Kevin Smith in "Live Free or Die Hard"

Details Magazine has just released their "Power 40" list, and "The Comic Book Geek" comes in at #13:

"Only one person can make or break a potential blockbuster before it hits theaters, and he doesn't work in Hollywood or control a penny of the multi-million-dollar budget. He lives in his parents' basement and sometimes wears a cape—but the much-mocked comic-book geek possesses the ass studio execs must kiss to hit superhero-movie gold."

I whole-heartedly agree, except for the "living in parents' basement" part. I haven't lived in my mom's basement for a good three years now. :-D

What do you think? Are "comic book geeks" the new power brokers?

I think geeks in general have been power brokers for some time now. Case in point: Bill Gates.

(you can read more about the Details "Power 40" in their December issue, on stands Dec. 2)

Avengers: Shnookies

Is it wrong that the first thing that came to mind when I saw this ad was,

"Avengers: Shnookies."

("shnookies" -- a Valerism for "romantic relations")

superheroes need love, too!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Traveling Music, Please

I'll be on the road on Tuesday November 25.

Will tend to bloggy things when I make my destination that evening.

In the meantime, play nice. :-)

Why Are Really Bad Films Made?

First, take a look at this trailer for Ace Ventura Jr.:

Now, answer me this question: Why Are Really Bad Films Made?

We all know them: stinkers beyond the scope of any sort of hipster smug ironic enjoyment we could possibly glean from them. Son of the Mask, that last Eddie Murphy movie with the big head and the thing, Mr. Magoo with Leslie Nielsen WHY?!!!! Thunderbirds with Bill Paxton--why?!

Batman and Rob--WHY?! Oh God, why?

I believe this is the culprit:

The Yes Man (or Woman).

When all you surround yourself with are Yes People, you get inbred ideas that suck and which everyone is afraid to assert said suckage of. Case in point: Eddie Murphy. Case in point: whoever is buying up the rights to those Jim Carrey movies.

"Oh, I really think recasting Ace Ventura as a chubby boy with big hair is a bad idea...but my boss is a dick, and I don't want to lose my job. I'll just say it's awesome."

I swear to God, I turned on Alvin and the Chipmunks, saw them sing "Had A Bad Day" while in a tree, and was ready to nuke my TV set. Then there was the scene where Simon ate Theodore's dookie and called it a raisin.

And. Called. It. A. Raisin.

Val Speaking At NYC's Girl Geek Dinner, Dec. 5

I'm honored to have been invited to be a speaker at the first NYC Girl Geek Dinner!

Girl Geek Dinners are held internationally for women in technology and science to talk informally about issues related their fields.

If you are a woman working in the sciences, technology, computing, IT, programming, graphic design, video games, and new media (blogging, etc.), this is a great event to attend.

When: 6:30pm, Friday, December 5th, 2008
Where: The Next Stage, 243 W. 30th Street, 11th Floor (btw 7th and 8th Ave.)
Limited Advance Tickets until 12/3: $5 includes raffle ticket & goodie bag

Click Here For More Details And To Buy Tickets

The Rules: No female, no entry!

Girl Geek Dinners are for the girls! But it doesn’t mean that men can’t attend, they just have to come as the guest of a female.

So if you are a woman in any of the aforementioned fields and want to hang out with your peers, eat some good food, network, and have a great time, feel free to come!

Goodbye To Comics: Two Years Later

The two-year anniversary of "Goodbye to Comics" has come and gone, and I almost missed it.

Still glad I wrote it, happy with its content, format, and method of delivery. I think there are so many things in this world that are vetted and pre-planned within an inch of its life -- even Reality TV -- that it's kind of cool to have something spontaneous, raw, and heart-felt.

Also, I feel very grateful for the friends I've made as a result or indirect result of "GTC." I've had and continue to have many awesome life experiences, both on my own and as the president of Friends of Lulu. I am really, truly blessed and fortunate -- far more fortunate than I feel I have a right to be. I feel unworthy for the blessings not because I think I am a bad person, but because I'm just a person -- one in a thousand fanboys and fangirls with as much passion as I have.

And in terms of the future of my career...I am, as they say, just happy to be nominated. Anything above that is gravy, is awesome, is more than I expected.

Those are all my thoughts on it. Done & done.

more photos of me with those dynamic thumbs:

Val Gets Rid Of Even More Comics

Why did one of these get the boot and the other not?

"Gets rid of" is actually a strong word. More like finding new home for them in one of several different ways.

As I've written before, I do this automatically every couple of months to avoid becoming a packrat -- because I have a packrat tendency.

What's interesting is what gets cut and what remains...

Both Strangers in Paradise and Meatcake have been in my collection for a long time -- why did I finally cut SIP out of the collection but kept Meatcake?

First of all, it's no dig at SIP. But that series seemed to be more relevant to me during a certain period of my life -- while Meatcake's gothic weirdness seems to transcend time for me.

Again, I chucked the Love & Rockets -- but that's partially because Fantagraphics have these awesome new collected editions for it. Ditto for Strangers in Paradise -- if I wanted to get those issues back, I could buy the trade paperbacks.

singles vs. trades: it's been so long since this issue
of "Love and Rockets" came out, it would seem that
Fantagraphics would benefit more if you just
bought the current collections.

Buying the trade is often a rationale for getting rid of individual issues. Both Mark Millar's Fantastic Four and the new Omega The Unknown limited series got tossed -- because I only had a few issues of each, and would rather just have the trades. Same for the new Lone Ranger.

Then there are 25 cent bin comics that I have a maniacal attachment to. Take Marvel's Robotix, written and drawn by Herb Trimpe. Why in the hell am I holding on this book?

Because it's damn special, that's why. Strangers in Paradise might get reprinted in a dozen different formats, but who will reprint Robotix? Hm?

My point.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fangirl Fridays: The Knitty Gritty of Comics Today

Hi there,

This is just going to be a jumble of thoughts and links that have come up while surfing this fine Internet-thing --

Bring Out Your Dead?
A commentary on all the DC comic books that have been canceled as of late, plus speculation as to whether the end is near for Jonah Hex and Simon Dark.
This brings me back to what I have posted earlier about how many comics in the future might be put out in mini-series or "volumes" rather than be ongoing. After having the read the last three months worth of Amazing Spider-Man, I definitely see that dynamic in play, though within the banner of one title.
Jonah Hex is a perfectly good title with consistent quality. I think, however, its biggest strength lies in the collected editions.

Did you ever want a list of all the female comic book characters who have *not* been raped?
If roughly 80% of female characters have not been raped, does this debunk the "rape myth" of comics that says female characters are often raped?
I think it's not a question of bean-counting but of how the rapes that do occur are presented in the comic books.
Of course, these sorts of posts run the danger of discounting all concern over the rape of women in comics, since it is "only 20%."

I'm noticing more and more blogs are posting entire old stories that are in public domain, assumed to be in public domain, or that nobody really cares anyway what domain they're in.
I'm enjoying these stories immensely, here are two I've read recently:
"The Head Of The Family"
"The Cadmus Seed"
both by Jack Kirby, whose ability to draw really freaky disturbing shit should not be under-estimated.

I found this Comics Reporter post, "I Can't Even Bring Myself To Open This," rather amusing. It refers to an issue of DC/Wildstorm's X-Files. Having opened up the issue in the comic store, I did note the standard static art resembling various photo stills. This phenomena of so heavily using photo reference reminds me, of all things, of the work of Henry Darger. Darger's story is long and sad, but basically all you have no know for now is that part of his art consisted using the same source material as tracing templates over and over again. So when you look at Darger's art, you keep recognizing the same figures & faces. This is what a lot of comic book TV and movie adaptations look like to me, especially the ones with either uninspired art and/or ultra-strict approval requirements from the studios.

As a contrast, check out Charlie Adlard's work on X-Files for Topps. I think I heard something like his lack of on-model photo-referency art drove 20th Century Fox crazy. But at any rate, what Adlard did was how I think you really should adapt TV to comics. By realizing it ain't TV, it's comics.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't highlight John Rogers' thoughts the cancellation of Blue Beetle:

"Wow. It's almost as if basing your entire business model around a series of must-buy big event crossovers in a market with limited purchasing resources hurts your midlist."


"Let's put it this way -- stripping out distribution costs and our share of the rent for those nice DC offices in Mahattan, Blue Beetle could have cost fifty cents an issue at its worst sales level, and still paid Rafael and myself more than we made on the run of the book."

At this point, I can't see why any high-level person within the comics industry wouldn't be encouraging the development of their company's digital comics program. Webcomics may not a replacement for paper (well, in about 20 year they might be, at least for mass consumption), but they are going to play a bigger and bigger role in a publisher's total output.

The trends regarding this and other things are all around us. We can spend day after day ignoring them, thinking the clock will turn back. Or we could do our research and prepare, and get ahead of the curve. Even in a recession, those who diligently take the latter approach will find themselves not only better off -- but in a vastly better place once things improve.

And on that note, enjoy the start of your weekend, all!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Robin Riggs Draws IDW's "Sir Apropos Of Nothing"

It was my good fortune to catch up with artist Robin Riggs at the Big Apple Comic Con this past weekend and look at the original art for his new comic from IDW, Sir Apropos Of Nothing.

I've always known Robin as a highly-skilled inker, but only recently discovered that he is an excellent penciller as well. It just goes to show: I think the best inkers are the ones who bring an unique and vibrant style of their own to the pencils they work over, and this is because they are talented illustrators in their own right.

(Now, I understand that some pencillers get a little annoyed when certain inkers "overwhelm" their work with their own style. And some pencillers actually welcome it as the combination can be quite successful. I've never seen Robin's work "take over" the pencils he's working over. But they have always been a tremendous asset, adding depth and refinement.)

Anyway, it's good to see Robin get a chance to pencil as well as ink Sir Apropos Of Nothing (oh, and we should mention that it's written by Mr. Peter David! based on his successful novels featuring the character!). He is a classic illustrator in the mold of David Lloyd and Tim Truman. In some respects, Sir Apropos seems like a love letter to the very best comics from the 80s produced by DC and indie companies like First. This influence extends all the way to the palette used, pastels and a watercolory feel.

It is my hope that unique and well-produced projects like this are supported by the public. IDW produces comics in a variety of genres that, while perhaps not a replacement for DC and Marvel's offerings, are most certainly a very welcome and necessary supplement.

If you feel "left behind" by some of the new comics out there, and want to be introduced to some new worlds and "mythologies," I suggest you give some of IDW's books, like Sir Apropos of Nothing, FX, and Locke & Key, a try.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

All The Facebook Ads I've Received In 24 Hours

I found this while doing research for a client. It's a page filled with all the targeted ads my Facebook page has received during a 24-hour period:

1. How Many Triangles?
brain teaser type thing, that's pretty ok

2. Bridgeport Ct Lofts 185k
way over-estimating my income, but ok

3. The Subway On Your iPhone
okay, they've picked up on my geographical info...fine

4. The Oprah Diet's just one ad. And it's *Oprah*

5. Never Shave Again
laser hair-removal system

6. Cute Cuts For Half Price
hair salon...for when I'm done with the hair removal

7. Lose Three Dress Sizes

8. Rachel's Flat Belly Diet

9. The Supermodel Diet

10. Dr. Oz's Dieting Tip

11. Don't Fit In At Church?
must be my "Eclectic" tag under "Religion" on my profile

12. Rachel Ray's New Program
2nd Rachel Ray diet ad

13. Win 4 Tickets Now
Hockey tickets

14. Oprah's New Diet
again with Oprah and her diets

15. Rachel Ray's Diet

16. Invisalign, $1000 Off

17. Oprah's Top Choice
Acai berry "superfood" ice-cream

18. New York Foodie?
Why no, I'm too busy hating myself as the result of the last handful of ads

19. Straight Teeth, No Braces
apparently I must have some sort of Matt Groening-esque overbite

20. Click To Sell Old Jewelry
Picture of wedding ring accompanying ad.

21. Moving And Storage
For after I sell that wedding ring

22. Many Egg Donors Available
in case my dusty 34-year-old ova don't quite cut it

23. Weight Loss Diet
oh, kill me now

24. OVAL Vodka Recipies
Oh, God, yes!!!!!

So after analyzing the ads Facebook has placed on my home page based on my profile, I have come up with a general picture of the person Facebook sees me as:

To The Piece Of Garbage Who Keeps Leaving Obscene Comments,

You are a sad, ugly, lonely, desperate human being defending sad and ugly things you either know very little about, or more likely know too much about and are trying to cover up.

Not every woman is a whore, though I'm sure that's how you treat them, and in your environment that's how they're treated. Not every woman submits to the advances of their superiors in order to get ahead; perhaps you think they do because that's the way things are from you sit.

Keep being bitter. I patiently await the demise of your way of thinking and the fast-shrinking power your kind holds, much like Madame Defarge did in "A Tale Of Two Cities."

I'm just knitting and watching.

Knit, knit, knit.

Spam I Love: Hasselhoff Romance Photos

The latest Spam I Love to hit my inbox has been an offer for personalized David Hasselhoff romance photos.

They aren't even truly signed by the Hoff, but are instead "in an exact digital copy of David's handwriting and autograph." Maybe they're having KITT do it -- he could do anything, couldn't he?

But what makes up for this are the glamor shots that are offered.

Now I can pretend Hasselhoff is inviting me to dinner, taking my hand and about to show me a night I will never forget.

Then, the Morning After:

And Sexy Surfing Santa for the holidays:

Uhura Bra Scene In New Star Trek Trailer

Why is having a shot of Uhura taking off her shirt necessary for the new Star Trek trailer?

Why does the only major female character on that ship have to strip down?

(Well, obviously it's to titillate the audience with sex in hopes of better selling the movie to the public -- but I'm just letting them know I'm calling them out on it!)

see io9 for a complete shot-by-shot breakdown of the trailer.

(And yes, I know there is also a scene of a half-nude Kirk having sex with what looks to be an Orion Animal Woman. My. Point.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bias Against Writers In The DCU?

Rokk breaks down LITG's DC rumors better than I could. A good point I failed to elaborate on that Rokk nails, regarding Tony Daniel writing "Battle For The Cowl":

"Now, I love Daniel as an artist, but I have never knew that he was a writer as well. Has Daniel ever written anything before? I have extreme reservations about DiDio tapping a relatively unknown and untested writer in Daniel to handle such a huge event in the Battle for the Cowl that DiDio has stated will outline the future for the Batman universe. I would have thought that DiDio would have wanted a big name writer to handle this important task."

The question here is: did DiDio pick Daniel because he genuinely thought he was the best man for the job, or was it partially out of desperation because he has alienated so many writers? Again, this is not a knock on Daniel's writing ability. And I think it's cool to take chances on new and untested talent -- it keeps things fresh.

But think about it: you have a highly important Batman event, dealing with issues coming off of Grant Morrison's high-profile "Batman RIP." Don't you give it to an established writer? Doesnt DiDio have a Rolodex? Is he hoping that Daniel might be another "Todd McFarlane" and pull in big sales with this writer/artist combo? Though I doubt the reasoning behind the decision was this deep.

A bigger question: is there a bias against comic book writers in the DCU?

The subject of writers and the DCU is starting to remind me of that classic Byrne X-Men cover, with Wolverine/Kitty & the wanted posters in the background:

Dixon: Alienated
Rucka: Non-exclusive
Shooter: Alienated
Morrison: Alienated
Robinson: Status Unconfirmed
Miller: Overpaid
Johns: Overworked

Will DC follow the comic book model of the late 80s/early 90s and focus on the art rather than the story? Will they stop trying to build a stable of comic book writers and look to Hollywood for new talent?

And in such a relatively small field as professional comic book writing, was has been the full extent of the DiDio regime's impact?


I think all the pressure not to be a "fatty" makes people miserable. And a lot of the time, it's not even people who are significantly obese. In the above examples, the characters are just sorta normal. Normal people living their lives, with ups and downs, times when they eat more and times when they eat less. Sometimes, people eat more because they are really stressed. You know what causes a lot of stress? Being made to feel like you're a "fatty" and need to continually tone up & lose weight.

When I'm 50, I want to be attractive, vibrant, and possessing a reasonably-sized band of fat around my middle. I don't want to be Madonna with ropy arms and a body like a sinewy Velociraptor. I don't want my 50 to be the new 30. I want a Hunter S. Thompson brain in a Ethel Mertz body. Screw it.

Related: "Gut Check"