Category Archives: Randomosity

Comic Book Events: Do We Need Them?

Comic Book Events: Do We need Them?

In the last 10 years there seem to have been very few events worthy of actually being events. Blackest Night is the latest big event to really make a lasting mark on a comic book universe. Furthermore, it's the only one that I believe fans don't hate outright for taking over the comics. I'm not even bothering with Avengers vs X-Men, since it just seems to be filler for Marvel at this point. The House of Ideas is running out of them, clearly. Speaking of which, House of M seems to have been swept under the rug. Only Messiah War, Age of Apocalypse and the full Phoenix Saga have had a truly lasting impact on the Marvel Universe.

The only time in probably the last 30 years that an event has been so sweeping and ended up completely re-shaping that company's universe as a whole was DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985). The Flash, Barry Allen died during the event and has probably been the only "real" death in comic book history, or at least the longest-lasting. It shaped the other characters relationships as he was the first to die and not come right back from it. (The fact that I'm primarily referencing DC events should come as no surprise.) Of course, he was brought back after 22 years in the events of Final Crisis (2008). Then, the biggest game-changing event in comics became Flashpoint, which the publishers ended up using as a segue into DC's New 52.

In my mind, unless it really does re-shape the universe the characters live in or leads to some larger story that does, we really don't need yearly events in comics. If we have to live through one, make it a Crisis on Infinite Earths or Phoenix Saga. We don't need to see another Civil War and then watch everything go back to normal a few months later.

With that said, what are your thoughts on comic events? Do you have a favorite (in any company) or one that you could live without?

 

The beautiful synergy of comics

I am criticized from time to time for not doing more positive stories (a very fair criticism, I hasten to add), so I wanted to share this example of comics done exceptionally well. It's from a daily comic strip that predates even my ancient time called "Gasoline Alley" by Frank King. In its day it was as big as Spider-Man or Superman are today. But what caught my eye (thanks to a friend on Facebook) is the way the shadows define the forms here without requiring actual outlines:


(Click to embiggen.)

The last two panels are just breathtaking in their elegance, simplicity, and effect. You barely notice that the figures are made of nothing but shadows and negative space, a wonderful rendering technique just on its own. But the magic of comics comes from the way the effect works with the dialog to enhance the sense of foreboding the creator is striving for. There is beauty in their upcoming marriage just as there is beauty in the forest, but some darkness awaits as well. Either the words or the art by themselves are still good, but when combined they achieve a kind of beautiful synergy that only comics can provide.

(Original artwork and a great essay are from "Hooded Utilitarian".)

Merry Christmas from the Batman!

Courtesy of Brian Hughes at "Again With the Comics", I present Patton Oswalt's take on a very special Batman Christmas story to get you in the holiday spirit. Merry Christmas!





"BATMAN SMELLS"
Written by: Patton Oswalt
Drawn by: Bob Fingerman
Story scanned from Bizarro World collection, ©2005, DC Comics.

Best Present Ever.


Hey pal! What's that big glowing butterknife for ... ?

On Christmas Eve, I thought it would be a good time for us comic book nerds to all talk about our favorite nerdy Christmas presents ever. I'll go first, but I really look forward to hearing some of your fondest Christmas gift memories.

Most of my super-hero memories involved laboriously tracking through the Sears Catalog (this was before the Internet, see, we actually used paper and the telephone for ordering things!), marking every Star Wars action figure I wanted. I considered myself Santa's little helper, apparently, figuring surely he got some kind of volume discount. Plus I knew Santa didn't really know squat about which figures were best, so he might need a hand picking the choicer ones.

I did the same thing with the MEGO 8" tall fully articulated and clothed super-hero action figures. Those things were awesome. Unlike the Star Wars figures, which couldn't move at the wrists or elbows or knees or ankles, these guys had joints where you needed them. And their outfits were actual sewn cloth, not molded plastic.

The highlight of Christmas morning for me was seeing which, if any, of the figures whose pages numbers and prices I'd written in a neat list for Santa showed up under the tree. Generally I'd lose at least one piece before the day was over, but that was all right; toys were to be played with, darn it, not kept in a box forever!

I still remember the Green Arrow figure, whose hat, boots, bow, quiver, and arrows all disappeared in fairly rapid fashion. Without his gear, he's just a guy, so I decided I'd retcon him. I used Scotch tape for new, form-fitting boots over his stockings, which gave him a neat banded look. But the beard was so clearly Green Arrow, it had to go. So I heated up the electric stove, held a butter knife to it till it got really hot, and proceeded to do my best Barber of Seville imitation.

Unfortunately, eight-year-old Jeff was unaware of the finer points of shaving techniques, and used the serrated edge of the knife to remove the offending whiskers. As a result, The Green Scar Face too to the streets of my home town to fight crime. I thought the contrast between the horribly ravaged, black-edged melted face gouges and the shiny boots was particularly piquant.

What are some of your favorite geeky Christmas memories?

And I hope you spend the holiday either surrounded by beloved family and friends, or gloriously alone and untroubled by crappy family and friends! Either way, so long as YOU are happy, I am happy.

Thanks for following along on the blog this year and for sharing your thoughts and creativity with everyone. Happy Holidays and/or Merry Christmas!

Super songs

For some random reason, I woke up this morning thinking Doctor Octopus' theme song should be "Crazy Arms".

No, I do not understand how my brain works.

But it started me wondering what other songs would go well with established super-heroes. But pre-coffee, I can't think of any. Which is where you come in. Are there other songs that go perfectly with a comics character? Let 'em rip in the comments!

(Image ©2006 by Mark Engblom.)

Marvel Digital

I just signed up for Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited -- does anyone else use that? How has your experience with it been? I'm looking forward to catching up on some of the comics I've missed over the last ten years, as well as looking through some of the oldies but goodies for Random Panel fodder.

I clicked on an ad in my YahooSports Fantasy Football page, which had a promo offer of $4.99 a month, or $59.88 for the year with a pre-paid year-long subscription. Once on the order page, there was a place to put in a promo code, and with a Google search I found CYBER3010, which apparently is their "Cyber Monday" price, expiring at midnight. Putting that in gave me an additional 30% off a yearly subscription rate for a final bill of $41.92. Not too shabby for all the comics you can read!

Note that I am not getting a cut of this or anything, it's something I was doing on my own and thought was a neat deal that might be interesting to you. If you sign up, or have been a subscriber already, I'd be curious to hear about what you think of it.

Ben Grimm, Chamberlain

I haven't read it yet, but from "Again With the Comics" comes this great alternate-history Fantastic Four bit:

"Milady, 'tis the clobbering hour" may be my new favorite tag line.

Sunday Bonus – Enceladus

Confession time -- when I was at Dragon*Con, I attended a talk in the Science section about the latest findings from NASA's Saturn orbiter, Cassini, which was pretty amazing. And while technically science stuff is not really what I do here on HeroMachine.com, you can't have sci-fi (which DOES fit) without the sci.

Plus, this is a totally cool image, so nyah:

For a fuller explanation of what you're seeing (hint, the moon is not the Death Star trying to escape on full thrusters -- "That's no moon!"), check out the Bad Astronomer blog on Discover.com. In a nutshell, this is Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons, ejecting a bunch of vapor out of volcanoes on one side. The ejecta ultimately forms the majority of Saturn's E ring.

The person giving the lecture at Dragon*Con was on the Cassini team responsible for these images and she actually talked a fair bit about Enceladus. The team running the magnetic field detection equipment got some interesting data on one pass indicating something funny going on with that side of the moon, so they decided to do a relatively low-altitude fly-through with the visual cameras to see what was going on. They were delighted at the images they got back, showing these huge volcanic ejections.

It was really neat to listen to actual scientists working on actual projects out there on the very edge of explored space, and completely humbling as well. The stuff we're able to do nowadays is just mind blowing.

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute via The Bad Astronomer. Thanks Phil!

Final Dragon*Con 2010 update

The last few pictures from the Con.

Continue reading

Dragon*Con Ewok sketch

Collaborative marker sketch by Mr. Hartwell and myself.