Catching up again on comics

The Batfamily, late 2011
The "Batfamily"

In addition to celebrating the holidays and catching up on movies in the past few weeks, I picked up comic books at New England Comics, Newbury Comics, and The Outer Limits near Boston. There’s still a sense of community at these shops that no digital subscription can yet replace.

My tastes run toward mainstream superhero comics, which I’ve been sharing with college chum David I.S. in return for some indie and horror titles. Despite controversies around its revised continuity and treatment of female creators and characters, I’ve enjoyed much of DC Comics, especially its various Batman titles. Detective Comics, Batman and Robin, Batwoman, and Birds of Prey are among my favorites, with a young Superman in Action Comics and the latest attempt to refocus Wonder Woman coming close behind.

On the Marvel Comics side, I’m still following Captain America, even if I can’t keep up with the various teams of Avengers and X-Men. Of the indie comic books I’m getting or looking forward to, I like sword and sorcery (Conan, Red Sonja), high fantasy (Mouse Guard and Avatar: the Last Airbender), steampunk and pulp (Zorro), some humor (Muppets and Liberty Meadows), and science fiction (Warlord of Mars and Flash Gordon).

Dave and I are looking forward to TV adaptations of Powers and other comics and graphic novels, not to mention upcoming movies and direct-to-DVD releases such as Justice League: Doom. We’ll have no shortage of viewing or reading material for 2012!

Monday, 3 August 2009: Comic-Con and graphical entertainment

Google's Comic-Con logo

It’s too bad that in all the news media coverage of last week’s San Diego Comic-Con and costumed fans, the source material for television shows, movies, and games was often overlooked. My hat goes off to the writers, pencillers, inkers, letterers, colorists, and editors who work on comic books. The Eisner Awards, named after the creator of The Spirit,
recognizes each year’s outstanding achievements in graphical entertainment.

As I’ve mentioned before, I mostly read monthly superhero comic books, but I appreciate other genres, independent publishers besides DC and Marvel, and longer graphic novels. As the average reader gets older, we’ve been increasingly targeted by titles around licensed
properties and nostalgia, but as long as new readers are brought in, the hobby should stay healthy.

I’ve been a fan of the colorful, iconic superheroes of the DC Comics universe since college in the late 1980s. The “event“-driven crossovers of the past few years have been dark in tone, and Green Lantern: Blackest Night is no exception. However, it does look like it will address
the revolving door of death necessitated by the need to keep characters forever young while also respecting long continuities. Speaking of Green Lantern, Janice and I enjoyed the direct-to-DVD Green Lantern: First Flight this past weekend. It covers some of the same territory as the recent Justice League: New Frontier but is more of a police procedural in space.

I’ve blogged before about the often-confusing or lackluster storylines in DC’s team books, but I hope that the latest roster updates of the Justice League, Justice Society, and Teen Titans will get them back to being the world’s finest superheroes. Over at Marvel, I’ve
stopped following the three Avengers teams and numerous X-Men, but Spider-Man 600 did a good job of merging Silver Age nostalgia with an update on what’s going on in Peter Parker’s life now. Captain America is still my favorite Marvel title right now, as Steve Rogers returns to wear the red, white, and blue.

The Batman family of titles has been among my favorites lately, with strong art and
writing on Detective Comics, even without Bruce Wayne as the Dark Knight. I haven’t been following Superman as closely, but I’m glad to see epic storylines and art inspired by the late Christopher Reeve. I’ve also been watching the Kirk Alyn serials from the late 1940s on DVD. DC’s Wednesday Comics have continued to impress me, even though, as with any anthology, some features (Teen Titans, Wonder Woman) are weaker than others (Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Kamandi). On balance, I’ve been enjoying the experiment.

Speaking of avant-garde storytelling, I look forward to Volume 3 of Umbrella Academy, Gerard Way‘s postmodern fever dream that turns the conventions of costumed vigilantes on
their heads. A dysfunctional family of foundlings, raised by an alien and a
robot, fights itself and reality. The latest ongoing Doctor Who title got off to a decent start.

Manga (originally Japanese comics, in a more compact format) seems to have peaked in
popularity, with bookstores across the U.S. tightening their shelf space offering it. However, that’s still a wider distribution network than the direct market of specialty comic book shops, and manga did draw many younger, female readers. I hope that, like the upcoming live-action adaptation, the Avatar: the Last Airbender manga does justice
to Nickelodeon’s fantasy television series.

Coming soon: Games and travel!

Comics Wednesday, July 2009

Justice League Unlimited

Friends, please note that my blog is no longer available at Yahoo 360. You can find it at or under my “edemaitre” Yahoo Profile. As promised, here are some of my thoughts on recent comic books.

As I mentioned in my previous posting, the San Diego Comic-Con is this week. While I
haven’t yet made the hajj to the largest annual genre/popular culture event in the U.S., I have closely followed coverage of it for the past few years. Movies, comic books and graphic novels, action figures, television shows, games, and more are announced or previewed at this convention. I hope to get to smaller shows here in the Boston area, such as November’s Super MegaFest.

In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying DC’s Wednesday Comics, a 12-issue experiment in weekly comics on tabloid newsprint. The quality of the writing varies, but the art is
, and it reminds me of lying on the floor reading Prince Valiant in the Sunday funnies.

DC‘s big summer storyline crossing over several titles is Green Lantern: Blackest Night, which addresses the temporary nature of death among costumed superheroes (and villains). Although I don’t plan to spend even more on comics than I do now, it has gotten good reviews so far.

I have continued picking up the Batman family of titles, as Bruce Wayne is presumed dead and former Robin/Nightwing Dick Grayson has taken up the mantle. I wasn’t a big fan of Grant Morrison’s trippy run, but he, Paul Dini, and company have upped their game with the creative freedom granted by the temporary change in lead characters.

Similarly, Marvel Comics is winding down its run of Bucky Barnes as Captain America with the imminent return of Steve Rogers. Unlike the regular shakeups for Superman, Spider-Man, or the X-Men, Rogers has been gone for a few years now of continuity (fictional history), and the espionage/thriller tone of his title remains engaging. I’ve been avoiding most team-based Marvel and DC books lately because of overly convoluted continuities and gimmicky crossovers designed to sell more issues.

Speaking of alternate histories, I’m still catching up on collected editions. I’ve recently read Dark Horse’s convenient omnibuses of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and I look forward to getting to the next installment of the steampunk The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (not the weak movie adaptation), the metahuman procedural Powers, and the political Ex Machina. Dynamite, which I’ve praised previously for its handling of licensed properties such as Buck Rogers, will also be handling the next batch of Stargate comics.

Typically, fiction is adapted from print to television or movie, but in the case of Nickelodeon’s excellent Avatar: the Last Airbender, a fantasy cartoon is being adapted to a live-action film series directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Last Airbender shouldn’t be confused with James Cameron’s upcoming science fiction movie Avatar.

The first previews and still photos of the young cast have appeared online. I sympathize with those who feel that Last Airbender should have had more actors of Asian descent in its cast, I’m cautiously optimistic. We’ll have to wait and see whether planned movie reboots such as Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, Astro Boy, and Green Hornet are closer to Watchmen or to Dragonball in quality.