Thursday, April 2, 2009

Episode 1: In which Hoopla is returned to its right and proper place in the universe and much rejoicing is done

Hello and welcome to...



Right. Well, first of all I suppose I should apologize for the extended hiatus... there was a time, many moons ago, when I used to do this as a weekly thing.

That time has clearly passed.

These days most of my time is being taken up with my teaching job, which I absolutely love, working on an article on Private Governance that I hope to get published later this year, and planning my wedding to the lovely Miss Mie Nakanishi, which will take place on the 4th of July this year.

And, of course, reading comics.

I think at this point the most I can realistically quasi-promise is a monthly column discussing the new solicitations as they come out and, perhaps, the occasional extra-special-bonus column when I happen to be in the mood.

It's not much, I know, but it's really all that seems likely to work right now.

So, let's get right to it, shall we?

Today's column is looking at books coming out in June 2009... as always, I'll be focusing primarily on Marvel and DC titles, because that's mostly what I read. Implicit in this admissionof guilt is the fact that I am single-handedly responsible for the decline of Western Civilization because I don't read a lot of indie/underground titles which are undoubtedly brilliant but which, to be honest, I have almost no interest at all in reading. Occasionally one does pop up that really grabs me... Love and Rockets, Sudden Gravity, Lords of Misrule, Shuck, Strangehaven, and so on... but I am pretty traditional in my tastes and that's the sad truth about that.

In keeping with what has been a monthly tradition for almost four years, DC has a bunch of crap coming out in June and then a handful of really good books that somehow snuck past Dan Didio's grubby little fingers...

Let's take a look...


Written by Grant Morrison

Art and cover by Frank Quitely

"Batman Reborn" begins here! With the reunited team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, WE3, New X-Men), this first issue kicks off a 3-part story arc that can't be missed! The new Dynamic Duo hit the streets with a bang in their new flying Batmobile as they face off against an assemblage of villains called the Circus of Strange. They also tackle their first mission investigating a child who’s been abducted by the mysterious Domino Killer. But will everything go smoothly? And who exactly are the new Batman and Robin? The newest era of The Dark Knight begins here! On sale June 3 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely on Batman and Robin. Hm. It is truly a sign of how little faith I have in DC's in-continuity titles these days that I honestly can't decide whether or not to get this.

Grant Morrison's previous issues of Batman have really not been my cup of tea. And the whole "Batman R.I.P." storyline... ugh. Just thinking about it gives me a kind of a sour feeling in my stomach. Also, this is the new Batman and the new Robin, as the original Batman is now a caveman trapped living in the past or somesuch thing.


I will probably get the first issue of this just because I am a total sucker, but I don't think I'll be getting any beyond that. I love Quitely's art and Morrison can be a lot of fun, but I really don't have a good feeling about this, particularly since it is rumored that the new Robin will be that Damien kid who showed up a few years ago. Batman's son. I hate that kid.

Meanwhile, delighted with the negative reaction to Final Crisis, DC has decided to publish four six-issue limited series spinning out of the train wreck that was their last big mega-event.

They are...






Here's what editor Ian Sattler had to say about Final Crisis Aftermath: Run!

The scope was...or rather the idea of Run! was a simple question – “How fast can we make this book?” The thing about these books is that they’re all very, very character driven, and they all have certain stylistic themes, with Run!’s being how kinetic we can make a comic? Matt had mentioned to me that he had always wanted to do a big chase and capture book with the criminal and police that takes place across different locales, and with this book, we’re really trying to see how fast we can keep the book feeling. Scenes don’t last more than a few pages as the Human Flame is moving around the country at a pretty quick clip. As we were doing this book, the test that we came up for it was us asking ourselves, “Is this Run? Is this fast enough?” And the other question we asked ourselves was how far can we push it without going into areas of poor taste. That’s not saying that we’re being shocking just to be shocking or that these are mature readers books, but we’re looking at telling different stories. I’m a huge fan of shows like The Wire and The Shield - things that are more aggressive and grittier without going into total grindhouse. It’s easy to go to that end of the spectrum, but to do it without pushing it all the way to that end is actually a lot harder, but that was the edict on all of these books, and we’ve got it in spades in Run!.

There are several things that strike me as being worthy of ridicule here, but I think my favorite part is:

As we were doing this book, the test that we came up for it was us asking ourselves, “Is this Run? Is this fast enough?”

For some reason, that strikes me as hilariously stupid.

The other thing that really stands out is that they wanted to see how close they could get to areas of poor taste. This from a DC editor.

For the past few years, one of the trademarks of most DC superhero titles has been gratuitous violence. I'm not talking about the usual Biff! Bam! Pow! that one expects in these things... I'm talking about arms being torn off of bodies, babies being incinerated, eye-balls being eaten, heads being torn off and tossed around...

Quite honestly, I think they have already explored poor taste sufficiently.

And what I really love is that Sattler identifies himself as a fan of The Wire and Shield. Those are both great shows, but what makes them great isn't gratuitious violence; it's the incredibly high quality of the writing and the acting. For that matter, I don't think it's accurate to say that The Wire in any way resembles "grindhouse." It's very realistic, yes, but it's certainly not in-your-face gore and violence. And it is definitely not violence as entertainment.

But, whatever...

Later in the interview, the Newsarama reporter asks about FINAL CRISIS AFTERMATH: DANCE

NRAMA: Alright – moving over to Dance...

IS: I do have to say that I love the title, and once you see it, it makes a lot of sense, given that the Super Young Team is put out on display and have to kind of “dance” for their jobs and their message. And there will be actual dancing in the books.

Get it? They have to "dance" for their jobs!!! And there will be actual "dancing" in the book.


And then there's this...

NRAMA: It sounds like something of a post-American Idol Teen Titans in a way...

IS: Exactly. That’s a good way of putting it – it’s also more or less post-American, Japanese Teen Titans too. I don’t like a heavy dose of realism in my comics – as a fan, as a reader, I don’t like it when comics gets really heavily reflective of current events, so here the metaphor is that this is very...the references are there, and people can probably draw lines, but they’re also very easy to ignore, too. But yeah – the media, and what we’ve come to accept as heroism is a really big part of Dance.

Yeah, yeah... that's the ticket! I don't like it when comics reflect current events but, yeah, it's the media and the... and the heroism... yeah! It's all kind of... Dance-y. You see? Because we're all just... we're all just dancing! You get it?!

NRAMA: And finally - Escape...

IS: Dan’s editing Escape, and the big idea with that is that it’s part Prisoner and part Saw...

That's all that really needs to be said about that. Because if there's one thing that I never ever ever want to read, it's a comic-book (or any kind of book, for that matter) that is part Saw. That's the movie that helped start the whole torture-porn genre of film that is so popular right now.

So... yeah.

It's actually sort of interesting... in a frightening sort of way... to see the above titles as a reflection of where DC is at right now. Getting too caught up in current events is no good, presumably because it would be too realistic and would ruin the fun of comics... but grindhouse violence is something that's really fun to explore.





Well, I must get out in the world for a little bit, so I suppose this is Part One of looking at the June 2009 solicitations... before we go, I feel we really need at least one good comic to get excited about, so let's close with this...



Pencils & Cover by YANICK PAQUETTE

“The Origins of the Species”As the X-Men reel from the return of one of the greatest X-Ladies, Beast and Angel take the X-Club back to 1906 to investigate the origins of the mutant species as we know it. See the earliest stages of the Hellfire Club and the very first Sentinel ever! This story is not to be missed!48 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

I'm not a fan of the X-Men in general, but this sounds and looks very much like X-Men by way of Planetary.

My prediction...? This is going to rock...

- Paul

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And thanks for all the fish!

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away and so I thought that would make this an appropriate time to officially give thanks for all the many lovely things in this world of ours--most of which are comic-book related--that help make getting up in the morning a bit less odious than it might otherwise be...

I want to start with a big one that has absolutely nothing to do with comic-books at all, and that is my number one thing that I am thankful for...

Thank you, American people. Or, at least, about 53% of you...

On to comic-book-y goodness...

I am thankful for Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who are currently writing two sci-fi super-hero series for Marvel: Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy. Neither of these are outstandingly amazing works of literary genius, but what I love about both series it that they tend to be super-deluxe fun...

Nova is about Richard Rider, a normal Earth guy who was chosen to join the inter-galactic police force of Novas... which meant that he wears a funny bucket on his head and has some pretty cool powers. In this series, however, the Nova Corps. has been destroyed and Richard Rider is the last of the Novas... which means he's single-handedly responsible for the entire galaxy.

That's a big responsibility.

At first, the story focused on the interaction between Richard and the Worldmind--the collective intelligence/culture/history/other stuff--that now existed inside his helmet and constantly scolded him. Nova would race off to fight some inter-galactic evil and the Worldmind would point out that if Richard got killed the Worldmind would also be destroyed; its argument was that keeping the Worldmind preserved was a hell of a lot more important than saving a few lives.

Richard disagreed.

Hilarity ensued.

Then, about four issues into the series, Richard Rider got killed--sort of--and we had a replacement Nova, a Kree military commander. Then Richard came back, but had been infected by the alien techno-virus that was ravaging the Kree world and creating all sorts of problems across the universe. Just as that whole situation was being resolved, Richard got called to a planet that was being consumed by Galactus, leading to a big ol' fight against the Silver Surfer, who pretty much beat the crap out of Nova. They resolved their differences--sort of--but Nova was a bit slow getting off the planet and...

Anyway, the thing I love about this series is that the status quo is constantly changing and that Abnett and Lanning manage to make Nova seem like a heavy-hitter but also are able to continuously come up with big-scale challenges to keep him busy... this is no easy trick.

Their other series, Guardians of the Galaxy, is even better. The Guardians of the Galaxy are a real mixed bag of 'heroes' who were sort of coerced into coming together to fight inter-galactic badness... there's Adam Warlock, Drax the Destroyer, Starlord, Rocket Raccoon... and many more.

If this series has a flaw, it's that Abnett and Lanning sometimes try to tell too many stories at once... it's not always clear how--or if--the various plots tie together. That said, I much prefer a series with too much going on to a series with too little... and the writers make good use of humor to help keep things relatively light... Rocket Raccoon, in particular, makes this series worth reading. He's a raccoon with a laser-gun. How cool is that?

Very cool.

I'm super deluxe thankful for the current Thor series... which is bizarre, because I have zero interest in Thor as a character and I generally quite dislike J. Michael Straczynski's writing. A large part of the credit must go to artist Olivier Coipel, who is producing some of the most gorgeous artwork I have ever seen in a comic...

[That's Loki you see above, looking very creepy... he's a woman now. It's a long story.]

To my mind, Coipel's work on Thor is comparable to Totleban's art on Swamp Thing, back in the day, or the art from Promethea by J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray.

It's that good.

But, in all fairness, Straczynski is also largely responsible for the wonderful-ness that is the current Thor series. He's taking his time to tell a slow, epic story rich with intrigues and tragedy and grim forebodings... and he has completely revitalized Loki, who was generally a pretty dull villain before this storyline.

Good stuff.

Anyway, I'm running out of time, but here are a few other things I'm thankful for...

Keith Giffen's art... whenever and wherever it may appear...

Geoff Johns and Gary Frank on Action Comics... I can't think of a run on a Superman title that I've enjoyed this much since... well, since waaay the hell back when Dan Jurgens, George Perez, Karl Kesel, Jerry Ordway, and a couple of other folk were writing/drawing the three titles. And that, I believe, was in the late 1980s.

The thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man... I think all of the writers and artists are doing a phenomenal job on this title... and editor Steve Wacker deserves a huge kiss for putting it all together and for returning the letters page...

Jeff Parker's writing on Marvel Adventures: The Avengers and all of the works that it has inspired, including a lot of recent comics by Paul Tobin, which have been VERY fun...

And many, many others...

Anyway, this has gone on long enough... You need to get back to work and I need to get back to whatever it is that I'm supposed to be doing...

I did briefly consider giving thanks for all the wonderful people in my life and blah-blah-blah, but then I decided that would be incredibly tedious for everyone involved. So, just let's assume that I'm thankful for all of those people and then let us speak about it never again...

So, from all of us here at Hoopla! (me) to all of you out there in readerland (that would be you and that one other guy who keeps accidentally winding up on this page because he can't figure out how to use his favorites function)...

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!

- Paul

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On Superman

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

So, there's a ten-part interview with Grant Morrison being posted over at newsarama which is all about the recently completed All-Star Superman series he and Frank Quitely have been working on for the past few years. The whole interview is certainly worth reading, but I found this excerpt particularly lovely...

In the end, I saw Superman not as a superhero or even a science fiction character, but as a story of Everyman. We’re all Superman in our own adventures. We have our own Fortresses of Solitude we retreat to, with our own special collections of valued stuff, our own super–pets, our own “Bottle Cities” that we feel guilty for neglecting. We have our own peers and rivals and bizarre emotional or moral tangles to deal with.

Ah, Grant Morrison. There's plenty of his work that is not to my taste (Invisibles, Final Crisis, Batman: RIP, his four-issue Mr. Miracle and Bulleteer series), but when he's on, he's on.

My only other comment for this very brief Hoopla! is that the January 2009 solicitations have come out and I am underwhelmed.

I suspect that it's a January thing. I have noticed, over the years, that the Big Two Companies don't tend to have much to offer each January; presumably the thinking is that everyone just spent all their money on gifts and so sales are going to be down in any case. And, hey, that may be true... who knows?

But one thing that did catch my eye is this...

Jack Power and Franklin Richards take a wild trip through the timestream and end up face-to-face with a pre-teen Wolverine! But since young James Howlett is nothing at all like the hero he is destined to one day become, it'll be up to our time-tossed troublemakers to teach the once-and-future-Wolvie how to kick some butt! Plus...MINI MARVELS!32 PGS./All Ages ...$2.99

I have never purchased a Power Pack comic before, but I honestly don't think I can pass up a story about Power Pack teaching a young Wolverine how to fight. I just can't.

Does that make me a bad person?

- Paul

Friday, October 10, 2008

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade #1

Here are some preview pages that have been posted for DC's Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade #1:


You can see them full-sized, as God intended, here.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating... DC's new all-ages line of comics is FUN!!! And super-cute!!!

- Paul

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Greatest Hits... almost

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

A while back, a 3-set anthology of Beatles songs was released that purported to contain their greatest hits, divided by musical period. I was disappointed to find, after I bought it, that these were largely "never before released" versions of their greatest hits... like the recording of "Strawberry Fields" where John Lennon starts coughing at one point, or the mix of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" where a helicopter happened to pass by while they were recording and it makes a sort of helicopter-y noise in the background. Or the early version of "Yellow Submarine" that doesn't have any instruments. And the submarine was only a canoe.

Watching the second presidential debate last night, I had much the same feeling. It was like a greatest hits anthology only less polished than the original versions. There was more stammering and mixing up of words. But, ultimately, it was just the two candidates repeating what they perceive to be their best lines, which we have already heard a bazillion times before.

The only thing I really learned from that hour and a half of my life, which would have been better spent playing with my cat or reading comics, is that McCain needs to stop saying "My friends..." so much. It's become annoying. He needs a new line. I don't know what it should be... maybe if he really needs to preface each and every sentence, he could vary it with a few other lines, like "Guys and gals..." or "My fellow mavericks..." or "Chimichanga - Watch me Now!!!"

And, for god's sake, next time don't forget to oil his joints before the debate.

Neither candidate impressed me, though. and Tom Brokaw simply sucked. You mean to tell me that of the twenty bazillion questions that were sent to him, those were the most original and provocative that he could find?

"My question for the senators is... this financial crisis... it's really bad. So, what are you going to actually do, if you are president, to deal with it?"

"My friends... my opponent wants to tax you. To tax you!!! And he told Palestine that he was going to bomb it. You don't do that, my friends. You simply don't."

"I... I just have to quick respond to what Senator McCain has said. I do not want to tax you. In fact, I want to give tax cuts to 95% of the middle class."

[One of these days, he really does need to tell us what that other 5% did to piss him off so much.]

"Our next question comes from aisle J... and it is... What will YOU do about the financial crisis, in the first two years of your presidency, if you are elected president?"

"My friends, I'll tell you what I won't do. I won't raise taxes on the working poor, like this one wants to. And here's his dark secret... here's what Senator Obama hasn't told you... he hates the U.S. economy and everyone in it. But, my friends, the American worker is the best damn worker in the world. The best exporter, the best importer... I love you guys. I really do. You're the best. I don't care what Obama says..."

"That... that just isn't true. Listen... my tax cut is going to HELP 95% of the middle class and small businesses. It looks to me like the wheels just fell off the Straight Talk Express at a busy intersection... and that intersection is today's financial crisis, which was caused by the Bush Administration, which starts with B which rhymes with P and that stands for McCain!!! Because Senator McCain has voted with President Bush 90% of the time. And he actually voted AGAINST investments in solar energy and wind power 26 times."

"My friends, that just isn't true. Barack Obama is like a jellyfish that you can't quite keep in an aquarium because it keeps slithering up the sides and threatening to bomb Pakistan and have dinner with terrorists with NO PRECONDITIONS. You don't do that. You don't do that. You don't have dinner with known terrorists who have called Israel a STINKING CORPSE. You simply don't do that, my friends."

"Okay, okay... settle down fellows. I'm going to use up a few precious minutes good-naturedly chiding you for going over the allotted time. I mean, I'm trying to do a good job here. I am. And I'm following the rules that you gave me. So, please, don't go over the allotted time. You're just making my job that much harder. And you make me feel sad inside. And now I'm going to ask this question, which came from the internet... "About this here financial crisis, what are YOU going to do about it if YOU are elected president?"


Who knew democracy could be this banal?

- Paul