Tagged: United States

Wildstorm’s “World’s End” Relaunch Examined

Wildstorm’s “World’s End” Relaunch Examined

Over at io9, the website’s resident comics expert Graeme McMillan has put together a nice analysis of the events leading up to the current "World’s End" relaunch of DC’s Wildstorm line. I was pleasantly surprised by the recent issues #1 of Wildcats and The Authority — mainly because I’ve been a fan of both these series for quite a while and been both terribly excited and subsequently disappointed by prior attempts at re-establishing the universe around each series.

The new Wildstorm status quo places its superheroes in a world ravaged by events that they share much of the blame for, and this dynamic provides the opportunity for stories that have always been relegated to one-shot or "What If?" status elsewhere. So, I guess you can color me intrigued.

Here, McMillan provides a quick assessment of recent Wildstorm history:

This isn’t the first time that the Wildstorm line has gone all out for change; in 2003, their Coup D’Tat series had the Authority depose the US Government and set themselves up as dictators of the United States, before they realized that they couldn’t be bothered with all the paperwork. But with fans still hurting about 2006’s failed Worldstorm relaunch (which died when Grant Morrison’s core two series Wildcats and The Authority disappeared after one and two issues, respectively), will even the end of the world get them interested in checking out the series again?

Like McMillan, I’m impressed with the decision to change the Wildstorm Universe so dramatically — and I’m also hoping there isn’t a deus ex machina in the works at this point. For more on the new Wildstorm U and some thoughts from creators on why it was necessary, head over to io9.

Review: ‘Astro City: Dark Age’ by Kurt Busiek

Kurt Busiek’s brain is about average-sized, I assume. And yet it contains this entire city, detailed down to every last resident’s personality and scrap of trash in the street.

His mastery of [[[Astro City]]] is on full display in the latest collection of the WildStorm series, The Dark Age ($29.99). Busiek ventures back to the not-so-pleasant past to tell the story of two brothers who go on very different paths amidst the chaos of superheroes and villains.

We’ve seen plenty of examples of superhero stories told in a down-to-earth way, or viewed from the average man’s perspective, maybe most notably in Busiek’s acclaimed [[[Marvels]]] with Alex Ross (who provides the killer cover at right). Neither of those elements is what sets Astro City apart, though they fuel its success.

Rather, its the depth to which Busiek explores the brothers’ lives (and those of everyone else). Charles and Royal Williams go through childhood tragedy and end up on opposite ends of the law.

Each is plagued in his own way by the super-powered element, with the bombastic battles tearing Astro City apart.


A Billion Dollars Worth Of Respect, by Dennis O’Neil

A Billion Dollars Worth Of Respect, by Dennis O’Neil

You saw the story, posted here on our own beloved website a couple of days ago: comic book movies have earned over a billion United States dollars this summer, despite an iffy economy that may or may not have something to do with those loveable funsters who frolick near the Potomac.

(I’m writing this Sunday evening. A hundred and sixty nine days. Tickticktick… And please excuse the digression.)

So the aspirations of those folk we mentioned last week – to be respectable and accepted and part of the mainstream – has been realized, though only a few of them are still around to enjoy whatever perks this brings.

Check it out. A billion-with-a-B-dollars! Oh sure, we comics guys have not had to hide our shame for quite a while now. There are the postage stamps and gigs at places like the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian and classes taught at major universities and whole sections of bookstores devoted to comics material and if you donate the graphic novels you won’t read again to your local library, they’ll probably be accepted, maybe even with a smile. But in our world, and in most others that I know about, material goods are the emblems of what the citizenry considers success. And that bil will buy a lot of material goods.

Someone – I have no idea who – observed that one of the ways to discern a society’s values is to look at its architecture: in the middle ages, in Europe, the cathedral was the biggest building in the burg. Now? Well, about a mile from where I’m sitting is the biggest, and some would say ugliest, structure in Rockland County and it ain’t a church, amigos, it’s a shopping mall.


Review: ‘Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front’

In many ways, Bill Mauldin lived out the American Dream, starting out as a physically unimposing ‘desert rat’ in the southwest, then joining the army and becoming a star soldier-cartoonist, and retiring as one of the best known editorial cartoonists in the country. He died in 2003.

In his new biography, Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front, author Todd DePastino takes that famous life and digs out all the strange truths, the contradictions, the unknown motivations. Mauldin was a deeply conflicted man, DePastino finds, alternatively successful and unhappy because of his deep drive for acceptance.

Born in 1921 to a rough and tumble family, Mauldin had little going for him as a child besides an aptitude for art. In his teens, he went to Chicago to study, but despite a prodigious output he had little success landing his cartoons.

With no other options (like many other enlistees), Mauldin signed up for the army and started cartooning for a service newsletter. From the start, his work focused on the lives of the grunts, who trudged through mud and faced the disrespect of superiors.

Using Mauldin’s writings, interviews and those cartoons, DePastino follows the young, driven man as he developed as a person and illustrator. And, soon enough, followed him over the Atlantic into the hell of World War II.


Cartoonists Of The World Unite, by Dennis O’Neil

Cartoonists Of The World Unite, by Dennis O’Neil

The television and movie Writers Guild strike lurches into its ninth week. If it goes on much longer, we may be doomed to even more staged “reality” and contest shows. Might be a good time to rekindle a book reading habit.
I’ve heard grumbling from folk who work that side of the street to the effect that the strike could have been better managed. Although I’m technically a member of the Guild, I don’t have an opinion – about the strike, that is. Two years ago, I was told that since I hadn’t done any United States television work for a decade, I was being put on retired status, which means, I think, that I can still benefit from the Guild’s services, but I don’t have to pay dues or have my mail box filled with notices of seminars and other industry events. 
All fine with me.
About the Guild, as separate from the strike, I do have an opinion. I think the Guild is a noble organization, one that does exactly what a union should do, and no more. It collectively bargains, it protects members’ rights; it offers education and retirement benefits. And membership costs are more than reasonable. The current disagreement is over whether/how much writers should benefit from ancillary use of their stuff, mostly new media and computer related. I can imagine no sane reason why writers should not get such benefits, but I admit to bias.


Shopping Bag People, by Martha Thomases

Shopping Bag People, by Martha Thomases

As you read this, the shopping malls are jammed. Many opened in the dark, with special sales to attract the first shoppers. The news programs will have stories about how many people got trampled trying to buy an item marked down a lot, and perhaps a heartwarming piece about a child who buys something for a poor family.

It’s the holidays.

Most of the world’s religions, major and minor, celebrate the passing of the Winter Solstice when the days stop getting darker and the light begins to return. It is a hopeful time. Whatever your traditions, you probably enjoy gathering with family and/or friends, eating and drinking, celebrating the return of the sun.

In the United States for most of the last century, the holidays are also the time to balance the books. Stores that might lose money all year count on the fourth quarter – October through December – to turn a profit. The day after Thanksgiving is dubbed, “Black Friday,” because that’s the day the red ink should stop.


DENNIS O’NEIL: Saturday Noon

DENNIS O’NEIL: Saturday Noon

Saturday noon, and it still hadn’t arrived. Voldemort’s work? Or the machinations of something a bit more prosaic – book ninjas, maybe, or gremlins? But no. We fretted in vain. At about three, the doorbell rang, and there he was – Mr. Delivery Man, bearing our own copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

(I don’t think a spoiler warning is really necessary at this point – is there anyone who doesn‘t know Harry’s fate? – but what the hell, consider yourself warned.)

Soon, Marifran was in bed, reading – yes – the end of the novel. I asked her if Harry survives and she said that he does. Whew. The next evening, daughter Meg phoned from Seattle. She’s already finished it, all 759 pages. Do all bank vice-presidents spend their weekends reading?

What kind of people are these? What sort of mutated family did I marry into?

Me, I plan to wait for the movie. But I’m glad the book’s doing well. Better that gobs of money go to J.K. Rowling, who comports herself with some dignity, than to yet another deluded, sad young woman who calls attention to her desperate self by displaying what, in gentler times, would be seen only by her mate or her gynecologist.

Of course, not everyone is profiting by Ms. Rowling’s success. Independent bookshops, in order to compete with chains and on-line venues, are selling the book at such steep discounts that their profit is slim to none. And news reports tell us that just because a lot of kids are reading the Potter series doesn’t mean that they’ll read anything else. Apparently, Harry’s sui generis and after Deathly Hallows, it’s back to the tube for many.

But surely some kids will try other printed entertainment, once Harry teaches them that what’s printed can, in fact, be entertaining. Or so those of us who worry about the future of these United States can hope. Al Gore’s new and excellent book, The Assault on Reason (which I recommended last week) tells us that “…the parts of the human brain that are central to the reasoning process are continually activated by the very act of reading printed words…the passivity associated with watching television is at the expense of activity in parts of the brain associated with abstract thought, logic, and the reasoning process…An individual who spends four and a half hours a day watching television is likely to have a very different pattern of brain activity from an individual who spends four and a half hours reading.”

So, my understanding of Mr. Gore is, reading is not virtuous because it’s what grandma and grandpa did for fun, but because it stimulates a part of the brain that may be both underused and useful.

Is Harry Potter our new, albeit fictional, messiah? Well, no. We don’t want to take it that far. But given the current crop of wannabe saviors, we could do worse.

RECOMMENDED READING: Understanding McLuhan, by W. Terrence Gordon, illustrations by Susan Willmarth.

Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of comic books like Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern and/or Green Arrow, and The Shadow, as well as all kinds of novels, stories and articles.

MIKE GOLD: The Darknight Contrarian

MIKE GOLD: The Darknight Contrarian

I used to have a reputation for sometimes being kind of negative. That comes with the career in radio and “journalism,” and I’ve worked at overcoming it. But, like most childhood pleasures, not using a skill doesn’t mean you no longer know how to use it.

For example. I have come to the conclusion that the Paris Hilton affair has become a legitimate news story (it didn’t start out that way), and that she got screwed.

After listening to a bunch of experts and pundits and reporters, it seems pretty clear to me that Hilton is doing time for being Paris Hilton – people in similar situations, and, sadly, there’s no shortage of them – would be given community service or pay a fine or be under house confinement. Being locked up at the taxpayers’ expense for such a violation is nearly unheard of. And, yes, in California as well as most of the rest of these United States the sheriff is charged to run his prisons as he sees fit.

Hilton was busted for violating her plea agreement. As such, she was real stupid. Hilton is despised for being an “artificial” celebrity, as if there’s any other kind, and for being a whinny spoiled brat. I understand; she is a whinny spoiled brat. But that’s not against the law; if it were, I’d have a much, much easier time going shopping here in Fairfield County Connecticut.

So Hilton is serving time not for breaking the law but for being a high-profile stupid whiny brat. She has my sympathy; fair is fair and, as she said while she was being hauled off to the slammer kicking and screaming for her mommy, this is not fair.

For example. Everybody seems bent out of shape about the conclusion to The Sopranos, including ComicMix’s own John Ostrander.  I think the ending was fine. Not great, not awesome, but exactly on the money.
This is a show that lost its raison d’être the moment actress Nancy Marchand died, back in 2000. Her character, momma Livia Soprano, was the story’s anchor. Without her, the plot never was as compelling, nor was it as understandable. It was reduced to its core element: Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, the family of Made Men.

And that’s what the ending was all about. It didn’t matter if Tony got wacked in the restaurant in front of his family. If it didn’t happen then, if could just as easily happen the next day or the day after. Being a mob boss is not a “safe” job – Al Capone ran his mob for about seven years, and was only a functioning operative in that mob for a total of about a dozen years.

Here’s the proof: midway through that final episode, Anthony Junior became Christopher Moltisanti, which, as we all know, is what his father should have wanted all along. He got the mob-connected job in the film business, he got the mob-connected car, he’s always had the mob-connected father but now daddy finally delivered for him. Life goes on with the Nelson Family of New Jersey, and what goes around stays around. Nothing changes.

And, sadly, that’s what The Sopranos had been about.

For example. George W. Bush.

I’ve got nothing.

And, come to think of it, neither does George.

Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.

Addicted to videogames?

Addicted to videogames?

A new Harris Survey suggests that video games are truly addictive and this addiction is increasing.  The report states that, in the United States, 8.5% of gamers between the ages of eight and 19 can be classified as "pathological" or clinically "addicted.  At the same time, 23% say they have felt "addicted to video games" including 31% of males and 13% of females.

Nearly four fifths (81%) play video games at least once per month, including 94% of all boys.

The survey was conducted online between January 17 and 23 this year.  Harris reports that 1,178 children and teenagers participated.  Among the findings:  The average 8- to 12year old plays 13 hours of video game per week, while 13- to 18 year olds play 14 hours per week.  Girls play about a third less than boys.

Dr. Douglas Gentile, Director of the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University and the director of research for the National Institute on Media and the Family, states, "It is important that people realize that playing a lot is not the same thing as pathological play. For something to be an addiction, it has to mean more than you do it a lot. It has to mean that you do it in such a way that it damages your life. This is why we based our definition on how pathological gambling is diagnosed in the DSM-IV. Almost one out of every ten youth gamers show enough symptoms of damage to their school, family, and psychological functioning to merit serious concern."

Black comics panel leads into NYCC

Black comics panel leads into NYCC

If you’re looking for things to do in the week leading up to the NY Comic Convention, Keith Knight wants to remind readers that the Black Comics panel in Harlem is still scheduled for Wednesday, February 21, but will now be held at the Jerome L. Greene Hall, Room 106 (The Law School) on 435 West 116th Street rather than the Studio Museum at 144 West 125th Street due to the anticipated attendance.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still swing by the Studio Museum to see their nifty Africa Comics exhibition going on through March 18! After all, it’s billed as "the first-ever exhibition in the United States dedicated exclusively to comic art from across the African continent," so it’s well worth checking out!