Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 48: In which we say farewell to 2007...

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

So, here's the deal...

I have a computer at home, but it pretty much sucks... if you ask it to do anything more complicated than send an email, it pretty much goes into shock and the whole thing crashes. Which sucks. So, when I'm working on Hoopla!, I use the computer at my office, which isn't actually my office but the guy I work for doesn't use it, so he's sort of lent it to me for the past several years...

You may be wondering, "Why is this guy telling me about his stupid computer and his office that isn't really his office?"

Well, the reason is this... on Friday afternoon (the 21 of December, that is) the GMU building shuts down and does not reopen until January 2. And my-office-that-isn't-my-office is inside that building. So, that means that there's pretty much no way for me to do Hoopla! again until after the new year starts.


I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all (both?) of you for reading this and to extra-especially thank those of you who took the time to write to me... it's much appreciated.

In an ideal world, I'd have the time and energy to put together some kind of "Best of 2007" list that would be the very height of hilarity and yet would also serve as a heart-felt tribute to all the fine, fine comics that have been published in the past year...

Such a list would have undoubtedly included Jeff Parker's Marvel Adventures: The Avengers, The Irredeemable Ant-Man, Civil War (I know, I know.. the critics all panned it. Too bad. I thought it was fantastic and that it served to make the Marvel Universe a MUCH more interesting place...), Ultimate Spider-Man, Proof, Agents of Atlas, Doctor Strange: The Oath, Immortal Iron Fist (and yes, I find it somewhat remarkable that an Iron Fist series is in my best of 2007 list, but there you go...), Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, New Avengers: Illuminati, Silent War, Runaways (particularly the last few Vaughan issues), Nova, Godland (Even though it's kind of petered out these past few months), All-Star Superman, World War Hulk (Hey, it was action-packed fluff, sure, but it was damn good action-packed fluff!), M.O.D.O.K.'s 11, The Deadpool/GLI - Summer Fun Spectacular, the final issues of 52 (except for those crappy World War III issues that all came out on the same week), The Brave and the Bold, Justice Society of America (especially the current Kingdom Come storyline), and probably a bunch of other stuff that I can't think of right now.

Perhaps I would have indulged in some sort of "Best Writer of 2007" kind of thing... and, no doubt, the winner of that would have finally, ultimately, inevitably been Jeff Parker.

Because he's awesome.

[For what it's worth, I think I'd have to give second place to Brian K. Vaughan who, in 2007, wrote the kick-ass Doctor Strange limited series, finished his superb run on Runaways, has almost finished a four-part Faith story in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer that actually surpasses the arc written by Whedon, and helped get the Lost TV series back on track. Now that's what I call a productive year!]

I would also, no doubt, have taken the time to single out some of the very worst comics to come out in 2007. Such a list would have been dominated by Countdown and all its many cross-overs, but I would have taken the time to also ridicule the Spider-Man: One More Day storyline, Flash: The Fastest Man Alive and the whole misguided killing off of Bart Allen, Amazons Attack, and possibly a few others that I have, through the grace of God, been fortunate enough to erase from my memory.

Biggest disappointment... Grant Morrison on Batman. It really should have been amazing and yet, it's really, really not. And it took me way too many issues to admit it to myself.

I was in Grant Morrison denial, I'm afraid.

The other biggest disappointment of 2007 was the big Wildstorm debut of Authority (Grant Morrison! Gene Ha!), WildCats, etc. What a fiasco that was!

And, too, let us not forget Dwayne McDuffie's debut on Justice League of America. I was totally psyched for that... but I've had to drop it after just a couple of issues because it is so very, very bad.

Perhaps such a column, had I the time to do it right, would also feature some of my favorite covers from 2007, interspersed throughout.

And, no doubt, I would have taken a paragraph or two to bitch and moan about the current direction imposed upon the vast majority of DC's titles, almost all of which are bogged down in continuity-incest of the very worst kind, and almost all of which continue to rely on the deaths of b-list characters in a very jaded attempt to maintain interest in their fictional universe.

I could try to make some funny ha-ha's about Dan Didio and the damage he's done to the DC universe, but the truth is, it's gotten to the point where it's not even a little bit funny to me.

It's just offensive.

All told, I'd say it's been a great year for comics... sure, there's been lots of dreck, but I can' t think of a year since I first started collecting comics when you couldn't make a compelling case that an all-time peak had been reached for truly awful comics...

But the good stuff... Yum.

There was lots and lots of good stuff.

On a more personal note, 2007 was an outstanding year for me... I've made a ton of progress on my dissertation and will hopefully be finished by the end of next summer... plus, I got to spend lots of time with friends this year, doing fun stuff like travelling to Florida and drinking lots and lots of yummy alcoholic beverages...

The biggest event for me in 2007, however, was issue #247 of my life, which featured the debut of a brand-new character... Mie.

We've been together for just about a year, now, as our first date was on or around January 4, 2007... and she'll be moving in with me at the end of December. So, that's pretty cool.

When I think back to her original appearance, she was drawn slightly differently and the writer hadn't quite gotten her dialogue style right... but from the very start I knew that I wanted to, someday, have my own prestige format limited series with her.

That's my humble little dream, anyway...

So, here's hoping that 2007 was good to you and that 2008 will be even better... the world seems to be a tad bit more f*cked up than usual, at the moment, but I am hopeful that better times are ahead for all of us...

Best wishes to you all and I'll see you on the other side of the New Year!!!

- Paul

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 47: February, you are too kind...

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

Holy Hannah! There are a TON of super-deluxe cool looking comics coming out in February and March of 2008... so many, in fact, that this will be part one of a ultra-deluxe special two-part Hoopla! extravaganza in which I attempt to highlight all of the upcoming projects that have got my pulse racing...


Written by MARK MILLAR Pencils & Cover by BRYAN HITCH MARK MILLAR! BRYAN HITCH! Need we say more? All right, we will! Who is Mrs. Fantastic? And how will her return into Reed's life rock comicdom's First Family? Also, get ready to meet the Invisible Woman's brand NEW super-team! This issue kicks off a year-long storyline that will make FANTASTIC FOUR "The World's ULTIMATEST Comic Magazine!" Promise! 32 PGS./Rated A…$2.99

I have to agree with them... Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch on Fantastic Four... nothing more really needs to be said.


Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS Penciled by MICHAEL GAYDOS Cover by MARKO DJURDJEVIC The break up! CONSPIRACY, PARANOIA, BETRAYAL may have taken their toll on the Avengers newlyweds Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. After the shocking turn of events at the end of last month's NEW AVENGERS ANNUAL, has Jessica Jones turned her back on THE AVENGERS? Who better to help tell this story than Alias artist Michael Gaydos returning to Marvel for this special issue. Guest-Starring the Mighty Avengers. WHO DO YOU TRUST? 32 PGS./Rated A…$2.99

I stopped buying New Avengers a while ago... I can't stand the art and the whole thing with The Hood beating and humiliating Tigra just really turned me off...

That said, a Jessica Jones story by Bendis and Gaydos...? It's like a brand new issue of Alias!!! Methinks this will be mighty good stuff indeed...


New title by Jeff Smith, creator of Bone.

You can read more at this link, but seriously, do you even need to...?


Written by TODD DEZAGO & MARK WAID Art & Cover by KARL KESEL

The Looter! This guy found a meteorite that gave him enhanced speed and strength, and the misconception that he's a genius (he's actually dumber than dirt). So WHY is he such a pain to Spidey and the FF??? Well, obviously it…oh, wait. I can't tell you why. Read and find out! This special issue is brought to you by Mr. Kesel, DeZago and Waid, who take you on an adventure that spans their buddy Mike Wieringo's favorite places in the Marvel U! We miss ya, Mike! Also featuring classic tales and Spider-Man J! 104 PGS./$4.99

This issue is a special tribute issue to Mike Wieringo, who recently passed away. There's an interview about it here, but the key point, as far as this being a comic worth buying, is this...
Newsarama: So, guys, it's been more than three months since the passing of your dear friend and collaborator Mike Wieringo. While the three of you had had your thoughts posted about Mike days after his death, what brought about this special tribute project in February's Spider-Man Family #7?

Todd Dezago: From my understanding of it, it was Nate (Cosby, Editor Extraordinaire and Keeper of Spider-Man Family). Having worked with Mike several times himself, Nate felt that Spider-Man Family would be the perfect place for a tribute type of story that, rather than a sad and mournful tale, would, like Mike himself, be more fun and upbeat; a light-hearted kinda yarn. Not knowing me (at the time... we've met since then), Nate sicced these two monkeys on me.

NRAMA: Will it contain stories that you guys and Mike had talked about, pitched to Marvel before, what? After all, Mark and Mike had earlier pitched an Aquaman project which was turned down by DC, right?

TD: Well, sadly Aquaman will not be in it. But it will be crammed with guest stars and cameos from all over the Marvel Universe! This story actually is something that Mike and I had hoped to do, at some point, as a miniseries, when we would reminisce about our days on Sensational Spider-Man. Both of us were fairly nostalgic jerks and Mike longed to draw all of those colorful characters again. When the idea for this project came up, Karl, Mark and I thought that it would be a great way to revisit the characters that Mike loved to draw in Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four in a wild romp led by one of Mike's favorite characters--The Looter!

See? That sounds like fun...


Written by Art Baltazar & Franco Art and cover by Baltazar & Franco Awwww yeah, Titans! Join us for the exciting first issue of Tiny Titans written and drawn by the amazing Art Baltazar and Franco! See what life is like at Sidekick Elementary and meet the new staff! Follow the madness that ensues when Beast Boy gets a puppy friend! Witness what happens when the girls meet a pink stranger with a melted ice cream cone! Find out what makes Cassie such a trendsetter! All your favorite Titans, in their cutest possible form, are here and waiting for you! On sale February 13 o 32 pg, FC, $2.25 US

I've already mentioned this comics several times... I think it's going to be a kick-butt comic for the little kids in your life that you're trying to convert to the wonderful world of comics...

One additional point... for those of you who get your comics from, as I do, this first issue is being sold for 56 cents. You can get up to two copies at that price, and I highly recommend that you do so... as noted above, it'll be a good one for the kiddies, so this way you can buy one copy for them to look at (and inevitably tear to shreds) and one for you to keep.

Neat, huh?



Hulk! Dr. Strange! Silver Surfer! The Sub-Mariner! For the first time ever in Marvel Adventures, the Defenders assemble! But can they stop arguing with each other long enough to save the world? If the monstrous Nameless One gets his way, the Defenders first mission together could be their last!! 32 PGS./All Ages…$2.99

As noted in an earlier column, I really enjoyed the Hulk meets Dr. Strange issue last month, so you can just imagine how totally psyched I am for Hulk meets the Defenders, via Marvel Adventures.

The answer is... a lot. I am a lot totally psyched.


Written by Amy Wolfram Art by Karl Kerschl & Serge Lapointe Cover by Kerschl

The origin story of the Teen Titans continues as the focus falls on Aqualad, who must overcome his many phobias and get help above the waves when Aquaman goes rogue! Things aren't any better on land, as both Kid Flash and Speedy must confront the madness of the Flash and Green Arrow. On sale February 6 o 2 of 6 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

So very, very pretty...


Loving this storyline... loving that cover.

And that's a whole lot of love, no...?

Anyhow, that's all we've got time for today, but I'll be back soon (all things being relative) to tell you all about the extra-special goodies that are being solicited for March of 2008...

In the meantime, just hang in there, Kitten... vacation time is nearly here!!!

- Paul

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 46: Johnny To Rocks My World!!!

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

Well, I don't know about you out there in reader-land, but I'm a mighty happy camper at the moment... I just finished the second draft of my dissertation proposal and am HOPING that it will be well-received and that I can get on with the whole dissertation thing...

I am very glad to be finished with this draft, as it has been a constant cactus in my eye for about two months now.


I saw an EXCELLENT movie a few nights ago, with the not-revealing-very-much-at-all-about-the-plot title Exiled.

Let me say, first of all, that writer/director Johnny To is clearly influenced by (and infatuated with) the movies of Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, etc.). Like the movies of Leone, Exiled is about super-cool guys with guns who speak very little but who have their own sense of honor and morality... life is cheap but the loyalty of friendships is sacred.

That sort of thing.

One possible point of criticism is that the female characters are actually pretty secondary and somewhat two-dimensional... although I have to say that didn't really bother me in this case. I was trying to figure out why and I think it's because this isn't so much a case of barely-disguised mysogyny, as in most comics currently being published, but more a case of purely iconic characters.

Really, pretty much everyone is two-dimensional in this movie and an attempt to create a fully developed character of either gender in this movie would have seemed really out of place. So, you could accuse it of being sexist, I suppose, but I don't think that criticism really applies here. Again, think The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly... there were no strong female characters in that movie either... it's a very macho kind of world that's being portrayed... but it seems rather inappropriate to accuse it of sexism.

Anyway, that's my two cents about that...

Exiled radiates the kind of super-cool vibe that Quentin Tarantino managed to achieve in Reservoir Dogs but never re-captured... it's clever and it's fun, in a mindlessly violent sort of way, and several of the images will stay with you long after the movie is over.

If you'd like to see an excellent trailer that clearly establishes the mood without giving away any vital information, check out this link.

As for comics...

I recently read a whole bunch of new comics that I'll hopefully be reviewing soon, but let me just say this and get it out of the way so that we can never think about it again... Angel: After the Fall was a huge disappointment.

Angel: After the Fall is set shortly after the final episode of the Angel TV series, which I pretty much loved (the final season of it, anyway). I was pretty optimistic about this title because the recent Buffy, the Vampire Slayer series has been pretty much outstanding and also because the same team that's writing and illustrating Angel: After the Fall just recently finished a related limited series, Spike: Shadow Puppets, which I very much enjoyed.

So, my expectations were pretty high...

The first big problem I had with this comic was that I could barely tell who was who... the art seemed really muddled and several of the character looked nothing like their TV counterparts. For example, there's a scene where Connor and two women suddenly appear. I kind of suspected that Connor was Connor, but wasn't sure until someone referred to him by name. One of the women was that werewolf woman from Season Five and I had absolutely no clue who she was until someone mentioned that she's a werewolf... that kind of narrowed down the list.

I still have no clue who the second woman is supposed to be, but I'm assuming that I'm supposed to know.

Also, this was a case of throwing too much stuff at the reader all at once... Given that this story takes place a while after the end of the TV series, it would have been nice to just sort of stick with one or two characters and learn, through them, what's happened in the meantime. Instead, we've got Connor and his two lady-friends, not-quite-Wesley, Angel, and then a pointless scene with Gunn that added absolutely nothing.

Ultimately, it was unclear what I was supposed to be getting from this issue... I understand that Los Angeles has been turned into a hell dimension, yes, but I don't understand why Angel is back at Wolfram and Hart, what the deal is with Wesley (although, in all fairness, I think that particular element of the story is supposed to be unclear), or why Angel wasn't supposed to kill the one demon-y thing. We're told that he shouldn't because then other demons will appear to fill the power vacuum (it's the old "don't kill the Kingpin" argument), but does that really make any sense at all? They're demons. How would a different set of demons be worse?

Given that the entire city is now a hell-dimension, what delicate balance is being preserved by Angel not pissing off the leaders of the demons? And why, if he has had an uneasy truce with them for the past several weeks, did he suddenly change his mind at the end of this issue? It was clear that something happened to change his mind, but I sure didn't understand what it was. I didn't understand why he would have agreed to a truce in the first place and I didn't understand why he decided to end it at that particular moment.

I didn't understand anything, really. Or care.

This comic needed at least one quiet, mellow moment to let the reader connect with what was happening... By way of comparison, the first issue of the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer series had that scene with Buffy talking with giant-Dawn in front of their fort... it was intriguing, but it was also... quiet. In fact, the fact that it was so quiet was a big part of what made it so intriguing.

There's something inherently uninteresting in non-stop demon-fighting and flames and swords and jumping around and... and...


Well, you get my point.

Anyway, I need to get back to my life for a little bit... but I'm hoping to post many, many reviews in the near future... of course, my having said that pretty much guarantees it won't happen, now, but if worse comes to worse, I can always post my 50 page dissertation proposal.

And what larks then, eh, Pip?

- Paul

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode #45: Proof, Dan Dare, and Marvel Adventures

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

One of the great pleasures of doing a comic-book review column is finding a new comic that nobody's heard of and telling the world, "Hey!!! World, I've found a really great new comic!!! It rocks!!!"

And that's what I'm doing right now...

The comic-book in question is called Proof and it's being published monthly by Image. I displayed some of the interior art a few months back, before it came out, because I thought it looked neat. Well, now we're on issue #2 and here's some more...

[If you'd like to see more, or to see these at a larger size so you can actually read them, all you need to do is to click on this handy little link...]

The set up is that the United States and Canadian governments have formed a secret organization, The Lodge, which exists to track down and contain the most unusual of endangered animal species: cryptids. A cryptid is a creature that has been witnessed and for which some evidence, such as blurry photographs or footprints, may exist, but the creature itself has never been captured or officially documented.

[That last part was taken directly from their Previously page.]

That woman you keep seeing is FBI Agent Ginger Brown, who has sort of been pulled into this whole operation against her will. Like most of the world, she didn't know anything about The Lodge, but now she's been reassigned to them and her new partner is Bigfoot, although his actual name is John "Proof" Prufrock.

One thing that's neat about this series is how down to earth it all is. Yes, there are weird creatures like Bigfoot running around, but there are also conversations about someone's sweater being ugly, or the tour that Wayne takes Ginger on in issue #2 through the Garden, where they keep all sorts of endangered species, including the Cottingley Fairies, the Pallas Cat, and the Dodo Bird.

The premise of Proof is nothing special, but it's all in the delivery. Funny, occasionally frightening, and full of wonder and awe in a way slightly reminiscent of the early issues of Planetary, or, at the risk of being hopelessly obscure in my references, not unlike Milestone's Xombi series from many, many years ago. Artist Riley Rossmo's work, meanwhile, feels like a happy blend of John Paul Leon, Ted McKeever, Michael Gaydos, and I'm not quite sure what else. It's damn good, though. His people actually look like people, as opposed to the homogenous body types we're used to seeing in comics, and his facial work is incredibly expressive.

Here's a brief excerpt from a recent interview with Proof writer Alexander Grecian:

"I'd call it 'fun horror,'" Grecian told CBR News. "We've got a Chupacabra hollowing people out and living in their skins, we've got fairies eating people, we've got car crashes and helicopter crashes and spooky little monsters. But the whole series is character-driven, which means Riley has to draw some talking-head sequences so I can indulge my predilection for funny dialogue. Fortunately, he's terrific at drawing both action and talky stuff. It's probably closer in tone to 'Buffy' or 'X-Files' than something like 'Walking Dead' or a superhero book.

"The most important thing for us, in setting the tone for the book, is keeping it in the 'real' world," continued Grecian. "So, no vampires or werewolves or zombies, no Lovecraftian octopus creatures (although there will be a kraken). Everything Proof and Ginger face will be a cryptid. In other words, the 'monsters' that agents of The Lodge have to track, are things that people actually claim to have seen. There are people who fervently believe that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster do exist and that's the world 'Proof' lives in."

"In the first story arc (the 'Goatsucker' arc runs through the first five issues), Proof and Ginger meet El Chupacabra, The Cottingley Fairies and The Dover Demon, all of which are cryptids, but we're going to be showing some different sides of them," said Grecian. "We've also got some folklore-type critters popping up in those five issues, including the original Golem and some jackalopes. The fairies in particular have their own kind of closed-system biology that will probably give some people the willies when they see how their whole mating process work," said Grecian.

"After that, we're off to Africa to meet Mokele-M'Bembe, the last living dinosaur. Then we've got Springheel Jack waiting in the wings, harpies, mermen, an oni…"

And so on.

Proof is a ton of fun and comes highly, highly, recommended.

Also new and lovely is Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine's Dan Dare series, published by Virgin Comics. I don't know anything about Dan Dare, although I gather that the character has been around for a long, long while, and I've never purchased anything by Virgin Comics before, but I do know that Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine pretty much kick butt together, and so I decided to give it a try.

Not a lot happens in the first issue of Dan Dare; it's primarily set-up. Daniel MacGregor Dare was, at one time, the premier pilot of Earth's international space fleet. That was a long time ago, though, and now he's semi-contentedly retired.

We learn a little bit about the world he's saved numerous times and it's--surprise!--not all that different from our own. Sure, there's the outer space sci-fi elements, but there are also the moral and political compromises that have left most of Dan Dare's old crew feeling disillusioned. Some work for the system, some are trying to change it, but the world has basically gone on without them.

All that changes, however, with a new space threat that forces the Prime Minister to seek out Dan Dare's help once again.

Beautiful art, well written, and a sense of a truly wonderful adventure about to begin... Dan Dare is the cat's pajamas!

Finally, I also wanted to point out a series of interview over at that are featuring the writers and editor of the Marvel Adventures series. There's an interview with Paul Benjamin, who's just started a four issue arc in which the Hulk meets the Defenders. I just finished reading the first issue of that storyline, in which the Hulk teams up with Dr. Strange, and it was pretty damn funny... if you've ever wanted to see a monkey side-kick possessed by the Dread Dormammu, this is the comic for you...

Then there's an interview with Paul Tobin who will be writing the next few issues of Marvel Adventures: The Fantastic Four. Previously he wrote Banana Sunday, which was a pretty fun indie book, and he's married to Colleen Coover, which makes him at least somewhat cool in my book.

Here's what he says about a couple of his upcoming issues:

"The (Mr.) Fantastic Fix-it Shoppe”: Ahh, Reed. Ever absent-minded. Helping raise money for a block renovation, good ol' Reed runs an "I'll fix anything!" table, and in between putting booster rockets on mopeds and laser cannons in wristwatches he sort of, you know, accidentally fixes the Mad Thinker's android. Oops. Now it's the Mad Thinker and his Awesome Android versus the Fantastic Four and some toasters. Yeah, I said toasters.

"Alternative Film School”. The FF help out a college film professor by volunteering their time for his top students. Want the FF to star in your disco film? No problem. Want the FF to headline your Jane Austen influenced romantic comedy? Sure. That can be done. Want to use your anti-matter powered film projector to transform some fans into the evil "Anti-FF" and also change a group of cos-players into evil (though quite amateur) versions of some of Marveldom's mightiest heroes and villains, all in a bid to destroy the FF and take over the world? Uhh, now we got a problem.

Then there's Fred Van Lente, who's work I've already enjoyed tremendously in the M.O.D.O.K.'s 11 limited series, which is probably the funniest thing I've read since that Great Lakes Avengers limited series by Dan Slott. His upcoming arc on Marvel Adventures: Iron Man sounds awesome but my favorite part of the interview was his discussion of Spider-Man's villains...

NRAMA: Over on MA Spider-Man, you’re doing a four-issue run (#33-36) that focuses on some of Spidey's fiercest foes, but looks at them in new and different ways. Let’s start with Venom, shall we? Venom as Spidey's sidekick? How did this idea come about in the first place?

FVL: I have to make a confession here, Ben. I love Spider-Man. Love him. Peter Parker is one of the greatest characters in comics history. But he totally demolishes the old writing canard that a hero can only be as good as villain. I am no fan of Spider-Man’s villains. They all have stupid animal names and all they want to do is rob banks and kill Spider-Man. Yawn. The only good Spider-Man villain was the Kingpin, and Daredevil stole him. So the challenge for me, when given an assignment like this, focusing on his big-hitter villains (Norman Green Goblin, Harry Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus and Venom) is to come up with ideas that use them in strange and interesting ways that don’t make me want to gnaw my wrists off while I’m at my laptop.

And I hate Venom most of all. God, how I despise Venom. I’m convinced he’s only popular because he’s wearing Spider-Man’s awesome black costume. The sidekick idea came about by thinking, well, Venom is a symbiote, and what’s more symbiotic than following the guy around like he’s his shadow? In MASM #35, Venom volunteers to become Spider-Man’s partner in heroism, that he wants to bury the hatched with the web-slinger, but you know that sneaky Venom, he could have something more up his sleeve…

Then there's an interview with Marc Sumerak, who has incurred my wrath by taking over the writing chores on Marvel Adventures: The Avengers. I know, I know, it's probably not his fault... I'm sure it was more a case of Jeff Parker leaving the title and them needing someone to take it over, rather than Sumerak being responsible for Parker leaving, but dag-nab it all... I loved Jeff Parker's Marvel Adventures: The Avengers.

Anyway, I grabbed a bunch of Marvel Adventures titles from the comic-store yesterday (don't worry... I paid for them!) because these interviews got me so psyched for the upcoming storylines, which is what interviews like these are supposed to accomplish but almost never do.

Some were better than others, but I really enjoyed the Hulk meeting Dr. Strange and also Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man #32, in which he battles Hydro-Man. Written by Peter David and with art by Pop Mhan, this is exactly the kind of Spider-Man comic that I want to be reading... as opposed to the ridiculous crap-fest that is currently going on in his regular monthly titles.
[Aside from Ultimate Spider-Man, which rocks!]

Anyway, that's all the comic-book goodness for this week... As always, I apologize for writing so infrequently... I think maybe we'll all enjoy life a little bit more if we start thinking of Hoopla! as a monthly review column that comes out more frequently than scheduled instead of a weekly column that is almost always late.

I know I feel better already, just from that one, simple paradigm shift.

Anyway, until next wee... er, month, here's hoping that all your four-color comic-book dreams are coming true...

- Paul

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 44: Giving Thanks

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

So, first of all, let's just say it and get it done with... I suck.

Weekly comic-book review column? Not even close...

In my defense, I have been busy with a ton of stuff, but who really wants to hear it? I sure don't. So, rather than make excuses, let's get to the good stuff...

Here's what I'm planning to be thankful for next February...

Ooh... Pretty.

And the title of this lovely thing?


Yeah... I'm going to eat that up with a spoon, baby!!! With a spoon!!!

And then there's this...

I've read a couple of negative reviews of this whole "Kingdom Come" storyline in Justice Society of America, but I think those reviewers are all full of hooey!!! In fact, of the latest batch of comics that I received (these would be the October books), Justice Society of America was one of the very few that truly knocked my socks off. Geoff Johns isn't always my favorite writer, but he's really got the Kingdom Come version of Superman down... somehow tragic and noble in a way that plays off beautifully against the rest of the team. And Eaglesham's art is perfection...

Last month, I featured the cover to the first issue of Teen Titans: Year One... now, here we are with the cover to issue #2. And, once again, it's a doozy! I've found a couple of interior pages from this book, too, and it looks like this is gonna be a humdinger...


For those of you who don't want to wait until February to be feeling the love, here are some kick-ass titles that I'm currently enjoying that are guaranteed to brighten your day...

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon's original story-arc was good, but the current story by Brian K. Vaughan is downright awesome... he really "gets" Faith and the bits with Giles are pretty damn good too... If the upcoming Angel: After the Fall series is even half as good as this, I'll be one happy man...

[Well, actually, if it's only half as good, that wouldn't be all that great. But if it's 7/8 or more...]

Ultimate Spider-Man

This series was in a slump for a while, but ever since the "Clone Wars" storyline, Bendis has been back in top form. And the inclusion of Kitty Pryde into the storyline has added immeasurably...

This is the Spider-Man series that all other Spider-Man series want to be... funny, dramatic, exciting, fun... Ultimate Spider-Man is one of the very few books that can consistently give me that "Gosh! Wow! Neat!" feeling that originally drew me to comics...

And then there's Captain America, Iron Fist, Booster Gold, Brave and the Bold, and pretty much anything written by Jeff Parker. Yes, it's a mighty good time to be a comic-book reader...

On a more personal note, this Thanksgiving I'm going to be extra-especially thankful for all of the following things...

1) My super-lovely girlfriend, Mie, who will be moving in with me in about six weeks

2) My new job, teaching at American University, which begins next semester. It's only a one-semester deal and not a tenure position, but it's still a pretty damn good start on a teaching career, especially considering I haven't finished my frickin' frackin' dissertation yet

3) My groovy friends

4) The student loan that I'm about to receive, which will allow me to eat and pay rent at the same time!!!

5) Once a month, I receive a big box of comic-books in the mail. How cool is that???

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that your relatives don't drive you insane or, if they do, that you at least get some funny stories out of it.

Until next time...

- Paul

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 43: October... why have you forsaken me?

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

Well, I started out strong this month with a few pretty good columns, but these past few weeks have been mighty silent. I won't bore you with all the details, but here's the gist of what I've been up to and why this week's column is going to be brief as well...

1) The main agony of my life has come from the chair of my dissertation committee who, after disappearing off the face of the Earth for the past six weeks, has returned and decided that all the work I'd been doing in the meantime is completely wrong, wrong, wrong... and must be scrapped and started over.

But, hey, that's cool... I'm Mr. Groovy-Pants. I take it all in stride...

2) I'm supposed to present a paper at a conference. The paper was due last Friday. It still isn't finished.

3) I'm applying for jobs and fellowships, most of which are due in early November, and all of which require a whole list of things like an updated CV, which is taking forever to put together, letters of reference, which I have to nag people about, filling out online applications that if they'd just read my goddamn resume it already has all that information... etc.

Honestly, it's a pretty stressful time to be me... and if someone should ask you, "Hey, would you like to be Paul for a little while?" I would advise you to say no. It's not that fun, at the moment.

And, to be honest, the pay sucks...

Anyway, enough of my whining...

Let's talk about comic-books for a moment, shall we?

The above cover was released a couple of months back and I featured it in an earlier column and essentially said that I didn't know what it was, but whatever it was, I wanted it.

Well, now I know...


Written by Amy Wolfram

Art by Karl Kerschl & Serge Lapointe

Cover by Kerschl

Writer Amy Wolfram (Teen Titans animated series) joins rising star artist Karl Kerschl (ALL-FLASH #1, ROBIN) for a colorful reimagining of how the Teen Titans came together! See how these teammates bonded, and overcame the sheer awkwardness of being teenagers in this explosive 6-issue miniseries that guest-stars the Justice League of America! You may think you know Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash and Aqualad…but you don’t really know the original Teen Titans!On sale January 2 • 1 of 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

If the interior art looks anything like the cover art, and it surely ought to, then this is going to be sheer loveliness. Hurray!!!

This is one of those Marvel Adventures "all-ages" books. It looks quite nice, no?





Venom is back ...but says he wants to bury the hatchet with Spider-Man. No, not in his head. In fact, in order to show Spidey how much he's reformed, he wants to become the web-spinner's official sidekick. But one night "on patrol" with a homicidal maniac as a partner has Spidey wanting to hang up the web-shooters himself!32 PGS./All Ages …$2.99

That's a neat cover. Oh, Marvel Adventures, you do tempt me...

This next cover is nothing special, but I've gone ahead and included it anyway because it's the first issue of Chuck Dixon's return to Robin. There was a time when Dixon was writing Birds of Prey, Nightwing, and Robin, and they were all pretty darn enjoyable. This was followed by a time during which he was writing Birds of Prey, Nightwing, and Robin, and they were all kind of stale and dull.

I'll give him this, though... neither Nightwing nor Robin were ever as good again. His work defined those two series and the fact that he's now returning, years and years later, to write Robin has me pretty psyched...

And now, the ugliest cover of the month...

Aint that something?

It's got sort of a 90's vibe to it... back when really, really crappy artists were trying to mimic the Rob Liefeld/Todd McFarlane look.

This book is actually a sort of perfect package because every single element of it is unappealing to me. There is no negative that has been overlooked.

First, let's look at the soliciation...


Written by Frank Tieri

Art by Liam Sharp & Rob Hunter

Cover by Sharp

A COUNTDOWN tie-in! Monarch makes an unexpected alliance with the Americommando and the Meta Militia in an effort to strongarm Lord Havok and the Extremists into joining his Multiversal Army. Plus, Dr. Diehard sees all he cares about vanish in an instant, and we learn the secret origin of the Extremist known as Dreamslayer.On sale January 23 • 4 of 6 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Okay, so first of all, it's a Countdown tie-in. Hurray!!! If there's one thing you can never have too many of...

Then, it's written by Frank Tieri, who I think is generally agreed to be one of the absolute worst writers in comics. So, that's pretty cool. He tends to wallow in gratuitous violence, sophomoric humor, and female characters that exist solely to be sexy victims or sexy perpertrators of evil-doings.

Then there's the art...

And the characters? LORD HAVOK AND THE EXTREMISTS!!!


Finally, there's the fact that the solicitation text has been written in such a way as to defy comprehension. Without looking back, try to remember what this issue is about...

Don't peek...

You can't, can you? You can't remember a single thing you read.

Let's give it another whirl...

A COUNTDOWN tie-in! Monarch makes an unexpected alliance with the Americommando and the Meta Militia in an effort to strongarm Lord Havok and the Extremists into joining his Multiversal Army. Plus, Dr. Diehard sees all he cares about vanish in an instant, and we learn the secret origin of the Extremist known as Dreamslayer.

Wow. That oughtta really be... something.

I totally didn't see that plot twist about Monarch and Americommando making an alliance with the Meta Militia against Lord Havok and the Extremists and the.. the Multiversal Army... thing.. that is going to... uh, and then Dr. Diehard. Yeah, that's the ticket! Dr. Diehard!!!

Wait a minute.

Dr. Diehard?

Doctor... Diehard?


Dr. Diehard.

Dr. Diehard!!!

"Oh, hey, look, it's Dr. Diehard!"

"Hey, Dr. Diehard, how's it going?"

"That Dr. Diehard... he sure can cook a jambalaya!"

"Dr. Diehard... I'd like to marry your daughter."


I'd say that someone who calls himself Dr. Diehard... who asks that others refer to him as Dr. Diehard... I would say that such a person just might be over-compensating a wee little bit.

Although, I suppose he is one of Lord Havok's Extremists so... y'know... he needs to have a sort of extreme name and all. But still...

Dr. Diehard?


Well, it's time for me to go work on my stuff... I hope you all are well, though, and I'll try to be a better blogger in November...

Though I promise nothing. NOTHING!!!

- Dr. Paul Diehard

[But you can just call me Hard.]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 42: Strange News

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

Normally I use this space to review comics and such and so forth, but there's been so much comic-book related news lately that I thought I'd devote this column to reprinting some of the week's biggest stories.


Frank "Goddam" Miller to. Issue Challenge. To. Osama bin Laden. And. All Iraqi Insurgents.

"I will dress up in a Spartan toga, grease my body up with oil, and single-handedly pummel them all to death. With. My. Bare. Fists."

Frank Miller surprised and delighted fans by releasing a personal challenge to Osama bin Laden last Friday on YouTube.

"American Flag draping down," the message began. "Heavy with the blood of innocents. Give me a Red."

"You killed our boys. Our children. Our soul." The message continued. "But I will. Beat. You. With. My. Bare. Hands. And then I will. Dine. In. Hell."

Comic-book writer and illustrator Frank Miller had made news earlier in the year by announcing that his next Batman graphic novel will pit the Caped Crusader against al-Qaeda international terrorist Osama bin Laden. Titled Holy Terror, Batman!, the project is scheduled for release by DC Comics sometime this year. In it, Miller said, “Batman kicks al-Qaeda’s ass.”

In his latest foray into political commentary, however, Frank Miller has promised to take on all of al-Qaeda himself, while dressed in a Roman toga.

According to reliable sources, Osama bin Laden has not yet responded.

Dan Didio Announces Upcoming Plans for Archie Comics

"Fans of Jughead and Veronica should brace themselves for some dark days ahead..."

Fans of Archie Comics were surprised last week to learn that Dan Didio has been brought in as the new editor-in-chief for Archie.

"Archie is an American institution," said Didio. "And I respect that. But sales have been slipping over the past several years. And the Powers That Be decided what was needed was a major shake-up. And that's where I came in."

Didio refused to reveal all of the upcoming surprises, but did provide these spoilers:

"I wouldn't dream of killing off Jughead. He's too important to the Archie Universe. But he might find it difficult to stuff his face with hamburgers after his arms have been torn from his body by Moose."

A picture of Jughead with cybernetic arms and steel, razor-sharp claws was posted on for a few hours but then hastily pulled.

"Let's just say that readers are going to see a side of Jughead that they've never seen before," chortled Didio.

Other upcoming events include a major crossover that will directly involve all of the Archie titles and several characters that haven't been seen in a very long time.

"If you think about it," said Didio, "Archie and his pals should be in their 90s by now. But they're not. They're still teens in high school. How is that possible? Well, let's just say that after our first major crossover, Archie-Ocaplypse, readers will learn the horrible truth."

Archie-Ocalypse will apparently run through the second half of 2008, all of 2009, and then will finish in 2010, leading directly into the next major cross-over "Archie-cide."

"I don't want to give too much away about Archie-cide, but suffice it to say that we're going to be introducing a new character, Holocaust Survivor, and he's got a bone to pick with Archie and his friends."

That cross-over will tie directly into a new weekly Archie series that will tie into all of the other Archie comics plus will also tie into all DC comics and several upcoming issues of Loony Tunes.

"I've promised not to reveal too much about this new weekly series, because it's not actually going to come out until 2012, but readers should prepare themselves for some continuity-driven story-telling. Old continuity gaffs will be addressed and resolved, while others will be created."

Didio also revealed that, in addition to tying into all of the Archie comics, all of the DC comics, and several issues of Loony Tunes, Archie Publishing is currently in talks with several weekly news magazines, including Newsweek and the Economist, to tie into actual world events as they occur in real time.

"This is a very exciting time for Archie," Didio announced. "Nothing like this has ever been done before. Obviously, there will be many challenges in tying into real world current events as they happen, but I think readers are going to be delighted with the results! In particular, I'm hoping that the US is involved in some kind of war around 2013 because we have a really great idea that's being tossed around about Archie and his pals being recruited and winding up in some war-torn country. Maybe in the Middle East, I'm hoping. Or North Korea."

Marvel Announces New, Weekly Series to be Written by Heinberg with Art by Rob Liefeld

"We've already got the first six pages finished and the script is half-finished for page 7 of first issue. And one of three variant covers that we'll be providing for the first issue is in rough-sketch form. And let me tell you, it looks great!"

No additional information was available.


Well, that's all the news that's fit to print, as the kids like to say. I hope you're all having a lovely October and dressing warmly and being nice to each other and flossing regularly.

Until next week...
- Paul