Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hey USAgent! Who's Your Favorite Action Hero?

John Walker's unexpected response via the USAgent miniseries from comics legend, Jerry Ordway.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Celebrating National Read Comics in Public Day

Just like I hope all of you are. Currently, I'm enjoying reexperiencing Bucky's journey to being Captain America while enjoying a cool iced coffee at my favorite coffee joint in the LA area, Swork. What a great way to spend a Sunday.

How about you? What're you reading today?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Reasoning Behind the DC Reboot

That's Dan Didio, as quoted by this article over at Hero Complex, when asked about the decision to go with the new DC Reboot. He makes a great point, and I totally understand his reasoning for trying something drastic. It's no secret that the world of comics is getting smaller everyday (ironically while influence of comics grows greater and greater everyday) and something has to be done to reverse that trend. The only way comics will get out of this reported tail spin is by attracting new, and lapsed, readers back to the confines of those stapled (or whatever the digital equivalent of staples are). For all of my criticisms of what DC is doing, Didio makes a great case for a major shakeup and I respect him for just going for it.


Because you knew there had to be a but, right? Later in the article, Rob Liefeld (of all people) was quoted saying this about the reboot:

I totally agree with the first part of that quote. Yes things have been getting a bit stagnant and that now is the perfect time to do something crazy to attract new readers. Hitting the reset button, however, is not the answer to anything.

I get it. Take things back to a simpler time, when things were at their most iconic. Eschew all the strange bits of canon (I'm looking at you Continuity Punches) and rebuild the universe in a more organic way that makes sense for what you're trying to do. At the same time, take a few years off your leads to make them more relatable to your incoming audience. It seems to work on paper, but in reality I think it'll just muck things up more than it helps.

Suddenly, you'll have to explain to people how certain stories fit into the new universe, or why other stories don't exist at all. A fan who's excited about the new Teen Titans might go back to check out an copy a few months old, only to find that nothing makes any sense. It's this huge can of caveat worms that's going to be openned, and will only make things more confusing when you try to explain that Superman and Lois used to be married in a Post-crisis, Pre-Flashpoint Universe. Makes you sound like a crazy person. And no one wants to listen to crazy people.

Personally, I think the answer would have been to push everything forward. It's a much more provocative, interesting gamble that publishers very rarely take. The best way to change the status quo isn't to reset it to what it's always been, but to change it to something new and fresh. Much like Marvel is doing with Ultimate Spider-Man.

Marvel, in a much similar situation with an overly convoluted Ultimate continuity, opted to embrace the future by putting the past to rest and building on it. By killing Peter (and presumably keeping him dead) and building this new hero in his legacy, they don't create that confusion with the old stories. If a kid really likes Miles Morales and picks up an old issue, it'll be easier to explain that Peter died, than the something like 'it's not continuity any more because everything got reset by a guy who can run really fast'.

It will be very interesting to see what method pays off the most. Will new fans be attracted to the same old, traditional stories with a new coat of paint, or will they want something truly new? Personally I'm hoping for the latter.

I guess we'll find out in a few months.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Venom is a Slut Part 8

Bad Dog.

Rick Remender and Tom Fowler show, beyond a doubt, that Venom is a dog's best friend in Venom #6

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Bill August 25, 2011

I feel like every week I go to the store, everything I buy is a tie in to Fear Itself. Not that it's totally a bad thing, or a totally unexpected thing, but there's a part of me that wishes there was some variety in my buy pile. Fortunately, the majority of my Fear Itself tie-ins have been really good, even if they haven't been getting the press they deserve. Let's see if we can do something about that tonight, shall we?

The Underrated Tie-In:

Fear Itself: The Home Front
Writer: Christos Gage, Fred Van Lente, Howard Chaykin, Si Spurrier
Artist: Mike Mayhew, Alessandro Vitti, Edgar Delgado, Jason Latour

Let me get this outta the way up front: I'm a sucker for these kinds of stories.

Sure, the big books have all the crazy awesome action, the memorable scenes, and generally set the tone for the line, but it's these man-on-the-street books that really hit home for me. It grounds the fantastical and makes it all that much more believable for me. The Home Front hits on all cylinders and is, in many ways, more interesting that the core book.

Ostensibly an anthology following various heroes dealing with this new onset of fear, the book is really all about Speedball's redemption. And it's awesome. Starting in Stamford, before moving throughout the country, the book follows noone's favorite kinetic hero has he attempts to help normal citizens in places the brightly colored crowd doesn't normally hang out, like Missouri or Newfoundland, and in doing show proves just how awesome a hero he really is.

I was surprised as anyone, I'll tell you what.

In a lot of ways, this book reads like a sequel to 2006's Civil War tie-in, Frontline. In that series we saw Speedball at his lowest ebb, blamed for the destruction in Stamford, seemingly powerless, and self-hating. By the end of that series, the once fun-loving hero became a gothic joke of a hero, Penance, who, with an X-Treme! spikey costume, derived his powers from pain. It was an interesting direction for the character, to say the least.

Five years later, things seem to be primed for a character reversal. In the pages of Avengers Academy, we've seen Penance retired and replaced with a new, fragile -egoed Speedball. Thankfully not the bouncy airhead he once was, this new iteration of the character still seeks redemption, but this time without the walking Iron Maiden costume. Still, with all the development he's gotten over the years, he still hasn't done that one thing to show that he's learned his lesson. Enter The Home Front and Speedball's final lesson on being a true hero.

Speedball aside, the book does offer some neat insight to the denizens of the forgotten corners of the Marvel Universe during this latest crossover. From checking in with the Agents of Atlas and Cardiac to Mr. Fear and American Eagle, the book does it's best to leave no stone unturned.

In this latest issue, they've begun a short storyline involving some of my favorite young heroes - Thunderstrike, Amadeus Cho, and Power Man (X-23 and Spider-girl who I'm indifferent to) - written by one of my favorite writers (Paging Mr. Fred Van Lente) in which they are apparently going to be fighting Lovecraftian Samurai Warrior Sharks from the Deep. Insert your own superlative here. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited for it.

It's not a perfect book (few anthologies are), but it's a pretty damn good one that reads as a great companion to the main book. If your a fan of obscure Marvel, or just looking for a hero acting like a hero, you should totes check this book out. It's fun, intriguing, and makes Speedball interesting. And really, that's saying something.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Best Thing About The DC Reboot...

...Just makes it all that much more disappointing.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Earlier in the week, Newsarama (or 4chan if you believe Bleeding Cool) released a huge collage of the new DC Logos (or mastheads, if you want to get technical) and they're awesome. Just check'em out:

click to embiggen

Those are, without a doubt, some of the slickest, most modern looking logos I've seen in years. Kudos to DC for really bringing it when it comes to the majority of these title treatments. Out of context, these absolutely signify the new M.O. of 'The New 52' and honestly get me excited about some of these books.

And then I remember them in context:

Simply put, those logos don't go with those costumes. It's like chocolate and relish, Peanut butter and steak, kittens and cucumbers, or... well, you get the idea.

I've ranted about these new costumes before, so I'm going to try to not repeat myself, but basically DC very much missed an opportunity when they revamped these costumes for 'The New 52'. Instead of going to the early 90s for inspiration, why didn't they turn to fashion designers, minimalist artists, or anyone out side of the field of comics that could give these characters a fresh, yet classic new look?

When I see those new mastheads, I expect the heroes they represent to be just as hip an modern. I want a slick, stylish Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman when I open up that first issue of Justice League, not overly complicated versions of their old, better-looking costumes. It's as if the mastheads and the characters were designed by two different parts of DC Comics that refuse to talk to each other. The disconnect between the two ideologies when it comes to new, fresh and modern is astounding.

Listen, I really want this crazy DC stunt to work. I want nothing more than the talk a week from now to be how DC has totally reinvigorated the comics market and goosed sales throughout the industry. I just worry that someone's going to read all the coverage for this new, fresh DCU, only to be disappointed when they see something that looks like comics have always been.

Let's pray that I just worry too much.

Monday, August 22, 2011

An Ode to Atomic Comics

Atomic Comics was my first comic book store.

As I alluded to a few weeks ago, I didn't start collecting comics until I moved to Arizona in the early 90s. What I didn't mention was that Atomic Comics was my mecca when I was just starting out. I don't exactly remember when I first went there, but I'll never forget what it was like.

While I never had the pleasure in calling Atomic Comics 'my' store, it has been the Plutonic form of Comic Book Store since I first walked through it's doors. Every new store I go to, I compare to Atomic and am always left a bit disappointed. Not to totally disregard the great stores that I do go to - like House of Secrets, Comics Factory, Hi-De-Ho, or Meltdown (That is to imply that I'm something of a comics mercenary and I go to whatever great store I'm near) - but they all have they're little quirks that make them not as awesome as Atomic was all those years ago.

You see, in those days, my family and I would make routine trips from our dreary desert town to the big city of Phoenix (and it's suburbs) every weekend. We'd do everything from see movies to bulk shopping at Costco and on lucky occassions, I got to go to Toys R Us. It was during one of these routine trips that I got my hands on a copy of the Mesa Yellow Pages (this is pre-internet days, remember) and discovered a comic store near some of our haunts. "Can we go to this place," I pleaded, clutching the yellow pages, "Atomic Comics?"

Set deep in an unassuming shopping center, Atomic Comics was like something out of my eleven year-old imagination. This location (their first of many) was decently sized and filled to the brim with the books I craved. The aisles were wide and inviting, the walls littered with promotional posters and 'top shelf' expensive books that I could only dream of owning, and then there were the rows and rows of comics. Lining the entire store, it seemed, was a huge selection of what seemed like every book printed in the past three months. It was exactly what a comic book store should have been.

A year later, they moved to a bigger space and ideal version of the store became locked in my brain. One wall dedicated to the week's new books, another longer stretch to the recently released, stacks of back issue boxes, a few shelves of trades, and a big, friendly cashier behind the counter. It was a celebration of comic books and the culture, refusing to shy away from that which made them great. For years I went to that store, and I never walked away from it without a smile on my face and a few dollars missing from my wallet.

As the years progressed and I drifted from home (and comics for a while), I didn't visit the store as much as I used to. I know they moved a few times, once to a huge space that seemed almost too good to be true and then again to a slightly smaller one more fitting of it's niche. I know they doubled their store count, opening stores much closer to my dreary desert-y home, that were fancy and nice, but still not quite as cool as the original. I remember cheering when I saw them pop up in Kick Ass, noting to who was next to me that I'd been to that store (kind of). Even though I hadn't been close to an Atomic Comics in a while, I still felt a sense of pride for them when I saw their triumphs. "Good on them," I thought, "I'm glad they're still around to usher in the kids to my favorite hobby."

Then, yesterday, I read that Atomic Comics is going out of business effective immediately and my heart sank a little.

The closing of this wonderful place is an end of a very good era. For the first time in all my years of collecting, I worry about the future of the printed comic book. On one hand, I know deep down it's just the loss of a small market comic book chain. But on the other, I feel like it's the loss of an iconic, perfect comic store and if something like that can't survive than what hope does the rest of the industry have?

Maybe I worry to much. I tend to do that. I'm sure everything will end up fine, and in the end, it'll just be another casualty on this road of economic hardships. I'm sure I'll find a store out there like Atomic Comics eventually, and everything will be fine. I just hope those eleven year-olds who are thinking about collecting find it first and it affects them like Atomic did me.

Farewell Atomic Comics, you'll be missed. I'll hope every day your comics-style resurrection.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Talking Comics with The FutureWife: Beta Ray Bill

After reading comics for a few decades, I forget sometimes what those wondrous and inventive four-color worlds are like to comic outsiders. Lucky for me, I have a geek-leaning FutureWife who likes to ask questions and, in effect, to remind me how awesome comics are. What follows is a true (enough) conversation we've had when she's asked me an innocent question about one of my books.

"Who's that horse looking guy," The FutureWife said, looking over my shoulder while I was reading Volume One of the Walt Simonson Visionaries. She of course, was referring to this guy:

"That's Beta Ray Bill," I replied in confidence, "the Horse Thor."

"Horse Thor?"

"Well, Space Horse Thor. Technically."

"Your comics are weird," she responded about to turn back to a rerun of Stargate Atlantis.

"Actually," I said, unsatisfied with my own answer and unable to let Beta Ray go uncelebrated, "He's an alien placed in the body of a genetically-engineered, cybernetic warrior-beast from his home planet, tasked with finding a new planet for his displaced brethren."

The FutureWife had no words. She paused Stargate and turned to me.

"He found Earth on accident," I continued, "got in a huge fight with Thor and, because he had a noble goal, was able to LIFT THOR'S HAMMER!"

Nothing. You'd expect at least a gasp here.

"Which is amazing because no one else has ever been able to lift Thor's Hammer aside from the man himself. Anyway, it resulted in a big fight between Thor and Beta Ray to see who was truly worthy to wield the hammer and hold the title 'The God of Thunder'. It was awesome!"

"You're adorable," she laughed and turned back to Stargate Atlantis.

"He ended up getting his own, more badass looking hammer, STORMBREAKER," I paused for dramatic effect, "with (basically) which he fought Galactus to a standstill!"

"That's pretty amazing," the FutureWife was nonplussed.

"He's fought everywhere from deepest space to the wilds of Canada, doling out epic proportions of power, wrapped in a awesome package of violence! The guy is awesomeness embodied," I concluded, maybe getting a little riled up.

"Sounds kinda cool, dear."

"Never underestimate the power of Beta Ray Bill!"

"The Horse Thor," her attention for Stargate unbroken.

"Damn Straight!"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Bill August 18, 2011

I bought so much good stuff this week it's crazy. Crazier still, everything was amazingly awesome. With so much good stuff to choose from, you'd think it'd be hard to pick just one to write about. You'd think.

Come join me after the graphic and check out the best of the best.

Daredevil The Way He Should Be:

DareDevil # 2
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Paolo Rivera

Now this is how Daredevil should be.

Don't get me wrong, the Frank Miller-style dark, brooding Daredevil has his place, but it gets a bit tedious after a while. What made Frank Miller's take on the character so great was that it spun something new out of the old superhero yarn. Daredevil had been wallowing for years in stories that he didn't belong in, most notably one involving a time traveling robot crime boss. Something needed to be done, and Frank Miller figured it out.

He grounded the character and, in the process, made him stand out from the rest of the spandex crowd. It was totally awesome and still is to this day. The problem is that everyone now thinks it's the only way of doing Daredevil. Somewhere along the way, the baseline for ol' Hornhead went from 'Scarlet Swashbuckler' to 'depressing and near homeless'. It was okay for a while, but now it's getting more than a bit tired.

After years of Smith, Bendis, Brubaker, and Diggle all doing their best to make ol' Matt Murdock a modern day Job, it's time for Daredevil to return to his fun-loving roots courtesy of Mark Waid and Paolo Riveraa. In two issues, Waid has managed to not only keep the grounded aspect (at least so far) while still having fun in the larger Marvel Universe.

The first issue, which I didn't write about, blew me away in presentation. Clearly whatever they're paying Rivera isn't enough because the man is a freaking genius. The small touches of body language, the layouts, everything about the art in this book is pure, unadulterated instant classic. I'm officially a huge fan. It should be noted that the writing wasn't too shabby either, as Mark Waid is in top form with this book. And the good times keep rolling with issue two.

Daredevil, as he's wont to do, is chasing down the truth to a recently dismissed client. Said client's inability to find a good lawyer has perturbed our hero, sending him on a quest to find out why. The trail leads him to an abandoned electronic store where DD discovers the villain behind it all. And I must say, it's a villain who I'm surprised DD hasn't gone up against more often in the past given how their powers match up. Needless to say, I'm excited about the next issue.

It's funny, if you would have told me that Daredevil would be this much fun when it was announced months ago I would have dismissed it in an instant. Under the 'Big Shots' banner, the book looked like it would be in the same mold it had been in for years: Dark, dreary, grim, and gritty. In other words, not exactly what I jones for when I crack a cover. I am pleasantly surprised though, and recommend that you start reading it too. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


As a child of the 80s, it's not often that I'm surprised by old geek advertisements. I'd like to think that I've seen and/or have heard of the vast majority of the toy lines that came out during my first decade. So imagine my surprise when I came across this tonight while reading an issue of Dr. Strange:

Click to embiggen

Blasting out from Cleveland in the glorious year of 1985 comes, "Morphodroids: Warrior Robots You Bring to Life!" Shockingly, these shitty versions of Go-Bots failed to make a dent in the hyper-consumerist 1980s, leaving would-be childhood icons like Poizen and Sintar to wallow in obscurity. That said, as terrible as these things look, I kinda totally want to see them in action.

So... anyone have a time machine I can borrow?

Monday, August 15, 2011

What's the Deal with Alpha Flight.

I don't get Alpha Flight.

I mean, I get it, but I don't understand the crazy amounts of love the concept gets from fans. It seems that since I started reading comics, Alpha Flight has perpetually been on a short list of fan faves when it comes to guest stars, wanted titles, and/or action figures. As a fan always eager to jump on a bandwagon, I was primed to love this series.

Spoilers: I didn't love it.

I'm honestly baffled by the reception these Great White Avengers received when they hit the scene. There are some books that I don't read, or just don't like, that I can see the value in like Pre-PAD Hulk, Dr. Strange, and even Thor. While those books don't resonate with me, I can still see the inherent appeal of them as characters. Alpha Flight meanwhile is just boring, directionless, and generally forgettable.

That's not a new revelation, I realize. Good friends of mine have told me that anything not John Byrne Alpha Flight ought to be avoided, but that the stuff from the man himself is great; some of his best stuff even. I now question those peoples' tastes, because if Alpha Flight was Byrne's best stuff he wouldn't be regarded as the legend he so rightly is. They were however right about one thing, after Byrne left that book tumbled downhill in a hurry.

As I alluded to during my secret origin posts, I came into a huge collection of comics a few years ago. I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount, that I still haven't read all books in my collection (first world problems, amirite?). So, when down times approach, either due to lack of work or lack of current titles, I'll dig through to find those runs that I haven't had a chance to read yet. The largest run I had yet to read was roughly 50 issues of Alpha Flight spanning from issue #2 and running through issue #119; a nice cross section of what the Canadian Non-Avengers have to offer.

What struck me the most in the first few issues I read was the lack of the team in this team book. It seemed that the majority of the issues were devoted to gathering and/or reassembling the team that apparently was only together for the first issue (which I didn't read). Seriously, the team effectively disbands in the second issue (which I did read) after a training mishap, resulting in a series of single hero adventures for the months proceeding. For a second there I thought I was reading a poor man's version of Solo Avengers it was so bad.

It wouldn't be so bad, but the letters at the time - Special Note, you should always read the letters at the back of old books, they're such a great source of history. Reading about why it should be Invisible Girl, not woman; why Elektra shouldn't have been killed; or the occasional 'before they were stars' letter is always awesome. But I digress - make the book out to be the best thing ever. Now I realize that they're going to slightly stack the deck in the letter pages, but still this was weird. Fans were writing in, complimenting a book that seemed foreign to me. They were fans of a team that wasn't assembled more than a single issue before disbanding. Methinks they might have been blinded by Byrne love to see the book for what it really was: Medicore at best.

After Byrne left, the tradition of having a team that was never assembled continued for what seemed like years. I'll admit that my collection was a bit spotty, but it seemed that whenever a threat was imminent to Canada, Alpha Flight was always disbanded and on bad terms with each other. Then, of course, things got even worse when the early 90s hit and the book was forced to become grim and gritty to compete. The less said about those times the better, I think.

Not to leave things on a downnote, there was one very cool thing about Alpha Flight: The Guardian costume.

Talk about iconic. That suit's a walking work of art, something that deserves to be standing next to Captain America and Spider-Man as a damn near perfect Marvel Hero costume. Hell, I even like the revamp they did later in the run when they made everyone wear a knockoff version of that look. It's that striking, that it works even when it doesn't.

At the end of the day, aside from a scant few bright issues (Snowbird's fight in the snow, for one), Alpha Flight is bafflingly mediocre. From what I can tell, they're just a different flavor of Avengers, much like The Champions or The Defenders, but not as interesting and somehow more beloved. Can anyone shed a little light on this for me? What did I miss that sets them apart from those other teams that get no where near the love than that Canadian super-team? Am I just underestimating the allure of the magically midgetted? Or fat paraplegics in robot suits?

What is it? I have to know!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Spider-Man's Newest Invention...

Is delicious, but ineffective.

My love for Adventure Time just increased by infinity thanks to this awesomeness (and this awesomeness) from it's creator Pendleton Ward, via his twitter via Comics Alliance.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Secret Origin: Rebirth!

Late last week marked the end of my Twenties. It also marked my twentieth year as a comic collector, something that kind of blows my mind. So, to celebrate I embarked on a nostalgic journey across the history of my comic collecting, starting with my first run-ins with the medium and ultimately what forced me to stop for a time. Spoilers, it didn't last. Come join me now as we finish this crazy journey and explore what started my love for comics all over again.
Also, sorry for the dramatic pause between entries. Let's just say the celebrations for my annual day started a bit early and leave it at that.


I bought my last comic in the Fall of 1999 and was determined to stick with that decision. It actually worked out pretty well, because as a poor college student I didn't have the disposable income I had when I was in High School. Plus, I didn't have the room for anything in those tiny shared dorms. For a time there life was simple, unencumbered, and honestly kind of boring. As much as I didn't want to admit it, I kind of missed comics.

Occasionally during that time, I would find myself in various comic shops and found a renewed vigor in my decision. Say what you will about the early 90s, the late 90s were even worse for comics. Piles of books with crazy intertwining story lines, bored plots, and an increasingly outdated look. The world seemed to be moving forward while comics were just wallowing.

Full disclosure, I was still buying one book (in trades) during this period: Preacher. I would argue though that Preacher was as anti-superhero that you could go in the mainstream and still enjoy on a very visceral level. In recent years, I've given Preacher to people who aren't sure about comics and have instantly gotten them hooked. It's simple, consistent art style mixed with the no-nonsense, over-the-top storytelling made for an experience that proved comics aren't just for kids anymore.


It was the summer of 2001 when my geek habits started to rear their ugly heads again. Living off campus, and being the responsible 20 year-old I was, I needed a job to, you know, live. After a long search, I found the best job a guy like me could want: Sales Associate at KB Toys. For a few hours a week, I was paid to hang out in a toy store with cool older geeks and it was amazing. Plus, I got a 15% discount on everything in the store. Needless to say, my status as reformed geek was in danger.

To make matters "worse", I got a new place and a new, geek-enabling roommate. A dear friend of mine to this day, this guy would encourage me to relapse on my pledge and give into all those geeky urges I was feeling. Basically, I would never want this guy to be my AA sponsor, I'm just saying. It was with him that I made my triumphant return to the San Diego Comic Con.

When I was a kid, I used to go every year, buy a load of books, and just revel in the comic audacity of it all. Returning after a few years of not collecting made me view things in a different way. Instead of hunting for expensive back issues or buying random toys, I was there for the experience of it all. I ended up with a few sketches, a handful of pictures of costumed fans, and a select few trades that seemed interesting. Even though I was in the heart of comic fandom, I wasn't quite ready to give up my pledge. Not quite yet.

While I gobbled up books like Powers, it wasn't until I saw a preview for Daredevil: Yellow that I found myself swept up in the comic madness again.

There's something about that book that defines Marvel at the turn of the century. The focus on characters over action, maybe; the non-traditional (but totally awesome) Tim Sale art (for a superhero story), maybe; Maybe, it was just at the right place at the right time. Whatever the case, Daredevil: Yellow was a turning point for me.

I recently sat down to read it again to see if it actually holds up to my high praise and I gotta tell you, it doesn't disappoint. The story's simple enough: Matt Murdock, in an attempt to get over the death of the woman he loves writes her a letter about how he fell in love with her. Starting with the death of his father through the moment he truly captured Karen's heart, the book chronicles Daredevil's early Silver Age antics through a very modern and emotional lens. Done in mostly desaturated colors and sweeping visuals, the whole thing never fails to blow me away.

It did it's job, I was totally hooked. Suddenly, I found myself as excited as I was when I was a kid to read the latest issues. But instead of collecting in the hope that one day these books would make me money, I was collecting because I loved all the stories therein. I made a conscious effort to only buy the comics that I wanted to read and, more importantly, stop getting them if they were terrible. I was reborn as a collector and the future was bright.

In the years since, I've become the 'comic guy' in my group of friends. If anyone has a question on who Thor is, or how many Flashes there are, or where Spider-Man gets all his webbing from, I'm their guy. Additionally, I've become a gateway for people looking to get into my favorite hobby, offering book, character, or storyline suggestions for anyone who seems interested. Even more fun, I've become a repository for people looking to get rid of their comics from a run of Fantastic Four to a full on seven long box collection (the inspiration for the blog, honestly). Needless to say, my collection has kind of exploded fairly recently.

And that brings us to today, where as a thirty year-old I sit proudly atop my massive collection twenty years in the making. Sure, it might be cumbersome to move and a pain in the ass to sort sometimes, but it's mine and I love it. I don't know what the future of my comic collecting will bring, but I can't wait to find out.

I hope you stick around to find out with me.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Secret Origin, The Dark Times

At the end of this week I turn 30 which would be weird enough on it's own, but it also marks my TWENTIETH year reading comics. As a celebration (or validation) of this anniversary, I've decided to take a trip down memory lane and highlight some milestones. The past few days I've discussed how I became a fan through circumstance, fate, and some social pressure. Alas, the good times couldn't last forever, and with an imminent move to college, they were destined to come to an end...

As bad as a rap the 90s gets for being pure terrible comics, it was the perfect time for me to start reading. Issues were relatively cheap (unless they had some gimmick cover), the selection was huge, and they were readily available every where I went. For a kid looking for a hip new hobby, comics certainly made it easy on me. And for this kid, it was all about Spider-Man and X-Men.

Spider-Man was a constant in my collection for years, but unfortunately the 90s were terrible times for the webslinger. While I was intrigued as anyone by the angst-ridden 'There is no man, only The SPIDER' stuff it really didn't grab me the way I suppose it intended. Same thing with the Spider-Clone fiasco. As interesting as it all was, I never felt truly invested in any of the characters. So, when it seemed that the clone saga was never going to end, I got out and never looked back. Besides, I still had the X-Men and life was good with them.

There was nothing not to like about X-Men in the 90s for an eager teenage comic reader like myself. Each issue was jammed packed with intrigue, hot girls, big action, and plenty of plot twists to me on the edge of my seat. Contrary to logical thought, I loved the intertwining storylines, the never-ending flow of events, and the utter ridiculousness of some of those characters (I'm looking at you, Nate Grey).

However, post Age of Apocalypse, the quality of the events started to wane. Starting with Onslaught and continuing through Zero Tolerance and the Magneto War, each event seemed to set up some amazing premise and fall on it's face. For whatever the reason, I always let it slide, hoping that the next event would be the one that returned everything to the franchise's former glory. And then there was The Twelve.

The notion of "The Twelve" was one of those dangling, long standing plot lines introduced by a throwaway line in an early issue of X-Factor (surprisingly not by Chris Claremont). In the issue in question, a rampaging Master Mold tells Cyclops that he's one of the twelve mutants that will form the future. From that one line, fans went all conspiracy theorist and demanded answers.

Almost ten years, a major cultural movement, and countless crazy-ass events later, Marvel decided to give in and figure out what this 'The Twelve' thing really was. And it was terrible.

Nominally a story about Apocalypse and his latest scheme for world domination, this time with the help of twelve cipher mutants, it attempted to be the cap on years of storytelling and that was my major problem with it. It might have been the years building up to it, or the fact that I was getting ready to go to college, but suddenly I found myself just plain not caring about anything that happened.

Where before, when I was a younger reader, I loved the complexity of the X-Men, with The Twelve it became more of a chore, and frankly one that I hated. For every character that showed up, there was some kind of caveat that I needed to know about why they were there and their relations with the rest of the cast. Sounds pretty standard, I know, but when it comes down to "Bishop just showed up and he's confused because in his own series he's running around in a strange future-ish world where he's the last X-Man but doesn't know why" it gets a little tedious.

Plus, I hated all those fucking mutant skrulls that I feel were thrust on the situation. A pox on Fiz and his stupid brethren, I'm glad they were subjugated. Stupid skrulls, got no business being in my X-Books.

Sorry, that was a tangent. Anyway...

As bad as the massive amount of backstory needed to enjoy The Twelve was, the worst thing about it was the ending. Alan Davis actually came up with a pretty neat idea involving The Twelve where each mutant in question represented what would be a part of the new world he was going to create. To wit, The Living Monolith was the Earth; Magneto and Polaris the poles; Iceman, Sunfire, and Storm as the elements; and you get the point, it was clever. So, of course, they all escaped at the last minute to face off against the ailing Apocalypse, who was attempting to jump into a new host body (Hey, there's Nate Grey again). With options running out, Cyclops, the man that started all of this, leaps in the way and ends up becoming the new host for the world's first mutant.

And then the event ended.

Sure, it was supposed to lead into some other crazy event right away, but I didn't care. After roughly six months of explicit set up, not to mention the years of storylines previous, everything ended right when things got interesting. A quick glance at what was coming up the next month - a strange Age of Apocalypse knockoff - confirmed it for me, I was done. Done, not just with the X-Men, but with comics in general.

"Besides," my 17 year-old brain rationalized at the time, "I'm going to college and it's time I grow up a bit. I don't want boxes of comics scaring away all the cute girls I'm going to meet." (ED NOTE- there were none)

And so, that was that, with my boxes tucked safely away at my parents' house I drifted off to college, content in the belief that I was done with comics forever. It was one the most "Spider-Man No More" moments I've ever had in my life.

As I'm sure you can surmise, this new resolve didn't last forever. Come back tomorrow as my love for the medium is rekindled, my outlook on collecting is changed forever, and my collection soars to crazy heights that would make my 9 year-old self implode with jealousy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Secret Origin Continues

I'm turning 30 at the end of the week, which is not only a huge birthday, but it also marks my 20th year collecting comics. To celebrate both, I'm taking this week to reminisce about my comic collecting milestones. Today's adventure: My first steps into a larger world.

Moving when you're a kid is rough. It's even rougher when move during the summer, doubly so if it's hot-ass Arizona. I went from living in a mildly hot climate with plenty of kids my age running around on their giant grassy lawns, to living on the surface of the sun with rock lawns and nary a kid in sight. Needless to say, it wasn't the best summer of my life.

I lucked out, however, and managed to meet the three boys my age that lived in the neighborhood. The kids were great, but very different than what I had been accustomed to growing up in Reno. Instead of loving GI Joe, Baseball, and outdoor adventuring, these kids were into video games, swimming, and most importantly, comics. It was here that the seeds that were planted on that faithful day at the airport came to fruition.

These kids weren't your typical comic nerds, especially for being indoor kids. They had a swagger about them, something that made reading comics the coolest thing in the world, and I wanted to be like them. Still with no good store nearby, and not a lot of extra income (those GI Joes didn't just grow on trees you know), I needed a boost into this new, exciting hobby. The solution presented itself decked out in red and white, reeking of mistletoe.

That year Santa did not disappoint, delivering a small cache of comics for this well-deserving ten year-old, the perfect starter kit. The gem of the collection had to be this:

GI Joe #104, a Snake Eyes solo story following everyone's favorite ninja commando as he lays the smack down on some European country all by himself. I was, on paper, the perfect bridge from my love of GI Joes to this new way to spend my money. Unfortunately, I didn't like it at all.

My version of GI Joe was informed by the cartoon and my own imagination, nothing like what this comic version was. While I appreciated the Snake Eyes action (and that he looked like the figure that I had, something that was rare with the cartoons), everything else was so out of whack I just couldn't get into it. If these books weren't the only comics I had, I surely would have gotten rid of them in a hurry. But alas, at that time, I just needed inventory so I could be cool. Quality be damned.

As a quick aside, I recently gave this issue a second look and it's really not bad. It's no diamond in the rough, but for a full on action issue involving Snake Eyes shooting random dudes in the face while under some kind of ninja trance that turned him into a one-man murder machine it was pretty fucking cool. Also, I was shocked to discover that Snake Eyes is sans mask for half of it, a fact that would have blown my ten year-old mind had I actually sat down to read the thing and not just look at the pictures.

Anyway, my feelings about these books notwithstanding, they did the trick and started me down the path to being a full on comic nerd. Those four GI Joe books quickly became an assortment of Marvel superhero books and my collection was in full swing. After a few months of buying whatever I could get my hands on - and, sigh, whatever I thought would be worth money in the future - I settled into a nice steady habit of X-Force, Amazing Spider-Man and Wizard Magazine, among others. Before you knew it, I had the biggest collection on the block with no signs of slowing down.

For a few years there, everything was peaches and cream with no love lost for this hobby in sight. That is, until The X-Men went off the rails, Spider-Man drowned in clones, and I was set to leave for college.

But the stories from those dark times will have to wait until tomorrow. See you then!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Own Secret Origin.

At the end of this week I turn 30 and I think that's crazy.

It seems like just yesterday I was a rambunctious college kid drinking too much, eating at all hours, and chasing after pretty girls. You know, living the life. Suddenly I find myself drinking only a sensible amount as to not feel terrible the next day, watching what I eat so my body won't revolt, and getting ready to marry the prettiest girl I know. It's a weird sensation, to say the least.

Turning 30 also marks another very significant personal anniversary: It's been 20 years since I was bitten by the comics bug. Personally, I think that's the craziest thing ever. Who would have thought this little habit that I picked up during the baseball strike of the 1990s would lead to a life long obsession? But here I am, 4000 books later, soaked in the minutia of various comic universes, with no sign of slowing down (much to the chagrin of the afore-implied FutureWife, I'm sure).

So, to mark these various occasions, I've decided to spend this week reminiscing about the seminal books in my collecting history. Today, we start with the book that put comics on the radar for me: Amazing Spider-Man #347.

I was in an airport when I discovered comics.

I remember it was February-ish 1990 and I was in Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport, either waiting to board the plane to head back to Reno or just arriving, when that cover beckoned to me from the newsstand. "There's no way they killed Spider-Man," my nine year-old self thought, "...right?"

Entranced and enticed, I snatched the book from the stands and flipped through it, desperate to find the answer. As I cracked the cover, I was blown away by the images that were presented to me. Page after page of full on, knock-down, drag-out fighting on the beach between Spidey and some crazy Spider-Man monster welcomed and entertained me. It was amazing!

It didn't matter that I didn't know who any of the characters were or what they were fighting about, there was something about the energy of that book that infected my soul. I may not have known it at the time, but I was hooked.

Of course, this is the part of the story where I beg my mom for cash to buy this magical tome, but alas, it wasn't the case. As exciting as the book was, I already pretty much read it at the newsstand, so I opted for some other filler magazine instead. Dumb kid, I know. But even though I left the physical book behind, the images from it became burned on the inside of my brain. I knew I was missing out on something great.

As the years went by and I started collecting more seriously, I never quite could remember the issue number I saw that day. I'd do my due diligence through the long boxes, but for some reason never seemed to find this mythical issue. It was almost as if that issue only existed in my mind (this was before the internet, of course).

Flash forward to a few months ago, I finally tracked down a copy and decided it was worth the four dollar price tag. I won't lie, I was more than a little hesitant before I cracked those pages again. What I remembered about this issue was just shy of magical, how could reality possibly hold up to that?

Truth be told: Pretty fucking well!

In the twenty years between readings, the only thing that changed for me was that I knew all the backstories and if anything, got more enjoyment out of it. Coming out in that sweet spot between the creative highs of the 1980s and just before the mass artist exodus of the 1990s, David Michelinie and Erik Larsen were clearly firing on all cylinders with this done-in-one classic superhuman dustup. It's so good, that I quite honestly don't want to ruin anything here. Just take my word for it and track down a copy for yourself.

From the moment we departed the airport, my nine year-old knew he had made a mistake. I remember searching at the connecting airport, desperately searching for that same issue to no avail. Without it to guide me, there wasn't a very big reason to go actively searching for other books, so for the time being my comic buying habits remained nil. That is, until after the move, the installation of some new friends, and an unexpected Christmas bounty.

But that's a story that'll have to wait until tomorrow...