Friday, November 29

DC Comics – December 2013, New 52 Month 26

A record of the DC Comics that I read that were released during October that I received near the beginning of November. Caution: Linked reviews may contain spoilers! [Link to previous month]

Well, as I hoped, I did enjoy this batch of comics better than previous months. Simply not feeling the constant pressure to read overly critically (in the technical sense of the word) and take notes geared toward having something “meaningful” to say about each and every issue was liberating. And it sure did speed me up! I can't tell you how relieving this is. Comics have been part of my life, to one degree or another, all my life, and while I couldn't imagine giving up on them entirely, working my way through that stack every month was really getting hard. Plus the prospect of six or eight hours, all told, composing that bloated monthly roundup post that I had been doing....Putting together the illustrated list with review links is, comparatively speaking, a piece of cake. Not that everything was bad, it just wasn't fun anymore. This month was different.

Tuesday, November 26

"What's this you say about binding comic books...?"

... as in several of my past posts concerning one of my far too many intermittent obsessions (see various posts with key-word "library-bound comics" [link])...?  Well, here's a little something more, courtesy of a video blogger who posts various comics/pop culture stuff under the name of "ROH," from ComicFest 2013 back in June.  About five minutes about Herring and Robinson Bookbinders [link], whom I use for my comic binding, starts about 1:14 into the video:

Fascinating stuff!  Top-notch craftsmanship by incredibly nice people.

Makes me want to get off my duffer and finish prepping my latest volumes for binding....

Cheers! -- and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 23

The Weekend of the Doctor

Well, I do not remember the premier of Doctor Who fifty years ago today.  For one thing, it was only in England, and for another, I was only two years and five days old!  And, honestly, I'm only a very recent "convert" to Doctor Who fandom.  I was vaguely aware of the property maybe as early as the 1970s, when reruns ran here in the States on PBS, but it was only during my college years in the early 1980s that I knew anyone who actually watched the show, and under his influence I made a brief effort to get into it.  That attempt was fostered by the fact that the new Doctor at the time was Peter Davison (fifth from the left above), whom I already liked from his role as Tristan Farnon on All Creatures Great and Small, a show that I watched -- again in reruns on PBS -- with my father, who was a huge fan of James 'Erriot (giving it the proper Yorkshire accent my father always mimicked with reference to the show).  Nonetheless, the show really did nothing for me and I drifted away from it fairly quickly.  Frankly, the primitive special effects were a major reason, I admit.  It was only a few years ago, with the premier of Matt Smith (far right) as the latest Doctor, that I gave the show a chance again, and this time I was hooked, and have been ever since.  I even went back and watched Christopher Eccleston's tenure (third from right) on Netflix, as well as some of David Tennant (second from right).  But mainly I have gotten far more interested in the property as a whole, although I've not sought out and watched any of the "classic" episodes.  It's a bit overwhelming -- Where to start?

Friday, November 22

My First Real Memory - 22 November 1963

I have maintained all my life the firm conviction that the first clear, specifically dateable memory that I have is of Walter Cronkite cutting in during the CBS soap opera As the World Turns and announcing the death of President John F. Kennedy.  I was two years and four days old, playing in the living room while my mother folded clothes and watched television.  I remember it in great detail.  I do, of course, have scattered flashes of memory from probably before and after that event, but this is, as I said above, my "first clear, specifically dateable memory."  In any case, my grandmother always insisted that there would be no way that I could possibly remember something that clearly from that early in my life.  My mother always corroborated the context and the details, however.  

Wednesday, November 20

DC Comics – November 2013, New 52 Month 25

Well, my OCD is indeed getting the better of me, to a certain extent. No, I'm not going to restart blogging the New 52 with pages and pages of commentary [link]. But I have liked having a record of what I read each month ready at hand here on the blog, as well having a quick link to [link]'s compendium of reviews for each issue. So I will put in the work each month to compile and post that much – yes, starting with “Villains' Month” which I finally finished trudging through a couple of weeks ago.  As usual, my reading is delayed by roughly a month from the comics' official on-sale date since I receive my comics by once-a-month shipping from Discount Comic Book Service [link].

As to the news round-up I used to start with, it was never very thorough in the first place, and I don't like being constantly negative – which it's too easy to be when talking about DC these days. Any news items that do compel me to comment will get their own separate post in a more timely manner.

As to these particular issues, I just couldn't bring myself to take notes as I went along, and frankly most of the issues are pretty forgettable. As I figured I would, I consider this to be basically a wasted month – and the most wasted money I've ever spent on this hobby. But I do like having the quick links to various reviewers for myself to refer to if need be, so I am putting this little bit of work into it before going forward and hopefully wiping the bad taste of “Villains' Month” out of my mouth. Truthfully, without the pressure of reading toward writing something “meaningful” for each issue, I have already enjoyed the next month's issues (which I've mostly finished already) more than I can remember in many months. But I do not believe my growing distaste with the direction of DC Comics is totally due to my own issues (pardon the pun) – I just do not like some directions they have taken. More perhaps on those points later.

Friday, November 15

Kings of the Comic Books (2013)

By Martin O'Hearn [Kindle Edition link]

We all know the story of the two Jewish boys who created, for all intents and purposes, the American pop cultural phenomenon of the comic-book super-hero, right...?  – Who had trouble finding a publisher for their creation but who believed in it themselves and persisted over several years until they finally succeeded...?  – But who, young and naïve, yes, but necessarily bowing to what was standard business practice in the nascent industry at the time, the late 1930s, signed away all their rights to their own creation with that first sale for a mere pittance...?  … Well, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster do indeed appear in this charming, well-researched, and well-written little book about the origins of the genre, along with many other famous names of that heroic age in which comic books literally exploded into late-Depression-era America standing on the cusp of the Second World War, but they are not the main characters.  They serve instead as the general models for O'Hearn's own self-styled “Kings of the Comic Books,” two high school boys in New York City – Steve Hersh and Curly Goldman – and Superman is a close enough archetype for their own creation, Sam Stark, Super Sleuth, that although they had created him before April 1938, DC Comics' Harry Donenfield was able to interdict publication and kill the feature.  In that, of course, O'Hearn bleeds in the famous case of Victor Fox's Wonder Man [link], the first and most blatant outright imitation of Superman, who hit the stands for a single issue in 1939 (ironically, the same month as DC's own Detective Comics #27 featuring the first appearance of Batman).  And from that mix of general models, plus a generous helping of period flavor and sensitively written characterization, O’Hearn creates a tale capturing perfectly what I imagine life at the birth of the Golden Age to have been like.  As I stated in my short review [link], “This is a must-read for any fan of the comic book genre.”

Cheers, and Thanks for reading!
 * * *

Note:  O’Hearn also runs a wonderful blog [link] wherein he seeks to identify the writers and artists of the Golden and Silver Ages when most went uncredited in the published stories themselves, a task that requires a considerably more discerning eye for subtle distinctions in style than I myself possess.  It’s an amazing accomplishment.  – The Prof

Tuesday, November 12

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Directed by Alan Taylor

My wife and I went to a matinee showing of “Thor 2” Sunday afternoon. We both enjoyed it. Unfortunately I can't say much more than that – it was enjoyable. It did not, however, WOW me like the first one or The Avengers did. Perhaps because it was a sequel, but that doesn't necessarily mean that much to me. There's no doubt it has top-notch visuals, and that it was a good story – in which Loki again steals the show. You just can't help but like that wascally wabbit. Nonetheless, I found the story pretty much utterly predictable – each time what in another movie might be shocking or poignant or otherwise emotionally charged scenes, I knew that Loki was doing what The Trickster God does best, pulling the wool over the other characters' eyes – besides the fact that here was yet another story in which not just the world but ALL OF EXISTENCE IS IN DANGER YAWN. I recognize that it's an inevitability with these kinds of blockbuster movies, but damn it gets old. Which all makes it sound like I did not like this movie. I did. But unlike others in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise of franchises, my wife and I didn't leave the theatre talking about how good it was, and I don't have any burning desire to see it again. I will of course be there for the inevitable “Thor 3,”as well as most anything else I figure they're likely to add to the Marvel Cine'verse, so it did its job in that sense. And I guess not every one of them can or will be awesome.

Cheers, and Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 6

DC Comics – Announcing open-ended hiatus on blogging the New 52

If you've been reading my increasingly delayed blog posts regarding DC Comics, over the past few months you've doubtless perceived my discontent with the direction the company and its stories have taken. [Last month is here - link.] That discontent really goes back virtually to when I began this blog, which was almost coincident with the announcing of the New 52 at the end of May 2011 [link], only a few months before its actual advent in September of that year. Last year I posted a fairly substantial summation of how I saw the situation a year into what DC insisted was not a line-wide reboot, and yet clearly was – what I sometimes called the “Nottaboot” [link]. While I have changed my mind on certain points (most notably gaining a new respect for Azzarello's Wonder Woman through a complete rereading only a few weeks after posting that review [link]), in general I have come to like much of what I've been reading less and less. In fact, it staggers me to see how many of the points I actually did approve of a year ago that DC seems to have discarded! If they were actively trying to drive me away as a reader they could not do much better.

It occurs to me that the burden I took upon myself in attempting to blog about these comics month after month has perhaps contributed toward my decreasing enjoyment of them. I finished reading September's “Villains' Month” stunt a couple of weeks ago, but although there were individually good issues I disliked the concept so thoroughly that I have been unable to bring myself to the keyboard to compose a post about it. Its cornerstone, Forever Evil #1 kicking off the latest-in-a-series-of-events-collect-them-all, wasn't much better – an okay story but ultimately going forward will depend on a plot device so laughably stupid that I am aghast somebody didn't catch it. Or do they not care? If they do not, it's hard for me. And so I have decided it's time I gave up that blogging commitment. My hope is that by simply reading the comics I am getting – which do look to be fewer in number over the coming months than it has been, given some shifts in story-direction in some titles I've been reading that I really have no desire to continue with [e.g., link] – perhaps I can recover some of that enjoyment. I sincerely hope so. There are some titles I have continued to enjoy and intend to stick with, but I will henceforth only blog about any that strike me as truly worthy of my time and effort to write about. Even among those that I am enjoying, there are frankly not that many.  And given what I perceive, rightly or wrongly, as almost contempt on the part of DC for its readers, especially those like me who have been with the company for decades (45 years in my case), I don't see that situation changing very soon.

So for now, at least, I'm done with blogging the New 52.

Monday, November 4

Nick Cardy (1920-2013)

If I had to select a favorite
Nick Cardy cover...
News hit late Sunday evening that the comic book artist I have long considered my favorite had passed away at age 93. I had seen earlier in the day, or perhaps Saturday, that he was in the hospital, and sent up a prayer for him.  By today, Monday, Nick Cardy's passing was widely reported, including by DC Comics [link] where he worked on some of my favorite series in the late 1960s-early 1970s, Aquaman and Teen Titans, and for several years in the early 1970s was the cover artist for virtually every DC title.  His delectable "Cardy Women" are legend [link].  He is the comic book artist I will most regret never meeting at a convention and getting a personalized sketch from.  My condolences go out to his family, many friends, and innumerable fans.

Requiescat in pace.