Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 23: The Leader has a theme song???

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!, the weekly comic-book review column that dares to engage in reckless hyperbole!

Well, I have looked over the DC and Marvel solicitations for August 2007 (why don't other companies post their upcoming comics too so that people can actually pre-order them???) and I am officially unimpressed.

Whereas I normally use this space to display all the good things coming our way, I thought I'd do something a little different this time and two of the most... er, unusual covers for August's solicitations.

Let's begin with...

Now, I think we can all probably agree that red is a very nice color. I myself have enjoyed, on occasion, the splendiforous sight of red rose petals in full bloom, the splotchy red of blinding rage, and the consistent, though under-stated, dark red of a nose bleed.

However, I think the ideal comic-book cover - the Platonic ideal of a comic-book cover, if you will - should also include a picture of some sorts.

Yes, red is nice, and I salute DC for having the courage to promote it so strongly on the cover of their Nightwing series, but still I am left wondering... might this not be a case of too much of a good thing? In their (admirable!) effort to promote the color red, is it not possible that they have, perhaps, gone a bit too far?

Just a thought...

Marvel is featuring an homage of their own in August, though not to a color. No, Marvel is taking the month of August to celebrate the humble forehead. Oft neglected in comic-book covers, passed over for rippling muscles, titillating breasts, and finely defined, muscular buttocks, the forehead is full of dramatic potential just waiting to be unleashed.

And, as with so many good things, it would appear that one can never have too much forehead.

Case in point...

Um... it's a good thing that he's wearing that fetching tiara, because without it he might bear an unsettling resemblance to his erstwhile foe, the Leader.

Incidentally, in searching for a suitable picture of the Leader, I happened upon this web-site. It's worth visiting just to hear the theme song for the Leader.

Seriously. Click on it.

I'll wait right here for you.

As regards my brand new The Best and The Worst of the Month That Was, I've decided to make a small change. Instead of the three best and the three worst of the month, we're going to focus on the one best and the one worst.

One, much like the number three, is a prime number. So you may not even notice the difference.

But... this one time, since I did promise it, we'll finish doing the three best of the month that was...

Last column, I listed two of the three best (Detective Comics and Marvel Adventures: The Avengers).

The third winner in this triumphirate of glory was The Brave and the Bold #3.

Why? Well, I'm glad you asked...

Reason #1: The Fatal Five.

I love the Fatal Five.

And I mean hearts-and-roses kind of love.

I think they rock.

[The source of the above illustrations is this site. I'm not sure who the actual artist is, but the page contains everything you ever wanted to know about the Fatal Five but were afraid to ask.]

One of the very first comics I remember reading was a Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes that featured a big fight with the Fatal Five. This was back in the late 70's and the story confused the heck out of me because I didn't quite get that it was set in the future. And I didn't know who any of the Legion were.

It didn't really matter, though. Despite my confusion I loved the Fatal Five.

Seeing Batman (and Blue Beetle) go up against the Fatal Five was like a dream come true!

(Yes, that's the kind of thing I dream about. What's your point?)

Reason #2: George Perez.

Love that guy's art. I don't what it is that he does that makes the characters seem so alive, but it's really a very neat trick. Phil Jiminez has mastered the art of making illustrations that look exactly like Perez's, but he lacks that particular thing that Perez has that makes his art so damn cool!

Reason #3: Mark Waid.

It's been a long while (too long!) since Waid has done anything I've really enjoyed, but with this series he's back in top form. Hurray for Waid!!!

Reason #4: It's the third chapter of a big, old-fashioned, cosmic epic but no one is getting their limbs ripped off in a spray of blood, no b-list characters are being introduced just so they can be killed off, and there are no cross-overs to follow, no limited series detailing how the man in the streets is being affected (I'm looking at you, Frontline: Civil War and Frontline: World War Hulk)... it's just a story.

Told in a single comic-book series.


Who'd a thunk it?

Reason Five: The Fatal frickin' Five!!!

See? That's how much I love them. They're on the list twice!!!

In an ideal world, I would now tell you about the three worst comics of the month that was.

This is not that world, however.

On this world - let's call it Earth-Q - I just picked up two jobs for the summer, which means that in addition to trying to make some progress on my dissertation, I also need to work 40 hours a week on this other stuff.


Good for paying rent (and buying comics!) but not so good for Hoopla!

But, the good news is that I have an extra-special treat for next week. As is so often the case with these extra-special treats, it has nothing at all to do with comics.

In fact, it's about rewarding and recognizing employees.


Oh, you will be...

Until then, here's hoping that the Fatal Five doesn't show up at your door!

- Paul

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 22: The Best of Times, and the Worst of Times...

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

This past week has been some very good mixed with some very bad for me... the good is that one of my articles has finally been accepted for publication in an academic journal. This is my first published "scholarly piece" and I'm pretty psyched. The title of said piece is "Toward Developing a Structured Approach to the Diagnosis and Resolution of Nonperforming Loans" and, let me tell you, it's every bit as scintillating as the title suggests.

For those of you who want to pick up a copy, quick stuff it in a mylar bag, save it for a few years, then sell it back on ebay for a small fortune once I've become famous, it's going to be published in the July 2007 issue of Review of Policy Research.

So, make sure you put that on your pull list.

The bad news is that Mie and I finally broke up. We had a decent run... better than most Keith Giffen illustrated series, at any rate, so I take some solace in that.

A lesser man, saddened as I am by the end of this relationship, might choose not to post comic-book reviews this week. A lesser man might simply wallow in his grief and leave his readers to fend for themselves for yet another week.

Not me, though.

You see, if I do that... then the terrorists have already won.

So, without any further ado, it's time that I present our newest monthly extravaganza...

The Best and the Worst of the Month That Was...

Each month, I'm going to present the three (or so) best and the three (or so) worst new comics I've read in the past month. Some of these, to the average reader, will appear to be far more than one month old. Well, blame it on the post office and the fact that I'm too busy to read every damn comic I receive when I receive it. This batch of reviews, for example, comes mostly from the comics of April of 2007.

And what a month o' comics it was!

I'm pleased to report that there was a lot more competition for the Best than there was for the Worst.

And the winners of The Best Comics of the Month That Was (in no particular order at all) are...

Detective Comics #831
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Don Kramer and Wayne Faucher
Published by DC

It took me a while to warm up to Dini's run on Detective Comics, at least in part because the pacing of his single-issue stories aren't what I'm used to. I think, though, that Dini is writing some of the best (and most original) Batman stories I've read in a long, long time.

One thing he's done that I very much appreciate is to provide a fresh look at villains we've seen a bazillion times before. For example, having the Riddler retire and become a celebrity-style detective who often ends up trying to compete with Batman to solve crimes... that's a pretty neat idea. It differentiates the Riddler from the numerous other Bat-villains and opens up some very fun story opportunities.

Issue #831 may be my favorite issue yet, though, because it stars Dini's greatest creation, Harley Quinn.

This one-issue story does a great job of establishing that Harley Quinn is completely bonkers, setting up an uneasy alliance between her and the new Ventriloquist, and then taking it in a completely unexpected direction. In so doing, Dini adds dimensions not only to Harley, but also to the original Ventriloquist and to Batman. And when you go back, having read the story, you can see how Dini has cleverly foreshadowed everything that happens. There's a throwaway line where the new Ventriloquist tells Harley, "Mr. Scarface prizes family loyalty and rewards accordingly." Harley responds, "Trust me, so do I." and that piece of dialogue, in particular, becomes very relevant toward the end of the story.

Good stuff, says I!

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #12
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Juan Santacruz and Raul Fernandez
Published by Marvel

With a title like "Ego, the Loving Planet" there was never much question that this was going to kick some serious butt.

Although almost every issue of this series that Parker has written has left me thinking "That was my favorite one of the whole series!", I think issue #12 may actually be the best one yet.

Ego, the Living Planet, is nearing the Earth, disrupting its gravitational pull and causing natural disasters around the planet. The Avengers race into outer space to confront Ego, only to find out that the Living Planet is, er, trying to score with the Earth.

"I was just cruisin' through your little system here and I said to myself, "Who is that fine, blue number three over there sportin' the ice caps?"


"I know I got a rep as a galactic playah, but I'm the real thing. Ego is all about commitment. Yeah, you heard that right."

The Avengers have a heck of a time discouraging Ego, since they're too small to even warrant his attention, and the final resolution to the story is pretty hilarious.

Jeff Parker is my favorite new writer to come along in a long, long time and this latest issue of Marvel Adventures: The Avengers just may be the best he's done yet.


Well, time is short this week, so we'll have the other winner and three losers of our The Best and The Worst of the Month That Was... next week, along with a look at comics coming your way in August. Until then, I leave you with this sneak preview, the cover to a new Metal Men limited series...

Oh, yeah...

- Paul

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 21: The Shield!!!

Hello and welcome to Hoopla! Normally this column focuses on comic-book-y things, like comic-book news, reviews, etc. This week, however, is going to be a little different. I just recently finished watching Season Five of The Shield, the phenomenally cool TV series about a group of cops led by Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) who aren't above planting evidence on suspects, beating confessions out of people, stealing drugs and money from other criminals and, if necessary, murder.

In fact, there's nothing that they're above. And that's what makes them so damn lovable.

Michael Chiklis, as a warm and compassionate teddy-bear of a cop.

As I go through today's feature, I'll do my best not to "spoil" any surprises from the show because my hope is that each and every one of you will rent/buy/steal The Shield ASAP. It is the single best program currently on TV. Yes, better than The Wire... better than Battlestar Galactica... better than Deadwood... and roughly a bazillion times more suspenseful than Lost even when Lost was at its best!

Anyway, an interesting trend in the past couple of seasons of The Shield has been the inclusion of actors one wouldn't normally expect to see on a TV show. Season Four featured Glenn Close as Police Captain Monica Rawling (Close), the new Captain of "The Barn" (the building where Vic and the others work). I was dubious about Glenn Close being on the show, but her character fit in perfectly and her acting was superb.

Even more impressive was Forest Whitaker in his outstanding guest-star role as Det. John Kavanaugh, the upright, tormented Internal Affairs cop determined to destroy Det. Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his corrupt LAPD Strike Team.

Normally, I can take or leave Whitaker, but his performance in The Shield is one of the best I've ever seen. By anyone. Ever.

Anyway, this got me thinking what other famous stars and celebrities might be a good fit for the show, and that's what this week's extra bonus feature is all about...

The Top Three People I'd like to see guest-star on The Shield...

1) John Cleese.

Brought in as yet another new commanding officer, John Cleese would play a by-the-book captain transferred from Scotland Yard to help whip Vic and the gang into shape.

Drawing on his years of experience at the Ministry of Silly Walks, John Cleese would bring a much-needed sense of structure and dignity to the Barn.

2) Vice President Dick Cheney

Usually, Vic and his strikeforce have to contend with superior officers who want to punish them for breaking the rules. What would they do, however, with a superior officer who wants to nail them for being too soft on crime?

Cheney: Officer Mackey! I just saw that suspect from the arson case going home. What the hell is going on here?

Mackey: Sorry, sir. It turns out he was innocent.

Cheney: Innocent of this particular crime, sure, but what about other crimes? Did it ever occur to you to interrogate him about some of the other crimes we're investigating? He's sure as hell guilty of something!

Mackey: Well... I guess we could do that. But, wouldn't we need to charge him with something?

Cheney: Heh. That's pretty good, Mackey. "Charge him with something." Heh. I gotta remember that one.

Mackey: But...

At first, Mackey and the strikeforce would be excited to have a superior officer who sees the world the way that they do, but after a while it would get to be too much for them. Brutal torture of suspects, people detained without charges being brought... the possibilities are endless!

"Don't you Miranda Rights me, you lousy son of a #!@& !!!"

3) Hugh Grant

Bringing a much-needed dose of romance and whimsy, Hugh Grant could guest-star for a season as a potential love interest for Officer Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder). At first, Vic and the gang would be willing to ignore Hugh Grant, but after a while he would become an impediment to their work as he shows up at the Barn with bouquets of flowers and serenades Claudette while she works at her desk.

There's only one way this story could end, and that's with Vic and Shane beating Hugh Grant to death. Possibly as a prank.

As a final dramatic touch, as the camera pulls back from Hugh Grant's grave, a single flower would rise from the earth in full bloom, suggesting that love, like a Marvel super-hero, never truly dies.


Well, that's it for my top three people I'd like to see guest-star on The Shield. If any of you in reader-land have any ideas, I'd love to hear 'em and if they're good enough, maybe we can do a sequel to this feature soon.

In the meantime, stop reading those dang comics and watch The Shield. As the kids like to say, it's da bomb.

NEXT WEEK: I don't know. Comic-book reviews, maybe? Yeah, let's say that. Let's say... next week there will be comic-book reviews. In fact, let's say that next week we'll be debuting a brand-new monthly feature. And looking at sneak peeks of what's coming in August.
Until then, I leave you with this...

- Paul

Friday, May 4, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 20: Free Comic Book Day!!!

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!, a zesty blend of comic-book reviews, commentary, and weekly excuses for not having written very much. This week we continue in the proud Hoopla! tradition by apologizing for another delay in the eagerly awaited The Shield bonus feature. The Shield is not a comic-book, it's true, but it is one of the best TV shows of all time, and that's gotta count for something. But... not for enough, apparently, because I didn't get to it this week.


On the other hand, it's my birthday today!!! So, cut me some slack, eh?
[Extra-special HAPPY BIRTHDAY going out to Mark, Jason, and Pritam!!! Hey, it's a Hoopla! birthday bonanza!!!]

Anyway, I just received a HUGE box of comics in the mail yesterday (my monthly shipment of yummy goodness) but haven't had a chance to actually read any of them, so we also won't be featuring any comic-book reviews this week.


So, where does that leave us...?

It leaves us with a very brief promo for tomorrow's big event... Free Comic Book Day!!!

Free Comic Book Day is usually scheduled for my birthday or thereabouts, and this is clearly no coincidence. It's because I love comic-books and the comic-books, well, they love me.

And so it is that on Saturday, May 5, you are encouraged--not merely by myself but by the entire comic-book industry--to stroll into your local comic-book store and grab some free comic-books.

[Well, don't actually grab them. That would be rude. You can politely pick them up, though, and take them home, bag them, encase the bag in plastic, and then sell them on e-bay for millions of dollars in a few years.]

A few extra-interesting comics that are being offered tomorrow that you might want to keep an eye open for...

The Train Was Bang On Time—FCBD EDITION
An Episode from The Black Diamond Detective Agency
by Mr. Eddie Campbell

First Second Books celebrates Free Comic Book Day with a preview of the graphic novel The Train Was Bang On Time: An Episode from The Black Diamond Detective Agency by Mr. Eddie Campbell, to be published later this spring. It’s a tale of robbery, explosions, and terror in America's heartland at the turn of the twentieth century.

Eddie Campbell has done some pretty amazing stuff in his time (From Hell, for example) and I have very high hopes for this book.

by Various

Three for the price of… none? Conceived and written by My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way, The Umbrella Academy features interior art by Gabriel Bá (Casanova) and Dave Stewart (Hellboy), and covers by multiple-Eisner-Award-winning artist James Jean (Fables). The Umbrella Academy debuts with a 12-page story set before the start of the upcoming series. This issue also features sneak-peeks of two other upcoming Dark Horse titles: Zero Killer, by Rex Mundi creator Arvid Nelson and Matt Camp (Shadows), and Pantheon City, written by Ron Marz (Samurai: Heaven and Earth) and drawn by Clement Sauve (Stormwatch)!

I don't know much about the stories listed above, but I have seen a preview of Pantheon City that looked pretty neat (great art!) and how can a series titledThe Umbrella Academy not be excellent? It hardly seems possible. So, hurray for Dark Horse!!!

by J. Torres & Chynna Clugston-Flores

An all-new, all-ages Johnny DC series spinning out of the smash-hit animated series on Kids WB! starring Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes! In this debut issue, the Legion travels back in time for reinforcements to stop the Fatal Five from destroying Metropolis, because this looks like a job for… Clark Kent?! Can six teenagers from the future help a mild-mannered teenager become the Man of Steel, or will the Fatal Five determine his destiny before it’s even begun?

I'm very much looking forward to this. I've gotta say, though, I think DC screwed up a bit on this in terms of scheduling. They announced that this would be their free comic-book before the original version had even been published. In other words, this is a reprint of a book that just came out a few weeks ago. So, if one were interested in getting this comic, there'd be absolutely no reason to buy it since it's being offered for free.

But, so it goes...

I do think it's a great choice, however, in terms of being accessible to new readers and especially for getting kids interested in comics.

by Various

It’s time again for Comics Festival!, the most exciting FCBD title of the year! Featuring new stories from Darwyn Cooke (The New Frontier), Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim), Hope Larson (Salamander Dream), Chip Zdarsky, Michael Cho, and a host of great Canadian cartoonists (including a full-color section!), Comics Festival! 2007 is the FCBD book not to be missed!

I almost overlooked this one because I've never heard of the publisher (Legion of Evil Press) and the cover is pretty generic and uninteresting.


If you take a look at their little promo text, there are some amazingly talented people working on this, including Darwyn Cooke, who is pretty damn excellent. So, although I don't have much of a sense of what the contents of this book will be, I'm thinking it may be quite excellent indeed.

Lynda Barry Extravaganza—FCBD EDITION

Lynda Barry is one of the best known contemporary cartoonists — her comic is syndicated in numerous weeklies and has been read faithfully by thousands for almost 30 years. She got her start in the late ’70s when her then-schoolmate (a certain fellow by the name of Matt Groening) published her first comic in the school newspaper and the rest, as they say, is history. This all ages, all-Lynda Barry Free Comic Day issue will be an excellent sampler of the work of this legendary cartoonist and will provide a sneak peak at what’s in store from D+Q and Lynda Barry in the months and years ahead. Features an all-new cover by Lynda Barry!

For what it's worth, I once saw Lynda Barry do a live performance and it was absolutely hilarious. I'm not such a big fan of her books, but if you've never read any of her stuff, you definitely should take a look at this. There are those who absolutely love her comics... you may be one of them. Who knows?

by Charles M. Schulz

Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts is the most-reprinted comic strip of all time, with literally hundreds of collections published in the last 50 years. You would expect that by now every Peanuts strip has been collected more than once... and you’d be very wrong! In fact, hundreds of Peanuts strips were never reprinted. The Complete Peanuts has been rectifying this, and The Unseen Peanuts is a special collection of over 100 of these rarities. It’s a great introduction of the strip to new readers, and a fascinating trove of rarities that will surprise and delight even the most diligent Peanuts — a perfect sampler for both neophyte and old hand!

I've been curious about Fantagraphics' Complete Peanuts series and I suppose this will give me a good sense of whether or not I want to start picking up those huge, beautiful, over-priced books.
This is also a good choice from Fantagraphics because it's something that will appeal to kids as well as adults.
Anyway, if you want to know more about the Where, When, Why, and What of Free Comic Book Day, here's a handy-dandy link to all the information you need. There are about 43 different free comics available, so no matter who you are or how difficult to please you may be, there ought to be something there for you.
And it's FREE!!!
Anyway, I'm going to wrap this up and start birthday-ing like it's 1999... but I'll see y'all next week, when we'll finally have The Shield special bonus feature and a bunch o' comic-book reviews. Until then, go get some dang free comics already!!!
- Paul