A New Year Shall Begin

I have to apologize for this blog’s neglect. With Christmas, New Years, work, and comics coming in late due to our supplier (not Diamond – the people who actually deliver the comics), I cannot supply reviews for this week. I also did have planned a “Best/Worst of Marvel in 2010” feature planned, but time is not long enough. On the other hand, it is almost the new year, so I can start absolutely fresh coming next week!

One thing to mention is that I am ABSOLUTELY excited for Marvel’s conclusion to the Fantastic Four. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, as it has been on the news that the comic is coming to an end as the death of one of the FF will mark the end of the series.

Marvel has just released the final cover for Fantastic Four #588, so I figured I’d share for you the cover for #587 (where a member dies), and #588 – the final issue.

Fantastic Four #587 & Fantastic Four #588
Fantastic Three Fantastic Four's Final

Until then, I hope you all had a great holiday and have a Happy New Year!

Godspeed, and keep on Space Truckin’!

A Wednesday in Review

A laundry-list of stories came out this week! The Chaos War continued in Incredible Hulks #619, the X-Men cleared up the vampire threat in the Curse of the Mutants storyline in X-Men #6, while a What If? showed us what would happen had Hawkeye killed Norman Osborn during the Dark Reign. Also to note, a particular drawing of Rogue in X-Men Legacy #243 by Paul Davidson has shown Rogue at her absolute worst. Just sayin’ is all. I was unaware Rogue was an aged Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Despite all that stuff going on, I felt reviews of Uncanny X-Men #531 and Namor: The First Mutant #5 were necessary.

Uncanny

Uncanny X-Men #531

With part two of the Quarantine storyline, Matt Fraction continues his run on Uncanny X-Men, but this time adding Kieron Gillen from the most-recent Generation Hope series as a co-writer. If you haven’t heard, yesterday Marvel announced their next big event for 2011, called “Fear Itself.” Given Fraction is running the show, I can only assume Gillen will be helming Uncanny very soon on his own.

In this issue of Uncanny, you can read the first couple of panels in the story and see Gillen’s adjustments to Fraction’s run. It seems as if the conclusion to Generation Hope’s current story ties into Uncanny’s pages.

Continuing from last month, the flu-plot thickens as the X-Men’s heavy-hitters are all diagnosed with some unknown flu. Namor, Wolverine, Magneto, and so-on, have obtained some sickness running aboard Utopia – while Cyclops seems to be next on the list. Three other subplots, believe it or not, actually run within the Uncanny story and ultimately cramming quite a bit in such a small book. First, we have the X-Men outside of Utopia dealing with a “new” X-Men team created by superhuman villain Lobe. Yes, now there are three X-Men teams running around in the story. To top it all off, Emma still is off with Fantomex and Kitty Pryde inside EVA to rid of Sebastian Shaw forever, while the vigilante Collective Man is terrorizing San Francisco’s Chinatown. The story ultimately ends with the two outside-of-Utopia X-Men teams closing in on Collective Man’s position, while a silly error in Fantomex’s judgment thickens the Sebastian Shaw developments.

I believe you can imagine how rushed this book seems. It can be very problematic. However, that’s actually not my “big” beef with the book. Whereas last month, I was upset about X-Men Legacy’s continuity problems, Uncanny took that problem then made it happen ten-fold. I really do not know where in the Marvel U this story takes place, as there are too many variables with different characters. For example, Namor is no longer on Utopia. Magneto too, has jumped ship to be in both Legacy and the Children’s Crusade plots. Fantomex’s ship EVA is currently destroyed in Uncanny X-Force. Then there’s Curse of the Mutants, the Generation Hope’s story which I am assuming ends into Uncanny, etc. The list of problems goes on.

And it’s not that the X-Men are spread too thin in various titles. I mean, the vampire/X-Men storyline actually could fit in rather nicely had there been a bit more collaboration. It seems that Fraction set Uncanny up too-wrong-too-fast, post-Second Coming. He’s taking on a lot with the characters and it’s completely unhealthy for the book. Once you bring in art from Greg Land, where I’ve seen in this current book – the Dazzler as Emma Frost and Namor as Wolverine, while Dr. Kavita Rao younger by at least ten years, I’m not impressed at all.

In a nutshell, if I wasn’t so hell-bent on collecting every Uncanny X-Men comic (as being a comic collector does), I quite honestly would have dropped this story last month.

Grade: 2/10

Namor: The First Mutant #5

A gorgeous story about the history of Namor shocked me in Namor: The First Mutant #5. I was absolutely stunned by the completely different change of pace this story turned to post-Curse of the Mutants. And it was done very well.

Namor

Interestingly enough, the writer hadn’t changed at all. Stuart Moore still helms the book – proving to me his immense versatility in writing. The story stems right out of the previous issue where X-Man Loa finds out she can breath underwater because of an amulet she has. That only takes up four pages of the entire book. Immediately, we are taken back to the 1940’s where Namor’s lover at the time, Betty – being both blonde and Sue Storm-esque, and her friend Alice – first introduced back in the 40’s with Namor! Talk about digging up dirt from the past! Anyway, we are taken through how Namor both spoils and berates Betty – being the anti-hero he was back during those times. Fast forwarding to recent years, the story ends with Namor saving a father and daughter from Great White in Maui (with little interesting tidbits in there for you to find out), and finding Alice as a mother/grandmother of the two people Namor just saved. The story ends with a return to present time and concludes the interesting story on how Loa got the amulet. Ending on a positive note, this book serves as a reminder to all Namor fans of who he was before and what he is now.

With Moore writing, he proved to me that he knows Namor and that he is currently in good hands. The story in every couple of pages, gives a different title to Namor’s various attributes – being a lover, destroyer, egotist, and so-on.

Meanwhile, artists Ariel Olivietti and Brian Ching take over as artists and add a tremendous amount of depth to the pages, while Olivietti and Rachelle Rosenberg brighten up the pages with glorious colours, making each page as attractive as the last. To top it all off, a brilliant cover page of Namor, Betty, and WWII by Mike Mayhew really puts the icing on the cake. For $2.99 and keeping up with this pace, I really think we’ll actually have a regular on-going Namor series.

Grade: 9/10

Whilte you’re at it, check out Marvel’s month-to-month sales up to October 2010, courtesy Comics Beat. I also will not be posting Classic Comics for the next two weeks due to various holidays. However, they will return in the new year!

And of course, keep on Space Truckin’!

Porno, Crooks, and Comic Books

I’ve been aware of Marvel artist, Greg Land, for quite a few years. He has a very particular style of drawing – especially when it comes to facial expressions and body positions. He is currently working on X-Men-related stories, but has worked on Ultimate Fantastic Four and the Ultimate Power mini-series. Land also has a long history working with DC books, such as Nightwing and Birds of Prey, while he also had a long run with CrossGen’s series, Sojourn. Needless to say, Land has a great amount of experience with his short-time being in the comic drawing business.

PornFace

However, it does not take a rocket scientist to see Land’s work as questionable.

But let’s backtrack slightly for a little bit of comic book art history and law suits.

You may notice the likeliness of other celebrities in things, such as Arnold Swarchenegger in the newest rendition of Terminator: Salvation, or Carrie Fisher as a pez dispenser as Princess Leia. Needless to say, the celebrities do not have a problem with this because the movie studios and a few others own the rights to the likeliness of their characters. The celebrities in those movies, for those specific franchises are owned. It’s like Warner Brothers owning the rights to Batman movies. Fox cannot make a movie with even a hint of Batman in it because Warner Brothers own Batman and most things related to him. It sounds pretty standard and easy-peasy.

When looking at comics, it has been well-documented that artists have used other photographs, as well as celebrities, commercials, movies, and so on, as photo references. It has been done for decades in comic books. One book in particular dealt with a lawsuit, being Marvel Comics’ Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #15, where the likeliness of Christian musician, Amy Grant was used on the cover. The lawsuit ended with “a US District Court seal[ing] an out-of-court settlement between Grant and Marvel in early 1991, with a consent decree that Marvel did not admit to any liability or wrongdoing.”

The question is, how far can this go? Enter: Greg Land.

I’ll start right off-the-bat, stating that I am not accusing Greg Land of anything. I am just simply providing material which has been found via the internet. What I would like to bring forward, is the accusatory remarks placed on Land about his work. He has been accused by folks on the internet for copying other artists’ work, as well as his own. He is also known for presumably taking a lot of images from pornography, which even you may believe with the images provided, such as the many orgasm-esque shots women give (ie. the one above). Why he would trace his own work, I can assume is one of two things. First is with the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” argument, while the second is that he is lazy. You can read about the controversies with Land’s work here and here.

UncannyFiveThirty

From a MyCup o’ Joe interview with Joe Quesada – whom I consider a hero of mine, discusses Land’s work: “What’s happened with Greg is that it’s become a witch hunt and way too many people are having way too good a time hurting a tremendous artist’s reputation when he isn’t doing anything that is any different than any of us. Every line he draws now comes under scrutiny and in so many cases, people are “seeing” things where are none.” Quesada also goes on to state: “I could go on and on about how many times Greg has bailed us out from some very bad deadline crunches.”

Comic critic Brian Cronin from Comic Book Resources, states about Land’s work on Uncanny X-Men #510: “People speak often about the ethical issues of someone copying a drawing directly from an image, and those concerns are likely fair enough, but when I think of Greg Land, my problems are not so much ethical ones, but the fact that his process results in terrible art and particularly terrible storytelling. When you only have a certain amount of poses to work with, you just can’t tell the story the correct way. And when the characters all look more or less the same (as they’re all based on the same small set of models/”actresses”), it just makes the book that much more incoherent.”

Needless to say, we have two well-established comic book people arguing two different points. One says what he does is okay, while the other suggests that he is blatantly copying other images and recycling older sketches.

I will leave you with these images pulled from many of his comics. I do not know all of the “authors” that made some of the GIF or JPEG images, but thank you. I did however, use some of the photos (most notably, the X-Men #500 ones) from an awesome blog named JimSmash. His blog is hilarious and well thought-out, so go there now! (Or after you finish reading this one). He also gave me great permission to use his photos. So thank you, Jim! He also referenced me to the 4th Letter.net blog, where they came up with an animated GIF image of the Uncanny X-Men #500 cover you’ll see below. As for the rest of the pictures, I found them through various Google searches leading to message boards. There are more photos like these too – I just have not uploaded them all.

Also look at ComicVine here, for more examples.

As for Land, you can assume what you will. Is it coincidence, actual recycling, or are people looking too far into his art?

If you do believe he is recycling or copying – is he being lazy, or is it because the drawing works so well on many different levels? If you don’t, then why not?

View the pictures here and sound off below.

———————————————————

Uncanny X-Men #500 Variant Cover

UncannyA

UncannyB

UncannyC

UncannyD

UncannyE

UncannyF

Is Sandra Bullock Psylocke?

Psylocke

Photo Tracing and Recycling?

One

Two

Sports

MaybeTheSame

The many faces of The Thing

What pose is this, anyway?

Tracing

An “Oh” Face and Some Recycling.

OhFace

Is Jessica Alba a Trace or from Photo Reference?

FirstAlba

Black Canary?

Other Celebrity Coincidences
On the left, think of a young Neal McDonough, while Ben Afleck on the right. Beneath them, it is suggested that it is Topher Grace.

PerhapsMcDonoughandAfleck

PerhapsTopherGrace

Are You an Oakland Raider’s Fan?
From Uncanny X-Men #509.

Raiders

Enjoy Starbucks

Starbucks

Possibly a Pornography Image?

Shameless

Hugh Jackman is Still Wolverine

Wolverine

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

What’s a CGC?

Hey, folks! Firstly, I’d like to say I’ll be a few days late on my Wednesday reviews because I’ll be off to Toronto for the evening. I apologize for any inconvenience this may or probably will not cause.

Secondly, as promised, here is my lovely explanation of the CGC!

I was fortunate enough to be able to deal with the CGC when I met Stan Lee in Toronto last August for Hobbystar’s FanExpo event. In a nutshell, it’s Canada’s version of ComicCon.

I was one of the first people in line to have something signed by Stan Lee – that being my copy of X-Men #15 from December of 1965. It was a dream come true – to meet my childhood idol AND to have him sign something he actually created.

While in line, CGC had a sign there stating that they would be taking submissions for their signature series, since someone from CGC (actually it was someone who was licensed by the CGC, Desert Wind Comics) was actually present to witness the signing.

Here’s where you ask, “Wait. How can you prove the book is signed? Why does it matter?” Enter the CGC.

What is the CGC?

The Certified Guaranty Company, also known as the CGC, is a company dedicated to the grading, acting, consistency and commitment to comic books and their collectors. They are, by all means, the largest unofficial-official “authority” in comic book collecting. But more on that later.

What does the CGC do?

The CGC will grade your comic book with a scale from .5 to 10.0. To be fair, it also goes through three stages of grading. The Restoration Detection Expert, the Pre-Grader, and the Grading Finalizer. Hefty, eh? Each person does their own job and makes notes about the grading. Once all three graders have finished grading, they will “average” out the scores they give to make a final score. If there are disagreements, they will be discussed until a final answer is made.

CGC Labels
Have you ever been to a comic book store or a comic book convention and witnessed books in plastic with numbers above them? That’s totally CGC’s fault. But what do they mean?

Let’s explain the label first. Here’s a CGC graded copy of Marvel Premiere #3 I pulled from the world wide web. Click on it for a larger view or open it in a new window.

MarvelPremiere

Firstly, notice the big 9.6 on the left. That is the grade which CGC gives the book for its quality. Following to the right, we see the book information. So Stan Lee and Barry Windsor-Smith both wrote it, followed by the artist, the cover, and so on. It varies per comic. In the middle, we have the name of the book, the date, and how it was printed. On the right of that, we will see if there is any relevance to the story at all. For this, we see that this is the first issue where “Doctor Strange series begins.” And off to the far-right, is a holo-foil CGC label. Simple enough.

But there’s still colours!

Blue (Universal): Much like that issue of Marvel Premiere #3 above, the colour blue is the most common of the gradings. Blue means it is a standard book. Any book you would hand in, whether it be brand new or from the 30’s, will be given a blue label.

Purple (Restored): This colour means the book has been restored in some way or another. It is noted how the quality of the restoration is done as well, where A is amateur and P is professional. Next to those, it will suggest if the restoration was slight, moderate, or extreme – telling how much restoration has been done. It will also say what was done underneath the date of the book.

Green (Qualified): A green colour means there is a defect in the book which must be noted – under the date on the label. This comes into play where a signature may not be authenticated or a price sticker has been placed over the book. A book can still reach a high grade with a sticker on it, so it still does not hurt to get it graded.

Yellow (Signature Series): This is something which I was lucky to get. It is simply a book which has been signed by one of its original creators, has not been restored, and the signature was witnessed by an employee of the CGC. One thing to note is that if the signature is by someone who did not write the book, it will still get a yellow tag – as long as the name is authenticated by a member of CGC. Unfortunately, that means comics you may have signed by legends like Jack Kirby or Joe Maneely, will never be able to be authenticated. Recording devices, testimonials, pictures, etc, do not count. Only CGC approved staff does. It will say when it was signed underneath the date the book was published.

Yellow/Purple (Signature Series/Restored): I think this one is pretty self explanatory.

Does it Change the Price?

Since getting my X-Men #15 signed and graded at a 4.0, the NUMBER ONE thing I’ve been asked is “how much is it worth now?”
The answer: It varies.
Why?
Some people like to collect comics without them “harmed,” regardless of the signature. Although, arguably, a proven-signed comic should be worth more, that does not always reflect how much someone will pay for it. For example, in my eyes, I could not put a value on that comic. If I did, it would be astronomical in price. This goes with absolutely every comic signed everywhere. As for the grading system, there is a rubric of it shown here at Comics Price Guide‘s first website.

Their first website has a break down of the comics value with a general grading and its price, versus the CGC’s grading and its price. It’s neat to see how things fluctuate with particular comics. (Their second website removed the CGC pricing).

Let’s take an example here:
Fantastic Four #5 – the first appearance of Dr. Doom with a 9.4 grade would go for $16,000. However, a 9.4 CGC grade would go for $40,000. Yet, a CGC 9.4 sold for $47, 977 in 2008. Was the person ripped off? If it was signed, does it become more expensive or less because the cover was “ruined?”

Problems with the CGC

Although they are known world-wide for their reviews, of course some may differ on opinions. Take for example a professionally restored comic with a purple label. Arguably, that would be the comic restored in its original form. However, to some, that would destroy the quality of the comic – much like a signature series would be looked at. Thusly, would a purple label diminish the comic quality for the owner?

Then of course you have opinion. While the example of the Fantastic Four #5 is one, you may also consider that your comic quality is still better than what CGC grades it. I had a discussion with my local comic book shop owner, and we both agreed that it does boil down to opinion. Although they are “official,” they are still a self-titled grading company with professionals.

Conclusion

Given all you have read here, I must ask you this: Do the CGC seem qualified or unqualified to be doing what they’re doing?

As for some other general questions to think about, ask yourself: Does a signature, even by a comic great ruin the quality of the book? Are restored comics worth less, despite more money being put into them to make them better? Do CGC gradings make comic prices unfairly inflated?

If there are any other questions you have, feel free to comment below. I’d love to generate some discussion based off of this. Also check out the CGC and Comics Price Guide websites off to the right of this blog for more information.

Until then, keep on Space Truckin’!

For Now. . .

Hey folks!

I have to apologize for holding off on the Wednesday Reviews and Classic Comic Friday feature this week because I’ve been busy putting my writing skills to other uses.

I have vacation time coming up next week, where I am killing my router and working on, well, work. I love to write, and I have spent too much time not writing on what I want to accomplish. Given I never really take holidays from work, this is absolutely rare and valuable time for me. I will be taking the next week off from both my real job and this blog. I will be hopefully finishing a story I’ve been working on this past year. Of course, I will make it known to the world about my progress made on my week back, plus a new feature, and probably some other mumbo-jumbo I can come up with. I have been writing a lot this past week, getting ahead of myself for my upcoming vacation, so unfortunately, I’ve lacked entirely on this blog. Forgiveness, please!

DoomWar

But I can still touch upon a bit of what I read from this week – just not as full-blown and in-depth as my reviews in the past have been. From my pull-list, this week had conclusions to two major storylines – those both being Shadowland and Taskmaster. I also picked up Generation Hope #2, and randomly, Chaos War: God Squad (one-shot).

Aside from Taskmaster, the other three were quite lackluster. Most notably, Generation Hope. Taskmaster is probably one of the best mini’s I’ve read in years and it changes the Marvel U’s view on Taskmaster ENTIRELY. By the end, you’ll either be crying, or feeling sadness towards Taskmaster. Mr. Van Lente wrote an incredible story for this character, and I’m sad to see it end.

Generation Hope is dwindling down to nothing. I mean, Cyclops character is not consistent to how he’s been in the past few years. He seems very nervous, always. Hope, on the other hand, is trying to be the hero of the team, but her constant fumbles in the story really makes her weak – especially being the title character. Although Kieron Gillen is joining Uncanny shortly and hopefully giving it a breath of fresh air, I really hope Fraction keeps him in check.

Chaos War: God Squad was an interesting take on the heroes during Chaos War. If you haven’t read DoomWar recently, you probably should just to get a feel of who the Wakanda spirit is and understand how she plays out in the story. Although there was not much progress made in this one-shot, it still brought a bunch of characters together to tell an interesting story. It was a good divide from the constant panic within the parent story.

And with the conclusion of Shadowland, Marvel pretty much just hit the reset button on Daredevil. That’s okay, though! It was doine pretty tastefully, but in all honesty, it somewhat made Shadowland a bit unnecessary. I mean, it did not affect the rest of the Marvel U at all, aside from the Daredevil title. Arguably, it did sell-out every issue, going into multiple reprints, but as for other mini’s this year, such as Siege or Second Coming, Shadowland was very lackluster after the first issue. *Spoiler* Although I’m glad Bullseye did NOT come back. Thank god.

So until next week, I shall be back with some reviews, features, and maybe some neat snippets from what I’ve been working on. Who knows!

Until then, keep on Space Truckin’!