Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Plans? - - - go to a Comics Flea Market

 

If you have ever wondered what the person who runs this blog is like, you have an opportunity today to meet me in person.  I will be trying to downsize my comics collection by selling some classic sets and single issues at bargain prices.  You can find me at the Memorial Day Collectibles Sale at Captain Blue Hen’s parking lot.  Details are below . . . .

Please stop by and chat - - I’d love to meet you . . . . . !!

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Free Comic Book Day 2015: Book Reviews, Part Six

 

STEAMPUNK GOLDILOCKS #1 (ANTARCTIC PRESS) Story and Art by Rod Espinosa (reprint from October 2014) www.antarctic-press.com

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STEAMPUNK GOLDILOCKS is a clever and engaging re-imagining of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears fairy tale complete with archaic gadgets and other trappings of the steampunk mythos. In this version, Goldilocks partners with Miss Muffett to undertake secretive missions for the Dark Queen. They are expert thieves and are assigned to retrieve a “golden bear” artifact from a secure bunker guarded by a family of ursiforms (armored bears that resemble a cross between Iron Man and Predator). Traveling in a huge tank that resembles a Civil War era Ironclad, the two young schemers penetrate the security system. Goldilocks gets inside, and following the plot outline of the fairy tale, she also discovers the porridge, drinks, chairs and beds and tries them out. This version has an ending that won’t disturb any younger readers.

COVER APPEAL: As much as I like this cover, I wonder if a young person would assume this was a simple fairy tale comic and not a re-interpretation. If not for the word “steampunk” above the title, and certain aspects of Goldilocks’ attire (goggles pushed back on forehead, brass buttons on corset, extra buckles and fingerless gloves) this could easily be confused for a simple re-telling of the classic fairy tale. 2 Points.

STORY: Espinosa does a good job of establishing the fairy tale trappings of this fantasy world before he drops in the steampunk effects. That helps to make it more palatable. He also portrays Goldilocks and Miss Muffett as sweet innocents (hardly, but we don’t find that out until the story gets moving) and somewhat silly. They are definitely food-motivated and love sweets. This makes them more appealing. You may find yourself rooting for them to complete the mission. 3 Points.

ART: The air of innocence and silliness that makes this book so appealing is reinforced by the way that Espinosa draws these characters and details their facial expressions. They are buxom but cute, and still have their baby fat. While this should gain the attention of young boys in similar fashion to what Zenoscope does so well with their versions of Grimm Fairy Tales, the art never pushes the boundaries between acceptable young reader material and more mature offerings. Tastefully done. Backgrounds and props show a good eye for detail. This has a whimsical fairy tale look to everything. 3 points.

YOUTH APPEAL: This ought to hook the right audience, as well as anyone who enjoys these types of stories. 2 points.

NEW READER APPEAL: It’s not hard at all to jump into this story and follow along without need of any background material. 3 points.

PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: There is no filler here, just 22 pages of solid story. Antarctic Press at least puts their web address on the credits page. The cover logo also notes their 30th year of publication. It would have been better to include some ad pages featuring their other types of books. 1 point.

BONUS POINTS: WOULD I PERSONALLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK? Yes. I liked this, even though the material is very familiar. In fact, I read my copy four times. Yes to younger readers and all fans of fairy tales. 2 points.

FINAL RANKING FOR STEAMPUNK GOLDILOCKS: 16 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Free Comic Book Day 2015: Book Reviews, Part Five

 

NEIL GAIMAN’S LADY JUSTICE FCBD (Super Genius Comics) Based on a concept by Neil Gaiman. C. J. Henderson, writer. Michael Netzer, penciler. Rick Magyar, inker. Alex Wald, color. Ken Bruzenak, letterer. Painted cover art by Daniel Brereton  www.supergeniuscomics.com

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          I can imagine several FCBD attendees saw the Gaiman name on the cover and snatched this one up, only to groan and be discouraged upon opening up the book and discovering that he did not write the story. Hopefully, they continued on, read the story, and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of both script and art. In fact, this book is so good that I’m going to recommend it right now, before I finish this first paragraph!

          Super Genius Comics is a new imprint, a new venture from Papercutz (great graphic novels for young readers), aimed at an older audience. For their debut titles they have chosen to reprint in trade paperback collections for the first time some classic books from the former Tekno Comics (a 1990’s joint venture by Big Entertainment and The Sci-Fi Channel). Neil Gaiman actually created three separate concepts for Tekno, and Super Genius will reprint them all.

          With a veteran group of creators at the helm, LADY JUSTICE is a fast paced, dark, grim and gritty crime story featuring a wheelchair confined heroine who is given an opportunity to seek out the guilty parties and achieve justice. A former ballet dancer, Lady Justice has some fighting moves that will make Black Widow and Black Canary take notice.

COVER APPEAL: Absolutely lovely in every respect. Brereton conveys the right sense of mood, mystery and menace. 3 points.

STORY: Gun battles. Tragedy. Conspiracy. Blood thieves. Drama. Pain. Loss. Agony. Justice. Compassion. Action. To some, this may seem a little hokey compared to today’s sophisticated scripts. If you remember the 1990’s were the comics era when art trumped story, then this script rates above average for quality. I especially like the very last page - - just panels of art with a single caption for each: “It’s the crowning performance of a former ballerina . . .brought out of retirement by fate . . .choreographed by destiny . . . performed for an audience of one . . . who purchased his ticket at the going rate . . . and now . . . has been paid in kind.” Nice, Twilight Zone ending. 2.5 points.

ART: You will not be disappointed at the detail, design or panel placement. This is good stuff. 2.5 points.

YOUTH APPEAL: The cover disclaimer makes it very clear that LADY JUSTICE is not for very young readers. UnderneLadyJustice_01_coverath the logo, in bold yellow lettering, it says “Rated Teen+”. 1.5 points

NEW READER APPEAL: It’s an origin story, so everybody starts at page one. The text page gives a nice background on the publishers involved. 3 points. 

PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: Between the text page and the ads for the new trade paperback collections on the back cover - - this serves as a nice introduction for Super Genius. 3 points.

BONUS POINTS: WOULD I PERSONALLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK? Of course. I have many of the Tekno comics in my collection, including this one. I’m glad to see LADY JUSTICE find a new audience. I recommend picking up the trade paperback. 2 points.

FINAL RANKING FOR LADY JUSTICE: 17.5 points HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Free Comic Book Day 2015: Book Reviews, Part Four

 

GRONK / HERO CATS FCBD 2015 (Action Lab Comics) Gronk = Art & Story by Katie Cook, Colors by Heather Breckel. Hero Cats of Stellar City = Kyle Puttkammer, Writer/Creator. Marcus Williams, Pencils/Colors.

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Gronk is a cute, lime green, young and small female monster with a nice tuft of sandy California hair on top. She left monster society because she didn’t fit in well and was very curious about the human world. She meets up with a single female in British Columbia who lives in a home with a large Newfoundland dog and a fuzzy kitten. Gronk is welcomed into their family and does her best to fit in. In “A Cake Walk In The Woods, “ Gronk tells a story of when she tried to make friends with the bigger monsters by baking for them.

The untitled Hero Cats story does not give a lot of background information but gets right into the action. Things have changed in peaceful Stellar City since the introduction of Galaxy Man (who the Hero Cats are spying on.) Not sure if he is good or evil, the cats just know that the increase in super-villains to menace the city began to happen when Galaxy Man showed up. Some of the cats put a new recruit through some vigorous training, in their playground variation on the X-Men’s Danger Room. There’s just enough mystery in this story to make readers curious to know more.

COVER APPEAL: Very basic, but very cute. Loveable Gronk hugs a kitten. This should get the attention of the intended audience - - beginning readers, very young readers, and very young children who enjoy being read to. If I was part of that audience, I would pick this up. 2 points.

STORY: The Gronk story is complete in this issue. It’s amusing enough to make older readers chuckle at some of the dialogue and situations and still hold the attention of younger readers. General themes of acceptance, understanding and friendship are lightly woven into the story. The Hero Cats story is more of a preview of the overall series, and does a good job of creating interest and suspense. 2 points.

ART: The art in Gronk is whimsical and colorful, with enough detail to keep it interesting but not confusing or cluttered for younger readers not used to viewing comics. The art in Hero Cats is a little more advanced, and more action oriented. The opening two-page spread is quite impressive, and features a car chase, attacking space ships and robotic insect monsters. Quite a teaser for the main books. None of this is featured in the FCBD story. In summary, the art here is perfect eye candy for younger readers. 3 points.

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YOUTH APPEAL: Both stories are very interesting and sure to be popular with the right age groups. I prefer reading original stories like this over comics adaptations of popular toys or television cartoon characters. 3 points.

NEW READER APPEAL: The back story of Gronk is summarized very well on an “About Gronk” page that wraps up the first section of the book. It’s up to the reader to figure out who the Hero Cats are and what their purpose is from the overall story. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to do. An “about” page probably would have been beneficial. Gronk gets points here, but Hero Cats takes a little away. 2 points.

PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: Action Labs does not waste the opportunity. There is more information about where to get more Gronk and Hero Cats provided, as well as one page ads featuring other young reader titles from Action Labs. 3 points.

BONUS POINTS: WOULD I PERSONALLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK? I think this is a very good book for young readers, especially those who prefer original material. Would I give it a personal recommendation? Yes, I actually enjoyed this book. 2 points.

FINAL RANKING FOR GRONK/HERO CATS: 17 points HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

SUPERGIRL TV series to debut on CBS in November 2015

 

supergirl_Melissa_Benoist_CBS_TV_Trailer  

 

Thanks to the good folks at Under The Radar Magazine (which I highly recommend) I was able to watch an extended (seven minutes!) preview of the new SUPERGIRL series coming this fall to CBS TV.

    Based on this one preview, (which has some spoilers, so avoid watching if that bothers you) Supergirl shows a lot of potential. Appealing actors and actresses. Teenage angst.  Coming to grips with changes.  Learning to handle responsibility and powers.  Secret identify, or shared with a select few or shared with all?  Humor.  Drama.  Sappy emo background music (well, that I can do without. I’ll tolerate it if everything else is good.)   I’m looking forward to watching this.

The only conflict is it will air on Monday nights in the same time frame opposite Gotham on Fox TV.  Time to set the DVR to record.

http://www.undertheradarmag.com/news/watch_first_trailer_for_new_supergirl_tv_show_to_air_on_cbs_this_fall/

Video courtesy CBS TV and Under The Radar magazine. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

FCBD 2015: Free Comic Book Day book reviews, Part Three

 

TERRIBLE LIZARD #1 FCBD EDITION  (Oni Press)  Written by Cullen Bunn. Illustrated by Drew Moss.  Twenty-two page story.

Terrible Lizard is a light-hearted and amusing tale of a friendship between a teenage girl and a T-Rex dinosaur pulled out of space-time.  This is an all-ages story that really does offer something for everyone. Jessica Anders is a typical teenage girl, part tomboy and mischievous. She’s lonely and bored with her life at Cosmos Labs.  Her single father is a respected scientist dedicating too many hours to a temporal displacement project.  Due to the impatience of the military funding his research, a lab accident brings several dinosaurs and giant monsters from their time-line into the present.  Teenage girl and T-Rex  (nicknamed Wrex) instantly bond. She becomes its’ champion/defender and the favor is returned.

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COVER APPEAL:  With a tiny girl riding on the back of a huge dinosaur, there is just enough of a cartoony look to the cover to appeal to the right audience without making it look silly or childish. Dinosaurs have a lot of magnetism with the younger set, and older. Hey, who doesn’t like a good dinosaur yarn?  With the promise of a Godzilla-like monster that is toned down for a younger audience, this cover should also help parents give a little nudge and recommend their kids pick this one up.  3 Points.

STORY: This is both entertaining and engaging.  I’m way too old for this type of material, but not too old to enjoy and appreciate it.  I actually want to know what happens next. Writer Bunn does an effective job of setting the stage, introducing the characters, and building some suspense and mystery.  2.5 points.

ART: Without cramming too much into a single panel, there is actually some nice detail here. It’s several steps up from your standard kids comics - - good facial expressions, interesting use of colors and shading, depth and shadows used effectively.   2.5 points.

YOUTH APPEAL:  Teenagers.  Parents that don’t understand them. Dinosaurs. Friendships. Mis-understandings.  I think younger readers can be hooked on this book if they check it out. 3 points.

NEW READER APPEAL: Since it’s a reprint of Issue #1 of the monthly title (the first trade paperback just came out) it’s not hard at all. This feels like a fresh beginning because it is - - starting at ground level. 3 points.

PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: Oni doesn’t show their entire hand here, as they are a very diverse comics company covering a variety of genres and mature titles. However, they appropriately dedicate some back pages to featuring ads for other titles aimed at younger readers and continuing to target those age groups = the Courtney Crumrin series, Part-Time Princesses, Princess Ugg, Mermin, and a brand-new title debuting in July - - Junior Braves Of The Apocalypse. (Too bad no one caught the  typo on the back cover.   2.5 points.  

WOULD I PERSONALLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?  I prefer more mature content, but  I don’t object to reading material aimed at a younger audience as long as it’s well written and has something to offer.  I really enjoyed Terrible Lizard and have no qualms at recommending the trade paperback, even though I haven’t read any other issues yet.  Cullen Bunn is a writer I trust to tell a good story.  (See Sixth Gun from Oni for a delightful supernatural western.)  I wasn’t familiar with the art of Drew Moss before, but I’m impressed with this.  YES!  Please check out Terrible Lizard.  2 points.

FINAL RANKING FOR TERRIBLE LIZARD FCBD  =  18.5 POINTS   HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

                         

 

 

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

FCBD 2015: Free Comic Book Day book reviews, Part Two

 

SAVAGE DRAGON LEGACY FCBD #1 (Image Comics) Writer/Artist Erik Larsen

          Savage Dragon is one of the longest running titles in super-hero comics. It is one of the original flagship titles from the then-upstart Image Comics back in the 1990’s. Erik Larsen is the sole creator, and has remained scripter and artist on this title since Issue #1 - - an impressive accomplishment.

          Larsen is heavily influenced by Jack Kirby, and his art style, which is not a deliberate mimic or copy, shows traces of that influence throughout - - from the way the feet are drawn, over-sized punches that move to the front of the panels, 1970’s sound effects, and Kirbyesque monsters and villains. His story-writing ability also has a 1970’s flavor to it, except when it comes to sexual situations (but none mentioned in the FCBD edition).

          The mantle of power and responsibility has moved from the original Dragon to his son, Malcolm, who takes on the same position with the Chicago Police as his father held.

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COVER APPEAL: Very basic. Just a cut-out of Savage Dragon advancing forward, fists out and ready for a brawl. I suppose on a rudimentary level this could be very appealing to the very young readers just getting acquainted with super-heroes and wanting to try something different. 2 points.

STORY: The story opens with a big battle between Malcolm and equally huge Wrath, a dragon-like monster with an open brain case in the back of his head. It’s just a big punch out complete with garish sound effects (skrakka-frakk!, wramm!, thoom!, spakk! Sprakka-wrakk! - - that’s just the first two pages). It’s somewhat fun and lets us see that Malcolm is up to the challenge. There’s a meeting between Malcolm and his dad (now in jail) followed by another battle with a big cyclopean villain (Fountainhead) before a little character reveal and ending (he’s a married father of twins). If nothing else, Larsen is consistent and you can always expect to be entertained with his story lines, but never challenged. 1.5 points.

ART: Big panels. Big characters. Big style. Bold colors. Eye appealing, yet not different or dynamic enough for the full points. 2 points.

YOUTH APPEAL: Despite the popularity of the iconic Marvel and DC heroes, it can be very difficult to bring a brand new reader up to date on these characters or get them to understand the storylines without reading a giant stack of linked books. A brand new reader could really start anywhere with Savage Dragon and catch up and catch on. On the plus side, I would think readers from 10-14 years would be most attracted to a book like this. Maybe too violent or not as interesting for younger readers, and most likely not complex enough for 15+ readers. If you are a 40 year old who reads this title, please don’t be offended. You know what you like, and I don’t disrespect anyone who enjoys Savage Dragon. I’m just trying to think like a younger person and that’s how I came up with the speculations above. 2 points.

NEW READER APPEAL: This is where I give points for the writers making an effort to familiarize new readers with the back-story and provide some information/history. Larsen does this in two separate , two-page sections of the story. It’s all dialogue between two characters but it gets the job done. A little flashback art might have helped make it less tiresome, though. There’s also a second story of young Malcolm that provides some history. 2.5 points.

PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: As with the Fantagraphic FCBD title, you really cannot get an idea of the diversity of books offered by Image from reading this.. However, it does promote Savage Dragon and the back cover lists all the trade paperback collections available along with ISBN numbers. 1.5 points.

BONUS POINTS: WOULD I PERSONALLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK? While this is not the type of book that I seek out, there are some readers that I would suggest it to if I knew that this style of art and story was exactly what they were looking for. A personal recommendation? Nope. 1 point.

FINAL RANKING FOR SAVAGE DRAGON LEGACY: 12.5 MEETS EXPECTATIONS.

FCBD 2015: Free Comic Book Day book reviews, Part One

Editor’s Note: After posting my initial article on the FCBD books last week, I was preparing to begin posting reviews the very next day. Then, work and other obligations made for some very long days and no time to read and review. I hope to catch up soon. Please keep watching this space. For a guideline on how I am grading/ranking these books, please go to the Archives and read the article from Thursday, May 07, 2015.

HIP-HOP FAMILY TREE THREE-IN-ONE: FEATURING COSPLAYERS (Fantagraphics) Hip-Hop Family Tree writer/artist Ed Piskor. Cosplayers writer/artist Dash Shaw

          There is a ton of reading in the FCBD offering, a full 58 pages of material. Ed Piskor, a big fan of the hip-hop genre of music, took it upon himself to chronicle the history of this musical variation from roots and beginnings to later trends. He features many of the prominent artists and players in the development of hip-hop and most of his facial renditions are spot-on.

          While I respect the genre of hip-hop and rap, I rarely listen. I’m not a fan of this type of music and I don’t follow it. Yet, I was pulled into and enchanted by Piskor’s telling of this story – a little piece of music history. I admit that I am a big fan of rock music and all it’s spin-offs - - so there is still something to interest me here. I’m not sure any readers who don’t follow or appreciate music will enjoy this as much.

          The Cosplayers back-up features are just as interesting, giving an amusing and reverential glimpse into yet another variation on geek culture - - dressing up as super-heroes, fantasy figures and celebrities. It pokes fun at the hobby while still respecting it and not laughing. The spiritualistic comic-shop owner is not to be missed - - what a trip!

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COVER APPEAL: It’s a montage of famous faces in hip-hop illustrated by Piskor. If you recognize some of them, then that is the appeal that will draw you to this book. Anyone with an interest in music who is fortunate enough to read the complimentary quotes on the back cover will be enticed to pick this up. Otherwise, I’m not sure anyone else would pick up this book based on the cover. I don’t think young readers would be attracted to it. 1.5 Points.

STORY: I was not expecting to enjoy a fact-based music history story as much as I did here. The FCBD edition reprints a story from 3 separate issues of Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree comic (now collected in a gift set from Fantagraphics), covering the periods of 1975-1981, 1981-1983, and 1983-1984. Piskor writes a very fluid, moving history and incorporates many asides and insights into the prominent players which helps bring them to life and make them interesting. Shaw is funny, quirky and shows us in geekdom how to laugh at ourselves without feeling inferior. Nicely done. 3 Points.

ART: Piskor employs a sweet art style featuring lots of panels that will remind many of the legendary Robert Crumb. I’ve seen Piskor’s art on some other books, and it’s different than what he does here - -- a very grand homage to Crumb and an excellent choice of methods in which to tell the story. There is a bonus feature by Piskor that pokes fun at the 1990’s Spike Lee produced commercial that starred artist Rob Liefeld (Cable, Youngblood, etc.) at the height of his popularity. It looks exactly as if Liefeld himself drew it, complete with exaggerated features and awkward leg positions. Shaw’s art is done in comic strip fashion, simplistic and effective, except when he stretches out and does a admirable full-page homage to Jack Kirby. 3 points.

YOUTH APPEAL: Whatever age young people begin to develop an interest in music these days - - that would be the target audience. Anyone younger is not going to be attracted to this book. However, if this book helps music fans of all ages gain an appreciation for how comics can tell stories about music, then I would give it an extra ½ point for that. 2 points.

NEW READER APPEAL: You don’t need to be familiar with the back-story of hip-hop or even have listened to much of it to be able to appreciate the fine story-telling. It’s all here. 3 points.

PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: You really cannot get an idea of the diversity of books offered by Fantagraphics from reading this FCBD title. They missed an opportunity here. Also, a website address is not featured anywhere in this book where readers could go to learn more or even try to order their own copies of Hip-Hop Family Tree. Sure, we can assume that everyone knows how to look up a website address. But will they? Much safer to make it easier for them and include one.  1 point.

BONUS POINTS: WOULD I PERSONALLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK? To fans of hip-hop? Absolutely. To music fans? Yes. To anyone interested in how comics can tell history or biography? Yes. To regular fans of standard-fare comics? No. 1.5 points.

FINAL RANKING FOR FCBD HIP-HOP FAMILY TREE:                                               15 points  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED