Monthly Archives: June 2012

Crabcake Confidential: Insufferable

“Lifetime pass” is one of those terms that I have, over the years, grown to hate. It’s overused, and it’s usually attributed to people who hardly have done anything artistically to deserve it. (Seriously, I’ve heard it applied to Zack Snyder. Really, people? Really?)

However, if I were the sort of person to give anyone a lifetime pass, it would be Mark Waid.

The guy just loves superhero comics. He loves the history, the symbolism, and the potential. But he does more than just worship at the Altar of Superman. Mark Waid also writes great stories.

Take his most famous work, Kingdom Come. He’s paired with Alex Ross, a guy whose painterly style emphasizes the power and mythical grandeur of his superhero subjects. That alone made it a can’t-miss proposition. Waid, though, brought things down to a personal level. Our heroes weren’t approachable demigods but regular folks with fears and anxieties. Superman is haunted by a world that seems to find him obselete. Bruce Wayne has become a (strangely happy) creepy recluse. Oliver Queen is paranoid, but with strong connections to his family. (He is also responsible for one of my favorite comic book lines of all time after he shoots an arrow in a crowded bar filled with superheroes who’ve just been enlisted by Superman: “So you heard Big Blue’s pitch … now for the democratic response.”) These guys come across as real characters that aren’t at odds with the icons we already know them as.

Then there’s all the homages that Waid squeezes into the comic. He reaches into the forgotten histories of the DC Universe — one that they often like to bury as being too corny or too unhip — and brushes it off for a new audience… all before guys like Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns would make it a regular thing. If you look in the rafters, you can spot all heroes named The Red Tornado, including a fun update to Ma Hunkel. Look in a crowded bar scene, and you may be able to see Marvin from the Superfriends show curiously dressed like Lobo.

Even more impressive — to me at least — was Waid’s run on Impulse. There was the respect for comics history with the inclusion of forgotten characters like Max Mercury. There was also a great sense of fun, something that was a precious commodity in the 90’s where grim and gritty was a corporate-mandated requirement for all superhero comics. The fun, though, radiated not from silly situations and silly villains but from the personalities and the interactions. (Seriously, I would recommend tracking down old issues of Impulse even if you’re not a superhero fan. Especially if you’re not a superhero fan.)

However, that doesn’t mean that Mark Waid only writes kids’ stuff. He’s gone to some disturbing places with his recent material at Boom Comics. There, he imagined a superhero universe where the Superman-archetype goes insane and becomes the world’s greatest villain (Irredeemable). They’re alternate takes of the superhero mythos that feel natural, not transgressive … like, say, much of Mark Millar’s works. Waid’s stuff may go to dark places, but storytelling and character — not shock value and the cool factor — comes first.

It should be no surprise that his recent foray into digital comics, the Thrillbent site, is mainly about guys in colorful tights who punch things. It’s also a logical extension of his recent trend in telling stories of truly morally compromised superheroes. Irredeemable was about a hero who becomes a villain. Incorruptible was about a villain who becomes good. And his latest entry into the genre with artist Peter Krause, the phonetically similar Insufferable, is about the kind of heroes who just cannot stand each other, framed in the context of fathers and sons.

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Poll: How many digital comics do you buy?

According to a recent finding by Robot 6, we finally have an idea of how much money digital comics made in 2011. The total value is around $25 million, with $19 million going to Comixology, the main provider of digital comics. Let’s not forget that this was a pretty banner year, with DC Comics and their rebooted universe leading the way by providing same day digital — and then Marvel Comics soon following suit. Things are even looking better for 2012, with forecasted sales of around $70 million.

So, dear reader, how many digital comics do you buy? (And, just so it’s not confusing, by “digital comics” I mean comics you download through an app like Comixology, not webcomics which are viewable mainly through a browser.)

2012 Eisner Round-Up: Foxes, Seeds, Lieutenants, Protestors, and Battlepug: the Pug Who Battles

The Eisner Awards are coming around again, which means it’s time to fire up the Sugarshock-o-meter and make with the predictions! Lest you forget, the Sugarshock-o-meter was named in honor of Sugarshock!, winner of the Eisner’s Best Digital Comic Award and penned by Joss Whedon. Yes, that same Joss Whedon who’s likely swimming in a sea of licensed Marvel merch after the resounding box office take of his Avengers movie, which is currently at $1.4 Billion internationally (putting it at #3 of all time right behind the James Cameron 1-2 punch of Avatar and Titanic).

But remember… we recognized him first! Or, at least, previous to the Avengers.

Every year a five-member panel of judges makes the nominations: librarian Jesse Carp, comic shop owner Calum Johnston, legendary comic book creator Larry Marder, University of Oregon professor Ben Saunders, and probably the most webcomic-friendly member of the panel, fellow comic blogger Brigid Alverson. The nominees are then voted by comic-book professionals, with the results announced at San Diego Comic-Con (held this year between July 12-15).

A disclaimer here: the Sugarshock-o-meter only calculates the chances of whether or not a webcomic is going to win the Best Digital Comic award, not the actual quality of the comic itself. Such is the limitations of technology. Stupid, foolish logic. To get a sense of what I thought of each comic, I’ve included a link to the reviews next to each nominee.

So who does the Sugarshock-o-meter predict will run off with the award? Let’s run the machine and check out the results, shall we?

The webcomic: Outfoxed (reviewed here)

The skinny: A fox outfoxes hunter with the help of a foxy laundry woman. He in turn becomes a foxy guy. Laundress tell him to fox off.

DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!?!?!??!

The X-Factor: With shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time dominating the airwaves and movies like Snow White and The Avenger Thor hitting the cineplexes, it’s safe to say that fairy tales are totes in. Also, the fox dude looks like Marvel’s Starfox, which may reel in unguarded comic book nerds into reading this story.

The Y-Factor: It’s kinda short, and short stories have been very Eisner friendly recently. Readers may also start wondering whether or not the laundress is being manipulated by the Infinity Gauntlet.

AFI Top 100 Film This Is Most Like: Fiddler on the Roof

Sugarshock-o-meter: 88/100

The webcomic: Sarah And The Seed (reviewed here)

The skinny: Elderly woman Sarah cradles an ominous seed in an allegory to the horrors of child-rearing. And gardening.

The X-Factor: It sorta sets itself up as a horror comic, but it isn’t. Which sorta makes it like a David Lynch production. Remember that scene in Twin Peaks were were see the shaking back of that little person, buzzing like a weird hummingbird, ready to scare your pants off the moment he reveals himself — but when he turns around he’s this funny dude in a leisure suit? This comic is sorta like that. And nerds worship David Lynch.

The Y-Factor: Like Outfoxed, it is a rather short story. They’re the big draws on Reddit, but not necessarily so at Eisner time.

AFI Top 100 Film This Is Most Like: Eraserhead

Sugarshock-o-meter: 90/100

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The Webcomic Overlook #204: Whomp!

What makes you happy? Maybe it’s spending quality time in the arms of a loved one. Maybe it’s being at the beach while the setting sun lights up the clouds with an ethereal palette of purple, red, and gold. Maybe it’s someone liking your Instagram photo that you snapped with your iPhone of two wet leaves on the steps of your house.

Or maybe it’s Chicken McNuggets. That’s the answer that Ronnie would give. Ronnie is the chubby, insecure protagonist (and I’m assuming the author stand-in) in Ronnie Filyaw’s Whomp!


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The Oatmeal, along with others, sued by FunnyJunk

I wasn’t going to really comment on this because, well, it sounded like a whole lot of internet drama that would blow over eventually. Matt Inman’s handling of the situation over at The Oatmeal didn’t do much to change my mind about it. Not to make a judgment call on whether Inman is right or not (I do tend to think he has a stronger case here). It just seems like how things went, say, a decade ago with eBaumsWorld.com and the like.

Here’s the long story short in Inman’s words:

Remember FunnyJunk? Almost exactly a year ago I published a blog post about my comics being stolen, re-hosted, and monetized on FunnyJunk’s website. The owner of the site responded and some of the comics were taken down, He still had a ton of my comics hosted without credit, but the energy it would take to get him to take them down wasn’t worth it. I thought the issue was done and over with so I let him be.

A few days ago I was served papers informing me that the owner of FunnyJunk is going to file a federal lawsuit against me unless I pay him $20,000 in damages.

Anyway, it looks like things are going to get pretty full-blown Level 5 Dramabomb. The end of Inman’s post said he was going to raise $20,000 but not give it to FunnyJunk… rather giving it to charity. And now the rebuttal (care of Lauren Davis at ComicsAlliance):

Ken of Popehat.com and Kevin Underhill at Lowering the Bar broke the story that, on Friday, Carreon did, in fact, file suit with the United States District Court in Northern California, naming not just Inman as a defendant, but also IndieGoGo, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society. Granted, Carreon isn’t alleging that the latter defendants did anything wrong, but he is trying to legally enjoin them from receiving any money.

Man, I’m just all sorts of awed that internet litigation has moved on from the idle threats phase that we saw in the mid-2000’s to the full-court press we’re seeing now.

One Punch Reviews #67: The Line

Did you know Anthony Bourdain has a comic published by Vertigo? It was a surprise to me. It’s called Get Jiro!, and he describes it as a “gourmet slaughterfest”. I suppose this sounds like yet another random mash-up to some … but to me, it’s a perfectly logical extension of a chef’s duties.

It just never occurred to me until now that chefs may be more desensitized to violence than the average person. While we get to experience violence from the comfort of our living room chairs, these hearty souls must deal with blood, gore, and viscera on a daily basis. Perhaps the most gruesome thing I’ve seen on TV was the original Japanese Iron Chef, where, on TV, they grab live fish, slap them onto a table, and gut them as the spark of life goes out in their fishy eyes. Chef’s view it all with a jaded eye, only thinking of how in death they will be transformed into something glorious. Then they chop it, fry it, and transform it into something that distances the eater from its violent origins.

That’s probably why the characters in Kevin Church and Paul Silvi’s The Line seem to be one foul outburst away from snapping and murdering someone in cold blood. But really, given their hectic conditions, who could blame them?

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Random Quickies: Little League

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Do you like seeing the DC Comics’ heroes as little kids? Sure, who doesn’t? There was even a whole episode of Justice League Unlimited devoted to that very concept. Well, cartoonist Yale Stewart goes head-on with the Justice League meets The Muppet Babies concept in his too-cute-for-words webcomic Little League. It’s the DC comic universe de-aged and seen mainly through the eyes of the World’s Finest Tykes: Li’l Bats and Li’l Supes. Together, they must engage in epic battles with villains like Lex Luthor (leader of the big kids), deal with mandated costume changes, and play the deadliest game of them all — dodgeball.

The Webcomic Overlook #203: Hejibits

Hey, kids! Do you know what time it is? It’s time for that video game expo! No, not the one founded by the webcomic guys. The other one. The one in LA. Um… the Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3. It’s like, sort of a big deal (not really). And to celebrate this great day, let’s take a look at another webcomic about video gaaaaammmmmeeeeeeeeeeee…

Uh, yeah. I’m not doing that anymore. I think last time I stretched out that word, it broke my blog.

Hejibits, written by John Kleckner, is almost throwback to an earlier era. To read it is to remember of the days when the internet bubble was just bursting, Homestar Runner ruled the internet, Weird Al Yankovic experienced a new burst in popularity with “White and Nerdy”, Kanye West was calling people out on his blog for being squidbrains, and webcomics were about roommates and done in MS Paint. To read Hejibits is to reminisce of the days when Explosm.net was just starting out. Remember Cyanide and Happiness? Of course you do, you old fart.

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