Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dear my friends, have you ever wanted to be more literate?

Well now's your chance!!!!

But in all seriousness... I'm using my blog and Facebook to get out the word about something we're starting over at the comic shop I own (Stand-Up Comics, if you didn't know, which you probably did). It's an idea I've had since before we opened the shop and I think it's high time we got it done... a Comic Book Book Club, or, if you will, a (Comic) Book Club.

Basically what happens is every month a member of said club will pick a graphic novel for everyone interested in participating to read. Around the last Sunday of every month, all club members who want to will congregate at the Baker's Square down the street from the shop at about 4:00 for refreshments and discussion of the book at hand. It's like what Oprah does except with books by Grant Morrison instead of Toni Morrison (to all store customers: yes, I used this same joke in my email announcing the club. I feel like it's funny enough to re-use. We'll call that nepotistic continuity, and thanks for that term TJ!).

There is definitely no obligation to being in this club; you can opt in and out certain months if necessary. All that you have to do is, if you want to be part of a discussion on a given month, you'll have to have your own copy of the book in question, and you'll have to have read it prior to the discussion. If you already own the book that's cool, and if you don't you can buy a copy at Stand-Up for 10% off (we will spotlight our "book of the month" in the store).

And I feel it's important to note that almost any graphic novel or trade paperback is fair game for the club--mainstream or indie, superhero or not, it makes no difference as long as the book is accessible to newcomers (for instance, picking volume 6 of "Y the Last Man" is probably not a great choice, but volume 1 is!). As I mentioned above it's up to the club members to pick the book we read each month; we will probably do something like assign choices in the order in which people joined. That said, us shop owners have the first few picks and then we'll turn it over to our customers. I already know what the first month's book (chosen by Pat) is, and I think it's a great mix of indie and mainstream, but I will be announcing that soon...

We'll be starting this off in January, which is only a few weeks away. If this sounds like something you might be interested in please let me know. So far response has been really positive and I think we will have a pretty sizable club. If you've ever been curious about graphic novels or wanted to expand your library, this would be a great way to do it!

So, in summation, I apologize for using my blog/Facebook for what is essentially store promotion but I feel like this is an exceptional circumstance. Thanks for reading folks!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Looks like we're gonna get that Dr. Pepper after all.

I didn't believe it would happen. I was for sure it was a marketing stunt tied to a product that would never, ever see the light of day. But now we're six days away from the release of Guns N Roses' fifth original studio album, Chinese Democracy, and all I can say is "holy crap." That and "man, that Dr. Pepper is gonna taste so sweet."

For those of you who don't know, back in March soft drink company Dr. Pepper made an announcement to that it would give a free can of its product to everyone in America (except, and this is for serious, ex-guitarists Slash and Buckethead) if Chinese Democracy actually managed to come out at any point in 2008. For a record that's been in the works for 14 years, it seemed like Dr. Pepper was making a pretty safe bet, writing a check it would never have to cash.

(if you want to read the original news release, it's here).

I didn't even flinch when I found out in August that a track from this supposed new album was going to be on Rock Band 2. After all, one song done does not an album make, and Axl had already released a new song for the End of Days soundtrack in 1999.

But then a few weeks ago something fairly jarring happened... was promoting that Chinese Democracy had an honest-to-God release date of November 23, 2008. And then about a week later iTunes was reporting the same thing, and it began to pre-sell digital copies of the album with a full track list up and the title track available for instant download. And all of a sudden it looked like my cynicism was misplaced... 2008 would usher in Chinese Democracy, after all.

And then my cynicism turned elsewhere, to that article on that my friend Vince had pointed me to more than half a year ago. And I thought, "there's no way Dr. Pepper is going to make good on this. What are the odds?"

Well, I'd say they're pretty good. Check this out.

In short: on November 23, anyone who wants to can go to the Dr. Pepper website, enter some personal information, and get a coupon for a free can of Dr. P. The coupon will arrive in 4-6 weeks and will expire in February 2009.

So this is pretty good news, I'd say. New GNR by the end of the week (that's this Sunday!), and a free soft drink in the next couple of months. Not bad atall. And incase you're wondering... I like the new Guns song in Rock Band 2. It is a little industrial-sounding, sure, but it's got a really catchy chorus and some sweet guitar action at the end. But don't take my word for it...

(it should be noted that I don't play this song in the game a lot, at least not on guitar, because that riff is hard, man!)

So yes, I am eagerly awaiting this album. I love GNR's first four studio efforts and while I'm not so deluded as to think this will live up to their best work, I'm certainly not going to count it out before I've heard the thing.

Couple that with new releases from The Killers and Bang Camaro later the same week and this is a really exciting week in music for me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My roommate made this at Baker's Square tonight

and it was so awesome that I felt it was necessary to share.

Here's his Halloween costume, in possibly the best picture to ever be on Facebook:

(he's Rorshach, not, as some have suggested, "the skinny white kid in the hoody," which of course is still a super-popular costume)

And for good measure, here's another picture from my phone, taken at the Halloween party I went to after my friend Laura thought it would be hilarious to put scotch tape around my friend Dwight's face. And of course it was:

If you're having a bad day, just stare long and hard at these bad boys.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Man, I am SO glad Obama won the presidency.

Now I won't feel silly for wearing this shirt for at least four more years.


... Actually, you know what... I was gonna leave this post as a joke but fuck it. I'm gonna be serious for a second.

The shirt above, while awesome, is also incredibly apt. Artist Alex Ross knew exactly what he was doing when he cast Barack Obama in a (the?) classic Superman pose. See, to people like me and Alex Ross Superman stands for one thing above all else--hope (don't believe me? Read his Kingdom Come). And following Obama's campaign and watching his amazing acceptance speech just now, it is incredibly clear that above all else this is what Barack Obama stands for too--hope that we can elevate ourselves out of our economic and social drudgery and move ourselves ever closer to the perfect America we all feel we can be. There is one key difference between Superman and Obama, of course--while Superman can only inspire change, Obama can actually affect it as well. He kid about it in his campaign but I kind of feel like it's true--it seems that we have a version of Kal-El as our president for at least the next four years.

On an interesting related note, at the end of the Obama rally in Chicago's Grant Park, after the President-Elect and his VP's families came out to greet the crowd, I heard a familiar song coming over the TV through the park's PA system. It was "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen, off The Boss' post-9/11 album of the same name. If you read my blog regularly or know me, you'll know that Springsteen is one of my favorite musical artists. I never really made the connection before but, just like Superman and just like Barack Obama, what Springsteen seems to care about most is hope. Sure many of his songs are full of tragic characters and situations, but anyone really familiar with his body of work will know that almost every one of his songs is about getting out, getting away from that tragedy... rising above it, if you will. My very politically active friend Craig (who actually worked on Obama's state senate campaign at the beginning of his career) told me that his favorite Springsteen lines are from the song "Badlands" (my favorite Bruce song, FYI) and it's this bridge:

For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside
That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive
I wanna find one face that ain't lookin' through me
I wanna find one place, I wanna spit in the face of these badlands

I think what we have done tonight, America, is elect the man who is going to do that (metaphorical) spitting. We'll come on up for the rising, we'll save the world from threats both at home and abroad. We've elected the spirits of Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen of Long Branch, New Jersey, and of Clark Kent of Krypton and Smallville, Kansas. We've elected Barack Obama, and at least for one night the nation's got an injection of hope that it so desperately needs. I can't wait to see where we go from here.

Me am voting for John McCain!

Him am what best for our country!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Voting is important.

This much should be obvious, yet to many people it is not. A quick check of statistics online shows that turnout for the 2004 presidential election was just a little better than 60%; this was up about 6% from 2000, but frankly, it is still not nearly good enough.

Now I'm sure that in the past few days you've heard a lot of people going about how crucial it is for everyone to get their asses out of bed and make a choice tomorrow. Unfortunately I am going to join their numbers for a brief moment, with a couple arguments for why I feel it is necessary that every US citizen who is able visits a polling place tomorrow.

In a nutshell, the crux of my argument is this: Democracy does not work without the consent of the governed. The dictionary definition of democracy is "government by the people," after all. How well is our democracy performing, then, when only 60% of those who are able to have a voice exercise it? Democracy can only reach its theoretical fullness when 100% of those governed are doing the governing, right? This is the only sure way to garauntee that the will of the majority of the people is heard. And this seems a small, small price to pay for what should be the most fair form of government. And how hard is it to go vote, really? It takes maybe 20-30 minutes out of your day... you might look at it as just another form of paying taxes, by which I mean that it requires a necessary (and in this case small!) sacrifice on your part to keep society running the way it should, which hopefully is in the best interest of everybody (the difference here is that this tax takes your time instead of your money). I think it is interesting, in fact, that paying taxes is enforced harshly by almost everyone in power while it seems that only some in power care about voting... but that is a topic for another time.

Of course we're talking about hundreds of millions of people here, and I think that always leads people to think "who cares if I vote, there are plenty of other people who will vote like I do, so what I have to say won't end up mattering." Of course examining this statement even a little shows that this is a logical fallacy (thus, those professing it are fallases... get it?!). See, this is a bad way of thinking because it assumes that you're the only person thinking that way. After all, to be honest, there are very few elections I can imagine where one vote would determine the entire outcome (shitty Kelsey Grammer movies notwithstanding). But the problem is that many, many people think this way, and then the issue becomes not about one vote but about, say, one-hundred million (ala 2004). It should go without saying that those one-hundred million votes could have (and I think you could reasonably argue would have) drastically altered the outcome of the election and the future of our country. Kind of makes thinking that your vote doesn't matter look kind of silly, huh?

I would be remiss if I did not consider, however, that there are some people who truly feel that their best choice on election day is to not vote at all... and I don't mean because they'd rather sleep in, or go home early and watch TV, or anything like that, but because they do not have faith in any of the candidates and wish to, in a way, opt-out of being governed. This is a symbolic gesture, of course, not a literal one, but I will concede that this is a perfectly valid reason not to vote if my generous readers will concede that most people make this choice out of laziness, not out of conviction. But if you, my friends, truly do not support any candidates up for election this year, it is your right as a citizen in a democracy to not vote for them. Similarly, to re-visit this analogy, it is your right as a citizen in a democracy not to pay taxes. Henry David Thoreau famously opted to not pay them, as did Wesley Snipes. There are punishments for that, yes, but you still must recognize that it is your right to not consent to being governed, just as it is the government's right to take the approrpriate action for said lack of consent. The issues that blossom out of your feeling like you do not want to be governed are myriad and complex and I couldn't possibly talk about them here, but it is still important to recognize that this is valid stance to take on election day.

Of course this whole time I've been talking from a very idealized, almost theoretical standpoint, both about the idea and process of voting and about how democracy is actually run. The last few elections in particular have been plagued with accusations of voter fraud and other such illicit conduct, and these are things that would not happen in an ideal situation. However, only crazy conspiracy theorists think that our situation is absolutely hopeless and that we can't do anything, and I am not one of those people. I refuse to believe that there are 10 filthy rich men in an underground bunker somewhere who have already decided who the next president shall be based on the almighty dollar... no sir, the only Illuminati I believe in consists of representatives of all of the Marvel Universe's super-teams (and besides, this theory that money governs all would fail to explain, among other things, the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter). I truly believe, and maybe this is stupid of me, that it will be us, the common man and woman, who will decide tomorrow who runs our country for the next 2-6 years. To think otherwise is probably not supportable, and probably the result of laziness.

Now, because this was such a serious post, I'd like to end by sharing a couple video clips I really love from an episode of South Park. This is one of the few episodes that I do not agree with philosophically; however, it is damn funny.

Now... vote or die, motherfuckers.

Monday, October 20, 2008

When is a vacation not a vacation?

When you spend most of it working, of course.

(That was me doing my best Riddler impression).

But seriously, I'm about to take off for a few days on a mission to sell comic books--and I don't mean "sell" in the "thank you, sir, that will be $5.98, are you sure I can't interest you in a copy of the latest issue of AG Super Erotic Anthology?" way, but sell in the "please, for the love of God, accept these as viable literature" way--although I will be doing a bit of the first one, and hopefully the second one will lead to the first one, but anyway...

One of our customers at the shop is an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois (my alma mater) and she teaches in the library sciences graduate school. This semester she has a class on children's literature, and she has devoted a day of that class to graphic novels. Since she's super-cool, she's asked me to come down and address the class for about the first half of it (that's about an hour and a half... yikes!). So for the first (but hopefully not last) time in my adult life I get to play the role of teacher and graphic novel sage. Tomorrow I'm going to sit down with the class's reading and take notes, then add that to my own background knowledge that I want to share on the topic. I will be addressing a roomful of prospective librarians, some of whom possibly have never read a comic until (unless?) they did the homework for this week. As libraries are one of the most important places for comics to establish a foothold in our culture, I take this to be a fairly serious and exciting task. And I will do anything I can to elevate the comics discourse in libraries above that of the idiotic head children's librarian in Lake County, Indiana, who after telling me that she "didn't really get comics" asked me if I'd "ever read the one with the animals" (she was referring to Maus!) and said that she thought it was silly (yeah, that Holocaust sure is hilarious).

So that's what I'm doing with the next few days of my life. It doesn't feel a ton like a vacation, but it's definitely something I want to do. If anyone has anything they feel I ought to mention in my talk, please post it in the comments section, and hopefully later in the week I'll have a report on how things went.

As bonus trivia for you comic-lovers, here's my professor/customer's reading list for Wednesday's class session:

  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Superman for All Seasons
  • Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi, Houdini the Handcuff King
  • Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics chapter 3: "Blood in the Gutters"
  • Sara Varon, Robot Dreams
I've read all of these books before, and I like them all (Robot Dreams was a hell of a surprise... some of you more comic-saavy folks may want to check that one out). I think that I may try to convince the prof to swith Superman for All Seasons out for All-Star Superman if she does the class again next year... it may be a little heavy conceptually, and it's a little longer, but I think it shows more of what the comics medium can do.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go pack!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Y'know what movie I'd like to see?

"Nick and Nora's Infinite Crisis." It's basically the same as the closely-named movie currently in theaters, except that Nora (who, we will remember, has never had an orgasm) gets whisked away to Earth-2 when the worlds split (because on Earth-2 the female orgasm hasn't been invented yet).

... God, is there anybody who's going to get that joke? (and yes, let's please assume that there is a joke to get)

Alright, I'll throw in one that's a little more common denominator: apparently my downstairs neighbor doesn't come from Earth-2... if ya know what I'm sayin!!!

Yes, that means I can hear her having sex right now.

Well, I think I've done my job for the night. See ya!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I love Action Comics

so I'm really going to miss it starting next month.

Hell, I'm gonna miss all my Superman books. My one monthly Superman fix right now is coming from Superman/Batman, which I think is currently, by far, the best it's ever been... call me crazy, I really loved that "Lil' League" story. All-Star Superman has finished its magnificent run, and I'm really sad to say that. Superman writer James Robinson is proving that he really doesn't know the first thing about writing the Man of Steel (lecturing the citizens of Metropolis? Dude, I don't care how good your Starman was... bad call)...

But back to Action. Action has been quite excellent for some time. I absolutely loved the "Superman and the Legion" story a few arcs back, and the "Braniac" story that finished up yesterday was off to a great start. As I've said before, Gary Frank's art is fantastic and it's a shame he hasn't really had many noteworthy mainstream projects before, and Geoff Johns is someone who knows what to do with Superman... at least mostly.

But now we've got to deal with New Krypton.

In case you haven't heard the news (or read the latest issue of Action) here's the deal: Superman is no longer the "last son of Krypton." We are indeed about to have a whole city-full of super-powered aliens descend on Earth, all in that pretty Alex Ross "coming down from above" art style.

(I love Alex Ross, but you have to admit his cover poses are pretty generic).

Anyway... I am really not a fan of this "New Krypton" business. To tell you the truth, I think it's a terrible idea.

The reason? To me, Superman ought to be the only Kryptonian still alive and kicking in the DC universe. This is one of the defining aspects of his character... that no matter how much he loves his adopted home and how much he tries to fit in, he will always be alone. It's bad enough we have to deal with his cousin Kara (whose book DC is tying into "New Krypton" to increase sales... pretty sneaky, sis) ... and then there was that "third Kryptonian" story in Superman about a year ago that was totally pushing it (she was a gardener hanging out on Earth?! WHAT?!). If you have to give Superman someone from his home planet to pal around with, make it Krypto (just please don't give him caption boxes). Superman having a Kryptonian dog is cool. Superman having a city of Kryptonians to go chill with... definitely not.

The obvious response to this criticism, I think, is to say "what DC is doing here is testing Superman in a way never before done; they're going to define his character even better by putting him next to a ton of Kryptonians and showing him and us that maybe his being the 'last son of Krypton' is better for him than he thought."

Well, maybe. My response to that is that we can and have done those kinds of stories without resorting to thousands of Kryptonians floating around. What about all those Daxamite stories, for instance? I know there've been a couple Superman tales that deal with the super-powered sister species of Superman's people coming to Earth and not fitting in at all (which, come on, we know that's where New Krypton is going)... content-wise I can't imagine this new story will be that different from those older ones, and I definitely don't think it's worth the price of completely removing the idea that Superman is his planet's remaining survivor. That's just too important and too unique to the mythos of one of fiction's great characters. But don't take my word for it...

"Think about it, Rao. Wouldn't bringing life onto a planet that is inherently unstable add to the beauty of the life? If at any moment it could explode.... Truly, it would only be perfectly beautiful, a perfect piece of art, if one single life-form escaped. To remember, to mourn, to despair."

Neil Gaiman wrote that, and Despair of the Endless spoke it, in the graphic novel Sandman: Endless Nights. It is, to be honest, probably my favorite part of that whole book because in two panels Neil Gaiman shows us the true origin of Superman... he is Despair's little project to the universe, a being who should embody the suffering of an entire race because he is alone forever.

So apparently I have some good company in thinking Superman should be the last of his kind. And that's not to say that I want Superman to be some emotionally unstable wreck or something... actually it's saying the opposite. Because, see, in that quote above... Despair is wrong. Her intent is that this being she imagines (who just happens to be our Kal-El) will manifest despair more than any other being in the universe... but the total reverse is true. Superman doesn't cry, Superman doesn't feel bad to the point of depression... Superman goes out there and beats all the odds (I mean, my god, the second-nastiest of the Endless has it in for him!!) and gives himself completely to bettering his new home of Earth. Being the last survivor of his race isn't a cause for sorrow... for Superman, it's a motivator to do good, perhaps the most important one he has... because he doesn't want to see what happened to Krypton happen to Earth or any other world again. And I just don't see why DC is trying to take that away.

See, regardless of how "more alone" Superman feels after not jiving with these newly-restored Kryptonians... he's still not the last one any more. That particular motivator is gone... and with it, we have a Superman that I find is significantly less unique, and a good deal less interesting.

... I'll always have All-Star, huh?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Where to go after Watchmen?

This is perhaps the most important question facing comic retailers now (besides, you know, "will there be an economy tomorrow?"). Anyone in the business can tell you that since the release of Dark Knight sales on this classic Alan Moore graphic novel have gone fucking crazy. This article says it all: Watchmen sold nine times more copies in the month after Dark Knight debuted than they did in all of 2007. Holy shit, that's amazing (further amazingness: someone who comments on that article does the math to figure that roughly 3% of the people who saw Dark Knight went out and bought a copy. All things considered, that's pretty phenomenal).

I personally have sold probably about 10 copies of the book to friends since that trailer came out (and PS: thanks, guys, for making me your comic hook up!). The best example of this I can think of is at my buddy Kevin's wedding, two weeks after the launch of Dark Knight, where no less than three people told me within the span of an hour that, based on the trailer, they wanted to pick up the book from me (great wedding, Kevin & Amanda... love you guys!).

So here we are a few months later, and my friends have finished the book, to positive reviews (it is rare, I've found, to meet someone who doesn't like Watchmen.) And now several of them are saying this: "I would really like to get into more comics. What do you recommend?"

Of course this is awesome to hear, but it is also a dangerous precipice. I feel like Watchmen, for the past two months, has been acting as comic-land's ambassador to the normal world, touching the hearts and brains of people who either had no opinion about the medium due to lack of exposure, or who simply thought that comics were ZIP! BANG! POW! just like Adam West's Batman. And now, it is so, so important that we don't shuffle these potential converts off on the latest issue of, say, Trinity or Wolverine Origins (not that there is anything inherently wrong with these books... but we must aim higher).

No, this takes a lot of thought. To answer the question of where to go next, I took a look at our store's graphic novel rack (aiming to stock the essentials and partially succeeding!) and I thought, "what would someone who enjoys the emotional and intellectual depth of Watchmen really be impressed by?" Because the thing is, and I almost hate to say it, comics hardly get better than Watchmen. It has its peers, but I'm not really sure that anything in the medium tops it. But you can't use that mindset to tell people who read it "sorry, there's no other comics worth reading," because it's not good sense from a business or an artistic standpoint (and it's totally false!). Instead, you have to try to find something that will be just as engaging and interesting as Watchmen to a non-comics reader. So it is that I came up with three answers, all famous runs of comics now collected in trade paperbacks:

Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. This has the immediate benefit of being by Watchmen's author. I think people who've read that big yellow smiley-faced book will come at this series with a positive bias, which may have already gotten them over the biggest hump that prevents people from reading it (which, in my experience, is that it's ostensibly a whole comic series about a swamp monster... for some reason, some find this unappealing). It's full of that character depth that Watchmen packs in, and I feel like it kind of does to the tropes of horror what Watchmen does to those of superheroes... it makes them serious, gives them weight and gravitas. Few are the people I find who end up disliking Swamp Thing once they've checked it out, but, as I said, for me it's sometimes been a challenge to convince people to read it at all.

Neil Gaiman's Sandman. This one is kind of obvious... it's probably the most welcome comic in literary discussion (except perhaps Maus), but it's obviousness shouldn't hurt its contention here, in my opinion. Sandman was the first of the "serious" graphic novels I ever read (followed by Swamp Thing, and then a whole world of wonderful populated by Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Art Spiegelman, Mike Carey and more), and it's hard to deny that it's a wonderful read. The scope of the story may be a little daunting for a recently Watchmenized reader to want to commit to (10 books, some quite lenghty), but I think it's a series that someone sympathetic to the medium will not want to stop reading once they start. Sandman also has the excellent ability to be a gateway to even more comics, most notably Lucifer, which I believe only me and a few friends consider worthy of being in the same pantheon, but whatever.

Brian K Vaughn's Y the Last Man. Until Dark Knight, I would have considered this to be the best way to sway people over to reading comics. I saw it work myself at a Thanksgiving party I had a few years ago... the first few volumes of this swept around my living room on the recommendation of a friend, and I'm pretty sure no fewer than five or six people started reading the excellent story of Yorick Brown that night... a few were compelled to keep going after the party! I think there's something about the way this book is set up that is just so gripping... the plot just grabs you and doesn't want to let go. Brian K Vaughn is a master of pacing, something that has served him well in netting a sweet TV writing gig or two... and I'd go so far as to say that pretty much anything of his (except maybe his super-early Marvel and DC work) is incredibly new-reader friendly, but Y: The Last Man has got to be the king of that. It also has the benefit of having no elements of traditional superheroics or fantasy (well, maybe just a little fantasy), in case these new readers are still a little wary of capes in their literature.

There are tons of great comics series out there... I myself had quite a few "honorable mentions" that in the end I just didn't feel would make as strong a choice as the ones above, but some of those are Runaways, Walking Dead, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Animal Man. Does anyone else have input they want to share here?

Bear in mind, the ultimate goal (for me) is readership retention. And it's not just motivated by business (of course that helps)... no, my main driving force is really artistically based. I truly believe that there is a humongous world of fantastic literature out there that people have ignored for decades because of the stigma of "picture-books"... and thanks to Dark Knight and Watchmen and maybe series like I named above, we are at a point where we can change that.

How's that for good news?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hey! Go to this show!

Bang Camaro plus Leslie and Sound and Fury at the Double Door (1572 N Milwaukee Ave), today, Thursday September 25th in Chicago, Illinois. Doors at 8:00, show at 9:00, a mere $10 to get in... how can you go wrong?

I should mention I am performing it in. For real this time. ROCK!

Also, Bang Camaro just posted a new song at their MySpace called "She's Gone Critical"... I'm pretty sure I heard this song during soundcheck on their last tour and they referred to it as "Girlfriends in Space," which in my opinion is a cooler title... but it's a sweet song no matter what. You can hear it at

Anyway, hope to see you at the show!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'd like to announce a new blog project.

I'd like to. But I've got nothin'.


Okay, sorry. Here we go:

I was talking to my friend and fellow Chicago Camaro Choir (C3?) member Andy over the weekend, and he mentioned that he was thinking about starting up a blog specifically for and about C3 (yes!) members and goings-on. I told him that I thought this was a stellar idea, and he ran with it, making the excellent Chicago Camaro blog at There's already a few posts up there, mostly recapping the awesome events of Lollapalooza that, if you read my blog, you'll know I missed out on (and I totally made peace with that but, not gonna lie, the fact that they got to meet KG makes me more than a little jealous).

In the future, you will probably see posts from me on that blog over yonder, and I'll definitely keep up some Camaro posting over here as well. So please add it to your "favorite blogs" list if you have one... or make such a list and then add it if you don't. The link will also be over on the right-hand side of this blog permanently (as soon as I finish this post, that is).

And since we're on the topic, I thought I should pimp a few more of the blogs that I've taken up reading since my first post on the matter when I started this here blog. So, with puns a-blazin, here's a few more reads you might want to check out:

- For news on the comics industry and pop culture in general, this blog can't be beat. (Sorry, that one's kind of obvious, but honestly I consider this site, part of the Publisher's Weekly webring, essential reading for anyone interested in the comic business. And it updates a ton!)

- Found by following a link on the above site, I am totally awesomed by this blog. (That one was even more obvious. What can I say? These are easy names to work with. It was harder to work in the actual names of my friends like in the first post... but I don't personally know the people who do these blogs).

Alright, to make up for it, I'll try one for me.

- This guy may not Garknow too much, but I like it when he posts funny videos.

How was that?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jesus Christ, how about some good news?

I mean, I would really like to hear something positive right now. Between the stock market plummeting, Hurricane Ike, houses exploding in Munster, and Frank Miller single-handedly trying to destroy comics, is there anything freaking happy to say about the world? I feel like Adrian at the end of Watchmen, sitting in front of his massive display of TVs, looking at all of the shit going on and knowing that one way or another, catastrophe is coming.

I actually went to and typed in "is there any good news?" on a whim. And it sent me to this site, the Good News Network. Top story: "Toyota Joins Climate Group to Cut Corporate Greenhouse Gases."

Well, it's not much. But it's a start.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Goodbye! Metallica am very good band!!!

Death Magnetic am not released today. Me am so very excited! Me did not know they could ever release something more exciting than St. Anger, but now me don't see it!

Me admit, me not crazy about early Metallica. Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets and ... And Justice For All am boring, simple, tuneless records. But they am really start to turn it around with black album!

... Okay, me must admit, me kind of hate Load. But me cannot get enough of Reload (Maryanne Faithful's voice is heavenly!!!). Then they am not release Garage Inc., which was artistic but dull, and then S&M, which was completely necessary and skinny!

But then. Best album am ever released come out. St. Anger. Me am never spent me money on something so full of driving rhythms, excellent solos, and precise, meaningful songwriting. St. Anger am masterpiece! Me love St. Anger so much, me listen to it every day since me buy it! Me think that St. Anger a sign that Metallica should continue making music forever and ever.

That why me so excited about Death Magnetic. Me am cannot wait to hear how it continues the subtle themes set up in St. Anger. Me am going to go wait in line at store to buy it right now!!! Me will listen to it for the rest of me life!

Metallica rocks!!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Here are some things I learned from Las Vegas.

1. The two best places to eat in Las Vegas if you are not rich are Ellis Island for the $6.95 steak dinner and the Rio Carnival World buffet. I actually already thought this already, but this trip confirmed it.

2. It can rain in Las Vegas. Seen it with me own eyes, I did.

3. The Bellagio has a really nice display of flowers in its lobby. ... What?!

4. Fort Wayne is an infinitely worse place for a retailer summit. The two Diamond summits we've gone to in the past were way more gaming-focused than this one, probably because Alliance Game Distributors is based out of Fort Wayne. At this summit, people actually talked about things we care for... COMICS! Also the free swag was geared a lot more toward a store like ours. And there was TALENT. On hand for the weekend: Brian Michael Bendis, Billy Tucci, Terry Moore and Jimmy Palmiotti. Which leads me to point four...

5. Jimmy Palmiotti is an incredibly awesome guy. I'm not a real big fan of his writing, I must admit (Countdown soured me on a LOT of people). But he's a really good artist, and on top of it, he may be the nicest comics professional I've ever met. He was signing promo copies of his new Jonah Hex issue at the DC booth Monday and I sheepishly asked him if he wouldn't mind signing my Kevin Smith Daredevil trade, which he did the art for. Not only did he sign the thing but, without me even asking, he drew a sketch of Daredevil on the front inside cover! It was incredible, man. Jimmy Palmiotti, you rock.

6. Indie comics need more support. This summit filled me with an intense desire to stock more Dark Horse, Image, and other third-party titles. I think it's partially because these companies make a real effort to talk to the retailers, explain where they're coming from, and help us out with promotional material. Dark Horse, especially, are great guys with great products. The company that impressed me the most, though, was...

7. Radical Comics needs to be famous now. I'd venture most of us haven't even heard of Radical Comics. That is a sin that Stand-Up Comics intends to rectify post-haste. Radical's only had a couple series out thus far... Hercules and Caliber, a western retelling of the Arthurian story. Take a look at these books. From a purely visual standpoint, they are beautiful. Radical was kind enough to give us free copies of the complete series so we can read them and see how the story is, but I'm guessing from the level of care they put into their product that it is awesome as well. They have a lot of great books coming down the pipeline, which Stand-Up will be carrying and promoting. On top of that they are really superb people that truly care about the business and are also very friendly (they even gave me some fantasy football tips... in fact I didn't understand what a RB/WR truly was til I talked to some of their staff). It is a mark of a really invested business that when they ran out of free copies of their books Monday, they had someone drive up from LA with a truckload to pass out on Tuesday. I'd have to say that Radical had the most impressive showing at the Vegas Summit. On the other end there is...

8. Marvel Comics just doesn't care about retailers. They had almost zero presence at this show, including a booth that had but two folded-up promo posters thrown across it, and almost no staff. They will make excuses as to why their booth was completely empty all weekend. "There was miscommunication with Diamond" was the party line. Hm. Well, they knew when the show was, and they knew when their PEOPLE should be there... why not their display? And if Radical, a super-indie company, can have their guys drive free shit out to Vegas on a few hours' notice, can't Marvel do a little something? Listen, I felt a little bad for Marvel because they totally got attacked at breakfast on Tuesday (the supplier Q&A)... late books was the topic, and the crowd of retailers was angrily yelling that editors need to do their jobs better, even being fired if they miss a deadline for a death in the family or something like that. That is a little extreme, but it does touch on the point that Marvel, as a company, does not seem to have their shit together. And it's really telling that the rep Marvel sent to this convention, David Gabriel, would not address the issue of late books at all, instead passing the buck to editorial. Well, David, you're the rep to the stores here. You need to be able to say something other than "it's not my fault," which is really all you were interested in saying... about anything. The thing is that Marvel has us by the balls because almost every comics store anywhere has a devoted throng of Marvel Zombies banging at their doors for the latest drawn-out crossover. But if Marvel was an indie company, I'd say they'd be doomed to failure. Thumbs down.

9. DC has a really interesting Sgt. Rock series coming out. I never would have thought I'd want to read a Sgt. Rock book, but here we are. Billy Tucci's got a series in the works about a group of Japanese soldiers from WW2 that have to go in and save Rock and co. when they get trapped in a bad place. It's called Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion. This is based on a truly story of a Japanese regiment that always got the shit jobs because that's what the US government thought they were good for in that era. The amazing thing is that, to help promote this book, Tucci and DC brought a couple of this regiment's surviving members, and one of them even signed promotional posters with Tucci. I'm not gonna lie, this was really moving... and damn good promotion too.

10. I think I can tell prostitutes apart from other scantily-clad women. I'm gonna say it's the high-heels. Not many people would choose to wear high-heels while walking down the Strip, right?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I love Las Vegas.

I seriously fucking love it. Like, it's my favorite vacation spot that has ever existed ever ever. And I'm leaving for there tomorrow morning at about 6:15 AM... hooray! The sweetest thing is that I'm going for work because there's a comic book retailer conference running September 7-9, so I get to charge almost the whole trip to the company credit card (which, yes, is kind of like using my own money, but it just feels better). I won't be playing poker with the company's money, but I could... apparently gambling can be a tax write-off because it can be construed as "networking." Ah, tax loopholes.

I noticed something weird earlier, while trying to figure out if I can make all my luggage carry-on (I can!), and I thought I would share. On the website of the TSA (the Transportation Security Administration... a branch of the federal government) they have a neat little table that lists questionable items and whether or not it's okay to bring them on the plane. You can see it here (and it's nice to see that there are very few "no"s). One of the weirdest items on the list, though, is a category called "Toy Transformer Robots."

Really. Go look at the link. Go ahead. You'll see it.

Now, Transformer toys are permitted on planes (thank God!). But the weird thing is... why is this an issue? Like, the only other toy items listed are toy guns, and this is a totally reasonable question when it comes to whether or not these should be on planes. But Transformers? Who actually lost sleep over whether or not it was okay for their kid (/24-year-old business partner) to bring his newly-acquired Universe Galvatron toy on the plane? This is just so weird.

On the other hand... would you want THIS on your airplane?

See you in a few days!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Awesome news: Super Mario RPG is now available on the Wii Virtual Console!

This makes me really happy. Do you guys remember this game? It is wicked fun. Me and a few friends were obsessed with it in junior high. As you might have garnered from my earlier post on (Final) Fantasy Football, I am a bit of an RPG nerd. I am also a Nintendo nerd (there's a reason the Wii was the first of the current-gen systems I bought--I love Nintendo's characters!). So combining the two... how can you go wrong?

I mean, really. I thought maybe there was some nostalgia-colored glasses making me love this game, but I just spent about an hour playing it, and it truly does a great job, in my opinion, of combining the Mario franchise with tropes of an RPG. Everything from play style right down to the music is an interesting mix of these two worlds. And it's a Square game from the 90s, which probably means it's excellent anyway (among my top five video games is Final Fantasy VI/III US, released by Square in 1994... this decade also saw Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Evermore, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy Tactics, Xenogears, Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy VIII... okay, let's forget about that last one).

And this game was more or less unavailable to those of tiny pocketbooks until a couple days ago... a quick search of eBay shows it's gonna cost you about $50 to gamble on a used copy and $100 to get a mint-in-package version. Of course it's only $8 on the Wii. This is, obviously, a steal.

Nine times out of ten, if you ask me what I think the best current-gen gaming console is, I'll say XBox 360... which is probably the right answer. But the Wii definitely has its benefits, and the virtual console is one of the big ones. The ability to play classic games for relatively cheap is pretty stellar, especially when it's classic games you haven't seen for years. Good job on this one, Nintendo.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

If turnabout is fair play

shouldn't Poison have a song called "Alice Cooper"? Shouldn't Alex Chilton have a song called "The Replacements"? Shouldn't Bad Company have a song called "Bad Company"? And shouldn't there be a band somewhere named I'm a Giant Douchebag which has a song called "John Mayer"?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Did anyone else think Final Crisis: Superman Beyond was awesome?

I sure did. I mean, I was really excited for it, so I wasn't sure it would live up to my expectations, but it did. I've read it twice now (and no, I'm still not totally sure about everything that's going on) and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

For those who don't know: this is a comic book from Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke that is partially 3D (with glasses included!) about Superman traveling through the multiverse to fight off some cosmic evil so he can obtain the elixir of life and save Lois from a fatal injury (sustained in Final Crisis #2). Boiled down, what we have is: Morrison writes Superman traversing the multiverse in 3D.

How could this not be amazing?!

(Spoilers will follow!)

I really enjoyed the fact that this book brought up a lot of previous Morrisonian concepts, such as Limbo (where forgotten characters go to die) and a heavy dose of meta-fiction (although I'm not entirely sure what Superman Beyond has to say about that topic yet). It's got a killer existence-spanning plot that involves the Monitors as they investigate the poison known as "stories" (what did I say about meta-fiction?), and apparently some Dark Monitor who wants to erase all of that from life. Yeah, it sounds f*cking crazy, and it is. That's the beauty of it.

There could hardly be a better creative team for this book. Doug Mahnke's kinda-weird art is fantastic in two dimensions (he's one of my favorites, truth be told) so adding a third could only make it cooler, and you know how I feel about Grant Morrison. Somehow he manages to bring back the fantastical nature of silver-age stories, the joy of reading something completely out-there, yet he grounds it in a modern (post-modern?) sensibility, with sharp dialog and a truly suspenseful plot. This is a watermark of much of Morrison's work (I'm thinking All-Star Superman) and I'm glad it carried over to Superman Beyond, which will surely go down as one of my favorite comics this year.

It is a little dense, yeah... a little tough to breach, especially on the first read-through. But as I said before, I really don't find that to be a good point of criticism against a comic... I actually think it enhances the reading experience by giving you something to work for, something to find in the text. Couple that with the pure joy of a 3D Superman battling for the life of his beloved Lois... recipe for success, my friends.

Rating: * * * * *

As a side note, you know what else is awesome? Runaways. The third volume launched yesterday and I really dug the first issue. I'm a little bummed that more people don't read this one. Check it out, guys.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I woke up early to download Rush's "Moving Pictures" album for Rock Band

and it isn't up yet. Apparently there are technical difficulties. Rumor has it there are problems with the song "YYZ," which has no vocal track. This leaves me bored. This also leaves me with time to post, so I'm gonna do one up that I'd been thinking about for awhile. I already listed my top 5 songs for the forthcoming Rock Band 2... but right now I'd like to take a look back and name my top 10 DLC (that's downloadable content) for Rock Band 1. These are songs that I feel are so awesome that it is a sin to not have them in your RB1 collection (unless you have the game on the PS2 or Wii... in which case, you don't really have a choice. Sorry guys):

10. Vesuivius, "The Promised Land" -- I must be a shitty movie critic, because The Rocker totally bombed, failing even to make it into the top 10 weekend movies (it got beat by Death Race and The House Bunny?!). Still, I love the movie, and I love this song, a free download to help promote the film (again, an obvious failure). This is the first really "hairy" track in the game and it truly lets you rock out arena-style on the drums, which also facilitates the aping of Rainn Wilson's previously-mentioned rock faces.

9. The Cars, "Just What I Needed" -- Awesome song, really fun to drum. It's got a driving rhythm and I always feel like a rock star when I hit the crash cymbals in the chorus. Singing it is a blast too.

8. Bang Camaro, "Rock Rebellion" -- Any Bang Camaro song is awesome, obviously. It's unfortunate that the Rock Band mic really hates more than one person singing into it, because this is the kind of song you need a dozen or so people to belt out (especially if some of those people know the harmonies!).

7. Oasis, "Don't Look Back in Anger" -- The funny thing is I didn't really like this song til I was playing with my friend Todd and it came up as the second to last song in a random setlist. Todd pointed out that it was awesome to put a ballad right before the end, which hopefully would end up being a rocker (it did). It was at that point I realized that Rock Band is short on true ballads, thus making this song important to the game. It is also super-fun to drum, giving some of the best/most doable fills of all the songs available, in my opinion. When this song inevitably gets played at Rock Band parties, I make sure I'm behind the drum kit.

6. Boston, "Peace of Mind" -- Another song with a really driving rhythm, it's just EXCITING. Pretty much every part is good for this song, although my first choices are drums or guitar (I love singing it but Boston singer Brad Delp hits some ungodly notes in there). Even though this clearly isn't the biggest song in Boston's excellent catalog, it is my favorite.

5. The Police, "Roxanne" -- I tend not to play this song a lot, but I get a perverse thrill from watching lots of my friends do it. This tune is a great party song that almost everyone knows and that any man with balls (metaphorically, perhaps not literally) will attempt to belt out just like the Stingster. In particular, this song makes my list because of my friend Craig's rendition of it. Too cool.

4. The Who, "Baba O'Riley" -- Though I was slightly dissapointed with the Who mega-pack, one cannot deny the epicness (sorry to use such an internet term) of this song. Once Rock Band 2 comes out and you have the ability to make your own setlist for almost anything you do, I reckon this song will go at the start of a great portion of those setlists. I mean, that intro alone... man. It gets you pumped.

3. Boston, "More than a Feeling" -- Even though "Peace of Mind" is my favorite Boston song, I think "More Than a Feeling" is more essential to a Rock Band library because more people, by far, know it, and like "Roxanne," that will make more people attempt to sing it. Unlike "Roxanne," this song also has awesome instrument parts for everyone involved (my favorite is probably guitar). It is a joy for this to come up at Rock Band parties when my friend Dwight is there, because he will sing it and he will crush it (even hitting the high note near the end of the song... it is truly impressive).

2. The Police, "Message in a Bottle" -- The second-best memory I have from one of my Rock Band parties is seeing five people crowded around the mic belting out the seemingly endless outro words "sending out an SOS!" This was too cool. In fact, here's a picture:

So, yeah, this song has one of those infectious vocal lines that almost anyone can take a crack at. It also has, in my opinion, the most fun drum part in the entire game. It's a winner all-around.

1. Oasis, "Wonderwall" -- But my favorite Rock Band party moment is due to this song. Some folks were playing in another room while me and some friends were gathered around a poker table. All of a sudden, this song starts... and poker stops. We all start singing along. There must have been at least 10 people in on this. It was pretty amazing. And not only that, but I think that bringing people together like that is kind of what rock and roll is all about. For Rock Band to imitate that aspect of the rock music experience is impressive. And the sheer fact that "Wonderwall" is probably the best-known, most singable song of all the Rock Band DLC means that it, without a doubt, takes my number one spot.

A quick check of the forums show that "Moving Pictures" still isn't up... damn it.

Rush is awesome.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I've finally found a fifth movie to bring on my hypothetical tour bus.

Which is great, because for years when friends and I would talk about the top five movies we would HAVE to bring on tour (yes, we talked about this), assuming we ever went on tour (which we never have and probably never will), my list was always one film short. I only could really think of four rock-and-roll movies that made me happy and that made me feel good and inspired about music, which I think is an essential ingredient for a tour bus movie. Here's what I had (in no particular order):

1. This is Spinal Tap
2. School of Rock
3. Almost Famous
4. High Fidelity

Then I went to the theater last night and saw this film:

And lo and behold, my list is complete.

In a summer that's been pretty full of good or great movies, The Rocker is something of a surprise. I knew I would enjoy it because I A) love The Office and B) have an inappropriate love of hair metal, the genre which owns Rainn Wilson's character Robert Fishman as the movie begins. But I didn't think it would actually be a pretty sweet movie (and I mean that in two ways)... it made me smile and laugh consistently, and it made me want to immediately hop in an RV with my friends and hit the road as soon as I stepped out of the theater.

Put your fears aside, friends: despite the trailers, this movie has more to it than silly slapstick (I think most of that actually gets shown in the TV spots). It's not completely farcical... despite the fact that it's fairy-taleish, it is also somewhat grounded (except for a scene in the opening of the movie, and I wonder if there isn't something to the fact that the film only shows us fantastic, unbelieveable things in the faraway land of the 1980s). I mean, it's not incredibly likely that what we see in the film could happen, but it is possible... that's what makes the story inspirational. Is it corny? Yeah, a little. Less corny than School of Rock. Also quite funny.

For musicians, there is a lot to enjoy about this movie, a lot that rings true (as my friend Matt pointed out, we all know what it is like to fight for the attention of people who could care less that we are there). For non-musicians, I still think there's lots to like here... one of my favorite things was the running gag of Rainn Wilson's "rock" faces while drumming, and all it takes to laugh at that is a sense of humor. I'm gonna try to learn some of those for the next time I rock out to Vesuvius' "The Promised Land" on Rock Band.

Other things that are cool: good cast. Rainn Wilson is awesomely funny, and the rest of his band is great as well. It turns out the lead singer/songwriter of the fictional A.D.D. is a real-life musician named Teddy Geiger, and his musical ability is positively... radioactive? (GET IT?!)... but seriously his stuff is pretty good. Keyboardist/nephew to Fish Josh Gad is great, and I'd like to see him in more. Bassist Emma Stone (Jules from Superbad) is really good on screen as well, and also super-pretty, so there's that. It's nice to see Christina Applegate, who plays the coolest mom ever (a total MILMSLT... see the film). There are some cool cameos as well, including a handful from SNL and a surprising one from 30 Rock... oh, and a Beatle.

Past the opening, there weren't really any parts of this movie that made me think "oh, come on!" which is weird for a recent studio comedy. I never stopped enjoying the film, and I really want to see it again, which I will assuredly do when it moves down to the $5 club. So it is that I highly recommend The Rocker, especially if you are an aspiring musician and want to feel good about what you do. Or if you just want to enjoy yourself for a few hours... that's a good idea too.

Rating: * * * *

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Maybe I came down a little hard on monthly books last time

so to make up for it, here's a list of five monthly titles that I really enjoy. They're not necessarily my favorite monthlies (though some would make that list, I think) but they're books that often surprise me with how fun and engaging they are... books that help make my weekly comic purchases exciting. In no particular order they are...

Action Comics: It's really amazing that Geoff Johns is able to write so many books and not have a bad one in the bunch. He and Grant Morrison (and maybe now James Robinson?) pretty much define the DC Universe at the moment, and it couldn't be in better hands. Out of all of Geoff's books, though, Action is the one that always catches me off guard (in a good way)... I think I came into this title a couple years ago not expecting much from a monthly Superman book, and what Johns has delivered has consistently been among the best Superman stories I've ever read, stories that both touch at the heart of the character and are full of great villains and exciting plots. There hasn't been a bad arc since One Year Later thanks to him and his awesome team of artists. Eric Powell was a stud on "Escape from Bizarro World," and Gary Frank is a talent that has always deserved more recognition. I'm glad he's finally getting it.

Comic Book Comics: from the minds of the guys who brought us Action Philosophers comes this graphic look at the history of the comics medium that is both historically accurate and pretty hilarious. These guys really know their stuff... they've done their research, and they know how to put together an entertaining read. I am almost positive that if classes on comic books ever become common at a university level, this will be a standard text. I was fortunate enough to go to a college where there was such a class, and I know that if Comic Book Comics had been available then, it would have been assigned reading for sure. It helps, for me, that writer Fred Van Lente (who also does a lot of work at Marvel) and artist Ryan Dunlavey (who does a lot of those funny character-packed spreads for Wizard and Toyfare) are really cool guys... I had the fortune of meeting them at the New York Comic-Con, and they signed my copy of issue #1. I'm excited to see where these two vibrant creators go after their look at their home medium... politics, perhaps?

Final Crisis: I'm really bummed that so many people are down on this series. And, I mean, let's be honest, the reason why is kind of clear... it's dense. You have to read each issue at least twice to grasp what is going on. But to me, that's awesome. It makes buying this book so completely worth it, probably moreso than any other title on the stands. I love books (both comics and prose) where there's new things to discover in every crevice, new treasures unlocked upon every rereading, and Final Crisis is the epitome of a series like that. In a story filled with Evil Gods in human bodies, hilarious Japanese superheroes, one of the most badass villains ever (Libra!), and a hell of an awesome plot about the laws of reality being changed so that evil can finally win... my favorite thing about this series is that it is so completely worth four dollars. This is not decompression, my friends, this is hypercompression. This is also a damn cool way to tell a comics story.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane:
I have to admit it: I'm a sucker for these high-school Spider-Man stories. The fact that Spider-Man just fits so well in that setting is one of the reasons I love Ultimate Spider-Man, and it carries over into this book, which most probably feel is strictly for adolescent girls. Well, I'm okay with that, because that doesn't change the fact that this book is really good. It has been a guilty pleasure of mine since the Sean McKeever/Takeshi Miyazawa days (PS: Miyazawa is an amazing artist, and McKeever is one of the best new talents DC has), and now I don't even feel guilty about it anymore, thanks to its new writer, Strangers in Paradise's Terry Moore. This is a really sharp assignment on Marvel's part, and I'm sad that Moore's "season two" is only going to last five issues, because I'm pretty sure I could read this book forever. Guys, I know it sounds a little girly, but give it a read... especially if you like Ultimate Spider-Man, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Batman Confidential: Man, this book is cool... which I would not have expected to say, given that I never had any interest in Legends of the Dark Knight, basically the prototype book for this series. I think what got me was the premise for the first arc: Batman vs. Lex Luthor. It's a great idea, and one I wanted to see played out, and so started my compulsive owning of this series (see last post). The thing is, once I started, I never felt like not buying this book. I didn't necessarily think the first arc was fantastic, but it was not bad either, and I stuck around because wanted to read Michael Green's Joker story (this guy is a really good comics writer, by the way!), which I loved. I enjoyed the Wraith story from Tony Bedard and Rags Morales alright (good art, neat idea!), and I am just loving this current outing from Fabian Nicieza and Kevin Maguire, which deals with the first time Catwoman and Batgirl meet. I'm not sure what it is, but this book just works for me. It has a great sense of humor, is full of action, nails the characters, and looks amazing! I cannot say enough about Maguire's art here... it's just so cute and attractive. I love the scene where Batgirl has to chase Catwoman through a nude hedonist club. I mean, just picture Kevin Maguire rendering a scene where a hyper-tense and nervous Barbara Gordon has to take off her costume (mask on, please!) and chase the sensual and perfectly-comfortable-with-her-own-body Catwoman through a nudist club. Yeah, it's great. I also feel like Fabian Nicieza is unduly ignored as a great comics writer... his recent stuff for DC has been fantastic, and I think his time on the 90s X-books has given him an unfair black mark in many comic readers' mind. I realize that the point of Batman: Confidential is to have rotating creative teams, but for my money Nicieza and Maguire could do this book forever. This story is just so good!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Comic fandom is a subculture like any other, and as such we have our own rites of passage.

I experienced one of those rites earlier this week, as I undertook the spiritual journey known as "The Cleansing of the Long-boxes."

(and yes, I'm writing again!)

I mean, seriously. We all do it... probably out of necessity, I'd wager. At some point, you just fit another box in your room, or basement, or wherever it is you keep your comics. And then what do you do? Probably nine times out of ten you just find a new place to put those new boxes. But then, every once in awhile, you do it--you roll up your sleeves, you dig in there, and you clean out your collection.

This is kind of a horrifying thing... especially if you have a ton of comics. One of our customers told me he did this right when we opened and pared 25 boxes down to 15. That's impressive, but I reckon that there's folks out there who have to do this with hundreds. Fortunately for me, I have six and a half... that's only a few hours work. My rule was to yank anything I didn't see myself rereading. Sometimes this was an easy call and sometimes it was not, but after making a day's work out of it, I'm happy with my results.

It's funny that this process is often undertaken out of necessity for space, and then very infrequently, because it strikes me that we should all do this a lot more. It helps our wallets, and it helps our culture.

But let me explain.

Cleaning out one's collection invariably means re-evaluating what series one buys on a monthly basis (because it will be some of these comics you may be considering getting rid of). The majority of mainstream comic fans will be able to tell you that there's at least a couple books on their pull list that they just don't enjoy reading. There's any number of reasons they keep buying the books--they want to complete a run, the covers look cool, they feel loyalty to the character or creator--but what likely is the original reason they started buying the title (they like it!) is gone. I am guilty of this as much as anyone, and the temptation is greater for me because I buy books at cost, not retail. That has, as you might imagine, led to a lot of fat in those aforementioned long boxes. Well, no more.

I think, my friends, it is time for this blog to institute another rule. My rule about line-cutting didn't go over too well, I grant you, and I think that it needs some serious revision--but remember, these are only proposals, open to debate and discussion. But anyway, my next rule applies only to the comic-buying populace, and it is this:

If a book you buy fails to sustain your interest over a period longer than two story arcs, DROP IT AND DON'T LOOK BACK.

You may be asking yourself, why is a comics retailer proposing that we not buy books? Well, like I said, it helps our wallets, and it helps our culture. Obviously it helps your wallet, as the reader. But as a retailer, I'm pretty sure it even helps me, in the end, and it does this in the same way it helps the comic-book culture.

I see it happening two-fold: if people stop reading series they don't like, we (hopefully) stop ordering them (which already saves us money) and sales will decrease at the wholesale level. A big enough drop in sales will cause a re-evaluation of what the book is doing, and, one hopes, the book will come out better for it. Of course this is not the only reason a book changes direction (why, All-New Atom, why?!) but it is one reason.

The second way, I think, is more important. It seems to be pretty rare that so many people would drop a title at the same time that it would affect a change in direction... it happens, but not a ton. But the second way reevaluating pull lists helps our culture (and my wallet) is on the individual scale: if you're not spending all your money on crap titles you only get out of tradition, you have more money to spend on good stuff, like graphic novels you've always wanted to buy but never quite had the cash for. I mean, if you think about it, cutting three-four books from your pull list gives you the cash to pick up about a graphic novel a month, and it opens a doorway into series that are better than the drek you just dropped. I firmly believe that if the top 50% of our customers cut five books from their pull list and instead started buying trades of Y: the Last Man, we would in the end make more money (you can't buy just one!) and end up with a more literate group of comics readers who would thirst not only for more Brian K. Vaughn but also for more interesting, off-the-beaten-path stories. Of course sometimes people who drop books because they don't like them don't end up buying other things, but I'm okay with that too (as long as they pay for the books the ordered, damn it!). Even those people will have a richer reading experience because their monthly books will be hopefully unburdened of crap, and that will give them, in the end, a more favorable outlook towards the comics medium, if only subconsciously.

This is kind of the approach I've taken. I'd rather amass a collection of Ultimate Spider-Man trades than continue to get Justice League of America, which, let's face it, has hardly been good since 2005. In the end I think I cut six or seven books from my list of about 30. Some I still question (do I really want to drop Ultimate Fantastic Four? I mean, just because Lucifer is genius doesn't mean Mike Carey's superhero stuff is wonderful... but it's good), and with some it feels like a weight has been lifted (goodbye, Amory Wars. Jesus Christ, why is Coheed & Cambria's music so awesome yet their comics are incomprehensible and bad?!) In the end, my collection will be better for it, and so will (maybe) my finances. But if you all do this, I don't suppose I need to worry about my finances, do I?

But anyway, what I'm saying is that I think it's good to periodically take a hard look at what you've got your local comic shop (mine?!) pulling for you. Chances are there's some of it you don't really want. Maybe you should tell them that... you'll end up liking your comics even more! And while you're at it, buy Blankets. It's really awesome.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yup, I was right. No way.

So I just now found out that I am NOT actually going to be joining the Chicago choir for Bang Camaro at Lollapalooza.

I'm not that bummed about it, cuz I don't think I really believed it was ever happening. Ah well, there's always the next Chicago show.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dude. No way.

Remember that post about Bang Camaro earlier in the week?

When I made that post, I wasn't sure this was happening. In fact I was pretty sure it wasn't, because, what the hell?! But now I am pretty sure it is.

I am going to be performing at Lollapalooza this week, on stage with Bang Camaro!

Friday, 11:30 AM, MySpace stage.

I say again... what the hell?! Is this really happening? I half-expect to show up to sound check and the band will be like "oh, not YOU." But as the days go by that looks less and less likely.

From what I've been told... I get a VIP pass for Friday. That means I go backstage, at least on the MySpace stage. Which, by the way, Bang Camaro is sharing on Friday with with Rogue Wave, the Kills, Mates of State, and Steven Malkmus & the Jicks... an impressive line-up of indie rock to be sure (these are all bands, by the way, my college radio station played when I DJed there. Except Bang Camaro. I wonder if they have jumped on the Camaro bandwagon yet). I'm not sticking around at Lolla the whole day (not long enough, for instance, to see if I can get backstage at Radiohead) but I will certainly be there long enough to at least meet Rogue Wave, which is a band my brief exposure to has made me pretty sure I like.

I'm just so elated about all this... geez.

And in case you're wondering, this post does have a point or two. I swear. Point one is that I'll be able to have something of a Lolla report from the inside (let's call it "inside-ish"), and that's fun. I'll try to get pictures and document stuff like I did on my last couple road trips. Point two is fuck you, this is my blog and I'll write about what I want to.

But no, seriously. In a way, I want this blog to be a document of my life and thoughts at the time of writing, and so it is that I can't go without covering this. Sorry guys. I'll get back to criticizing comics next week, I swear. For now... let's ride this.

(But, I mean, what's the deal with Black Panther, anyway? Am I right?!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Freakazoid came out on DVD for the first time today

and I think the world is a better place for it.

For those of you who don't remember Freakazoid, it was an animated show brought to us by Steven Spielberg in the mid-90s, following The Berg's (that's his hip, abbreviated name... didn't you know?) hit cartoons Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs. But it was also bred out of the sensibilities of the WB's other hit cartoon, the one I talked about ad naseum a few weeks ago... the one starring this guy...

Who is that handsome devil, anyway?

... At any rate, Freakazoid was a show that was part comedy, part superhero, and was even originally being developed by Batman's Bruce Timm and Paul Dini (according to the features on the DVD, they left the show when it took its more comedic bend, and the character of the Creeper we see in one of the later-day B:TAS episodes resembles what their Freakazoid would have been like). And the interesting thing about Freakazoid, the thing that made me hunger for purchasing the DVD today, is that it is really funny. Like, still. Especially for those of us who grew up on a steady diet of Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, and Batman.

I don't really want to go into a huge dissection of Freakazoid's humor, mostly because I'm no expert on comedy, but also because the show is just, to use a word I kind of hate, completely random. The senior story editor says it best on the DVD featurette: there was no formula Freakazoid episode. Every episode was different, and anything could happen from one to another, from fighting cultured cavemen complete with a New Englander's snooty drawl at a school dance, to our hero wondering at a gummi museum with Ed Asner's cop character Cosgrove, to an argument with Wakko Warner and the Brain on whose show Spielberg likes best. But don't take my word for it...

The point is that this show's humor could come from anywhere. Some of is it silly and slapsticky, other bits play off having a fair understanding of the workings of fiction, while other aspects still rely on non-sequitur lines and characters (this is, I think, my favorite part of the show, and Ed Asner's Cosgrove embodies it). It all adds up to a really satisfying, surprisingly funny watch... I daresay that episodes of Freakazoid could live alongside middle-year Simpsons and The Critic in pretty good harmony. It may not reach the heights of those shows, but seriously... it is really good.

Hooray for DVDs!