Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TMNT Movie and the IDW Comic Series

Heroes in a Half Shell

I felt like this review needed to be done for a few reasons; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are iconic, the movie was pretty big at the box office, and I think the IDW comics are extremely underrated and a great read.  One of the original creators of the TMNT, Kevin Eastman, has a hand in the creation of the comic.  Anytime an original creator of something has a hand in the reboot I feel like it lends credibility and extra creativity that may have been overlooked in the original.  Basically it gave Eastman an opportunity to rethink and redo the TMNT as only an original creator can, and he delivers with the series.

I have never been one for negativity and downgrading, especially because that seems to be what the internet is full of these days, but I have to start this review with what I don’t like about the movie.  This way I get the negative out of the way and don’t ruin my mood by being a Debbie Downer.  Although I have some opinions that are on the down side I also have some good stuff to say so never fear.


The biggest problem I have with the movie is the way they did Splinter’s origin and his ties to martial arts.  In the movie they had Splinter and the turtles as lab specimens that were being experimented on.  I don’t take issue with those facts because it follows close to the IDW origin but they leave out the back story of how Hamato Yoshi/Splinter and Oroku Saki/Shredder became enemies and how it relates to Hamato Yoshi being reincarnated as the rat and his sons as the turtles.  In the comics they have ties to their former lives and carry all the knowledge with them but in the movie they become family out of necessity after a lab fire where April saves them.  Again, I wish they followed closer to the IDW version of the origin but even if they didn’t do that they could have done anything better than what they did.  I would have even settled for the original comic version of the origin where Splinter is the pet rat that learns from Hamato and is later transformed by the mutagen.  I just felt like it was lack luster and makes me wonder why they're so involved with fighting the Foot Clan if they have no real ties to them.

As if the lack of a good origin wasn't bad enough they play off the master martial arts skills as a fathering technique.  Splinter explains that the boys were preoccupied with pop culture stuff and realized that they needed something to take up their time and conveniently stumbled upon a stupid little picture book about Ninjutsu.  Of course with only ten pages of stick figures doing a complex martial art Splinter was able to teach himself everything about Ninjutsu and mastered all four weapons just in time to teach the turtles.  Sorry but I would be more inclined to believe he was actually reincarnated over finding a picture book and teaching himself what takes years to master in something that probably equate to a year or so.  I feel like this mocks martial arts and is just an excuse to get away from supernatural or spiritual stuff like reincarnation.  I don’t understand the move and I wouldn't have done it.

Now that the negative has been put out there lets balance that with some of the stuff that I like, or at least didn't hate.  Megan Fox as April is what it is, she is very beautiful but somewhat dry as an actress, therefore the casting of Will Arnett was brilliant because he provided the comedy and balance to her dry acting.  Even though I wasn't super impressed with Megan Fox I did like how they made her a reporter and stuck to those origins, kudos for that, but I would have also been satisfied if she was younger like in the IDW series.  They connect her to the big company responsible for the mutagen through her father, which again is a good move, but they switched up the company names and CEO’s that are involved.  I’m not sure what this switch means for sequels and possible connections to Krang or any of the possible story lines that could have come from IDW’s comics.  I just hope that they get more creative than a picture book to explain away a major plot line.  In the comic Krang is heavily tied to the company Stockgen but in the movie they don't hint to anything that may or may not happen later.

One of the coolest things they did was introducing Karai.  Karai is one of the most BA characters in the Turtle universe and I’m more than glad they finally gave her a fairly prominent role.  I like how they leave open the possibility of seeing her in the future but if she is in the next movie, or movies, I hope they have her become more of a leader and kick more ass.  She has the potential to become one of the best bad guys out because of the drive she shows for becoming the Foot leader, at least if they stick to the IDW version of her.   In the comic she is cold, conniving, and ruthless, just like the Shredder.  I feel like they could capture that well with her character.  I also feel like her relationship as the Shredders granddaughter can lend some creative spice to the bad guy side and can humanize the Foot Clan a little bit.


Say what you will about Michael Bay but the man knows how to do action, his résumé is full of block buster hits, and he is now responsible for bringing to life two of my favorite childhood cartoons.  The trailer teased a nice action scene or two and they didn't disappoint.  The best action scene is about five minutes of the turtles sliding down a hill on their shells like they were toboggans.  It wasn’t just the sledding scene, nearly all the fight scenes were epic, even the fight scenes with the awkwardly metalled up Shredder.


Overall I find what they did with the turtles personalities the best part.  They nailed Mikey as the funny mouth-y one, Raphael as the hard edged one, Donny as the techy and geeky one, and Leo as the leader that is somewhat serious most of the time.  By far the best part of the movies is enjoying the turtles and their progression as a family, despite the lack luster origin and the picture book Ninjutsu master Splinter.  The family dynamic is pretty right on, they even manage to squeeze April in at the end with a nod to her being part of the family.  What I ultimately would like to see from a sequel is of course closer ties to the IDW series, but also further progression with the Turtle family.  Can we get a truly awesome Casey Jones! Please!

Even though it had its ups and downs if you happen to be a lifelong Turtle fan like me you have to at least check it out.  I wouldn’t go past saying it was average at best but it was fairly entertaining and I will check out the sequel when it comes out.  I feel like it left room for improvement and I always hold hope that that is what will happen in the second phase.  If by some off chance any producer involved including Michael Bay, or the director Jonathan Liebesman hear me; follow the IDW story line closer and pull from some of their ideas.  The comic has a thick story line that includes some seriously BA characters.  Some well-known like Casey Jones, but some not so well known like Casey’s father Hun the leader of a street gang the Purple Dragons that falls in line with the Foot Clan.  Casey's friend Angel that is a BA woman character and grew up hard like Casey.  As if the human aspect of the comic isn't enough they also have plenty of other mutants to choose from like the alley cat Hobbs or the arctic fox Alopex, or the alien Neutrinos.  Bottom line is that Kevin Eastman is the man and his creations are smart and fit well with the world he created, so use it.  The comic provides so many characters and story lines that the producers would be foolish to not at least look into possible fits for the future movies.  I know this much, an appearance by Bebop and Rock Steady would brighten any turtle fans day.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Writer Blocks - Daredevil: Born Again

Daredevil: Born Again, originally published in 1986, is the first collaboration between Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, the same team who would produce Batman: Year One the following year.  It is also the best Daredevil story ever and a perfect illustration of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.


For those unfamiliar, The Hero’s Journey is a story structure composed of twelve parts:  The Ordinary World, The Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, Tests (Allies & Enemies), Approach, Ordeal, The Reward, The Road Back, Resurrection, and finally the Return with the Elixir.

Here is how Daredevil: Born Again works within these confines -

The Ordinary World – the story opens with the crumbling of Matt Murdock’s world.  His former lover Karen Page sells his secret identity for a fix, and this bit of information makes its way to the Kingpin, who goes about dismantling Matt Murdock’s life piece by piece.

daredevil-born-again-karen-page-dice-lo-que-sabe1born2The Call to Adventure – as a final blow, the Kingpin has Murdock’s townhouse blown up, and now Murdock knows that the Kingpin is behind all his troubles, having left Murdock’s Daredevil costume in the wreckage as a way to brag about what he has done.

 Daredevil _227 pag24 Born AgainBONA

Refusal of the Call – instead of donning his Daredevil tights and paying the Kingpin a visit, Matt holes up in a seedy hotel, suffering from depression and unable to physically leave.


Meeting with the Mentorwe’ll get to that a little later.  Not everything in The Hero’s Journey happens in order!

Crossing the Threshold – Matt eventually crosses an actual threshold, mustering the will to leave his hotel room, gradually losing his reign on reality and degenerating into a fantasy world of extreme violence.


Tests (Allies & Enemies) – this was probably going to be Miller’s swan song on Daredevil, so he includes everybody who was ever in his run: Foggy Nelson, Turk, Melvin Potter, Nicholas Manolis and especially Ben Urich, whose subplot would have made a strong comic book in and of itself.

 born again urich

Approach – Matt makes his way to the Kingpin’s offices where . . .

Ordeal – he is badly beaten by the Kingpin and presumed dead.


Meeting with the Mentor – now a derelict on skid row, Matt is taken in by a benevolent nun named Sister MaggieThis is really Matt’s long-lost mother, and she nurses him back to health both physically and spiritually


The Reward – Matt reclaims his identity, and more importantly, his soul, and is reborn a stronger man.


The Road Back – now healthy, Matt reenters the world and takes out all of his enemies.  He does this as Matt Murdock, not as Daredevil.  He hasn’t reclaimed that part of his identity yet.  One especially striking part of Daredevil: Born Again has Matt fighting a lunatic the Kingpin disguised as Daredevil in order to frame the hero for Foggy Nelson’s murder. 5born-2

Resurrection – this is the resurrection of the hero, Daredevil.  In the final two issues of Daredevil: Born Again, Daredevil fights Nuke, a parody of the 1980’s action hero.  Daredevil eventually wins, with the help of Captain America, and this victory exposes the Kingpin’s involvement in organized crime. 


Return with the Elixir – Matt is back in Hell’s Kitchen with his true love, Karen Page!


There is so much more to this book than just The Hero’s Journey.  From the Easter themed religious imagery juxtaposed against a story that takes place during Christmas, to the “Matt Murdock in bed” title pages representing his descent into madness, Daredevil: Born Again is a masterpiece.  born again sleeping pages

Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli were operating in perfect lock-step, and it showed in every panel.  This book completely remade Daredevil, and, as a true test to its longevity, the repercussions are still being felt today, after almost 30 years.

I’m getting old.

- Aloha -


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Best Comic I Read Today Is . . . The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1

The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1 is not only the best comic I read today, it’s also the best comic I have read all year!  In the interest of full disclosure, Grant Morrison is the reason I got back into reading comic books in 2011 and writing comic books in 2012.  Specifically, it was All-Star Superman, which was illustrated by the same man whose line work makes Pax Americana one of the best looking books on the spinner rack, Frank Quitely, so I am extremely biased.  That being said, this book was extraordinary.


There’s no need to worry about spoilers in this write-up, because this book is so densely packed with nuance and subtext that it would be impossible to spoil.  From the outset, it is an homage of sorts to Watchmen, using the classic Charlton Action Heroes that were originally to be featured in that seminal work.  Morrison even employs the same opening effect, having the cover image be the starting point of a long zoom through the first page, only in Morrison’s hands this becomes not only a zoom through physical space, but a zoom through time.

The classic grid layout concept from Watchmen is also used, breaking-up the physical plane to create windows through which we, the third dimensional voyeur, can peek at this two-dimensional world.


Nowhere is this done better than in the double-page spread of Pages 12 and 13, where Quitely uses an 8 x 4 panel layout to show the composition of a room, a murder scene, then highlight key moments that transpire in that particular part of the room before, during, and after the murder.  There is no way I am doing this justice through my words.  You just have to read it.

Then read it again.

Of course there’s Blue Beetle and The Question, reprising the roles of Nite Owl and Rorschach.  The Question even alludes to some “issues” Blue Beetle may be having, similar to what Nite Owl suffered from in Watchmen, taking this meta-experiment to an even higher level.


At its core, The Multiversity: Pax Americana is a murder mystery, and the book never loses site of this.  It has a beginning, middle and a satisfying ending that demands a second, third and probably fourth reading.  For a writer in any medium, this book gives a clinic in pacing, plot, and experimentation all serving the characters and the story.

To borrow from the quote on the cover:

“Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn.” – Delmore Schwartz

- Aloha -

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Writing on the Wall Review (Spoilers)

The Writing on the Wall Gives Us What We've All Been Waiting On...

So after a week off for the mid-term elections and Marvel's 75th Anniversary special, Agents of SHIELD came back really strong this week. Spoilers ahead!

Writing on the Wall


This episode was the end of the "writing" story arc as far as I can tell. After teasing us with the meaning of the alien writing since season 1, Agents of SHIELD actually gave us some answers this week. While there is still much left to be explained about the alien writing, what we did learn did not disappoint. It's pretty important for any ongoing medium that its answers be as exciting and compelling as its mysteries. If the mystery is too good and the answers do live up to the fun of speculation, the show is setting up it's viewers for major disappointment. *cough* Lost *cough* Agents of SHIELD has found a good balance with this story arc. The mystery was compelling, but not so much that we weren't ready for the answer. Now that the writing has turned out to be a map, or a blueprint rather, I think the reveals to come will be just as interesting if not more so than the mystery.


Let's briefly recap where we're at in Agents of SHIELD and what happened this week on "The Writing on the Wall." We had two major stories playing out in this episode. We saw one group chasing down Ward, while the other group is trying to catch a murdering who is scrawling the alien writing on his victim's bodies. May, Hunter, and Mockingbird are all on Ward's tail, but he continues to be a step ahead of them. He spots Bobbi Morse at the bus station before even boarding the bus with her. Carrying a bag of C4, Ward threatens to blow up everyone on the bus if she tries anything. He escapes and makes his way to a bar where he attempts to rejoin Hydra. Ward continues to elude our agents, but he does give Skye and/or Coulson a "gift" in the form of Hydra agent "Bakshi."

Meanwhile, Coulson, Skye and Simmons are on the case for the murdering who is carving up his victims. This side of the episode was quite satisfying as it totally unfurled the story behind the Tahiti Project. SHIELD has been using the alien blood called GH-325 to save their critically injured agents, including Coulson and later Skye. GH-325 has some serious side effects, making the recipient basically lose their shit completely. In order to save them, SHIELD erased their memories and replaced them. All this because the alien blood was imprinting memories on the agents and their brains couldn't handle two set of memories. After having their brains reformatted, they were giving normal lives without any knowledge of their time at SHIELD. Except for Sebastian Derrick (played by Brian Van Holt). Derrick begins to remember his SHIELD days and continues to root out his old memories after learning that pain would trigger a relapse. Then after remembering everything that happened to him (which was all pretty effed up honestly, WTF SHIELD?) he targets all the other agents who underwent the alien blood transfusion. He wants them to remember as well,  but mostly just succeeds at killing them. This all culminates in a throwdown between Coulson and Derrick. Coulson finally realizes the meaning of the alien writing while choking out Derrick. Overlooking a sculpture by yet another agent from the Tahiti Project, Coulson puts everything together and then the crazy urges just stop. We find out in the end that the writing is a blueprint of a city and that SHIELD has to find it before Hydra.


While this episode was not as high paced or action packed as some of the past few episodes, it was still very good. Agents of SHIELD feels like it is on the verge of a huge revelation. The buzz all over the internet is that the alien writing is Kree and that the story is all leading toward an Inhuman connection. The city is rumored to be the great refuge of the Inhumans or possibly even Attilan. Personally, I really hope things pan out for the Inhumans coming to SHIELD. This would be a great injection of superhero powers to the TV show. Not to mention, this would be an unprecedented alignment of TV and movie storytelling. We know that Agents of SHIELD has a pivotal place in the MCU after The Winter Soldier, but this development could take that whole type of execution to the next level!


Brett Dalton is doing a great job as the skeezy bad guy creep so far this season. I find his performance to be much more compelling as an antagonist. His fixation on Skye is beyond creepy. (Side note: he kinda looks like a hunkier version of Mac from Always Sunny with a beard) The rest of the cast is also really gelling with the new additions of Hunter, Morse, and 'Mac.' Mac is one of my favorite supporting characters this season, but I feel the newly introduced dynamic of Simmons vs. Mac feels a little forced or just unnecessary. While the storytelling on this show has been elevated quite a bit this season, the set pieces are still dark, drab, and repetitive. I don't think I can stand to see another scene in the ominous, laser-beam-shielded prison cell in the basement. Even after letting Ward go, we end up back in that room again and again.

I still have to rank Agents of SHIELD somewhere on the lower end of comic book adaptations on TV, but the show is staying good. I'll definitely be watching next week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Best Comic I Read Today Is . . . Batman #36

Batman is my favorite superhero, and I’m a sucker for a good Joker story, so when you add that combination to a New 52 “retelling” of the classic Batman vs. Superman fight from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, it’s pretty obvious that Batman #36 will be the best comic I read today.


Batman #36, written by Scott Snyder and penciled by Greg Capullo, is the second chapter of their six part Endgame storyline, which started out with the entire Justice League being exposed to Joker toxin in the previous issue.  As a reader, you already know that the Joker’s back after his “death” in the Death of the Family arc, but it’s how Snyder and Capullo reveal his resurrection that makes this book so fantastic.

The issue opens with a dream sequence, and Batman internalizing numerous different ways he could die.


We’re then transported to the present story and Batman in a very deadly situation – a fight with a crazed Superman!  Batman wins (of course), using all sorts of clever tricks to take down the Kryptonian.

I love the lettering of Steve Wands and the way he stylizes the text spoken by anyone in the throes of Joker toxin.  And this effect is more than just for looks.  Snyder incorporates it into the actual story and the reveal of who the Joker has been masquerading as this whole time – Eric Border!


Notice how the font changes in the second to last balloon on that page and the word “see” is written like the Joker said it?  That’s the first clue that Border, who has been a background character since Batman Annual #2, is the Joker in disguise.

The issue goes on to put Batman in a perilous situation, allude to a master plot and reveal the Joker’s new “not-chopped-off face”, which is a fantastic way to end the first act of this drama.

But it’s the little details that make this the best comic I read today.  

Details like the fly caught in the web in the Joker’s cell in Arkham, and the fly landing on Batman’s cowl on the last page, calling back the motif that ended the Death of the Family storyline, further illustrating the storytelling prowess of the Snyder / Capullo “Dynamic Duo”.


- Aloha -

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pregnant Bitches of War Review

Possibly Offensive Pregnant BA Woman

During my random searches for new comic books, I sometimes stumble upon some questionable things that may or may not be any good.  I have been quite successful finding great indie comics with my discovery of Hound Comics and the reviews I have done on a few of their titles.  I can add a new company to the list of good indie comic producers: Fried Comics.

I stumbled upon Fried Comics website,, and felt a swell of pride immediately.  Fried’s homepage had a three scrolling feature of their title right in the front of their page and the first thing my eyes saw was an ad for Pregnant Bitches of War.  I thought to myself PBOW was a seriously good title name and I had to read about the guys or gals behind the idea.

I went up to the top of the website and clicked the “Discover; What is Fried?” so I could get a better understanding of what they were all about.  Fried staff doesn't disappoint with their description of themselves and their product.  The first thing in the section is an introduction to Clay Adams and Alexandre Philippe the two behind Fried but it was what came next that got me hooked.  “FRIED is their collective imagination unleashed, uncensored, and unequivocally unapologetic.”  In the day and age of political correctness and lack of willingness to offend I have found myself yearning for people that say what they feel and are not afraid to put something out there that may or may not offend.  With the statement of uncensored and unapologetic I wanted to see for myself.  The website is easy to navigate with tabs at the top that direct to six places; home, read, buy, discover, connect, and tip.  They let you preview comics, they have shirts and more than just comics for sale, they introduce themselves, and have a section for contacting and question asking.  Overall the site is really well done and easy to navigate.

Fried has three titles under their belt, PBOW, Deadskins!, and Red Xmas.  I went with PBOW, because let’s face it, Pregnant Bitches that are totally BA running around in a war setting just sounds way too cool.  It was more than just the name that caught my attention, there was the description too.

“Plucked from the time-stream by eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla, six pregnant women accidentally kill a young Hitler -- and unleash a nightmare future! With Tesla acting as Charlie to their Angels, they must save the world from a hell of their own creation... and they have to do it all before their water breaks!”

If that synopsis doesn't hook you on the comic then you should stop reading!

The cover sets the tone for what I already suspected to be a crazy ride.  A pregnant woman on a table looking like she is ready to pop out a kid while she holds two smoking guns.  The view is from the knees down so you get the full feel of watching a woman give birth.  Although the cover gets the point across it's not overly graphic, she is still clothed.  The room has comical posters hanging up that fit with pregnancy and the ideas behind having a pregnant woman as the protagonists.  One of the posters said, “Sperm.  It’s all his fault.” With little sperms swimming next to the quote, while another said, “Motherhood is a gift.  A gross, gross gift.”  After reading the posters I noticed the broken mirror and dead guys in the background behind the main character.  The cover is definitely funny and right from the start Fried stays true to the uncensored claim.


Now you may be thinking that the cover isn't really that bad, I have seen worse, but the first page into the comic is the pregnant woman from the cover letting Hitler suck on her boobies.  The first page introduces the character by her narrating Hitler sucking her boobies.  It took me a second to compute the aspects of this and how it related to my sensibilities.  No one likes Hitler but the use of him in the comic and the way that they make no apologies and put him on the first page, I found myself giving a nod to their guts.  Another thing that I found myself respecting was that this page introduced the writers and artists behind it, so they don’t shy away from the controversies and their claim of being uncensored, in fact they embrace it.  Clay Adams and Alexandre O. Philippe are the writers, Dominike “Domo” Stanton is the artist, Ron Riley does the colors, and Charles Pritchett does the letters.

The story starts in the Empire State Building at a focus group called Adventures in Pregnancy.  The main character explains that she was dishonorably discharged and decided to go to New York but was having a hard time paying bills.  As the focus group starts the main character is asked by another pregnant lady how much their getting paid and she replies, “Not enough.”  At this point I already have in my mind that this lady is going to be full on BA but after that comment and the running commentary I get a feel that she will be funny as well.

The way they set up the focus group is excellent because it gives a chance for exposition and introduction without being blatant.  The group has six pregnant women and an older lady that is supervising the group. All of them tell their names and something that they have given up since being pregnant.  This set up served the story well for more than just introductions to the names of the characters, it also gave a chance to get the personality type of the characters.  A ditzy blonde named Marni, a country girl named Bristol, an Asian girl named Jin, the best friend a black woman named Leslie, and the main character who introduces herself as Birdie Disantos make up the group.

Fried continues their campaign of offense when Birdie reveals that she was carrying the baby of a sergeant that not only raped her but had her kicked out of the army as well.  I tried to warn that it may be offensive but at this point if the boob obsessed Hitler didn't shy you away I’m guessing you're good.


After the rather well set up group scene, it flashes back to the days of Tesla and show him running around his hotel room trying to fix an invention. He seems paranoid at the arrival of a person named Bennett and the next page takes us back to the focus group.  The older lady asks the focus group director why the room they're in is called the Tesla room and she gets upset at the country girl for not knowing who he is.  The anger the older woman feels and the way she starts to explain him to the country girl sets up the next panel of who I expect to be Bennett calling Tesla a fraud.  Since I already have a good feel for the ladies they draw me into the other side with the action of Tesla and how he is racing against the clock to finish his experiment before Bennett catches up to him.

Anyone that knows anything about Tesla knows he is probably one of the most important inventors in history and he delivers with his contraption because the next page is the machine working and dissolving the woman into the past.  Tesla knows that it worked and believed that he was in the future until the Bennett guy busts in to the room with guns to discover Tesla and a focus group of pregnant ladies.  Since they seem to be in danger from the Bennett guy Tesla tries the machine again but this time they end up in a war bunker with a bunch of Germans.  My gut feeling about the main character being funny as well as totally BA was right on the money because she continually taunts the Germans as they search the ladies and probe for intelligence.  The ladies all solidify their personalities through the interaction with the German soldiers, not just Birdie.

As the ladies sit in a jail cell with Tesla they all sort out where they are and how they got there.  Tesla explains how he invented a time machine and overheard a soldier saying where they have stashed it.  As they talk and try to figure out what is going on the German soldiers change the guard and they introduce a young Hitler as a guard.

I was expecting to get an explanation at some point about how Hitler got to suck on Birdies boobs, so seeing him as a guard didn't surprise me.  I have to give Adams and Philippe credit for their writing skills; they have a nice couple of panels about the consequences of altering history before Birdie decides she can get them out of the situation without having to kill Hitler.  Instead of killing him she decides it would be a great idea to just smother him with her boobs.  She ends up smothering him out and stealing his keys before leading them all out of the jail.

As the ladies attempt to escape they kill a guard, not Hitler, and continue their search for the time machine.  They find the time machine in a room full of gold and riches but before they can leave they realize that the ditzy blonde Marni is missing.  Marni expresses several times that she thinks they should kill Hitler and even though they agree altering history is a no no they rush back to the cells where Marni is feverishly assaulting Hitler, and just like that Marni starts to disappear.

As they alter the timeline things start to change as they’re perused by German soldiers.  Tesla gets the time machine working and gets them out of harm’s way but not without losing Marni and injuring Birdie’s best friend Leslie.  They ladies are back to their world but everything is changed.  Instead of the Statue of Liberty it’s a statue of a masked soldier.  The final panel is the five women standing together wondering what is going on and what happened to their timeline.  They set up the hook for the second issue really well with the final panel and the ideas they present in the first issue.

I’m not easily offended and I wasn't offended by anything in the issue.  I feel like Adams and Philippe balance the line between offensive and creative masterfully.  The idea of Hitler being killed is a great idea, no one likes him, but the way they address and use the fact that a timeline would change impresses me.  They deliver with this comic and their website is very fun as well.  They make their titles available and offer good synopsis so the reader knows what’s going on and they feature themselves as a part of the package and I appreciate that a lot.  Part of the reason I enjoy indie comics is because I feel closer to the artists and I feel like Fried Comics hits that mark with

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Best Comic I Read Today Is . . . The Superannuated Man #4

Where do you start in describing The Superannuated Man, written and illustrated by Ted McKeever?  With the gorgeous art, each black-and-white panel worthy of being hung in a museum?

Or with the stream of consciousness writing, seeming non sequiturs flowing into tableau pages of melting David Lynchian imagery?

Or with the mutated talking Rhinoceros and the mannequin head?



This was a dialogue heavy issue, which is why I liked it more than the other books on my pull list this week. I have been a Ted McKeever fan since Metropol, enjoying his artistic style and love of “quirky” characters and off-beat subject matter, all presented through expert storytelling.

There are two aspects of this issue that really stood out for me. The first is the two page monologue from He, our hero, explaining what his life was like before the mutants arrived, then breaking character and saying: “Heh.  Had you all goin’ there for a minute, didn’t I?”

The second was the final eight pages, all silent, all monstrous, all harbingers of terror to come.

That is what makes The Superannuated Man, as well as the rest of the Ted McKeever Library, so wonderful – the unpredictable nature of art.

- Aloha -



GOTHAM: Penguin's Umbrella

Love Conquers All !

This week's episode is a bit twisty turny. Not a lot of good cop, bad cop crime solving, however it did bring the heat on Jim Gordon after Falcone realizes Penguin is still alive terroizing the city. In typical Falcone fashion, he has another man do his dirty work for him. This man is named Victor Zsasz who is a Batman character (serial killer) who prefers to use a blade, and then carves a tally mark on his body after each kill. Zsasz believes that life is pointless, and that he's freeing his victims from a meaningless existence by killing them. When this character came on screen tonight I was hoping he would live to see another episode and that happened indeed. Finally, a villain that doesn't die at the end.


Last week, Oswald Cobblepot revealed that he’s still alive, and this week, predictably, all hell breaks loose in Gotham. Harvey Bullock feels betrayed, Don Falcone realizes he’s been duped, and Fish Mooney sees blood. Everybody, it seems, wants Jim Gordon and Penguin dead, and no one in the Gotham Police Department has the balls to stand up to Don Falcone’s assassin when he shows up at Police Headquarters looking for Gordon’s head.  Gordon manages to buy himself a little time and gets his girlfriend Barbara out of town, but quickly winds up in the crosshairs between the Maroni and Falcone gangs. Penguin, meanwhile, manages to slither out of danger by playing up his value to Don Maroni.  When Falcone’s gang hijacks a truck full of cash from Maroni’s men, Penguin manages to manipulate Maroni into hitting back hard and killing everyone at Falcone’s drug warehouse (including Fish Mooney’s Russian-mob boyfriend.)

Meanwhile, Gordon hatches a bold plan to arrest the Mayor and Falcone for conspiracy in the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and nearly gets away with it. But Barbara foolishly returned to Gotham to plead for her boyfriend’s life, and Falcone holds her hostage to force Gordon to give up his plan. Throughout all this, Don Falcone has been acting oddly; as Fish Mooney observes, it’s almost like he knows something no one else knows.  At the end of the episode, we learn what that is: Falcone flipped Penguin into being his snitch, and Penguin let Falcone know that Fish and her Russian lover were plotting a takeover. When all the dust has cleared, Don Falcone remains in charge of the city, his biggest rival has been eliminated, and Don Maroni’s none the wiser that his right hand man is actually working for his arch enemy.


There’s one short scene where Gordon stops at Wayne Manor to say goodbye in case Falcone’s men get him, and again David Mazouz impresses as  the young Bruce Wayne. Even Sean Pertwee’s non-traditional Alfred Pennyworth is starting to grow on me. So with Oswald Penguin Cobblepot embedded with the Maroni mob (but secretly working for Don Falcone,) the stage is set for more mischief. Meanwhile, it’s all about real estate and land deals and whatever’s happening at Arkham Asylum, and that’s where we’ll be headed next week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Writer Blocks - Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Volume 3

Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Volume 3 is the Resolution and Dénouement of Miller’s “Three Acts” during his first run of Daredevil.  Here he resolves any loose plot threads, including the vague fate of Elektra, and ends with my single favorite issue of Daredevil EVER.

The volume starts with an anti-drug two-issue story co-starring a new character called The Punisher.


Miller does a fantastic job with this story, which was the last he would illustrate with Klaus Janson.  Beginning with Daredevil # 185, Miller handled script and layout duties while Janson took care of pencils, inks and colors.  While not Miller’s style exactly, having a single artist, and one as accomplished as Janson, on the complete visual package made the transition from Miller’s art less traumatic to a reader.

Daredevil #185 is a great Foggy Nelson story, heavily inspired by Will Eisner’s The Spirit and the writing of Elmore Leonard.  It’s a crime story with Foggy as protagonist and narrator, Daredevil playing the role of “guardian devil”, making sure Foggy gets out of his scraps with Old Man Slaughter, Turk and The Kingpin in one piece.

The remaining stories conclude the Hand, that evil Ninja organizations subplot, as well as ending, in a rather ham-fisted way, the relationship between Matt Murdock and Heather Glenn. There is a final appearance by Elektra, one with a prologue and epilogue that hints of her resurrection, which would come years later in a beautiful graphic album by Miller and Lynn Varley.

That is the Resolution of the story.

Next - the Dénouement.


Daredevil #191 is a standalone story called “Roulette”.  This is inked by Terry Austin, and it’s obvious from the layout and difference in Miller’s art that he has been experimenting while away from Daredevil.  That experiment would become Ronin from DC, and the influence of Moebius and Lone Wolf and Cub Manga is evident from the first four panels.


As a story, “Roulette” ends Miller’s run at its core:  Daredevil facing off with Bullseye, discussing the relationship between fathers and sons, a theme at the soul of the Daredevil mythos.  Bullseye is paralyzed, lying helplessly in a hospital bed, recovering from the wounds inflicted on him by Daredevil after killing Elektra.  Daredevil sits at his bedside and proceeds to play Russian roulette with the villain, pointing the gun first at his own head, then at Bullseye’s.  He tells a story about a young boy who worships Daredevil, ultimately witnessing Daredevil taking his father down in a blackmail scheme.  This pushes the boy over the edge and he shoots a child, wounding him and being committed to an asylum.

Daredevil then tells a second story about his father, who forced him to excel at his schooling, striking him one night in a drunken rage. Young Matt Murdock spent that night on the Brooklyn Bridge, deciding in that moment to become a lawyer.

Miller ends his run on Daredevil with a soliloquy on the meaning of heroism, on the influence parents have over their children, and with Daredevil, down to the last shot, the chamber sure to hold the lone bullet, aimed at Bullseye’s head. He pulls the trigger . . .


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Frank Miller made me want to create comic books, and his Daredevil run in the early 1980’s showed me how a continuing narrative like an ongoing series doesn’t have to rely on past continuity and boring tropes.

It can create new experiences, new paradigms, new structures and new characters.


It can create new creators.

Next Week – Born Again

Sunday, November 2, 2014

From Day Dreams to Comics Reality: part 1

Welcome to the first of a multiple of pieces as I try to explain the ins and outs of creating comics. Ergo, the first piece should logically be about why would any semi-sane person undertake this sort of art. While the notion of being a comics creator is cool upon first blush, it is a much more daunting undertaking upon the most cursory of examinations. While the reasons why vary from person-to-person, I can only touch upon why I am doing it.

The comics bug bit me at an early age; and as an immigrant kid (family emigrated from Brussels, Belgium to Los Angeles when I was six), it provided a world to retreat into when the larger one was often not the most pleasant. The comics world I retreated into was one where bullies got their comeuppance, a marked contrast to the reality of the schoolyard.

[caption id="attachment_977" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Moebius' Blueberry Moebius' Blueberry[/caption]

My comics world was particularly broad, as it also included Bande-Dessinee works such as Tintin & Asterix. My parents divorced soon after arrival, and the highlight of my weekend visitations to my Dad’s house was to read his extensive collection of BD’s albums in the original French. Of course, I began the hobby of comic collecting that I pursue to this day.

As I grew up, it became apparent that mastering basics of drawing such as perspective would be an ultimately futile attempt. Similarly, and at almost the same time, I was forever entranced by punk rock. Foremost amongst punk’s credos is to embrace ‘Do It Yourself’ (DIY).


Flash forward to adulthood, and I had arrived at place professionally, personally, and financially, where the notion of creating and publishing my own comic is vaguely possible. It is at this point that the financial aspect be emphasized: making any money whatsoever in comics is very, very difficult if you are not one of the usual suspects (Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, etc.). A more realistic attitude to take that this is your art, and you are pursuing it for the same reason that any other artist does it…you want to express yourself. There are very few things more personally rewarding than taking in the words, “I really enjoyed your comic.” Just don’t expect it to feed you.

Another development that made what had been a hair-brained notion, creating and publishing my own comic, possible: personal computers. Before the personal computing revolution, indie comics were few and far between because of the quite daunting minutiae (expensive too) of printing: kerning, shooting blue line film, paper stock, etc. Computers and software such Adobe Creative Suite (particularly Photoshop, Illustrator, & InDesign) has made these formerly arcane tasks more accessible.

Thus with these factors, in place, I began my long trek from a day-dream to a finished comic…but you will have to come back next time for that tale.