Monday, March 26, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 14: The Unbearable Lightness of All-Ages Comics

Hello and welcome to Hoopla! I'm back from vacation and better than ever... my skin is tan, my walking pneumonia seems to have finally gone away, and life is good!

Before we start in on this week's comic-book reviews and a look at the June 2007 solicitations, I just wanted to say a word about last week's column.

It was a joke.

I had a couple of people write to me asking why I had posted a transcript of a DVD commentary on my blog. I'm not sure if this means I did a really good job or a really bad one, but just for the record, that wasn't a real transcript. It was a satire.

The good news, for those of you who enjoyed it, is that there's a second part that I'll use the next time I need to do a "fill-in issue" of Hoopla!

The bad news, for those of you who hated it, is that there's a second part that I'll use the next time I need to do a "fill-in issue" of Hoopla!

Anyway, on to new stuff...

Our Link of the Week is Tracy, Sarah, and Shelby Edmunds' All-Ages Read, which used to be posted at (I always hated that name, by the way) but which can now be found over at, my favorite source of comic-book news. The All-Ages Read is a semi-regular review of comics that are -- you guessed it! -- for all ages. As far as I can tell, they don't have their own web-site or blog, so the link above is to a specific column of theirs that just came out. I'll tell you what, though, I'll go ahead and write to them and see if they have their archives available anywhere. If so, I'll let y'all know.

[Update: No archive exists yet, but Tracy promises me they're working on it.]

Here is their mission statement:

Welcome to All Ages Reads. Our review crew consists of Tracy (mom, teacher, and avid comic reader), Sarah (third-grader, age 8) and Shelby (fifth-grader, age 11). Our mission is to seek out comics and graphic novels that both kids and adults can enjoy and tell you all about them so you can enjoy them, too.

The two comics they review in this week's column both sound pretty cool and I'm planning to try to trick my friends into buying copies for their daughter, Ivy (whose art we featured previously) so that I can read them for free.

We'll see how that goes.

What I like about their reviews is that they are usually super-funny (Sarah and Shelby are a riot) and, even more importantly, they review stuff that I've never heard of before and probably never would have heard of otherwise.

And this brings us to this week's sermon, er, I mean topic...

Last week, during Spring Break, I went off to Florida with a bunch of friends who are all in the same PhD program that I'm in. We rented a condo together and a good time was had by all (despite the inevitable friction of having six people share a condo with only two bedrooms for a week).

Before going, I debated whether or not to bring any comics. On the one hand, I like comics. I like reading them. I like wearing them on my head.

But, on the other hand, I hate having to explain to my fellow grown-ups that, yes, I read comic-books and no, it doesn't mean that I'm a social deviant because really comic-books aren't just for kids anymore and Maus won a Pulitzer Prize and blah-blah-blah.

I got tired of that conversation about ten years ago. Nowadays, I'm really tired of it.

In the end, however, I decided to bring just a few... just in case I had a comic-book emergency situation.


Fast forward a few days and I'm on the beach, reading about political science theory as it pertains to self-regulation (I did a lot of school work while on vacation... sue me!) and I suddenly felt a strong need for something a bit more... fun. So, I figured "To hell with it..." and pulled out a comic-book and started reading.

My colleagues stared at me, as one might expect, and eventually questioned me about this.

Insert the whole conversation. Maus. 300. (Which, somehow, it's okay that they all want to see that movie, but it's weird that I read the comic-book that it's based on.) Persepolis. Etc.

I thought I'd made some progress with them, but later that night, as we were watching something on TV (the Colbert Report, possibly?) there was a commercial for a video-game. Some dragons and dungeons and big sword-y kind of thing. And my friend, Ema, said, "Oh, look Paul! That's the kind of stuff that you like, right?"


So, again with the conversation. And later that night, it occurred to me that I should show them some of the comics that I'd brought so that they could see that comics aren't like video-games. So, I opened my backpack and pulled out my comics and...

[And here's the point that I've been building up to for the past several paragraphs...]

And there was no Persepolis in my backpack. No Maus. Nothing even remotely adult-like.

Instead, I'd brought Marvel Adventures: The Avengers (the one where all the Avengers get big MODOK-heads) and some old Justice League of America and stuff like that. Fun stuff. Stuff that basically would sink the argument for me.

And this got me to thinking...

Back when I was a kid, I used to love comics because they were fun. This was back in the late 70's and the comics I read then, when I go back to read them now, they aren't terribly sophisticated. The Justice League of America were working from their satellite headquarters (this was pre-Detroit) and Batman was fighting the Calculator (How many of you remember that storyline? It was in Detective Comics and it lasted several issues.) and Superman was still single and nerdy. Spider-Man only had one costume. The Punisher had never had his own series. There was no Alan Moore, no Frank Miller, and certainly no Maus.

As I hit my teens, however, I wanted comics that reflected (at least a little bit) reality. Naturally, I was drawn to the X-Men (back when they only had one series) and to the Teen Titans (Wolfman and Perez). I loved anything by DeMatteis (at the time, he was doing Captain America and The Defenders) because it dealt with real stuff. Sure, there were super-heroes fighting super-villains, but it was all very relevant. And from there it was just a couple of years to Frank Miller's Daredevil and Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and the rest is history. Love and Rockets. Maus. Watchmen. The more "real" it was, the better.

But these days, I look at what I'm really enjoying--what I choose to bring on my vacation to Florida--and very little of it is deliberately relevant or gritty. I like Jeff Parker's Marvel Adventures: The Avengers and Jeff Smith's Shazam. I want to read Superman Confidential and All-Star Superman and stuff by Mike Allred and Dan Slott.

I'm excited about the upcoming Minx books which, let's face it, is being published for teen girls.

I don't want to read Warren Ellis' millionth deconstruction of super-heroes. I loved Promethea because it was beautiful and hilarious and awe-inspiring, not because it was philosophical and vaguely brilliant.

I've gone back to liking comics that are fun. And maybe this is a part of the natural cycle of things. When you're a teen, you suddenly realize that the world is far more complex and imperfect than you'd realized previously. And you want to read about that, not about make-believe stuff. You start appreciating movies like Chinatown and Apocalypse Now.

But, at a certain point, it's like, "Okay. I get it. The world is imperfect and complex. Duly noted. Now, can I please get back to having some entertainment that's actually fun?"

And on that note, it's time for... New stuff I'm excited about for June 2007!!!

Isn't that a lovely cover? I get all happy inside just looking at it. All-Star Superman is a gorgeous book and I am eternally grateful to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely for producing it. It's got all the fun and silliness of the comics I grew up with, but written and illustrated with a flair that simply didn't exist back then.

I had decided to drop Grant Morrison's Batman because I just wasn't finding it very interesting, but the solicitation for the June issue has pulled me back in.

Written by Grant Morrison
Art and cover by J.H. Williams III
The Batmen of All Nations reunite for a weekend of fine food and nostalgia, but an unexpected visitor has other plans for the gathering. Batman, Robin, and the rest of the Club of Heroes find themselves trapped and at the mercy of a dangerous madman on the Island of Mister Mayhew!On sale June 27 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

The Batmen of All Nations??? Art by J.H. Williams III???

Oh, yeah. I'm there.

Thus far, I've held off pre-ordering any of the Minx books because ten dollars is a lot to spend on something I haven't actually seen yet, but I'm about to break my own rule, because there's just no way the above title isn't going to be excellent. I like what I've seen of the work of both Andi Watson and Josh Howard, but it's the plot summary that really clinches it.

See for yourself...


Written by Andi Watson

Art and cover by Josh Howard

CLUBBING is the third book from MINX, DC COMICS' new young adult graphic novel imprint. CLUBBING is written by the Eisner- and Harvey-nominated indie sensation Andi Watson (Geisha, Paris, Skeleton Key) and illustrated by Josh Howard (Dead @ 17), Wizard magazine's pick as the #1 independent book to watch in 2005.

The crime: Getting caught with a fake I.D. at an extravagant West End nightclub. The punishment: Spending the summer at her Grandparent's stuffy country club. But Charlotte "Lottie" Brook, best known for her mile-high platforms, an endless i-tunes account and an unbridled passion for classic lit, will end up doing more than just serving time in country boot camp. Lottie will narrowly escape romance and end up solving a murder mystery on the 19th hole of her Grandparents1 golf course.This book also includes Lottie's Lexicon, a special dictionary feature that translates English slang to fluent American.All MINX books contain 176 pages, black and white interiors with gray tones and color covers. Each title also includes previews for three other MINX books as a special bonus.Advance-solicited; on sale July 11 / 176 pg, FC, $9.99 US


I've got nothing really to say about the above cover except that Fables is a wonderful comic and that's a particularly excellent cover, I think. Fables is another fine example of a series that combines a childish sense of wonder (it is, after all, about characters from children's fairy-tales living in New York City) but with an adult sensibility.

See? How can I argue that comics are for adults when I'm totally psyched to get the above issue of Legion of Super-Heroes? I can't. My credibility is shot to hell.

The above cover is not all that great, but the plot summary sounds like a lot of fun!

The Human Torch falls into a probability rift and finds himself flung across innumerable alternate realities, including: a world where a heroic Victor Von Doom, a.k.a. Doc Iron, battles against Mr. Devious, Monsterman, The Human Pyre, and The Unstoppable Woman ... a.k.a. The Frightful Four, a world where the Femmetastic Four defends a world completely depopulated of men (then Johnny shows up) and a world where Johnny's arch-nemesis runs the FF ... That's right, SPIDER-MAN! Can The Watcher help Torch get back to his timeline, or will he wander forever through "The Worlds of What If?"And a warm welcome to new cover artist PAUL SMITH!32 PGS./All Ages …$2.99

I've never heard of writer Fred Van Lente, but there's no way that a comic-book with the Femmetastic Four is going to be anything but brilliant! I mean, seriously, you can't go wrong...

This Brian Bolland cover is for a trade paperback collecting a bunch of old Jimmy Olson stories. I have no interest in the book itself, but I think that cover is beautiful. If only Bolland would re-illustrate all those old stories, I'd buy it for sure!

I only buy the occasional issue of She-Hulk; I really enjoyed it for the first year or so, but when artist Juan Bobillo left, a lot of the fun seemed to be drained out of the comic. That and the very long, not so interesting Starfox storyline led to my dropping the series.


The above cover has piqued my interest. Any allusion to Howard the Duck is guaranteed to draw me in...

It takes so little to make me happy, really.

This cover is okay-but-not-great, but the text has me intrigued...



32 PAGES FC JUNE 6 $2.99 "SWIPED FROM DIMENSION X!" Frank Einstein must run the gauntlet through multiple realities in various comic strip and comic book universes in a story you'll have to see to believe! Will Frank make it back to Snap City? Or will he settle into a new world and just try to make the best of it?

I know, I know. Again with the multiple realities!

What can I tell you? I like stories with multiple realities... and the fact that it's by Mike Allred is pretty much a guarantee of good times ahead!

Anyway, I was going to do an overview/review of the recent Eternals limited series (written by Neil Gaiman) but I am way behind on my dissertation and I have another conference in a few days that I need to prepare for. (I won't be taking Jet Blue to get there, so I may actually make it to this one!)

I hope you're all having a wonderful week and, if you have a spare minute, I encourage you to drop me a line (either through the comments-thingie or via email) and let me know which comics you're enjoying these days and what you look for in a good comic-book reading experience.

Until next week, here's hoping no one screws with your continuity...

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