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:

Monday, December 7, 2015

Micro-Reviews: HELLBLAZER, Part Three

HELLBLAZER #7 - Barely past the midway point in the trade.

Delano's AIDS talk in the opening is far more blunt than anything that would likely be published today.
The dialogue also makes it clear that even though John has a gay friend, they were never a couple. Guess that was something Delano felt the need to establish back then.
The hints that John’s bi don’t show up until years later, correct?  He seems hostile to even the concept of homosexuality here.

John’s other friend, Ritchie, who I think was in the show, debuts here.
He uses magic (and psychedelics) to travel inside the mystery world of…computers.
Becoming one with the bytes enables him to track the movements of the evil fundamentalist group --which turns out, includes Zed’s father.
Didn’t the series end on a cliffhanger, never revealing what exactly Zed’s father wanted with her?

HELLBLAZER #8 - If that isn’t the boilerplate early Vertigo cover, then nothing is.

John Costanza, DC’s favorite 80s letterer, debuts this issue. Series automatically looks more American.

Also, the great Alfredo Alcala is doing finishes now, mainstreaming the book even more.

The asylum setting this issue inspired the TV show’s pilot. Pilot also picked up on the Newcastle backstory.
The pilot’s setup was great; a mysterious event in Newcastle has driven John to the brink.
He’s in an asylum, possibly insane. Brought out of retirement for a major case.
Then the show proceeded to do formulaic demon-of-the-week plots -- with the occasional nod towards John’s callous pragmatism. 

So, it turns out the fundamentalist group really is working for God -- and Zed is destined to be their Mary, giving birth to a new Christ.
Constantine agrees to work with a demon to stop the child’s birth, because he’s unwilling to tip the scales in Heaven’s favor.
For some reason, this never made it to network television.

HELLBLAZER #9 - The story of Constantine’s 35th birthday.

The first major storyline of the series is resolved by Constantine making love to Zed -- infecting her body with demon blood, thus preventing an angel from impregnating her.

I’m reminded of Steven Grant questioning why so many atheist Vertigo writers still draw upon Christian mythology in their stories.  Delano is fulfilling the cliché before Vertigo even officially exists.

Delano’s actually set up the resolution quite well over the issues. The ending isn’t a cheat, but it is unexpected.

Zed, however, remains very poorly defined.  I daresay I liked her TV incarnation better than anything I’ve read so far.  If published today, the “problematic gender issues” would surely receive a few days of internet scorn.

“Oi! I gave that bird an injection o’ the ol’ demonseed. Problem solved! Time for me SWAMP THING crossover!”

I assume the National Health Service was in trouble in the late 80s. This is Delano’s third reference to its problems.

SWAMP THING #76 - Wasn’t expecting a Funky Flashman appearance this issue…

The SWAMP THING crossover is based on Swamp Thing stealing Constantine’s body in order to impregnate his girlfriend.  Abby questions if
Swamp Thing should get tested for AIDS, since Constantine is a known ladies’ man.

Swamp Thing has chosen Constantine’s body is barely explained -- a “synchronicity storm.” Swamp Thing also seems blasé about the demon blood he’s about to infect Abby with.

DC publishing a Mature Readers SWAMP THING book while simultaneously selling him as a kids’ toy line--

-- that was a strange decision. Maybe this led to the later rule that Vertigo characters can’t appear in all-ages material?

SWAMP THING #77 - Guest writer, Jamie Delano.

I’m sure this issue had some significance to
SWAMP THING readers, but placing it in a HELLBLAZER trade was questionable.

Abby’s upset with Swamp Thing, gets drunk with the no-longer-possessed Constantine, spends a supposedly platonic night with him -- and all is well in the morning. In the meantime,
Swamp Thing is moody, and Delano has a few more American caricatures to play with.

Not a great closing story for the trade. It’s hard to complain considering the amount of material you’re getting, though.

I'm not clutching pearls here, just an observation -- the idea that even women who hate Constantine end up in bed with him has maybe just a smidgen of misogyny. I fully support jerks as protagonists, but rewarding them for the behavior comes across as obnoxious.

The final page advises you to pick up the Peter Milligan HELLBLAZER trades, “From the writer of RED LANTERNS”.

I just realized that HELLBLAZER is a play on “trailblazer.”  Congratulations, ‘80s cool kids, you fell for a pun.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Turtle Power - The Definitive (?) History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Paramount has posted the Turtle Power documentary for free on its YouTube page.  The focus is mainly on the early days of the comic and the initial effort to franchise the characters in the late 1980s.  Two things I was shocked to discover -- sitcom "legend" Chuck Lorre was the writer initially approached about developing the animated series, before he passed the job on to David Wise.  I knew Lorre wrote the theme song, but had no idea he might've written the actual series.

I was also stunned to learn Michael Ian Block and Robert Ben Garant of MTV's The State played Raphael and Michelangelo (?) in that horrific TMNT live rock show.  I wonder if they were the actors playing the parts on their Oprah appearance?

It's a fun doc, and worth your time if you have fond memories of the Turtles.

Now, for an opposing view...

Friday, November 6, 2015

"Now, Sentinel -- You will be De-Feeted!"

One thing I’ve rediscovered when going through old issues of Wizard is just how successful the X-Men toyline was in the 1990s.  I’m assuming it was a massive success, because how else could you justify virtually any character to ever cameo in an X-book receiving his or her own action figure?  Kids had to be desperate for more X-toys if they were buying Slayback figures, right?

The X-Men toy commercials, though -- who even remembers those?  Looking on Youtube, every Masters of the Universe, Super Powers, G. I. Joe, and Transformers toy commercial seems to have been lovingly archived.  

X-Men toy commercials are there, but I don’t sense any enthusiasm around them.  Is this true for all toy commercials of this era; is it just accepted as fact that ‘80s toy commercials are superior to ones made in the ‘90s?  Did the FCC impose some strict regulation on toy commercials that just made them dull after the ‘80s?  Or were toy companies no longer willing to pay for higher-quality animation to use in these spots?  Also, given the money flying around the industry at this time, I now wonder why Marvel didn’t produce high-quality animated ads for X-Men comics, like the ones Hasbro bankrolled years earlier for G. I. Joe.

Two commercials I do distinctly remember from the early ‘90s:
The commercial for the X-Men Sega Genesis game.

And the commercial for the second edition of the Marvel Universe trading cards.

(This is where I would've posted the commercial, but I can't find it online.  Anyone up for finding this one?  It aired during the summer of 1991 fairly regularly.)

Which is another memory triggered by old Wizards -- trading cards were a phenomenon during this era.  Yet, no one produced any first-rate animated ads for Marvel or DC cards, either.  The ‘80s really were the Golden Age of selling kids stuff, weren’t they?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Micro-Reviews: HELLBLAZER, Part Two

HELLBLAZER #4.  My favorite cover, so far.

Delano’s referencing tensions between UK citizens & Middle Eastern (or “Asian”) immigrants back in 1988.

So this was the comics debut of Zed? They certainly gave her a makeover for the show. And Americanized her, not surprisingly. 

I vaguely recall this child bride plot from the show. The episode removed any reference to American fundamentalists, I believe.

Actually, I have no idea how much of the 80s fundamentalist movement made its way to the UK. Don’t know if it was uniquely American.

Delano seems to think 80s pyramid schemes were run by Christian fundamentalists, but I’ve never heard that one before.

Wonder if he’s just lumping it all under the category of “’MERICA!”

HELLBLAZER #5 - The inevitable 1980s Vietnam piece.

Okay, DC’s copyright reads 1988, but Delano consistently sets stories in 1987. Is there a significance to this?

Constantine arrives in America. I wonder if he’s going to lecture us on what backwards rubes we are.
“Oi! Why don’t you wankers put down yer guns an’ Bibles an’ pick up a pint, yeh?”

The fundamentalist group from the last issue has accidentally summoned the spirit of MIA Vietnam soldiers -- awakening them inside their hometown in Iowa.  Not a bad idea for a story.
There is the occasional glimpse of real people inside this town; they live with guilt and loss & can’t cope with the pain.
It’s just disappointing that Delano is doing what every “controversial” 80s Vietnam piece does.
Small town boys turned into monsters. Soldiers as murderous, rapist goons.
Disagreement with the war expressed with simpleminded caricatures of the people drafted into fighting it.

I think an extremely sanitized version of this plot made its way into the TV show.
It’s hard for me to remember, since I usually forgot each episode as soon as it aired.

HELLBLAZER #6 - The anti-skinhead issue.

John casually decides to stop a gaybashing this issue, reasoning that his pal Ray might be the target.
Although, in fairness, John rarely seems in a hurry to do anything in this series so far.

My memory is that Zed and John had a chaste relationship on the show.
In the comic, they immediately hook up and give us what might be DC’s first on-panel sex scene.

We learn that John’s gay friend Ray has AIDS this issue. His teashop has been closed down due to the threats.

I think AIDS was often the vehicle used to introduce gay characters back in the 80s. Ray might be the first in comics.

This is also the most British issue yet. Skinheads, footballers, slang for various ethnicities I’ve never heard before…

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Guide to the Guide to Comics Begins

My initial entry in the Comics Should Be Good blog on CBR was posted today.  The Guide to the Guide to Comics is my regular feature that examines the early years of Wizard, which should at the very least be interesting.  Perhaps not "Spawn rubbing worms all over his face" interesting, but still worth reading, I hope.
Check it out here:

Thursday, October 29, 2015


More for the brief thoughts on the Society of Serpents trade, which reprints the brief Mike Carlin run and the earliest issues by Mark Gruenwald.

Has anyone ever given any real consideration of Mike Carlin, the writer, before?

Everyone knows where Denny O’Neil stands as a writer, but as the other guy who helped shape DC in the ‘90s, Carlin is largely a mystery.

Actually, Carlin only wrote CAP for a few issues when Marvel had no idea what to do w/the book. THING is his only real run as a writer, I think.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #303 - I like the way Machete uses the UPC box as a prop.

Carlin, CAP’s asst. editor, stepped in to replace DeMatteis, following his disagreement with Shooter re: Cap retiring.  

Carlin has Cap give lip service to the idea that he fights for the American Dream, even though he can never have it, yet…
…Cap has a pretty normal life at this point.  A fiancée, a job, an apartment -- he’s not doing so bad.

Gruenwald’s the one who takes the idea of Cap sacrificing his own happiness for the sake of The Dream and runs with it.

The Epic trade reprints Gruenwald’s editorial from Carlin’s last issue. Carlin’s moving to THING while editor Gru will become CAP’s writer.

While Carlin’s run is pretty generic superhero material, Gru lays out his take from the beginning: Cap’s devotion to freedom forces him to live a specific lifestyle--

--one that isn’t going to allow him the standard civilian life of a Marvel hero.  That’s tricky to pull off & it might be one reason why fans turns against Gru’s run towards the end.

I’m a few issues into the early days of Gruenwald’s CAPTAIN AMERICA. 3 issues in & Cap’s already ditched his job & his sidekick.

Honestly, does Cap really think drawing a toothpaste ad is contributing to a “consumer-oriented” society that “places more value on possessions than people”?

Gru had a tendency to take sudden and somewhat arbitrary moral stands in the book.  Cap feeling uncomfortable with drawing advertising work--

Gru, to his credit, recanted that one after fans basically told him he was being ridiculous.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #311. So this is where “Steve Rogers draws Cap’s comic” comes from. Assumed it was from Silver Age.

Gru has the MU version of Mike Carlin acknowledge that CAP’s sales are slumping and it’s close to cancellation. He wasn’t joking!

CAP’s impending cancellation was the inspiration for Gru’s upcoming “Captain America No More!” arc, which blew up the book’s status quo.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Micro-Reviews: HELLBLAZER

I've been asked to archive my micro-reviews on this site, so I thought I'd give it a try for a few posts.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a HELLBLAZER comic before. Thought this might prove interesting: 

…or not. The first issue has a strong opening, but John’s subsequent investigation becomes fairly dull as the story progresses.

And the mystery drags on to the second issue, unfortunately.

I’ll stick with it, though. I admire DC for releasing these thick, low-price trades. The value for the dollar really is amazing.

Also, can you believe that’s a Jim Lee cover? Didn’t recognize him at all.

HELLBLAZER #2, the most hardcore, cutting edge DC title of 1988. Because Alan Moore doesn’t work here anymore.

The story does pick up as it reaches its conclusion. I can see why the book developed a cult following early on -- a book about hard choices and unhappy endings is rare in any era, but was almost unheard of in ‘88.

The idea of John screwing over his friends in pursuit of greater goals became the hook of the TV show -- which is fine in theory, but I don’t think the show ever amounted to much.

I thought the pilot was great, but the show quickly fell into formula. I was bored by most episodes.

HELLBLAZER #3, set on Britain’s election day, 1987.

Goodness, can you guess the political stand that’s going to be taken? A rousing defense of free markets, I’m sure.

I wonder if every issue of Delano’s run touches on 80s UK drug culture. On-panel coke snorting this issue.

Guacamole, compact discs, and running shoes are cited as extravagant excesses of the rich.

How would 80s Delano respond if he knew most of the world’s poorest citizens today own cellphones?

That global communication would be instantaneous, effortless, and nearly free?

That the poor in UK & US have access to tech undreamed of by the rich just 20 years ago?

It’s an entire issue of Delano literally demonizing people he disagrees with. No different than any talk radio hack.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The End. For Now. Maybe.

After far too many years of doing this, I’ve decided that my days of regular updates are over.  I don’t want to say that this is my final post, since it’s possible I’ll want to use this space again for other purposes, but I’m fairly confident that my days of regular updates are over.  

I started this blog in 2007, when the easiest shorthand reference for a bad comic remained ’90s Marvel, or more specifically, 90s X-books. The people working in comics didnt seem to disagree.  Today, you can buy actual $100 hardcover reprints of Rob Liefeld X-Force comics.  Lord help us, Avengers: The Crossing is even available in hardcover.  90s storylines routinely receive sequels these days.  Bishop, Blink, and Deadpool have appeared in multi-million dollar movies.  There are working professionals in the entertainment industry that weren’t even born when Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1 blessed us with its multi-cover glory.  And the blogging boom that inspired me to create an alternate site to explore the ’90s is long dead.  

I’d like to thank anyone who ever posted a link or left a comment during the past eight years.  Mike Sterling was the first to post a link during my initial week of blogging, giving me more readers early on than I probably deserved, so special thanks to him.  I’d also like to thank folks like wwk5d and Matt for leaving comments here for as long as I can remember.  And wherever you are Fnord Serious and cyke68, I hope you’re doing well.

I’m still around.  You can follow me on Twitter if you’d like, and I’m open to writing for someone else’s site if the project’s right.  You can email me through the Contact page.  (Actually, I have an idea for another review series if anyones interested.  Also, I’ll be doing more micro-reviews on Twitter in the future.)  Feel free to contact me.  Thanks for the support, and may all your web-lines be advantageous.

Friday, October 9, 2015

ADVENTURES OF THE X-MEN #12 - March 1997

Better to Light a Small Candle…
Credits:  Ralph Macchio (writer), Yancey Labat (penciler), Ralph Cabrera (inks), Paul Becton w/World Color (colors), Ul Higgins (letters)

Summary:  Lilandra summons the X-Men to her vessel, in the hopes that the Phoenix Force will again possess Jean Grey and protect the M’Kraan Crystal.  Phoenix returns, and Gladiator travels with the X-Men to the Crystal’s homeworld.  Inside the Crystal, the Dweller in Darkness has placed the N’Garai and a resurrected D’Ken as foils for the X-Men.  His plan is to destroy the Crystal and feed on the fear of every living thing as existence perishes.  The X-Men defeat his thralls and merge their spirits with the Phoenix.  Phoenix sends a message to the universe, uniting all beings in brotherhood and harmony.  The M’Kraan Crystal then shatters, destroying existence as we know it.  With no fear to feed upon, the Dweller in Darkness is left vulnerable to his former lackey D’Spayre.  The Living Tribunal watches as explorer Galen agrees to join with the dying universe to become a new entity.  Life begins anew, and billions of years later, the X-Men are formed in Westchester County.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Every “official” X-Man from the cartoon, i.e. those in the opening credits, is featured this issue.
  • The message Man-Thing left to Jean last issue gives her the inspiration to spread hope to the universe, spoiling the Dweller in Darkness’ scheme.
  • The explorer Galen later becomes Galactus in the mainstream Marvel Universe.  I think Macchio is saying that the Adventures reality doesn’t have a Galactus until it’s destroyed this issue, since the issue opens with Galen exploring the death of the universe.
  • The Phoenix reemerges in a red costume, which would seem to be a major coloring mistake.

How Did This Get Published?:  “Come heah to mama, fellers.  Time fer a little clean-up!”  Mercifully, this is one of the few times Macchio’s given Rogue dialogue in this series.

Miscellaneous Note:  The full expression that inspired the title of this story is “It's better to light a small candle than curse the darkness.”  It appears to be attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Review:  Yes, that’s the proper response to your series getting cancelled -- just blow up the entire universe.  On some level, it’s hard not to admire what Macchio’s going for this issue, taking advantage of the fact that the series is outside of continuity and, let’s face it, off in a corner that no one is paying attention to.  In twenty-two pages, he’s crafted a very literal interpretation of what “the last” X-Men story should be, and it doesn’t involve a flash-forward to the next generation of the team or an epic final battle between the X-Men and Magneto.  It’s the death of everything, but that’s okay, because after a few billion years, life begins anew and eventually Charles Xavier is back again with his original team of X-Men, reenacting the opening page of 1963’s X-Men #1.  It’s all done by rote with very little sentiment, but there is one moment towards the end that’s honestly touching.  As the universe draws to a close, Xavier’s dream of peace and unity is finally achieved when the X-Men reach into the hearts of every sentient being in the universe and impart solidarity in the face of death.  The universe dies nobly, rejecting fear and finally united as one.  In a strange way, it actually is the ultimate ending of the X-Men’s story.  The issue remains a bit of a mess, and surely any kid picking this up to get more of what he loved from the cartoon is going to be either bored or terrified, but there is a germ of a great idea in here.