Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guest Blogger GPerez

Tony's taking a week off so this week there will be a guest blogger.

Why is he forgotten??
By Gabriel Perez
Ok quick. Make a list of the best comic book authors of all time. Hell I’ll even give you a chance to write your top five just to give you a shot. Ok time is up I bet I can name some of your top five: Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Brian K. Vaughan, Garth Ennis Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid. Hell, if you are old school I’ll even bet you may have put down Stan Lee, Dennis O’Neil. And the one person on top of everyone’s list is none other then one of modern comics’ greatest writers Alan Moore. But is he the greatest? Not that I am going to sit here and write about Alan Moore being a bad writer. in my opinion he has single handedly changed the industry to what it is today. But was he the first to do what he did? For all your work in making your top five list I bet there is one name that isn’t there that no one ever figured too put down. That one name being the name of Will Eisner. If you are pretty new to comics or you’re just not into the history it is save to say you may never have heard of that name. Well let me give you a little history on who Mr. Eisner is. He was born in Brooklyn…BROOKLYN!!!!! (Sorry it’s a Brooklyn thing), New York back in 1917. After finishing high school he got into the business due mainly to the advice of an old high school friend Bob Kane (…..FYI Kane created Batman).
During this time period comics where a new invention, which mostly featured reprints of comics strips from the new papers collected into one book. There was no original work being done until 1932 when two teenage boys created a character name Superman, this one event lead to the comic book that we know and love today. Up until 1939 Eisner was working with Jerry Iger on their own publishing company, until Eisner got an offer of a life time. Everett “Busy” Arnold offered him a job writing for Quality Comic. This job was writing a weekly 16 insert in the Sunday newspapers for the Des Moines Register, and Tribune Syndicated. Out of this agreement, The Spirit was born. Well that seems to be in end of the story about Will, but its not. The Spirit ran from June 2, 1940 until 1952. and unlike Jerry Siegel (creator of Superman) and other writers of his day Will owned the Spirit property along with anything created from the comic section from the newspaper, which was called the “The Spirit Section”. To think that the creators of some of the oldest, and most important characters in American history never saw a penny or were even given credit for their work until 1975. Not even Will being drafted into World War Two (1942-45) would stop the Spirit from being printed weekly every Sunday.
So let’s stop here for a second. Will along with his assassins wrote a weekly 16 page comic, every week (more or less no one is perfect) for 12 years. A new story with art work every week for 12 years and don’t forget The Spirit was one of only 3 features in that section that he did. There were still two other comics involved. Yeah, let that sit in your brain for a little. But The Spirit was only the start. During his time in the army he created a character for the army known as Joe Dope. Why would the army use Will Eisner to create a character for them? Will as strange as it is to imagine, even in the 1940s not everyone knew how to read books, let alone an army technical manual. Joe Dope was created to bridge the gap for those that didn’t know how to read or understood technical talk. As smart of a move as this looks this can’t be measured by sales or copies made, but in lives. Just imagine how useful one of his manuals would have been for someone trying to understand how to correctly load a machine gun, or how to fix the breaks of an army car.

He continued doing this line of work until about the 1970s, until he had an idea for a longer storytelling format. He finished his first try at this format, but found it hard to sell the idea of a big comic to publisher. He tired to sell the idea of his book not as a comic but as a graphic novel. That is right ladies and gentlemen Will Eisner created the graphic novel and its story telling format. And with that the gentle writer started his career as a graphic novelist at the age of 61, when in 1978 Contract with God was printed. At the age of 61 when most people are retiring he was starting a new genre-one he worked on until his death in 2005, a few months after he finished his last book The Plot: the Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Not to undermine the great writers of today but Will was doing things 50 years ago that people think are break through today. I once read an article about Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta. how it was an example of his trade mark story telling in which he told the story though minor characters, and not the main characters. A style that he “ mastered and made famous”, this was also a style that Eisner mastered in his Spirit run some 40+ years earlier. He was also smarter then most of his fellow writers from that period because he was able to get the rights of his characters where most of the same writers from his time period didn’t get anything. Not only does this mean a lot of money for him and his family but it also means a whole lot of control. The rights to his characters he created are in the hands of his family, and trusted family friends. That is why it has taken so long to see a Spirit movie. Not because there is a fight within the family, but because every movie studio they when to always tried to make a Spirit movie that wasn’t the Spirit. I have everything from giving super powers to making him a spirit of vengeance. Creators never have rights other their properties. Ever wonder why after The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore stopped writing for DC comics. Even a few days ago when the directer was announced for Y the Last Man, it was rumored that Brian K. Vaughan’s script wasn’t going to be used for the film. And when it is often said that someone wrote the book on a given subject or craft, well Will did write the book on it, well actually two books Comic and Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, which to this day are used to teach up and coming writers.
Like all statements that start off by someone saying “this is the greatest person to ever…” I understand that I am opening the door to people calling me wrong or stupid. But what I am aiming to do is to open the door to debate, and hopefully get more people out there reading his work. As sad as it would be in my mind for a comic book fan not to know who he is, I think that it is sadder if said fan has never read any of his work. Will Eisner is for the lack of a better term, the writer that time has forgotten. He fathered a library of more then 30 graphic novels and trade, and his Spirit Archives have reached volume 20 with 2 years left of comics to reprint. But he’s books never get talked about a lot. Keep this in mind the yearly awards for the comic book industry are called the Eisner’s not the Lee’s.

Once again I would like to thank Tony for letting me write this. Thanks Tony and have fun during your week off!

March 6, 1917- January 3, 2005

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Longbox of Love (Part III)

I am back for another edition of the Longbox of Love. This wraps up box number 2. One longbox left plus my box of trades. Looking at what has been in these two, I can already see that longbox number 3 is going to be Superman heavy. I think at some point I will see which of these titles have been collected. I am hoping to turn you on to some good stuff here and it would probably be helpful if you knew what to buy. Ok on with the show.

Queen and Country. The biggest victim of 52. Greg Rucka has an amazing range. Queen and Country is still being published although it has been a while since the last issue came out. This is the ongoing story of a branch of the British Secret service. It is hard to summarize all the stuff that goes on in this book but I can say that it has spy action, politics, and great character stuff. This is a dense but satisfying title.

I have a lot of Wonder Woman. I started getting Wonder Woman right after John Byrne left the book. If you are familiar with the title, then you know I got me some crappy issues. This part of the run was not great but it was OK. I scanned it to show that once, Wonder Girl actually looked and dressed like a real young girl. Of course on this cover, Wonder Woman is about to spill out of her top. You take what you can get I guess.

This cover is wrong on so many levels. Wonder Woman looks so mannish. She looks like a man named Chyna.

For years there was this guy named Steve who worked at my local comic shop. He turned me on to so many great titles. After a while, we found that we both liked twisted books so he found me some gems. The Unfunnies is supposedly making a comeback in a few months. Imagine an old Hannah Barbara cartoon about crows, where the main character is into deviant sex, drinking, and hang out with the most politically incorrect crowd ever. Really funny but not in the Garth-Ennis-All-Gay-Jokes-Are-Funny way. I'm excited that it is coming back.

When I moved to California as a teen, the two books I hunted down every month were Legion of Superheroes and Who's Who in the DC Universe. I love lists and almanacs. I didn't care is the stats were sometimes wrong. I just love the encyclopedia format and reading about characters I had never known about before. I actually got into Atari Force because of this book. I love how Earth-2 Batman looks so jaunty on this cover. I can hear Adam West saying "To the Batmobile old chum!"

I love that Alan Moore is this great writer who has won acclaim for his comic book work in serious literary circles, yet he also cranks out the naughty and indulgent stuff. Voodoo was just awful but the art was great and there were some really creepy concepts tossed around. Of course any comic about a stripper has to be gold!

I loved Supergirl's costume during the slipper era. The little "S" on the one boobie was so preppy.

I'm glad I found this issue in my longbox so that anyone reading this can email me an explanation of what the hell is going on in this book. Seriously.

Anytime Perez draws the JLA it is going to be good. I love Perez's Hawkman. I think he misses working with Romeo Thangal because to me, his work was never better than when they worked together.

Dang I have a lot of Fantastic Four. I think I may have the entire Byrne run. I love a cover with some gravitas.

Speaking of Byrne, man what a good reboot. Even though Busiek is retconning a lot of what was written in this series, the Lex Luther Byrne created is still the rich and devious thug Byrne turned him into. I would say this was the last era that I enjoyed John Byrne's art in. He kind of got loose and dark after this.

Y the Last Man was the first Vertigo title that I got from issue one. Now that it is ending I will have bought every issue of an entire comic title as it came out which is a first for me. I tend to miss hot new titles when they come out. Y is a great story. It starts as a "Lost" style mystery, morphs into a sort of spy action drama, then comes around to being character piece with great relationship stuff. Despite the many drags the book has had, overall it is excellent.

X-Statix may have been my favorite Marvel title ever. It turned the genre on it's ear, poked fun at mutants, pop culture, and anything else that stuck the fancy of Peter Milligan. This was a spin-off mini series which was hilarious. I love how Milligan took the "Wolverine is everywhere" thing and ran with it. It is kind of odd seeing a byline with Millagan and Darwyn Cooke on it.

Man what a funny book. This is the guy who does Lenore I think. The book is just what the title says. A story of a cat with a really big head. It has a happy ending sort of...

I won't spoil the actual ending but it's funny in that dark Tim Burton sort of way.

For a while in the late 90's/early 00's, DC was cranking out the good stuff. Chase was sort of a predecessor to Checkmate. Chase was a government agent who's job it was to keep tabs on the Superpowered community. It featured a lot of snappy dialogue and some really cool takes on the DC canon of heroes. I miss this title...

Remember Heroes Reborn? Me neither but I bought all of them at the time. This really was not so bad at first. Jim Lee shows that as a writer, he is sure a great artist. He is no Fabian Nicieza but the art was cool. Lee can sure draw a cool Thing.

During a time when Superman was a weak group of titles, the best Superman book was Supreme. Supreme started out as just another crappy image character but when Alan Moore took over, it became on of my all time favorite titles. This was Moore's take on the Silver Age Superman with crazy Science Fiction stories and a super dog. Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun.

Speaking of Superman

That crazy Mike Allred. This book was about 5 inches wide. It was a cool looking book with a sort of nebulous story, but I love how DC took a chance with the format.

One of the more infamous issues of a comic in a while, this was supposedly the issue that pushed Mark Waid off of his excellent Captain America run. This story makes ZERO sense. I would have loved to have seen what Waid had originally written.

Knockout! This was so fun! A secret agent for hire she and her gay hair stylist/partner find intrigue and lots of booty in the world of high espionage. If you like light hearted books with gorgeous art, I totally recommend it. I hope this has been traded because it only ran about 12 issues.

What can I say. One of the best comics ever. Top Ten is the book that got my wife into comics. The world of Top Ten is so rich. You could write thousands of stories. Sadly this book was doomed when Alan Moore and DC got into a bitch slap fight over those damn Watchmen action figures. This book was BEYOND top of the stack for me. I would read it first after getting home from the comic shop, then stick it at the bottom of the stack to read it again. Gen Has was the artist and he stuck tons of easter eggs in many panels. I may have to do a blog entry on just his book someday.

Lets end this visit with some Thor. In this special issue, Thor is thrown back in time to the Trojan War where he basically enters the story any time Apollo was supposed to be in it according to Homer. It was a fun book. I was really into mythology as a kid so I totally dug it. Plus, we find out who was really behind the end of the Trojan War:

Oh Loki...Tsk Tsk Tsk.

That's all for now. Whats in YOUR longbox?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Most of the Teen Titans declare war on drugs!

One day earlier this year I fired up my Zune (Don't judge me. I like my Zune) and listened to my regular crop of podcasts, I had only recently discovered the Comic Book Queers

I still was not sure I would keep it on my iTunes feed yet. This particular episode was called “Worst Comic Ever” Hilarious! Check it out here:

I love me some CBQ. Really funny and at the same time, witty and kind of poignant. I remember them talking about the Teen Titans drug awareness issue and I vaguely remembered the book. At the time I made a mental note to myself to look for it next time I ventured into Wonderland Comics. So flash forward to last week when I was working my Longbox of Love entry and while digging through Longbox number 2, look what I found:

I already owned this lil gem! Yay! So now that I hopefully have given due credit to CBQ for the idea, let’s take a closer look at this comic. The first three pages feature some glaring problems right from the get go. First of all there’s this:

Yes that’s right. This book was a collaboration between DC Comics, the Keebler Elves, and Nancy Reagan (who herself was known as the Dark Keebler Elf).
Second, something is wrong with this picture and I don’t mean Starfire’s cleavage is wrong:

Yes it’s the new leader of the Titans, The Protector! What happened to Robin? In comic terms he was probably off “training”. In reality, it all has to do with product endorsement contracts. As I remember, Nabisco had some sort of sponsorship deal with the Batman franchise and Robin could not be featured in something sponsored by Keebler. You know I never thought I would write a sentence dealing with the rivalries between cracker companies. Anyhow, no Robin. Instead we get the very closely modeled on Robin character, The Protector.

The story starts out with the Titans breaking up a drug ring and Raven working her mojo (she was Emo before Emo was hot) to show some drug pusher what it feels like to be stoned. As if he didnt already know. We get a look at what the world looks like when you are stoned:

Yes that’s right, Robin becomes The Protector and Donna Troy is a Skrull.

From there we get a tale of the Titans trying to make a dent in the city’s drug lord action while meetig a few kids who admit to some drug use. These kids are friggin hardcore. The scans make it hard to read but this kid is on more meds than Elton John. I mean seriously, the drug use is a little over the top:

And perhaps saddest of all, a young Chris Farley admits:

Of course anytime drugs come up, Speedy is always ready to jump in the pity party. This time he brings his massive body fat caliper.

Taken out of context, this panel seems to take the book in a whole nother direction:

It goes on and on like this:

The story is pretty basic. It does go into how drug can lead to violence. Especially ironic when your name is "The Protector":

Not suprisingly there is a hammy happy ending to this tale, just like in real life!

The fun really kicks in after the story ends and Mr. Keebler presents a sort of anti-drug activity book:

It features such ditty's as "Let's pretend your Crack Mamma could afford to buy you stuff":

And an examination of how Paris Hilton got that way. You can guess what she put at the top of her list(hint: it ain't SMART):

My favorite section is this series of roleplaying sessions for the kids to try out.

Let's do some together and see if the message has sunk in shall we?

So after a few hours of drug-awareness fun, you and I have, by now, earned our diploma. Wonder if Nan will present it to us personally?

So kids there is your reward for staying drug free

And if you're lucky you can score a hand job like Victor: