Permanent Damage

Wed, March 25th, 2009 at 6:34pm PDT | Updated: March 25th, 2009 at 6:35pm

Comic Books
Steven Grant, Columnist

What's new is old again, or something like that. Every few years, might be ten, might be twenty, DC trots out the same bit: to "make up" for raising prices, they expand the page count and add a backup feature. As extra value.

Don't get me wrong. I love the idea. Always have. Loved backup strips since I was a kid. Hawkman behind Adam Strange in MYSTERY IN SPACE. Blue Beetle in CAPTAIN ATOM. The Question in BLUE BEETLE. Dr. Strange in STRANGE TALES. Firehair in SON OF TOMAHAWK. Munden's Bar in GRIMJACK. The Human Target in ACTION COMICS. The Elongated Man in THE FLASH and DETECTIVE COMICS. (Believe it or don't, there was a time when the Elongated Man was a serious character in whimsical stories rather than a comedy relief buffoon in stories meant as snark.) Green Lantern/Green Arrow in THE FLASH, or Deadman in AQUAMAN. I have a long history of liking backup features better than lead features. I might this time too. I like backup features. In concept.

But I'm sane. DC's core audience isn't.

Okay, that's unfair. They're sane enough, but comics fans, particularly DC and Marvel fans, have been trained for decades to hate backup features. How they've generally responded to this move by DC in the past provides a pretty good idea of the response this time around.

Not that DC's heart is in the wrong place. In a sane market, the move makes perfect sense. Raising prices is a great way to lose sheaves of readers who might be forgiven for bristling at paying more money for the same amount of material. The theory is sound: add enough additional material to offset reader doubts and offset the additional cost of the additional material with the additional income provided by the higher price. In theory, it should work, even if the general scheme smacks a bit of if we had some eggs we could have some ham and eggs if we had some ham. All things being equal, it would work.

But it hasn't so far, anytime DC has tried it. Fans never go along with it.

Much of it has to do with how fans perceive the comics they buy. For a comics company, backup strips make sense. Comics take a lot of time to draw. To produce a 22 page monthly book and still have weekends to spend with the family or whatever, a penciler must turn out a little over a page per day. Up the page count to, say, 28 pages per monthly issue, you're looking at limited possibilities: artists producing a page per day for 28 days per month are likely to either be artists getting later and later on the schedule or artists who will be very pissed off or having nervous breakdowns. (It's tough enough for most artists to produce 22 pages per month, let alone man a line of some 40-50 titles with artists capable of producing 22 pages per month.) There are only two ways to relieve the pressure on artists in the face of increased pages: "guest artists" or backup features drawn by other artists. The other virtue of backups is to keep active trademarks apparently incapable of maintaining their own titles, and building new audiences for them, or testing the waters with new characters and concepts. The extra pages certainly represent extra value for the publisher. At minimum, they envision a win/win situation: Green Lantern fans can be exposed to Aquaman, Aquaman fans can be exposed to Green Lantern. Readers are less likely to see it that way.

When Green Lantern fans buy GREEN LANTERN, they generally want to read Green Lantern stories. They don't want to read Aquaman stories. Unless they're also Aquaman fans. So while a publisher may see, say, putting an Aquaman strip in the back of GREEN LANTERN as "extra value," Green Lantern fans are more likely – and this is the standard complaint in these situations – to be frustrated and angered at the prospect of paying more money for material they don't want. Most would just as soon see the Aquaman strip cut out and the price go back to what it was. Of course, the extra price is a completely independent matter; the additional material is more of a public relations move. But readers don't see it that way. They see cause and effect, and it builds bad blood. (This isn't speculation. The last time DC pulled this stunt, many wrote, to DC or to the press, complaining of exactly that, with exactly that proposed solution.) Publishers, editors and talent may prefer to see an additional strip as "bonus" material, something thrown in to sweeten the pot, but for many readers once it becomes part of the book, especially if it's a regular feature, it's part of the book.

If Green Lantern fans are unlikely to be pleased by the move, the response of Aquaman fans is only slightly less predictable. Anyone whose favorite character is Aquaman (and there must be someone; in my experience, every character is someone's favorite character) may be thrilled just to have him available in any form and any venue, but even many Aquaman fans will feel the inverse of the GL fans: why do they make us pay for three quarters of a book we don't want to get the quarter we do? They're just as likely to feel exploited as grateful.

None of this is DC's fault. How many other choices do they have? At this point, since additional advertising is likely hard to come by (companies all over are cutting advertising way back in all media), their three choices are to add new features, extend current features, fill the extra pages with house ads or filler material, or raise prices without adding pages. That last one's definitely not a crowd pleaser.

On the creative side, backups are a potential bonanza. But they rarely are. In theory there are a lot of high end artists out who either can't or won't produce 22 pages per month but easily willing and capable of eight or ten. Most writers regardless of workload could squeeze out the same number of pages additional if it were something they really wanted to do. There's less burden on backups to carry the marketability of a title, so there's – again, theoretically – more opportunity to be unusual and break ground. As with many things, the benefits are also the problems. High end talent comes with a high end price; given how the market tends to react to backups, it's always a gamble whether high end talent will attract enough buyers to a title to increase revenues enough to offset the additional creative costs. For this the comics companies partly have themselves to blame, making a concerted effort for many years to promote their properties over the talent producing them and training a generation of buyers to be more concerned about just getting the next issue of, say, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN than whether Jules Feiffer or John S. Romita is drawing it. It makes sense to promote properties over talent – talent might end up working for the competition, but properties will only if it's way past the point where it'll matter to you – but the downside of downplaying talent marketability is that they're harder to market when it's to your advantage.

Then there's the issue of upstaging the lead features. That gets messy. The talent on lead features frequently get a little miffed about the perception they're being overshadowed – it's not always the case but it's not unheard of, especially when angry readers demand to know why the talents producing the great backup aren't the ones producing the lead instead – but things like that make headaches for editors. But traditionally it's not that big an issue, mainly because while high end writers are sometimes lured into writing backups, but in situations like the current one where additional pages are basically a loss leader to make readers feel like even at the higher price they're getting their money's worth high end artists just don't fit the budget. What fits the budget is young talent commanding smaller rates. Backups are commonly viewed editorially as testing grounds, not to see if new talent can cut loose but to see if they can live up to their portfolios and play by the rules. But playing by the rules is a terrible way to attract attention, and it stopped selling comics a long time ago. (You'd think DC would've learned that in the '70s.) Furthermore, the big companies, especially DC, are more editorially controlled now than maybe any other time in their history. It's hard to imagine many backup features arriving at DC that don't somehow feed the vast DC universe mythology, which won't offend what DC sees as its core audience but might not be much of a come-on either. Top-down creative control is great if your interest is maintaining a base consistency across a line of comics but not especially good for generating those crazy little moments and features that make people sit up and take notice. But backup strips that are more of the same are a double-edged sword; while they might be expected to appeal to those who want more of the same, again those same readers are just as likely to not want more of the same if it comes at a price forced on them. Yet producing backups wildly divergent, no matter how creative and exciting, is just as likely to not go over well with The Core while in no way guaranteeing to lure in an audience to replace them.

The main issue for the buyer is value, and within limits value is unfortunately the inverse of price: in general raising price lowers value (or the perception of it), lowering price raises value. Unless you can successfully market something whose perceived coolness factor obviates considerations of cost, like the iPhone. I don't see that happening with $4 comics anytime soon short of a massive marketing campaign.

The most likely upshot of all this isn't by any means a certainty – aside from The Blue Beetle (presumably the third, Latino one), assignments unknown, in the back of BOOSTER GOLD, I have no idea what backups DC plans or who's doing them – but again history's probably our best indicator: DC will valiantly tread water with the backups for a period of time, crunch the numbers, eventually decide they aren't worth the additional creative and production costs, and reduce comics size back to the traditional 32 page/22 story pages package but at the by-then established new price point. I'm not suggesting this is DC's plan – I'm sure they'd be thrilled if books with backups became huge hits – but economics are against them. The only way this doesn't happen is if the longer format package is ridiculously successful, enough for the company to be able to afford the additional pages. Economically not much else is feasible. But the odds against ridiculously successful are pretty steep. The basic package didn't sell especially well at $3, with a few exceptions, and raised prices never encourage anyone to buy more of something. More appealing content might, and great backups might fit that bill, but there's a point where even the greatest content can't overcome the package/price point deficiencies, and it's far likelier that, except for an increasingly rarified few customers, the traditional comics package has outlived its marketable value.


Fascinating experience with Travel Planners' new booking system for Comic-Con. On the upside, getting in was a lot easier this year, and worked beautifully; it suspended every caller/logger at the entry point, and, like an efficient bouncer, escorted them to reservations at the next possible opening. Very smooth.

But that's where it fell apart, for me. Quickly checked around, found the Hyatt still had rooms, entered that I wanted one. Went back to the limbo page. Their little swirly icon swirled around for five or six minutes, then took me to the page where I entered my personal information. Went back to the swirly page, waiting for the page where I could enter my payment information.

Three hours later, the swirly was still swirling. No room for me, I guess.

Someone else reported they found rooms at the Marriott, quickly got put through to the booking page, entered their information, quickly got put through to the payment information page, filled that out. Hit the button to be taken to the confirmation page. And the site closed out. No confirmations, no email notices so far. Apparently no room for them either. Heard from a third party who had the same experience. With the same hotel, now that I think of it.

I appreciate that Travel Planners is dealing with a ridiculous amount of traffic, but what the hell? The desire to have a functioning system is probably sincere enough, but sincere desire is no substitute for a functioning system.

Oh well, just another year of the Con's booking serving not functioning, I guess. I suppose I should be used to it by now...


1000 reviews in 1000 days (days 64-70):

From Metropolitan Books:

BRITTEN AND BRÜLIGHTLY by Hannah Berry ($20; trade paperback)

An elegant detective story, in a style reminiscent of Rick Geary, if his work were more serious than zany. A private "researcher" bored with the meaninglessness of divorce work and has conversations with a teabag accepts a rich woman's request to prove her fiancé's suicide was murder, and embarks down twisty but oddly simple path that ultimately dredges up the sins of his own past. Though a first time graphic novelist, Berry control of her material and the medium is breathtaking; it's both an excellent classic detective story and a grim but charming contemplation of the value of truth. Read it.

From Avatar Press:

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD – NEW YORK #1 by John Russo, Mike Wolfer & Fabio Jansen ($4.99; comic book)

In the absence of a new take on zombies – is there one? – going back to the original (at least of the brain-eating implacable zombies) isn't the worst idea, and Russo, Wolfer & Jansen pump a decent amount of craft and talent (not to mention gratuitous nudity) into this sequel to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. But it still can't work its way beyond standard. Random citizens are thrown together as zombies attack, New York goes apocalyptic, and all attempts to escape are thwarted, as good desires are crushed one by one in the mad panic to survive. It's a gift to those absolutely in love with zombie movie clichés, but not much beyond that, and the subtexts that can be read into Romero's LIVING DEAD films, his critiques of racism, consumer culture, the growing economic gaps between American citizens, etc., are completely absent here. The book's well done, but not in the service of much.

From Marvel Comics:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #584-588 by Marc Guggenheim, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer ($3.99@; comic book)

Since the inception of "Brand New Day," the main weakness of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN has been a preponderance of dangling plot threads and mystery characters with no noticeable resolution in sight. This arc, "Character Assassination," promised to resolve a bunch of them: who is the new supervillain Menace and what's his connection to the Green Goblin?, what's the secret behind the spider-tracer killings that have Spider-Man framed for murder?, and who will win the New York mayoral race? Guggenheim pulls it off adequately; I don't know that I'd say it's an especially memorable story but it certainly ends better than the vast majority of Spider-Man arcs over the last couple decades have. It helps that Romita (and we shouldn't underestimate Janson's influence on the art) has gotten so good he could get hot action sequences out of the Gettysburg Address; his art is a great distraction from holes in the plot. But the arc also points up a couple more running weaknesses in Spider-Man stories these days: they've gotten terribly claustrophobic, with everything tightly orbiting Peter Parker's life like nothing happens in New York City without his at least peripheral involvement (even Aunt May currently works at a soup kitchen secretly run by another supervillain, another dangling plot thread introduced what seems like decades ago now that has barely been alluded to in recent memory) and even with questions answered and mysteries solved, the story ends on a note that reduces the arc to just another prelude. Actually ending a storyline once in awhile is permitted; not doing it just gets exhausting.

From Image Comics:

SOUL KISS #1 by Steven Seagle & Marco Cinello ($3.50; comic book)

A pretty good horror story that for a change doesn't evoke any obvious antecedents. A girl attacked in the desert makes a deal with the devil to destroy her attacker, and only later realizes what she did and that whoever she kisses now dies horribly, leaving her facing what to do about it. Though this issue's entirely setup, it's simple and effective, and Seagle paces and develops the story well, more interested that we understand the heroine than like her. I initially wasn't especially keen on Cinello's art – seemed a bit rudimentary to start – but it ends up suiting the story well, sort of a more expressionistic version of Josh Howard. Worth a look.

From Dark Horse Comics:

CRIMINAL MACABRE: CELL BLOCK 666 #3 by Steve Niles & Nick Stakal ($2.99; comic book)

I hadn't read the first two issues of this four issue mini, but Niles makes clear what's going on without resorting to piles of recap and exposition: his Travis McGee/John Constantine hybrid, Cal MacDonald, who lives in an America where magic is a fact and humans coexist with various monsters, has been framed and thrown in prison, leaving him not especially well-equipped to deal with a network of greed and corruption. If there's one character Niles has done by now, it's Macdonald, and this issue plays out fine, if a little light on event. Stakal's art is pretty good, with some nice storytelling, but epitomizes a common failure for a lot of comics artists these days: his faces often don't look right and are hard to keep track of from panel to panel. Nice hook at the end for the final chapter, which Niles sets up nicely much earlier in the story.

From Fantagraphics Books:

SUPERMEN! The First Wave Of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941 Greg Sadowski ed ($19.99; trade paperback)

In 1965, Jules Feiffer started the ball of critically reassessing comic books rolling with publication of his memoir/critique THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES, which was largely responsible for identifying The Flash, The Spirit and the Sub-Mariner, as well as Superman, Batman and Captain America, as pivotal creations of the Golden Age. This could just as well be titled THE NOT SO GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES; Sadowski culls a wild assortment of oddball, mostly unremembered creations from early comics produced by the great comic book sweatshops of the late '30s and some famous creators like Siegel & Shuster, Eisner, Simon and/or Kirby and Jack Cole. Not that Sadowski's making a case for it, but over the years I've heard many people propose Golden Age comics are innately superior to modern comics, and that always struck me like saying medieval hovels were better than homes with indoor plumbing. Let's face it, sure, the Pyramids and the Great Cathedrals were built back in older times and they're still stunning today, but mostly in those days humanity built hovels, and the same can be said for the Golden Age; it's a few pyramids and a hell of a lot of hovels. There are only a couple of hovels in SUPERMEN!, but reading "Yarko The Mystic" by Will Eisner, "Blue Bolt" by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby (or Kirby's solo "Cosmic Carson," signed "Michael Griffith") or Jack Cole's "Daredevil" (almost immediately revamped by Charles Biro) is a little like seeing, and noting the charms, of the first outhouse Frank Lloyd Wright designed; most of the talents herein go on to build cathedrals, but at this point the cathedrals are still in the distance. Nonetheless, the book's filled with a tremendous seat-of-your-pants vitality – events proceed at breathtaking pace that barely takes a glance at character or story logic - that betrays the domesticity infecting many of today's comics, and if we could manage to tap into some of that without reverting to the '60s camp memory of stuff like this clearly inspired, it'd do the current business a world of good. Whatever else can be said of it, SUPERMEN! is exhilarating – comics as pure adrenalin rush – and the only disappointment is not much critique by Sadowski, who proved with B. KRIGSTEIN he's got the chops, but maybe his half-dozen pages of commentary and historical context are all the material really need. SUPERMAN! isn't really somewhere worth living anymore, but it's worth a visit.

From Boom! Studios:

HERO SQUARED: LOVE AND DEATH #1 by Keith Giffen, J.M. deMatteis & Nathan Watson ($3.99; comic book)

In case you missed it, a couple years back Giffen & deMatteis cooked up this comedy-adventure series about a rude slacker whose life is complicated by a overly noble superhero version of himself from a destroyed parallel world, and the supervillain version of his girlfriend. This mini-series, with new artist Watson, who does a pretty good job of maintaining the Joe Abraham look on the series, will apparently wrap up the storyline. Giffen & deMatteis try to maintain the peculiar balance of farce and soap opera they initiated in the early '90s version of JUSTICE LEAGUE, building toward their own version of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS as several other version of Captain Valor pass through the book, culminating with the Disney version. If you like your superheroes tongue-in-cheek, these guys set the current bar on that, but it's a little soon to tell if some of the more confusing elements of the plot will make sense. Not bad.


BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fans have all likely see the series conclusion by now, but if you haven't and want it all to come as a shock when you do, this is a SPOILER WARNING:

Lemme get this straight. After four seasons, during which Ron Moore and the other writers have all prattled on about how the show is genuine hard science fiction, no alien races or trad space opera or like that, and "down to earth" except for a handful of technological advances, it all turns out to be warmed over anti-technology "back to the earth" (literally) hippiefied twaddle by way of the Bible belt?

The end message: forget science and put your faith in nature and the supernatural, because God (though he doesn't like to be called that) loves you and will provide.

Seriously.

The best they could come up with for the mysterious resurrection of Kara "Starbuck" Thrace with a brand new Raptor spacecraft after she apparently blew up (and later found her body and the wreckage on the devastated planet Earth) was that she was a ghost/angel sent by God to lead humanity to its new home? Seriously?

Then the big revelation: the whole series takes place 150,000 years in the past and the planet they ultimately take as their new home – there's only a small band of primitives living there that count as "intelligent life" – is our Earth. The colonists are our ancestors! (Specifically Hera, the hybrid child of human and Cylon, who's revealed in an epilogue to be "Eve," the oldest known ancestor of the current human race, so we're all part Cylon too!)

Never mind that none of it makes the slightest bit of sense. If it's all taking place well over 100 millennia ago, how come people in the show keep hearing and quoting Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower"? Not that it's not a good song – hell, it inspired big chunks of WATCHMEN - but not so good it resonates 150,000 years into the past and out into the depths of space. Then there's the colonists, specifically Adama, naming the planet "Earth," after the world they struggled so hard to find only to discover it was a floating nuclear cinder, as if the English language also dates back to the colonies instead of being the great mutt of languages. (And if you protest that we're only hearing the English translation of what the Colonists are saying, then it doesn't matter what they call the planet because any word they use is going to say the same thing.)

So the colonists land here to spread out across the world and cross-breed with the natives – wow, they're even genetically compatible – to create our human race. (It's notable that aside from the humanoid Cylon played by Grace Park, every surviving colonist appears to be white. Adama may be played by James Edward Olmos but there's no indication the character is intended to be genetically Latino and his sons certainly aren't. Though Hera's mother is Korean, so I guess that counts for something.) Do you wonder why we've never dug up any traces of their technology? Because they decided life without tools, medicine, new clothing and all the other benefits of technological civilization was inferior to the "natural" life! So they dump everything but the clothes on their backs into the sun and trotted off to new lives grubbing for insects and dying of the common cold. Like there aren't even any inclement weather conditions on the planet. I can see getting rid of a collapsing battlestar, sure, but not even shovels? Man, that's hardcore nature worship.

But not to worry, God will provide.

Ultimately the show's most interesting character, Gaius Baltar, the scion of a backwater farming community who becomes his civilization's greatest scientist and unwittingly allows the Cylons to annihilate it, cheerfully abandons science as inadequate and even dangerous – for the last season he's been leading his own little religious cult – and, in a stunning irony, is ultimately reduced to living out the rest of his days farming. When he breaks down sobbing at the end, it's hard to tell whether it's in relief that it's all over and he has finally reached where he belongs, or whether he's the only one who recognizes the sheer lunacy of the situation. But the nuttiest moment is when it's announced that the Cylon Centurians – the big robotic murder machines, as opposed to the humanoid Cylons, but these murder machines fight the final battle on our side against the other Cylons – are leaving in the Cylon base ship to create their own civilization somewhere else out among the stars. Someone asks how we can know they won't someday return to finish the destruction of the human race they began back at the 12 colonies, and Admiral Adama – Adama, who witnessed the nuking of his entire civilization, and who shepherded the tattered remnants of the human race across the cosmos to a new home - Adama! - says, "We don't, but it's worth the risk?" IT'S WORTH THE RISK?!!! A species that has already obliterated the human race once, and still has the technology to do it again while Adama's crew have thrown away all of theirs and effectively wiped out even the remotest possibility of defense, and IT'S WORTH THE RISK?!! What the hell?!!!

Just to punch home the theme of the night, the show concludes with a modern day epilogue showing the "angels" aping Baltar and Caprica Six's forms (played throughout the series as guiding delusions but ultimately revealed to be angels, or something like them) strolling Manhattan and watching monster widescreen videos of advances in robotics while pondering whether history – humanity raising technology to such a level that technology wars on humanity - must repeat itself, or whether "they" (we) can break the cycle. It leaves us with the future hinging on our choice, but the last time someone in the series spoke of "breaking the cycle," it was Lee Adama, suggesting the abandonment of technology. What we're left with is a suggestion to turn aside from science and technology, and put our trust in a loving God, who's so loving he lets hundreds of millions of people get murdered so he can lead the others to a new world of his choosing. Between Hera drawing dot pictures that turn out to have musical and numeric values, the Final 5 Cylons and a couple others like Starbuck hearing music from 150,000 years in the future that matches Hera's tone pictures, and Starbuck being a ghost getting a ghostly visit from her musician father, and all the other coincidences and impossibilities that get the colonists to New Earth can only be explained by miracle orchestrated by God.

The problem of bringing God into it is the problem of bringing God into anything proposed as "destiny." In terms laid out by the conclusion, the entirety of the series can be seen as the machinations of a "loving" God to bring 38,000 some-odd humans and assorted Cylons to a new promised land. That's fine, but it involves a cosmic mechanism so detailed as to require His hand going back at least decades, at least as far as the Final 5 contacting the Cylons and Starbuck as a little girl receiving the benediction of The Music from her father. If you conceive the series as God's rescue following the destruction of the Colonies, that's one thing. But all the machinations means God willingly turns a blind eye to the horrific deaths of hundreds of millions of people – their society as presented doesn't exactly smack of Sodom and Gomorrah – in order to "save" 40,000. Even if the ultimate goal is the creation of a new species – us – no God capable of juggling that many balls and guiding that many events would need to go to all that trouble. If it all comes down to God's will, then God is either rather cruel or something of a dope.

Meaning ultimately it's not science fiction at all, but a religious fantasy with sf trappings. Whether it was Moore & co.'s intent all along or a sop to SciFi (whoops, I mean SyFy... which I'm told is Eastern European slang for syphilis, though I've yet to get that verified) management, which notoriously hates science fiction, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, despite production values, writing, acting and directing that for four long years were heads and tails beyond all the other low rent, brainless, derivative original material SyFy craps out in the end was only as good as that. END SPOILERS

Also finally caught the first episode of ASHES TO ASHES, the LIFE ON MARS sequel/knockoff currently running on BBC America (Saturday 6P). SPOOKS' Keeley Hawes plays a profiler cop (trained by the CIA, no less) doing a study on MARS' Sam Tyler when she's shot by a man who has come back for vengeance even though she never heard of him. The David Bowie clown from the "Ashes To Ashes" (now apparently a psychopomp) transports her back to 1981 where she finds herself attached to a special police squad led by the same Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) Tyler worked with. So she comes prepared, though she's not prepared to learn Sam lived a full seven years "back there" following his death at the end of LIFE ON MARS and vanished utterly when he apparently died in 1980.

ASHES TO ASHES was concocted to carry on when John Simm, peeved that his show was constantly short-sheeted by the BBC despite its popularity, refused to do another series. (Glenister recently announced that he'll only do three series of ASHES and that's it, but he has plenty of time to change his tune.) It's a laughably bad show, literally. I was rolling. Hawes struts and preens throughout, and though her character's supposed to be an analytical whiz she jumps to conclusions right and left and can't even follow through the logic of her situation. Despite claiming everything feels ridiculously real (she feels up Glenister to see if his heart beats in his chest) and despite having Sam's testimony as a touchstone, she instantly concludes it's all a fantasy cooked up by her dying brain. Even when the culprit the team chases in 1981 turns out to be the same man who shoots her in 2008. For reasons I can't begin to guess she decides her ticket out is to confront and defeat the shooter, one on one, and that will somehow wake her up, but never for a second considers that if she really is in 1981, then forcefully identifying herself to him and personally crushing his criminal schemes in 1981 might be the impetus for him shooting her modern day. You'd think somewhere along the line she might have at least considered the wisdom of keeping her name out of it. I won't even mention the really stupid things other cops in the show do; between this and SPOOKS, it's like training isn't mandatory for British law enforcement. It's one of those shows that practically pleads with you to not think about it at all. Pass.


Notes from under the floorboards:

Speaking of DC, I'm intrigued by DC's forthcoming WEDNESDAY COMICS, which seems to be a latter day version of ACTION COMICS WEEKLY. That was also a format I found appealing, and from what I understand it sold quite well, and allowed for a fairly rapid exchange of material ala 2000 AD. So why was it cancelled? The story went at the time that FedEx costs became ridiculous, especially as work got later and later. Nowadays, though, widespread Internet access and easy to come by bandwidth should go a long way toward keeping the costs down, since many artists and most writers in the business now work digitally anyway. (Unlike as late as 1996, well after ACW, when Mike Zeck and I did DAMNED digitally and it was all but unheard of.) Anyway, I wish them good luck with it...

I'll get this right yet: Nat Gertler's BLANK COMIC BOOK comes five in a pack for $9.95, not ten. Which concludes our much ado about nothing segment.

As soon as I'm done with this next CAPTAIN ACTION script (yes, among other things I've been writing the CAPTAIN ACTION revival at Moonstone Books, mostly due to my fondness for Gil Kane's late '60s version at DC, though this and that have almost nothing in common) I'll be diving into my exploration of longform comics on the web, so if there are any you want to recommend, you still have time to let me know. In the meantime, go read my longform online comic, ODYSSEUS THE REBEL, over at Big Head Press.

I see that not only are AIG executives who received the much-reviled bonuses out of AIG's portion of the bailout returning those bonuses (presumably to put an end to protests on their front lawns) but AIG has decided to change its irredeemably tainted name, though no new name is yet announced. First Blackwater, now AIG? Who says this isn't the Amoral Bastard Age Of Image Reconstruction?

I also see China, in collaboration with Russia, is pushing for a new worldwide currency to limit the international economic power of the USA and Western Europe. Yeah, I see that catching on. What does China plan to do, use populist 3rd World pressure to get the USA and EU to go along with it? Thanks to the Iraq War we may owe a ton to China, but unless China's economy gets strong again I don't see it browbeating anyone, and their economy's in the dumper because they tied their wagon to American consumer spending and right now American's aren't buying jack, generating layoffs, factory closings and economic instability over there...

For those who wondered, turns out chimpanzees are better than us! Not only can they literally bite someone's face off (seems their instinct when feeling threatened is to smash the enemy's face/jaw so they can't be bitten) but they have built-in GPS allowing them to "choose their routes using a mental map built around geometric coordinates, as opposed to a navigation style based on landmarks for well-traveled routes."

In case you missed it, the latest 2012 Mayan Calendar End Of The World panic theory has the sun spitting out jets of energy that will hypercharge Terran electrical systems into meltdown, resulting in the collapse of the USA, the deaths of millions of Americans, and the destruction of western civilization. In 2012, of course, just to feed popular craziness. Time to switch to a solar power grid, I guess...

It happened in our lifetimes dept: Diebold copped to their voting machines being crap...

By the way, WIRED has a visionary interview with Grant Morrison here

Here's a funny story: a lot of communities in Georgia are are dumping their traffic cameras – the ones that record who runs red lights so they can be ticketed – because a new state law has forced them to keep yellow caution lights going for an extra second, and that one second has cut down stop light violations so much that the cameras have become too expensive to maintain, since ticket revenues are down...

Congratulations to David Gutierrez, the first to spot last week's Comics Cover Challenge theme was "women in red." David wishes to point your attention to comics/animation/life action/blog writer Mark Evanier's endlessly fascinating blog News From ME. Check it out.

For those who came in late, almost every week I run a Comics Cover Challenge: the covers of seven seemingly unrelated comics (thanks to The Grand Comic Book Database for the covers) from throughout comics history are spread, usually not in any particular order, down the column. But a secret theme – it could be a word, a design element, an artist... anything, really - binds them together, and the first one to e-mail me with the correct solution can promote the website of their choice, subject to my approval. IMPORTANT NEW RULE: PLEASE INCLUDE WITH YOUR GUESS THE WEBSITE YOU'D LIKE TO PROMOTE IF YOU WIN. As in most weeks, a secret clue is cleverly hidden somewhere in this column, so you can get a foot in. Good luck.

Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail me but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it's not trying to sell me something. IMPORTANT: Because a lot of people apparently list it in their e-address books, this account has gotten a slew of virus-laden messages lately. They're no real threat but dealing with them eats up time I don't really have, to the extent I can no longer accept unsolicited e-mail with attachments. If you want to send something via attachment (say, art samples) ask me first. If I say okay, then send. Unsolicited e-mail with attachments will be wiped from the server without being read.

IMPORTANT PUBLIC NOTICE OF COLUMN POLICY: any email received in response to a piece run in this column is considered a letter of comment available for printing in the column unless the author specifically indicates it is not intended for public consumption. Unless I check with you or the contents of your e-mail make your identity unavoidably obvious, all letters are run anonymously.

Please don't ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.

The WHISPER NEWSLETTER is now up and running via the Yahoo groups. If you want to subscribe, click here.

I'm reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I'll mention them – at Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074, so send 'em if you want 'em mentioned, since I can't review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can't do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.

TAGS:  battlestar galactica, comic-con international

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