Category Archives: Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Do heroes kill…?

In what is sure to create further controversy, director Zack Snyder, when asked about the fact that he had Batman kill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, made some rather strong statements concerning this topic.

As written by Charles Pullman-Moore and presented on i09.com, the article’s title will give you an idea of Mr. Snyder’s thoughts on that subject:

Zack Snyder wants you to “Wake the fuck up” and accept that Batman kills people

Part of what made BvS so controversial was its generally grim tone and, yes, the fact that Batman sure does seem to murder a bunch of bad guys in the film.

To be fair, he does so because they are very actively trying to murder him, so its not like he’s simply shooting them in the back when they’re, say, loading up some questionable merchandise inside a van or something.

But it does bring up an issue I personally have wrestled with concerning heroes: Should they kill?

James Bond, famously, had a “license to kill”. As presented, one would think that he would have no qualms doing what I proposed above, ie killing a badguy no matter what they were currently up to. If they’re loading a van or taking a walk on the beach, if British Intelligence views the person as a major danger to England/the World, and he has a “license to kill”, one could theoretically understand that if it is imperative to kill the badguy, you do so, no questions asked.

Clint Eastwood’s many “heroes” were often darker as well. Starting with the so-called “spaghetti” westerns of the 1960’s and going on to Dirty Harry in the 1970’s and 80’s, you had a darker variation of the “good guy” who might well shoot a badguy, whether while confronting said individual or offing them when they weren’t necessarily a threat to you at that moment.

But what about superheroes? What about heroes that aren’t supposed to be so damn dark, character-wise? Batman, while indeed a “dark” character, has been portrayed very often as not wanting to use a gun, though in his very earliest comic book appearances did indeed do so, and did indeed kill badguys…

Image result for batman with gun golden age

The above opening page of a story shows Batman with a weapon. Here, he uses it… albeit to kill a vampire:

Image result for batman with gun golden age

Here he uses not just a gun, but a machine gun, to off some badguys…

Note what Batman says in the above panel: “Much as I hate to take human life, I’m afraid this time its necessary!”

So, yeah, early, very early Batman could be as merciless in killing badguys just as his primary inspiration, the pulp hero The Shadow, did as well…

Image result for the shadow pulp covers

But very soon after Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939 and in issue #38 of Detective Comics, Batman was given a partner, the dashing Robin…

Image result for when did Robin first appear

I think its arguable that the introduction of this character put Batman over the top and sealed his transition from a superhero version of The Shadow into something new and exciting to audiences. Suddenly readers had an avatar, a young daredevil they could grasp and, vicariously, have their adventures through.

The tone of the Batman stories from that point on grew lighter and lighter, and Batman no longer mercilessly killed the badguys (though there were some “accidental” deaths still to come) until, soon enough, it was established that Batman DID NOT KILL, period.

In the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s, darkness crept back into the Batman character. The fine work of writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams redefined the Batman character and brought us a version closer to what came early on, though the character still did not use weapons and still did not murder the badguys…

Image result for batman secret of the waiting graves

And so it was, roughly, a short time time later I first became familiar with these various characters.

In my very young mind, I felt that superheroes did NOT kill. If anyone perished in the course of a story, the hero tried their best to not kill anyone, even if they were despicable in their actions and very much deserved that fate. Heroes were, IMHO, people who found ways around such actions.

Then came Population Zero, the first episode of The Six Million Dollar Man’s regular series, first aired on January 18, 1974, and this terrific, and confusing to my very young mind, ending…

The plot of the episode, to be frank, was something of a rip off of Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. In that novel (and subsequent film adaptation), an entire small town is suddenly found dead with two exceptions, and it turns out some intergalactic virus is to blame… and this bug needs to be neutralized or it might spell the doom of the human race.

In Population Zero, the villain uses a sound machine (as you can see from the video) and it turns out the scientist behind it lost funds for his project because of the Bionic Man project. He obviously harbors deep anger and is determined to show that his weapon should have been given the proper funds. In the meantime, he tries to kill off the Bionic Man and then Oscar Goldman and the entire army base outside the town he initially attacked.

Steve Austin, the Bionic Man, gets away from his deathtrap and runs to where you see him. He realizes the mad scientist will kill a lot of innocent people and pulls up the metal fence post and, using it as a javelin, spears their truck, killing the scientist and his henchmen.

This really messed with my mind back then.

For it seemed to me Steve Austin could have run over to the truck and, I dunno, turned it over or something. He could have thrown the javelin at the electrical cables the bad guy was using to charge up his weapon and therefore rendered the sonic weapon inoperative.

No, he deliberately targeted the truck and by spearing it caused it to explode and kill everyone.

I’ve defended Batman v Superman more times than I care to and still believe this film will experience a re-evaluation in time and come to be viewed as far better than the early critics and fans felt it was.

And I have little problem accepting that Batman kills the bad guys both when he chases them in his Batmobile and later on when he’s trying to save Martha Kent.

Why?

Because if you truly, truly think through both scenarios, he’s quite literally fighting for his life. In the first scenario he’s being shot at with heavy weaponry. A lucky shot and his vehicle -and himself- is toast. It’s a high speed chase and very dangerous to not only Batman, but to anyone else who might be around that dock area.

Should Batman aim for the tires? Sure, but realistically, that a damn hard shot to make.

In the warehouse fight, the same applies. It’s one guy against a large number. In “real life” you need to take these dudes out and quick because if you don’t, you may die. So Batman can’t play nice while the bad guys here are using guns, knives, and whatever else they have to take him out. He has to fight back.

Hard.

Still, the little boy I was does feel a certain apprehension about the idea of a good guy, especially a superhero, resorting to killing and, at least in my stories, I’ve tried to show the consequences of killing (particularly in Mechanic) while also trying not to have my characters depicted as favoring killing first to deal with bad guys.

There truly is no answer, I suppose, and your opinions on this matter will certainly be guided by the literature/stories/TV shows/movies you’ve grown up with.

Too big…?

Over at Hollywoodreporter.com, Georg Szalai and Paul Bond have an article which notes:

Disney Closes Fox Deal, Creating Global Content Powerhouse

I’m not surprised by these developments. Disney has been on a roll of late, making buckets of money on their parks, their movies, and their TV shows. When Disney bought up Marvel Comics, they went on a further roll with the various Marvel Universe films featuring Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor.

Though Disney owned the characters published through Marvel Comics, it was Fox which had the rights to making movies featuring what were arguably the most prominent Marvel Comics characters: Spider-Man, X-Men, and The Fantastic Four.

Now, I’m not suggesting the only reason Disney targeted buying up Fox was to get all the Marvel characters’ movie rights under one umbrella, but given some of the loads o’ cash these films make, it had to be a consideration.

So, for those who long to see an Avengers vs. X-Men film, it looks like it could well be on the horizon.

On various boards, people who are fans of Disney’s Marvel films are happy for this possibility, but I’m rather disturbed by the whole thing.

Why?

Because we seem to be reaching a point these days where there exist one or two or three companies that control virtually all the entertainment being fed to us.

AT&T recently purchased Warner Brothers. Now Disney owns Fox.

I worry when we reach a point where there are so few companies responsible for so much. Will our entertainment get more and more bland?

I suppose.

I suppose its also possible that new, independent artists can catch fire, but given the size of the giants out there, how long before their concepts/ideas are bought out as well?

There is also this, found in the Disney/Fox article:

Disney has promised $2 billion in cost savings from the Fox takeover, with some in the industry expecting between 4,000-10,000 layoffs.

Ouch.

I’m hopeless…

…when it comes to nostalgia!

Way, waaaaaay back when I was very young, one of the things that thrilled me to death was DC comic’s 100 Page Super-Spectacular books.

Here are some of them, which I do not have:

Image result for 100 page super spectacular
Image result for 100 page super spectacular
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Image result for 100 page super spectacular

These books, in general, had one or two “new” stories and a bunch of reprints from either the golden or silver age of comics. My understanding, well after the fact, was that the line of comics released were something of a dud, sales-wise, and this is the reason they were discontinued. Perhaps young people like myself had difficulty shelling out the 0.50-0.60 cents versus a “regular” comic which cost 0.20 cents at that time. Perhaps, unlike me, people weren’t as into getting all those extra pages of reprints.

Who knows.

Of the ones 100 page Super-Spectaculars released, my absolute favorites were the Detective Comics issues. They ran for a total of 8 issues from 438 through 445 and featured the bulk of the wonderful Archie Goodwin/Walt Simonson Manhunter stories (they started in the issue 437 and finished in issue 443). But also featured were such classic “new” Batman stories like issue 439’s The Night of the Stalker

Image result for detective 439

Or the wonderful Archie Goodwin/Alex Toth Death Flies the Haunted Sky in issue 442…

Image result for detective 442

And, of course, the wonderful conclusion to the Manhunter story-line, which featured Batman, in issue 443…

Image result for detective 443

Finally, the Detective Comic Super-Spectaculars ended with the first two chapters of the Len Wein written and, for the most part Jim Aparo drawn multi-part Bat-Murderer! storyline, issues 444 and 445…

Image result for detective 444
Image result for detective 445

As well as the Bat-Murderer story line began, it petered out in its last three or so issues and concluded in the regular sized Detective Comics #448…

Image result for detective 448

Why am I going into such details about these particular issues of this particular book?

Because Detective Comics is about to reach its 1000th issue and, over on ComiXology.com individual Detective Comics issues are available, including the entire 100 page Super-Spectaculars, for sale. Please note, these are the DIGITAL editions of the books and they are currently going for a mere 0.99 cents each (normally each digital edition goes for $1.99, so you’re getting it for half-price).

So, yeah, I’m pitching something I’m not going to make a red-penny on but if you’re a fan of some of these books, or any Detective Comics available on the ComiXology website (they have issues going back to the first Batman appearance through the wonderful silver age works, the many Neal Adams-drawn issues, to the present) you may want to give it a look-see. Here’s the link:

ComiXology Detective Comics sale

The Dark Fringe…paperback!

The very first significant work I wrote, not counting a few short stories, was The Dark Fringe.


Originally released way back in the mid-1990’s as a 4 issue comic book series, it was collected into a trade paperback in 2003 and, a few years later and in 2013, as a Kindle/Digital edition.

I have finally updated the book and re-released it as a Trade Paperback. This edition is now available here for the very cheap price of $6.99:

Amazon.com – The Dark Fringe paperback

This new edition, if I do say so myself, looks much nicer than the original 2003 version. The paper alone is much brighter and, as I mentioned in the previous post, you get to see the full images of each page, something which was mildly cut in the 2003 version.

However, if you’ve given up on print editions of books and are interested in the Kindle/Digital edition, that’s also been updated and is available here for the even cheaper price of $3.99:

Amazon.com – The Dark Fringe for Kindle

The book remains a great source of pride to me and if you’ve enjoyed the Corrosive Knights books (which continue to do quite well in this new year!), I think you’ll find this work to be highly enjoyable as well!

Self-serving promotion is… over! 😉

Another month gone…

It’s been another spectacular month -at least for me!- with regard to people either buying or reading, via Kindle Unlimited, my novels.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!

I’ve been doing some backbreaking work these past few days getting a certain book ready for paperback printing…

Yep, though a digital/Kindle version of this graphic novel is available, I didn’t create a new paperback version since the original 2003 release.

That’s about to change.

In the past few days I’ve been putting together a new PDF file for this graphic novel and, as of yesterday, entered the relevent files to create a Amazon.com TPB which everyone can order.

Unlike the original paperback, the paper and print should be far, far nicer than the original version. Cleaner, brighter paper, and images that aren’t cut off.

A dirty little secret: When the original 2003 version of The Dark Fringe was printed and unbeknownst to me, the files I created of the pages wound up being a little bigger than they should have been. The person who set up the printing told me, after the fact, that he put as much of each page as he could in the trade paperback printing job but… some things were cut off. Minor elements quite literally at the edges, granted, but irritating nonetheless.

Here’s the thing: I fixed this with the digital/Kindle version but there is no actual paperback version of The Dark Fringe out there that looks the way it should.

That will change.

The new version I sent in has all the art elements as they should be and, as stated, the paper quality should be far better than the original.

I’ve already ordered proof copies of the new paperback version of The Dark Fringe and will likely get it early next week.

If all looks good, the book will be available for purchase at US $6.99 each copy. This is actually $3 less than the book was originally sold for back in 2003! Seems printing costs are coming down!

Anyway, more to come…!

Risk…

Whenever you decide to spend money on some form of entertainment, be it go to the movies, see something on TV, buy a book (digitally nowadays, I imagine!), buy a comic book (ditto), or listen to some music, you invest time and, often, your hard earned cash in the venture.

Your hope is that once you’ve seen/heard/read the material, you’re left at the very least happy and/or satisfied that the time you spent on the work was worth your while.

Of course, there are times things don’t work out that way.

When I was younger, I recalled being blown away by music from certain artists I’d hear on the radio. I would buy their album and come to realize the sole highlight of said album is that song. Likewise, there are countless books, movies, and TV shows I’ve engaged with. Some I realized very quickly weren’t for me and stopped watching/reading them. Others drew me in with their original concept but quickly petered out and, by a few hundred (or so) pages into said novel, I gave up on it.

The worst case scenario, though, has to be reading/watching a movie/TV show/book which really, really draws you in, you savor the material and love what you’re reading/watching… and then the work falls apart at the very end.

I distinctly recall many years ago, 1989 to be precise, breathlessly waiting for James Cameron’s latest sci-fi film, The Abyss, to be released. I was a HUGE fan of James Cameron by that time, loving both The Terminator and Aliens, his previous two films, and felt the man could do no wrong.

Alas…

Look, The Abyss wasn’t by any stretch a bad film. Not at all! But as one critic whose name is forgotten after all these years stated (and I’m paraphrasing here): The Abyss is like seeing a runner having the run of their life. They’re far ahead of the pack and nearing the finish line. And then, just before reaching it, stumbled and falls.

To me, that summed up The Abyss in a nutshell. A great, great film with an unfortunately murky ending which, even in the eventually released extended version, simply wasn’t all that good.

Which brings me to the Jeff Lemire/Dustin Nguyen comic book series Descender.

Descender Vol. 1 by [Lemire, Jeff]

I’ve become a big fan of Jeff Lemire’s writing of late. He’s a thoughtful writer who has a deft touch in dealing with many characters/situations and presenting a clear, accessible story that draws you in almost immediately. I haven’t read all his work, but what I have read I’ve loved.

And for most of Descender’s run, I’ve loved what I’ve read. The series, originally released in 32 issues, has been collected in Trade Paperbacks or, if you’re like me, Kindle/Digital editions.

I found them on sale and picked the whole bunch up and I was blown away by what I read. Yeah, there was a point toward the middle of the story where Mr. Lemire devoted perhaps a little too much time to filling in backstory, but overall the story arc, involving a robot boy who awakens after a ten year “sleep” to find a very different universe around him, was fascinating, heartbreaking, exciting, and supremely enjoyable.

As a writer, I can only be jealous of how well Mr. Lemire juggled the many plot threads and his use of foreshadowing and laying down hints to events to come much later on. Terrific, terrific stuff.

But that ending…

Actually, non-ending.

We reach this point where all the players finally come together and the stakes couldn’t be higher and we have a resolution of sorts… but are instantly hit with the fact that this is only the first part of a larger work! Worse, the whole thing, at the end, felt rushed, pushed together and then you’re hit with the promise of a second series, called Ascender, which will continue these stories…

Aaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhh!

Perhaps I’m being unfair here. The story is not done yet so maybe I should hold my fire and wait to see where we go from here.

That doesn’t, however, change the fact that the ending winds up being far more abrupt than you’d like and then, suddenly (SPOILERS!) we’re ten years in the future and we are left hanging as to where almost all the characters -those that survived- are at. In fact, the denouement of the story is essentially a three or four page (sorry, don’t have it handy now) taste of what’s to come and… I just…

32 issues worth of material and while we’re given a sorta/kinda resolution to some of the things involved in the story while many of the secrets remain just that (I don’t want to get into even more spoilers, but we’re still left with no clear understanding of what the machine race that so influenced the story line is about). Further, we’re essentially told “to be continued!”

Again: Maybe I’m being unfair here. I enjoyed so damn much of the book to this point. Perhaps things would have been better if there was more of a sense early on that this would be the first “book” of a “X” numbered book series. Perhaps then the ending wouldn’t have left me so bothered.

Perhaps that’s just me.

Regardless, I’ll be there for Ascender.

grumble grumble

Yet more signs of the times…

A while back I noted, with great sadness, the closure of my local go-to comic book store, Villains (you can read the post here), which previously was known when owned by different people as Starship Enterprises.

The sadness was related to the fact that in that location a comic book store existed for some 30 plus years, and after my trip to California over the summer I was saddened to find that Villains was gone.

Even worse, and to the best of my knowledge, there are NO comic book shops anywhere around/near me which I can now go to to get books.

And yet…

Since the closure, I’ve found myself getting more and more into digital comics via either Amazon.com or ComiXology (which, it should be noted, is an Amazon company).

I was already into getting digital copies of various favorite books of mine, but since the loss of Villains, my only real choice for getting the latest comic books or graphic novels is via the internet and Amazon/ComiXology.

I have to say, it has turned out to be a pretty good thing.

ComiXology often has sales on books from various companies and, very quickly, I found myself not only finding stuff I loved from the past and wanted to re-acquaint myself with, but increasingly I’m finding newer works that I didn’t even know existed and which, sadly, a small store like Villains simply couldn’t keep up with.

To date I’ve spent entirely waaaaay too much money on these various works, discovering some “new” favorite authors (I particularly like much -though not all- of what I’ve read from Jeff Lemire) and new -as well as some old and recently “printed”- favorite works.

I’ve noted before that I used to love going to the local Borders, before that store chain closed down, and couldn’t imagine not going to a bookstore at least once or twice a week.

Now, I have neither a bookstore or comic book store close to me to visit and… its ok.

If anything, I’ve spent even more time than before finding and reading new and interesting works because so damn many of them are available at my fingertips via Amazon or ComiXology.

But…

I do wonder if the younger souls out there who are not initiated on books or comic books and the love of them will ever get that same kick I get out of reading in general. Is it possible there will come a point in time where younger generations do not get into books or comic books like previous generations did?

Its a worrying thought and ironic given the moment in time we’re in. Never before has there been such easy access to so many wonderful works, be they novels or short story collections or comic books, yet only in the digital environment.

As I said above, perhaps more signs of the times.

Stan Lee (1922 – 2018)

Sad word reached the news today of the passing of Stan Lee at the age of 95.

Mr. Lee is, of course, known as the guiding force behind Marvel Comics and was listed as the co-creator of many of the biggest, best known heroes published through the company, including the likes of The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Hulk, etc. etc.

Apart from being involved in some truly wonderful comics released from the early 1960’s, what made Mr. Lee so unique was that he became a full throated cheerleader and face of the company, something which didn’t really exist in comics before that time.  He created a sense of down to earth friendship between reader and creators and seemed to “talk” to readers and wink at them while barking/hyping the latest works.

This served him very well as Marvel Comics went from another so-so company to the biggest selling comic book company under his stewardship.  When the Marvel movies started to take off, he continued to be the face of the company by making amusing cameos in the many Marvel based films, often providing jokey lines and humorous bits.

His career, however, was not without some controversy.  As amiable as Mr. Lee appeared in public, the fact of the matter is that two of his principle cohorts, Jack Kirby (who co-created most of Marvel’s characters, including The Fantastic Four) and Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, among others) both had a falling out with Mr. Lee in the later half of the 1960’s and left the company.

It was reported they were both unhappy with not only the rates they were getting for their artwork but also with the credit Mr. Lee gave himself for the books they worked on with him.  I know this might be very “inside baseball”, but Mr. Lee developed a method of “writing” comic books where he would get together with the artist and provide a light sketch of a comic’s plot.  The artist would then essentially create the entire book and Mr. Lee (or whomever was listed as the writer of the book) would come in afterwards and provide dialogue.  Amusingly, there were times when the dialogue didn’t fit what you were seeing on the page, though this didn’t happen all that often.

But the point is this: Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko felt they were doing more than “just” drawing their respective books; that they were writing AND drawing them only to have Mr. Lee come in afterwards and dialogue them and then take the sole credit for being the book’s “writer”.  To be fair, Marvel eventually offered more credit to books made by both Kirby and Ditko, but by that point the bad feelings were obviously overwhelming and the two left the company they helped make so very successful.

Still, Marvel succeeded and without Stan Lee would likely not have become the juggernaut it became.  Whether he came up with more or less of the stories than were attributed to him, his dialogue and descriptions presented on many a page were both playful and exciting and, in the editorial/mail pages, he could sell a book like no other.

Truly there hasn’t been anyone in this industry remotely like him.

He will be missed.

End of an era

Way, waaaaay back in the very early 1980’s and after a period where I had -*gasp*- given up on comic books, I was in Jacksonville and in High School and reintroduced to the comic book world via a friend at the dorm I was living in.

This could have been around 1983 or 84 and the book that got me back into comics was The Saga of the Swamp Thing #16, the first issue featuring the artwork of Stephen Bissette and John Totleban.

Image result for saga of swamp thing 16Though I didn’t know it, at that point in time, the book was running on fumes.  Writer Martin Pasko started the series, the second featuring the character of Swamp Thing, an early favorite of mine in its original series created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson.  This new series was kicked off thanks to Wes Craven’s 1982 directed Swamp Thing movie.

But the team of Martin Pasko and Tom Yeates, both quite talented, didn’t set the comic book world on fire and by issue #16 Yeates was gone (though he did continue to do covers, including the one presented above), and Martin Pasko was on his way out too.

By issue #19/20, Martin Pasko was ending his run and a new writer was on his way to take over the series.  Though his first officially written issue was #21, this new writer had worked in conjunction with Mr. Pasko on his final issues which involved the return, for the third time, of Swamp Thing’s nemesis Arcane.

The writer would go on to bigger things.  That writer was Alan Moore.

But those final issues officially written by Martin Pasko and deliciously drawn by Mr. Bissette and Totleban, had my full attention.  I LOVED the character of Arcane and I was breathless to find out what became of him.

When issue #18 or #19 of the series was about to be released, I was away from the boarding school and the local comic shop I frequented up there and searched for a comic book shop in my local environs.  The one I found was a small shop called Starship Enterprises.

I picked up the then latest Swamp Thing issues and looked around for other books I wanted to catch up on.  This period of time was, for me, a new golden age of comic book discovery.  I loved the rise of the Independents, I loved the rise of more “serious” works.

And for a while Starship Enterprises was my go-to shop for these books.

So into comics and back issues was I that I searched for other shops and, eventually, Starship Enterprises was no longer my go-to shop.

But the years passed and most of the other shops I frequented closed down.  Starship Enterprises, I found, was sold off to another person and renamed Superheroes.  I once again started to frequent the shop and got to know its owner, Glen, well.

Over the years, I headed to the shop every week or every other week and checked out the latest releases.

Over the years, there also came the rise of digital media.

Bookstores, once frequent in my area, were suddenly gone, and the worst thing was that I didn’t miss them.  I could/would go to Amazon and buy whatever books I wanted, first the physical copies which would be sent to me, then moving on to getting digital copies which I would read on my Kindle or iPad.

But Superheroes, then later known as Villains, continued.

In conversations with him, I suspected Glen knew he was living on borrowed time.  The fact of the matter is that new comic books -pretty much all comic books- are finding their way to the internet.

You’re interested in reading the latest issue of Batman?  Do a quick google search and you may find someone has posted it online.

It’s illegal.  It sucks, but like pirated movies and books, its a sad reality of today.

Just before I headed out to California, I visited Villains and told Glen I’d be gone a couple of weeks.  I told him to hold on to anything that I might like.

Yesterday, after returning to Miami, I headed over to the store to see what I’ve been missing.

I found the store was closed and empty.  A “For Lease” sign was on the window.

Villains is no more.

Photo of Villians - North Miami Beach, FL, United States
Villains, taken from its Facebook page and while still in business

Were the digital issues I noted above to blame?  Did Glen simply have enough of this business and decided to move on?  Had he experienced some health problem which precluded him from continuing?

When I last saw him just before going on my vacation, Glen gave me no indication that he was about to shut the store down, so I do worry that maybe something serious happened in the interval which forced him into this shut down.

Perhaps.

But the bottom line is that a store that has existed in one form or another for some 34+ years (at least that was roughly the first time I went into it), is now gone.

And that saddens me tremendously.

Here’s to you, Starship Enterprises, Superheroes, and Villains.

And here’s to you, Glen.

You’ll be missed.

Some stuff I’ve read recently…

Because of several big time recent sales, I’ve picked up a number of graphic novels via Amazon/Comixology and am working my way through them.

Some thoughts/brief reviews:

Moebius Library: The World of Edena by [Moebius]

Jean Girard, aka Moebius, was a French artist whose artwork, IMHO, is absolutely stunning.  Through his life/career, he worked on many genres, including westerns, but is primarily known for his science fiction.  The World of Edena presents the complete saga of Stel and Atan, two spaceship “mechanics” who wind up experiencing a very strange series of adventures indeed.

The saga began as a small story featuring our mechanic protagonists and was followed by another story which was a contracted promotion for the car company Citroen before expanding into a larger and larger saga involving these at first sexless characters returning to their humanity, their awakening sexuality (including, sadly, an attempted rape, a sequence that might have worked back when this was originally released but today is… well… difficult to take), their breakup, and, eventually, the corrupted society they face and must defeat.

I was familiar with the early chapters in the book but as I went along found myself reading “new” material, including the last few chapters and conclusion to this saga. As it turned out, it was the second half of the series where I felt Mr. Moebius’ writing failed him and the way the saga ends was, IMHO, particularly disappointing.

What isn’t disappointing is the artwork, which is simply stellar.  Even when his story goes off the rails, and I do believe it did somewhere around that half-way point, one can’t help but admire Moebius’ artistic skills.

Highly recommended for fans of Moebius’ artwork but don’t expect the story to grab you as strongly.

Image result for prison ship esteban maroto

It feels like I’m about to offer the very same essential review of the Doug Jones written, Esteban Maroto Prison Ship as I’ve just written for Moebius’ The World of Edena.

In Prison Ship our protagonist Faye (this is her name in this compilation), is flying a group of criminals from one planet to another when her spacecraft is apparently hit by a meteorite. She is knocked unconscious and, when she awakens, finds her prisoners, who were in some kind of cryogenic units, have escaped.

Faye’s spacecraft is locked in place and programming within it will not allow her to return home until she collects the escaped prisoners, alive or dead.

The concept, as presented, is intriguing but the story, alas, is pretty nonsensical.  For example, the big crisis for Faye is the fact that she cannot use her spaceship to return home until these prisoners are captured, and one gets the sense she’s on an island and will be unable to move until this mission is accomplished.  Yet she gets into a smaller shuttle craft and goes from planet to planet without any particular difficulties.

Faye is also a rather typical Heavy Metal/1984 type female protagonist: Sexy and sexual yet not terribly deep beyond that.  Yes, you will find her presented in various states of undress while as the story progresses, we come to a whopper involving the identity of one of the escaped prisoners which was beyond silly.

However…

That artwork is terrific.  Yeah, the story doesn’t hold up but in this case, Prison Ship is worth picking up for that alone.

Image result for shadow fire of creation

I’m a fan of The Shadow’s original pulp novels.  The character, and those novels, were very clearly influential in the creation of The Batman.  Over the years, many artists and writers have taken on The Shadow with varying degrees of success.  To me, the most successful works are still those by Dennis O’Neil and Mike Kaluta.

The Shadow: The Fires of Creation is written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Aaron Campbell and the overall product doesn’t quite reach the levels of O’Neil/Kaluta and ultimately falls somewhere in the middle.

Lamont Cranston aka The Shadow and his right hand woman Margo Lane are on the hunt for two Japanese nationals who are, in turn, seeking out “magic rocks” and will kill anyone that stands in their way.

Again, a decent read and certainly not a bust, but there have been better Shadow graphic works.

*****

More to follow!