Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Top Ten Marvel Essentials Series That Deserve Another Volume

Long-time followers of my blog will know that I love love love love love the Essentials series. I adore getting huge chunks of comics for a ludicrously reasonable price and tearing through twenty issues at a time of a classic title. They don't come out nearly often enough for my tastes, unfortunately, which means that not only are they not collecting some of the series that I want at all, they're also frustratingly slow in getting out more of the ones that they've started. Don't get me wrong--I understand that top priority will always go to the next Spider-Man, Cap, Thor, Iron Man and whoever else has a movie coming out soon. (Which may mean we might actually freaking see 'Essential Guardians of the Galaxy'!) But there are a lot of titles I want the next volume of, and I want it now. In reverse order of desirability:

10) Howard the Duck. Yes, I know this one's crazy. I know that the post-Gerber issues supposedly suck, and that they're not a patch on his great work on the series and that they were just an attempt to cash in on the character after he got sick of dealing with Marvel and quit. I'd still like to see them, just to make that judgment for myself. They'd also probably have room here to collect all the material Gerber did once he reconciled with Marvel before he died, which would be a nice gesture.

9) Captain Marvel. They've got two volumes out, and I think a third would actually bring them right up to 'The Death of Captain Marvel'. I'd like to see that, for the sake of closure if nothing else. Never been a big CM fan per se, but it'd be nice to have his story completed in one set of accessible volumes.

8) Doctor Strange. There were a lot of good Doctor Strange runs in the late 70s/early 80s, and the Essential series is on the verge of getting to them. My dream run goes all the way up through Roy Thomas' return to the series alongside Jackson Guice in the late 80s, before they got all 90s with the character and lumped him in with the Midnight Sons in a failed attempt to make him "edgy". (Oh, who am I kidding. As part of an Essentials run, I'd even take that.)

7) The Defenders. As with Captain Marvel, I think that one more volume should just about finish the series off. It'd be nice to get the original run collected, right up where it gets canceled and dovetails into the first issue of X-Factor. Plus, there was a certain apocalyptic splendour to the series finale; it's not quite the original Doom Patrol, but the team did implode in a pretty impressive way, and it'd be nice to read it all in one big story.

6) X-Men. Totally unfair, I know, because the odds of them not continuing to collect the X-Men are pretty slim even though Volume Eleven makes a good stopping point (it's the end of the Claremont era.) But just because they're likely to collect it doesn't mean I want it less. This was about where I stopped reading the X-titles, primarily because it was too expensive to keep up with them and there were too many series to keep track of and there was too little going on in each issue. The Essential version cures pretty much all those ills at once, so I say bring it on!

5) X-Factor. Pretty much everything I said about X-Men applies here, with the added bonus that the next volume would collect most of Peter David's original run on the title, which was absolutely divine. Vic Chalker and his family, Strong Guy, Cyber, and I'm pretty sure the X-Cutioner's Saga falls into this era too. Fun stuff, even if the end of X-Cutioner's Saga made it clear that they had no idea at the time who Stryfe and Cable were going to be. (Their dialogue makes literally no sense in light of their later origins.)

4) Web of Spider-Man. There is just no way I'm turning down mid-to-late 80s Spider-Man. Amazing, Spectacular, Web...I'm a sucker for all of it. This one's on here pretty much as the representative of the trio, because there's a little less of it than there is of the other two and I have fond memories of it. (And if they go far enough, we could get the Clone Saga! How sad is it that I actually enjoy 90s schlock when it's cheap enough and I can read it all in one sitting without having to open bags.)

3) Power Man and Iron Fist. There's still, I think, another volume or two to squeeze out of their original run, and that was a fun era on the title. The two characters had a great chemistry, they're still popular...or at least, Marvel's still pushing them on people, which may or may not be the same thing but I love reading their old series. They were hard to find on the newsstands when I was a kid, and all I really remember is that Iron Fist died at the end in a very stupid way. I'd like to go back and actually read it all, though.

2) She-Hulk. This one's a sneaky one, because the first volume collected her whole 70s run. Which means that a Volume Two would jump ahead to her classic John Byrne run, which I have fond-but-vague memories of as one of the great action-comedy series. Byrne's art in black and white is always easy on the eyes, too. I'm sure this one would be popular; it's got some serious nostalgia working for it.

1) Silver Surfer. Volume Two of this series was basically Volume One of the characters 80s title, and it deserves a Volume Three which would actually be a Volume Two. Steve Englehart's old run on this series was absolutely pure, unmitigated awesome. Better yet, continuing further would hit Starlin's run, and if there's anything that would sell right now it's the comics featuring the original return of Thanos. Add in the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos Quest, and you've got some truly great cosmic epics. I'd love to see it all in a single big, thick, black and white chunk.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Top Five Picks for the New Avengers Team (Once Disney Buys Up the Rights to All World Media)

Because let's face it, we know it's coming. And while it's undoubtedly going to have downsides to have a single massive corporation controlling the intellectual property rights to every single concept ever created by anyone ever, it does mean that the crossovers are going to be freaking metal. So let's just get on to the happy part of it now and worry about the rest later, okay?

1) Harry Potter. Because the Avengers have needed a magic specialist for a long time. You can't always cross your fingers and hope that Doctor Strange is going to be at home to answer the phone instead of being on the tail-end of the 14th Dimension fighting it out with Freddy Krueger, can you? (Remember, Disney will own everything.) Harry brings real magical expertise to the table, he's survived at least two uses of the Killing Curse, and he's got that great teen/tween appeal.

2) Snake Plissken. Because if there's one thing Brian Michael Bendis has forced on us taught us, it's that the Avengers should have at least one ruthless murderer on the team at all times, just in case a ruthless murder needs to happen and everybody else has scruples. (Because that's the extent of scruples as Bendis understands them--not doing the murdering yourself.) Plissken is a expert tactician, a weapons master and a good close-in fighter. I can see him teaming well with the Black Widow and Merida (oh, she's totally on the team. So's EVE. But we're limiting this to team-ups that couldn't already happen.)

3) Pikachu. You'd probably have to bring Ash along for the ride, here, sort of like how the Justice Society always had to hang out with Johnny Thunder even though you know they wanted to just stuff him in a dumpster somewhere and take the thunderbolt along by itself, but it'd be worth it. Anyone who ever played 'Super Smash Brothers' can tell you the little teleporting lightning mouse can be stone-cold brutal when the mood strikes him. Besides, how awesome would it be to have Doom cowering in fear on hearing "Pika Pika!"

4) Superman. Because if you're putting together a flagship comic of all the superheroes, how can you pass up the ultimate hero? He'd probably have to split time with his membership in the Justice League, like Captain America, but it'd still be a great addition to the title.

5) Hannibal Lecter. Hey, it still makes more sense than Wolverine.

Any suggestions you have for a great Avengers roster that involves non-Marvel characters? Toss it in the comments!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Worst Thing About All This

Years ago, I thought I had a shot at breaking into screenwriting. I didn't think I was going to be any kind of artistic success, mind you, but I was more than willing to make some decent scratch off of being low-brow. And I thought I had a pretty good insight into what kind of comedies teenagers wanted to see. So I wrote a script for Jim Carrey.

It wasn't great, don't get me wrong. I knew I was slumming it, and I wasn't proud. But it was the kind of thing he did back then, and it was just tasteless and raunchy enough that I thought I might be in with a chance. Carrey was the male lead (of course), playing a dorky-yet-loveable congressman who went off to Washington determined to do the right thing. (There was a running gag about his last name, "Weiner", and all the other congressmen making fun of him.) But he was allergic to the cherry blossoms, so he got his doctor to prescribe some anti-histamines...only the doctor was actually this crazy mad scientist type (I was thinking maybe get Martin Short for this part? I had some suggestions, maybe I was overstepping my bounds there) and he mixed up this bizarre chemical concoction for him. And when he drank it, buttoned-down Congressman Weiner became the suave, sexy ladies' man Carlos Danger.

I figured it'd be a guaranteed sell. There was all sorts of wacky misunderstandings going on, Carlos kept doing things that Weiner had to explain away, the other Congressmen were using it as a way to try to get him to drop out of the race so that the crooked governor could appoint a sleazy creep to the post who was going to bulldoze an orphanage, and in the end Weiner got the girl (of course there was a girl) and saved the orphanage. I was already describing it in my head as "'The Nutty Professor' meets 'Mister Smith Goes To Washington'," which I knew was going to go great at the producers' meetings, and I figured I'd make a million off it and be able to quit my day job. My only question was whether I should have gone with 'Mister Weiner Goes To Washington' instead of 'Congressman Weiner'.

And Carrey shot it down cold. He sent it back to me with a note on it that said, "Give me a break! Totally unbelievable even by my standards. 'Congressman Weiner'? 'Carlos Danger'? Nobody's going to buy this, especially not me!" I can't pretend I wasn't hurt--I'd sold out my artistic integrity, and found out that nobody was even buying. (I was even more upset when I saw the ads for 'Me, Myself and Irene', but I decided not to sue. Dignity, that's my motto.)

And that's the worst part. Now I have proof it could all really happen, but Jim Carrey isn't doing those kinds of movies anymore.

Oh well. Maybe I could dust off my old horror movie script about a Mormon ex-governor who concealed the evidence of his serial killings in his tax returns...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Next Week On 'Finding Cthulhu'

Next week, on 'Finding Cthulhu', the team heads out to Arkham, Massachusetts.

MATT: Arkham is actually a very good place to go when you're looking for for 'Thuls; there've been about a dozen sightings there in the last century. We got some audio footage from a friend of mine in the area, said he heard several 'Thuls calling to each other.


RANAE: I'm pretty sure that's just whale song, guys.


BOBO: That's Ranae all over. She doesn't understand that Cthulhus are expert mimics! The Call of Cthulhu can sound like any number of local animals. I think she needs to see Cthulhu for herself to understand the truth.

MATT (voiceover, over shot of map of Massachusetts): We traveled up to Arkham to see if we could uncover evidence of Cthulhu. Our first step, as always, was to ask residents if they'd seen the Elder God.


MATT: So you say you've actually seen a Cthulhu in the wild?

MAN IN STRAITJACKET, HIS HAIR STARK WHITE WITH UNHOLY DREAD: I have! I have seen him, I have seen his dread majesty! He comes forth to ravage the world! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn! Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


RANAE: The boys gave a lot more credibility than I would to a witness who was committed to an insane asylum after murdering half a dozen people. I'd like to try to get some video evidence. That's why we're spending the entire night in a leaky rowboat out in the harbor, dropping heavy rocks into the area where we believe a Cthulhu to be nesting.


BOBO (to CLIFF): Wanna try a few calls?

CLIFF: Sure. [puts fingers in front of mouth in a vaguely tentacular fashion and burbles through them]

MATT (voiceover): Cliff is an expert Cthulhu caller. His Call of Cthulhu should get some results, especially with me dropping rocks over the side.

CLIFF: Did you guys hear that? That strange, unearthly splashing noise?

RANAE: That was Matt, dropping a heavy rock in the water.


BOBO: Ranae didn't hear it, but I'm sure I heard a second splash a split-second after the rock hit the water. I'm sure that the 'Thul responded to us by slapping a tentacle...but when he saw that it was a bunch of humans and not another Cthulhu, he ran away. They're naturally timid around people.


MATT: Well, guys, I guess the stars weren't right tonight. Still, I'm sure we'll find some evidence next week in Innsmouth!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Find Myself Deeply Disappointed in the Film "Pinocchio's Revenge"

I had a weird idea for a horror movie starring Pinocchio, but before I shared it with you I figured I'd look up the character on Wikipedia because the idea is so obvious I feel like it must have been used before somewhere. I did see that there was a horror movie called "Pinocchio's Revenge", but it didn't have even a single scene where Pinocchio grabs someone and starts rapidly telling lies, impaling them on his sharpened nose.

Why even bother if you're not going to do that? Huh, movie?

(Also, if anyone can tell me if this idea has been done, I'd be very grateful. It feels familiar to me, but then again I was reasonably certain someone must have done the 'Scooby-Doo'/'V for Vendetta' mashup, and I appear to have come to that one first.)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

If I Wrote the Fantastic Four #1

Yes, it's a total rip-off of Chris Bird's "If I Wrote the Legion", but I can't help it. I have ideas for a Fantastic Four run, and even though this is no way to break into a major comics company (if it was, they'd have listen to Chris Bird's frankly awesome ideas for the Legion) fish gotta swim, you know? So, here's my first in an irregular series of posts on what I would do with the FF if I got it, starting with...

#1: Cosmic Rays. They're Not Just For Breakfast Anymore.

One of the things that I've become a big believer in, so far as comics go, is that there's a depressing dearth of creativity. Everyone comes onto a series to do their "Greatest Hits Album", taking the better-known villains on the title and trying to do the "ultimate" story for that villain. That isn't to say that this approach can't work; Kurt Busiek's run on 'Avengers' was a GHA, going from obscure villains like Imus Champion and Morgan le Fay to his take on Ultron and Kang, and it was great. But there's only so many times you can do a Fantastic Four run that goes through the Frightful Four, Galactus, the Mad Thinker, Doctor Doom, and never adds anything to the mythos.

Which isn't to say I wouldn't use Doom...but not from the start. My first storyline would involve creating some new villains for a change. And why not use the same method that created the Fantastic Four? "Probably because not everyone can just hop on a spaceship and fly past the Van Allen Belt," you might say, but I have a solution to that.

In my first issue, Reed discovers a source of concern regarding the Earth's ozone layer. Roxxon (they're still around, right?) has been using a new manufacturing process which they insist is perfectly safe...but as an expert in cosmic rays, Reed alone realizes that they're slowly eroding the Earth's protection from cosmic rays. As a result, the layer of atmosphere that shields from cosmic rays is dangerously thin, with shifting "hot spots" that allow full-strength blasts of cosmic rays to go all the way down to the ground.

As a result, random individuals are being hit by cosmic rays and gaining superpowers. Some of them are taking it well; I figure there'd be at least one who's trying to organize a support group. "People With Powers, Thursday 7-8." But there are always going to be some people who use their powers in the wrong way, and as the cosmic ray experts, the FF are the go-to people for it. They stop the bad ones, help the good ones, and Reed adds every single one of them to his "When I Finally Find A Cure For Cosmic Ray Bombardment" list.

Of course, there are other people out there interested in what is the beginning of a new army of superhumans...

Monday, July 08, 2013

Post-CONvergence Report

Sorry about the lack of a Thursday post, but as previously mentioned, I was at CONvergence this weekend. For those of you not familiar with it, CONvergence is a Twin Cities sci-fi/fantasy/general geekery convention that grew out of Minicon, but has rapidly come to outshine the venerable old sci-fi/party convention in the minds of me at least. It's a con that's hit that perfect sweet spot, large enough to attract cool guests like Paul Cornell and Kevin Murphy, but not so large that you have to wait in endless lines for each panel. (Although this year for the first time there were significant lines for badges. My advice to anyone going is to pick theirs up a day early.)

Once again on going to the con, I was struck by how absolutely great, how amazingly wonderful, how shout-it-to-the-rooftops awesome this con's harassment policy is. They make it clear through posters on every single wall and in every single convention space that being a jerk to your fellow conventioneers is not going to be tolerated (of either gender, by the way--several of the posters had men in kilts next to the slogan "Costumes Are Not Consent", which is a wonderful contrast to conventions that allow things like the Kilt Inspection Brigade.) They had various spaces designated as Official Safe Spaces, where you could go and be guaranteed that the person there would send whoever was bothering you away and give you a chance to get over whatever they did while they got convention staff to kick that person out of the con. CONvergence walks the walk as well as talks the talk, and the result is a con that attracts a lot of amazing and talented female guests and has wonderful gender representation on the panels. (Paul Cornell said that when he announced that he would only appear on panels if there was at least one woman up there with him, CONvergence was the only convention that didn't have to rearrange his schedule at all.)

And the panels were fun. I saw a great panel on the Worst of Bond, I was on a great panel on the Wilderness Years of Doctor Who (with Jason Tucker, who's arranging a new convention here in the Twin Cities, and Lars Pearson, who is always an absolute delight to talk to or listen to, and with my lovely lovely wife.) I ran four Red Dragon Inn demos, I jumped in a hot tub bigger than my actual bathroom, and I saw trailers for movies both real and fake. I took about fifty photos of people in awesome costumes, including a TV-quality Vastra and the Pink Dalek (an adorable eleven-year old girl handing out ribbons that said, "Exterminate! XOXO Pink Dalek". They were the hot item of the con.) And I am already looking forward to next year, and planning to join the movement to get Ben Aaronovitch to the next CONvergence. (The theme next year is urban fantasy. The man who wrote 'Rivers of London' deserves to be there.) (So does Paul Cornell, but he's already said he plans to go every year because he loves it so much.) (And frankly, so do I.)

So a big thank you to every single one of the volunteers, even if it was just someone who badged for a half-hour, and I hope to see you at next year's CONvergence!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Insane Comics Moments, Part Eight

Frankly, making fun of the Blackhawks is like shooting fish in a barrel. Sure, they were more popular than Superman at one point and sold more copies of their comic, but you can say the same thing about Youngblood. They're basically just "wacky ethnic people flying jets", which was enough to hang your hook on back in the Golden Age when they didn't know any better (other successful comics back in the day were "a guy who hits people", "a guy who throws smoke bombs, then hits people", and "a short guy who hits people".) But once the Silver Age rolled around and kids got real superheroes, sales of the 'Blackhawk' comic plummeted.

Which is when things got...awkward.

Because it led to Blackhawks #228, which is nigh-unto-legendary in the annals of lovers of Silver Age goofiness everywhere. The DC Universe goes temporarily meta, as Batman himself informs the President of the United States that the Blackhawks have become so terminally lame that even other fictional characters can't stand them anymore. (Lest you think I'm joking here, the actual quote from the comic is, ""It's fact, sir -- the Blackhawks are washed-up has-beens, out of date antiques, a danger to national security! To put it bluntly... they just don't swing!" That's Batman, explaining to the President. No really.)

Later, the secret agency known as GEORGE (I'd really like to say that's not an acronym, just because I love the idea of a secret agency named George, but it actually stands for "Group for Extermination of Organizations of Revenge, Greed, and Evil") defeats the Blackhawks in a mock battle to show them how inept they are. It's a comic-book intervention, basically. The Blackhawks decide that the only way that they can become crimefighters as good as superheroes...is to become superheroes themselves.

And this is what they come up with.


...just feast your eyes on that for a moment. Marvel at Stan's...what the hell is that, a tesseract on his wrist? Does he trap enemies in the fourth dimension with it?

Gaze in astonishment at "The Listener", which has to be the least menacing superhero name ever. "Talk, punk. Tell us what your plans are. Because I really want to know what you're thinking. People say...I'm a really good listener."

Admire the Weapons Master, who looks something like my mental image of the Unabomber before they caught the Unabomber.

And Dr. Hands...you know what? That's actually a step up in dignity for Chop-Chop. Screw it.

After 14 issues, this take on the characters was pretty much dumped down the memory hole to land next to Mopee, the Heavenly Helpmate who gave the Flash his powers, and the Blackhawks themselves entered decades of on-and-off (mostly on) comics obscurity. Their revamp, though, entered comics history as the only desperation move lamer than Penance.