Monday, August 31, 2009

Howard the Duck to be de-pantsed.

Just kidding.

But it's possible, now that Disney is buying Marvel. Disney once threatened to sue Marvel over Howard's resemblance to Donald Duck, and forced Marvel to re-design him so that he now wears pants.

Could a Howard/Donald cross-over be looming?

And what would Howard's co-creator Steve Gerber think of all this? Here's Gerber in a 2001 interview:
For me, one of the more intriguing things to watch over the next few years will be what happens to the mega-conglomerates like AOL Time Warner, Disney, Microsoft, and Viacom. Either they're going to wind up controlling every aspect of our lives in a kind of William Gibson/Neal Stephenson scenario, or their corporate nervous systems will start to break down, and they'll begin eating themselves alive, once there's nothing else left out there for them to devour. Or, worse -- both.
Gerber also commented on the Howard re-design:
[T]he Disney agreement is worded in such a way that Marvel isn't even permitted to create a new, alternative design for the character, even if that design bears no resemblance to Donald.

. . .

I've done a lot of complaining over the years about the people who used to run Marvel, but even I never expected to see their monumental stupidity memorialized in writing. They literally allowed another company to redesign their character for them! As far as I can tell, they never even attempted to submit any alternative designs for Disney's consideration. They just left it in Disney's hands, and Disney gave them exactly what you'd expect -- the ugliest, most unappealing, least salable character imaginable.

Let me come right out and say this: Marvel's former management was not only grossly incompetent; it was a pack of craven cowards. Oh, they were very big and tough when it came to dicking around their writers and artists, the people whose livelihoods they controlled, but they pissed their pants at the very idea of even having to negotiate with almighty Disney. The Disney artists who destroyed Howard must have had an enormous laugh at their expense, and the Disney lawyers must have thought they were dealing with a bunch of nitwits who lacked even the most basic instinct for self-preservation.

Holy Shmoly! Disney to Buy Marvel

Here's the news.

And here's the official press release from Disney.

Go here to listen to Disney's webcast for investors.

According to the webcast, John Lasseter of Pixar met recently with Marvel creative execs and [I'm paraphrasing] the group got very excited quickly. They are going to look at all of the opportunities and some exciting product can come from this.

I have a buddy who works on Disney's comic books.... I wonder how this affects what he'll be doing....

Monday, August 24, 2009

I'm outta here. Plus, Buy This Comic: The Muppet Show

Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm on vacation this week. I'll be back with a vengeance next week.

Also, here's this week's edition of Buy This Comic:

Buy This Comic is an ongoing feature in which I recommend one comic book -- and one book only -- arriving on shelves that Wednesday.

This week's pick is:

The Muppet Show Comic Book: Meet the Muppets, by Roger Langridge, Boom!, 112 pages, $9.95

Here's the solicitation for the book:
This hilarious trade collects the first four issues of THE MUPPET SHOW, written and drawn by the incomparable Roger Langridge! Packed full of madcap skits and gags, The Muppet Show trade is certain to please old and new fans alike! If you have a favorite Muppet, chances are it's featured in this show-stopping collection!
I held off on getting the single issues of this one, even though everyone and their mother was going ga-ga over how hilarious and wonderful and oh-isn't-Roger-Langridge-just-PERFECT-for-this-book and it's-not-just-nostalgia-talking-no-really and awesome this book is. I'm hoping it lives up to the hype -- I've bought some of Boom's other kid-friendly output for my kids (Cars, Toy Story) and haven't been impressed. The Muppet Show is another animal altogether, however. I'll just say that I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tarantino to direct Scalped and Black Knight/Blackest Night confusion?

How about starting two totally-unsubstantiated-but-kinda-believable rumors? Yes please.


Tarantino just collaborated with the artist and colorist for Scalped, R.M. Guera and Giulia Brusco, on a graphic adaptation of a scene from Tarantino's new movie Inglourious Basterds.

Maybe Tarantino chose Guera and Brusco because: 1) he wanted to see what working with them would be like; and 2) he wanted to give a little publicity boost to Scalped.

Tarantino directs terrific crime movies.

Scalped is one of the best crime comics out there.

Let's make this happen.

You can see the Inglourious Basterds comic here. (NSFW)


As far as I know, Marvel's Black Knight character has not been in the limelight in a while. So what better time to feature him in a one-shot special than when DC's big Blackest Night crossover is taking place?

Marvel's comic gets to piggy-back on DC's crossover sales boost simply because some people will not realize that the two are not affiliated, plus it helps to dilute the Blackest Night branding.

Nice move, Marvel.

Next, you should name your online comic book service "Digital Comics Unlimited," a.k.a. "DCU," just to screw with DC's "DC Universe," a.k.a "DCU." Oh wait, you already did.

Here's the solicitation for the Black Knight one-shot.

Note: These two rumors are totally unsubstantiated. I just made them up.

But you have to admit they're kinda plausible, right?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Superhero Minimalism: Team Zero in Six Panels

It's been almost a year since the last time, but you might remember my earlier posts where I attempted to provide a summary or trailer for a comic book series using only one panel from each issue of the series.

Here are those attempts:
I thought I'd try it again, this time with a lesser-known mini-series published by Wildstorm in 2006: Team Zero, by Chuck Dixon and Doug Mahnke.

Let's give it a shot:


(click to enlarge)

Neato Cover: Batgirl #4, by Phil Noto

This is a pretty sweet cover. Click to enlarge.

Batgirl #4 will be on sale November 11, 2009.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Buy This Comic: Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 1

Buy This Comic is an ongoing feature in which I recommend one comic book -- and one book only -- arriving on shelves that Wednesday.

This week's pick is:

Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 1, by Fumi Yoshinaga, Viz, 216 pages, $12.99

Here is Viz's description of the book:
In Edo period Japan, a strange new disease called the Redface Pox has begun to prey on the country's men. Within eighty years of the first outbreak, the male population has fallen by seventy-five percent. Women have taken on all the roles traditionally granted to men, even that of the shogun. The men, precious providers of life, are carefully protected. And the most beautiful of the men are sent to serve in the shogun's Inner Chamber...
Sounds pretty cool to me. Alternate history political intrigue? Sign me up.

Plus, the series won the 2009 Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize. Author Fumi Yoshinaga was nominated for the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist for Flower of Life and The Moon and Sandals, and she also wrote and drew Antique Bakery.

The book will be on shelves this Wednesday, August 19, 2009. You can also buy it here: Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 1

Volume 2 comes out in December.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Is Ponyo too scary for kids?

If you are a parent, I'd like to draw your attention to several short posts on Double X that discuss whether Hayao Miyazki's new movie Ponyo is too scary for little kids.

One of the two people writing about this issue is Slate's movie reviewer, Dana Stevens. She has decided to take her three-year-old daughter to see Ponyo, even though there are a couple of scary parts.

This is something that my wife and I have been wrestling with, since our four-year-old son LOVES Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. We've held off showing him any of Miyazaki's other movies, though, because they are just a little too scary. After reading this discussion on Double X, I'm leaning toward taking him to Ponyo this weekend.

Here are the posts, in order:
  1. Worshipping at the Shrine of Hayao Miyazaki
  2. Miyazaki's "Ponyo": Too Scary for Kids? Good Question ...
  3. "Ponyo" and the Scary Movie Dilemma
ALSO: Double X now rates movies, books, games, and tv. The ratings are very helpful to parents. (They rate them by "Fear Factor," "Heart," and "Attitude," which are three qualities that I find very good to know in advance before showing things to my kids.) Here's their review of Ponyo.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Love Jim Shooter.

First: Happy anniversary to me! It has been one year since my first post here at I Love Rob Liefeld. It's been a fun year, and I want to thank everybody for reading and commenting.

In honor of that first post, in which I explained why I love Rob Liefeld, let's once again turn back the clock to those banner days of the early nineties.

Let's talk about why I love Jim Shooter.

Jim Shooter writes comic books and was once the editor-in-chief at Marvel. Not unlike Rob Liefeld, many people do not hold a very high opinion of him. In his case, it seems that people don't like him because of his overbearing managerial and editorial style.

But I love Jim Shooter. And here is why: for several years he was the editor-in-chief and a driving creative force of the Valiant Comics superhero universe.

In 1992, just as I was getting into comic books, Valiant published a "crossover event" called Unity, which saw every Valiant superhero fighting in a massive battle to save the universe.

I purchased all 18 issues of Unity in one shot from my local comic book shop. (The Dream Factory, R.I.P.) I can't remember what moved me to buy it, since I hadn't read any Valiant comics before that. It might have been on a friend's recommendation, or possibly due to a positive review in Wizard Magazine, which was a big booster of Valiant at the time.

In any event, Unity blew me away. It was my first introduction to the idea of a "shared" superhero universe, where events in one comic can have effects in another, where characters from one book meet and interact with characters from another, and where all of the books work together to build a complete world. There is something fascinating about reading a comic and knowing that the story is at that moment becoming part of the history of that universe, something that can influence later stories. You get to witness the birth of new heroes and villains, see them rise from lowly beginnings as minor characters to blossom as vital and important pieces of the universe. All of the books set in the universe ultimately end up telling small parts of what becomes one giant story, the story of that universe. Crossover events are the high points of that universe's story, in which everything comes together, the stakes are raised, and big, important things happen.

(Side note: one of the things that gets me psyched about Marvel's recent movies is that they are successfully starting to build a shared universe on the screen. I wonder if people who don't read comics will get the same jolt of excitement when, after seeing the individual exploits of Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, and Thor, an Avengers movie comes out in which all of the heroes appear together to fight some huge threat. I have to admit that I can't wait for that moment.)

If a shared superhero universe is executed well, it can be an awesome thing to behold. For me, Valiant's universe clicked like that. I loved the characters, the stories, and the interactions between the different books. I immediately began to purchase every Valiant comic that came out, and hunt down the issues that had been published before Unity. (Which was no easy thing, as they had relatively small print runs and demand from readers and collectors quickly began to skyrocket.)

During those first few years, Valiant's superhero universe was a well-oiled machine, and I attribute much of its success to the editorial direction and control of Jim Shooter. Unfortunately, Shooter was eventually booted from the company, and in the mid-90s Valiant over-expanded and diluted its line by publishing more and more mediocre titles, and I lost interest.

Since then, I've never really been able to recapture that magical feeling you can get when you know everything that is going on in a shared superhero universe. Marvel and DC's universes are too big, with too many characters and with histories that are dense and convoluted. I don't have the time, money, or desire to know what is going on in every book from either company.

But for several years in the early 90s, I was lucky enough to read the story of the Valiant universe, and it was great. And that is why I love Jim Shooter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Buy This Comic on Wednesday, August 12, 2009: Hero Comics

Buy This Comic is an ongoing feature here at I Love Rob Liefeld in which I recommend one comic book -- and one book only -- arriving on shelves on Wednesday.

This week's pick is:

Hero Comics: A Hero Initiative Benefit Book, with contributions from Matt Wagner, Howard Chaykin, Bill Willingham, Gene Ha, David Lloyd, Kaare Andrews, J. Scott Campbell, Arthur Adams, Gene Colan, Bill Messner-Loebs, and Josh Medors, published by The Hero Initiative, 32 pages, $3.99

According to the solicitation:
The 32-page, no-ads comic, edited and produced by Scott Dunbier, special projects editor at IDW Publishing, will be released in late July with two covers, Eve by J. Scott Campbell, and Grendel by Matt Wagner. The fundraising book will contain great, all-new content including an original American Flagg! story by Howard Chaykin, and original stories by Gene Ha, Bill Willingham, David Lloyd, and Kaare Andrews, published by the Hero Initiative, 32 pages, $3.99.

In addition, Arthur Adams will recreate three classic Marvel Comics covers, and Hero Initiative beneficiaries such as Gene Colan, Bill Messner-Loebs and Josh Medors will tell their own personal stories, detailing their severe struggles, and Hero's involvement.
The Hero Initiative is a worthy cause to support, since it provides aid to comic book creators and their families. This benefit book has a number of terrific contributors, so go buy it.

Here's a link to more information about the book.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

DC vs. Marvel

I wouldn't call myself a Marvel person or a DC person. I tend to read what sounds good, whether mainstream or independent, superhero or literary. I look for writers and artists whose prior work I have enjoyed, and I try to pick up books that have been well-received by the reviewers and critics that I respect.

But I have noticed that, for whatever reason, I read far more Marvel than DC books. I'm beginning to think that it comes down to an ingrained difference between the two companies in their entire outlook on storytelling, their worldview. Marvel's worldview simply appeals to me more.

This morning I wondered what would be each company's most iconic comic book cover from the past thirty years. These are the two that instantly came to my mind:



Maybe you can quibble with my choices, but I think both covers are recognized as among the most iconic covers of the past several decades.

Simply by looking at these two covers, what can we learn about the storytelling outlook of the two companies?

  • Plot-driven
  • Melodramatic
  • Unhappy
  • Death
  • Cosmic
  • Involvement of zillions of characters
  • Emphasis on what has happened in the past

  • Character-driven
  • Fun
  • Happy
  • Lively
  • Down-to-earth
  • Focus on single character
  • Emphasis on what will happen in the future
Honestly, I think that is a fairly accurate picture of the output of these two companies. And looking at these two lists, I think it's pretty clear why I gravitate toward Marvel's books.

What do you think? Is this correct? Any other differences in storytelling outlook that you can name? Did I pick the wrong covers?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Murals, Stitches, and Podcasts

Some links of interest:
  • The New York Times published an article about an amazing mural created by two Brazilian graffiti artists, who are twin brothers that call themselves Os Gemeos. Be sure to look at the slideshow of pictures that accompanies the article. Incredibly, this mural will only be there until March! Two thoughts: (1) How could you take that down? Leave it up there! (2) Somehow, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba apparently have some competition to be the top Brazilian twin brother artists. I say they settle it the traditional way: pencils at dawn! (Or maybe they should settle it the Chicago way, which involves putting somebody in the morgue?*)
  • Publisher's Weekly just posted an interesting interview with David Small, the author of Stitches, which I reviewed here. They also put up a sixteen-page preview of the book. Both items are well worth your time. Actually, I recommend: (1) looking at the preview now to get excited about the book; and (2) bookmarking the interview and reading it after you've read the book, since it provides a lot of fascinating information about the creation of the work.
  • Do you listen to podcasts about comic books? I listen to two: (1) Awesomed by Comics; and (2) House to Astonish. I recommend checking them out, if you have a moment.
*Wait, was that TWO Sean Connery references in one week? Good lord, what is going on here?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Buy This Comic on Wednesday, August 5, 2009: Frankenstein's Womb

Buy This Comic is an ongoing feature here at I Love Rob Liefeld in which I recommend one comic book -- and one book only -- arriving on shelves on Wednesday.

This week's pick is:

Frankenstein's Womb, written by Warren Ellis, art by Marek Oleksicki, Avatar Press, 48 pages, $6.99

Here's the description from the solicitation:
The newest addition to Warren Ellis' Apparat line of original graphic novels has arrived! 1816 was called 'The Year Without A Summer.' In the weird darkness of that July's volcanic winter, Mary Wollestonecraft Godwin began writing Frankenstein on the shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. But that is not where Frankenstein began. It began months earlier when, en route through Germany to Switzerland, Mary, her future husband Percy Shelley, and her stepsister Clair Clairmont approached a strange castle. Castle Frankenstein, some one hundred years earlier, had been home to Johann Conrad Dippel, whose experiments included the independent invention of nitroglycerin, a distillation of the elixir of life - and the transfer of a live soul into an awful accretion of human body parts. Mary never spoke of having entered the real Castle Frankenstein, stark on its hilltop south of Darmstadt. But she did. And she was never the same again - because something was haunting that tower, and Mary met it there! Fear, death and alchemy - the modern age is created here, in lost moments in a ruined castle on a day never recorded. Following up the huge successes of Crecy and Aetheric Mechanics, Ellis turns his spark of mad genius to bring us a fantastical tale in this all new original graphic novel illustrated in atmospheric perfection by newcomer Marek Oleksicki.
Although I am by no means a Warren Ellis nut, I enjoyed both Crecy and Aetheric Mechanics, Ellis's two previous "graphic novellas" published by Avatar, so I'm looking forward to this one.

Here is a seven-page preview.