Tagged: Defenders

Mike Gold: Television Is The New Comic Book

GothamAs comics and popular culture fans we’ve got a hell of a year ahead of us, and this time it’s in front of our friendly neighborhood teevee sets.

As you know, Arrow and Agents of SHIELD were picked up for their third and second seasons, respectively. DC has no less than three new shows on three different networks: The Flash on the CW, Constantine on NBC, and Gotham on Fox.

The pilots to Flash and Constantine have appeared courtesy of the usual suspects – except this time, I strongly believe The Flash pilot was leaked by Warners or the CW (note: the last time I paid attention, Warner Bros owned only about 45% of the CW) and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the same was true about Constantine… which, by the way, was leaked right after we all had our chance to go nuts over The Flash. Hmmmm.

Both pilots were worthy of attention. The Flash was better than I suspected; the supporting cast is excellent and I’m very happy to see John Wesley Shipp playing Barry Allen’s dad. Whereas the Constantine pilot features a female lead who will not be the female lead of the actual ongoing series (and that’s too bad), I’ll give them serious points for showing us Doctor Fate’s helmet. A policeman named Jim Corrigan, a.k.a. The Spectre, should show up sometime around Thanksgiving.

The pilot I’d most like to see is Gotham. Everything I’ve heard, read and been told has my Bat-sense tingling, and the few people I know who have seen it are quite positive about the series: each one said he or she thought it was superior to the other two pilots.

The new Daredevil mini-series is already being shot out here in New York; location shooting includes the real Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. The subsequent four Marvel Studios mini-series in The Defenders quintet (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist preceding The Defenders team-up) will follow.

But here’s the bird’s eye lowdown on the next television season (and, yes, I’m taking the broader view of “season” as that term is no longer relevant in its original form). We will have Gotham, Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, and Agents of SHIELD plus an Agent Carter mini-series presumably in the middle of SHIELD’s season, all on broadcast television. And we’ll have The Defenders quintet on Netflix.

That’s 11 shows. Being a fan of Community and Doctor Who, I have no problem with 12 episode seasons. Looking at cable originals, I think writing a dozen episodes per season results in better television.

Getting back to my admittedly vague point, I can’t name 11 comic book-based ongoing prime time television series prior to Arrow. Superman (several versions), Smallville, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, The Hulk, The Flash, Birds of Prey… I’m sure I’m missing one or two, but I said I couldn’t name 11, and I can’t.

Of course we’ve got all these cool Marvel Studios movies, and Warner Bros is at least trying to follow their lead with their Justice League movie run-up. I despair only for Fantastic Four mach 2 and any future iteration of Spider-Man mach2.

I’ve liked what I’ve seen thus far. To be honest, I’ve liked these shows more than I’ve enjoyed their published DC and Marvel counterparts in recent months. For the first time in the 100-year history of superheroes on film and digital, it’s the comic books that now have to catch up.

 

Review: Marc Alan Fishman’s Snarky Synopsis – Ultimate FF #2

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov. Art by Tom Grummett, Mario Guevara, Juan Vlaskco, Scott Hanna, Mark Pennington, Jay Leisten and Rachelle Rosenberg.

Ultimate FFOnce I adopted Eric Larsen’s creed of “all issues are jumping-on issues” I’d like to say I’ve become a better comic reader because of it. Using that motto has removed the excuse “… maybe it’s better if I’d read the backstory” from my fallback position when an issue is subpar. In its place comes the knowledge that a comic can be judged devoid of context. The dialogue can be snappy without previous knowledge of what came before the page you’ve read. More to the point: jump into Silence of the Lambs 45 minutes in and it’s still a great movie. I say all of this because I need you all to understand: Ultimate FF #2 is an absolute top-to-bottom atrocity. No context needed.

Let’s start with the script / plot / words on the page. Joshua Hale Fialkov generally grasps the beats and characterizations of his Future Foundation. Beyond that grasp though, is a mishmash of simplistic and idiotic dialogue awash in a plot dug out of a half-read Dungeons and Dragons campaign, topped liberally with incoherent action sequences to pad things out. The plot as it were: Sue Storm’s FF field team investigates the disappearance of some 130 wealthy Atlanteans. They arrive, things get weird, and then there’s fighting. Tah Dah!

I understand that it’s hard to effectively move a complex plot in only 20 pages or so, but then I think of all the other amazing comic books I’ve read – one shots, parts of a whole, or otherwise – and I come to the bitter conclusion that the modern trope to write for the trade is merely an excuse. I like to equate a single issue of a comic to a single episode of a cartoon. If Ultimate FF #2 were on TV, it’d be akin to one of those 12-minute shorts they traipse out during Adult Swim. It’s short, it’s shallow, and its attempts to ride on more style than substance falls on deaf ears.

All this, and the big ending is a tongue-in-cheek nod to issue three’s impending catfight. Yawn.

While I admit that I’ve not dabbled in the Ultimate universe for years, the tenants and tent-poles that make up the characters must hold true. And Fialkov seems to want only to revel in them without any further exploration. Akin perhaps to the remake of Ocean’s Eleven remake, sans the Julia Roberts subplot. FF here is just Stalwart Sue, Angry Douche Doom, Generic Black Guy Falcon, and Rich Douche Iron Man on a tepid adventure to fight the multiverse, or the garbage therein. That caveat I can buy – it gives us a good excuse as any for this rag tag team of type A’s (minus Falcon, of course) to get into nasty spills. But unlike Matt Fraction’s whimsical Defenders or terse and tepid Others (where that tepidness was a perfect foil), this team is a collection of islands that only know the melody amongst one another. And when the first big reveal gives us Namor, we simply add another tool to the chest. Emphasis on tool.

Artistically, I’m nearly at a loss for words. If you count my accurate list above, you will see that it took seven people to put together twenty pages of loose, scrappy, crappy art. At first, I was almost won over: the delicate inking and detailed underwater environmental renderings were certainly an antithesis to today’s modern photoshoppery. But the devil is in the details, and here Tom Grummett and Mario Guevara fail to deliver on their initial pages’ promise. Figures are jerked and crammed into panels without care or cause. And the litany of inkers scrawl excessive lines throughout, causing tons of unnecessary visual confusion. From Namor’s oddly shaped five-finger forehead and Doom’s spastic cape, to Falcon’s always-hash-shaded-muscles, there’s nary a page that doesn’t contain an obvious rush or flub. And given that over half a dozen people touched this issue? I’m aghast with curiosity as to how this passed mustard with anyone calling themselves an editor. All this, and I haven’t even talked about the colorist!

Long considered the unsung hero of the medium, here Rachelle Rosenberg barely decided to show up. The book itself is a constant juxtaposition of old-school simplistic flat art, layered over generic paper texture, all adding to the facade of an older book. But these tricks belie the truth that this is an ugly ass book and the color choices do nothing to elevate that fact.

While there’s a masochistic part of me that enjoys that no added glows, knockouts, or filtering try to hide the scrawl and plunder, even the most basic color choices here – on model or not – are unflattering and unsettling. And to the person that picked a lime green logo over a purple, blue, and sky blue palate for the team? I implore you to go back to Parsons, and retake fashion design, and color theory.

Perhaps I’ve been too mean, too hard and harsh to poor Joshua Hale Fialkov and company. Or perhaps, I’m apt now to cast a pall on those waste opportunity with the biggest and arguably best comic book publisher in print today. These are revisions of classic characters, in an all but open world, ready for modern spins and serious explorations. In the wake of that opportunity sits this muddled mess of in-fighting, back-biting, and herky-jerky art. Ultimate FF #2 spends too much time trying to be witty and gritty, instead of layering nuance, complexity, and exploration that should be the foundation of the book.

Erik Larsen is right: every comic is a jumping on point… and as such, I suggest those interested in this new iteration of the Future Foundation jump elsewhere.

 

REVIEW: How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your DragonWhen your children grow up and leave home, one of the regrets is that until they give you grandchildren, you have little excuse to go see the fun family films that keep rolling out. As a result, I missed How to Train Your Dragon when it arrived in 2010. I was told by those still with kids that it was a charming, funny film. Thanks to Paramount Home Entertainment, I finally caught up with it now that it has been rereleased today as a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital combo pack.

The unfortunately named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a young Viking growing up on the island of Berk. His father, the better named Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), is the tribe’s chief who insists that the youngsters are taught how to fight the fearsome dragons that share the island. Hiccup is destined for greatness – at least that’s the hope; he’s actually skinny and weak and prone to accidents — when fate shakes things up as he saves an injured young beast named Toothless. They bond and Hiccup is handed a new destiny: he has to convince the tribe that their ways are wrong and that the dragons are really allies not dinner.

It’s an uphill battle complicating with the distracting affection he has Astrid (America Ferrara). She, of course, sees him as annoying, clumsy boy. Their friend Gobbler (Craig Ferguson), a blacksmith. supplies support, crazy mechanical inventions, and even more comic relief.

Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DuBlois do a fine job adapting Cressida Cowell’s young adult novel. They make it heartwarming and funny, charming and goofy without tripping over the line and getting excessive on any account.

The current high definition disc is a visual treat for young and old alike. The 1080p transfer is pristine, keeping all the color bright and vibrant. Coupled with the wonderful 7.1 Dolby TrueHD lossless soundtrack, the viewing experience at home is superb, matching the film’s entertainment value.

This edition comes with a sticker on the slipcover offering $7.50 off a movie ticket for June’s obviously named How to Train Your Dragon 2. There are a bunch of extras carried over from earlier editions of the film such as the filmmaker’s commentary, a trivia track, the PiP feature “The Animators’ Corner”, and the featurettes “The Story Behind the Story” (7:40), “The Technical Artistry of Dragon” (10:13), “Viking-Sized Cast” (11:44), and “How to Draw a Dragon” (10:52).

New additions, and welcome ones, include “Frozen” (22:41), billed as an “exclusive episode” of the TV show Dragons: Defenders of Berk; “Book of Dragons” (17:38), a short that provides additional details about the fire-breathing dragons; Ultimate Book of Dragons, an interactive feature; and, Gobber’s Training Secrets” (2:10), a series of short vignettes about dragons.

Two more extras — the short film “Legend of the BoneKnapper Dragon” (16:33), and deleted scenes (7:33) – can only be found on the DVD.

John Ostrander: Television – Coming, Going, and Staying

The word is getting out on the end of this TV season and what’s coming for the start of the next. A lot of the shows, hit or miss, are not things that I watch. Some of them are very good shows – or so I’m told – that either I just never got into or didn’t appeal to me. They may be on channels that I just don’t get (i.e. Showtime) or subscription services to which I do not subscribe (Hulu, Netflix, and so on).

Arrow has been renewed and I’m a regular viewer. It’s a good show, if not my favorite, but I keep watching to see when/if Amanda Waller shows up. Amanda, in whatever shape or form she takes, generates “revenue sharing” for me so I’m usually happy to see her. Not so much this past week. (SPOILER ALERT) I try to hold off on commenting on other people’s take on Amanda but this seems to me to be a fundamental misreading of her essential character.

As I noted previously, Waller is tough and she can be ruthless but she’s not evil and she’s not stupid. In Arrow she’s willing to nuke an American city to take out a threat. Send in the militia, sure; put everything under martial law? Not unreasonable, given the episode’s scenario of super-powered thugs are taking over the city under the leadership of a murderous psychopath. Calling in the Suicide Squad? That’s why they were created.

Going the nuclear option? Frankly, ridiculous. I can see that they would want a “ticking clock” to add suspense to the final episode but does anybody really think that Arrow isn’t going to save the city?

I was hoping maybe they would do a spin-off of the Suicide Squad but now that seems unlikely. That’s a shame. I think the Squad would have real potential as a TV series but, of course, I’m biased.

Not sure if I’m going to watch Arrow any more.

They are doing a spin off from Arrow in the form of The Flash next fall and, yes, I’ll be watching it. There are some other DC inspired shows on other channels showing up. The one I’m most interested in is Constantine, which I think has real potential if they just don’t muck it up. Yes, I’m looking at you, Syfy, and how you bollixed The Dresden Files.

Marvel will also be a presence. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been renewed and, I must say, this one has been a surprise for me. I’d been so-so about it until it tied into the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and has gotten real interesting. I haven’t yet seen the season finale and don’t know how they’ll wind it up for now but they have me wanting to see it.

They’ve also scheduled a sort of companion series, Marvel’s Agent Carter which will be a period piece starring Captain America’s great love, Peggy Carter, at the start of S.H.I.E.L.D. just after WW2. It’s a spin-off of the Marvel One Shot short, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can sell it but I’m intrigued.

Right now, DC seems to be dominating on the TV screens the way that Marvel is dominating at the movies, but Marvel also has something cooking with Netflix that could be a game changer. They’re cooking up four series (centering on Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones) and then having them all in a miniseries as a group based on The Defenders. That’s ballsy and I’ll probably become a Netflix subscriber at that point if I haven’t joined before then just to see it.

I’m a bit surprised that Castle got picked up again. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been a big fan of the show. Nathan Fillion is terrific, charming, funny and well matched with Stana Katic. The two have a great rapport and chemistry and it would be fun to watch them do almost anything.

However, the show is getting a little long in the tooth and sometimes shows it. They did an episode a few weeks back that involved everyone pretending to be in the Disco 70s. I won’t go into why; let’s just say it stretched my willing suspension of disbelief past the snapping point. You may remember the phrase “jumping the shark” connoting when a TV series has gone too far. It was generated by an episode of Happy Days when a waterskiing Fonzie (still in his leather jacket) jumped over a shark. My Mary noted that this episode of Castle had the shark jumping Fonzie.

Castle himself doesn’t have the same fun and snap of earlier episodes. He’s not the bad boy or quite as outrageous as he was earlier. He and Kate Beckett, his partner and flame, have not only admitted they are in love but it looks like they’re getting married in this year’s season finale. I’m not sure if the writers know how to make that work and keep the characters as lively as they once were. However, the show has been renewed for another season so I maybe we’ll find out.

The only real disappointment on the cancellation scene for me is Fox’s Almost Human. I came in late on the series but I found it intelligently written, well acted, and good production values. I would have liked to see more.

Overall, my greatest concern is that all this could burn out the audience – both on TV and on the silver screen – for superheroes. I think it’s inevitable but, in the meantime, if the quality remains high, it’ll be a good time to be a comics’ geek.

 

Mike Gold: It’s Not Your Father’s Boob Tube Anymore

Gold Art 140122It just started to snow out here in the Atlantic Northeast. I got the mandatory robo-call from our mayor telling us the world is coming to its end. There’s just enough white stuff on the ground for a 1980s yuppie to slip into a twitchy nostalgic daze. Going outside would be stupid: people out here don’t know how to drive on snow, and they act as though a little bit of snow is a sign from their lord telling them they’re going to hell. Which, given the fact this is snow and not hot hail, seems oxymoronic.

I’d give up and just watch television, but I really haven’t enjoyed daytime television since Phil Donohue got liquored up and threated to bite Mike Douglas’s balls off, and besides, odds are in favor of my losing power for at least a while. The good news is, I’ve got lots of stuff on my iPad – including work – and I can recharge that in my car. The better news is, pretty soon we’ll all have access to a lot more fun stuff.

Perhaps you heard that Marvel Studios is cutting out a slice of the MCU and taking it to Netflix as a whole bunch of mini-serieses: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, each with its own 13 episode series, each set in Hell’s Kitchen, and then winding up with a big mini called “The Defenders.”

That’s pretty cool. I like the idea of programming coming from non-broadcast and non-cable sources, and I like both House of Cards and Alpha House on Netflix and Amazon Prime, respectively. Marvel says that Netflix gives them the ability to do more fan-friendly teevee; that’s either a really good idea or a threat. We’ll see.

Now comes word that another comics creation is coming to TabletVision. Amazon Studios is paying for the long-in-development Barbarella pilot, based upon Jean-Claude Forest classic science-fiction comic from the 1960s. Skyfall writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are still on board to write the series.

I don’t think any of these projects would have made it on cable teevee, and certainly not on broadcast. Oh, sure, maybe Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist or Luke Cage, but not all four tying into a fifth mini-series. As for Barbarella, well, the campy movie doesn’t transfer well into the 21st Century, but the comic book does. We’ll see which path it takes… and how salacious they can be.

With the recent, massive improvement of Agents of SHIELD, Fox’s Gotham pilot (which sounds like it has great potential), NBC’s John Constantine pilot, and ABC’s Agent Carter pilot (I loved the Marvel One-Shot on the Iron Man 3 Blu-Ray), I’m actually a lot more enthusiastic about teevee comics than their four-color counterparts at Marvel and DC.

And they’re willing to put it all on my lap, or, through AppleTV or similar devices, on my HDTV.

For free… well, pretty much.

Thank you.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Tweeks!

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

 

Netflix Commissions 4 Marvel Series Leading to The Defenders

David Slade Exits Fox’s DaredevilMarvel’s cinematic Avengers will be joined on the smaller screen by The Defenders, the culmination of four series just commissioned by Netflix. Luke Cage, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist were announced this by Variety morning as each receiving thirteen episode commitments. The linking device is that all four series will be set in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, which, in the comics, has been Daredevil’s base of operations dating back to the 1970s.

This rumored set of series was revealed without naming producers, writers, showrunners or casting but would be expected to debut some time in 2014. The announcement did not acknowledge if this quartet of series will be set in the same reality as the film series. If so, it would also connect these shows to ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Netflix has received great attention thanks to their original series, a move now being imitated this month by Amazon Prime and soon by Hulu and YouTube. Their House of Cards was the first internet series to receive an Emmy nomination and will be back for a second season in the winter. The pay channel’s Orange is the New Black is their most watched original series and will also be back for a second season, as will their Hemlock Grove.

Since Jeph Loeb was added as a VP for filmed material, Marvel has filled in a vital gap with live-action television, something they seemed unable to crack. Beyond these four, and the subsequent Defenders teamup project, Marvel has been said to be eyeing a Peggy Carter spinoff based on the short film with Haylee Atwell that was attached to the home video release of Iron Man 3. Other series apparetly also ebing pitched to other networks.

Disney’s Marvel movies will move from Starz to Netflix after the current dea for the studio’s output expires in 2015, just in time for The Avengers 2.

DC Entertainment aso has numerous television series in development, mostly at their co-owned CW network with the Flash expected for the 2014-15 season. Fox is also developing a Gotham City series featuring young James Gordon, long before Bruce Wayne first dons the cape and cowl.

Marc Alan Fishman: Fantastically Phoning It In

As I write this, my Bears are presently phoning in a performance so bad I’m opting to write my article instead. The game is on, yes. But, frankly, I’m not even paying attention. I guess I owe my bad-news-Bears a debt of gratitude, though. They are giving me the inspiration for a column this week.

Nothing grinds my gears more than a weak start. And this week past, a comic that should have been a touchdown upon reception was a weak three-and-out worthy of the finger wagging like no other. Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley’s relaunched Marvel Now Fantastic Four #1 was a let down of mammoth proportions. And it warrants a bit of a rant.

Generally speaking I like to keep my reviews (chock full of piss and vinegar) over at Michael Davis World. But I was too elated by Gail Simone’s Batgirl this week past to waste time setting fire the ‘Four. To be honest? I read the book, said “Meh,” and figured that I owed it to Fraction to give him some time to warm up. As I took a long and angry trip to my can in between botched Bear’s offensive drives, I flipped through the book once more. Maybe it’s the fact that my team is 20 points down and can’t move the ball more than my infant son. Maybe it’s the few pages I flipped to with glaringly awful moments that caused the rise in blood pressure. Either way, this book is bad.

Giving a favorite writer a pass because they’ve delivered solid performances in books prior is something I’ve done all the time. Hell, it’s the entire reason I still read Green Lantern. But it hit me; these are the pros. They are being given an opportunity I would literally kill for. Who or what would I kill? I dunno. An editor, probably. But I digress. Matt Fraction has written some amazing issue 1’s. His Invincible Iron Man, Defenders, and The Order all jump to mind. In each, Fraction is able to introduce his characters, set the tone of the book, and build a considerable world rich with continuity, but wholly original. In Fantastic Four #1, his dialogue is sloppy, his plotting predictable, and his tone is somewhere between “kiddie cocktail” and “phoning it in.”

For a man who likes the long game? Here he’s nearly parodying himself. Twenty pages of content, of which only two move the story in any direction forward. The rest? A wink, nod, and circle-jerk of continuity-heavy references and in-jokes. Number one indeed.

In The Order and The Defenders, Fraction proved to me he knew how to handle a team book. Moments are given to all the players, and in each tight scene he’s able to interject depth and clarity. He gave us a recovering alcoholic in Henry Hellrung. The other side of the coin to Tony Stark. He gave us a Steven Strange who was coherent of his foibles, but decidedly stubborn enough to ignore them. The key here was Fraction showing how he could take continuity and reshape it to match a new direction. That all being said… in a single issue of his Fantastic Four, he’s only able to deliver a single cliched plot direction, and a handful of watered down scenes built from scraps of Jonathan Hickman.

One of the few problems I had with Hickman’s run concerned the usage of ole’ blue eyes himself. The Thing was mainly sidelined due to the lack of punchable things in the very science-heavy arch. Given the pedigree of Red She-Hulk’s depiction in The Defenders gave me hope to see a Thing with a bit more depth, verve, and humor. Instead, Fraction warms up the tuba for a Yancy Street Gang joke on Ben Grimm. And when the Thing speaks? We get line after hackney’d line suitable only if he were being written for an SNL skit.

In other plot lines, we get yet-another scene of Johnny Storm showing that he’s the cocky brash ass we all know and love, and the totally mature death-defying wunderkind. He gives his cellphone number out to the gal he loves. Yippee. Sue gets to be the same invisible-to-the-fans mother role she was written to play. For a women I expect to be one of the smartest in the 616, she seems awfully daft here… not being able to read her rubber husband’s transparent motivations. And to round out the book? Franklin “Deus Ex Machina” Richards foretells of eeeeeevil afoot. It’s plot-by-the-numbers, and we deserve better.

Over in the art department, we get Mark Bagely. There was a time when I was truly enamored by his work. His work-horse attitude, and nuanced designs helped cement Ultimate Spider-Man’s first six arcs wonderfully. He was eventually poached by DC, where he was given Trinity – a series most of us would care to forget about, art included. Now back at the House of Mouse, he’s firing on all-cylanders… as a watered down John Romita Jr., delivering no memorable visual save for perhaps the last splash page.

Suffice to say, the Bears laid down and took it up the tail pipe tonight. After rereading Fantastic Four #1, I am clear in thinking Matt Fraction did much of the same. He came into the game with a crowd hungry for the next chapter. Instead, he spins his wheels, sputters trying to pick up pieces that were already left put back on the shelf neatly enough. This is not a new beginning. This is not Now. This is the a waste of my money and one I’m not likely to forget. I know the book will bounce back. But a loss is a loss. And this loss hurt something fierce.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Marc Alan Fishman: The Top 5 Comics I’d Like To See

In an effort anger the Internet – and save me the time of writing too much – I figured this week I’d take a trip into Fantasy Land. Here is a list, simple and to-the-point, of five books I’d love to see hit the stands. This probably won’t happen unless we’re on Earth 29.

The Avengers: Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Peter Krause.

With his ability to handle a multitude of characters (see his run on Justice Society, or to a lesser degree, Justice League) and draw from countless years of continuity to craft original tales, John’s would deftly deliver a truly epic arc for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Peter Krause (of Irredeemable fame) has an amazing ability to show emotion, and a wide range of your more traditional superheroes. Put together? I think the fans would assemble in droves for a chance to see the premier Marvel team run through the proverbial wringer. And with John’s latent ability to hone lesser villains (see Captain Cold, or his subtle shifting and deepening of Sinestro), no doubt this impossible title would be one for the ages.

Green Lantern: Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Mike Norton.

Brian Michael Bendis could do perhaps what no other writer has done for Hal Jordan in the last 10 years of his comic booking career: he could make me give a damn about Hal. Bendis, master of the talking head page, could instill the much-needed pathos to what has basically been a cardboard cutout of a hero since his “rebirth.” Given his pedigree and ability to craft subtle, nuanced characters, I’ve little doubt his emerald knight would finally be a human being, akin to the Ultimate Peter Parker, with far more years under his power-ringed belt. And with Mike Norton’s clean, concise, and emotive style? Well, I think the book would look as sharp as it read. Norton’s often forgotten runs on Blue Beetle and Green Arrow proved to me long ago, he’s the go-to guy when you need stalwart presentation.

DC Kids Cavalcade: Written by Art Baltazar, Franco, and Keith Giffen, Art by Katie Cook, Art and Franco, Jill Thompson, and a Troop of Others.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. “Anthologies don’t sell.” Well, maybe they would if the stories and art in them wasn’t always a crap shoot, maybe it’d have a chance. I’d kill to see a monthly rag where the funniest minds in comics met with an endless parade of the most kid-friendly artists. Give us a chance to see Katie Cook’s Batman saga or “Tails From The Litter Box: The Midadventures of Dex-Starr.” Pair Giffen’s sharp wit with Art’s never-not-cute style. What could be more perfect for young readers, than a never-ending series where each issue packs in a brand new kid-friendly (but with plenty of Easter eggs for adults) tale? Nothing that I can think of, darn-it.

Thunderbolts: Plotted by John Ostrander, Scripted by Gail Simone, Art by Ethan Van Sciver

No, I’m not just pandering for my close and personal friend John Ostrander. OK, maybe I am a little. But hear me out. Ostrander’s original run on the Suicide Squad is just an amazing piece of sequential fiction. His ability to mine realism in the face of the absurdity of comics is unparalleled. Match this with the wit and charm of Gail Simone? You get yourself one fancy-assed book about ne’er-do-wells. It stands to note I found Simone’s Secret Six to be the sleeper hit of DC in the mid-aughts. Certainly her pitch-perfect evil side would pair well with John’s, and together they could craft a story about Marvel villains trying to change the world. Since Marvel doesn’t really have an “evil only” book per say, I’d think this’d be an interesting one to see. Pair them with Gail’s buddy Ethan Van Details? And you have a gory and beautiful mess on your hands. Van Sciver’s meticulous style would be great to see, when there’s no forced lighting, constructs, or fire being forced into every panel. When its time for poop to hit the fan though? There’s no one better for the art duties.

Metal Men: Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Chris Burnham.

Last but not least, a title so impossible to exist, 14 editors just burst out laughing over how unsellable it’d be. This iteration of the Metal Men would be a mash-up of sorts. Fraction has proved he’s got the uncanny (natch) ability to build slow, methodical tales without boring his audience to tears. And based on his most current work on the Defenders, he’s proven he can be witty to boot. Pair him with the “in-the-prime-of-his-career” Burnham, whose carefully crafted dynamic figure work is second to none, and you have a book that’d look as sharp as the titular metallic men in question. Fraction could world-build around the odd duck Doc Magnus, but not lose the fun always associated with the franchise. Toss in some climactic battles with new versions of Chemo, Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, or Monsieur Mallah and the Brain… and you have a perfectly unsellable train wreck – that I’d buy 10,000 copies of.

BONUS! GrimJack: Written and drawn by Unshaven Comics.

What? Boys are allowed to dream!

OK, Internet. Time to tell me how wrong I am! Or better yet? Pitch your impossible book below. We’ll take a vote, make a petition, and incite riots for the best idea. Now, go do that voodoo that you do so well.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

Lobo co-creator Roger Slifer in critical condition after hit-and-run

rogerslifer Lobo co creator Roger Slifer in critical condition after hit and run
Veteran comics writer Roger Slifer is fighting for his life after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in Santa Monica, CA. it’s being reported on Twitter and elsewhere. Best known as the co-creator of Lobo, Slifer, 57, has worked as an editor and writer in the comics, animation and video game industries. According to reports, Slifer was struck by a white sedan at Fifth Street and Colorado Avenue early Saturday morning and taken to Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center, where he remains in critical condition with a serious brain injury.

Friend Flint Dille has been updating the situation:

Okay, here’s what I know. We had originally thought of keeping this quiet, because Roger is a fairly private guy, but as word is out and time might be of the essence if we’re going to find the hit-and-run driver, I’ll post what I know.

Roger is in Ronald Reagan Hospital at UCLA (I have not been in to see him, but his friends Will and Barry have). He is in intensive care. The nurse on duty could only tell me that he was in critical condition with a brain injury. Will and Barry said that he was unresponsive, but was heavily medicated since they had to do some brain surgery. I think the truth is that nobody knows what will happen. Prayers would be a good thing.

On the criminal front, it would be a very good thing to find the driver, not only for reasons of justice, but also insurance. We have no idea what Roger Slifer’s insurance situation is, but we suspect that it would be extremely helpful for medical bills.

The problem at the moment is that the Santa Monica Police do not seem to be making as much progress as they should. Some phone calls might be helpful. I’ll put everything I know in the next entry.

Dille’s report continues in the above link. A search is currently underway for the hit-and-run vehicle. Although there are security cameras it’s not known if they captured the license plate or not. The flyer below has been put up:

201206261109 Lobo co creator Roger Slifer in critical condition after hit and run

Slifer’s situation is eerily and horribly reminiscent of his contemporary Bill Mantlo, who has never recovered from a similar accident.

Hopefully Slifer will have a full recovery and the driver who nearly killed him will be found.

Marc Alan Fishman: Help! I’m A Marvel Zombie!

Seriously, it happened so slowly, I never saw it coming. It’s long been a fact: Marc Alan Fishman is a card carrying member of the DC Nation. But then, something changed. Flashpoint was one epic-crossover-super-event-that-changed-everything too many. With the New 52, I’d made a steadfast rule: In order to conserve money and my sanity, any book that delivered two issues in a row that left me bored or was just terrible I would remove from my pull list.

Like every red-blooded nerd worth his salt, when a book is dropped from my box, I can’t help but seek to replace it with something new. And now that I look across the board, Marvel is now on equal footing, book-for-book with my pull list for DC.

More important, every Marvel book on that list is one that when I see it on the shelf, I get truly excited. Truth be told, I get Blue Beetle, Batgirl, Justice League Dark, Green Lantern Corps, and Resurrection Man – and they are good comics, but none of them excite me anymore. I’m slowly coming to terms with it; New 52 be damned… Make Mine Marvel.

Simply put, right now Marvel is putting out better books than DC. I welcome the flame war and argument from the interwebs. Based solely on the Marvel books I’ve read in the last three-four months, DC pales in comparison in story depth, quality, scope, and clarity. A few examples, you ask?

Take the Fantastic Four. Jonathan Hickman’s run on the title has been compared to Kirby and Lee’s initial run; and said with sincerity. His “War of the Four Cities” multi-year arc was as epic as any DC “Crisis” without the multitude of mini-series. While it did spawn a second book, FF, the grandeur has been well contained. Even better, FF brings the ideology of the family and creates an excuse to explore more of the Baxter Building collective without over-saturation. It’s a riff, not a rip-off. Compare this to the four Green Lantern titles being pumped out at DC and you can see how a little consolidation can really tighten up a title’s overall quality.

How about the newly relaunched Defenders? Matt Fraction’s “vacation” title is a glorious send up to an old and mostly forgotten secondary team… dusted off, polished up, and presented wonderfully in the modern age. While only five issues in, I’ve been nothing but impressed up until now. In fact, Defenders #4 easily tops my list of best comics I’ve read for the year. The year is early, yes, but amongst dozens and dozens of issues, I’ve little doubt it won’t falter from my top ten by years end. It’s a comic not afraid to be written with a smirk… that knows when to be deadly serious, or just go for the nut shot. Something Justice League International tried to do, and fell on its face for attempting.

For those following my reviews on Michael Davis World, you’ll no doubt also note my recent jaunt into Spider-Land with the Amazing Spider-Man title. With the promise of the “Ends of the Earth” storyline being a good jumping on point for new readers, I dove into a title and character I’ve always wanted to read, but never did because of the bad mojo that came with the book. Ask anyone about Spider-Man’s most recent bullet points and I doubt you’ll see a face light up when discussing One More Day, the Other, or even Spider-Island. That being said, the series thus far has been a joyous romp. A Saturday morning cartoon concept with a hidden maturity, that has a perfect balance of comic-book-quirk with well thought out plot development.

And over in Invincible Iron Man? Well, Matt Fraction is proving what a truly potent writer he is by shaking off the grime of the horrendous Fear Itself crossover crud and taking his baby book back to form. His long-winding plot of Mandarin’s careful and calculated destruction of Tony Stark has been a slow burn that’s been a long time coming. And when everything recently came to a head, we got a moment in comics I’ve dreamed of reading since I finished The Watchmen – an arc where the hero loses because he’s been out-matched. It was bold, ballsy, and has me chomping at the bit for more.

All this, and I’ve not even mentioned Daredevil or Ultimate Spider-Man. I’d love to, but well… I’ve not read them yet. But they are high on the list for me to catch up on, the second the next DC book takes a dive in my box. Resurrection Man? I’m looking at you.

Now, of course, Marvel isn’t perfect. Just a few weeks back on my podcast, a lifelong X-Men fan told me he’d literally given on comics all together because of the terrible decline of his favorite mutants. And let’s give credit where credit is due: Fraction and Hickman’s bold pacing is very much in-step with Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison’s work on Green Lantern and Batman over the last 60 or so issues. Anyone who read “Batman R.I.P.” can see what “The War of the Four Cities” or most of the run on Invincible Iron Man is being inspired by (not directly mind you… but certainly in conceptual scope). And DC is not without its own amazing titles. Action Comics, Batman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Green Lantern always float to the top of my reading pile when I pick them up.

This of course leads me to ask the bigger questions. Was the New 52 not powerful enough overall to keep me from being lured away? Is Marvel just in a great rhythm right now? Will X-Men vs. Avengers cause some major crisis to interrupt all the goodness coming out in their top titles? Or with the second wave of new books (Dial H and JSA are both looking mighty fine to me…) hitting shelves soon, will DC reclaim me?

Don’t worry, I’ll let you know.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander Feeds The Chickens