Monday, May 30, 2016

Adventure(s) Time Returns

The second entry in my Batman Adventures/The Animated Series retrospective was posted today.  Discover just how unlovable one Batman foe turned out to be.  Any feedback is appreciated; I've wanted to discuss this specific incarnation of the character for a while now, but this is the first attempt I've made.  I'd like to find an angle that doesn't just repeat what we already know -- that these stories are pretty great Batman stories.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

New on CSBG -- Adventure(s) Time

My new, somewhat regular, feature on Comics Should Be Good! debuts today.  I'm examining Batman: The Animated Series, and its sister title, Batman Adventures.  I'm open to suggestions on which issues to cover, so just let me know in the comments section.  More Adventure(s) Time will follow sometime in the future...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Micro-Reviews - TALES OF THE BATMAN: DON NEWTON (Part Two)

DETECTIVE COMICS #486 - Early John Workman lettering!
O’Neil is back to Maxie Zeus already, even though he was hinting at an ongoing League of Assassins arc.
Nothing remarkable about the story, but it’s a fine showcase for Don Newton.
Newton’s Batman is eerily similar to Alan Davis’ Batman in the ‘80s.

Both are influenced by Neal Adams, but it’s amazing how close Davis came to Newton at times.
Newton also evokes that gangly, odd Gene Colan anatomy at times, although I think Colan is years away from Batman at this date.

BRAVE & THE BOLD #156 - “Corruption in the police force? Impossible!” says Gordon, unaware of what the ‘80s will bring BATMAN.
(And having forgotten the details of Robin’s very first origin story, apparently.)
A murdered cop makes a deal with a demon to avenge his sullied name -- sounds dark and disturbing, but really it’s more Silver Age goofiness.
Somehow this leads to the GCPD being possessed by demons, all out for Batman’s blood.
And the dead cop’s name? Donald Sterling. (Not distracting at all when read today, of course.)
Newton has a chance to channel Ditko for a few pages here.
Another connection to Alan Davis -- both have Neal Adams and Ditko as influences, even though they’re nothing alike.

DETECTIVE COMICS #487 - Are you ready for Ma Murder?
Even though O’Neil’s known for taking Batman back to his roots, he never shies away from silly villains.
And his Batman always has a since of humor. The stories themselves aren’t jokes, but Batman himself isn’t so grim.
He’s willing to sneak up behind a villain in a movie theater and swipe popcorn out of her bag, for example.
Or the famous “BOO!” panel that John Byrne loves so much.

DETECTIVE COMICS #488 - Guest writer, Cary Burkett.
I admit I’m not that familiar with Burkett’s work, but he does a great job here.
Burkett delivers a high concept, a murder mystery, and numerous action scenes into just 17 pages.
The story involves a death row murderer writing a book about his encounter with Batman--which is such a hit, his publisher is arranging to have him freed to make room for a sequel!
Bruce Wayne is also dating a reformed Selina Kyle in these days, although none of the stories reprinted so far have shown this.
Bruce’s personal life seems pretty much non-existent during this era.

DETECTIVE COMICS #489 & 490 - So Ra’s had a bulky, bald henchman named Lurk, not Abu, in the ‘70s?

Interesting to see O’Neil address his issues with violence even in these kinda silly old stories.
The Sensei’s master plan for this storyline -- “Assassination by earthquake!”
I’m 208 pages into this book, and only now do I see the first period.
Crazy to think DC waited so long in following Marvel’s lead and finally embracing the period.
I realize some production issue prevented the period for years, but Marvel addressed it in the early 70s, I believe.

DETECTIVE COMICS #491 - Oh, c’mon - Maxie Zeus again?
I love how Batman is still hiding his cowl and ears under human masks - in 1980!
Was surprised to see Batman confront a corrupt Irish cop named O’Hara this issue.
O’Hara was still in the comics in the 70s, so I didn’t know if perhaps this was O’Neil’s way of writing him out.
Turns out the TV cop is Clancy O'Hara and this guy is Bernard O’Hara. Still, it’s surprising that he’d use the name.
You wouldn’t have Batman encounter a corrupt cop named Gordon, would you?

DETECTIVE COMICS #492 - The return of Cary Burkett - and Batgirl!
Burkett seems to be one of DC’s best writers of this era.
He understands the shock value opening house style, but also brings more characterization & depth to his stories.
Burkett also uses captions sparingly, and isn’t afraid to let the artist carry the story.
Aside from the numerous exclamation points, this reads as something that could be published today.
Somewhat surprised this issue wasn’t adapted as a Batgirl-themed episode of TAS.
Gordon, Batman, & Batgirl all have nice moments, and the deadly military toys seem like something Timm would like.
And the villain, Gen. Scarr, could’ve been replaced with ‘90s villain The General from ROBIN.

BRAVE & THE BOLD #165 - Starring Man-Bat and his sick baby.
Batman quickly discerns that a truck is running drugs -- because they don’t have a front license plate.
More obscure DC continuity -- a Dr. Dundee, Bruce’s parent’s doctor, knows Bruce’s secret & patches him up when he’s injured.
Seems like both Alfred and Leslie Tompkins have taken Dr. Dundee’s place since the ‘80s.
Also weird that Bruce demands Dundee never ask him questions, when he already knows Bruce’s secret.
And, wow, does Marty Pasko write a talkative Batman. He’s more of a motormouth than Spider-Man in this issue.
I assume the point of the story is to return Man-Bat as a villain, using his sick baby as the motivation.
I like the idea that his baby can’t sleep because she’s inherited acute hearing from her parents.
I’m going to assume the baby was wiped from continuity, or something just horrible happened to her.
You’re a baby in a superhero comic…unless your name’s Franklin Richards, you’re not gonna make it, pal.

DETECTIVE COMICS #493 - Batman teams with the Swashbuckler, who I assume has been killed off by now, for the first time.
Swashbuckler has an interesting design -- full-face masks and sinister, Ditko-esque eyes were in style at this time.
One great thing about Newton’s art is how on-model it is.  Batman and Riddler just look “right” throughout the issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #494 - A guest issue by Michael Fleisher, who is absolutely not “certifiable.”
Crime Doctor is another forgotten villain from this era that was revived for Batman: TAS -- although the cartoon’s plot has nothing in common with this issue. The cartoon focuses on elderly supporting cast members & is dismissed by many as a dull episode. (“The Seniors Chase Each Other Around A Table” episode.)
The comic is a silly story about a bored doctor who decides to plan heists for extra money, which he donates to charity.
The story ends with Batman & the Crime Doctor trapped in an explosion, and it’s resolved -- after a totally unrelated story is reprinted, due to DC’s nutty reprint policy.

BATMAN #328 - An early Marv Wolfman BATMAN story.
Seems as if DC writers still believe each story has to open with a gimmicky high concept that’s dismissed by issue’s end.
This issue -- Alfred believes the Batcave is haunted!
Somehow, Jim Gordon’s first case from 35 years ago ties into this, and we learn that there’s no ghost at all -- just a nonsensical explanation that I’m sure Jim Shooter would’ve loved to drive holes through.

DETECTIVE COMICS #495 - Back to the Crime Doctor.
This arc is undeniably silly, but Fleisher generates some real tension this issue.
Crime Doctor has discerned Batman’s secret ID, & Batman spends the issue agonizing over whether or not the Doc has revealed it to anyone.
Meanwhile, the Crime Doctor just wants to get out of town and start over, terrified of both Batman and the mob.
Batman ultimately saves Crime Doctor from the mob, but not before he’s poisoned --a poison that conveniently leaves the Crime Doctor a human vegetable.
That’ll learn ya not to discover a superhero’s secret ID, ya dumb punk doctor.

DETECTIVE COMICS #496 - Featuring the original Clayface and his floppy hat.
The story opens with Batman swooping in to rescue a woman from a falling dinosaur statue -- a sequence that must’ve taken a full minute, given the amount of dialogue spouted by four different characters.
From there, Clayface escapes from Arkham and seeks his revenge on a Hollywood producer who’s snubbed him.
The plot’s very similar to the later Batman: TAS episode with the aging model as a villain. And is just as engaging.
Clayface is a pretty nasty villain, though. Not only does he kill anyone in his way, but he carries literal napalm bombs into battle.

DETECTIVE COMICS #497 - Exiting on a high note…

An early Gerry Conway Batman story, inspired by Will Eisner. Best installment in the trade.
Conway follows the DC formula of a dramatic opening, but never cheats the reader with some lame copout later.
It’s also one of the few stories in the trade to do real character work, and present a theme deeper than “good conquers evil.”
It’s a story of a wounded Batman entering a seedy Mexican saloon, its residents all facing different disappointments in life.
Batman touches everyone’s life just by being there, even though some people still stubbornly refuse to learn a lesson.
Also, Batman hurls a gas canister at a Rolls Royce and blows it up real good, so it’s got that going for it, too.

Friday, April 22, 2016

yeah, shut up. -- Now "New + Notabale"

I don't want to turn my blog into a continued ad for my novel, but I would like to mention that yeah, shut up. has been selected as one of Noisetrade's "New + Notable" novels for the week.  You can download the novel for whatever price you like (including nothing) at the link below.  And if you've never checked out Noisetrade, it's a fantastic site that grants you access to artists and authors offering their work for download.  Whatever your interest, you'll find something worth your time there.

So, spread the word if you don't mind.  Also, I might have another announcement soon, regarding a new project.  Thanks....

Sunday, April 3, 2016


More from the late ‘70s/very early ‘80s era of BATMAN, one I’ve previously known little about.  Thankfully, someone in DC’s reprint department must be a fan of the post-Neal Adams Batman days.
BATMAN #305, written by Bob Rozakis, whose work I’m totally unfamiliar with.  (Sorry 'MAZING MAN fans.)
Rozakis sets up an intriguing mystery -- a dead woman has been found with a ring that labels her “Mrs. Batman”  --  which leads to a shady man invading Wayne Manor, boasting he killed the woman and knows Bruce’s ID.
What a cliffhanger! The book then moves on to…a totally unrelated story from DETECTIVE COMICS.
I can appreciate reprinting issues in publication order, but would it be so hard to at least print the serialized stories without interruption?
Also, this story is only a few pages long, so I’m assuming BATMAN was either a collection of short stories in this era  -- or it had a main story with a backup each issue.
Also surprised to discover DETECTIVE COMICS was only on a bimonthly schedule in these days.

DETECTIVE COMICS #480 - Not much here, although the villain’s design possibly inspired Miller’s mutants design in DKR.

BATMAN #306 - The “Mrs. Batman” mystery concludes…and it makes no sense at all.
It’s a bizarre blend of Silver Age high concept with Bronze Age “realism.”
The killer has framed Batman to keep him busy (presumably), while he unleashes a virus in Gotham’s ghetto.
The story doesn’t exploit the secret ID angle at all, nor do we learn who “Mrs. Batman” was supposed to be.
It reads as if Rozakis started one story & was abruptly told to change it into something else.
“Eh, the kids like ghettos and serial killers now, Bob. Do somethin’ with that.”

DETECTIVE COMICS #483 - The inspiration (maybe?) for the “Appointment in Crime Alley” episode of the cartoon.
Gerry Conway mentioned O’Neil’s Crime Alley stories on the Batman:TAS podcast.
He was inspired by O’Neil’s portrayal of average Crime Alley residents, living in poverty.
The citizens of Crime Alley are pretty dense as it turns out. They know Batman visits every year on the same day, which just so happens to be the day the Waynes were murdered, but no one, even Leslie Tompkins, makes the connection.
The villain of the piece turns out to be Maxie Zeus, which is certainly an odd fit for a Crime Alley story.
I much prefer the cartoon episode, which is maybe a bit slow, but has a consistent mood and nice heart to it.
Not to take anything away from O’Neil’s work, though.
He developed the template for Crime Alley stories and others have found ways to put their own touches on them.

DETECTIVE COMICS #484 - The debut of Maxie Zeus (yay?)
Batman:TAS producers clearly loved this era of the comics.

I know that Timm is a massive ‘70s Marvel fan, and BATMAN was his only regular DC indulgence.
One moment this issue that’d never make into animation -- Batman has to kill three dogs!
Hopefully, he doesn’t take it as hard as Rorschach did. Although that might explain “ninja psycho” Batman.

DETECTIVE COMICS #485 - An early League of Assassins story.
Hey, O’Neil has brought Batwoman back…and killed her off in three pages.
A very early example of reviving an obscure character and then icing them.
Not that Kathy Keane was ever a great representative of a female hero, but her death here is just cheap.
Odd to see an early non-Neal Adams version of Ra’s Al Ghul. Newton draws him as an old man.
Also, worth noting that Ra’s isn’t nearly as omnipotent in this early stories; not even the head of the League of Assassins.
Best moment of the issue - the revelation that Batman memorizes EVERY license plate he encounters.

Tonally, this is no match at all for the Denny O’Neil stories…plus, DC clearly didn’t have good copies of the original artwork to scan.
I’m all for creator-specific trades, but I’m amazed at some of the stuff that makes it into the reprints now.
Anyway, B&B is clearly still in the Silver Age, in contrast to O’Neil’s work. Batman even calls Red Tornado “Reddy.”
Red Tornado swears he won’t cry at the story’s climax, because an android crying would just be ridiculous.

Shots fired.

Monday, February 8, 2016

BATMAN Micro-Reviews: Strange Apparitions

I’m a bad comics fan because I’ve never read this before:

The Englehart/Rogers BATMAN run, perhaps the first time any run was referred to as “definitive.”  (Peter Sanderson believes he coined the idea that this was THE Batman.)

Enjoying it in its proper context is almost impossible today, since the material has been mined so often in the comics, movies, & cartoons.

It’s also significant for being one of the first runs on a comic written as an homage to the previous years.

Even before Byrne’s FF, Englehart was writing BATMAN as a tribute to BATMAN.

(Okay; technically he was writing DETECTIVE COMICS, not BATMAN, but you get the point.)

DETECTIVE COMICS #469-470, Englehart opens with Walt Simonson on the Dr. Phosphorus story.

Outside of his visual, Phosphorus has nothing going for him. Not surprised he’s never developed into a major villain.

Not only is his motivation lame, but he pulls a “THIS isn’t how I’ll defeat you, Batman!” and just exits his first fight for no reason.

Then spends the next issue trying to find Batman -- you just let him go, dum-dum!

Englehart is also trapped in ‘70s narration, to the point that he’s referring to the reader as “amigo.”

Nothing really “definitive” yet, but these are nice-looking comics.  Walt Simonson inked by Al Milgrom of all people!

DETECTIVE #471-472 - And now Englehart is hitting the nostalgia notes, reviving Hugo Strange from 1940s.

Not that anyone reading in 1977 was around for BATMAN #1, but some form of legend had to surround those issues.

Interesting that these issues indicate that the Golden Age BATMAN stories are still canon. I guess DC had the sliding timescale, too?

Strange’s plot seemed to inspire at least 2 episodes of the ‘90s cartoon. But they wisely ignored Strange’s army of hideous giants.

Strange is an extremely unfocused villain in this arc; he’s a master of disguise AND a mad scientist AND an extortionist…AND he has a deep respect for his foe, Batman, AND he has a bit of an identity crisis.

Just pick one, Steve!

DETECTIVE #473 - Perhaps the first post-modern Penguin story.

The story assumes you already know the Penguin will steal a jewel-encrusted penguin statue, then plays with your expectations.

Not hard to see the influence Rogers had on McFarlane’s style. Rogers was doing dramatic, implausible capes back in the ‘70s.

Rogers is also far more detail-obsessed than other artists of this era. Perez isn’t quite Perez yet, but Rogers arrived fully formed.

DETECTIVE #474 - Deadshot returns after a few decades away.

Perhaps the modern equivalent of someone reviving Knight & Fogg in a Spider-Man comic.

I don’t think DC got any more continuity thick than this in the ‘70s --
--Englehart tries to rationalize Bruce Wayne’s various public personas, sneaks in references to Alfred’s days as an amateur detective…
…shouts out Mort Weisinger & Dick Sprang…and tries to reconcile Robin’s TEEN TITANS continuity.

All while reviving a goofy villain from the past and giving him a gritty makeover for these dark, modern times.

DETECTIVE #475 - The Laughing Fish issue.

Also, I’m going to assume, the first story to state the Joker “needs” Batman.

And perhaps the first time Joker callously kills one of his henchmen?

Much of the Joker’s dialogue here was used almost verbatim on the ‘90s cartoon adaptation.

You can also see elements of ’89 BATMAN here (Englehart wrote early treatments for the movie).

Vicki Vale is essentially Silver St. Cloud in the movie; plus, we have villains giving out money to the public…The Joker developing a toxin that only works in combinations & breaking into live TV…later falling to his death…Gotham as a seedier NY…

DETECTIVE #476 - The big finale.

It’s amusing to see elements from the ‘60s that remain in the books……Chief O’Hara…villains handing out clues…chummy Batman & Gordon…

So, Englehart left before resolving the Hugo Strange ghost storyline? Or was Boss Thorne turning himself in the conclusion?

Englehart exits on a “Batman skipping out on Gordon” scene (still new at this point)…and a dramatic splash page of Batman flying over the city.

With that, we have what used to be the “definitive Batman
…until everyone decided they liked him better as a ninja psychopath with anger issues, I guess.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Marvel Comics Offices - February 10, 1992

I saw this video once on Youtube and could never find it again.  Thankfully, Robot6 has come to the rescue!  Karyn Bryant interviews Marvel staffers and editors of the day, including Suzanne Gaffney and Bob Harras of the X-Men.  Notice which issue of UXM, already a few years old at this point, is pinned to Bob Harras' bulletin board.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Kindle Direct Publishing - My Experience

In case anyone else is curious about Amazon and their self-publishing program Kindle Direct Publishing, here are a few thoughts.  Most of this is information I wish I knew before I began work on my novel.

Download the free ebook Building Your Book for Kindle.   It offers some practical advice on how to prepare your book for Amazon, including detailed Word tutorials.

Word formatting is the devil.  How your book appears onscreen in Word is not any indication whatsoever on how it will look on a tablet.  The worst offender would be the Tab key.  Kindle Direct Publishing hates indents.  Just avoid them.  I realize that there's a specific way to set indents in Word to appease Amazon, but it's a needlessly complicated process.  Just train yourself not to press the Tab key.  I had a hard time with this one, because I wanted my novel to be formatted like a traditional "real book" and couldn't conceive of leaving out the indents.  One quick look at that e-reader preview page changed my mind.  Format your book block style -- no indents, just double-space in-between paragraphs.  This is more readable on most tablets anyway, and it saves you a needless formatting headache.

If you've already used Tab, the indents are easy to fix.  Just do a ctrl+F for the indent symbol, and replace it with absolutely nothing.  Word will find every Tab you've created and replace it with a blank space.  Highlight the document and set the line spacing to 10 after each paragraph mark and you're now working in block style.

Regardless of what Amazon tells you, you want an HTML file.  This is the easiest format to upload, and it can actually be the easiest to fix a simple problem.  And it doesn't require any fancy programs, just Notepad. HTML simply looks the best on a tablet; you can try a .docx file or some of the others, but on at least one e-reader format, your book's going to look awful.

Google Docs is not your friend.  I've used Google Docs for years (almost every post on this site is probably still saved on there), but it was essentially useless for me when it came to formatting.  Google Docs does allow you to save as an HTML file, but it looks terrible on an actual tablet format.  Stick to saving as HTML in either Word (webpage, filtered) or in simple ol' Notepad.

Word's obsessed with 11-point calibari-or-whatever.  I have no idea why the default in Word is no longer 12-point Times, the font sane individuals use, but keeping the formatting consistent after copying and pasting to different documents (I saved each chapter as a separate Word file while writing) was simply irritating.  Make sure you paste in the Merge Formatting style.

You don't need Word.  Okay, maybe it doesn't hurt to use Word, and it's a better option than Google Docs, but the only real usefulness in Word is creating a Table of Contents, which Amazon seems to think is vitally important in e-books.  I disagree -- I've never used the Table of Contents while reading a fiction ebook; the tablet automatically saves your place, and it's easy to bookmark anyway.  Why would I open a book and just click ahead to chapter seventeen?  I included a Table of Contents in my book anyway, assuming someone must use them, but it's one of the few useful things I did in Word.

If you have very basic HTML knowledge, you can type your novel in Notepad.  Saving in the HTML format in Notepad is darned simply save it with the HTML extension and make sure it's ANSI encoded.  If you're almost ready to publish your book and you've noticed something that needs to be changed, a quick edit in Notepad is likely all you'll need.  You can read a quick tutorial on editing in HTML here.  For example, after a frustrating session in Word (what I thought would be my last edit, creating the Table of Contents page), I accidentally removed most of the special formatting in my book.  I manually fixed all of the sections, I thought, but I noticed after I published the book that this line: I’m down for holding your head underwater and choking the life out of you wasn't in italics. Since that's someone's thoughts and it could easily disrupt the flow of the scene, it needs to be in italics.  I fixed it by opening the source file in Notepad and using basic HTML to put that line in italics, as it existed before Word decided to ruin my life.  (Actually, I found a few minor things to fix while going through the e-reader previewer.  Email me and I'll send you the latest version of the book.)

Formatting changes with each e-reader.  Amazon allows you to preview how your book reads on every current e-reader device.  Even phones.   Some tablets, such as the iPad, seem to add indents even if you didn't create them, which is slightly annoying, but I've found that uploading a basic HTML doc will give you a more consistent, and professional-looking book across the platforms.

You can edit your book after it's published.  You can read the instructions here.  As I mentioned earlier, I would suggest editing in Notepad and saving as an HTML file.

Amazon doesn't own your book.  You can publish your book anywhere you want, unless you want to place the book on Kindle Unlimited.  This will enable KU subscribers to read your book for free for a set number of weeks; after that, you can publish the book on any site you'd like.

Let people read it for free.  Just my advice, but if you're an unknown author, allowing people to read your book for free for the first few weeks it's out is a smart move.  This, hopefully, will bring more attention to the book, and increase your chances of getting good reviews.

Some of this advice might seem blindingly obvious to you, but like I said, it's info I wish I had while writing the book.  Heck, for all I know, the self-publishing on Amazon fad might already be over.  I hope not, though.  I'm already in the early stages of my next novel, and using what I've learned, I think I can avoid some problems in the future.

Okay, I'll plug my book again.  You can download the novel that taught me these invaluable lessons by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Milch Studies Begin

In case anyone doesn't know, I'm conducting a retrospective on the work of television legend David Milch on The Real Gentlemen of Leisure website. The first post is up today.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Just Add Water - From WIZARD #31

I didn't cover this issue in my CSBG! feature (not a lot to write about in it), but this segment by Pat McCallum and Steve Blackwell is a nice parody of what was going on in this era.  Wizard making fun of this stuff instead of just mindlessly promoting it was one of the magazine's redeeming features during these early years.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

yeah, shut up.


 I'm not sure how to start this post.  I considered naming it "I Wrote a Book."   Which I did.

My first novel, yeah, shut up is now available for download on Amazon.  If you're a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free for the next few weeks.  Everyone else will have to pay the burdensome price of $2.99.  
The book has nothing to do with '90s comics.  I'm not a one-trick pony, people.  It's about music in the '90s, specifically the multitude of alternative rock bands signed in the hopes that someone would become the next Nirvana.

In the previous century, young kids deluded themselves into thinking "musician" was a viable career path. Follow two kids from Who Cares, Alabama as they form a band, experience their big break, release an album, and disappear into obscurity. All the fun you'd ever hope to find in a fictitious account of a 1990s alt-rock band almost going mainstream. If you still think you missed the train to Mars, if you miss the lands of green and skies of blue, this could be the novel for you.

If you like it, please remember to leave a review on the Amazon page, since I've been told repeatedly that this is important.  If you'd like to spread the word on whatever social media platform you enjoy, I'd certainly appreciate the support.
If anyone's curious about my experience with the Amazon self-publishing deal, I might write a post about it in the future.  In the meantime, I hope you give the book a shot and deem it worthy of the Amazon gift card your aunt gave you for Christmas this year.

Monday, December 14, 2015

X-MEN: The Pizza Hut Days

Clips from the X-Men roundtable interview, featuring Stan Lee, Bob Harras, Scott Lobdell, and Fabian Nicieza:

Also, the original commercial that ran with Pizza Hut's X-Men promotion: