Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Watching the Walmart Giants 9 “March 2020”

Suddenly we might be in a much better position to sell Walmart comics to reluctant readers.

The options are narrowing. The funny thing is, so few readers have snatched up the Walmart giants up to this point, you have an excellent chance not only to find the most recent releases, but a generous selection of older ones. That means you can still find the Superman giants with the classic Tom Ming story you ignored, the Batman giants with the Brian Michael Bendis saga, and tons of other gems, like the two Crisis On Infinite Earths giants, or the various Mark Russell shorts.  Walmart’s an essential business. It ain’t going anywhere. Those comics aren’t going anywhere. Unless savvy readers finally show up.

Batman Giant #4

  • The lead new story is another Mark Russell, riffing on the prisoner transport concept you might have seen in movies like The Dark Knight or S.W.A.T., with Harley Quinn thrown into the mix (why not?). Still interesting to see Russell play with more conventional narrative structures, rather than the social/political/economic satires he usually does.
  • A new Nightwing tale featuring what’s probably the late artist Tom Lyle’s last work. Lyle worked on all three original Tim Drake/Robin mini-series, with a host of other accomplishments as well. He died last fall following complications from an aneurism. 
  • A reprint of Batman #4, with Batman recounting a childhood investigation into the Court of Owls that convinced him it didn’t exist, and then his present investigation, which proves it does. Apparently as far as Scott Snyder is concerned, Batman was always a fairly lousy detective, which is really, really strange.
  • A reprint of Detective Comics #856, continuing Batwoman’s original solo adventures.
  • A reprint of Nightwing #4, in which Tim Seeley seemingly concludes Nightwing’s partnership with Raptor (Mr. “Better Than Batman”) as he contends with the international Parliament of Owls.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Sunday Marvel Sunday - Postponed

Obviously I'm posting this on a Monday, which for a feature titled "Sunday Marvel Sunday" already means something has gone horribly wrong.  Which is called COVID-19.  Which has now robbed millions of the unlikelihood of reading "Sunday Marvel Sunday."  For the time-being.  See you later!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sunday Marvel Sunday "Marvel Super Hero Adventures #1"

Marvel Super Hero Adventures #1

I think we can agree that there are areas where Marvel definitely outperforms DC.  Being the most consistently most popular superhero comics publisher.  Being the most consistently most popular superhero movie studio (at least in the past decade).  But DC wins some, too.  It does animation better, on TV and video releases.  Um, that's probably it.  Because Marvel has never come even close to that.  The only Marvel cartoons I've ever been interested in were Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and X-Men, and they were decades ago, and...that's pretty much true of everyone.

So in order to do a comic like this, Marvel has to...Anyway, it may work for young readers, but not for older ones.  There is one thing from the comic I really enjoyed, and that was Ty Templeton's Daily Bugle Funnies, parodies of actual comic strips with Marvel characters: the Spider-Man Peanuts, the Thor Hagar the Horrible, the Peter Parker Dilbert, the Ant-Man Little Orphan Annie (which was the oddest creative choice, not because of Ant-Man but because of...Little Orphan Annie???).  Templeton has done these before, and will in all likelihood do them again, and the irony of it is that I know him from...comics versions of DC animation. 

Anyway, this example isn't from this comic, but here it is anyway:

(reproduced "large," which will hopefully satisfy Bill Watterson)

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Sunday Marvel Sunday "Marvel Comics Presents #1 (2019)"


Marvel Comics Presents #1

Hurm.  Blogger's not letting me customize image placement like normal.  And Google was no help in finding the blue-border variant cover I had.  Well.

I think I bought my first copy of this at a mall about a year ago.  I got this one in one of the Walmart three-packs, of course.  I didn't necessarily mind buying, or reading, it again, as it contains a nifty Namor story.

This is significant in that Marvel, inexplicably, hardly ever actually does Namor stories.  It's bizarre, since Namor is a great character, and he's also one of Marvel's oldest.  As a DC guy, this is one of the most obvious differences between the companies.  Even if DC used Namor like the Justice Society or the Spectre or Phantom Stranger, he'd still, at this point, have a far bigger and greater legacy behind him.  And yet, at Marvel, he receives minimal attention, year after year, decade after decade.

Marvel will probably tell you that it's because, from its perspective, he's kind of...a villain.  He's kind of Marvel's Black Adam.  But he doesn't even, or was never given, a heroic counterpart.  This is equally ridiculous.  But even without one, he could very easily have been drafted into, I don't know, X-Men comics.  Which of course never happened.  At DC, meanwhile, of course there's Aquaman, and you'd maybe think that over the years someone at Marvel might glance over and see what a huge legacy even the guy routinely lampooned for "talking to fish" has, and say, "Maybe we can do something?"

But.  No.

Even when there's great examples, like this (in this instance, contributed by Greg Pak, who was also the guy to finally break Hulk free from a storied but useless legacy, by the way), in which Namor is confronted by WWII, and the US government's big secret, the atomic bomb.  Pak has Namor turning his back on the surface world because of it.  It's a pitch-perfect story, and even makes Namor's traditional outlook perfectly rational. 

And yet...Look, this is one of those things I'd do my damnest to correct, given half a chance.  I just don't understand wasting such potential.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Sunday Marvel Sunday "Infinity Wars: Iron Hammer #1"

Infinity Wars: Iron Hammer #1

Marvel didn't completely ignore the MCU (besides the many Guardians of the Galaxy comics that conspicuously populated after the movie's smash success).  There was also Infinity Wars.

Technically, revisiting the Infinity Gauntlet saga has been continuing for years, thanks in large part to Jim Starlin, although just as technically, fans have never been all that interested in Starlin's follow-ups.  Infinity Wars, which happened to coincide with the MCU finally, finally getting back to Thanos, collecting all those Infinity Stones, is exactly what you might expect: another story about the Infinity Stones, who has them, what they're doing with them.

Turns out, turning Marvel into its own Amalgam Comics.  Amalgam was the result of the landmark DC Versus Marvel (or, Marvel Versus DC) that happened in the '90s, in which, temporarily, in a series of one-shots (and then a second series of one-shots), DC and Marvel superheroes were mashed together.  I guess it's not surprising that the whole thing came and went and has left no real impact (aside from quibbles about who should've fought who, and who should've won, which I will not get into here), since it would require both companies to continue to agree on republishing the results, and that's not likely to happen.  Marvel, in collected edition, lives in a virtually perpetual present while DC loves revisiting its past.  (Of course, half of what made Marvel such a fan favorite phenomenon was that reboots never happened.  Then of course they started happening.  All.  The.  Time.  So that, even if technically everything still happened, it really no longer matters.  The only property with a semblance of real continuity at this point is the X-Men.)

Anyway, so as you might guess, this "Infinity Warp" mashes Iron Man with Thor.

The results are decent.  The writer is Al Ewing, who is definitely one of Marvel's best assets at the moment, so that certainly helps.  And it helps that he doesn't go too on-the-nose, which is what Thor comics tend to do, leaning far too heavily on the archaic language Thor tends to use for...reasons, and not having any real clue what to do with the mythology (but then, even Neil Gaiman didn't know what to do with Norse mythology when he literally wrote Norse Mythology, a striking contrast to how he used it in The Sandman).

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sunday Marvel Sunday "Tony Stark: Iron Man #12"

Tony Stark: Iron Man #12

Wow, that was a lot more difficult than it should have been.

I'm talking about finding an image of the cover on Google, which turns out to be a Walmart-exclusive variant (I found one with the title logo in blue, but apparently only Walmart had it in, y'know, Iron Man colors).

It should be noted that all these Sunday Marvel Sunday comics were originally obtained via Walmart three-packs.


Marvel continues to know what the hell to do with Iron Man.  Perversely, the company seems committed to screwing with the character in every way possible.  This has been going on in ridiculous fashion since the '90s, when Tony Stark was, inexplicably, a teenager for a while.  This was okay, in the '90s, if it was Ray Palmer, because even in the '90s Ray Palmer (the teenage thing was thanks to Zero Hour, in case you were wondering, and was featured in Dan Jurgens' Teen Titans) was not really a significant character (he had his heyday in the '70s, I think, in a partnership with Hawkman).  This is not to say The Atom is not a great character.  But very few writers seem interested in him.  I mean, even Ant-Man, with one of the worst publication histories of any major character, now has his own movies.  Ray Palmer in the Arrowverse is basically Iron Man, with shrinking powers.  Played by Superman.

Okay.  I kind of got sidetracked.  Anyway, this rant about how ridiculous Iron Man comics have been of course ties in with the fact that Iron Man has literally been the most significant superhero of the past decade, because of, y'know, the MCU.  And Marvel figured it was okay to exploit this opportunity.  To continue making terrible Iron Man comics.

Iron Man's dad, in the comics, isn't even Howard Stark, by the way.  Multiple writers affirmed that some convoluted adoption nonsense was the new status quo.  And Tony died.  And came back.  And died.  And as of this comic?  Is kind of dead.  And alive.  At the same time. 

Somehow the idea that Tony's a tech genius has gotten widely out of control.  In comics, being a tech genius is futurism, not smartphones.  Tony operates on such an advanced level (and yet, as with his armor, still doesn't...technically share it with everyday peons. despite running a massive business. somehow) he beggars all imagination. 

Part of this is superhero comics as they now exist, almost totally divorced from the real world.  This issue, by the way, is a tie-in with War of the Realms, just another cosmic story in adventures that no longer have anything to do with problems any of us is likely to ever experience outside of, well, a comic book, or another MCU flick.  It's particularly egregious when Marvel does it because this is supposed to be the company that's painfully reflective of everyday struggles.  And yeah, by token references to Tony's alcoholic past, it is.  Pretty much.  His new body has the same history as his old body (just don't even ask). 

Never mind that Marvel is once again replacing Tony as Iron Man, by the way.  Forget that DC may have just fired Dan DiDio because it had second thoughts about a Marvel-like attempt to line-wide replace the icons, again. 

Forget that this was a golden opportunity, with Tony's death in the movies, to remind any interested fans, that Tony's adventures continue well past Robert Downey, Jr. in the comics.  Maybe.  Probably.  Sometimes.  Unless they can help it.

Anyway, it doesn't matter who's writing Iron Man.  Bendis did it for a while, and he actually was kind of more interested in Doctor Doom.  Or Mary Jane.  Or Riri Williams.  This issue it's Gail Simone, the writer most likely to not really conceive of anything outside of comic book logic.  Unless it offends her.  And gives her a career. 

Anyway, I'm noticing that Thought Bubble Comics really only has a readership of one these days (thanks, Pat!), so it really doesn't matter what I say.  Some of these are going to be rants, and some are actually going to have nice things to say about Marvel.  But most of them will be rants.  Coming at you weekly!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Watching the Walmart Giants 8 "February 2020"

Just when I thought I was out...Recently on Facebook there've been announcements about releases and I've been reading and contributing to the comments section.  Seems fans are finally discovering these things exist, and are happy about it.  And the giants keep finding ways to interest me, even though I'm becoming a little jaded (King/Bendis Withdrawal Syndrome).

Ah!  Before I go any further, let me just acknowledge the news that Dan DiDio, erstwhile longtime Publisher at DC, has been fired.  Apparently he was ruffling too many editorial feathers recently.  But speculation is only beginning.  It's suspected that the "G5" initiative, which hasn't even happened yet, might be responsible.  Anyway, sad to see him go. 

From Beyond the Unknown Giant #1
  • New story from Dave Wielgosz and Kenneth Rocafort (!!) featuring Green Lantern Hal Jordan being given an object lesson in paying attention to Earth at the expense of his duties to Sector 2814 (to be fair, very little has been done by any writer to expand the idea of the whole sector, which if given an opportunity would probably be one of my priorities).  Love to see Rocafort doing work in these giants, a huge coup (although I'd also love for him to get a big new assignment).
  • New story from Tom Sniegoski and Eric Gapstur featuring Kamandi.  Excellent story with a robot butler sort of upstaging Kamandi.  Sniegoski is another welcome presence in these giants, familiar from work relating to Jeff Smith's Bone.
  • New story from Dan Jurgens featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes, in a fine spotlight.
  • Reprint of DC Comics Presents #3 (from 1974!!) featuring Superman and Adam Strange (cover feature).
  • Reprint of The Brave and the Bold #113 (from 1978!!) featuring Batman and the Metal Men.
  • Reprint from Green Lantern Annual #3 (written by Alan Moore, from 1987!!). 
These giants are finally pushing well past 2003 (I think the previous earliest reprint point).  The collection ads have also gotten an upgrade.  Tom King is finally being put in the spotlight (the giants were slow to acknowledge even his Batman), with one page featuring Mister Miracle, Heroes in Crisis, Grayson and Omega Men (though a misprint identifies it as Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham), plus a Batman/Catwoman page spotlighting an 80th anniversary, plus King's Batman Vol. 6: Bride or Burglar?, Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding, and Batman/Catwoman: The Wedding Album.  There are also ads featuring the work of Jack Kirby and Darwyn Cooke, among others, plus Tomasi/Gleason's Batman & Robin.

Titans Giant #1
  • New story from Phil Hester (always great to see new work from him) and Scott Koblish (and Tom Grummett), featuring the adult Titans.
  • New story from Marc Guggenheim (big giants favorite at the moment) and Steve Pugh featuring Raven.
  • Reprint from Teen Titans #50 (from 1977) featuring the expanded old school Titans.
  • Reprint from Starfire #1.
  • Reprint of Adventures of the Super Sons #1.