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Last night the missus and I headed down to The Goat Farm to check out The Cricket Gallery‘s exhibit featuring animation art from 1990s cartoons including several Nicktoons like Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats, Doug, Aaah! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Hey Arnold, but also MTV icons Beavis and Butthead as well as Aeon Flux. While the weather was chilly, the response from everyone in attendance was very warm- the crowd  ooh’d and aah’d at all these artifacts from their childhood. Not all of the cartoons made their way to China, but my wife still recognized a lot of them. She would’ve been really happy to see Daria, who she’s fallen a bit in love with since coming to the US, but the cynical Miss Morgendorffer was nowhere to be found.

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The exhibit also features some classic Disney and Warner Bros. cells and sketches.

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There was a good lot of Simpsons sketches, but they weren’t represented on the scale of the Nickelodeon stuff. In addition to the Lisa sketch below, there were sketches of several Simpsons characters. There’s a particularly charming one of Krusty the Clown that I didn’t get a picture of, so you should really go there yourself. It’s free and lasts until November 16.

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Of course, my favorite items in the exhibit feature a certain Caped Crusader and some of the rogues who really came to life in Batman: The Animated Series- Clayface, Two-Face, Joker. The exhibit was great and my only complaint is that it’s a little small considering the size of the Cricket Gallery collection and the size of the venue- also, how could you display Batman: TAS stuff and not include any Harley Quinn item?

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I’ll be the first to admit that these photos don’t do any of the pieces justice. I forgot my proper camera and just took there with my phone. You should go to the exhibit yourself anyway. Like I said, it’s free and lasts  until November 16. I hope the Cricket Gallery will share more of their collection in the future.

 

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With LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham coming out in the US in just a few days (November 11, 2014), I picked up its Bizarro version LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. As longtime readers of this blog know, I am much more a DC Comics fan than a Marvel Comics fan, which speaks more to my fondness for DC properties than for any love lost between Marvel and I. If I had all the time and money in the world, I’d probably read Marvel Comics too…and I’d probably read them while traveling the world by boat and train. However my clock and pocketbook have limits, so I’m a Marvel fan like the majority of Marvel fans- I’ve seen the movies and I watch Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD every week. I also dabble in the Marvel video games, which, like most comic book video games, are hit and miss. Captain America: Super Soldier? Hit. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer? Miss, but Silver Surfer serves a central role in the LEGO game and it works really well.

I’m a believer that certain superheroes produce better video games than others because of their powers. Because of the limitations for characters like Batman and Captain America, they make for better games than more powerful heroes with more complicated power sets like Superman and Green Lantern. Flying characters bring their own problems and their success lies in the gameplay- is it easy to control Iron Man’s suit? how fluid is Spidey’s swinging? Wolverine is a unique character because of his famous healing factor. Characters with hyper-developed mental abilities like Jean Grey and Professor X (or Maxwell Lord and Hector Hammond, if you like) also present challenges for video game platforms. How do your remotely control a metahuman brain with less than ten buttons and your meager human brain? Other characters with power sets that overwhelm almost any situation like Magneto or the Sentinels require the player to forgive a necessary weakening of the character in order to make them playable.

In the case of Magneto, LEGO lucks out as LEGOs are not magnetic, making a LEGOverse a severe handicap to Magneto. The LEGO approach to superhero gaming actually works incredibly well and not just for Magneto. Some characters suffer, but their suffering is presented in a way that 1) recognizes its limitations and 2) tries to soften it up with humor. Two particular characters come to mind. In the DC universe, we find Green Lantern being able to assemble a few green legos that no one else can assemble and while that’s a far cry from being able to create unlimited light constructs, LEGO makes reference to the classic Highball Hal Jordan’s repertoire by having him build boxing gloves and bowling balls. In the Marvel universe, Mr. Fantastic is only able to take advantage of his stretchiness when certain triggers in the game allow it. When standing on a 4 platform, he turns into situation specific shapes- something I imagine we can expect from Plastic Man in the LEGO Batman 3- and most of them are humorous. Similar he can slip through grates as long they’ve been clearly marked as passable grates.

Humor is a huge element in the LEGO games and LEGO Marvel really brings it. All of the LEGO games have the player building ridiculous things for ridiculous reasons. Because LEGO has chosen such content rich franchises as Star Wars and Harry Potter, they’ve been able to integrate into their games many in-jokes for fans of those franchises. While the Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Indiana Jones franchises have a great deal of content to draw from, those franchises pale in comparison to either Marvel or DC in terms of source material. Even as a modest Marvel I was able to pick up on many of the game’s jokes such as Stan Lee drinking a contaminated soda a la The Incredible Hulk. Being only a Marvel novice, I’m sure I missed plenty of winks, giggles, and Easter Eggs. Several characters appear in the game that I don’t recognize and I think that’s great. I hope hardcore Marvel fans really appreciate all the little details put into the game. As a hardcore DC fan, I’m expecting a sophisticated awesomeness from LEGO Batman 3 and the pre-release hype has got me pretty excited. Some of my favorite more obscure characters have already appeared in promotional materials- Frankenstein, Detective Chimp, Swamp Thing, and so many Lanterns including my two favorite Red Lanterns Bleez and Dex-Starr. You’ll also be able to play as real like folks like Jim Lee, Geoff Johns, Kevin Smith, and Adam West- maybe in the fourth installment you’ll be able to play as a real-life woman. Maybe the adorably rad Tiffany Smith from DC All Access or iconic refrigerator inspector Gail Simone.

In LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, you can wear lots of Iron Man’s suits including the original, War Machine, Iron Patriot, and even Pepper Pots. Costumes from different points in the lives of the Fantastic Four, Spider-man, and certain X-Men are available. You can even choose between the Mandarin from the comics and the Mandarin from Iron Man 3. With LEGO Batman 3, the creators actually have less cinema to draw from than the Marvel folks, but they have a longer comics history, an expanding television universe, and a long string of brilliant Elseworlds tales to draw from.

In signing off, let me just mention that Batman: The Brave and the Bold is an underrated console game.  I’m bummed Arkham Knight isn’t coming to Wii U. I want to see Cheetah in Injustice 2, I’m really enjoying the Injustice comics, and I don’t understand why the Mortal Kombat series have to be in the Injustice games at all. I don’t know how I feel about having a Joker in the Suicide Squad movie, but then again, I don’t how I’d feel about a Suicide Squad movie without Harley Quinn. The whole thing just tears me apart like a string of LEGO blocks.

 

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For Halloween this year, I salvaged what I could from the Green Lantern Jack-o-lantern and the lights were the only thing to be salvaged because that pumpkin went south shortly after presentation. I’ve been out of the jack-o-lantern game for a while and did not realize the nuances of preserving a carved pumpkin. Out of the ashes and into the night like Jean Grey in a character-defining saga, those lights came to become part of my Halloween costume, a costume that I’ll admit belongs somewhere on yourcosplaysucks but it’s Halloween and Halloween is not the convention scene. I don’t think there should be too much pressure to have perfect cosplay on Halloween. I’m just happy people dress up at all. On Halloween, a shitty costume is better than being too cool for school. At a convention, I go for the too cool for school look because I’m not a cosplayer and I am too cool for school. My costume this year was an ode to the iconic cover of Superman 233 illustrated by comics legend Neal Adams.

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As you can see, the costume’s beauty lies in its simplicity. Using only materials I already had, this creative couture costs  me nothing except the juice in the battery. The t-shirt I already had and wear with some frequency. I’ll admit that I’m the type of nerd who who have also been prepared had a Flash, Batman, or Green Lantern idea come instead a Superman one. I used some scraps from the last round of printing for the issue numbering and pricing.

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our green lantern pumpkin

To celebrate Halloween this year, the missus came up with the idea of a Green Lantern jack-o-lantern. She did most of the important work- coming up with the idea and carving it. I did the other stuff- empty the guts out of the pumpkin and trace the logo onto the pumpkin.

Carving the pumpkin…

Yuanyuan carves into a pumpkin lantern

 

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After the show, it’s the after-carving, After the carving, it’s the hotel lobby…

The view from our apartment’s parking lot….

View from the parking lot

More shots…

Another side view of pumpkin 2814

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We ordered the green lights a couple of days ago and they arrived in the mail today. In somewhat related news, THE LEG by Van Jesnen (Green Lantern Corps writer) and Jose Pimienta also arrived in the mail today!! For those of you who didn’t kick in to the kickstarter, you can score a copy here from the fine people at Top Shelf. I’m super-excited to start reading it. I’ve flipped through it and the art, particularly the colors and all the Mexican architecture, looks splendidly dreamy.

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Happy Gay Pride, Atlanta, from the World’s Second Greatest Detective!

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“And the Justice League is dead,” announces Ultraman in the first issue of Geoff Johns and David Finch’s mini-series Forever Evil, the main book of the DC Comics event of the same name that resurrects the Crime Syndicate. “And Jesus wept,” John recalls as he tells the resurrection of Lazarus. If the DC Universe died when the New 52 initiative began, Forever Evil is a way of telling those bemoaning the reboot to stop weeping because that old universe has come back to life. The event certainly shook up the New 52, but has only left the universe stronger for it. Remember that Lazarus lived an additional 30 years after his resurrection and that was spent mostly signing autographs and trying not to laugh.

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Forever Evil tells a great threat to our world and features a lot of villains. The great threat is employed to expose the more intimate natures of DC Comics fan-favorite villains. The threat comes from the Crime Syndicate, an alternate and “evil” version of the Justice League, with a roster of villains that correspond to members of the Justice League.

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The Crime Syndicate comes from Earth-3, a parallel Earth that resembles Earth-1 but lives under the thumb of the Crime Syndicate. An over-simplified assessment could describe Earth-3 similarly to the original conception of Qward, a place where evil is law- right is wrong and wrong is right, but the narrative of Forever Evil shows the impossibility of such an idea by showing how the villains of Earth-1 themselves are beyond good and evil. Earth-3 is not the opposite of Earth-1, but rather an Earth where those in power care even less for the people than those in power in ours. While the spirit of the Crime Syndicate is nastily selfish and sadistic, the people of Earth-3 are quite aware of the boot stamping on their face- forever (evil).

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The Crime Syndicate hope to recruit the villains of Earth-1 but encounter some resistance. This resistance comes from major villains like Catwoman, Lex Luthor, Black Manta, Black Adam, and the Rogues. More minor villains like Blockbuster and Parasite have an easier time towing the line. The Crime Syndicate do a few things that irk the villains and it’s hard to say if these actions are even evil based on their motivations and the villain’s reactions. For Ultra-Man’s survival and strength, he blocks the sun with the moon, something that pisses off most Earth-1 residents and particularly Poison Ivy. Black Manta opposes them because they “killed” Aquaman and his anger does not come from grief for the “fallen” Atlantean, but because the Syndicate robbed him of the chance to kill him. It is the autocratic imposing of their will upon the nations and people of Earth-1 that angers both Lex Luthor and Black Adam- two individuals who pride themselves in their abilities to impose their will on others. The Rogues initially consider joining the Crime Syndicate until the Crime Syndicate orders them to destroy their own home towns, the Gem Cities. The Rogues, of course, have long been known to stick to a no-kill code and their motivations clearly financial, so their repulsion at the thought of decimating Central City and Keystone City makes perfect sense. Two-Face’s response is typically loyal to the outcome of his coin flip.

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The Forever Evil story has been published in trade form over the past five or six weeks. As with most big events, the choices made by DC Comics in publishing the collected event cause a Groundhog Day-like disruption of narrative. The action of Forever Evil can be found in many places throughout DC’s catalog. Events unfolded in the Forever Evil mini-series itself, Forever Evil: A.R.G.U.S., Forever Evil: Arkham War, Forever Evil Aftermath: Batman Vs. Bane, Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger, Trinity of Sin: Pandora, Constantine, many of the “Villains Month” titles, and a scattering of other titles. Some events and even panels repeat in different issues- the Rogues breaking Trickster out of Iron Heights, for example. What DC Comics generally does when there is a major event like this, they publish the trades based on the title rather than the timeline. This makes the reading experience for the trade reader (myself) distinct from the experience of the issue-reader who sees each piece of the story unfold simultaneously, much safer from spoilers. I’ve heard and read trade readers complain about this and admit some discontent myself. The phenomenon hits Green Lantern fans repeatedly. Another curse is that in collecting the trades, you end up with multiple printings of the same issue as experienced in Throne of Atlantis and Rotworld events. The Forever Evil: Blight trade contains issues that readers of Justice League Dark, Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger, Trinity of Sin: Pandora, and Constantine will find already in the collected trades of those individual series. It’s a bit of a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-dont-paradox that leaves comics readers either missing out on chunks of story or buying multiples printings of the same material. As DC has spaced out the release of each trade, there is an implied order to reading them. Forever Evil: Arkham War and Forever Evil: Blight actually works pretty well independent of the main Forever Evil series, but Forever Evil: A.R.G.U.S and Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion are entirely dependent on the events of the main series.

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For those readers who are considering only one additional Forever Evil beyond the main series, here is a breakdown of what you can expect:

Arkham War is obviously written with Batman fans in mind despite having very little actual Batman in it. It’s written by one of my favorite writers Peter Tomasi and I believe they picked the worst possible picture for the cover. The art within is so much better than the close-up face-off of Bat-Bane and Batman. It is predominantly a Bane story, but features a whole slew of Batman’s enemies including Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Penguin, Killer Croc, Man-Bat, Pyg, and Clayface.

A.R.G.U.S. centers largely around Steve Trevor and Etta Candy, making it a book for Wonder-Woman fans despite the fact Steve Trevor hasn’t really appeared in the pages of Wonder Woman. It is more closely related to Justice League, Suicide Squad, Justice League of America, and the secret agent-y government-y titles. The major villains are Killer Frost, Cheetah, and Deathstroke. Among the lesser villains, Cheetah leads a cool-looking pack of anthropomorphic antagonists. While it tells the back story of an important plot point to the greater Forever Evil narrative, it is probably the weakest, in both story and art, of all the Forever Evil subplots.

Rogues Rebellion is a story for Flash fans, obviously. It features the usual lineup of Captain Cold, Trickster, Weather Wizard, Mirror Master, Heatwave, and Glider. Classic Flash baddies Pied Piper and Gorilla Grodd appear as well. Several character more normally associated with Batman makes appearances; the Rogues find themselves transported to Gotham where they encounter Victor Zsasz, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, and Black Mask.  In addition, there are quite a few second-stringers like Black Bison, Parasite, and the Royal Flush Gang making appearances. This book more than any of the others, including the main series, celebrates the community of villains operating in the DC Universe.

Blight is a Pandora story that stars John Constantine. It is readers who have been following the Dark family of titles and have familiarized themselves with the Trinity War event. This story is important to the entire plot mainly because Pandora’s box is what enables the Crime Syndicate to come over to Earth-1. It retains the feel of Justice League Dark and if you like that, you’ll like this book. If you’re expecting some Vertigo-eqsue tome, you will be disappointed and I recommend you read Rotworld for something closer to that experience.

All in all, I see Forever Evil and titles like World’s Finest and The Multiversity in the same way other comics speculators have already said: DC Comics is gearing up for an infinite crisis of infinite proportion. I’m excited. I feel I’m much better prepared to understand it than I am to understand Infinite Crisis on Infinite Earths, which is a book for its time. Will my generation’s crisis overdo the crises of the past? If Forever Evil is any indication, I believe it will.

 

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As previously mentioned in the World’s Second Greatest Detective’s interview with Actor Matt Myers, Atlanta’s Synchronicity Theatre  will be presenting Carson Kreitzer’s Lasso of Truth, a play about Wonder Woman and her creator William Moulton Marston. The play opened on September 26 and will run until October 19, 2014 at the Synchronicity Theatre’s new location at Peachtree Pointe 1545 Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia. Here I’ve had the privilege of asking the scribe herself Carson Kreitzer a few questions about the play and her interest in Wonder Woman. Kreitzer has written several plays, many inspired by peculiar characters from history like Marston.

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WXL: What originally attracted you to the story of William Moulton Marston and the character of Wonder Woman?

CARSON KREITZER: Well, I was a Wonder Woman fan from way back.  Lynda Carter was huge for me. Then, a few years ago, I was writing a play that involved a scene with a lie detector.  (1:23, which was produced by Synchronicity in 2009)  I was doing some research on the lie detector, and came across all this information about William Marston and Wonder Woman.  And bondage.  And polyamory. And the two women living together after Marson’s death, raising the children in sleepy little Rye, New York in the 1950’s…. -that detail still just blows my mind.   And I thought, Holy Cow!  That’s my next play.

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WXL: Marston’s original vision for Wonder Woman has undergone significant change over the years. These changes came about through the collective efforts of writers, artists, and the general public. Do you believe this democratic participation has strengthened or weakened the character?

CARSON: It’s gone up and down. She went through some terrible times after Marson died, in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  But then, the writers who picked up the mantle of her true strength and feminist core have been awesome.  Trina Robbins and Phil Jimenez are the ones I’m most familiar with, but I know she’s had lots of amazing talent creating her stories. I loved the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang/Tony Akins Wonder Woman New 52 relaunch, Blood, Guts, and Iron, which I read as we were rehearsing for the first production in Marin in February. Lasso of Truth is a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, with productions at Marin Theatre Company, Synchronicity here in Atlanta, and Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City.  Like the ancient greek myths the story is rooted in, many bards step in to tell the tales.  It seems fitting.

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WXL: Despite suggestions from certain magazines, Wonder Woman couldn’t legally become President of the United States because she was born in Themyscira. Is there an eligible superhero that you’d like to see in the White House? For our purposes here, you can assume younger American superheroes would wait until they were old enough to run.

CARSON: I guess I’ll say Rogue. Though Zephyr Teachout sounds like a superhero name, don’t you think?  With the ability to withstand the corrupting influence of money? Actually, I’m gonna say Elizabeth Warren.   She’s a superhero.

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WXL:  I’ve never seen a play about Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel, or Joe Shuster. How is that you’re able to bring Wonder Woman to the stage, and in a sophisticated and challenging way, before DC Comics can bring Wonder Woman to the movies?

CARSON: Actually, there’s a bit of a movement going on with Comic Book plays!  There is a wonderful, heartbreaking play called The History of Invulnerability, by David Bar Katz, about the creation of Superman.  And there was just a play in New York called King Kirby, which I didn’t see, but it got great notices.  (Bob Kane may still be waiting for his play…)  And I don’t know why they can’t get it together for a Wonder Woman movie… although I do have empathy.  I think Lynda Carter left some pretty big red boots to fill.  She’s so indelibly connected with Wonder Woman, at least for anyone who grew up with the TV show.  I actually had no idea how much Wonder Woman had disappeared from the popular culture until I started working on this play. She was everywhere when I was a kid- TV, lunch boxes, the whole deal. It was shocking to audition actresses, and find that they had not had Wonder Woman to look up to, to emulate, as little girls.  It is definitely time for more Wonder Woman!

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WXL:  What comics are you reading these days?

CARSON: I’m a bit more of a graphic novel buff, myself. Art Spiegelman’s Maus got me hooked, let me know what was possible with pen and ink and words.  Allison Bechdel’s Fun Home is one of my favorite works of art in any genre whatsoever, and I’m so thrilled she just won a MacArthur Genius grant!  I love Stitches, by David Small.  The combination of words and images is so potent, in some ways so like theater… But it’s also very personal and internal as an experience: you create all the voices in your own head, and you can linger on any page or image to fully take in the detail or the moment, or rush image to image as you race to find out what happens.  My mother actually just sent me Jules Feiffer’s Kill My Mother, which is pretty funny of her.  That’s what I’m reading as soon as I get home from Atlanta.

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Atlanta’s Synchronicity Theatre  will be presenting Carson Kreitzer’s Lasso of Truth, a play about Wonder Woman and her creator William Moulton Marston. The play will run from September 26-October 19, 2014 at the Synchronicity Theatre’s new location at Peachtree Pointe 1545 Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia. The World’s Second Greatest Detective asked Matt Myers, one of the actors performing in the production.

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WXL: Briefly describe your role in Lasso of Truth.

MATT MYERS: I play Guy, who is the owner of a comic store in the 90s. He’s an artist himself, having learned to draw partially from reading Wonder Woman comics, and partially from going to the Rhode Island School of Design. He’s minding his own business one day, when in walks a girl bent on owning the first appearance of Wonder Woman (All-Star Comics #8), and thus his life is changed forever.

It’s a really interesting take on Wonder Woman’s origins and some pretty cool storytelling elements in there. And I get to play a comic shop owner who is not like Comic-Book Guy on the Simpsons.

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WXL: What are some of the differences between theatre and comic books as story-telling mediums?

MATT: The luxury of comic books is that you can accentuate things with closeups and angles and using the visual language of comics to convey information very quickly. No closeups in theatre, unless we run at the audience suddenly, or angle changes unless we move the stage. I’m only half joking on that. But theatre has its own conventions to fall back on. Music, sound design, lighting; that can make it a more visceral experience. Both mediums have their own ways of letting you into the minds of the characters, thought-bubbles versus soliloquy. Comics are (generally) a one reader at a time experience, while everyone is experiencing theatre together, so both offer there own types of intimacy with an audience. Honestly, I think they’re more similar than different, though, just from pacing and the types of stories we tell and the types of people who are drawn to them.

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WXL: Personally I’ve grown very attached to Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s work on Wonder Woman and feel nervous about the Finches taking over the title. Azzarello and Chiang had Wonder Woman standing nearly outside of the DC universe and the Finches intend to tie the title more closely with events with the DC universe as whole. Likewise Wonder Woman will make her first appearance on the silver screen in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Do you prefer Wonder Woman as a stand alone character or as part of the larger DC universe? How do you see her involvement with the larger DC universe affect her and her strength as a character?

MATT: For total transparency, I haven’t really read Wonder Woman since John Byrne rebooted her, and before that, George Perez. Guess I’m dating myself there.

We were discussing at rehearsal the other night why Wonder Woman is a difficult character to write. She’s not only Iconic, but Symbolic. So you can tinker around with the iconic characters (and Lord knows they have) but her symbolism and significance makes it hard to do as much with her. Folks get ticky when you deviate too far from form with her. Look no further than David Finch saying they weren’t focusing on the feminism of Wonder Woman. Folks get upset. Even folks who may not have read Wonder Woman recently or ever. She’s that important, Symbolically. And someone has to keep that torch lit.

So all of that to say, I think it’s important that there’s a Wonder Woman in the DC universe and that the other characters show her reverence.  It’s a small but important thing. If Batman and Superman treat her as their equal and not like an equivalent to Aquaman (sorry, Aquaman fans) or the JLA admin (sorry, Flash fans), it’s better for the character. There is no other female character in comics with her kind of cache and power. Still, I understand wanting to give her some distance from the rest of the universe because that frees her up from some of that baggage.

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WXL: When the New 52 launched in September 2011, Azzarello and Chiang received a lot of flack for changing Wonder Woman’s origin from daughter of clay to daughter of Zeus. Many critics felt a certain degree of her essence came from her fatherless origins. Having worked with the character’s real life origins and Marston’s own challenges to gender meaning for Lasso of Truth, how important is this detail of Wonder Woman’s origin to you?

MATT: Hmm, that’s an interesting question. Never really thought about it. But you know, since you brought it up, I think it is important to the character that she didn’t have a male authority figure. It keeps her from having to kowtow to a man, for anyone to have sovereign over her. Zeus is the big boss and all the mythological guys have to bow to him, but Hippolyta seemed a bit more of a guiding force, rather than a vindictive one. In theory, I preferred their relationship. Granted, all of these characters could be much different now than I’m remembering them, as the characters continue to evolve whether I read them or don’t, but I imagine they’ve stayed similar. Wonder Woman bows to no man.

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WXL: Do you believe Marston’s ideas are still present in the character of Wonder Woman?

MATT: Absolutely. She is the standard-bearer for female superheroes. In any incarnation of her, they always have her strength, fortitude and force of will. These are key to her. He wanted to show that strength and femininity are not at odds with each other and she does that.

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WXL: Which DC Comics superhero do you believe is best suited to play Hamlet?

MATT:  I guess the obvious answer is Batman. The death of a loved one causes them to become single-mindedly focused on vengeance, taking their own sanity into doubt at times, and using cunning to defeat the wrongdoers. Maybe Green Arrow? Both of those guys can dwell in the dark places that Hamlet has to go. I guess that makes Claudius Ra’s Al Ghul.

Ooh, I would add that Essential Theatre did a show called Bat-Hamlet a few years ago, that focused on exactly that.It seemed to lend itself more to the Adam West Batman but it followed the train of thought you’re talking about.

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WXL: What are you reading?

MATT: I’m reading She-Hulk, Nightcrawler, Afterlife with Archie, Astro City, and Saga. I go in and out of reading Walking Dead and Invincible and have lately mulled over catching back up on Fables. It’s hard for me to keep up with single issues so I mostly do trades these days.

 

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I think both of these pieces came out pretty well, each creating a distinct scene. In the top one, I hear a soundtrack that crosses the soundtrack of Silence of the Lambs- that bit where the Buffalo peacocks- and Edward Elgar’s Pomp of Circumstance march, livening up the percussion crew Mickey Hart employed to score Apocalypse Now, perhaps with bass powerful enough to shake lava out of distance volcanoes despite being a distance fatally far from the ears of someone who might sympathize with your screams. It would be a party. Le génie de Mal, my dear friends. Or as the Lizard King, not a far cry from the Macho King, once said: “This place has everything. Pills, girls, grass. C’mon, I’ll show you.”

 

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This one’s shooting more for a tranquility in passing, the half-smile from a stranger that feels like a Valium or when you hear a violin played underground- this music would be much softer, but no less intense- David Borden meeting up with  Francisco Tarrega in a zen garden in the year 5000 where the lines between analog and digital, man and woman, life and death have been blurred so harmoniously that prayers and giggles set an unpredictable beat- so unpredictable anyone can follow along.

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For the second year, the World’s Second Greatest Detective presents an assessment of the comics I’ve read, awarding accolades to books that impressed me. Like last year’s list, this one comes at the beginning of September because my comics year begins and ends with Dragon Con in Atlanta. A lot of titles that I mentioned last year continue to turn out great work: Saga, Revival, Batman, Manhattan Projects- but I’d rather steer attention to titles that didn’t make last year’s list either because of my ignorance, their slow creep to trade, or the fact they didn’t exist last year. There will also be some categories this year. For example:

Best Comic Book Character portrayed in an animation

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Katana in “Beware the Batman”

I should remind you that I don’t read any Marvel books, though the announcement that Charles Soule is leaving all his DC titles and the particular temptation of his Death of Wolverine has me eying the other side of the fence a bit. My decision to abstain from Marvel Comics is sort of arbitrary, but not totally without reason- limits on time and resource do not permit me the luxury of reading every comic book, so I picked one of the big two companies and don’t read the other at all. Though I do read a lot of independent comics and that’s really where my heart belongs. I picked DC over Marvel because of many reasons, but the simplest is Batman.

Not all of the accolades will categorized. Nor may all those mentioned really be ‘comics of 2014′ in the truest sense. For example, thanks to a generous donation by Oni Press to the WonderRoot Jackie Ormes Comic Book Library. I had the privilege to read two series that knocked my socks off:

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Courtney Crumrin is the fun story about a misanthropic little girl who lives a society worth hating, but luckily finds an uneasy friendship with her witch uncle and a few easier friendships with netherbeasts. It’s a clever book and the content is acceptable for most age levels.

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The Sixth Gun is an epic story set in a very Wild West, shaped by all sorts of occult and heebie jeebie ghost stuff. Cullen Bunn and the other creators of The Sixth Gun have moved onto other things and the news that DC would cancel All Star Western saddened me a little. East of West is still kicking around, but 2014 has  introduced a Western title that I may enjoy more than all three of those titles.

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Pretty Deadly contains some amazing art. Much like the best work of J.H. Williams III or Francis Manpaul, Emma Rios’s artwork stands out for her creative use of the medium. Panels and pages work together to create a fantastic pace. As Kelly Sue Deconnick’s writing takes the story in and out of stories and timelines, the art and especially the coloring distinguish the different parts of the whole quite well. Deconnick opened the Comics and Popular Arts Conference at this year’s Dragon Con with a rousing talk touching on a variety of subjects such as how we learn publicly and with record in a fast-paced technological society and how that empowers a ‘gotcha culture’ which in turn hinders our ability to learn; the use of the white male as the default character; the futility of overly emotional and aggressive responses to opposing ideas; and comic books. Her husband writes a pretty good comic too.

doing it and doing it and doing it well

Sex Criminals is a twist on Bonnie and Clyde, Robin Hood, Out of this World, 9 Songs, the Matrix, A Dirty Shame…and yeah, it isn’t. It’s an incredibly original story about a girl who stops time when she orgasms and a boy who also stops time when he orgasms. They discover this shared ability during the act of coitus and put it to good use, robbing banks to raise money for a library under attack by a viciously greedy bank that the boy happens to work for and where he poops in his boss’s office plant once a day.

Another catergory?

Worst Comic Book Character portrayed in an animation

For the video game-inspired animated movie Batman: Assault on Arkham, a bit of a revolution for the animated superhero movie with its Guy Ritchie-like pace, excessive profanity, explicit sexuality, and a level of violence exceeding even last year’s The Dark Knight Returns, DC made a Suicide Squad movie under the guise of a Batman movie. One thing I like about it is how they retained the original physical attributes of Amanda Waller instead going for the Angela Bassett model. One thing I didn’t like is how they turned King Shark from this:

Joker lipstick on a shark

King Shark in the comics to:

james bond jaws joins suicide swaud

King Shark in Batman: Assault on Arkham

He looks a cross between Bane and Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me. Their motivation for desharking the shark is unclear to me. I also don’t understand why David Goyer wants to demartian the Martian Manhunter.

Best Comic Book Companion to a video game

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Injustice: Gods Among Us begins before the video game’s storyline. In the simplest terms, Joker has tricked Superman into killing Lois Lane who is pregnant with Superman’s baby. Superman gets so mad that he kills the Joker, beginning the fascist reign of Superman and a doting Wonder Woman. Because it is an Elsworlds story with so many DC characters involved, the opportunities for bringing the essences and flaws of these characters abound. Tom Taylor wastes none of them. The Bat family is especially well-done is the book- particularly Alfred and Catwoman.

Best Art in a Superhero Comic Book

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Jae Lee did some of the best work of his career during his time on Grag Pak’s Batman/Superman. Of all the superstar artists from the 1990s that have continued in comics, I think the development of Jae Lee’s work has been the most interesting to watch. If you haven’t seen his work on Before Watchmen: Ozymandias, I highly recommend that one too. Batman/Superman is a dreamy book, but it is not without a strong sense of character and expression. This collaboration between Pak and Lee stands out as a triumph in comic storytelling.

Second Attempt That Makes The Most Sense in the New 52

Giving Deathstroke another chance at having his own title. Also looking forward to Gail Simone returning to her Secret Six roots later this year.

Second Attempt That Makes The Least Sense in the New 52

Why are the Teen Titans starting over again with issue 1?

Best Volume 3 collection of the New 52

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Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics fulfilled its own prophecies in Vol. 3: At The End Of  Days. Morrison’s writes for the long haul and sometimes it works really well (Seven Soldiers of Victory, All-Star Superman, the epic story of Damian Wayne, Doom Patrol, Filth). His eighteen issues on Action Comics is separated into three acts, best illustrated by their separate trade collections. Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel comes off as a pretty typical superhero comic- it’s action-packed and reintroduces many classic characters from Superman’s mythology such as Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Metallo (Metal-Zero), and Brainiac. There are few weirdo moments, typical of Morrison’s work, but don’t overpower the straight-forward superhero elements. Vol. 2: Bulletproof is pretty weird, more distinctly Morrison. The story is all over the place, referencing itself, making the most out of the queer moments from Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel, as well as introducing a Barack Obama doppelganger named Calvin Ellis- another dimension’s Superman. Finally, in Vol. 3: At the End of Days, all the kookiness starts to make sense and the details of Clark’s arrival in Metropolis in Vol. 1 become enriched by a Myxlplyxian plot that satisfies the patient reader.

Best Vol. 4 Collection(s) of the New 52

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While The Flash Vol. 4: Reverse, Wonder Woman Vol. 4: War, and Batwoman Vol. 4: The Blood is Thick all continued runs by outstanding creative teams, it is books like the Green Lantern family of books, Justice League Dark, and Green Arrow that have seen new creators come in and take the books in different directions to which I’d like to draw your attention. Much praise has been tossed to Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Green Arrow, collected in Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine. The art distinguishes itself from the unofficial DC house-style and the writing invigorates Oliver Queen as a character. I do think that in praising Lemire and Sorrentino’s work, a lot of undeserved criticism has been thrown Ann Nocenti’s way. Her depiction of Oliver Queen as an Ugly American in the People’s Republic of China is one of my favorite instances of seeing China portrayed in a superhero comic. Jim DeMatteis has seemingly inherited the Dark family of DC titles, emerging from his run on The Phantom Stranger. In Justice League Dark Vol. 4: Rebirth of Evil, he takes over for Lemire- moving the story from Trinity War to Forever Evil territory. The little demon Constantine‘s are great, but I wouldn’t have minded a bit more Frankenstein, my favorite member of the Justice League Dark. With the announcement of Charles Soule signing an exclusive contract with Marvel, I expect DeMatteis may take over Swamp Thing, which had a good, but short Vol. 4: Seeder. Matteis does interesting things with the character in Justice League Dark, but if I was going to pick the new writer of Swamp Thing, I’d go for either Tim Seeley, Kurtis Wiebe, or Angelo Tirrotto. To write an Animal Man title despite his joining Justice League United, I’d recruit Corinna Sara Bechko or Joshua Ortega with the instructions to keep Animal Man dark. Finally, the new slew of Green Lantern creators gave the ring-slingers an exciting year. Ranked best to least best: Red Lanterns, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians. Outside of those Vol. 4s, I was disappointed with the Larfleeze title, but look forward to Cullen Bunn’s Sinestro.

Best Non-Picture Book Author to Write a Picture Book

the boys are dead and girl just wanna have fun

Toby Litt on Dead Boy Detectives

When I lived in Ireland, I discovered the work of Toby Litt, an author whose work was not available in the United States, and absolutely fell in love with it. Deadkidsongs, in particular, left me creeped out and inspired. When I heard he would be rebooting the Vertigo series Dead Boy Detectives I waiting in hefty anticipation for the trade to be released. While I was not disappointed, I must admit that Litt has not taken to the medium as quickly as the likes of Brad Meltzer who blew the comics world away with Identity Crisis. I do however see great potential in the future comics work of Litt as he adapts to the medium. Reading the trade, you can see him become more comfortable and, in turn, more capable.

Best Superhero Live-Action Movie

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X-Men: Days of Future Past, like its predecessors, stands well above the rest of the Marvel movies (with the possible exception of Captain America: Winter Soldier). Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, and the rest of the classic mutants put on a great show and new arrivals like Quicksilver brought energy to the film. This and X-Men: First Class are my favorite of the X-Men movies. They somehow managed to make Fan Bing Bing look terrible, which is my only real complaint about the film.

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In conclusion, I’m looking forward to more great comics this year though I have some concerns about a few creative teams at DC (Wonder Woman) and will miss some of my favorite creators and titles as they disappear from the shelves, hopefully replaced by new books of splendor, wonder, and ideas.

 

 

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