Try Before You Buy

Hey folks!

Yesterday, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was off to Toronto for the ComicCon held at the Convention Center.

Needless to say, I had a great time and fun was presumably had by all.

Numerous vendors set up with fantastic deals for comics of all-sorts. Not to mention, artists such as Jamal Igle from Supergirl, and Alex Milne from Transformers were there. Although I never did introduce myself to them, it was awfully neat to see them sketch out various characters throughout the day. A lot of artists were also offering commissions. However, I opted out.

Xmen66

It was held in a fairly decent-sized room – enough for about three-hundred people to fit in some-what comfortably. I picked up around eighty back-issues, plus some nice rarities, such as She-Hulk #1, and X-Men #66 (the final issue of the series).

But that will bring me to why I titled this blog “lesson learned.”
Without mentioning any names, when I found X-Men #66, it literally was in great condition. The price was a bit steep, but I mean, it was really in great shape. It was in its plastic, boarded, and had three stickers on the plastic bag – on the top right. The stickers, about one inch in both width and height, were going down the bag. One said “Sal Buscema art,” the other, “Last Issue in Series,” and the final one with the price.

Given the quality of the comic and the price (which was pretty much on par with its quality), I decided to purchase it. I went up to the dealer and he told me, “I just got this book recently. It’s a great book (as I’m sure all the dealers say) and I’ll give it to you for a good price.” Needless to say, he gave me the book for half of what the sticker price was. I figured it was a great deal. So I enjoyed the rest of the con.

Getting home, I of course, peeled off the stickers on the plastic. Unbeknown to me though, was that they were covering some “irregularities” on the cover. The top right cover of the book was torn and taped back together by scotch tape. Although it wasn’t too noticeable, it would explain the discount I was given.

Admittedly, had I of known about the damage, I would have still purchased the book. Also, the dealer clearly knew of the problem, and saved himself grief later on by giving me a discount.

What the lesson I learned was is check comics before you buy!

I usually do, however, I have no excuse for this one. I was also lucky to get a “deal” with it – while others may not be so fortunate. So I came up with a few guidelines which others, including myself, should follow.

– Do not hesitate to open up the comic package and look over.

– If you’re nervous about damaging the comic yourself, go ahead and ask the dealer if you can. I’ve been to enough conventions to know that they will be more-than-happy to show you the comic, plus talk about the history of the book.

– Check price guides! A website I have linked on my blog to the right here, Comics Price Guide, is a great source of prices for comics. That is to say, print off a list of what you want, and when you see it, judge the quality for the price. I know I paid the right price for my “damaged” issue of X-Men #66, so I am not too upset about the problem. Regardless, I had a price guide with me to know when a comic was too over-priced.

– Do not just look at one dealer. Often times, you can find the same book of equal or even better quality – cheaper – than where you first saw it. Scour the con grounds first, then buy!

So until then folks, keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays: Daredevil #181

Happy two-month anniversary to my blog! It’s been fun so far. I’ve had over 1,100 views – all showing me that people actually want to read about comics. Who knew?

As for today, every Friday, I will yank out an old comic from my personal collection and review the crap out of it. So why not do something epic?

This week, I am going to review one of the greatest Marvel stories, Daredevil #181, from April of 1982. Also, I will be bringing up the Marvel’s current Shadowland story arc. If you do not want to read spoilers, stop reading here.

Daredevil181

The story was done by legendary writer and artist Frank Miller – guilty of making Daredevil ridiculously popular, while also teaming up with Chris Claremont to create the awfully popular Wolverine limited series. One day I’ll review that here, too.

Colours, inks and some finishing art was done by Klaus Janson, arguably a great artist with little credit given to him – especially noted with his run on Daredevil here.

This double-sized issue of Daredevil features a showdown by two of Marvel’s greats – Elektra and Bullseye, with the subtitle, “One wins. One dies.” Needless to say, this story would easily draw any reader in even if it was to just look at the conclusion.

In case you haven’t heard, Elektra is the one who dies (sorry, folks). But that’s not nearly the part of the story that gets me excited. It is entirely on the build-up.

The story begins with Bullseye in jail – Daredevil having him put there. He’s suffering from headaches, requiring the guards to give him pills to stop the pain. While in jail, he pushes himself to workout and plot his revenge, and while in a courtyard, he runs into Frank Castle, the Punisher who also is in jail, and says that the Kingpin has replaced Bullseye for another assassin. Soon after, Bullseye is put on television for an interview about his murders. While having another headache, the guard gives him another pill which Bullseye promptly spits in the guards eye, allowing Bullseye to jump free, hold hostages, and eventually escape through a helicopter. Brilliant.

While off to find the hired assassin, he runs into some thugs, telling him that the assassin Elektra is hired to kill Daredevil’s lawyer partner, Foggy Nelson. Recognizing that Dardevil could possibly be Matt Murdock, he follows Elektra as she hunts for Foggy.

Elektra runs into Foggy, and shortly after, Foggy recognizes Elektra as Matt Murdock’s old girlfriend. Sensing Bullseye nearby however, she allows him to escape and waits for Bullseye to show himself.

DeathofElektra

The two begin a monumental battle with cuts and bruises on both sides. Miller’s beautiful artwork shows both combatants nearly at an equal match – each using the environment to pull of fighting moves. The colours of red and blue splash on the page with the two fighting to their death. Trapping Elektra in a corner, Bullseye pulls an ace of spades and whips it at Elektra’s neck. She fumbles, loses her sai, and is prompted by Bullseye to be stabbed in the chest. Crawling back to Murdock’s house, Elektra dies on his footsteps.

Back at the Kingpin’s, Bullseye tells the Kingpin that he has found out Matt Murdock’s secret identity. After some convincing, Bullseye is sent off to murder Murdock.

Planning the second assassination, Daredevil places a dummy Matt in the house, forcing Bullseye to be fooled about Murdock’s real identity. Daredevil appears behind Bullseye, and the two battle it out for the exciting showdown. Falling off a building, Daredevil catches Bullseye and listens to him plead for his life. Daredevil thinks otherwise and refuses to let Bullseye kill again – dropping him to his death.

Murdock goes to Elektra’s grave site to mourn, while the final page shows Bullseye in the hospital with broken bones – plotting his revenge.

When I first picked up this book, I had no idea what would actually happen. I mean, I knew that Elektra would die, but I never would have figured Daredevil for a murderer at the time. It was out of character for Daredevil – but that is what’s best about the comic. It is not a traditional story for Daredevil.

Miller’s change of attitude for Daredevil opened up doors for the character which were never explored before. The rage and revenge Daredevil had towards Bullseye overshadowed his own morals and beliefs. It truly changed the character all together.

The dark tones with sinister themes and little dialogue with the characters really pushed the story to become an iconic issue for both Daredevil and Marvel. I have to say both story and art are not separated as two individual items for they are one in the same with Miller’s work.

Oops

For me, this also is one of my first comics I’ve read where the villain was the primary character. Most of the focus was on Bullseye and part of me always wanted to see more of his sadistic self run rampant. Fortunately, I did get that much later on, thanks to the Dark Avengers. But none of that would have started had Miller not written such a brilliant story.

Grade: 10/10

Of course, the idea of Daredevil being a true hero remained the same. That is, until the Dark Reign. Norman Osborn tried to have Bullseye finally kill Daredevil once and for all, but it ended with Bullseye leveling a apartment, killing hundreds of innocent people. Snapping from allowing Bullseye to get away with so many deaths for so many years, Murdock became tied up with The Hand and in Shadowland #1, his dark side appeared. As you can see, Bullseye had what was coming to him.

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Wonderful Wednesdays!

Since the Green Lantern trailer was a big hit, of course the Cowboys & Aliens trailer becomes posted this week as well. Click HERE for the trailer.

I am also thankful for everyone who checked out my blog on Sunday about Body Image in Comics. If you haven’t read it yet, it wouldn’t hurt to click HERE to check it out.

And as for comics this week, I was pleasantly surprised by all my picks. X-Men #5, Avengers #7, Thunderbolts #150 and Osborn #1 all blew me away. Only one blew me away over how bad it was though.

Out of the four, X-Men trailed the weakest due to a lack of everything. Avengers #7 continues Bendis’ and JRJR’s run with a new storyline already seeming better than the prior six issues. I blindly picked up Thunderbolts #150 today as I haven’t followed them with Marvel’s “Heroic Age” franchise. I was awed by how wonderful the story was and where each character stood in the Thunderbolts team. It also featured a re-print of Thunderbolts #1 from 1997. Yes, this book was 96 pages and well-worth the read.

Osborn1

Osborn #1

However, my favourite story this week comes from Kelly Sue DeConnick (wife of Matt Fraction), and artist Emma Rios. Osborn #1 is the continuation of Norman Osborn’s jail-time post his Dark Reign.
The story surprisingly features little of Osborn himself, but the events going around him. I will definitely keep this story spoiler-free so you all go out and BUY this book immediately.

Ben Urich uses his fellow Front Line writer Norah Winters to make a story about how Osborn is dealing with life in the Raft.
We are also introduced to a priest who speaks with other high-risk inmates and eerily has a Green Goblin tatoo on the back of his neck.
Also introduced are a senate sub-committee on Human Rights whom discuss what to do with Osborn – since he has not been charged with anything as of yet.
Needless to say, as the story progresses, Winter’s discovers that she cannot write a story about Osborn because he has been transferred. Where? No one knows. Only the committee and priest does.

Where the hell is this story going?!

So please, please, PLEASE pick up this book. It is such a sinister story. No doubt in my mind that it will be an amazing mini-series.

Major praise goes to Ben Oliver for that wonderful and eerie cover page with Osborn staring down at the reader. It creeps me right out.

Grade: Infinity/10

X-Men #5

This story for sure was a let-down. After months of building up a huge battle between both the vampires and the mutants, we literally get maybe four pages of actual fighting. The rest continues from X-Men #4, where speaking through video screens – bickering at each other – is the main source of action.

XMen5

The reader also learns how Wolverine turned into a vampire and how it is to be cured. All aside, this has been the weakest issue of the new X-Men series, despite it arguably being the most-anticipated one in terms of getting sh!t done. Also, you would figure Wolverine leading a vampires to kill the X-Men would be a lot more exciting. Alas. . .

Although I will give credit to humour – especially when Cyclops accidentally suggests that Emma Frost is “tough skin,” followed by her gloating personality, describing herself as “glamorous” rather than a “form of mine and lump.”

I also cannot knock Paco Medina’s art. Despite the lack of action, the scenery and spreads of the ocean, as well as the short battle were all penciled with great attention to detail. One specific panel where Archangel sheds to his Death appearance – just wow. I highly recommend that you pick up his run of Deadpool Vol 2 in 2008. He definitely is a great artist.

I really hope Gischler really gets this story together – either to make this vampire run conclude with a bang, or set up a new plot for the team.

Grade: 4/10

Also, I’ve updated my “Pull-List” page until the end of January, while also updating my “Who am I?” page too.

Expect a Classic Comic for Friday. Or else!

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Body Image in Comics

As I’m sure you have read, I did a blog post a few weeks back about women in comics. Actually, it was entitled “Women in Comics.” Go figure.

This time, I wanted to sort of tackle that subject again. I was completely unaware how much attention it would take on as that blog remains my highest-viewed blog at this time.

What I want to discuss in this blog is what the title suggests: Body Images in Comics.

But why?

I have read comics my entire life. I watched television shows based on comics. I have seen movies based on comics. Through them, I have seen heroes use their strength to help the defenseless. I’ve seen the weak preyed upon and defeated by good. By all means, comics are reflections of good versus evil. They are a comment on our society and its laws. They comment on what happens in the world. They stand out to say something which others can not. In a way, comics are parallel to our real world and a way to open discussion for real world events.

Some basic examples is the Marvel Civil War story arc, Spider-Man’s “great power comes great responsibility,” Batman’s struggle of a dual identity, X-Men’s fight against racism, the Avengers constant struggle for good, etc. There’s thousands of ideals people can pull out from comics.

But there is one idea that is arguably neglected. Comics show off wrong body images for their readers. And I do not mean, “the Hulk is an impossible body image to replicate.” Keep on reading.

UXM532

People can read comics and take away great values from them. Yet when it comes down to basic hypocrisy, comics take the cake. (And me too, unfortunately for reading and supporting them.)

If arguably, comics are to reflect how we are as a society, then we all must be ashamed of ourselves for what people are in comics are: the impossible. I’m also not talking about super powers and crazy nonsensical time-traveling plot points.

Disasters of examples

As I have mentioned (and probably could go on about it for decades, I’m sure), is the impracticality of Emma Frost. As you may already know, I am a huge fan of the X-Men and X-related comics. I read everything available from them. In one of the most recent X-Comics (X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1), Emma Frost is in a beauty salon getting herself all prettied-up when Mandrill shows up and tries to seduce women to go out with him.

Emma steps in and states that women are not to be seen just for sex and gives Mandrill a run for his money. The whole irony is that Frost is at a salon – starting off in the story naked – no doubt. Obviously there is a huge contrast to Frost’s hypocrisy in the story, but it is not focused on.

Taking a look at Emma Frost above in the cover of Uncanny X-Men #532 (to be released in a few months). Now, I’ll take a look into Emma Frost inside The Marvel Comics Encyclopedia (2006, pg. 104). Emma’s height is 5’10”, and her weight at 125 lbs. To quote Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar, “Yeah. In your bra.” Admittedly, those “facts” from the book are ludicrous.

Cable Deadpool

Let’s take a look at Cable now. He’s probably a fan-favourite for most X-fans – heck – most comic fans love Cable. He’s just so awesome. Look at him! I mean, he’s not going to take crap from anyone! He’ll kick anyones butt! Alas, he’s also an impossible person. With all that gear on him, plus his physique, he has no problem running or walking, nor do I ever recall him getting exhausted from running with that gear on in the comics. Deadpool on the other hand has more definition to his body than a dictionary – where his body may be proportionate to his size, his muscles are only too-extreme for his physique and only weighing 210 lbs at a height of 6’2″ (2006, pg. 76).

I’m sure no one is going to turn to their significant other and say, “Look more like Emma Frost,” or “Beef up like Cable,” but these people are meant to be icons in a world where their stories are a vehicle for commentaries on the world. These characters are meant to be voices to the masses – whether it be to tell the story or to represent a message or value. Yet they are dwindled down to eye-candy or impracticality – arguably taking away any message the comics have. (And case-in-point with X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1).

But EVERYONE? Really?

Some comic characters are just fine with who they are. I mean, take a look at Dardevil below. He is in great shape for what he does, and it is not really exaggerated unless the artist wants to explode him with huge muscles. But traditionally, below is how everyone pictures Daredevil. Then there is Forge. He has never been considered a physically strong man and works primarily within sciences. As such, he has never been overly muscled for a male character.

ForgeDD

We can physically see a difference between the realistic views and the ridiculous ones. What I am trying to get at is that we as a society can recognize sex in ads and condemn them for being too racy. We like comics to be our voice over many issues, yet a lot of us sit back and get bombarded by hyper-sexualized characters within comic books and still may argue that it is fine.

It’s in real-life

For another case-in-point, let’s take another look at that cover with Emma Frost on it, followed by this ad from Jean Paul Gaultier apparently selling perfume. Is there really much difference between the two?

jpad      Frost

It is pretty crazy. Yet we’ll be the first to condemn that ad before we even think twice about the comic book, for the most part. And that’s just the comic cover.

But women aren’t the only gender sexualized in comics. (Given there’s only one other gender, I’ll leave it to you to guess who else is sexualized.)

ckad       Cap

And Captain America’s is someone to look up to. He is a hero by definition. Looking at the Calvin Klein ad, a “MAN” is defined as a parallel to how the model looks in the ad. The image is uncanny to Captain America, or even Superman.

Even as the years have progressed, what a “man” should look like has became more and more over-the-top. Let’s take a look at Michael Keaton in Batman from Tim Burton’s 1989 movie and compare it to Christian Bale’s Batman in The Dark Knight – Christopher Nolan’s 2008 epic. (You can click the pictures for a closer look on both.)

keaton      Bale

Note how Keaton on the left is less-defined than Bale on the right. The muscle mass between the two costumes are both ridiculous, yet the Bale costume becomes more-than-necessary.

Nipples

And sure, perhaps you do not recognize the subtle differences between the characters. Perhaps you do not care whether or not you can see George Clooney’s Batman nipples. Maybe you even think that I am over-exaggerating this too much.

All I see is a problem though. People love being superheroes or villains. People look up to Spider-Man and Wonder Woman as icons who will save the day. And yes, readers of comics look at stories not solely for their comments on real-world events, but also for the entertainment. I’m sure the characters are drawn the way they are because it also sells. Sex sells, so comics can too.

But do they have to?

Unfortunate conclusions

Golgotha

I mean, we can have great stories without hyper-sexualized characters. I doubt X-Men would have a lesser fan-base if Emma Frost wore a parka for the entire run. Oh wait, she tried in X-Men #166 from 2005, and it totally defeats what I just suggested. She’s saying, “Chilly, isn’t it?” (It took me a long time to remember which issue this was in).

Do we need comics to be like this? No. Do we want comics like this? Some of us do, probably, yes.

But ultimately what do these characters serve the way they are? A hypocrisy in our thinking? Is it sexual deviancy? Is it a degradation of our society? Does it objectify people? Does sexuality make the characters more prominent? Does it matter what the superheroes are wearing?

Maybe all of the above or none of the above.

The fact is that it is still there. Where the world in comics is a parallel to our own real world, perhaps their physical perfection is simply a mimicry of our fallacies as a society.

Maybe their falseness is a contrast to our reality?

I also know I’m not alone in these feelings. Two blogs I read regularly will often times bring up the idiocy of comics when it comes to the portrayal of body image.

Check out 1979 Semi-Finalist and ComicBookGrrl on their takes on how comics are depicting of people.

Also, don’t forget to sound-off below.

Until then, have some more food for thought and keep an eye on your kids for them, okee dokes?

‘Nuff said.

Half n’ Half

I’m making this blog like a coffee. Half n’ half. Only half is a comic review, while the other half is about writing. So I guess it’s nothing like coffee.

But first, Scott Pilgrim came out on Blu-Ray yesterday and it is absolutely PACKED with tons of features. There’s over 15 deleted scenes, bloopers, documentaries, effects videos – it’s packed! I loved the movie. While it still was a variation from the books, it definitely reached high in my “favourite movies of all-time” category.

Speaking of adaptations, The Walking Dead came into its second episode which was unbelievably fantastic! These episodes beat-out most zombie movies. Once again, although it is not following the comics verbatim, the story has already grown a life of its own with great development and an already-signed second-season! I’m looking very forward to the rest of this season, plus the many, many more to come!

Also, is Spider-Man going to DIE? Hmm.

As for reviews this week, there wasn’t much up for grabs on the Marvel shelf for me. I picked up four great comics though. Avengers Prime #4, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #3, The Incredible Hulks #616, and The New Avengers #6. The best of the bunch was easily the Children’s Crusade, while surprisingly the weakest went to Avengers Prime.

***Spoilers***

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Why was Children’s Crusade so good? It’s because I don’t know. (Wait, what?) The story is the Young Avengers assisting their two members Wiccan and Speed, find their (maybe) surrogate mother, the Scarlet Witch. She has been missing since M-Day, and given the two Avengers’ powers resemble both Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, they assume that the Scarlet Witch must be their mother and in-turn, must find her to figure themselves out as well as what happened to her. Because of the immensity of the task they’ve undertaken, both Magneto and Quicksilver (Scarlet Witch’s father and brother), have decided to join the Young Avengers in their crusade. (See what I did there?)

What did happen to the Scarlet Witch? I have no idea. In fact, no one knows, except for maybe Dr. Doom. Issue two re-introduced Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch, however, only leaving the reader to find out that she was a Doombot. Alas, issue three brings us no further to the conclusion to where she aside from assumptions. If Scarlet Witch was a Doombot, then surely Dr. Doom must have her for his own evil intentions (which if you read DoomWar, they aren’t so bad after-all). So for a long story-short, Wiccan takes off from the group to Latveria to search for his mother. Unfortunately for him, he gets captured by the Scarlet Witch, stating she is to be married tomorrow to Dr. Doom himself! The begging question is “is that the real Scarlet Witch or a Doombot?” I don’t know!

And I won’t know for another two months! One thing which has bothered me a lot about the Children’s Crusade is that the story is so well put-together, yet it’s a bi-monthly issue. That stings. Allan Heinberg really sticks it to the reader with the best pacing I’ve seen in recent comic years. I mean, we have great in-depth development with the characters, while still getting jabs between Magneto and Quicksilver about who is at fault for Wanda’s disappearance. To top it all off, we get a side-story with the Avengers trying to figure out where Wanda is too. In issue one, the Avengers tried to stop the Young Avengers from finding Wanda – afraid it may come back to haunt them. However, because the Young Avengers escaped, the Avengers took it in their own hands to find her too. Enter Wonder Man.

Here, Heinberg places two major plots under one title. Not to mention Hulkling’s and Wiccan’s love for one another at a crossroads, while the rest of the Young Avengers have their own problems to deal with.

Of course, throwing Jim Cheung in for art, we get wonderful, full drawn-out pages which causes jaw-dropping every turn. Added with Justin Ponsors great colour-spreads, the Children’s Crusade makes up one of Marvel’s best titles.

It is a shame though that it is only a nine-issue limited series, as it definitely deserves much more than that. Then again, if we just entered issue three and they have found Wanda, that will make the next six-issues nail-biting in anticipation for the next “No more Mutants” scare she pulls off. (If any!)

Grade: 10/10

Now on to writing.

I’d like to think that I started in the blogging world relatively early. As soon as I had access to the Internet (so being in 2000), I immediately put up a website and began blogging my life.

PowerRanger

Unfortunately, WordPress makes me look like a newbie here. Let me reassure you, I am a “professional.” Aka, I know squat. But what makes me feel fortunate is that, unlike my blog in the past, I have found a niche. I guess you could say, I found people who share similar interests with me. In high-school when I started my first blog (which arguably was a LiveJournal without the LJ tags on it), I had no one who understood me. I mean, I watched Star Wars, listened to heavy metal, and read comic books. All of it was nerdy and considered un-cool. All I had to do was write and be, well, an angsty teenager. I had stories and an imagination. No one cared for it because it wasn’t the new, hot thing on TV like Family Guy, or didn’t involve Tupac. I thought the Matrix movies were stupid, and knew that no one could quote The Transformers cartoons better than I could.

It was not until I graduated high-school and hopped in to university did I realize that I am not alone. Not only that, but I am actually cool. (I’ll use that term loosely).

I’m not about to go on about how I read comics “before they were cool” or how I need “revenge” on people who now like what I like. What I want to say is that without those experiences, I would not have became the writer I am today.

I mentioned this before in a previous blog article about how you must grab from your experiences to write as they are really what you go-off of for knowledge. But what I want to say is that writing also is something that is created around you (kind of like the Force). It surrounds you, binds you. Regardless of how stupid you may look or it may sound, you know what’s best for you.

I was an outcast for being the kid who sat at home and played video games rather than going out to parties. In result, it made me who I am today. Rather than dwell on it, I’d rather be happy about who I am.

Those people at parties, they’d never understand how doing my own thing affected me. I would also never expect them to – nor would I say they were in the wrong for being who they were and thinking what they thought. The fact is that I am a writer because of it and that because of their disbelief, I’ve turned it around into belief. So my first blog although was a mess, it pushed me forward into being who I am.

The future is always moving forward. I’m just going to write along with it.

P.S. I was the White Ranger, my brother was the Red Ranger. That photo was taken back in 1995. It’s still cool to do that sort of stuff, damnit!

Keep on Space Truckin’!