avengers_age_of_ultron_movie_logo_1301720927We are at peak Avengers: Age of Ultron backlash. The flick hasn’t been reviewed with nearly the nerd boner that the first Avengers movie got… and on some level, I agree. The first Avengers was better. That doesn’t automatically make AoU bad, but I can see how it would disappoint some people. You know, people who didn’t live through a time when, across a three-year span of time, the only comic book movie we got was Howard the Duck.

But the backlash has strengthened, for some, into legitimate anger. Consider this 4,200 word complaint that AoU is a failure on almost every level that one would want in a “popcorn movie.” Sady Doyle, the author, says she likes popcorn movies – big ‘splosions, giant robots, “pure, overwhelming spectacle.” She says she likes ’em big and dumb, kids. So then we’ll be on her side as she tears the flick apart, piece by piece, as useless.

She’s wrong, of course. Let’s figure out why! And I got my own 4,000 words to do it, so buckle up!

SadGirlCWOf all the weeks to be running into issues every time Rob and I want to sit down and try to bang out the damn podcast.

So, you may have noticed for the last couple nights we’ve thrown up a quick site business to explain the delay of our typical Sunday night podcast, which tens of you have come to know and rely on. If it wasn’t full on internet drought in the wilds of northern New England (and, frankly, how dare the White Mountains have no fucking Wi-Fi, amiright?), it was traffic and travel related. Tonight? Skynet. No, but seriously, Rob has run into an issue at his job he needs to stay ridiculously late for. I’d do the podcast myself, but I think we all know that while I’m good at saying really awful things at inopportune times, the show really needs Rob’s dick jokes to bring the whole thing into full focus. They say write about what you know and I am, well, dickless. It’s true. I checked.

It’s absolutely the worst time to find life hamstringing us like this; there are a lot of really interesting stories that have come out of New York Comic Con. For example, the attendance numbers at NYCC reportedly exceeded those of the San Diego Comic-Con. This year, 151,000 separate attendees all washed up on the doorstep of the Javitz Center. That is 21,000 more than San Diego. Given the crush of humanity that is the SDCC experience, I can only imagine what it must have been like to try to move around in that. It’s a mixed blessing. As more and more folks come out to see what all the geek fuss is about, the harder it is to actually get around to see all the panels, pros, vendors, and general weirdness that we’re all coming out to celebrate. NYCC has already set a date next year for October 8-11, 2015. The good news for folks who are specifically out to celebrate comics culture though is that there will be a special comics oriented edition in June on the 13th and 14th. This is actually a trend I’d like to see continue for some of the bigger cons. I hope it is a sign of more mindfully planned, better targeted convention experiences for fans going forward.

And then there is some of the news coming out of comics entertainment press in the past couple days.

batman_v_superman_dawn_of_justice_promoWe’re a little late to the party with this one, what with our day jobs and commitments and congenital drinking problems, but Batman Vs. Superman has an official title and promo image. The promo image is at the top left. The title is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

And then the Internet blew up.

Seriously: people I have known for years and respect have taken to Twitter to complain about almost every aspect of the title. One guy complained that Superman didn’t have top billing. Another guy bitched that they were using a “v” instead of a “vs.” or a full-on “versus.” I’ve seen gags revolving around “Tony Orlando of Justice.” Chris Hardwick’s Comedy Central show @Midnight started a hashtag, #BetterBatmanSuperman, implying that Joe Blow from Falmouth could come up with a better title.

And maybe they could. Because honestly, it’s not that great a title. But it’s not the worst title in the world, either.

free_comic_book_day_logoDespite being inveterate comic books geeks here at Crisis On Infinite Midlives, I don’t think we’ve ever actually gone to a comic book store on Free Comic Book Day. We missed the first one, on May 4, 2002, because we had spent the night before driving around Boston looking for a theater that was showing Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie that wasn’t sold out before finally catching a late show in Cambridge and then closing out our local bar, drinking and babbling excitedly at how Raimi really captured the visual style of the character. The only way were were gonna make it to a comic store the day after that would be if they were also selling the chick drinks I would have needed to stop the screeching pain in my head without making me throw up.

Besides, there wasn’t a hell of a lot on that first Free Comic Book Day to bring me into the store. There was a reprint of Ultimate Spider-Man #1, a reprint of an issue of Greg Rucka’s Queen And Country, a copy of Justice League Adventures and a couple of other books… but I already had most of those comics. Let’s face reality: Free Comic Book Day hasn’t, historically, been an event for people like me. The point of the event has always been to use the publicity surrounding the release of whatever superhero flick that, by 2002, was inevitably gonna come out in May, to draw new readers into the art form that inspired those movies. And that art form had made me its bitch 27 years before some poor Hollywood costumer had to puzzle out how to hide Tobey Maguire’s junk in those spandex pants.

Further, and this is not meant as a slam, but my local comic store, where they know me by name and ask me to remember that attempts to leave the store with freebies will be followed with pepper spray, is not known for holding any kind of event. I love the place, which has a huge selection of new books and back issues as well as a ton of pop culture paraphernalia, but in the 13 years I have been a regular customer there, there has never been a creator signing. Or a reading. Or a panel discussion. Or a gaming night. There was one sale, once, but that was when a lost lease led to a move down the block, and the owner didn’t feel like hauling all his shit to the new address. And even though I remind him that that sale led to my finally buying the entire original First Comics run of American Flagg! and my Glenn Fabry-inspired John Constantine statue, I doubt there will be a recurrence any time soon.

So I’ve never seen much point in heading to the comic store on Free Comic Book Day, since it happens on a Saturday (and I’d always had that week’s new comics on Wednesday) and I didn’t anticipate much of anything going on there. But today, Amanda and I were out for lunch at a new restaurant down the street from the comic store, so we decided to swing in to see what was happening and maybe grab one of two of the free books, and…

Holy shit.

image_comics_logoComicsPRO, a meeting of comic book direct market retailers (you know, like the owner of my local comic store, where they know me by name and ask me to understand that they know better than to attend ComicsPRO and thus leave the store undefended against my feeble burglary attempts) is occurring right now in Atlanta. And yesterday, Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson gave a speech to the attendees.

This speech is the kind of thing that keynote speakers give to make the owners feel proud, strong, and less likely to be plowed under by ComiXology the way your local record store, where they knew you were irritating and asked you to understand that vinyl sounds warmer than digital or get the fuck out, was decimated by iTunes. And it certainly did that, with references to how graphic novels are the one type of paper-printed book that is apparently in a growth mode, and how in a world seemingly enamored by comics, it is still the local comic store that is the best place to obtain a wide variety of books.

This is a good message. I like this message. I think I’ve established over the years that I don’t like trying to navigate comics even on a tablet, and that I like my paper comics, and that about the best part of my week is on Wednesday nights at the store, shooting the shit with the other regulars and the owner, who knows me by name and asks me not to threaten to fire feces in front of the paying clientele. We picked the location of the Crisis On Infinite Midlives Home Office in no small part based on its proximity to the comic book store. That and its proximity to dive bars that accept questionable behavior, but that’s not the point.

The point is that Stephenson also used his speech to shit on Star Wars, Transformers and G.I.-Joe comics. Which has a lot of fans whipped into a screeching hate frenzy.

And I am kind of one of them

morbius_the_living_vampire_1_cover_2013So it is New Year’s Eve, which means that I am are literally down to the wire to address my favorite comics (and comic moments) of 2013.

I had a bit of a hard time pulling this together this year. Last year, I started this process off by actually drafting a list of my least favorite comics of the year. And while it was published later than my list of favorite moments, starting that way was just too much to contemplate this year. Sure, I haven’t ruled out putting together a similar list maybe tomorrow, but between the conclusion of Before Watchmen, the weird and arbitrary firings and replacements of creative teams at DC, and the overall lackluster nature of each of the Big Two’s event comics this year, I’d hate to tear down a road that makes me bummed out about the year in comics.

Because there was a bunch of good stuff that happened in comics in 2013. So what I did was go back through each review I wrote this year, starting with January, to refresh my memory about the truly good stuff. So in mostly chronological order, here’s what I think is the best stuff of the passing year:

Morbius, The Living Vampire: This one was a pleasant surprise, mostly because I wasn’t expecting anything out of it. Maybe that was naive, considering what writer Joe Keatinge was able to accomplish in Image’s Glory in 2011 and 2012, but Keatinge took a vampire character and tacked away from the recent trend of making vampires tortured, sparkling fuck machines with an unrealistic attraction toward teenaged girls (seriously: have you ever tried to talk to a teenaged girl? It’s like talking to a stroke victim who can only access the parts of their brains that remember the dullest of autotuned popular music. Either the vampires in young adult fiction have a terrible taste in women, or they have the relentless sperm count of a 13-year-old boy with nanny software on his computer and no lock on his door). Instead, we got an entertaining tale about a guy with a bad medical condition trying to handle it, and a neighborhood where no cop, let alone, superhero, would ever go.

NGaimanI love comic book movies, but it is a love like John Hinckley Jr.’s for Jodie Foster: just because a feeling borders on obsession doesn’t mean that the object of that affection will ever love you back.

It is a hard-fought love, as I am 42 years old, and therefore lived in a dark time when genre fans hoping for a movie to their tastes would have to bite the bullet and pretend to be excited about things like Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man and then find a way to convince ourselves that we were worthy of sucking breath in the morning. And if you wanted a comic book movie? Well, there was the first Batman movie that opened just after my 18th birthday, sure, but before that? Well, in the five years before Batman, the only comic book flicks that were released were The Return of The Swamp Thing, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, Supergirl, and Howard The fucking Duck. That’s a real murderer’s row of movies. In the sense that I want to line them up and shoot them.

So we comic book fans truly live in an amazing time, in the sense that there are many movies based on comic books, and most of them are pretty damn good. Sure, there’s the odd X-Men 3 and Spider-Man 3 out there, but there are very few real stinkers. Sure, there are still arguments about Watchmen (which I rewatched recently and still like a lot), but that comic was so dense that it would have been well-nigh impossible to do a really killer adaptation of the thing. So while I like it, I can understand the argument that everyone involved should have left well enough alone. After all: some comics should just stay comics.

Which is one hell of a long way to go to report that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has announced via Twitter that he has signed on to produce a movie adaptation of Sandman with Neil Gaiman and David Goyer.

alan_mooreThey say that you should never meet your heroes, and I am okay with that proposition. Because they also say that you must separate the artist from the art, and I have been forced to do that for my entire adult life. Not only ephemerally – I could read Hunter Thompson all day long, but there is no doubt he was a violent, drugsucking monstrosity, and I could enjoy reading Harlan Ellison stories for a thousand years without having to hear the man calling me a dullard – but professionally. I have worked with comedians – comedians you have heard of – who were the worst kind of arrogant and selfish scumbags, and people in the music industry who would pretend you never even existed if it meant another case of comp’ed CDs to sell to local record stores at a discount, like a common mafioso.

So while I consider several comics writers from the 1980s to be heroes of mine, I am okay if I never meet them. The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One are a couple of the greatest comic stories I’ve ever read, I think I can go to my grave without having Frank Miller chase me around while shrieking, “hippie!” and trying to cut my ponytail off with a replica switchblade from the set of Sin City. Miller’s political beliefs or behavior doesn’t take away a word or line of Dark Knight, but I don’t think it’s something I want to witness firsthand.

And then there’s Alan Moore. My copies of Miracleman are amongst my most prized possessions, and I have both Watchmen and V For Vendetta as not only the original issues, but as the big ol’ Absolute hardcover editions. Those stories taught me, as a teenager, that the superhero stories I loved as a child didn’t need to be put aside, but could be enjoyed as I moved into adulthood. The man basically invented the idea of the superhero written maturely for adults.

And once again, Moore has gone on record saying that he hates the idea of the superhero written maturely for adults.

star_wars_logoWe all know that Star Wars Episode VII (a film as yet to be subtitled, but allow me to pitch one of our old podcast titles: The Fist of Justice) will be coming out in 2015 – a summer that will be so geek supersaturated, between Star Wars, Batman Vs. Superman and Ant Man that I should be allowed to retroactively wedgie the jocks who knocked the The Dark Knight Returns trade paperback out of my hands back in high school.

We also all know that Disney, the new owners of the Star Wars property, not only intends to make more big trilogies, but that they intend to make Star Wars movies that do not fall within the scope of another epic trilogy. But exactly what kind of ancillary movies they intend to make hasn’t really been totally clear. Would they be cartoons for kids? Political dramas? Porn?

Well, according to Disney’s Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo, who spoke about Star Wars at an investor’s conference yesterday (Rumors that the second order of business was to ratify Disney’s new corporate mission statement of “Kneel before Zod!” remain unconfirmed), said that those non-trilogy flicks will be prequel stories. Which has historically been a good decision when it comes to Star Wars movies.

And unconfirmed rumor is, that the first prequel will be Han Solo’s origin story.

Oh, shit.

batwoman_14_coverJesus, of all the weeks to skip a comic convention…

Last week, J. H. Williams III announced that he and co-creator W. Haden Blackman were leaving Batwoman as of issue #26 due to last minute editorial interference. Part of that interference was that DC Editorial reportedly pulled the plug on Williams’s and Blackman’s long-standing plans to have Kate Kane marry Maggie Sawyer. And we didn’t report on it at the time because, well, I figured the implied homophobia angle that some outlets were latching onto was a non-starter – you can say what you want about DC Editorial (God knows that we do), but nobody’s dumb enough to make that issue the hill they want to die on in the age of the Internet. And both Williams and DC Comics have confirmed that Batwoman’s sexual orientation wasn’t an issue here.

So absent that, this was, at the time, just another story about creators quitting a DC book over editorial interference at the last minute, and that is a story that we have told before, recently and repeatedly. So unless something or someone changes in the upper echelons of DC Editorial, it’s a story that we’ll probably hear again. So was it news? Undoubtedly. Was it news compelling enough to put down my bourbon? Not at the time, it wasn’t. It would’ve taken pictures of Dan DiDio donkey-punching k. d. lang to get my mitts off of that sweet, sweet dose of Vitamin J. D.

Anyway, that was Thursday. The Baltimore Comic Con started yesterday – a convention we considered attending, but then we watched The Wire on HBO GO – and DC Comics held a panel where DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio reaffirmed that the issue with Batwoman wasn’t the fact that she was going to enter into a gay marriage, but that she was going to enter into any marriage at all. DiDio, in fact, said that real heroes would never get married, as their first duty would always be the superhero stuff, so they don’t have time be married. And, to ward off some of the most obvious questions, DiDio went on to say that Aquaman and Mera – you know, the King and Queen of Atlantis – are not married.

Wait, what?