Mining the Public Domain, OR Why Wonder Woman Should Be Better

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A definite trend in comics now is to revamp public domain characters for one's own use. I'm going to start with a blanket statement, and say: Alan Moore does it the most, Alex Ross does it most noticably, Erik Larsen does it most faithfully, Mike Mignola and Bill Willingham do it best, and most superhero universes have barely scratched the surface of it. That said, let's pick that blanket apart, piece by piece...

First, Alan Moore does it the most. He took public domain characters (hereafter: PDC) from British literature, and put them in the shared universe of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. (While I thought Tom Sawyer was a brilliant addition to the movie, from American literature, it went against Moore's vision for the book.) He used PDC again, for the superhero universe of Terra Obscura and Terra Obscura II.

Alex Ross does it most noticably, with his Project Superpowers - bringing PDC into the harder, shinier modern day. As with any blanket statement, I here find a flaw, because technically, with all the separate books that encompass Project Superpowers, Ross has technically done more PDC revamp books than Moore.

Erik Larsen does it the most faithfully, because the PDC he uses - particularly the original Daredevil, in Savage Dragon - he bases off of the original material. Basically, he found a way to bring all these characters into the present day, similar to Ross' book. Unlike Ross' work though, which changes all of their personalities to suit his storyline, Larsen is working with the personalities established in the original works, but bringing the change about more organically, through the new situations they encounter. In similar fashion, the PDC he approached in the short-lived Next Issue Project picked up from the last published issue the PDC were in, and attempted to write the next issue of that book. That's pretty cool, as they inevitably get classic Larsen twists. It's just too bad his Image partners weren't as on board as was originally claimed.

Mike Mignola and Bill Willingham do it best, with Hellboy and Fables, respectively. Hellboy is mining mythology and folklore of all kinds, and Fables is mining primarily the Grimm's Fairy Tales - all PDC. They have both found ways to make these excessively used stories uniquely their own, and are writing acclaimed books as a result. Mainly, it's Hellboy that I look at and ask myself, "Why isn't Wonder Woman better?"

I read so many message board threads claiming that Wonder Woman (and Shazam/Captain Marvel) are too mired down in mythological connections, and I look at Hellboy, and think they're not connected enough. People always want to point at the Perez versions of the Greek gods in the DCU, and say that they're too hard to work with. I say change 'em. New versions of some of these mythological entities were introduced in Trials of Shazam, but were explained as avatars of magic, or something like that, not the actual gods. Why, for crying out loud? DC gave new forms to the New Gods towards the end of Final Crisis, so why can't they change the forms of the old gods? The mythology even supports that idea, as the gods frequently took other forms in dealing with mortals. These guys and gals are immortals, for pete's sake - it would make sense that they might get bored every few hundred years (at least) and change their form like humans change a hairstyle. It should be easy to revamp the mythological gods of the DCU, and turn them into something usable for Wonder Woman and Shazam. They should be in some awesome epics of mythological scope, or perhaps darker arcs, similar to Hellboy. Is that different? Oh yeah, but geez, it's a direction to go in, rather than constantly trying to figure out what to do with them, and with research, it's a huge cache of characters to choose from, with only redesign to worry about.

Marvel has made great use of the Norse mythology in Thor, pretty decent use of Hercules, and scattered use of other gods here and there. Erik Larsen has utilized all mythologies, but fused them into the "Allgod," similar to the way the Eternals fuse into the Uni-Mind, but permanent. He's got his own Thor and Heracles running around, but he's still barely scratched the surface. Liefeld had his own Thor also. Jesus Christ is even public domain, and has been used to different effects, in titles like Battle Pope and Loaded Bible.

Bottom line: with public domain characters existing in old comics, classic literature, fables, mythologies and folklore, there is an absolute wealth of "new" material to be had. I would think this would be especially attractive to Marvel and DC, where creator-ownership has stymied the influx of new characters of any value. If they can develop PDC to make interesting stories for top tier characters, why not make use of it?

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Answering SumoSlamMan: Non-Capes Writers That Interest Me

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In the comment to my blog, "Seven Comic Writers That Inspire Me," SumoSlamMan commented: "All these guys have a lot of great super hero stuff floating around, I dig on Kirkman and Mark Waid a ton, and there's nothing wrong with the capes crowd, but do you dig on any non-super hero comic book writers? Just curious."

Well, typical me, the answer got really long, so I decided to make it another blog entry.

Hey, Sumo', thanks for the question. Hm... Well, my absolute favorite is Chester Gould, the creator of Dick Tracy. That's technically a newspaper strip though, not a comic book, but Gould blew my mind as a kid. I mean: Mumbles, one of his villains, falls off a building and gets impaled on a flag pole. Too cool. Plus, Gould was known for the mock graveyard at his residence - he added a "tombstone" for every character he killed off. That's not really writing related, but I've always thought it was kooky-interesting.

Other than that, I always get into non-capes stuff late, so it's hard to say. I love Willingham's Fables. Preacher was interesting, but generally, if it's really over-the-top gore, violence and language, I can only take it in doses. I mean, I read the entire Preacher in trades, but then I laid off that kind of thing for a long while. I tend to check out Vertigo stuff once it's several trades in. No real reason for that - it's just the way it happens. Y: The Last Man was excellent! Losers was okay, Invisibles I have yet to finish. DMZ and 100 Bullets are sitting on my shelf unread, but they look good. I recently enjoyed a Stray Bullets spinoff, Amy Racecar - what a fun romp. I love the whole concept of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - it made me want to read the classics they were based on (still looking for the first Allan Quatermain novel) - but maybe that classifies as capes?

So, let's see, LEG is Alan Moore of course, but who wrote the others? Ennis wrote Preacher, and I like his stuff (The Boys is great) but again, in doses. I have to peel my brain out of his stories when I'm done, like you'd peel gum from the crevices in your track shoes. Takes awhile before I'm ready to do that again. I tend to read his stuff in trades - a five or six issue dose at a time, and don't come back to it for six months. I hesitate to say this, but I guess I find him gratuitous at times. You could arguably say he's more realistic about the amount of death and destruction that would be involved with powers or guns, but I guess I do want my comics mildly sanitized. Say what you will, I just can't be that cynical and grim all the time.

Speaking of cynical and grim, Grant Morrison is another one I read in doses. Yep, I usually like his stuff, but again, it's usually in trades. I usually find his stuff an interesting read, but if it goes too long, he gets a little bizarre. Still good, but bizarre.

Back to Alan Moore for a moment - you may want to pick up your stones now - I overdosed on Moore when ABC came out, and decided I don't think he's a great writer of original material. He is the absolute king of the revamp, or retcon, or that character that's similar to your beloved childhood hero. His original stuff usually leaves me a little cold though. I guess the best way to explain it is that I usually come away from his material going, "How can that be so good, and yet show so much disdain for the comic industry at the same time?" The man is practically universally loved in the comics field, most of his original material has been made into blockbuster movies, and yet he is so danged bitter about comics. Why isn't he happier? ...(Deep sigh) There's probably a million answers for that, and it's really none of my business, but as much as I love a good Alan Moore tale, I always seem to feel weary when I'm done reading one of his trade paperbacks - just tired, and almost like I've been beat about the head and shoulders as I read. Still, despite my complaints, I must say again that he is the KING of the revamp. LEG did that, Albion did that, Terra Obscura did that, and of course, Watchmen did that. I've often thought that Terra Obscura is more along the lines of what he meant Watchmen to be. Three of my all-time Moore favorites though are Supreme: Story of the Year, Supreme: The Return, and Judgment Day - two of the best "Superman" stories I've ever read, and a time travelling epic that should be required reading to any literature student.

The other titles mentioned, I don't really know the authors well enough to give an opinion. I liked the works mentioned - that's about the best I can say.

Here's a couple of other things though. Greg Rucka's Whiteout and Whiteout: Melt were amazing. They sat on my shelf for years, and I finally broke 'em out the night before he made an appearance at an LCS to promote the Batwoman run in Detective. Everyone else was there to get their Batwoman issue signed - I was handing him my Whiteout books (in retrospect, that may have p.o.'d the artist with him). Murder mysteries in the frozen waste of Antartica. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I imagine the books are better.

Last, I have to mention Frank Miller's Sin City. As I said at the beginning, my absolute favorite is Dick Tracy, and I used to call SC "Dick Tracy for the Nineties." They have some of the same qualities of gratuitous display as Ennis or Morrison, but I feel that Miller does it with more class - maybe it's just the art. While I find the art beautiful, it's definitely the writing that does it for me with SC. The first story arc makes Marv invincible forever after, and it's a joy to know that no matter how bad the situation is after the first arc, Marv has to get out of it - the fun is watching him get out of it. Also, the first three story arcs are happening at the same time, and I thought it was amazing how he pulled that off. Sin City is really the only Miller work I can speak to though, as far as non-capes. I have 300, but prefer to sit and watch the movie. Martha Washington and it's similar predecessor, Ronin, are very cool sci-fi stories, but to me, they're almost capes, so I won't go into those. I think they're very well written though. Miller himself strikes me a little bit similar to Moore, in that he seems to be very bitter about some things in the industry. I could be wrong on that of course. I should probably add Miller to the list of guys who inspire me, because it was definitely Sin City and Dick Tracy that inspired me to create my own gangland characters, but mine have evolved into something different (as it should be).

The rest of these guys... I draw inspiration from everything I read - as any aspiring writer will - even if it inspires me on how not to do something. Their books are great, but either I haven't read enough of them to feel I can legitimately claim them as an inspiration, or in one way or another, they almost make me feel bad for liking comics. Not because "comics are for kids," but because they have a way of using a story to throw light on the cruddy practices in the industry, or make you feel ridiculous for having enjoyed only-in-comics plausibilities. That doesn't sit well with me. I want to enjoy a guy who gets powers under a different colored sun, or a guy who moves at super speed but doesn't metabolize his body to nothing for the calories. I like epic continuity reboots (to an extent) and Batman, even though he couldn't possibly be perfect at as many things as he is. Guys like Siegel and Shuster got hosed by normal business practices of the day, and a billion dollar corporation ought to have no problem making that right today, but I shouldn't have to feel guilty for enjoying the characters they created, just because they got hosed. That's the stuff that seems to come up in some of these guys' works, and I can only take that in doses, because that's not what I read comics for. I'm ecstatic that things have changed so there is creator-ownership in comics now, but I like the corporate stuff too. I think it's a little weird and two-faced to say, "Buy my comic, but you're a frickin' moron for enjoying the comics that made mine possible." So while I do enjoy some of these guys works, I don't really claim them as inspirations. Willingham's Fables inspires me for another reason, but it's the subject for another blog.

Hope I answered your question, SumoSlamMan. Sorry it got so long, but you literally asked for it. When you get me on the right subject, I can talk the ears off a cornfield. Thanks much. ;) -cb

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Predator Crossovers I'd Like to See

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Let's dive right in:

1) Predator/ Daredevil - Predators go after guys that have weapons, and DD uses his billy club pretty well. After taking down a street gang single handedly, a predator starts tracking him. Daredevil's got an advantage though - his radar sense allows him to see where the predators are.

2) Predator/ Spider-Man - I really don't see this as too different from the DD crossover. The difference is Spidey's weapons are the web shooters. He doesn't quite have the same advantage as DD though, because while his spider sense warns him of danger and helps him avoid being hit, it doesn't allow him to see where the predators are.

3) Predator/ Iron Fist - I just like the idea that predators attack guys with weapons, and Fist is "The Living Weapon."

4) Predator/ Wetworks - I'd like to see how those golden symbiotes fare against predator tech.

5) Predator/ Team 7 - This would be a little more like the original movie, but the soldiers have super powers, so a little more even.

6) Predator/ Wolverine - Logan's adamantium skull and spine would be an irresistable trophy to a predator. I'd want to see this in the Savage Land, where Wolverine can go full on berzerker mode, and tear into some predators. A T-rex has got to eat at least one predator, or be blown to bits trying.

7) Predator/ Ghost Rider - It's kind of a weird match-up, but here, the predators can see the skull up front, so I think this would be a desirable trophy for them. I think GR's penance stare would be useless here, and this would be more of a physical fight. Can the Rider give as well as the Predators give?

Well, that's a few off the top of my head. Let me know what you guys think, and feel free to throw in any of your own.

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Seven Comic Writers That Inspire Me

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I have aspired to be a writer for years, and feel I do a fair job at it, although I have drawn royalties exactly once. My desire has always been to break into comics, but I have a sneaking suspicion I will have to write elsewhere, before I can do that. Still, I have spent years developing a list of characters, adding notes here and there, and finding the writing and creativity that most appeals to me in comics. Here's the list of the top seven, and what I like about them:

1) Erik Larsen - Larsen is the first comic writer of my adulthood to excite me. Savage Dragon is one of the best rides in the comics amusement park. You never know which way it's going to go. Early on, Dragon comes face-to-face with his top foe, Overlord, and is utterly beaten. He fights him again, and a different foe breaks in on the fight, snatches Dragon and flies away, later sending him to hell. Two girlfriends and a wife have died, his daughter has been lost in another dimension, and his son stolen just after birth. As cops deal with one crisis in the department, a second crisis erupts as a group of supervillains bust in and start killing everyone.

I find this to be top notch writing. People age, change and die. Relationships come and go. The hero is not immune to tragedy. Sometimes, a few crises happen at the same time, rather than waiting their turn. Crossovers happen, and the events are held onto as part of the continuity. Currently, Dragon's not even the good guy. He's regained his memories from when he was the despotic tyrant of an alien race, and he is wreaking havoc. Larsen has said from the beginning that no one is safe in his book, including Dragon. He's always held that one day, Dragon will die and someone else will have to take over the starring role. I have my guesses, like anyone, of where things will go, but have never been disappointed to be wrong - and that's a frequent occurrence with this book.

One other thing that Larsen does: when he uses someone else's character, he tries to stay true to the character, and not write them badly to make his own character shine. He has crossed over with Superman, Madman, Hellboy, Wanted, the Amazing Joy Buzzards, Shadowhawk, 10th Muse, Spawn, Backlash, Invincible, and my personal favorite, Destroyer Duck. There are surely others that I have forgotten, and not once have I ever felt the guest character was out-of-character. Maybe I'm gushing, but I find this to be a true mark of professionalism, because he treats others' properties with as much or more respect than his own.

2) Robert Kirkman - I think it's in one of the first Invincible trades that Kirkman remarks that he stole all of his writing techniques from Erik Larsen. To me, it shows. I've commented on the sudden changes that take place in Larsen's writing, and somehow, Kirkman's made the style his own. One thing about this style is that it tells a complex story, but in a somehow simple way. Things don't often seem convoluted or contrived - just "Of course, that had to happen." It may not be something I saw coming, but when it happens, I say, "Yeah, it was all there," and I marvel at how he's kept the story together all this time.

What amazes me about Kirkman is that he doesn't do it in just Invincible. Larsen's been content to just do Savage Dragon, with the occasional mini-series or one-shot. Kirkman, on the other hand, writes Invincible, Astounding Wolf-Man, Brit, Walking Dead, Youngblood, and probably more I don't know about. When I was first discovering his work, he was also writing Marvel Team-Up. I don't automatically like a story, because it has a favorite writer on it, but I have yet to read a bad one by Kirkman.

3) Jay Faerber - I know Faerber's writing through Noble Causes and Dynamo 5. I'm hoping D5 survives the poor economy, because I like this book almost as much as I liked New Teen Titans, in the Eighties. Again, I find his writing similar to Larsen's and Kirkman's, but there's something faster about the pacing. I can breeze through a D5 trade in nothing flat, and almost be vexed that I spent the money on the thing, because it went so quickly. Only "almost" though, because I always enjoy the story. He does some nice things with characterization - characters actually stay true to their personalities, even when it might be more convenient for them not to. It kind of lent a soap opera quality to Noble Causes, and a family quality to the dysfunctional Dynamo 5. Also, you can't help but be intrigued in the "lecherous Superman" of Captain Dynamo, or what I wish Lois Lane was, in Maddie Warner. Nice stuff.

4) Mark Waid - Mark Waid was probably one of the first writers whose name I started looking for in the credits. I loved his run on Flash, where he defined Max Mercury as "the zen master of speed." Kingdom Come and Kingdom drove my imagination for months (and I highly recommend the Absolute edition, that includes all the companion material for KC, including a listing of every single character appearing in the book). Empire should be required reading for any aspiring writer, as they try to figure out why Golgoth's forces build a bridge in plain sight of the enemy. His current works, Irredeemable and Incorruptible, I don't know as well. I've read the first few issues of Irredeemable, and loved them, but haven't been able to keep up with them since (my wallet has not been inexhaustible). In a two part video interview with Babs of Comic Vine, Waid states that he'd like to teach writing to up-and-coming writers. Personally, I hope that happens at some point. I would sign up in a heartbeat, if at all possible.

5) Kurt Busiek - I don't have a ton to say about Kurt Busiek, because I think Astro City pretty well speaks for him. Also, I hold his writing in high regard because one of my all time favorite stories was written by Busiek - a JLA/JSA crossover, that puts the two teams on Apokolips (Justice League of America #183-185). Simply awesome. Another favorite is a story called "The Scoop" (Astro City #2, Sept. 1995). Busiek's mother gave him a real newspaper article, about shark remains found on a subway track, and he turned it into a reporter's epic superhero story. The problem is the reporter couldn't prove it, so he wrote a very short article about shark remains found on a subway track - the only evidence that anything had occurred there. Extrapolating such an extreme story from such a simple but odd article is pure creativity. The kind that takes me back to when I was a kid, coming up with outrageous ideas on the tiniest scraps of information. That almost gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

6) Brian Michael Bendis - This guy's been picking up some hatred lately, but I think that's just because his name is on so much stuff, people are sick of seeing it. I don't have that problem. I wish I was as prolific in writing as this man. When asked how he can write so much, his answer is simple: he does the work. Or as he puts it in his letter columns for Powers, he has "no life." Comics aren't just a job for him, he enjoys them, so he spends his time writing. He's not wasting work time on playing video games or whatever other stuff tends to distract guys that mostly make their own schedule.

The thing that inspires me the most about Bendis is that he isn't just throwing stuff at the wall and hoping something sticks. He's actually researching. Articles I read about Secret Invasion said that when he pitched the series, he went through the entire Marvel history of the Skrulls, and laid out how everything connected and culminated in this invasion. I think that's basically what we got in Secret Invasion Saga.

7) Rob Liefeld - This probably comes as a shock to most, because Liefeld is probably the most popular whipping boy in comics, but he truly is one of my favorite writers in comics. NOT because I necessarily think he's a great writer, but because of the sheer amount of books and characters he has put out. I ran across an interview with Crazy Cat Com Comics, posted on Comic Vine, where Liefeld said, "About twenty years ago, it's like my head exploded," and all of these characters came out. Entire teams - Youngblood (in two or three versions of the team), Bloodstrike, New Men, and Brigade - as well as solid solo characters Supreme and Glory. Nevermind stuff he did at Maximum, like Avengelyne. And lest we forget, he created Cable and Deadpool for Marvel - characters that, love 'em or hate 'em - have carried at least five titles each.

I don't care about "tiny feet" and whatever else might be said about his art. As I have trouble drawing better than a twelve year old, I think his art is teriffic. The thing with Liefeld is that he seems to have trouble getting books out on time, if at all. Still, when Marvel tried to sue him over Agent America, he managed to get the rights to Fighting American, effectively thumbing his nose at Marvel, and with a nice bit of historical symmetry. If you don't admire him for that, you have no soul.

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Overall, what probably draws me to all of these guys is that they've created a large amount of characters for their books, and I always love seeing new characters. Their enthusiasm for comics is infectious, and their creativity seems to know no bounds. To me, these are the guys that have learned their lessons from Kirby, Lee and other predecessors. Like them, these seven throw even the craziest ideas on the page, and make them work. Also, more often than not, these are the guys who cause me to have to strike a name from my list of characters, and that just challenges me to come up with something else. While it always gives me chagrin to one degree or another, I enjoy it too. It makes me feel like, "Yes, this idea was good enough for someone else to use in comics, so I must be on the right track." Then I try to come up with the next thing. There are other writers I like, sure - Chuck Dixon, Bill Willingham, Geoff Johns, et.al. - but these seven always give me something to smile about, even if it's a sly smirk of "Man, they beat me to it again." You have to find your inpsirations as a writer though, and these are a few of mine. I hope you enjoyed it.

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A Christian's Thoughts on "God Hates Nerds"

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Photoshopped bigotry - way to go nerds!

I've been thinking about this since it hit the web, during San Diego Comic-Con, and it's just bugging me. Before their "God Hates Nerds" protest, out in front of this year's SDCC, I had never heard of Westboro Baptist Church. I had heard something about their "God Hates Fags" protest, but like most news, ignored it. It's not that I bury my head in the sand where news is concerned, I just generally don't like network newscasts. Most newscasters smile a little too hard, try to subtly take over reports from each other, and use insipid, vapid conversation to segue from one segment to the next. I find that most hour newscasts could have been done in thirty minutes or less, and most of them leave me cringing, wishing for the succinct, professional reporting of Walter Cronkite, and his ending of "And that's the way it is. Good night." Speaking of succinct, back to the point.

One website posted a video report on the protest, and humorously interviewed one of the costumed con goers, who was dressed as Jesus. To quote that "Jesus:" "Fred's got issues." While the "God Hates..." posters are certainly attention getting, they are horribly, horribly UN-Christian. First, "God hates" is an oxymoron - the two words should never be used in conjunction like that, except in one sentence: God hates sin. This could be debated ad naseam, as each person's understanding of the Bible is usually varied in some way. Yes, there are verses in the Bible that don't make much sense, seem to contradict other verses, and there's probably a verse in there somewhere that says God hated something. I don't have the answers to all that, but for myself, I chalk those things up to a lack of understanding on my own part, centuries of retranslating of the original languages (and the agendas of men in doing so), and probably a lack of context, from not knowing what ancient cultures were like (I mean me not knowing, not the scholars [although y'never know]). For the sake of moving along, let's just say either you believe or you don't. I do. If you don't, hey, it's your eternity, do what you will with it.

God doesn't hate the nerd (or the "fag," for that matter). He hates sin. So yeah, if you've built a cobwebbed altar to Spider-Man in your armoire, where you light candles and sing the 1960's Spider-Man cartoon theme as a hymn to Peter Parker, that's idolatry. You're in sin, and should probably take a little time to get right with your Creator. Actually, y'know what? You should probably seek help. Psychiatric help. The kind that uses special medications, and straps you to your bedrail for your own protection. Once you're back on an even keel, then you should get right with your Creator.

If, on the other hand, you call yourself a believer, and you enjoy a Spider-Man comic on occasion (or other title[s] of your choice)... read closely... that's okay. Even if it's every month, or gee, every Wednesday. Now, there are verses about your money indicating where your true love lies. One in particular says "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." So, assuming "treasure" is "money" in that verse, if the bulk of your money's going to your comic shop, then your heart might be a little off balance towards the sequential art side, and Christianity is all about the balance. Let's be practical for a minute though...

People have hobbies, and people have jobs, and comics can be either or both for people, and that's fine. It's an artform, not a contribution towards juvenile delinquency. Read your comics, enjoy them, and keep moving. If you find that they give you joy, maybe that's something to thank God for. If they don't give you joy, maybe you should consider not reading them anymore. A comic is like any other form of entertainment - there's good and there's bad out there. If you throw everything out that's got a little bad in it, pretty soon, you won't be involved in anything. That goes for pretty much everything, including religion. If you can pare your life down to the bread and water existence of a monk, and that works for you, great, but that doesn't mean it will work for everybody, and that doesn't mean it is right for everybody. There is no twelve step program to walking with God, but Jesus said there are two things that sum up all of the Law and the Prophets (most of the Old Testament): "Love the Lord your God with all your might," and "love your neighbor as yourself." If you can strive for those two things, you'll be about as Christian as you're ever likely to be. If anyone tells you they've got some answer outside of that, it's either focusing on the details or it's wrong. Those two broad strokes can get you through just about anything though.

And that's the way it is. Good night.

In the meantime, be a comic nerd, if that's your thing. Read it, enjoy it, seal it up in plastic and cardboard, blog about it, chat about it, and debate it until your eyes turn red and you've run out of your favorite beverage. God's not going to be angry with you for that, and he surely doesn't hate you for it. Remember: "Fred's got issues," and "Jesus" was on the side of the comic nerds. And that's the way it is. Good night.

8-13-10 EDIT: I have received a couple of comments concerning the veracity of the protest. One comment has stated that the "God Hates Nerds" pic is photoshopped from a previous "God Hates Fags" pic, and that seems to be the case. Another comment asked if I could produce a link from something besides a comic fansite. My first response on a possible rumor is always to go to the source, so I first tried the WBC website, and could find nothing. Half of their links were broken, according to my Internet Explorer, and their pickets schedule starts at the present day and moves forward. I could find no information on past pickets, and could not access the blog link, to see if I could find the quote mentioned in just about every single article on the comic con protest. However...

Here's the Atlantic Wire, talking about the then upcoming protest: Westboro Baptist Church To Protest Comic Con.

Here's an article on sandiego.com, talking about their experience of driving past the protest: Comic Con: The Westboro Baptist Church Gets Out Protested.

Here's examiner.com's article: Comic Con Counter Protest Sends Westboro Baptist Church Running.

You can find a few youtube videos from people that were there also, but they were a little sketchy. So to answer any future questions, as far as I can tell, the protest actually happened, but whether there was actually a "God Hates Nerds" sign is questionable.

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Why Aren't the Promo Ads in Trade Paperbacks?

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This is something that I've wondered about for a long time. Those in-house ads that promote a company's new title or story arc - why aren't they included in the trade paperback? It worked very well for Batman: Knightfall. Remember the full page ads, summing up the previous events and giving a clue to what's coming in just a couple short sentences? When the trades came out, those ads were included before each new chapter, and I thought it worked great. Especially if you were reading both trades back-to-back, and needed to put a bookmark in at some point. You could open it back up, read the blurb on the promo ad, and go, "Oh yeah," and keep reading. Nice.

The ads are what get you pumped to read that title or story arc to begin with. I think that's half the fun. The ads are what made me read the original Power Pack series, in 1984. I remember half page ads with silhouettes of the characters, and I think the Smartship Friday in the background. Now, I also seem to recall that I built another idea up in my head, than what the characters turned out to be, but still, that ad was what made me want to read it. If I ever get the trade of the first issues, I will probably look for a beat up comic that I can cut that ad out of, and slip it behind the backing board (yeah, I bag and board my trades, as much as possible).

Another reason for those ads is to see something you may not see in the book. When DC was promoting The Death of Superman, they used a silhouette of Doomsday in one of the ads, only the silhouette had a ponytail that the character didn't have, when the story came out. To me, that's the perfect kind of thing to put in the trade, with a little blurb about why they did away with the ponytail - sort of a sketchbook type of thing, only it's the ad.

What we are not talking about, however, is what Image did in the Wildstar: Sky Zero trade. They ran an ad saying that the trade paperback would have every letter, every ad, and basically everything to do with putting that story out. When the trade came out, it was there, but the ads were in sketchbook form, and were hard to make out. I don't actually remember letters being in there, but maybe they meant "letter" as in "lettering," not "letter" as in "fan mail."

The point is: I think the ads would bring a little extra value to the trades. It's kind of like getting the movie trailer on the DVD. Like in Murder at 1600, the Secret Service agent tells Wesley Snipes that he was "born to become a chalk outline." That one line made me want to see the movie, and it was cut out. Totally ruined the end of the movie for me, but that's another story. Still, on the DVD, the movie trailer is there, and I can show people what I'm talking about, when I say, "This is what made me want to see this movie." I think it would be cool to be able to do the same for the book.

Oh, and here's an afterthought: sometimes, having the promo articles in the trade would be cool, as well. Like interviews in Wizard or Previews, or promo art and info that was dropped to comic websites, like say, oh, Comic Vine. Having them all would get redundant, but having the best representation of those articles in the trade gives the reader - especially if it's a reader who picks up the trade five years after it was released - an idea of what was going on at the time, and what the creators were trying to do with the story. ...So I guess what I'm saying here is the trade paperback should have more "Easter eggs."

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When Comics Used to Excite Me (just a fond remembrance)

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So, I'm logging onto Comic Vine, and of course, being the weekend, there's nothing new on the articles page. No comments in my inbox either. I've been through the forums three or four times today, and I haven't seen much new there. So I feel a little bored. I haven't bought any new comics recently, because there's no money in the budget for them at the moment, and it's about ten o'clock, so I feel just cynical enough to ask myself, "When's the last time a comic excited me, anyway?"

Honestly, it's been awhile. Oh, there's a few that I follow, when I have the money - Savage Dragon, Dynamo 5, Invincible, Walking Dead... probably a few others - and while I enjoy them immensely, they don't excite me. It's going to sound weird, considering its sort of lackluster ending, but the last comic that excited me was Infinite Crisis. You read that right - Infinite Crisis.

You have to understand: I grew up in the Seventies and Eighties (that's right, kids, that old, and you'll be there before you know it, so pipe down). I got to read the original Crisis on Infinite Earths and DC Who's Who straight off of the grocery store spinner rack, and it was an exciting time. I didn't get to read all of the tie-in issues though, because I just couldn't con my mom out of that much money as she was paying for the groceries. That's why IC excited me. In my mid-thirties, I had a good job and plenty of extra money in my pocket, so I could afford to follow this event and all of its tie-ins. I had such a good time. I added Infinite Crisis to my pull list - both covers (something I never do) - and all of the related issues. I read all of the "One Year Later" issues, and read through both the 52 and Countdown to Final Crisis series. When I found that I had paid for a glorified advertisement in Countdown... um, DC Universe #0, that was where the excitement ended. I will eventually pick up the Final Crisis and Blackest Night stories in trade paperback, but for now, I just try to scrape together five bucks for the Previews every month, and follow CV, so I know what's going on, without buying the books. Lately, I've been reading about some cool stuff. Shadowland sounds awesome, and there's a few trades I'd like to pick up eventually.

You know what else excited me back then? The appearance of a mini-series. They were a new thing around that time, and they'd have this little banner across the corner of the cover, or across the top, declaring "#1 in a 4 issue limited series." There was no Previews then, and no Internet, and no Wizard, so a new series just sort of showed up one day, and you either bought it or didn't. I remember reading all kinds of mini-series, like Cloak & Dagger, Starriors, Crystar, the original TransFormers mini, the original Namor (or Sub-Mariner - I forget) and Aquaman minis, Conqueror of the Barren Earth, Night Force, Jemm: Son of Saturn, and a personal favorite, Spanner's Galaxy. At least half of those were real stinkers, but it was just fun to pick up this comic and know the story was going to be done in four to six issues. I even read the original Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld (12 issues, and both specials, the series, second mini-series, and the tie-in issue in DC Comics Presents). Why? Because it was something new! Different! "Limited!" Dang they were fun!

Probably the last thing that excited me in comics back then was the free "preview pullout." Probably the most famous of those is DC Comics Presents #26, which previewed The New Teen Titans, and yeah, I bought it off the rack (with mom's money or my allowance). I also remember previews for Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, Masters of the Universe, and probably my second favorite (after New Teen Titans) Dial "H" For Hero (here's an example of the preview, in LSH #272).

Dial "H" For Hero was doubly exciting, because not only was I guaranteed to see new heroes and villains every issue, but they were created by fans! The ultimate excitement being that you could win an "I Dialed 'H' For Hero" T-shirt, if DC used your character! Wow! ...Never did win one of those T-shirts, but then, I was creating characters like Superlad (exactly like Superboy, with the spitcurl maybe going the other way), Flasher (Kid Flash with the color scheme reversed) and Wonder Boy (you guessed it: a guy in a blue version of the 80's Wonder Girl costume [yeah, I didn't quite get the difference between boys and girls yet]).

Comics excited me then! Every new issue was another exciting chapter in a favorite character's story. Every new #1 was the introduction to a new character. Every blurb promising "the sensational new character find" was to be believed! Comics were bonafide magic. They could take me to the ocean floor, to outer space, the distant past, the far flung future, around the track, down the road, to the big city, or maybe just to Aunt May's house... <sigh> They were just fun.

There's really no point here - just tellin' ya how much fun I used to have with comics, and enjoying some of the memories of laying on the bed with the window open and the Superman record playing, while I read the latest issue of whatever caught my fancy at the time. How far back do your memories go? What excited you as a kid? Let me know in the comments section, and thanks for reading.

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Revised Call on Shadowland (possible SPOILER)

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(NOTE: Neither of these calls were right, but they're still good for a laugh. Enjoy...)

This is aPrevious Call:Choose Your View:Attached to Forum:
Follow-Up To:Shroud and the Marvel Underworld, The (Shadowland spoiler?)(Blog) (Forum)Shadowland

I just want to be the first to call it. In a previous blog, I suggested that the Shroud would be revealed as the true villain, posing as Daredevil. Considering the new advertising, asking who will be the "new Man Without Fear," I'm revising my call from the Shroud being the villain to being the new Daredevil. His "mystic sense" is practically the same as DD's "radar sense," plus he can create his own darkness. And I don't know if this was resolved, but he was wanted for not registering, so a new identity might be in order (although, DD didn't register either, did he?).

Most important clue for my personal taste: The Shroud is the only one in the story whose name I have not seen come up yet in the advertising. He's also a lesser known character than those in the ads - changing his identity wouldn't be as big of a deal.

You read it here first: THE SHROUD WILL BE THE NEW MAN WITHOUT FEAR. ;)

EDIT 9/17/10: (This will be in the comments, as well) To all of those who ridiculed this call: I WAS WRONG! Apparently, Black Panther is the new "Man Without Fear." I said I was willing to be wrong, so there you go. ;D.

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Plastic Man as a Batman villain

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Plastic Man originally appeared in the title Police Comics, published by Quality Comics, so it's not possible that he could have started off as a Batman villain. Looking at his origin though, there's every reason he could have been a Batman villain, once he was aquired by DC Comics. Plastic Man's origin has never changed. Originally the gangster, Patrick "Eel" O'Brien, he was shot by a security guard during a robbery. The bullet went through O'Brien and into a convenient chemical drum, which doused O'Brien and his wound with whatever was inside. Managing to escape, "Eel" found his way to a mysterious order of monks, whose kindness in caring for him caused him to reform his ways, and use his newfound abilities to reform his shape as a superhero... right after he takes revenge on his criminal cohorts, who had taken off without him.

That "revenge" was relatively mild. Pretending to go on another job with them, he hung his arm out the car window, and stretched it around to the other side of the car, punching out one of his cronies. He took the rest of the gang out in similar fashion, and they were never the wiser that it was "Eel" that had betrayed them. With his revenge complete, O'brien became the hero Plastic Man, and has been a hero ever since.

However, looking at that origin story, it's ridiculously easy to tie him to Gotham, and make "Eel" a thorn in the Batman's side. In fact, I'd go even one step further, and usurp the Red Hood origin to tweak Plastic Man's. I'd feel comfortable with this for three reasons: 1) The Killing Joke has made the Red Hood origin pretty much canon, but when Plastic Man was aquired, it was still possible to tweak the Red Hood story. When the Joker told his origin with the Red Hood story, he ended the tale saying that he remembers it different every time, so it was then (and still is) possible to say that the Joker was never actually the Red Hood. 2) I've never liked that origin for the Joker. He fell into one vat of chemicals that turned his hair green, his skin white, and his lips red, stretched into a permanent smile? That makes no sense. At the least, his lips should be white, since that's just more skin. 3) It's much more plausible that O'Brien, dressed as the Red Hood, was shot by the security guard, fell into a vat of chemicals and thus completely doused, was transformed into the stretchy form that we know as Plastic Man.

From there, O'brien escapes and takes revenge on his cohorts in crime, but does not turn over a new leaf. Instead, I think the Eel would have made his mark on Gotham, and joined the ranks of Batman's villains. Could that stick? Certainly not. After all, DC aquired Plastic Man, and that's not a character to be just thrown away. So now that he's tied to Gotham's underworld, how do we turn the gangster O'Brien into the hero Plastic Man? One word: Clayface. You see, Clayface III was always obsessed with finding a way to stabilize his sliding features, so he could be reunited with the love his life. That vat of chemicals that O'Brien's Red Hood fell into? That was Clayface's latest attempt, and O'Brien ruined it. With Clayface now after O'Brien's head, the only person that "Eel" can turn to is, you guessed it, Batman. The Bat helps O'Brien to defeat Clayface, and this is what causes O'Brien to turn over a new leaf... once he gets out of prison. Batman's not going to just let a criminal go free, after all. I could see the FBI stepping in at this point (or nowadays, the DEO) and commuting his jail time in exchange for O'Brien working for them.

I think it would have been interesting to see O'Brien as a criminal for awhile, and it would have been the perfect chance to tweak his characterization, making him a bit deeper than the walking, wisecracking Silly Putty that he is today. It also would have irrevocably tied him to the Batman Family, and that's a good thing for any character. Being tied to Gotham would have given DC yet another Bat-related character to sell books with, instead of spending twenty years trying to find a way to ground him in the DCU - trying that culminated in a stint on the JLA and a 2004 series that didn't quite last two years.

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Kyle Rayner's power ring did not need to be different

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The origins of Kyle Rayner's power ring are not unknown, but they were unnecessary. At the end of Emerald Twilight, Hal Jordan had decimated the Corps and the Guardians, and had drained the Central Power Battery of its power. Ganthet, the last surviving Guardian, used his powers to restructure the broken pieces of Hal Jordan's power ring, transported himself to an alley on Earth, and finding only Kyle Rayner, dropped the new ring in his hand and said, "You'll have to do." That's how Kyle got to be the only Green Lantern of a new era.

However, there were also changes to the ring itself. Most notably, the yellow impurity was gone, so the ring was no longer vulnerable to the color yellow. The restriction to killing was gone, only limited by Kyle's own moral compass. Also, unlike Hal Jordan's time, Kyle's power ring was now the only one of its kind. The thing I've always wondered is this: if DC wanted a one-of-a-kind ring that could kill and wasn't vulnerable to yellow, why didn't they just give him Sinestro's yellow ring? As a result of Emerald Twilight, and the follow-up in Guy Gardner, titled Emerald Fallout, Guy lost the yellow ring. So rather than destroy it, they had set up the perfect opportunity to give it to Kyle.

Now, I'm sure many of you are thinking, "Well then he wouldn't be a Green Lantern - duh," but here's the other thing - Alan Scott's ring was destroyed at this time too. If DC had kept that ring around, they still would have had a GL on the books. "So what, then," I am sure you are wondering, "would they have called Kyle Rayner?" I was thinking... Starman.

It was the perfect time for it, really. Kyle's story started in March of 1994, a full seven months before James Robinson's fantastic Starman book had even started. Now, chances are Robinson's story was already in development, but if it wasn't, DC missed a chance to reinvent the name here. Kyle could have wielded the yellow ring as Starman, and eventually formed a Star Corps, which I think would have been a much better use of the name, than the S.T.A.R. Corps title that ended in April of 1994, and was never heard from again. Also, Star Corps seems like a better name than Green Lantern Corps. I've often thought that the GL name only made (semi) sense with Alan Scott. Considering the central source of their power and the rings that they wear, it seems much more likely that the GLC would be known as the Emerald Batteries or the Green Rings (or perhaps something a little cooler sounding, like the Emerald Circle). Whatever the case, Star Corps seems like a better name all around.

This would have done a few cool things for DC. One, it would have revamped the Starman name, which was inactive at the time. Two, it would have tied Starman to the Green Lantern family of books, which seems to do pretty well. Three, it would have put the focus back on Alan Scott as Green Lantern for awhile, giving us a year or so to delve into the character of Alan Scott, and see what it is that makes the original Green Lantern cool. I'm sure that his story would have had something to do with trying to bring Jordan back from being Parallax, and eventually led to Hal Jordan coming back to being a hero. In a world where Kyle Rayner entered as Starman, this would be where Ganthet would present Hal Jordan with the pieces of his shattered power ring, and reform them into a power ring once again. After that, things could have still led to where they are today, but with slightly different histories for Hal and Kyle. The Star Corps could have easily been turned into the Sinestro Corps, and Kyle could have either become a villain or taken a green ring at this time, showing himself to be a true hero, and joining the cause of the new Green Lantern Corps (which Jordan would have brought back, whether I think it's a good name or not).

Is this a better idea than the stuff that happened? It has potential, but I don't know that it actually would have been better. It's just that thing of changing the rules for the green power ring that bugs me, when the yellow power ring already had all of that in place. It's something like this that I look at and say, "Why reinvent the wheel," and in this instance, I still haven't seen a good answer to that question.

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