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Monday, October 31, 2005

I Just Pulled A 12-Hour Shift Moving the Store...

... and now this t-shirt is all I can think about:

The Front Porch...Front

...And Round the BackBack

Ironically enough, that took every bit as long to make as actually writing something. One day I will have a legion of readers demanding ISB merchandise, and I will make these t-shirts. And then you'll all be sorry.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

All Star Comic Shop Moving

My friends, it is the end of an era.

Today was the last day for shopping at the old Wizards and Villains location, a fact that didn't stop one of our customers from taking our move as a personal insult. I've mentioned before that I've been getting a lot of customers lately who appear to want comics despite being illiterate, but the guy we had tonight... Man-oh-man. He was in rare form.

He was the last in the month-long string of customers who are unable to believe that a business could move a half-mile away to a better location, and it's a good thing, because after him, I would've stabbed the next one in the face.

Dude busts into the shop, walking with purpose, charging up to the counter with a mixture of shock and betrayal in his dinner-plate sized eyes. Then we have--and I swear this is true--the following conversation, where his voice grew higher and more manic with every sentence:


"... Did you see the signs that said 'Moving Sale,' sir?"


"Well we're having a sale. Because we're moving."

"Where to?!"

"Right down the street on the left, sir. We've got our sign on the new building."

"Well where are the Transformers?!"

"They've all been moved to the new store."

"Is it open?!"

"... No, sir. If it were open, we wouldn't be here."

"I'm utterly shocked!"

One hundred percent actual conversation. Now that guy's a drama mama. But like I said, the next time I'm behind a counter at the Wiz, the move will be over, and that'll be the end of that little adventure in customer interaction.

But for now, I've got to be at work at 9 tomorrow to actually move everything, and the new Grand Theft Auto isn't going to play itself. Besides, that's pretty much the only interesting thing that happened today.

Oh, except that I got linked by Warren Ellis on a messageboard thread about NextWave, which is the type of event that the word "radical" was invented to describe. Just so you know, this is how I feel right now:

Yes, friends, I have no shame.
And that's the truth.

The Week In Ink, 10-26-05

So last night, just before closing, we've got a Customer Double-Shot that would've made a lesser man weep.

It all started with a pretty cute girl who, on reflection, I'm pretty sure was high. I say this because she was wandering aimlessly around a comic book store staring at the action figures while she ate an entire family-size bag of Skittles. At one point she walked over to Ben and pointed to a shelf with a sign hanging on it that said "All Toys 50% Off Of Lowest Price Marked!" and asked him if the toys were half off.

And then she asked if they were half off the price that was marked.

Then she asked him if they were half off. Again.

That, I was willing to forgive. I mean, she was a cute girl, and down at the Wiz, that's not something you see every day. Plus, I was secretly hoping she'd share her candy.

That's when the other guy walked in. I've termed this particular customer Jedi Mullet, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about him. He came in a while back to buy one of our Force FX Lightsabers, and was back for another one. Ben went to go help him, and I went back to leering--yes, I'll admit it--at Skittles.

A few seconds pass. That's when I hear "No, the LIGHTSABER. THE LIGHTSABER." The dude's shouting in a very irritated voice, and I whip my head around to see what's going on. The only thing I can think of is that Ben grabbed the wrong thing and this guy's flipped out on him, which--considering that Ben was not only a reader, but a subscriber to Black Belt Magazine--was a one-way ticket on the pain train.

Please, I think, Please don't let Ben Uppercut him until I turn around to see it.

As it turns out, though, he's shouting into his cell phone, and growing more belligerent by the moment.



Anyway, he finishes talking to someone that my seventh sense informed me was probably his mother, then walks back over to the counter, asking Ben when we're moving, a question that we're all pretty tired of answering after a solid month of Moving Sale. At the same time, Skittles is making her way to the counter with an entire armful of purchases.

Ben gives directions to the new shop to Jedi Mullet--standing not three feet in front of Skittles--and the instant, the very nanosecond he finishes, she asks where we're moving.

It was too much. I caught Ben's eye and started laughing and couldn't stop for half a minute. The entire month of lunatic customer annoyances, wrapped up perfectly in thirty seconds.

Anyway, here's this week's books, complete with the high-and-lowlights.

Adventures of Superman #645

Angel: The Curse #5

Army of Darkness vs. Reanimator #1: Bruce Campbell is a personal hero of mine, but my loyalty to him is put to the test every time one of these comes out. Believe me, just getting through one is an uphill battle. You know, when I was about 14, I came a hair's breadth from writing some Army of Darkness sequel fan-fiction, and from the looks of things, if I had I'd have a job with Dynamite Entertainment, and you wouldn't be reading about my customers. And what a tragic end that would've been.

Burglar Bill #4

Captain America #11

Defenders #4

The Flash #227: Shouldn't any comic that gets to #227 have a special guest appearance by loveable sitcom shrew Jackée? Believe it, player, that's how it's going to be in the World That's Coming. For now, we have this. After the way the Johns run ended, I remember saying that I was looking forward to whatever Cavalieri brought to the table. It was a nice theory, but in practice? Not so much.

Jack Cross #3

Respect!JLA #121: The ISB Presents: An Imaginary Conversation Between Editor Mike Carlin and Cover Artist Daniel Acuna:

"You know what our readers need more of, Daniel?"

"What's that, Mike?"

"Black Canary's crotch!"

"And how!"

JLA: Classified #13

JSA: Classified #4: It's always a little disconcerting when someone's "difinitive origin" ends with a blurb telling you to check out another series if you've got any questions, I don't care how pretty Amanda Conner's art is. That said, there's a scene where Power Girl (who has Super-Strength) knees Psycho Pirate (who does not) right in the junk, and the sound effect is "KRAKTCH!" Now that'll put a hitch in your getalong.

Now that's the good stuff.Legion of Super-Heroes #11: Ah, now here's some comics. This issue's a little muddled, what with sentient ideas and a trip to the 5th Dimension, but there's a neat little back-up story and the scenes with Brainiac 5 are pure gold. It's Deep Space Future Teenager Action As You Like It!

The Losers #29: Considering how close this book is to the chopping block, you're probably not reading it. Maybe I can change that with one simple phrase: It's Andy Diggle writing the A-Team. Seriously. In 2003, a crack commando unit was framed for a crime they did not commit. These men promptly escaped to the underground and now exist only to hunt down a seemingly immortal CIA spook who wants to rule the world and used an earthquake to create his own Nuclear Rogue State. If you have $2.99, maybe you can read... The Losers.


New Avengers #12

New Thunderbolts #14

A Damn ShameNew X-Men: Academy X #19 and New X-Men: Academy X Yearbook Special: Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir have done a great job with this book over the past few years, but apparently The Kids want to read about X-23. I've made my feelings pretty well-known on that particular issue, and it's an entirely different discussion altogether. Still, it's a shame that their run on the book has to end like this, especially knowing all the awesome stories they had planned. It feels pretty rushed, and even Aaron Lopresti's artwork seems hurried. But after all, it is a House of M tie-in, and it's nice that they gave the kids a big Butch-and-Sundance moment before the Scarlet Witch's Narrative Vagina gets on the scene and wipes it all out.

The yearbook special's a lot better. The story gets everything back to the status quo, wrapping up all the teen angst, but the real treats are the Official Handbook entries and the Yearbook Pages, which show not only the main characters, but all five squads of Xavier School students that never got any face-time. Somewhere out there, there's a great story with Kidogo, Pixie, and Network that I want to read.

DeFilippis and Weir have a new graphic novel in this month's Previews, and you all really should pick it up.

Noble Causes #14

Revelations #3

Silent Dragon #4

Solo: Mike Allred

Super F*ckers #273: I was pretty sure before, but now I'm convinced: James Kochalka could beat the ever-lovin' crap out of a 1920s Dandy. And that's real conversation for your ass.

Teen Titans #28: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Thank God that's over. It's... It's just... It's ri-Goddamn-diculous that this got printed.

... Uh... sorry, Gail. I still really like Villains United. And Birds of Prey, Agent X, and Killer Princesses. I promise.

Ultimate Secret #4

Wonder Woman #222

Young Avengers #8

Friday, October 28, 2005

Well, That Explains Mirror Mirror

No matter what I write here, today will always be remembered as the day Mr. Sulu came out of the closet.

Which is just as well, because I haven't been getting a whole lot of sleep lately and I can barely string together a sentence. A few things though:

1. While it has nothing to do with who George Takei wants to have sex with, I've found myself thinking a lot recently about that awesome E*Trade commercial he was in a few years back, where he was playing the villain in mock trailer for an action movie called "BLOW'D UP!, the punchline being that a guy sees the trailer and then immediately uses E*Trade to sell his stock in the company.

But man, I'd see that movie like eighteen times.

2. As I drove home tonight, hovering just on this side of sleep, I scanned through the AM stations until I found one where a CPA gave specialized tax advice to truckers. I don't know why, but this is the kind of thing that fascinates me.

Maybe it was how people would call in using their CB handles to ask questions about keeping receipts and capital gains. Maybe it was my curiosity as to whether the CPA's Southern accent was genuine or fabricated. Maybe it was the part where he explained how the trucking industry's tax laws are highly specific, and if you take your taxes to someone who doesn't understand how they work, "you're gonna be the one getting your oil changed." Regardless, I could not hear enough about how the industry standard per diem rose from $41 to $52 this month.

It kinda made me want to put togther a run of US1.

3. Look what I bought today:

Yet Another Reason
Yep. A full run.

I'm thinking of getting out of super-hero books altogether and just reading comics aimed at thirteen year-old girls. I hear there's a new Nancy Drew manga out, after all...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

House of A

My good friend and frequent ISB co-star Scott is one of those rare people that actually enjoys getting spam in his email.

Seriously. He even keeps the ones he likes, sending the subjects out in emails to his friends for our amusement. In fact, at the risk of generating even stranger Google search results than the ones I got when I talked about Dennis the Menace's mom taking a bath a couple weeks back, I'll share his top five with you:

5. Turn your paycheck into cryogenic alimony

4. sometimes, especially after i eat them, they are the demon on my tummy scrounge

3. It changed me piss ragged, Bezel.

2. jerk off to girls for dinner

And Scott's personal favorite:

1. "Alabama Danielson Cat Shovel."

It's hard to beat that last one (which sounds like a great "retro-Skynyrd southern rock band," according to Scott), but I'm partial to the aggressively ambiguous "jerk off to girls for dinner."

Regardless, the fact that Scott even had these headlines to send out--and that I still have them--says a lot about him. The annoying internet ads that you and I ignore without a thought, Scott actually takes precious fractions of a second to consider. Which is why when he logged onto Instant Messenger last night to catch me up on this week's Boston Legal, the conversation quickly turned to an ad that'd popped up, which he immediately referred to as House of A.

Have a look:


I asked him what the deal was, and he told me to look a little closer at the house.

What the--?!

Take a good long look at that place. Note the people cowering in fear at the foot of the stairs. Got the picture in your head? Then maybe you've realized that it looks exactly like Apocalypse.


Coincidence... or viral marketing for the next big Marvel Crossover? You decide!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Look Out For These Loveable Dum-Dums!

Sometime during lunch yesterday, it got cold up in this piece, a fact which became blatantly clear when I was wandering around outside at three o'clock in the morning. So today, I moved the DVD shelf and pulled my jacket out of the closet. It occurred to me at dinner that the last time I wore the jacket, I had a girlfriend.

Of course, the last time I wore the jacket, I didn't know anything about the Dingbats of Danger Street either, so it's up to you to decide whether I came out ahead.
8.5 on the Rockter scale
Tug found this down at the Wiz over the weekend, and while it's pretty commonly regarded as one of Kirby's missteps, I think it's great. It's weird, the characters are barely two-dimensional, and things happen that don't really make sense, but there's just so much entertaining stuff crammed into it that a good bit ends up working. I mean, look at that cover: There's a newspaper that reads "FAR OUT KILLERS STALK INNER CITY!" That is pure comics gold, friends.

The frantic, anything-goes nature of the story fits pretty well, since it appears in First Issue Special, which was DC's catch-all new idea tryout book at the time. Once a month, they'd throw something at the wall to see if it stuck--like, say, Lady Cop or the Mikaal Tomas incarnation of Starman--and, with the exception of Warlord, nothing ever did. Not even the Dingbats.

You do, however, get what might be the best opening sequence since OMAC #2.

The whole thing starts off with Kirby's wonderfully overblown style of introduction: "Their parents don't want them! Their friends don't want them! Society doesn't want them!" That may be because they're a street gang called the "Dingbats," but I guess that's no stranger than, say, the Baseball Furies.

Anyway, we get some introductions from our cardboard cutout Kirby kids. You can pretty much figure out all you need to know from their names, so I'll jsut give you the a quick rundown. There's "Good Looks" ("Know why I'm laughin'? 'Cuz in a minute, there'll be nuthin' to laugh about!"), Non-Fat, Krunch, and Bananas, who might actually be retarded. They're kicking it in front of a fence, presumably on Danger Street. End page one.

Page two? Frigg'n nuts. There's "Jumping Jack," a crazy Batroc the Leaper-lookin' dude with a gun, busting through the fence with his foot caught in Krunch's "exerciser," jumping what's gotta be ten feet of the ground with Non-Fat in a headlock. He's being pursued by Detective Mullins, who's hopping the fence one-handed while shooting at Jumping Jack, his hat flying off as he sends Good Looks sprawling to the ground. This all happens in one panel.

Kirby's caption for the whole thing: "THIS IS HOW FAST THINGS HAPPEN ON DANGER STREET!!!"

If you even try to deny that that is totally rad, you're lookin' for a chin-check, buster.

The rest of the issue pretty much goes downhill from there, but really, how could it not? One big bright spot, though, is when this guy shows up:

Hvae fun with your nightmares, suckers.This guy, obviously, is the Gasser, and he's Jumping Jack's partner in crime, and I think he's awesome. I want to know why he's never made a comeback, but considering that he's got one of those costumes that only looks good when Jack Kirby or Walt Simonson draws it, and he was defeated by four street urchins, maybe he should stay in the file a little longer. Still, he looks like he just rolled out of teh Firepits of Apokalips, which is fitting since Danger Street bears a striking resemblance to Armaghetto.

Kirby did two more issues worth of Dingbats stories, but they were never published by DC. At the end of this one, readers are invited to write in if they want to see more of the Dingbats, including their tragic origins.

Apparently, nobody did.

Nobody except Karl Kessel, that is.

Electric BluegalooFeast thine eyes upon Adventures of Superman #549. Don't let the cover fool you--Yes, it features Electric Blue Superman, but it actually is worth reading. Intergang sets fire to the Kents' apartment, and Clark almost dies, then he finds out that his change to Electric Blue Superman is--gasp!--irreversable!

The real attraction, though, is this issue's subplot, which features the second (and only other) appearance of the Dingbats of Danger Street as they rumble with the Newsboy Legion for squatting rights to a condemned theater.

Karl Kessel, you are Savior of the Universe and King of the Impossible. And did I mention that it's drawn by ISB favorite penciller Stuart Immonen? That guy's a machine.

Anyway, Superman steps in, calling up the one group he can think of to resolve the situation. Yes, that's right:
Remixed by Kevin, who hated my lettering
The Green Team

Now that ain't nothin' to fuck with.

Chris's Invincible Dungeon Crawl, Week 4

If there's one thing I've learned during my brief respite from getting jacked up by dragons this week, it's that understanding how your DM operates is the key to having your character survive in D&D. You've got to be able to get inside his head, to know what he's planning even before he does, developing a sixth--nay, almost a seventh sense that will lead your guy safely through the minefield of traps he'll throw at you.

Which is why I've been watching Steve's bootlegs of the 1983 Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon.

I gotta admit, it's not what you might call "very good," despite an all-star cast and crew that includes comics greats Mark Evanier and Paul Dini with the voice talents of Willie Aames (you know, Scott Baio's buddy from Charles in Charge. Also, Bibleman. Also, swore a lot on a VH1 reality show) and Katie Leigh, who pulls double duty doing voices for two of my unfounded obsessions, Christian radio show Adventures in Odyssey and Canadian action/comedy for 13 year-old girls, Totally Spies.

Maybe expecting it to be good was a little much.

Still, Ben loves it, which can pretty much be chalked up to him being ten when it aired, as opposed to any resemblance to actual D&D at all

Here's how it all goes down: Six kids, with your standard early-80s variation in race and gender, are kicking it at the fair when they get on a D&D themed ride--which is something you should never, ever do, kids--and are then immediately sucked through a portal into the bleak, Dali-esque landscape that is the world of D&D. This guy Venger, who we can tell is evil because he has a deep voice and a horn coming out of one side of his head, starts to hassle them, but then Dungeon Master shows up and turns them all into D&D characters. Sort of. Then they get a baby unicorn named Uni who has a sweet red power-mullet and generally serves to be a less communicative version of Snarf from the Thundercats.

Like I said, not a lot of resemblance to D&D as we know it today. But there's one big problem even beyond that one that I think I've been able to put my finger on:

This guy? Total douche.
Dungeon Master is a total cock.

Seriously. In the first episode I watched, Dungeon Master sends the kids to go fight a Beholder because there may be a way for them to get home in the valley where it lives. For those of you not "in the know," a Beholder is a giant evil floating head with a bunch of eyes, some of which shoot death rays. So not exactly the kind of thing you want to send six middle-schoolers to fight, especially when you've neglected to give them weapons.

Yeah, remember when I said he "sort of" turned them into D&D characters? Really, all he did was give them some new clothes and one magic item apiece, only handing out two with any offensive use whatsoever. And one of those was a log. Sure, you can call it a club if you want to, but I've been to the damn forest and I know a frigg'n log when I see one.

But here's the thing: In another episode I saw, Dungeon Master is assaulted by some frog-men, and gleefully takes them out, tying them up in their own net and shooting lightning out of his hands with a cheery giggle, remarking on how much fun it is. But when it comes time to send a handful of children to take out a flesh eating eye-monster, he mumbles something about how flowers can kill it and disappears behind a rock.

"Good luck with that one, kids. Wave your log at him, see if that works."

What a douche.

Also? Uni has got to go.

Anyway, it was a very enlightening experience. If this show had as much impact on Ben as I think it has, I'm pretty sure that his own DM style is going to lean towards cheerily sending us to our deaths while running off to buy a gold medallion and a badass red bathrobe.

Not that I can blame him. Heck, that's how I run my games.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Badass Panels Volume 3: The Question #2

Denny O'Neil and Denys Cowan's 1987 series The Question is totally badass.

The whole series challenges the reader in ways that you don't see too often anymore, including a suggested reading list at the end of every issue that featured everything from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to Crime and Punishment to books on Tai Chi and Ed McBain mysteries, encouraging the readers to write in and discuss. My good friend and alleged intellectual Dr. Kunka claims to have read every single book O'Neil suggested, but I'm pretty sure he just said that to make me feel bad about never finishing The Duchess of Malfi in English 289.

Personally, I think the whole thing with the books is just a smokescreen to hide the fact that the Question is a book about a guy with no face punching nearly everybody who gets on his bad side, responding to questions like "Who are you?" with pithy remarks like: "Good Question." Maybe that's what happens when you combine Alan Moore's Rorschach with Steve Ditko's original Objectivist crusading reporter, but it makes for some damn fine comics. Comics that have what may be the best last pages ever printed.

Take #1 for example. The last page of the first issue of the series ends with the Question getting beaten to a pulp, shot in the head and dumped off a pier to drown. How exactly do you follow that up?!

You should buy this comic.Well, if you're Denny O'Neil and Denys Cowan, you put out a book with some badass panels.

Here's how it starts: Hub City's in bad shape. Real bad shape. Like "Maybe-we-should-move-to-Gotham" shape. And it's mostly because of the evil machinations of Reverend Jeremiah Hatch, who's running things from behind the scenes. Ol' Vic Sage gets on his bad side, leading to the aforementioned beatdown.

Issue 2 opens with a recap:

Yep, that's Lady Shiva there, watching bemused at the astounding brutality. Anyway, the Question's shot in the head and put in the drink, but we learn that through an extremely convoluted series of events--which are allegedly based on an actual occurrence O'Neil read about--the bullet (from a 4.5mm air gun) does no real damage and the Question survives over ten minutes underwater thanks to a "diver's reflex" and a harsh winter.

You tell him, Bruce.
Vic wakes up in a hospital some time later, and then recieves a stern talking-to from Batman, who talks about his motivations in the way that makes you know why Denny O'Neil was in charge of those books for so long. So after Batman tells him to shape up and ship out, Vic heads to Richard Effing Dragon Kung Fu Fighter to learn how to become a Zen Master of Crime Fighting.

Turns out that Shiva was the one who pulled the Question out of the river and told Dragon to teach him, because she sensed "a warrior's passion" in him. So after he's all better, they fight. Cowan draws two solid pages of nothing but Badass Panels, but I'm not putting them up here. If the phrase "Zen Master of Crime Fighting" didn't rock your computer so hard it exploded, then Shiva fighting the Question with a fan definitely would.

Finally, he makes his way back to the city, puts his mask back on, and breaks into the Reverend's estate, methodically taking out every one of his guards, finally disturbing the Reverend's quiet repose with the gentle strains of Danny Boy. What follows is one of the best last pages ever printed:

This is awesome, and that is a fact.
So in case you were wondering why the Question was so awesome on Justice League, there's why.

ISB Suggested Reading: The DC Comics Guide to Writing, by Denny O'Neil.

It's Gonna Be Exciting, and It Might Even Be a Little Frightening

This may surprise some of you, since I come off as being so erudite and cultured, but the twin passions of my misspent youth were comic books... and professional wrestling.

Please make your "men in spandex" jokes at this time.

I've watched it off and on since I was a kid, which is pretty unavaoidable when you grow up in the South, but I haven't caught any of it for a while. Mostly, that's due to the absence of personal favorites like the Rock and Mick Foley. Still, I've got a lot of fondness for the world of Sports Entertainment, and between Brandon's fanatical man-crush on Shawn Michaels and the hours I've whiled away at the Wiz recounting my favorite matches, I still consider myself a casual fan.

That's why I was pretty excited when Mike Porto, who's been giving me stuff this week like the ISB pledge drive was in effect, hoooked me up with a copy of the new WWE documentary, The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior.

It is the single greatest DVD ever made.

That's a bold statement, I know, but allow me to explain. For thsoe of you who spent your Monday night sdoing something productive, like, say, needlepoint, here's what you need to know. Back in the mid-to-late 80s, there was a guy named Jim Hellwig, who went by the trade name of "The Ultimate Warrior," and he was huge. He was steroid-pumped, face-painted rock 'n' roll, man, with fringe on his boots and a power mullet that would make Patrick Swayze weep.

He was also completely fucking nuts.

And this isn't your garden variety craziness I'm talking about either. This is some serious "Buddha has a ghost penis that lives in my cereal" type of madness. It's gotten more pronounced recently, too. I thought he'd hit his peak when he had his name legally changed to Warrior, but earlier this year he spoke to a group of college Republicans, called a Middle-Eastern student heckler a "towel-head," and told them "Queerin' don't make the world work." Then he allegedly tried to sue SomethingAwful. Then he refused an invitation to come on the weekly WWE online broadcast ByteThis!, refering to hosts Todd Grisham and Droz (who was paralyzed in a wrestling accident) as "the queer and the cripple." Wow.

And then there's the comic.

This comic is fucking terrible.Written by the Warrior and put out in 1996, these are unquestionably the worst comic books I have ever read. I've flipped through them before, but today I got a full run for thirty cents and actually read all 72 incomprehensable pages.

I'd give you a plot summary, but I'm not even sure what the hell happens. All you really need to know is that the Warrior wrote it, some guy that makes Liefeld look good drew it, and it's atrocious.

But back to the matter at hand: The DVD. It's great. There's a lot of Chris Jericho in it, and since he's the only professional wrestler to regularly appear on VH1 programming, you know you're in for a good time when he shows up. The best part, though, is when they play clips from the rambling, borderline psychotic interviews the Warrior used to give where he talks about spaceships, and warriors floating in his veins, and the gods above. They are transcendent. Here's a few of my favorites, complete with awesome screen-shots:

On Preparation:
"How must I prepare, you must ask yourself! Should I jump off the tallest building in the world?! Should I lay in the lawn and let them run over me with lawnmowers?! Should I go to Africa and let them trample me with raging elephants?!

On Fire Safety:
"Exit stage left! Exit stage right! There is no place to run! All the fuses in the exit signs have been burnt out!"

On History:
"History tells us, Hogan, that a man's legacy is built from the premise that within his life, the moments lived, once lived, become a piece of his history."

On... Something?

The word, old son, is awesome. And that's not even getting into the one where he says he's going to hijack Hulk Hogan's plane, kill the pilots, and crash it.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Follow-Up Friday: Prince Returns!

After finding out during my research for Sunday's review of Dwayne McDuffie's Prince comics that there was a movie of Three Chains of Gold, I knew I had to see it. But considering that even McDuffie himself was unaware that there even was a movie, it proved a little hard to track down.

Fortunately, ISB reader, noted Prince-ologist and occasional death-threat author Mike Porto had a copy on VHS, and--using some kind of technology, possibly from the future--he was able to transfer it to DVD and loan it to me for review purposes.

As it turns out, it's not actually an adaptation of the comic, even though it features some of the same characters and themes. It's not even really a movie, but rather a series of vignettes built around some music videos and loosely connected by a sparse plot.

Here's the Rundown:

The whole thing kicks off with a nice dose of full-frontal female nudity, as Princess Mayte swims nude with her four attendants. It's all fun and games until Mayte's father is murdered by a mysterious conspiracy of seven, so Mayte hops a plane to Minneapolis where Prince has caused a riot and gives him a the eponymous chains and a VHS tape while he's singing on top of a car. Kirstie Alley appears for a couple seconds as Vanessa Bartholomew, a nosy reporter who also appears in the comic.

Prince goes home and sits in a dark room to watch the tape, which is a clip of Mayte at eight years old appearing on That's Incredible as a belly dancer. The whole thing's very Twin Peaks, especially when the creepy host puts three coins on her belly for her to flip over.

Back in the present, though, Mayte is hot. Seriously, there's a scene where she wears a burqa, and she still looks good. It's ridiculous.

Prince tries to distract himself from Mayte's incredible hotness by teaming up with the men and women of the Minneapolis Police Department and busting the New Power Generation's poker night. Even humping a car and hooking up with another girl in a movie theater doesn't work, though, so when Mayte shows up during a video shoot the next day, Prince goes off and rides a carosel with her for like ten minutes of screen time.

After that, Prince decides to hit it and quit it, leaving Mayte to walk the line until she remembers that she may or may not be a princess, and can therefore afford to catch the bus to the airport and head back to Cairo. Prince heads off to Japan for a concert and hooks up with a groupie, but right in the middle of doing 23 positions in a one night stand, he has a psychic premonition of Mayte.

Here's where it gets weird.

Prince and Mayte reunite in Los Angeles, and go to a warehouse where Prince has constructed a replica of the Taj Mahal out of bad early-90s CGI. Then he ascends into heaven in a glass tube, is surrounded by a group of children dressed in Mayte's bellydancer outfit and his strange lacy black mask costume, makes gun fingers, and shoots lighting from his hands at seven different versions of himself.

Then he decides to change his name to O(+>.


Personally, I prefer the comic. While the movie does feature naked ladies, there's a severe lack of Prince kung fu fighting with Middle-Eastern Assassins and the New Power Generation fighting their way through the tomb of Gilgamesh with automatic weapons. It's also pretty incomprehensable at times, and much of the plot summary up there is pure conjecture based on what I think happened. This would be because Prince, as I've said, is completely insane.

To be fair, that craziness is the type of madness that usually goes hand in hand with someone as creatively brilliant as Prince. But still, there's only two guys I know of that dress exclusively in custom-made purple suits, and the other one's this guy.

BONUS FEATURE: Rock 'n' Roll Comics #19!

There's that bike again...In addition to the DVD, Porto also brought me one of the gems of his personal comics collection. Rock 'n' Roll was a series produced by Revolutionary Comics that featured utterly unauthorized biographies of musicians, which at one point led them to be sued by the New Kids on the Block. They responded with a bitter and spiteful chronicle a year later called "The Fall of the New Kids" that's pure comics joy to read.

Anyway, this issue features Prince and George Clinton, and a back cover piece that may or may not be Rockwell, and it's not quite as joyous. All of the dialogue and captions in the Prince story are written in the style of Prince's lyrics, abbreviating words to U, 2, 4, R, et cetera, a process that should be familiar with you since you're reading this on the internet. Interesting stuff, but otherwise unremarkable.

Hey, wait a second, what's that on the title page?

What the--?!
Art by Stuart Immonen, of Marvel's upcoming NextWave?!

And that's how I tie it all together.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Week in Ink, 10-20-05

Okay, so apparently Alias Comics heard me talking shit about them not putting out anything for a couple months, and decided to release everything they publish in one week.

Well, everything they publish that they haven't dropped for having loose ties to sodomy. That wacky Mike S. Miller!

Anyway, that pretty much has no bearing on tonight's post, since it's about comics I actually buy. Let's kick it root down:


Astro City: The Dark Age #4

Inspired by Alpha Flight #119The Authority: Revolution #12: Hot damn! A kickass last issue for what's been a pretty kickass series. Dustin Nguyen's artwork has really impressed me throughout this series. I like him, and with the way he draws the Midnighter, I wouldn't mind seeing the same creative team on a Batman book, especially considering Ed Brubaker's one of my favorite writers, largely for his work on Batman and Detective Comics over the past few years. Even beyond that, though, this series has delivered everything you want to see out of the Authority: Truly reprehensible villains getting their heads kicked in brutally and in lurid explosions of blood by well-meaning badasses like Jack Hawksmoor. Excellent stuff.

Banana Sunday #3: Also excellent, but for entirely different reasons. Well, actually, I don't know. Kirby's nemesis Skye is sort of a high school girl Henry Bendix, and there's a very real chance at one point that she's going to get her teeth kicked in. Seriously, though, if you're not buying this book, I have only two things to say: 1) I am totally in love with Colleen Coover. 2) It's the story of being a high school outcast... with super-intelligent talking monkeys.

Batgirl #69: I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Andersen Gabrych and Pop Mhan are the perfect team for this book. In this one issue, Gabrych ties in elements from every other writer's run on the book, while at the same time confronting Batgirl with a truly sinister foe. His characterization of Nyssa--the new Demon's Head from Greg Rucka's severely underrated Death and the Maidens--is dead-on, and he plays her every bit as sinister and brilliantly manipulative as Ra's al-Ghul. Pop Mhan's art, of course, is gorgeous, and his panel layout is great as he shifts from kinetic fight scenes to overlapping chains of memory. It's one of the best DC comics coming out right now, and the current story's the best of the run so far.

Daredevil vs. Punisher #5: Hey, you know that part where there's two guys with machine guns and the Punisher kills them both with a hunting knife? Yeah, that is awesome. On another note, I just now noticed that the top halves of each cover for this series are sequential pieces where Daredevil and the Punisher are just beating the hell out of each other. David Lapham, I hereby forgive you for "City of Crime."

Hellblazer #213

Jack Staff #9: You know, it's one thing to wait months between issues for Jack Staff, but when it ships to my local store two weeks late, that's what sticks in my craw. Fortunately, it's still a great comic. The coloring for this issue was done by Craig Conlan, not Phil Elliot, and I'm not sure if it was just a fill-in or the new regular guy, but it's definitely got a different style to it. He's not bad by any means, but I prefer Elliot's flatter style. That said, it's a great-looking book, and the "Recurring Dreams of Helen Morgan" sequence in the middle was great. And hey. Tom-Tom the Robot Man... He ain't no joke.

Justice #2: Much better than the first issue, although I still can't help taking issue with one thing. Alex Ross doesn't like to draw Batman with his customary white eyes. Me, I think that makes him look scarier, but Ross has a problem with it supposedly limiting Batman's peripheral vision, so he just draws him with open eye-holes in the mask. Which would be fine, except that Batman needs to, you know, have special lenses that let him see in the dark because he's fucking Batman. Which is what leads to this issue, where Batman wears goofy bat-goggles over his mask. Still, that's a minor quibble with an otherwise decent issue, so I can let it slide... this time.

Manhunter #15: You know, I didn't think I'd be sad to see Jesus Saiz go, but, well, like everything else about this book, he's really grown on me. This issue involves the secret origin of Kate Spencer's costume, which is pretty fun. My only problem? Unlike the last one, this issue does not end with Kate getting ready to get naughty with her ex-husband. Freaky naughty.

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Horror 2005: You know, if you want the official story about Elsa Bloodstone and the Terror, pick this one up. But if you want to hear the real facts about how they're totally hot and not very good, respectively, stick with the ISB. Who loves ya, baby?

Robin #143

Runaways #9: Excellent stuff, especially with Adrian Alphona back on pencils. I like Miyazawa a lot, don't get me wrong, but Alphona's art and Christina Strain's coloring are absolutely gorgeous together. Also, I'm really, really hoping that the Runaways meet up with the Young Avengers in this story arc. That would make me happy beyond my wildest dreams.

Man.  That's awesome.Seven Soldiers: Klarion #4: If you can look at a picture of Klarion the Witch Boy tied to a stake with his foot on fire and his cat trussed up beside him and tell me that's not one of the best covers of the year, you may qualify for my new Stabbing Plan. I ended up not liking this series as much as Shining Knight and, of course, Guardian, but considering that I love those two like they're my own children, that's not saying much. There's a heck of a lot to like about it--Grundy Men, a monster made of children, and a pretty frigg'n awesome last page--but I think it was the weird furry parts of this issue that threw me off. If only he would've fought a village-sized world of robots instead...

Surrogates #2

She-Hulk 2 #1

Thor: Blood Oath #3: You know, I probably read better comics this week, but this was the only one that made me sit up in bed and actually say the words "Holy crap!" And as those who know me will attest, getting me to sit up is not an easy task. Scott Kolins's pencils are my favorite since his early work on Flash. They're incredibly dynamic and he excels handing what is truly a senses-shattering fight comic in the Mighty Marvel Manner. I think Walt Simonson would be proud, and that's probably the highest praise I can offer. KRAKADOOM!

Walking Dead #22

Also, do yourself a favor and check out Spider-Man Family, which is a little pricey, but includes an all-new team-up between Spider-Man, Spider-Girl, Arana, and Peter Porker, and an awesome Fred Hembeck story. And while I haven't picked them up, I have read every issue of the new Power Pack series. They're fun, even though it's weird to have them around when Julie Power's running around in Runaways being totally hot and getting hit on by Ricochet and Karolina.

And finally, help out William Messner-Loebs and grab yourself a copy of Heroes and Villains, a great-looking art book from Twomorrows. For one thing, it'll help out a comics creator who's fallen on hard times, and for another, you get to see a phenomenal sketch of the Shadow by John "Handsome Dan" Cassaday, and what really sealed the deal for me, Chris Giarrusso doing the cover to Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Take one look and tell me that's not worth owning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Dollar Comic Review: Bloodstone 101

You know who I feel bad for? Mark Hale. Based on Elsa Bloodstone's appearance in Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's sure-to-be awesome NextWave, he bought and read every issue of her 2001 debut miniseries.

He could've just waited for me to do it for him.

I'd hit it.
Bloodstone 1-4
December, 2001 - March, 2002
Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Pencils and Covers: Michael Lopez

The Plot
Elsa Bloodstone is hot. Seriously. I've read this series three times now, and that's pretty much the only fact that sticks with me, thanks in large part to Michael Lopez's cheesecake-laden pencil-work. Here, see for yourself:


See what I mean? There is, however, slightly more to it than that. Remember how you all loved it when Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took some time off from writing Warhammer novels and doing some darn fine inking, respectively, to write stories about future teenagers in space? Well, they also did this. Buffy--sorry, Elsa is the daughter of Bronze Age monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone, and since he finally kicked the bucket about thirty years back, she and her mom are moving into his creepy old house. Mom has apparently never read Lovecraft, and wants to turn it into an antique/curio shop, while Elsa is content to lounge around in belly shirts speaking faux-British until she runs into the Monster of Frankenstein, who lives in a basement.

He's an okay guy, though, and it turns out he's the mansion's caretaker. He gives Elsa her father's lightsaber--sorry, bloodstone choker, and she gets wrapped up in the whole monster hunting deal while her mom dates the Dark Shadows-esque family lawyer, Charles Barnabus. Thanks to her father's love of slavery (really, although it's just a genie), Elsa's whisked away for encounters with smooth-ass Marvel Dracula and N'Kantu, the Living Mummy, completing the Famous Monster Trifecta and moving on to the Blade II bonus round of taking out the Nosferati. See, the evil vampires have a plan to infect Dracula with Ebola (?!) and then drink his blood (?!), but Elsa and her Crew are able to foil it, and everything works out okay.

  • Elsa's father, Ulysses Bloodstone, was an immortal from the time of Conan, who assumed various identities over the years, including Captain Ahab. This was not, unfortunately, the identity he assumed when he fought ORRGO THE UNCONQUERABLE. That would've been badass.
  • When we first see Elsa's mother, she's six months pregnant with Elsa's baby brother. Considering that Ulysses has been dead for quite some time, and Elsa makes references to not really knowing him, we can assume he's not the father. The problem? The father is never mentioned. Not even a hint. And then she starts dating a creepy lawyer.
  • Despite the fact that he appears on the cover of Essential Monster of Frankenstein in a nice fur-and-loincloth ensemble, Adam (that's the Monster) dresses a lot like Marty McFly.
  • On the cover to #2, Elsa appears to be wearing a bra designed by Stark Industries, for the reasons discussed above. It never actually appears in the story, but she does spend most of the issue obeying Dave Campbell's "Four Points of Contact" law.
  • When asked what his eternal undeath is like, N'Kantu the Living Mummy replies: "A lot like life, only colder." No joke here, I just think that's a pretty good line.
  • Let's take a look at Nosferatu's Master Plan: He's not getting the same high he used to from regular blood, so he decides that the best course of action would be to infect Dracula with Ebola which, since he won't die, will just make him bleed more. Admittedly, I'm a noted expert on Master Plans, but I can spot a fatal flaw in this one even before you throw a gun-toting monster hunter. Correct me if I'm wrong, which I'm not, but Ebola is transmitted through the blood.
  • Considering that it's the introduction of a new character, Bloodstone's pretty open ended. By the last page, Elsa's got her team of monster-hunters, a kickass hideout, and plans to attend college in the fall. And yet, we don't see her until four years later, when Warren Ellis sends out an email asking for forgotten Marvel characters. This, Elsa, does not bode well.

Defining Moment

It defined MY moment, anyway.
And that's real conversation for your ass.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Best Solicitation Ever

Today, I enjoyed what will be known throughout the ages as The King of Sandwiches.

Now I'm hardly a gourmand, but the sandwich is a particular passion of mine. In fact, I recently had a conversation with Scott where we agreed that the Earl of Sandwich, whose passion for gambling was so great that it allowed him to singlehandedly revolutionize the lunch industry in the 18th century, and that his brilliance would be worth watching if time travel ever became as common to us as it is to Silver Age Superman.

Fun Fact: John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, had been a member of the Hellfire Club with John Wilkes, the radical English journalist for whom John Wilkes Booth, screwball actor and assassin of Abraham Lincoln, was named. It is unknown whether he was actually a cyborg or a mutant telepath.

But that is beside the point--which is itself actually beside the point, but bear with me anyway. Today Tug and I rolled over to Sub Station II for lunch, and I decided it was time to do the impossible.

I ordered a foot-long Super-Special (#19), which includes cheese, ham, turkey, capicola, and blogna, which I don't get, substituting extra capicola instead.

Oh, and I doubled up on the meat. KRAKADOOM!!

It was a truly phenomenal amount of sandwich. Even the nice lady who runs the place told me that there was enough meat on the sandwich already, and I didn't need to put any more on it, but who dares wins, lads. Who dares wins. And believe me when I say this: It was easily one of the top ten sandwiches I have ever eaten in my life.

Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's NextWave is like my sandwich.

Take a look at what may in fact be the single best comic book solicitation ever written, courtesy of Marvel's marketing department and our friends over at Newsarama, with my emphasis added:

Best house ad ever?
BOOM!!!NEXTWAVE #1 (of 12)

Pencils & Cover by STUART IMMONEN

RRRAAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!!! Action! Excitement! Explosions! The Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort, or H.A.T.E. (a subsidiary of the Beyond Corporation©) put NEXTWAVE together to fight Bizarre Weapons of Mass Destruction. When NEXTWAVE discovers that H.A.T.E. and Beyond© are terrorist cells themselves and that the BWMDs were intended to kill them, they are less than pleased. In fact, they are rather angry. So they make things explode. Lots of things. Starring Monica Rambeau (formerly Captain Marvel and Photon), Aaron Stack (Machine Man), Tabitha Smith (X-Force's Meltdown), monster-hunter Elsa Bloodstone and The Captain! Guest-starring Fin Fang Foom!!! If you like anything, you will LOVE NEXTWAVE!!! BOOM!!


Holy Crap!

Now that is a senses-shattering description. If the house ad up top and the beautiful Stuart Immonen cover hadn't gotten you excited before, the fact that it'll appeals to anyone who likes things might just knock you out of your chair. I'm pretty sure the first time I read it it blasted my eyebrows two inches up my forehead, and now I look surprised at everything.

Like my sandwich, there's entirely too much meat in there, and way more exclamation points than anyone actually needs--but it's delicious. I mean, an all new acronymed Marvel terrorist organization, explosions, and the promise of monkeys? And for cryin' out loud, Elsa Frigg'n Bloodstone, a Dollar Comic Review I've been meaning to get to ever since Tug talked me into buying the issues? And it's all wrapped up in a Parental Advisory.

If Sharknife shows up, it might be the best comic ever.

Three Things

1. Hey, Dwayne McDuffie himself posted a response to yesterday's review of his Prince comics. I've got to say, that's pretty exciting. But what's more exciting is that apparently he had no idea that Three Chains of Gold had been made into a movie, which means only one thing:

I have got to see this movie.

Unfortunately, I think he got the last copy from Amazon, because the closest I can get is a VHS copy of Prince and the Revolution in concert. You win this round, McDuffie... You win... this round.

2. The Invincible Dungeon-Crawl careened into Week 3, but there's not a whole lot to report. I will say this, though: There were dragons, one of which landed near me. And yes, it did indeed use its breath weapon.

It had not, apparently, taken into consideration the fact that my god is a god of vengeance, and that I had taken the precaution of growing to twelve feet tall and was therefore uniquely suited to smacking the bejeezus out of it with my Talking Stick of Wrath.

3. Today I had a customer who droned on like a Greatest Hits album of the stupid questions I've been asked lately. I hesitate to make fun of him, because I think he may have bigger problems than I'm aware, for reasons that will soon become apparent. I will therefore report only the conversation itself, leaving out my usual bitter and hateful commentary.

"Those action figures that have a red tag... Are they 50% off?"

"Yes, sir." Keep in mind that there are at least three signs I can see from where I'm standing that say: "All Red Tag Merchandise: 50% Off!"

"So if there was something that cost, like, $2.95... it'd be half of that?"

"... Yes."

"That's a pretty good deal, right?"

"On some of it, yeah."

And three, two, one: "So are you guys moving the entire store to a new location?"

Believe it or not, I have still managed to not stab anyone.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Choice of a New Power Generation

Digital Cable with DVR may actually prove that there is a just and benevolent God. I know this because not ten minutes ago, I was staring in rapturous joy at a Discovery Channel re-enactment of an Egyptian ritual involving human sacrifice that had been dubbed into Spanish. It was beautiful, and I wept.

But there is one thing that I haven't been able to find as I trip the channels fantastic. And that is a comic book starring none other than Prince Rogers Nelson himself.

Fortunately, I already own two.

I've alluded to them before on the ISB, and the fact that they are sheer and unbridled genius, but I feel that the time has finally come to review them in-depth. It's like a Double-Size Dollar Comic Review, but more expensive!

Yep.  Brian Fucking Bolland.
(Click to Purple Rain-size it!)

"Alter Ego" and "Three Chains of Gold"
1991 / 1994
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils: Denys Cowan / David Williams, Steve Carr, and Deryl Skelton
Covers: Steven Parke ("Three Chains of Gold") and Brian Fucking Bolland ("Alter Ego")

The Plot
Prince returns home from a tour--riding a custom-made purple motorcycle, naturally--only to find that something is wrong in "his city." It gets so bad that he can't even concentrate on producing a new hit record from the greatest band in the world, Morris Day and the Time, so he tracks down the disturbance--heading off a gangwar along the way--and ends up face-to-face with his nemesis, Gemini, who has recently escaped from an asylum. He's essentially Prince's evil twin, but whereas Prince's music is fueled by love, Gemini's is fueled by rage. Also, he stole Prince's girlfriend. That doesn't stop The Artist from knocking boots with her, but as it turns out, she's just a distraction while Gemini uses his hypnotic guitar riffs to take over the New Power Generation and drive Minneapolis into catastrophic riots. Prince swoops in at the last moment to save their mutual girlfriend--Muse--from a deathtrap, and then she seemingly sacrifices herself to save Prince's life.

Then, and I swear this is true, Prince and Gemini have a Rock-Off. Prince wins, Gemini is carted off, and everything turns out okay.

"Three Chains of Gold" is even wierder.

48 Page Giant!"Somewhere in the Middle East," the King of Erech wants to abdicate and pass his power to his hot daughter, Mayte, which cheeses off her evil Uncle. Fortunately for him, the people of Erech will accept just about anybody as their leader as long as they have The Three Chains of Gold, ancient artifacts passed down from Gilgamesh. Unfortunately for him, Prince is in town on tour and Hot Princess Mayte takes a liking to him, giving him her chain for safekeeping as he returns to Minneapolis. Before long, Prince, tired of being targeted by Evil Uncle's assassins, heads back to Erech to help Mayte get the third and final chain, thus cementing her rule of the country.

And what's more, the whole thing's apparently a movie adaptation.

  • Here is, word for word, the opening dialogue of "Alter Ego": "Minneapolis. The long tour is over. Prince is back in town. There is music in everything. Can you hear it? He can." It might suprise you to learn that Dwayne McDuffie didn't take home an Eisner for this issue, which is a frigg'n crime.
  • All told, Prince, who I'm pretty sure stacks up at 4'11" and 94 pounds, beats up like twelve people in both issues--including a team of professional assassins--and he's compared to Batman four times.
  • In the middle of hunting down Gemini, he screeches to a halt at a crowd of people gathered to watch two gangs rumble. A guy named "Raynard" hassles him until he realizes it's Prince, and then offers to watch his tricked out purple and gold motorcycle. Prince then immediately knows that "the two gangs about to bang don't have any beef with each other," and is recognized on sight by the gang leaders, who drop their weapons immediately after 22 words and a stern glare from His Royal Purpleness. Clearly, when he's not busting Middle-Eastern conspiracies and producing unseen documentaries with Kevin Smith, Prince is a pillar of the community.
  • Gemini, who is compared to the Joker, can incite riots and control minds with the power of his rock, takes a shot at Prince with his shotgun, attempts the onstage murder of his girlfriend with a deathtrap, and tries to kill Prince with an electrified guitar before he's finally brought down by Prince and his superior musical superpowers.
  • The New Power Generation? Yeah, those guys are like the fucking A-Team. In "Three Chains Of Gold," we find out that various band members can fly planes, hotwire state-of-the-art security systems, sneak automatic weapons INTO THE MIDDLE EAST, fire said automatic weapons with deadly accuracy, and have deadly aim with throwing knives. Also, much like the X-Men, they enjoy a good game of softball.
  • After crash-landing in Erech, Prince is surrounded by fans who speak no English, but still know to call him "You sexy MF." "Three Chains of Gold" didn't win an Eisner either. Elitist bastards.

Defining Moment

I think we can all agree that the guy who wrote "When Doves Cry" has to have superpowers of some kind. But in "Alter Ego," after Muse sacrifices her own life by grabbing the electrified guitar out of Prince's hands, he is able to resurrect her with the power of his music.

Holy Crap.

That almost makes it seem mundane when it's revealed that the Three Chains of Gold, which, in case you forgot, once belonged to a demigod, form Prince's symbol when they're interlinked.

You know, the one that looks like this: O(+>

And people say ASCII art is dead.

Final Thoughts

Much like Prince himself, these comics are completely insane, but in a way so transcendent as to be great in their own right. It's obvious Dwayne McDuffie's having fun with turning Prince into an analog of Batman, and the stories are just enough over the top to be a heck of a lot of fun. If you can find 'em, pick 'em up.

Besides, it's not like you can argue with that Brian Bolland cover.

That Ol' Stabby Feelin'

Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from the Private Journals of Christopher J. Sims. It should be noted that despite being referred to by his close friends as "one hateful sonofabitch," he has calmed down quite a bit since the original writing, especially after attending a party where a girl in a short white dress spilled beer on herself. He is also prone to extreme hyperbole, and therefore any references to his intent to visit grievous bodily harm upon others should be ignored.

It's a Goddamn miracle I haven't stabbed anyone today.

Allow me to explain: As I write this, I'm dead in the middle of an all-day shift here at the Wiz, and I think this might be the one that finally kills me.

It's only two hours longer than my normal weekday shift, but it feels like it's lasted eons. Entire civilizations have risen, thrived, and fallen while I've been ringing up Star Wars merchandise for a constant parade of soul-less Un-Men that featured an All-Star roster including the Cap'n, Gigolo Sam, Fleagle and Bingo, and a host of others. And while the old song says that the freaks come out at night, there were plenty waiting outside the door at 11 AM.

I want to destroy them all.

Even the children.

Especially the children.

See what it's done to me? I've been reduced to spouting angry Warren Ellis quotes. Of course, you'd be a smouldering pile of rage too if you had to deal with these kids.

Let's talk about Brandon. I know his name because every five minutes--like some kind of sadistic clockwork--his father would, without pausing from going through the quarter books, shout it in a savage, angry baritone. Brandon would then stop screwing around with our DVD player and immediately give his conditioned answer: "RIGHT HERE!"

It was some Chinese water torture shit. Especially considering that Brandon, a unibrowed little hellion, had a mild speech impediment, so that every couple of minutes I got this:



They were there for three hours. Or, in relative time, several million years. Making matters worse during the Epoch of Brandon was an extremely obese gentleman sporting a t-shirt reading "LARGE and IN CHARGE" that, really, robbed us all of our dignity. He wandered around the store sniffing to clear his nose every few seconds. But I'm not talking little sniffles--it was like the fucker was planning something. They were long, drawn out, and made a nosie that hit my soul like broken glass on a chalkboard.

But these are normally just minor annoyances. These folks can't control it, for the most part--although that guy could've picked out another shirt--and my peaceful Buddha nature is enough to let it slide off, and it would've today if I hadn't already been put on edge by the others.

The store is moving. We are having, therefore, a Moving Sale There are four signs in the front window, a big poster just inside the door on an easel, and flyers on the counter. And while I'm pretty tired of constantly being asked where we're moving, I'm not going to fault people for wanting to continue to patronize our store.

I will, however, find fault with the countless hordes who stumble in and ask if we're moving. And by "find fault with," I mean "stab."

Yes, you illiterate masses, we are moving. HENCE THE SIGNS.

Like I said, everyone who comes in has asked where we're moving, and beyond the repetition of it, I don't mind. But these are the people who are not only annoying, but are adding an entirely new and unnecessary step to the process. They are killing me by inches.

I swear to you, I'm operating on four hours of sleep and the only thing keeping me from stabbing these bastards in the face with the very pen I now hold is Iron Maiden's "Flight of Icarus."

A few others of note:

Guy walks over to the counter and points to one of the display cases. "How much for the Fantastic Four statue?"

I don't remember there being an FF statue in the case, but most of the time that stuff can change without me being aware, so I go over to see which statue he means. there is, of course, no Fantastic Four statue in the case.

"Uh, which one did you want to know about?"

"The Fantastic Four statue. That one." He points to a statue of the original JLA fighting Starro, inspired by Brave and the Bold #28.

"Oh," says I, "That's actually the Justice League, sir. It's about two hundred bucks."

"Oh, right," he says. "I thought it was the Fantastic Four."

"Ah." I look back at the statue, then back at him, realizing immediately that a) I can't resist, and b) I'm not a very good person. "Well, see, there's five of them. That's how you can tell."

Later, a dude walks up and asks how he should go about selling his comics, and brother, was he sitting on a gold mine. I listened patiently, for I am saintly and wise, as he told me that he had the first three hundred issues each of Legends of the Dark Knight and Shadow of the Bat. Then I told him that Shadow of the Bat ended at #94, and Legends of the Dark Knight #196 just came out last week. He was completely unfazed, and just told me that it was all right, because he had ten copies each of the first issues.

He also told me he had Brave and the Bold #12, "from when Batman first came out," which not only didn't make any sense, but I'm pretty sure wasn't true because he's a fucking liar.

And for God's sake, people. Sweatpants are not to be worn in public.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Five Reasons To Buy The Goon

Eric Powell's The Goon may be the single best comic book coming out right now. It's certainly the best bi-monthly comic, but considering that the only other ones I can think of are the bottomlessly awful Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose and the great-but-cancelled Plastic Man, that's not saying a lot.

Still, much to my surprise, there are people out there who aren't reading it. So I'm thinking maybe they just haven't been given a good reason. So, as a public service--and because I did nothing today but sleep until 6:30 PM--I'm happy to offer some up.

5. This One Time, He Fought Hellboy
Who the hell did you think he is?Clobbered him with a wrench, too.

4. He Doesn't Take No Crap From Midget Gangsters
Not even the ones with bowling balls stuck on their hands.

3. He's All Man

2. There's a Positive Message For the Kids
Yes, by following his example, you too can be a Junior Goon. Or as they like to refer to themselves...

1. Franky

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Week in Ink, 10/13/05

So it's 3:30 in the morning and I'm going to try to review the comics that came out yesterday, and I'm pretty sure that it's going to be one of the worst things ever written. At this point, I'm not even sure it's going to pass for English.

Hey, you know what hasn't come out in a while? Anything from Alias Comics.

Yeah, I went there. Let's get on with it, shall we?


Battle Pope #3: As fun as this book is and as much as I enjoy reading it, it's weird to be reading a colorized semi-mainstream reprint of a book that features Jesus being nailgunned to a cross by a cybernetic demon in a bondage mask. And upon re-reading that sentence, I'm thinking "weird" might be the wrong word. You know what I mean.

The Breach #10: Only one more issue for the series that apparently only Josh and I like, and I'm honestly surprised at the lack of punching. I'm pretty sure there'll be some next issue, though.

Ex Machina #15: You know how on HBO shows, they'll just occasionally throw in gratutious nudity and profanity for the hell of it, because without network censoring there's just no reason not to? Welcome to Page 7 of Ex Machina #15. Seriously, though, between the trailer park samurai and the last-page shocker, this was a stand-out issue. And while Tony Harris has always been a fantastic penciller, Tom Feister and Jo Mettler do so much to bring out what's great in his art--especially with Mettler's awesome coloring.

It's Minnesota.  It's 3 AM.  Get me a camel.Fables #42: Yeah yeah. Bill Willingham blah blah Mark Buckingham blah blah most consistently enjoyable comic coming out blah blah blah. That said, I'd like to talk about James Jean for a second. This guy's covers are amazing. He's done a lot of good work on books like Batgirl and Amazing Fantasy, but I think the Fables covers are where he really shines. The cover for #20 is easily one of my favorites of all time.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1: I've got the sneaking suspicion that "The Other" is going to blow. Hard.

Ghost Rider #2: ... Could have easily been Ghost Rider #1.

The Goon 25¢ Edition: So we've got some of these up by the counter at the store that we're pushing because a) It's the Goon, which is one of the best comics coming out, and b) it's a quarter. Not exactly rocket science. So a guy brings up his comics, and while I'm ringing him up, I ask him if he wants me to throw one on the stack. "Nah, man," he says with a chuckle that reeks of fake chagrin, "It's just not in the budget." I looked down at the two copies of Infinite Crisis he was buying, priced to move at 3.99 each. You, sir, are a fucking liar.

I mean, just look at it.Infinite Crisis #1: Speak of the Devil. I realize that tonight's post has been a little more bitter than my usual fare, but you know what? I liked it. It's weird in that overly-sentimental Geoff-Johnsy sort of way that I've talked about before, but there's also a lot of neat stuff in it and Phil Jiminez draws some fantastic pages. The last page--which I read first, because that's how I read most Johns comics lately--is pretty neat and succeeds in making me want to find out what happens next.

I will say this, though: If you bought the Jim Lee cover and did not purchase the George Perez cover, you are probably retarded.

JLA #120

The Middleman #3: I missed out on the second issue of this series, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could jump right in with no trouble. Very fun stuff, and the scene where the Middleman calls Wendy a "garbage mouth" cracked me up when I read it last night. Hopefully I'll be able to find #2, but if not, I wouldn't be averse to a sure-to-be-oddly-sized trade.

Street Fighter II #0: As a general rule, I'd advise you to avoid comics based on videogames like some kind of super-plague sent back from the future by evil cybernetic dogs, but I like the Street Fighter comics a lot. I loved the game when I was a kid, and I've been with the franchise through one shitty adaptation after another, so it's nice to finally get one that's faithful and well-drawn. Plus, you should always make exceptions when Corey Sutherland Lewis the Rey is involved, which means I'll be picking up Rival Schools in January, too.

Ultimate X-Men #64

Villains United #6: I love everything about this book. I like the big reveal, and how it really gets me excited about reading Infinite Crisis without dampening my enjoyment of the story itself. I like how Captain Nazi gets his ass handed to him constantly by guys like Deadshot and Cat-Man, because really: Captain Nazi's a dick. I like Scandal and Talia facing off. Heck, I even like the new Fiddler. Gail Simone, you are totally Airwolf.

Y - The Last Man #38


Doom Patrol v.3: Down Paradise Way: I spent a few lunch hours this week re-reading the other two trades of Morrison's Doom Patrol, and it occurs to me that the villains Grant creates are fucking terrifying. I think the Scissormen alone are going to give me nightmares for a month, and I'm not quite over the Terrible Time Tailor from Seven Soldiers yet. Regardless, I'm excited about reading more, especially since Chad told me this volume has the story about the transvestite street.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Open Letters, Volume 3

Dear Marvel Comics,

Look, I realize paper, ink, and Brian Bendis's team of double-joined cabana boys cost a lot of money. And I know that you guys are all about trade paperbacks now, and you're willing to kill of the single issue market slowly, but as hard as it may be to believe, there actually are some of us still reading the singles every week. So in the future, could you maybe not have ads on literally every other page in the comic?

I thought it was pretty weird last week when there was a double-page Honda Civic ad before any actual story in The Incredible Hulk, but when Chad popped open Ghost Rider at the store, there were actually more ads than story pages, and that's a little worrisome. Maybe there's another way to get the scratch to secretly fund Roy Thomas's llama farm? Picture this: Pepsi Cola and Stan Lee Present... House of Mountain Dew!

Get back to me on this.

Dear Gail Simone,

So I found out that you're "married" or whatever. That's cool, I've, uh, got a girlfriend anyway. I mean, you probably don't know her, she lives in Canada.

Wait. No. Not Canada. That, uh, didn't work out so well.

Anwyay, even though you won't return my calls, I figure we can still work together on a professional level. I'm a writer too, after all, and I just finished reading Villains United. Great stuff! But I'm thinking that "the kids" might want something a little edgier, so I took the liberty of punching up the dialogue for the trade paperback:

Kevin, I hope you're happy.
Hope you like it!

Dear Google Search Engine,

Can we talk for a minute about the people you're sending to my site here? I'll be honest with you, I don't mind getting hits from folks who are looking for "cobra punch kung fu form" and "using chi to be invincible" at all. I mean, that's what I'm all about. And as much as I'm loathe to admit it, I guess I was just asking to get a hit off "dennis the menace fuck mom," even though I'm not exactly sure why anyone would actually search for that.

It's when I get stuff like "Punisher Scully" that I worry about. What is that, someone looking for crossover fan-fiction? And I'm sure the guy looking for "Jesus statue you kneel to view" was pretty unhappy with my review of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, so it's not working out for any of us.

And those were just today's. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I enjoy your fine family of products, like Blogger here, but I'm thinking you might want to refine it so that the Alice Mitchell fetishists get exactly what they want.

Your Buddy,

PS: "shirtless gambit" is right out.

To His Holiness, the Pope Benedict XVI:

Hey, did you know Comedy Central's bringing back Drawn Together for a second frigg'n season? I don't have access to the libraries over there, but I'm pretty gosh-darned sure that the only thing left before the Apocalypse is rivers of blood.

Keep on rockin' the miter,
Christopher J.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

ISB Mystery Theater: Batman #440

Or: The Purloined Letter

The odd things that you can stumble across while working in a comic book store are not necessarily limited to the people who come in looking for back issues of Purgatori.

I figure that it happens in most businesses that deal with second-hand merchandise, but occasionally we'll run across something we didn't bargain for when we got the comics. Personally, I'm pretty fond of the time MG3 was processing a box of comics, and ran across what was described in The Blues Brothers as "One prophylactic... soiled."

Okay, I don't think it was actually soiled, but it's a jarring enough sight nonetheless, which led MG3 to pull a a double-take and then utter the classic phrase:

"Hey... I found a little goodie."

It still happens every now and then. Nothing quite as shocking as that, but no less bizarre. A couple weeks ago, MG3--who's apparently a magnet for this sort of thing--found some guy's vacation photos tucked into an issue of Firestorm and hung a few of them up around the store. I forget the name we settled on for him, but apparently he liked two things: Firestorm, and Ice Fishing.

Which leads us to today's adventure with Batman #440. But first, a little background.

Not exactly Dark Knight.
A relic from October of 1989, this is the first installment of the five-part "A Lonely Place of Dying," the story that introduces Tim Drake as the new Robin. The whole shebang's written by Marv "The Wolfman" Wolfman, and it runs through Batman and New Titans.

The story revolves around a mystery villain (Two-Face), Batman curling up in a fetal position and biting his bedsheets, and Starfire hopping out of the shower to answer the door for young Tim Drake, which never gets mentioned in that kid's list of "defining moments." It's not great, but it kicks off a pretty pivotal story for Batman, and it does have that pretty Jim Aparo artwork. Dr. Kunka and I were talking about Aparo last week, and he mentioned that whenever Aparo draws Batman punch somebody, they look like they may never walk again. There's an uppercut on page 18 that backs up that theory.

The copy I found today had a folded piece of paper tucked in the bag along with it that fell out when I pulled out the comic. Thanks to the magic of Scott, you can take a look for yourself (click if you need to enlarge):
What the heck is DNIF?
As near as I can figure, there are two principal players in our story: Kevin and Reb. Reb, aside from being a fan of sailboat stationery, is late in sending Kevin his copy of Batman #440, which--with comics dated about two months ahead due to an old newsstand tradition--puts this letter about a month after the publication. Presumably, Kevin can't go get a copy for himself for some reason, and relies on Reb--who appears to be in the Air Force, despite not having flown a jet in a while--to mail him his copies.

That, my friends, is just enough information to send my head spinning with more questions. Why does Kevin need Reb to send him an issue of Batman? Why hasn't Reb flown in a while? What's DNIF?

There's so many things I have questions about. The letter seems far more formal than anything I'd write while sending a friend a comic, and Matt P. thinks that "Reb" could be short for "Rebecca," which could add another layer to the story. Me, I favor it being short for "Rebel," a jet-jockeyin' badass who still takes time to send his buddy Batman's latest adventures--albiet a little late.

To make matters even stranger, the collection we got the comic in was dropped off by someone from the Library, since they never sell comics at used book sales. At one point in time, this comic mattered--however little--two two people, and yet it's been donated to a library and passed on to a comic book store, where it can now be yours for a quarter. There's got to be a story behind it somewhere.

But I don't know it, and I want to. So Kevin and Reb, if you guys are out there, drop a line. Otherwise, this thing's gonna drive me crazy.