Last week’s send off to John Rogers’ ‘Blue Beetle’

Another blog post I meant to get up last week…

…was going to be an epic poem composed about the virtues and excellence of Blue Beetle as John Rogers run came to an end with the fantastically awesome “End Game” arc and its twenty fifth issue. Luckily, I got a chance to rave in last week’s Thursday Morning Quarterback’s Quick Hits about it, sparing you all the attempt at epic poetry, while giving me a chance to gush.
Here’s a snippet…

“I know it’s only March and big events like Secret Invasion and Final Crisis are still on the way, but I’m calling it right now: Blue Beetle #25 is my issue of the year!”

Being surrounded in the office full of other fans of the run, we hashed out some ways to get some good send-off coverage for the book after issue #25…

Indie Jones‘ Kiel Phegley did a retrospective chat with John Rogers on the book—seriously good read here, give it a look.

And Kevin Mahadeo featured Jaime Reyes as his character of the week in his new column obviously entitled “Character of the Week.” For the record, you’ll notice I called out Paco’s line of the week in QB on Thursday before Kevin did in COW on Friday…just saying. I mean—it’s not important—we both love the book and thought it was a great line…but I mentioned it first…just saying.

So, check those out and then go check out the past 25 issues of Blue Beetle, it was a heckuva a ride that you really shouldn’t miss!

Wonder Woman: Living Up To Her Potential

First, I have to apologize—I wrote majority of this post over a week ago and got busy and never found time to edit and complete it until now…so, not as timely as I would have liked, but here it is…
All iages below can be clicked on to enlarge.

In the past, I’ve never been a big fan of Wonder Woman. The character never really appealed to me because on the few occasions I cracked the spine of the Amazon’s book, it was mediocre at best. After hearing that Gail Simone’s first few issues were impressively good, I picked’em up to give the book a shot and I’ve been digging everything happening in the world of the Mighty Maiden with Simone at the helm ever since. However, it wasn’t until last week’s issue—with some great art by Bernard Chang—(See, told you I’d written up part of this post a while back, that was almost three weeks ago)that I’ve decided Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman is not only a complete badass, but perhaps the perfect woman as well!

In issue #18, Wonder Woman is finally the refreshingly multi-dimensional that the world’s most powerful woman should be. It’s simple and realistic human moments that make a great super hero book…follow me on this one, if you will…

The book begins with Diana at the hospital to visit her “sometimes he is/sometimes he isn’t” beau Nemesis, and she’s just plain driven. She’s not just there to be cutesy and try and smooch, she’s there to court him and tells him as much to his face. The woman has decided what she wants and she’s acting assertive about it. Wonder Woman is a drop dead beauty who can easily snap a man’s neck and she isn’t beating around the bush like a ditzy schoolgirl, she’s getting the man she wants with all the confidence an Amazon Princess should have.

There’s no pretense and no question in her actions. She’s the boss, but not in an abrasive way as she blends her strength with sensuality, softness and a straight-forward attitude. She demands the respect of her position and of her person, yet can be playful as well.

And even though she could physically crush her would-be mate or call all the shot’s in the future relationship, she has a respect and appreciation for his world—even if it isn’t her scene.

Sure, it’s kind of goofy, but when you consider this woman is the future leader of an island nation populated by warrior women who’s helped saved the Earth multiple times talking to an average Midwestern American, well, there’s going to be a bit of an awkwardness as she tries to relate to him—but it’s a natural and realistic moment here given the circumstances. It’s a ridiculous comic book world, but this sequence feels completely real regardless, and what’s really brilliant about this issue is how Simone takes all Diana’s sincerity, sensuality and humanity and juxtaposes it with her kicking the sh– out of a ship full of aliens!

It’s so nice to see a writer who has such a handle on this character that she can show the heroine’s not just sex appeal or just a brutish warrior, but a dynamic female character with the poise to balance her warrior world and her place as a leader in a modern world which isn’t as accepting of strong female leaders.

And, I loves me some strong female leads, so having Gail Simone making the strong female lead live up to her potential in the land of comics instead of falling short—as she has so often in the hands of other writers—has really been a treat!

Sympathy never looked so good

I was just reading next week’s Daredevil and while the issue was good, what really shined for me was seeing Paul Azaceta’s art on the book. It fit so well with the mood of the issue, and yet, it was a nice change from the super-moodiness of the last arc with Michael Lark—which was great, don’t get me wrong, but that arc was so heavy and the art worked with it so well that it literally began to hang over me as I read about Matt’s life being destroyed. You should all be picking up this issue anyway because it continues Bru’s great run with DD, but Azaceta’s art is the standout of this issue for me!

Damn good looking or just a time traveler?

A week or so ago, Dr. Hot Read’s Andy Serwin stumbled across a familiar face in an old Thor issue from back in 1972…MINE!

Prepare yourselves, this may blow your mind!

Here’s the issue for reference (Check your collection! Perhaps you can see this oddity in your own home!):

So, flipping through the comic, Andy came to this ad spread on pages 24 and 25…

Keen-eyed readers will spy this incredible spectacle immediately, but there at the top of the page in the center is what appears to be an illustration of me, Jim Gibbons—The Loudest Monkey himself!

Let me give you a quick comparison of some pictures, just in case you haven’t been shocked enough at this point…

Are you minds not blown?!

So, this means one of three things…
1) At some point in the future, I will travel back in time and become the inspiration for a series of fake facial hair because my ‘stache and burns are so “exciting” and “romantic.”
2) I’ve inadvertently become a living homage to 1970s facial hair fashion.
3) I am, in fact, exciting and romantic.

I’m pretty sure the correct answer is Choice 3, though I’d be pretty okay with Choice 1 as well! Either way, get a fake mustache, a van dyke and some sideburns and you can look as impressive as I do at any time!

Me? I look impressive ALL THE TIME!

Quite a bunch of good books this week, let’s pick through’em!

I like Wednesdays that surprise me.

Every week I usually have my picks: my best guesses at what books are going to get me giddy. Most times, I’m right on the money and the first books I’m grabbing are the books that keep me talking all week. Great as those reads may be, having your perennial favorites be top picks gets a little predictable.

Then, there’s those other weeks that come along when books A, B and C seem like the most exciting, but X, Y and Z end up making the week memorable. It’s that type of freshness added to my reading list here and there that keeps me coming back for something new.

But the best weeks, by far, are the ones where the books I’ve guessed would be good turn out great and the leaps I’ve taken with other books aren’t let-downs but really enriched my weekly reading.

And with that long explanatory preface over, this week was one of the best kinds where the no-brainers and favorites definitely delivered along with the leaps.

The top “no-brainer” of the week has got to be Logan. I feel like saying, “I shouldn’t even have to explain why Brian K. Vaughan and Eduardo Risso working on a Wolverine book is awesome,” actually insults your intelligence as readers, but if you need telling, check out what this week’s QB crew had to say about this “Book of the Week.” Quick related side-note: I love referring to a last page cliffhanger by saying, “Holy crap, the last page dropped a bomb!” And this book dropped the bomb, calling out “Little Boy” on the page…

Freakin’ awesome!

Another book this week I could rattle on all day about is Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s Scalped, but Andy Serwin already took care of that for me, so check his blog to hear why you need to be reading this book. Trust me, grab the first two trades, give’em a read and you will wonder how you’ve been getting by as a comics reader without out.

Now, the “no-brainer” for most that really was a leap for me was this week’s Green Lantern. I was editing columnist Jamie Dunst’s Corps Curriculum roundup—which, as a guy who’s never read much Green Lantern, reads like an update about the denizens of the Mos Eisley Cantina to someone who’s never seen Star Wars with all the alien names being bandied about—and got so freakin’ excited after Laira became a Red Lantern that I think I became a Lantern fan on the spot! Seriously, I read that panel and I could just see the splash page down the line with a rainbow of warriors from different factions meeting on an intergalactic battlefield for a crazier and more colorful Hobbit-esque “Battle of Six Armies!”

Another book I gave a read after editing some related stories was Image’s Dead Space. After giving the ol’ edit to Kevin Mahadeo’s interviews with the writer Antony Johnston and artist Ben Templesmith, I thought, “I like Johnston’s Wasteland and I dig Templesmith’s art on Fell, I’ll give this a shot.” While most versions of video games in other forms of media haven’t been great successes, this book really drew me in and had me itching for more issues and a shot at the game, so much so that I snuck into Thursday Morning Quarterback and tacked that very statement onto the end of the Extra Points section (Ok, ok, I didn’t so much “sneak” as I said, “Hey Andy, did you give Dead Space an Extra Point, cuz I dug that book, man.” He said “no” but I could, to which I said, “I’m doing it!”)! I think I’m most excited for the next issue because while this one didn’t have mass amounts of alien assault or monster mayhem, it was a really creepy laying-out of the story that shows all the little pieces that will inevitably lead to the type of clusterf— that lead to a video game about a guy alone on a monster-filled space station. Plus, eerie ghost scenes like this are just intriguing for a big sci-fi fan like me that loves cross-genre stories…

Now, I’ve got to call out Halloween: Night Dance. As I’ve said in other posts, “Halloween” is my favorite horror franchise and I think that’s because it’s not just gore for gore’s sake, it’s always had a very creepy psychological aspect to it and it took place in a small Illinois town that, being from the outer suburbs of Chicago, I could always look at and go, “Wow, that could be my town!” Plus, that setting always made me a little nostalgic for Halloween night back when I was in High School. Anyway, after editing TJ Dietsch’s interview with writer Stefan Hutchinson—I read and edit a cool story, I like to check out the book and that happened a lot this week—I grabbed last month’s first issue and this week’s #2…

Between the ever unraveling mystery of Lisa with her nightmares and the creepy drawings she keeps getting from a young neighbor kid, the plight of the out-of-towner who’s been hospitalized after hitting a young woman fleeing Michael Myers with his car and seen his wife skewered, things are pretty nuts in this comic…and I like it! The inner monologue keeps changing so reader’s get all of Lisa’s anxiety, all the craziness of Mr. Denial-about-his-wife’s-murder as he contemplates how to rescue his love that readers know is long gone and the terrified thoughts of each new victim, the book builds to that frantic, breakneck thought process of being chased by a silent, sadistic unstoppable killer that the classic “Halloween” movies instilled in viewers.

On top of that, Tim Seeley’s art and the colors by Elizabeth John and Courtney Via are so spot on for fall in the Midwest that as I read the carnival scene in issue #2, I actually got the smell of burning leaves and that rush of first brisk breeze and thought about going to grab a sweater. Great stuff!

That’s this week’s best of the bunch for me! Next week, more comics will be read and more bunches of books highlighted, but keep checking in to The Loudest Monkey all week for more comic talk and feel free to leave me comments over at the my blog’s official thread on the Wizard Universe Message Boards or shoot me an email. Till later on, monkey-lovers!

Of Slayers, sexual relations and major media coverage

If you haven’t read this week’s Buffy (issue #12), you might want to hold off on reading the rest of this. There’re going to be some spoilers.

I should preface this post with a few points so it doesn’t just end up sounding like a rant, but then again it’s a blog, so it’ll probably end up sounding a little like a rant anyway. Forerunner one, this may get a little ranty.

Second, I’m a huge Buffy fan, and not just physically standing at 6’3. I could spend a whole Saturday rewatching a season, and the rest of the weekend watching another and I wouldn’t dub that “a waste of time.”

And lastly, I have a ton of respect for the New York Times. Coming from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, it was frequently cited as an example of one of the best if not the best newspaper in the world, and for good reason: It’s a great publication!

(Ok, here comes the “but” and the blog…)
I’ve found some of their mainstream comic book coverage to be a bit wonky in the past and ran into the same situation again today with their article about a revelation in issue #12 of Buffy.

[The spoiler train starts here, this is your last chance to get off.]

I’ll admit that when I heard through the grapevine that Buffy was going gay in a scene of the upcoming issue, I groaned. At first, it sounded like a “ratings grab” type move: all shock, no substance. Then I came to my senses, realized how well this series has captured the show, put my faith in the creative team and hoped for some shock with a heaping helping of substance.

It was the right move—and a no-brainer really—because this issue was just damned good Buffy. Tender moments, action and hilarity all mixed in with a supernatural mystery and some cool new baddies. It had everything I always loved about the show and everything the comic has led fans like me to expect: greatness in storytelling. In the end, it was just a good Buffy comic, not a “HOLYCRAPBUFFY’SGAY!” comic, which makes sense as good creative teams have a tendency to put out good comics.

What doesn’t make sense to me is why the NY Times article treated this scene like it was some huge event. If you’re a Buffy fan, every issue is already an event already just because it exists. And if you’re a Buffy fan who’s not comfortable with homosexuality, I think you might have checked out in season four. More importantly, I think the question is really whether this is a big deal at all. It’s a main character of a popular series having a gay scene in 2008, not 1948 or even 1998. So, is it really a big deal? I don’t think so and hopefully most people are open-minded enough to agree.

If you’ve been “hanging around” with Buffy since ’97, odds are her love life isn’t going to end your “friendship,” just like it wouldn’t if someone you’d known for ten years told you they had once experimented. Hey, it may make you gasp—as Joss points out in the article about the scene—but good relationships run deeper than that, just like the relationships of fans to their favorite fictional characters.

I ended up feeling partly compelled to write this post after this part of the article:

“But before fans start blogging frantically, they should know that Mr. Whedon is clear where this is headed. ‘We’re not going to make her gay, nor are we going to take the next 50 issues explaining that she’s not. She’s young and experimenting, and did I mention open-minded?'”

I think there’s something kind of inherently wrong with Joss having to defend this scene. Drew Goddard, Joss and Georges Jeanty are storytellers telling a story. Why do they need to defend themselves if their story involves homosexuality? They shouldn’t.

I don’t feel like fans will be compelled to blog “frantically” about this issue any more than they normally would. There’ll be plenty of normal speculation from Buffy’s devoted followers—myself included—itching for more from their favorite creators on one of their favorite characters, and while I could gripe about certain parts of the article that seem to demonstrate a lack of Buffy knowledge on the reporter’s part (Like this quote: “In a new issue of the ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ comic book series, being released Wednesday, Buffy sleeps with a fellow slayer. And, oh yeah, she’s a woman.” Obviously man, slayers are women.) in the end, I simply don’t think a fuss should be made about something in a character’s sex life especially when it happens so naturally in a great story.

Then again, while I’m admittedly overly optimistic and an idealist, I’m not naive enough to think that news about a popular character from a successful TV show originally portrayed by an extremely attractive starlet having a risqué romp isn’t going to draw attention. Odds are this reporter digs comics and needed an angle to pitch his editor in order to get a chance write about them or his editor saw this angle and knew there’d be an audience for the story or both.

In the end, if this national media coverage introduces 50, 500 or even 5,000 new readers to a great comic book, well then great, it was worth it! I’m just a guy on a blog having a bit of a fanboy rant, and while I think it’s backed by the best of intentions and a hopeful mindset that the world may be a more accepting place than it actually is, won’t the world be a better place with a few more Buffy fans in it? I think so. Plus, that’s less people who’ll think it’s weird when I keep putting on the DVD of the Buffy musical episode after a night at the bars!

Get your time machines, we’re heading to ‘1985′

Hey folks!
So, it’s been a long Monday, but I loves ya’ll so I figured I’d post some bloggy goodness for you (Side note, all my blogs are high on fiber and will help your “passage” so you can continue flinging the poo with The Loudest Monkey!):

I read the first two issues of Mark Millar’s upcoming 1985 this weekend (yep, that’s one of the perks of being a comic book journalist—occasional advanced PDFs of books) and my initial curiosity about the book named after a year not renowned for major events has now turned to excitement. I grabbed the book free of preconceptions, simply looking to pull back the shroud of mystery around the book I knew little to nothing about before reading. So, what did I learn? It’s about 1985! (Insert your *Gasp* here) Yes, the year! Check out the preview we ran for a little more of a tease.

No, seriously, check it out quick.

So, Red Skull in the window, Mole Man looking guy chatting up the neighbor; it looks a little crazy and the first two issues remain mysterious, leaving me to bask in the craziness for months until I get my hands on the third issue. Still, Tommy Lee Edwards’ art is just gorgeous and filled me with nostalgia for the time period while reading (Ok, I was only one year old in 1985, but you catch my drift) and the slow teasing out of this idea of comic book characters in the real world through the eyes of a tween is pretty interesting. In the end, that’s what really hammered this book home for me: little dude and main character Toby.

Millar always draws me in with his plots, but he’s never written a character I connected with more. I swear, it feels like he somehow tapped into my childhood and created this character partially from me. Toby seemed that familiar to read. He wasn’t entirely me, otherwise he’d have been more that goofy-looking, peachfuzz-faced and awkwardly tall kid with glasses, but the character rang true. He’s that kid who’s more interested in his comics than his life and he’s looking for his comics to enter his reality because it’d be way more interesting and an enjoyable reprieve from the same monotony relatable to nearly anyone who was ever 13-year-old comic reader. He’s an escapist, and every comic fan can relate to that and whether or not that Skull in the window is real or not, he’s sure something is up.

That was me at 12 or 13. I remember running around my mostly under-construction neighborhood back in suburban Atlanta, being sure that mystic forces were leaving TVs on inside these “For Sale” houses instead of lazy painters working on their final coat and that the “strange” influx of crows on my street had to be black magic and not the presence of trash-filled, construction dumpsters in every fourth driveway.

Reading 1985, I could really relate to Toby and, more than any amount of alien invasions or superpowered slugfests, that drew me into the series. I could step into the main character’s shoes in a way that, try as I might have, I just couldn’t with last week’s Kick-Ass. Now, that may simply have been due to the fact that Kick-Ass hero Dave Lizewski listens to the Goo Goo Dolls, or that my pudgy ass back when I was 13 would have been better suited to the semi-delusional, daydream tendencies of Toby than squeezing into a wetsuit underneath my clothes everyday (though I did look smashing in my swim team speedo—a dream of pale, undeveloped fleshiness). Either way, the gorgeous art and relatable character has me excited to see more of 1985 just to spend more time following the young hero’s adventures, and the continuing mystery behind the book is a bonus as well.

The Best of the Bunch: Week of 2/27/2008

What’s a comic book blog with some weekly book reviews?!

Well, when you’re readin’ the Monkey you’ll get The Best of the Bunch!

If you grabbed books this week, you don’t need me to tell you that good reads were in abundance. Between perennial crowd-pleasers like Geoff John’s Action Comics and Justice Society of America, and Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Daredevil (not to mention an exceptional kick-off to volume two of his Icon series with Sean Phillips, Criminal), but the book that really rocked my week was JSA Classified #35.

Much like last week’s Superman Confidential, I grabbed this issue because it was written by B. Clay Moore. I picked up Hawaiian Dick—Moore’s awesome Image series—last year and was amazingly pleased to find it was exactly the type of book I was hoping it’d be after seeing the cover, and I’ve checked out as much as I could by Clay since. I heard about the Superman book from Clay when I did an interview with him last fall for a Columbia Missourian article about professional comic creators in and around Kansas City. I was jazzed to read Confidential and really enjoyed it, but in the end, I’m not a big Superman guy. However, when I heard he was doing a three-issue arc on JSA Classified starring Wildcat, I was ecstatic!

Seriously, as far as I’m concerned, Ted Grant is the preeminent badass of the comic book world, because he was the first and he’s still kickin’…

…The coolest thing about the beginning of this arc, is it asks exactly that; why is Ted Grant still wearing the whiskers after all these years? GL poses the question and tells Ted that his old gyms in Gotham are looking a little fishy. So, Ted jumps on his bike and heads to check it out and maybe reaffirm for himself why he hasn’t retired. He punches people and the plot thickens—I could keep telling you what happened or tell you why it was awesome. I’ll opt for the latter.

The dialogue’s tight and rings true of a down-to-Earth, graying boxer in a cat suit constantly outshined by his superpowerful teammates and without sounding as ridiculous as that description of the hero. The plot isn’t overwhelming after one issue but allows for punches aplenty and has more than enough room for chances to analyze what keeps this golden age hero going. Reading the book, it felt like it was written exactly for my tastes and was enjoyable from first page to closing cliffhanger, and that’s just the writing.

Ramon Perez’s art was…well, let’s just say I want to paste it up all over my white and extremely boring apartment walls. He captures the essence of why Wildcat is just flat-out cool in the opening fight sequence and emphasizes every cool jab and hook throughout the book. And the scenes where Moore juxtaposes Wildcat’s past with his present, Perez deserves a callout just for drawing that awesome image of Wildcat punching a ‘20s classic boxer through the seat of a chair…

…Other than the above-mentioned books, I have to give a call out to Blue Beetle. Seeing Jaime Reyes dawn the Ted Kord Beetle costume after 24 issues was just plain awesome…

…and this whole issue was a slam-bang, drag-out action extravaganza. Great stuff!

Lastly, I loved X-Men: Legacy. I’m a big X-Fan, and seeing such an interesting exploration of the easily-clichéd “Xavier might not be perfectly altruistic” theme was really a treat.

Ok folks, that’s it for this week’s bunch, and hey, feel free to email me any questions or comments at!