Love it or hate it, the new John Carter movie has spawned a lot of contemporary conversation about the books, comics, illustrations, fanzines–everyone has an opinion!

My first exposure to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian tales was in the third or fourth grade. My parents got me one of the editions with the wicked cool Michael Whelan covers. I was hooked from the first page. Burroughs is best known for creating Tarzan of the Apes–another fantastic work–but I’ve always been partial to John Carter of Mars.

My first comics exposure to the property was Marvel’s adaptation. Written by Marv Wolfman in 1977, it sported artwork from Gil Kane, Dave Cockrum, Frank Miller, Rudy Nebres, and a bunch of others that I misremember. I didn’t discover it until years later, and I obsessively tracked down all 28 issues and the annuals. So obsessive was my hunt that I think I’ve purchased the entire series a couple of times over (thank the gods of Mars for dollar bins at most conventions). I’ve been tempted to pick up Marvel’s trade paperback collection, but I love the old comics so much that I don’t think I need yet another copy just ‘cuz it’s in a new format. Now you, gentle readers, you need this book. If you haven’t read this, you’re in for a treat. It’s soooo friggin’ much fun!

Years later, I would discover that DC Comics had done it’s won John Carter adaptations. Yes, I had to chase down all the Weird Worlds issues as well as the Tarzan Family issues (if memory serves, that’s where most, if not all, of DC’s John Carter comics were presented). Other comic publishers took a hand at the hero before DC, but I’ve only seen a smattering of them, and they don’t immediately appeal to me, so I haven’t been motivated to pick them up.

What’s this have to do with today? Well, Dynamite Entertainment is doing new John Carter adaptations, as is Marvel. I’m not sure how they’re able to do this–it’s rare for 2 competing companies to have the rights to the trademark at the same time. As I understand it, the books are now in the public domain (therefore copyright free), but the characters and the universe are trademarked and controlled by the Burroughs estate. So I really enjoyed Dynamite’s adaptation of the first book, even though it felt a bit fetishistic. I’m all about hot nekkid wimmens, but the art just seemed too, ummmm, nude for what could be considered juvenile fiction. I keep buying the books, as they really are well-presented and well-written. The art isn’t consistent across the books, but it’s serviceable. I’m not sure I like the updated contemporary jargon being written into recent issues, but I can occasionally be accused of being “that crotchety old guy” when it comes to my comics. I won’t go overmuch into the Dejah Thoris series from Dynamite. The artwork was actually a bit too reminiscent of Frank Cho’s work, but without the painstaking attention to anatomy–so it felt a bit derivative, but still pretty to look at. My biggest problem was actually that Dejah Thoris was running around the friggin’ arctic circle of Mars in teeny-tiny breastplates and a loincloth. Occasionally she had a fur around her shoulders, but it was pretty ridic.

The breakout for me has been Marvel’s latest incarnation of the comics. The movie prequel was a little lame, but the two series are fantastic! The artwork on A Princess Of Mars was downright cool! I just finished book one of the more recent series, and I loved it! I hope they’re selling well enough to continue.

And, for the record, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I’m not going to try to tell you that it’s technically a “good” film–it’s not going to win any awards for the script or dialog–but it’s awesome big fun. I think it suffered from the Disney label. It was neither light enough to be an all-ages film, nor dark enough to be a grown-up film. I hope it does well enough in DVD sales/rentals to spawn a sequel–or at least some more Edgar Rice Burroughs movie adaptations…

I like the Avengers, I like Brian Michael Bendis (usually) what I don’t like is the fact that Marvel has decided to continue to saturate their title list with yet another Avengers book, Avengers Assemble. It is not a terrible book, but it is a book that doesn’t bring anything new that we haven’t already seen in any of the current ongoing Avengers titles. Hulk just wants to be left alone but he just happens to be sitting in the path of a convoy of trucks that the bad guys want. Tony Stark makes a joke about having too much money and having to rebuild Avengers Tower. Hawkeye makes crude and unwanted passes at Black Widow and Captain America makes a big speech about freedom.

We’ve seen all of these things before so why even put this book out? Well if you take a look at the top of almost any Marvel book right now you’ll see a quaint little banner for the Avengers movie coming out May 4 this spring. That’s right people, this book is solely meant to showcase the team of characters featured in the Avengers movie. Most of the rosters of the other Avengers titles make sense: Avengers is your classic Avengers roster (Thor, Captain America, Iron Man), New Avengers is your edgier team who broke off during Civil War (Luke Cage, Wolverine, Iron Fist), and Secret Avengers is the black ops of the three (Steve Rogers, Black Widow, Hawkeye). Bendis doesn’t even try to explain a reason as to why these characters decide to form a team when they belong to their own respective Avengers teams already.

I honestly cannot see this book lasting past the movie getting pulled from theaters. While its not the worst comic I’ve ever read, this title has no reason for being, no soul or story that makes me believe it was anything other than a way to promote the Avengers movie. I will not continue to read Avengers Assemble when it comes out next month and it did nothing for me in terms of my decision on whether or not I was going to see the movie, which I assume was the point of the book, because frankly I was going to see it anyways. It looks awesome. This book, not so much.

FF #14

Fantastic Four #602

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hickman continues his epic run with the Fantastic Four family. Threats, not just from this universe, converge on the Earth.  Let’s hope the World’s Greatest Heroes can save the day.

Aquaman #5

Best cold open in a comic in recent memory.  This is a  great follow up to first story arc and there seems to be no signs that Johns and Reis are slowing down.

The Bulettproof Coffin Disinterred #1

 This is a sequel to last year’s Bulletproof Coffin. The new series continues to take the reader on a bizarre  ride that will leave you wondering what really makes up reality.

There is an interesting article over at Newsarama that asks fans why new characters and concepts struggle.  Obviously, this is a problem not only for comics, but pretty much every corner of the entertainment world.  I am absolutely sick of remakes at the movies and on TV.  Reading the article got me to thinking about my own buying habits, and I’ve decided to compile a list of reasons that will make me try or reject a new book.  Here goes:

  1. I’ll grab any book off the racks with an intriguing cover.  I may not go past the first few pages, but a startling cover is an absolute necessity.
  2. I’ll buy the first issue of almost any Vertigo title.  That said, I never come back for seconds on at least 50% of these.
  3. I’ll pick up almost any book that is a western or an urban fantasy.  I’ll avoid almost any book from the crime or sci-fi genres.
  4. I have no interest whatsoever in political comics.  The biographies of Barack Obama, Michelle Bachman or anyone running for any office anywhere are completely out of my radar.
  5. I’ll pick up the first issue of anything by Mike Carey, Geoff Johns, Bill Willingham, Brian K. Vaughn or Scott Snyder unless the book is negated by some other category.
  6. New superheroes are harder.  I tend to stay away from Marvel superheroes, but have occasionally given one a try.  However, right now the only Marvel book on my pull list is The Dark Tower.  I tried a lot of the New 52 from DC, but many of those books never made it past the first issue.  Since everyone is always talking about the Blue Beetle, I’ll say that I tried his first series after Infinite Crisis, didn’t really care for it, and didn’t even consider it when his new series was launched in September.  It would take a compelling cover and an even more compelling character/story for me to pick up a non-DC superhero.  But it has happened.
  7. Above all else, for me to buy a second issue, the writing has to be superb.  Books that are edgy for the sake of being edgy do not make it onto my pull list.  If I can’t identify with at least one character, the book is done.  The best titles hooked me on the first issue for an entire series.  Severed is the perfect example of this.  I read the first issue and added it to my list.  I’ve been reading Superman since 2004 and I can’t say if I’m going to keep up with the New 52 title after the first story arc, but I’m sticking with Severed for the long haul.  Why?  Excellent artwork, brilliant storytelling and compelling characters.  It’s the same story with The Unwritten, Fables and many other titles.  Of course, what anyone considers to be excellent is subjective, and it’s the job of the publisher and creators to figure that out.  I will not suffer through a book because I’m “supposed” to like it.  I’m sure Brian Azzarello is brilliant, but his work is just not for me.  I picked up Loveless, for example, because it was a western with cool art, but I quickly detached from the story because, well, I hated all of the characters.
That’s my list.  There are probably other factors as well, but these are the main ones.  I’m sorry to say that my pull list is the smallest right now that it’s been in years, but there are titles that I’m very excited about, and I’m hopeful that the comic industry will be able to hook me on many more new books in the coming year.  If not, I might have to start watching TV again, and wouldn’t that be a sad day?

 

 

The latest Hulk book, The Incredible Hulk, has what I think is beautiful artwork by the well-known Marc Silvestri. His work in this one has echoes of old Bernie Wrightson when he used to mimic wood block printing in his illustrations for the classic Frankenstein story. Helping Marc more than I ever knew an artist to need help, the series also has a crap-ton of pencilers, pencil assists, finishers, inkers and a colorist! Whew! That’s a lot of people all working to make the finished art in this book look pretty raw, but still full of energy and inviting.

But what has equally kept me tuned into this book so far is the storyline. The writer, Jason Aaron, has done a pretty good job so far of separating the Hulk and the Banner characters, and of switching it so that Banner is much more the monster than his big green alter-ego. It’s as if without the Hulk for his anger management outlet, Bruce Banner has no alternative but to…well, become kind of a wacked-out, mad scientist a la Dr. Moreau. I’m not going to give too much away here, but we’re talking about stuff on the level of cats sleeping with dogs. Real Biblical-level shizzle!

Turns out that Dr. Banner can’t seem to fully let go of the huge green monkey on his shoulder that he’s been complaining about for the last several decades, and now he’s doing everything his demented mind can think of to bring the two of them back together. Meanwhile, the Hulkster seems to be getting along just fine without Bruce as he (sorta) enjoys his new-found family and his role as their protector and provider. Gee, I’d really hate to be Banner if he ever decided to mess around with the Hulk’s serenity…Oops! I may have said to much already. :-) forget you read that last part. Just go pick up the first and second issues of the Incredible Hulk and give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Later,

– M