Friday, August 24, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 33: Bits and Pieces

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

Yes, yes, I know... the last column only came out a couple of days ago and here we are again...

That's kind of kooky-crazy, isn't it?

Well, there was some quick update information I wanted to share with y'all and I figured that writing an additional column might help to restore the faith you all had in me before my recent hiatus-es...


Anyway, the information update is that Wonder Woman #13 is no longer the comic that I so eagerly advocated that you pre-order, mere weeks ago. Instead, it is now a fill-in issue, and issue #14 will be Gail Simone's first issue.

I thought I'd better mention this because if someone ordered Wonder Woman #13 on my recommendation, expecting to get a snazzy Gail Simone comic, and instead received an Amazons Attack epilogue that is designed to help set up the upcoming Wonder Girl limited series that no one is going to buy, that person might harbor ill will towards me.

And I don't want that.

Also, I wanted to post the following pages from a book called Proof that will be coming out in October from the good folks at Image. I originally had no interest in this title because the premise didn't really grab me. But having just seen these preview pages, I've decided to give it a try...

There's sort of a Ted McKeever vibe to the art (by Riley Rossmo) that I really, really like.

If you're interested in seeing slightly larger versions of the above pages and reading a pretty decent interview with the artist and writer of Proof, you can do so here.

Here's the solicitation text for the first issue, which evoked absolutely zero interest in me...



art & cover RILEY ROSSMO
When FBI agent Ginger Brown got a promotion, she didn’t expect her new duties would involve tracking down the world’s most mysterious creatures. The Loch Ness Monster, Mothman and El Chupacabra are now on her "most wanted" list and her new partner looks an awful lot like… Bigfoot!

TAGLINE: If you believe in monsters, you need Proof!


The main problems with the above are that stupid tagline (Why even include a tagline? What's the point, except to annoy me?) and that whole "If you like The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, Star Wars, or anything else, you'll love our comic!!!" thing. Plus, the concept somehow seems overly familiar. I have no idea where I've come across a similar thing, or if I even have, but it just sounds... uninspired.

Much better is the solicitation text for issue #2, due out in November:

When El Chupacabra claims another victim, the case becomes too much for small town sheriff Elvis Chestnut to handle. Lucky for him, Proof is on the way. Meanwhile, Ginger learns the secrets of The Lodge and the Dover Demon delivers a warning. All that, plus the Cottingley Fairies attack!

Anyway, we'll have to see. I do like those preview pages, though...

Finally, I wanted to share an excerpt from an interview with Keith Champagne, who wrote the much reviled 52 crossover issues and who is now being forced against his will to write a project that sounds truly heinous, Countdown: Arena. As you might have guessed from the title, this is yet another Countdown crossover. Readers may not be enjoying Countdown, but that surely hasn't stopped DC from putting out dozens of related mini-series, specials, and crossovers.

The premise behind this particular one is that a whole bunch of super-heroes from various Earths fight each other in an arena. So, for example, you might see Batman from the Elseworlds story where he's a vampire fight Batman from the Earth where he fought in World War II. Or Superman who married Lois Lane might battle Superman who didn't marry Lois Lane.

Dan Didio has used his usual strategy of trying to garner interest by promising that characters will die, somehow failing to realize that no one cares about the deaths of obscure characters that haven't been seen in decades except for a few long-time readers who get really pissed off about it.

Anyway, here's Keith Champagne, attempting to sound enthused about a project that he clearly didn't want any part of...

Newsarama: First off Keith, how did you get involved with this mini-series? And what did you think of the concept behind Arena when you first heard about it?

Keith Champagne: Well, it's a long and tortured tale involving Dan Didio, Mike Siglain, an email or two, a meeting with Mike in the city, and my immediate and resounding yes after what exactly Arena was intended to be.When I first wrapped my head around Arena, my initial thought was, "hmmm...sounds kind of like a video game." And after writing it, I still think it's a no-brainer for a great video game. But it makes an even better comic! Honestly, I started Arena shortly after World War III. In my head, I was hoping to switch gears and write something smaller, maybe even something a little funny. But with great opportunity comes... um... a great opportunity. I couldn't say no, especially not to a concept with so much potential for good times, and a chance to work with a razor sharp story editor like Siglain again.

[Here's a tip, dear readers... when a writer describes his story by saying that it would make a great video game, that's what we in the business like to call a red flag. Especially when it's followed by an admission that he'd rather be working on something on a smaller scale.]

NRAMA: Tell us a little about the story. It focuses on Monarch, right?

KC: Monarch -- he sure does get around that Multiverse. And in this case, he's gone through all 52 of the universes, cherry picking the last wave of his army before he rains war down on the corn-rowed heads of The Monitors.To that end, he's lined up the greatest heroes -- and a few of the deadliest villains -- from throughout the entire Multiverse. Three versions of each, to be exact. So, among others, we've got three Supermen, three Wonder Women, three Batmen and many, many more that he's drafted into his cause.I should mention that these different versions of the characters should be pretty familiar to people who enjoyed their Elseworlds. Every universe from Gotham By Gaslight to New Frontier and all the way to Wildstorm are represented. Even Captain Carrot's. One at a time, the versions of each character must battle one another in an enormous, city-sized Arena that Monarch has constructed. He only has room for one of each: the best, strongest, and most determined in his army. From there, things get brutal and bloody.

[See? You thought I was kidding about the multiple Batmen and Supermen from obscure Elseworlds stories fighting. But I wasn't.]

NRAMA: Brutal and bloody? So does this answer those questions people always stand around and argue about at comics shops? Like... "who would win in this fight?"

KC: Yes.

There's your high concept right there.

Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting example of how you can get into the comics business and have all these great stories in your head that you're dying to tell, but then you get assigned to something like Countdown: Arena and your guitar ends up gently weeping off in the corner.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this extra-super-bonus Hoopla! column... really, I just wanted to warn you about Wonder Woman #13. Having done that, I feel like my day has been a success and my existence on this planet has been, once again, justified...

Be here next week for some real-life comic-book reviews... just like grandma used to make!

- Paul

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 32: The Museum of Crappy Comic-Book Covers...

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

The new solicitations for DC and Marvel books coming out in November have come out and I'm slightly under-whelmed. Not many new projects worth getting excited about, and a load of butt-ugly covers...

In honor of how crappy a lot of this stuff looks, I've decided to do an homage to some of the worst covers that will be on display in November...

Join me, won't you?

The above is a nice, generic crappy cover to start us off... what I particularly like about this cover is that I can't tell which characters I'm supposed to be looking at (Who's the guy lying in the corner? Who's the green guy? Who's the floating head at the top?), where they are, or who is fighting whom. Sure, the blue person is clearly fighting the dressed-in-red person, but what's the green person doing? Is the floating head involved in the fight or simply watching from afar? Why are there so many bats? Is one of these characters somehow related to Batman, or is it a red herring?

Who knows?

In this cover, from Batman and the Outsiders #2, I can at least tell that Aquaman is in the story, as well as Batman's torso and head, and Catwoman's butt. I think there are a couple of other characters too, swirling in the vortex that seems to be spreading from Aquaman's right hand, but I can't be sure.

Then there's a rocket that seems to be roughly the size of Catwoman's head. I don't know if the rocket is aimed at them or where they are or why Batman is floating behind the rocket or what the big explodey thing behind Batman is supposed to be. The sun, perhaps? Or why there are bubbles along the lefthand side of the cover. Maybe this is all taking place underwater? Or why Aquaman's hands are doing whatever it is that they're doing.


The idea behind this cover isn't so bad... using just red and white to get some kind of effect. The main problem, aside from the fact that it's ugly, is the weird shape that Kyle Rayner is shooting at. It sort of looks like he's gotten into a fight with the Red Maple Leaf from Canada's flag.


Again, the concept here isn't so bad... who wouldn't want to read a story about Black Adam being bitten by Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, and whoever that guy in the corner is supposed to be? The problem here is that it looks like it was drawn by that guy who sat in the corner next to you in high school scribbling Heavy Metal album covers.

And the purple. The purple is a problem. It's so... deliberately purple. So very, self-consciously purple. And I have to wonder... why?

"So, I have this great concept for a Midnighter cover... it's going to be this sort of amateurish drawing of the Midnighter... and most of his hand!!!"

This cover isn't nearly as bad as some of the others, but I think it warrants recognition because two members of this team have the Power Girl-patented chest-window... and one of them is a guy with a hairy chest!


I'm guessing his super-power is that he makes people standing next to him really, really uncomfortable...

"I'm not going to look at his hairy chest-hole, I'm not going to look at his hairy chest-hole, I'm not going to look at his hairy chest-hole..."

Worst. Drawing. Of Robin.


For one thing, he's absurdly tall. His torso alone is taller than Aqualad.

Then there's the way his face is drawn... like a mentally challenged Richie Cunningham.

The best thing about this cover, though, is that the generic uniformed green-and-yellow guys aren't quite looking up high enough to see the Teen Titans... they're sort of looking at their knees. And at each other. And they can't quite muster up the sense of shock that they're supposed to be portraying.

"Hey, Bob, you see that? The Teen Titans' knees and feet just teleported above us."

"Yeah, I see that. Huh. Weird."

When in doubt, go with the classic "straight line" pose. Not only is it visually dull, it's also a bit confusing. What are they supposed to be standing on?

And is Krypto yawning? Bad, dog, bad!

I actually kind of like the above cover... it's interesting and colorful. My only problem with it is that I can't tell what the hell that thing is. A robot? A monster? A weird giant dog?

No clue.

But, despite this one major flaw, it's still a million times better than any of the others...

Finally, in the interest of helping to cleanse your pallette after that painful journey through the dregs of comic-book cover art, I offer you the following...

Yes, it's Dr. Octopus having tea and biscuits with Aunt May and Spider-Man. And, please note, Dr. Octopus is using his tentacles to serve the tea. Very nice.

And then, finally, this...

Ahh. I'm starting to feel better already.

NEXT WEEK: Every time I try to anticipate the contents of next week's column, I wind up being completely wrong. So, this time I'm not going to promise anything at all.

Does that mean that next week's column will have everything?

Be here next week to find out...

- Paul

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 31: The Hoopla that Time Forgot...

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

I want to start by apologizing to both of my loyal readers... this column is very, very late. Not as late as Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine #3, it's true, but late nonetheless.

For the past several few months I've been working on my Field Statement, which is essentially a literature review on three different academic fields that are central to the upcoming dissertation. I was way behind schedule for a number of reasons, none of which are interesting enough to go into, and so had to work super-fast to get this thing done so I can get started on my disseration proposal and still have a hope of getting my dissertation completed before my funding runs out (next May).

The good news is that I was successful in this endeavor and my Field Statement is complete, my professors are happy, and I'm almost caught up to where I should be in this process.

My reward for finishing the Field Statement about ten days ago was that I then had to take the Field Exam, which is a three day process that's sort of the PhD program equivilant of college hazing.

The Field Exam is where you're given four questions that are related to your Field Statement (hence the "Field"-i-ness of it) and you're given three days to write 8-10 page answers to each of the four questions.

You do the math.

So, as of noon today (Saturday) I'm finally finished with that excruciating process and am now a relatively free man, once again! And tomorrow, to celebrate, I'm going on a (very) short vacation with Mie, who has been extremely patient with me during this whole rig-a-ma-role. (How the hell do you spell that word?)

Anyway, I'll be back on Tuesday and then I'm hoping to get back on track with this Hoopla! thing but, in the meantime, I just didn't want y'all to think I'd forgotten you.

I assure you, every morning for the past two weeks I've woken up with only one thought in my mind: "Must... write... comic-book reviews..."

Well, maybe there were a couple of other thoughts, but they were entirely secondary and not really worth mentioning...

Anyhow, to tide you over until I come back and do some actual comic-book reviews and some of that witty banter stuff that we all so enjoy, here's a list of what I'm ordering for October 2007, to do with as you will...


I don't normally pick up the Superman titles these days, but here we've got Eric Powell doing art on a Bizarro story, the first part of a Legion of Super-Heroes story (the 'real' ones, that is) and the beginning of a 3-part Superman/Batman team up written by Kurt Busiek.

What's not to love?


Loved, loved, loved Annihilation Conquest: Prologue, Star Lord #1, and Nova #4.

Loved 'em.



I'm not terribly optimistic about this Outsiders business because (1) it's the Outsiders and (2) it's written by Tony Bedard, who is a decent writer but certainly not a great one.

But... every month my comic-book subscription service,, has a few titles for under a title to get you to try them. This month, one of those comics is Batman and the Outsiders #1.

For 74 cents, I'll give it a try...






FAKER #4 (Of 6)

The first issue of Faker wasn't actually as good as I'd hoped it would be, but it wasn't bad and it seems to have a lot of potential, so I'm willing to stick with it for now...


FLASH #233


Lovin' the Sinestro Corps storyline...


Hey, it's Howard the Duck! And with art by Juan Bobillo, who also did the art on those totally kick-butt early issues of Dan Slott's She-Hulk. And written by Ty Templeton.

What's not to love???



JLA HITMAN #2 (Of 2)




I'm actually kind of burnt out on the whole Marvel Zombies thing, but this is another of those 74 cent comics, so I'm picking up the first issue...


I've enjoyed not buying Mighty Avengers for the past few months, but this issue ties into the larger Skrull thing that's going on over at New Avengers, so I'm going to give it a try...

This could be a fatal mistake on my part...






Loved the first issue of MODOKS 11...


[74 cents...]

[But what's up with that title?]

"Hey, what'cha reading?"

"Oh, I'm reading this great new series!"

"Yeah? What's it called?

"The Sword."




Gail Simone's first issue...



Jeff Parker!!!

Plus Booster Gold #3, the Spider-Man "One More Day" storyline, Gutsville #6, and the latest New Avengers...

So, how do you feel about that?

- Paul, ready for a vacation...