RANDOM LOOKS BACK
For almost 15 years, I tracked my weekly comic purchases on a spreadsheet. While I stopped updating it nearly a year ago, it's fun to look back. The spreadsheet covers all of the comics I bought new off the racks of comic shops between 1992 and 2006 (plus a little of 2007). It doesn't count things I bought at conventions, or in back issue bins, or collected materials.
Here are some numbers:
Total number of comics purchased and tracked on the spreadsheet in that time frame: 8284
Number of titles with "Hell" in the title that aren't "Hellboy": 6
That includes "Hellblazer", the Norm Breyfogle-drawn "Hellcat" mini from 2000, the Scott Lobdell/adam Pollina movie script repurposing "Hellhole" (Image 1999), Jae Lee's "Hellshock", Brian Bendis' "Hellspawn", and "Sin City: Hell and Back"
Number of titles with "Blood" in the title that aren't "Youngblood": 9
Included in that count: Greg Rucka's "Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood", "Blood Stream" (Image, 2004), Dan Jolley/Leonard Kirk's forgotten "Bloodhound" (DC, 2004), "Bloodpool" (classic old school Image), "Bloodstone" (Marvel 2001), "Bloodstrike" (Image), "El Cazador: The Bloody Ballad of BlackJack Tom" (CrossGen, 2004), "The Dragon: Blood and Guts" (Image, 3 issues), "The Punisher: Bloody Valentine."
Number of titles with "Death" in their name: 9
That includes "Batman/Deathblow", Greg Rucka again with "Batman: Death and the Maidens," "Brit: Cold Death," the fun "Deadpool/Death," "Death Gallery," "Death: The High Cost of Living," "Deathblow," "Deathblow: Byblows," "Deathmate"
I wonder if I should have exempted any title with "Deathblow" in it, to be fair?
Number of titles with "Happy" in their name: 1 ("Super Hero Happy Hour")
Number of titles with "Love" in their name: 6
Count 'em down: "Harley and Ivy: Love on the Lam" (2001), "Love and Capes", "Love as a Foreign Language", "Love Fights", "The Batman Adventures: Mad Love", "Young Heroes in Love."
Number of titles with "Heart" in their name: 2
J. Torres and J. Bone combine for "Alison Dare and the Heart of the Maiden", while Marvel did a little "I Heart Marvel" event.
Let's play some other numbers games:
I didn't buy "Starman" #0 off the new comic shelves. In fact, the first one I bought was #6. I had forgotten that I actually bought the first few issues from the back issue bin, no doubt guided there by the positive reviews of the series at the time. If I were to go to the long box those books are in, I get the feeling I'd still find those earliest issues with a price tag on their bags and boards.
"The Savage Dragon" remains the series I own the longest continuous streak of issues from, though "Ultimate Spider-Man" will overtake it soon enough. (With Erik Larsen stepping down as Image president to devote more time to his comics, that's no longer a certainty.) "Daredevil" is the next one in line, I think. Many titles lasted 60 or 70 issues, but never made it to 100 for me, including "Birds of Prey," "Transmetropolitan," "Nightwing," "Supergirl", "Superman Adventures," "The Amazing Spider-Man," "The Flash," "The Incredible Hulk," "Thunderbolts", "Uncle Scrooge," "Walt Disney's Comics and Stories", "Y The Last Man," "Young Justice," "Batman: Gotham Adventures," and "Captain America."
Moving away from the numbers, let's look at some series and mini-series I had forgotten about over the years:
"Codename: Knockout": Vertigo's twist on good girl spy stories, as I recall. Robert Rodi wrote it.
"BloodHound": I completely forgot about this book. It didn't last a whole year, but it was entertaining, with a new angle on the DCU that just never sold.
"Kissing Chaos": This is Arthur Dela Cruz's Oni mini-series, with nice pencil artwork.
"Livewires": Adam Warrens' most excellent six parter at Marvel. I still miss it. I originally reviewed the whole shebang on September 27th, 2005. For more of Adam Warren's brilliance, scroll down a bit.
"The Monolith": It was Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey's baby. Like "BloodHound," it didn't last all that long. But it had beautiful art from the criminally overlooked Phil Winslade.
"The Kents": John Ostrander, Timothy Truman, and Tom Mandrake's amazing historical fiction, weaved in with the Superman family. Well done, and beautifully told.
"Stars and ST.R.I.P.E.": Earliest Geoff Johns DC work. Fun series.
"Sovereign 7": Chris Claremont, after leaving the X-Men, went over to DC to do this creator-owned series set in the DC Universe. It featured art by Dwayne Turner, followed by Ron Lim. It seems like a footnote in comics history now, but it lasted nearly three years, despite crossing over with Electric Superman. I was surprised to see that. I thought it died much sooner.
"Son of Vulcan": Here's a fun six issue series from 2005 at DC comics that deserved more credit than it got. Created by Scott Beatty and Keron Grant. I was rough on it with my review of the first issue, but backtracked the next month. Hey, first impressions aren't always right. Sometimes it takes a couple of issues for a series to find its feet.
"Gatecrasher": Now this is a book that should have done so much better. How can you go wrong with something by Mark Waid, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Amanda Conner, published by Wizard's Black Bull label? It was a very pretty book -- with colors by Paul Mounts and lettering from Chris Eliopoulos -- that didn't last nearly long enough. If any book cried out for a new collection, this is the one. I don't know what the rights issues surrounding the book are. If it was creator owned, I'd love to see Image publish an omnibus of it, or a hardcover collection of some sort.
I suspect that as I move my comic boxes around this summer, I might do some random long box diving for fun. I can't wait to see what other forgotten treasures I unearth there.
RANDOM THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK
- I only met Michael Turner once, briefly, at the Pittsburgh Comic Con in 2002. I have a sketch from him that I'll try to post here next week, if I can find where I packed up my sketchbook. I remember him being very friendly with the fans there, constantly smiling and talking comics with them. Honestly, I can't write anything better than what Jonah did in the CBR News article Saturday morning, so I'll point you to that.
Wizard Magazine did an excellent article on Turner when he returned to comics following his initial bout with cancer. I think Jim McLaughlin may have written it. I hope they dig it up and post it on their website.
Tom Spurgeon has the best overview of Turner's life and career.
- Timothy Callahan has been looking over the "Superman 2000" pitch -- the bible put together by Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Mark Millar, and Tom Peyer for what they would do with the Superman comics franchise. To put it simply, the change in directions didn't take, but now we're getting to read parts of it. Last week's update shows us how the creators would have undone the Lois Lane/Clark Kent marriage. The similarities to the ending of the Peter Parker/Mary Jane marriage are numerous. It's worth a read just for that.
- Thanks to the frequency of new issues for both "Trinity" and "Amazing Spider-Man," comic retailers will now know how long it's been since most of their readership last visited. My "weekly" visitation ruse ended quickly when I brought two issues of "Trinity" up to the counter last week.
- As if DC can't catch enough grief, it looks like "Final Crisis" #2 had some alignment issues at the printer, causing several pages to have color work shifted away from the black line art. That used to be much more common in comics back in the newsprint days, though it still happens occasionally today.
- What happened to Eric Wight's "My Dead Girlfriend?" He's now spoken out about it.
ADAM WARREN'S EMPOWERED
I read Adam Warren's EMPOWERED, Volumes 2 and 3 this last week. As much as I loved the first volume of the book for the humor and the art, these two volumes show a growth for the title that catapult it out of mere satire and into something even greater. Let me try to explain it.
At first blush, "Empowered" is a silly humorous superhero parody for the sake of cheesecake art. Adam Warren draws a lithe blonde woman tied up in a ripped costume for most of each volume. The series started as a parody and that was the point of it. But Warren did a sneaky thing over the course of the first three books: He made characters you have to love. They aren't just hooks to hang Warren's buxom blondes on. They're not there to sell the original art. Slowly, but surely, he's given each of them solid character development. They have reasons for being the characters that they are. They have inner conflicts. They have secrets they keep from one another. But they also love one another, protect each other, and provide support where needed.
There's also a lot of frank sexual discussion, naughty language, and bits that would make any parents of a pre-teen wildly uncomfortable. This is a book with a parental guidance sticker on it, after all.
It was the last story in the third volume that put it all into perspective for me. In the story, Emp's friend, Ninjette, is viciously attacked by an evil ninja clan. Ninjette is not without her flaws. She has self-image issues. She drinks too much. She's impulsive. But you still have to like her. And when she's attacked and strung up and about to be impaled by a sword -- or worse -- I started to worry. "Empowered" is a creator-owned book. Anything is possible. Warren could do anything he wants, and the story is a fairly long chapter, so it has the feeling of something "important" happening.
I'm not going to spoil what happens. That's not the point. The point is that I was concerned about a character in a book that was originally meant to be a simple outlet for one artist's parodies. He's successfully moved the ball down the field, as it were. This is now a book that, while not forgetting the humor and the silliness and the insanity the surrounds them, features characters you care about.
One other thing that impresses me:
You almost forget how much better and more organic a well hand-lettered comic can look than today's cookie-cutter computer font-assisted comics. There's a life on the page of "Empowered" that would be absent had Warren chosen a stock font and perfectly round balloons to hold all the dialogue. No, the letter forms are not perfect, but that's the point. They're perfectly legible, but that lack of perfection brings the page to life. Words can bounce all around the page, and the hand-drawn balloons emphasize the tone of voice being used.
Look back at Dave Sim's lettering on "Cerebus" and compare it to what he's done on the computer font-assisted "Glamourpuss." Look at that "Cerebus" lettering and compare it to any Marvel or DC or Image book today. Sim gets all the credit in the world for writing accents. He has a good ear for it, that's true. But he deserves even more for drawing that lettering in a way that was unique and that sold the dialogue.
The closest we have to that style today is Paul Grist's work, when it comes out. It wouldn't work for every book, but more comic creators who think of lettering as "that thing the pre-press guy has to get done before we ship the book to the printer" should carefully consider the contribution the letterer makes to his comic.
End of lettering rant. I haven't done one of those in years. I feel much better now. If we're all lucky, I won't rant about the lack of letter comics next week.
For now, buy "Empowered" -- only if you're of legal age to see R-rated movies, though. Volume 4 has already been solicited by Dark Horse, so there's more goodies to come!
THE PIPELINE PODCAST FOR 25 JUNE 2008
Marvel pushed out 30+ comics last week. I overstuffed the Top 10. When it came time to put together this list, though, I stuck with a single comic for each slot. If you want to hear more about the "Matt Fraction Trifecta" or the Ed Brubaker "Twin Spin," you'll have to download the 16 minute podcast. I think it's worth it, but that might just be me.
10. "Fantastic Four" #558
9. "Ex Machina" HC Vol 01
8. "Superman" #677
7. "New Avengers" #42
6. "Captain America" #39
5. "Final Crisis" #2 (of 7)
4. "Young Avengers Presents" #6 (of 6)
3. "Ultimate Spider-Man" #123
2. "Fire & Brimstone" #1 (of 3)
1. "What If Fantastic Four Tribute To Mike Wieringo"
That Number Two title is from Richard Moore, of "Boneyard" fame. It looks like a cute book. I hope some retailers ordered it, though I'm not terribly hopeful on that count.
Also last week, I released the two parts of the PIPELINE PREVIEWS PODCAST for comics and statues due out in August 2008 and beyond. (Part One, Part Two) I apologize for lateness of it, but it's out there now for you. Sign up for the feed and enjoy the podcast, delivered automatically to your podcatcher while you're not looking.
Due to my impending move, my podcasting schedule for the month of July could be erratic. Keep checking the feeds!
I'm sorry I didn't fit in more reviews this week. Go read "Young Avengers Presents" #6, though, for the best read of last week.
Also, your "Fly on the Wall" suggestions will be coming up next week. If you've got one you'd like to suggest, send them in now!
The Various and Sundry blog is filled with rants about furniture salesmen, Link Dumps, Twitter posts, DVD releases, and more randomly chaotic nonsense.
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