Comics!

In lieu of anything else to talk about, my three recommendations for this week:

  • Black Panther #50
    The best monthly superhero comic that nobody reads. Nobody ever thought it would ever make it to #50. Nobody seriously expects it to last until #60. It's about one of those nutty characters that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created in the 1960s; King T'Challa is The Black Panther, king of a wealthy and technologically advanced African nation. For thirty years, Black Panther wavered from being a goofy adventurer, to the token honourable Black Guy on The Avengers. Five years ago, Christopher Priest (Marvel's first black editor, and the person who hired Peter David) started writing the Panther's first solo title for over a decade. Priest has long suffered from what is affectionately known as 'The Curse', where he would write five or so issues of a title before it was cancelled beneath him. We weren't expecting it to last, but normally Priest manages to get a few good stories told before the title disappears.

    I don't think anybody expected Panther to be the best work of Priest's career. From the dubious origins of T'Challa, Priest crafted a deeply funny and complex book, soaked in the politics of Black America, African tribes, and superheroes. It was The West Wing, but with explosions. It had multi-layered plotlines, sharp and witty dialogue, fabulous art by the likes of Sal Velluto and Mark Texakira, and the Devil's Pants.

    And nobody bought it.

    Priest has tried just about everything to improve the sales of the title, reducing the cast to a more manageable level, having guest-stars such as Wolverine make an appearance, and streamlining his complex plots. Nothing has worked. Black Panther #50 is the final attempt. Priest's own take on the revamp is 'less West Wing, more Law & Order'. King T'Challa is missing, presumed dead, but someone in the Black Panther costume has been spotted around New York, using extreme measures to stop criminals. New artist Dan Fraga's art is quite impressive, and the 'widescreen' panel layout used throughout the issue gives it a very cinematic feel. It's not Black Panther as you knew it. But it's still infused with Priest's excellent dialogue and plotting. You should buy it, or at least have a look at the first trade paperback, Black Panther: The Client, featuring the Devil's Pants.


  • Stormwatch: Team Achilles #4
    Yes, Richard, there's a new Stormwatch title. This is a little different; the new Stormwatch is a UN military unit, whose mission is to seek out and kill superhero threats. This issue kicks off a new storyline, where the team discovers that their current targets are located in Chechnya. Which just happens to be under the protection of The Authority (a hyper-violent version of the Justice League, who don't have any qualms with interfering with the way the world works). Micah Wright, a newcomer to the comics scene, is writing an interesting story here, but the art drags it down quite a bit; Whilce Portacio's storytelling seems stilted and rough, but if you can get past that, it's quite enjoyable.
  • Transformers - The War Within
    Shut up. I've so far avoided all the new Transformer comics, as a sample reading of G1 #2 turned out to be very disappointing. However, there was no way I was going to miss this series, as Simon Furman is doing the writing. Furman was the writer on the Transformers: UK comics, and was responsible for some fantastic stories, involving extremely high body counts and copious amounts of mighty robotic angst. Titan Comics is currently reprinting some of his best work. I advise you to check out the Target: 2006 trade paperback, his first 'epic', featuring gorgeous artwork from Geoff Senior and Ron Smith. Anyway, this new mini-series is set in the beginning of the Autobot-Decepticon War, and is the tale of how Optimus Prime became the leader of the Autobots. And it's got Grimlock shooting things and being Grimlock in it. I can't really justify the purchase on grounds other than it had big giant robots blowing things up and lots of Optimus Angst. Just like when I used to walk in the driving rain to get my copy of Transformers UK.

My poor credit card

The University finally caught up with me today, so I'm $2,500 worse off. Curses.

A minor war seems to have broken out over the troubled My So-Called Life DVD set. People have been double charged, release dates have been announced and missed, special features promised failed to materialise, and so on. Everything went crazy last Friday, when Amazon listed the supposed 'exclusive' box set for about $30 less than AnotherUniverse's pre-order price. It doesn't come with a lunchbox, or the special features disc (just a few interviews so far), but it does have a release date. The MSCL site is full of angry diatribes, especially as they come to realise that AU has probably been making a nice profit off the interest from the 3,000 original orders. Not a great situation. I cancelled my original order today; I would have paid quite a lot in shipping costs, as it was going to my UK address, and I'd rather have the 19 episodes than hold out for a lunchbox and a rather sparse feature disc.

There's a huge list of comics I have to pick up tomorrow, one of which features an appearance of The Authority....

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Apparently, I am now known by sight at my hall's mail desk. I haven't been ordering that much. It's just that Amazon is being very helpful and splitting my orders up to send them faster. Yes, that's the reason. Denial is great.

Firefly finally found its mark last Friday, with a witty and inventive episode written by Joss Whedon. No sound in space! A gun called Vera! A special place in hell reserved for people who talk in theatres! Pity it'll probably be cancelled by Fox in a few weeks (although last Friday's ratings were up from the week before).

Somebody needs to tie Amy Acker down and feed her several Elvis-sized burgers. In last season's Angel, she was extremely thin; in last night's season opener she seemed to have had all the fat in her body sucked out with a twin-vortex Dyson. Not pretty at all. Go on, have a chip, Amy.

I'm planning on going to the cinema this week. Mainly because I haven't been for almost two months now, which is actually worse than my record back at home. What should I see? The Rules of Attraction, or White Oleander?

currently playing: Pulp - Babies

Hooray For Everything

The Warren Ellis Forum is dead. Long Live The New Flesh. After four years, Warren decided to call it a day and get back to writing, rather than spending sixteen hours out of twenty-four flirting with his many female fans. The WEF comprised a total of 25,000 members during its lifetime (incidentally that's more people than who bought Transmetropolitan last month), and it provided a home for lively discussion about comic theory, comic titles, current news, films, music, and Giant Death Robots. It created movements, memes, various satellite groups (such as The V Forum and Grammarporn), and, hell, it almost single-handedly saved Top Shelf Comics from bankruptcy when their distributor filed for Chapter 11 protection. Over $20,000 of comics were purchased. In one afternoon. Companies such as Cyberosia, Oni, and AiT/PlanetLar used the forum to promote their works, advertising to a more diverse audience than would be normally found on a comics website, and reaped the benefits. We were mighty. We were Making Comics Better.

Sadly, there was a flipside to all this. The WEF at times resembled little more than a personality cult centred on Warren's rather Spider Jerusalem-like online persona. Sycophancy ran high, with many posters regurgitating Warren's screeds about superhero comics and work-for-hire contracts. The forum was regarded by most other Internet comics communities as being too elitist for its own good. After Warren's blistering 'This Is What You Want' discussion, where he highlighted that many people on the Forum were talking up a storm, but continued to buy the same superhero comics every week, there was a definite decline in the atmosphere. The WEF had a strict moderation policy to prevent flame wars in the USENET style, but the satellite fora were not so controlled. Instead of preventing the bickering, all the 'Stalinist' moderation did was move it to the satellites. In someways, this was even worse than the USENET system, as it just built resentment rather than dealing with things out in the open; people explored various forums such as Memecenter to find that they were being mocked mercilessly. The 'old-guard' WEF posters drifted away from the forum, many saying that the sycophancy of the newer crowd, plus less interesting threads to participate in, meant that they were less interested in the forum now, Ellis attempted to cut back on the extraneous threads, especially the news threads that sprialed out of control whenever somebody brought up Israel. But it didn't seem to help much. I imagine that eventually, it just got boring to Warren. People kept on asking the same questions, month after month, and Delphi's removal of the search facility for guest users made things worse. The ending of Transmetropolitan gave Ellis an escape hatch, which he used with glee.

Having said all that, I'm glad that the WEF existed. Without it, I wouldn't have discovered the work of people such as Matt Wagner, Jason Lutes, Carla Speed McNeil, Wong Kar-Wai, and Takashi Miike. I wouldn't have started up this site, I wouldn't have got back into writing comics again, and I probably wouldn't be sitting here in America writing this (I had several discussions with a CS grad student on the forum, which convinced me to apply). It was the best arena for comics discussion anywhere on the planet, and I'm going to miss it a lot.

We were the WEF. We were Mighty. Now it's time to go outside. It's a wonderful world; let's go exploring...

Now, that's just not fair

I managed to get through all the marking...only to discover that there's about ten students whose work I forgot to print out on Thursday. Again, I don't have the energy to write anything today. You might get something tomorrow (possibly about the WEF closing). I know you're quivering with anticipation, but I'm sure you can hold out.

Marking makes the world go round

Or drags it to a screaming halt.

Um, nothing much to say. Actually, that's not really true, but it's almost midnight, and I've spent the last ten hours working, so I'm not entirely thinking straight at the moment. So maybe you'll get more tomorrow....

Miracles and Marvels

Looks like Todd McFarlane is going to be slightly poorer after all the details are hashed out. I wonder if we'll be seeing that Spider-Man/Spawn series next year after all, depending on the amount of money Gaiman asks for tomorrow. One less obstacle to the reprinting of Marvelman, only 1,873 to go (we should start having bets as to whether Zenith or Marvelman will make it out of the gate first at this rate).

Tropical Storm Kyle. Heading this way. The temperatures are still crazy here - it was 32?C today. But this is most unusual for this time of year, so don't send death threats just yet....

Testing

Yay, I finally found the link to this place. Hopefully this should work. I'm going to try something else that probably won't work but who cares? lance

Deathwish

On Monday, I decided that I wasn't going to install RedHat 8.0 until a few weeks after its release, having just attempted an unsuccessful CPU upgrade. So why am I sititng in front of my computer trying to regain control of my system after installing 8.0? I have just over an hour before The West Wing starts. I've only managed to do two hours of work today, not counting lectures. There are times where I'm simply stupid.

Now that's a nasty transition...

Having a summer break inbetween episode 1 and episode 2 of the second season? That's classy.

Chuck Palahniuk doesn't look like the type of person who would write Fight Club. He's older than you think, as well. The Q&A session was quite enjoyable, with lots of useful information being given and funny stories being told. Of course, I managed to forget my camera, so I didn't get any pictures.

Something Big is happening in Buffy. I've get a few theories, but I'll stay quiet for the moment. Especially since most of you won't be able to see it until January...

Bonnie - you will cry when you see this Smallville episode. And there's still half of it left to go. I'm sensing that we might even get some kryptonite before the final credits roll. It's that good.

currently playing: Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Under Your Spell