star_wars_logoThe first Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens teaser trailer dropped on Friday. It’s 88 seconds long, it features less than half of that in new footage, it gives us almost no story context… and it’s enough to get the geek world shrieking like teenagers at a One Direction concert.

So we talk about the trailer: why it was so effective, the smart choices director J. J. Abrams made to turn Generation X’ers all giddy like, well, teenagers at a One Direction concert, and how 88 seconds was all it took to change our opinions about the upcoming movie from ambivalence to legitimate anticipation.

We also discuss the solicits for week three of DC’s Convergence event. This round, which drops on April 22nd, seems to feature versions of DC heroes from before Crisis On Infinite Earths, with antagonists from the Tangent Universe. So sit back, relax, and hear about a week designed to somehow simultaneously appeal to 50-year-olds and Millennials!

We also talk about:

  • Gotham By Midnight #1, written by Ray Fawkes with art by Ben Templesmith, and:
  • Spider-Man 2099 #6, written by Peter David with art by Will Sliney!

And now the disclaimers:

  • We record this show live to tape. While this might mean a looser comics than you might be used to, it also means anything can happen. Like comparing Teen Titan Jericho to a specific form of intestinal distress.
  • This show contains spoilers. While we try to shout warnings ahead of time, consider this your master caution alarm.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. Don’t be a filthy Jericho; get yourself some headphones.
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Enjoy the show, suckers!

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spider-Man_2099_1_cover_promoI didn’t read Spider-Man 2099 when it first came out in 1992, for a few reasons. 1992 was the year Image Comics debuted and when The Death of Superman was released, so an alternate universe packed with what looked, at face value, like “X-Treme!” gimmick knockoffs meant to get us to buy two books with the same character every months, and God knows that only a savage would double-ship a character to make some extra bank. Besides, in 1992 I was a junior an college and only had money for six comics a week, or one comic a week and beer. I think we all know that I made the prudent and wise choice.

By the time I graduated and started having a few bucks in my pocket to buy more comics, Marvel was playing peek-a-boo with crippling bankruptcy, firing editors left and right, Peter David had left the book, and it seemed like my money would be better used on Vertigo books, or perhaps by chucking it into an open gutter.

So I wasn’t particularly familiar with the character beyond the knowledge that his alter ego was Miguel O’Hara and he said “Shock!” a shitload for reasons I could never fucking understand. He’s been an intriguing presence in the modern Marvel Universe by way of his appearances in The Superior Spider-Man, but not a big enough presence that I’ve really felt like I’ve gotten to know the character. Although he still says “shock!” an awful Goddamned fucking lot.

Well, that’s gonna change come July, when Marvel is publishing a new Spider-Man 2099 standalone title, written by Peter David with art by Fearless Defenders artist Will Sliney.

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x-f262(Ed. Note – This review will be rife with spoilers starting with the very next line. Really. There’s no going back now, ok? Still here? All right then. You were warned.)

X-Factor Investigations is closed.

The long running title from writer Peter David closed up shop with issue #262, the end of a six part series of stand alone stories wrapping up the storylines of each of the main players. The finale focuses on the fate of group leader, Jamie Madrox, and his sometime wife, Layla Miller, “the girl who knows stuff”. In the aftermath of the “Hell On Earth” story, they’ve taken refuge on Jamie’s childhood home, a now abandoned farm. Jamie has been transformed into a demon by another demon named Mephisto with seemingly no way to be changed back. Layla, a mutant who’s power is “knowing stuff”, has been blindsided by the discovery that she is pregnant. Truly, the end times are upon us.

So, is it happily ever after for our crew?

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superman_comics_logoIt will be a quiet day here at Crisis On Infinite Midlives, as most of our contributors will be meeting us shortly to participate in a team building exercise. This will involve being at the bar next to our local comic store, where they know me by name and ask me to stop building my own teams by cutting and pasting panels from different new releases, meaning that, if all goes well, our local SWAT Team will have the chance to learn to work together as a closer unit.

So just a couple of quick things today: first off, 20th Century Danny Boy has just republished an article, initially written for Rolling Stone by Howard The Duck creator Steve Gerber back in the mid-70s, about the fall into destitution of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster prior to Warner Bros. making the deal to pay them an annual pension for life… not for any legal reasons, but to try and win a PR victory despite making millions off a character that Siegel and Shuster created back in the 30s and sold for $130.

Rolling Stone never published the article, but Gerber updated it in the mid-80s and published it in Wap, a fanzine run at the time by Gerber, Frank Miller and Steven Grant, and this is the first time it’s seen the light of day since then. It’s a pretty harrowing story about how the big comic publishers routinely fucked and burned most of the creators who invented the characters we still read and love to this day, and how many of them died penniless, despite publishers making millions off of their creations (and don’t think it doesn’t still happen on some level; ask Ed Brubaker how much input he had over the movie script for The Winter Soldier). It’s one hell of an article, somewhat disturbing, and yet another reason why I’m perfectly happy to be sitting on the sidelines writing about comics rather than actually writing them. Well, that and my utter lack of talent in writing plot, story or characterization.

And in the spirit of helping out comic creators going through a bad patch: we reported earlier this week that X-Factor, Captain Marvel, Incredible Hulk and Star Trek writer Peter David had suffered a stroke while on vacation in Florida. David’s wife Kathleen has been posting daily updates on his condition on David’s Web site, and yesterday she posted a way for fans to help him out with, despite his having health insurance, what will probably be some not insubstantial co-payments:

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peter_david_headshotUpdate, 12/31/2012, 2:40 p.m. Peter David’s wife Kathleen has posted additional information on David’s condition on her Web site:

We have a diagnosis, which is a small stroke in the Pons section of his brain. Now we have to figure out where we go from here and how we get Peter back to what he was before the stroke. We know that a total recovery is slim because damage to the brain doesn’t go away but the brain can be trained to work around the damage and give Peter back what he has lost…

As he stated, he has lost most of the use of his right arm, his right leg is incredibly weak, the vision in his right eye is blurry, and the right side of his face is drooping slightly. But the brain is there with all its quips and quick retorts. He has had the nurses laughing a lot.

Again, we wish David a full and quick recovery.

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Peter David, writer of a long and awesome arc of The Incredible Hulk in the tale 80s and early 90s, the early 2000s run of Captain Marvel that made Bill Jemas’s Marville look like the pile of shit that it truly was, and the current writer of X-Factor, has suffered a non-fatal stroke while vacationing in Florida.

David reported the incident on his Web site earlier today:

We were on vacation in Florida when I lost control of the right side of my body. I cannot see properly and I cannot move my right arm or leg. We are currently getting the extent of the damage sorted out and will report as further details become clarified.

And that’s the extent of what we currently know, other than the fact that this totally sucks. David has long been considered one of the more consistently good Marvel Comics writers here at the Home Office, and on a personal level, has made X-Factor a must-read, even though I generally don’t read too many X-Titles. We hope he has a full and speedy recovery.

(via Peter David dot net)

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With God as my witness, I will never understand what possessed writer Peter David and artist Leonard Kirk to open an issue of purely talking head non-action with a giant splash page, complete with Kirby Krackle, of Jamie Madrox heroically calling Havok a fuckup douchebag. It is a big, overblown, bombastic start to an issue that focuses itself on human moments rather than action – even if some of those moments are particularly heated – and on running far more than action.

This issue is all about running. Most of the primary characters of X-Factor’s current incarnation are in the process of trying to run in this book, be it trying to run toward something or away from something. The book eschews basic action in favor of characterization, but that characterization shows characters in real pain, trying to find a way to alleviate the pain of the aftermaths of the X-Factor Breaking Points event that this issue concludes, as well as the Avengers Vs. X-Men event, and it shows it a way that is almost more satisfying than seeing Cyclops clapped in irons and abused and denigrated by all comers… and if you know how I feel about that sanctimonious ruby-lensed hipster shaded douchenozzle, you’d realize what high praise it is indeed to call X-Factor #245 as satisfying as seeing Cyclops beaten, chewed and fucked by prison gangs.

Even if the issue does open with an image that implies that the most important thing in the book is Madrox’s hippocampus apparently violently exploding from the back of his head.

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There are many comics fans who just don’t get into Marvel’s X-Titles, and I am one of them. Which is a strange thing for a 35-year inveterate superhero comic geek to admit, but the team, and its 927 spinoff teams, generally just never grabbed me. You’ve got a bunch of heroes with no origin story beyond, “born funny,” a huge and nearly impenetrable backstory, and two of its lead characters – Professor X and Cyclops – are simply unlikable cocks. And considering the applause poll conducted at Marvel’s SDCC Avengers Vs. X-Men panel that fell squarely on the Avengers side, a lot of people of there agree with me. Not an issue of that book goes by without my deeply wishing that we eventually see Spider-Man yank Cyclops’s eyes out with some well-placed webbing, turning the prick into a normal person, qualified only to be the biggest douche selling pencils out of a tin cup.

With that said, I am a huge fan of Peter David’s X-Factor. I don’t know whether it’s because the team is smaller and easier to keep track of, or because the characters spend more time in small scale, street-level action than in preventing apocalypses (Seen Madrox taking on Ms. Marvel in Avengers Vs. X-Men recently?), or because the characters feel relatable and human than, say, a dude whose father is a Starjammer and whose girlfriend, depending on decade, either reads minds and turns into diamond or destroys entire planets… although I should be able to relate, because think I dated the second one. But I digress.

And X-Factor #240 is a perfect place to get your feet wet in the title. It’s a one-and-done, focusing on Layla Miller (who is one of the most interesting characters in the book), and examining her power – she “knows stuff” about the future – in a way that would be perfect for explaining Dr. Manhattan’s point of view if Alan Moore’s characterization allowed Manhattan to have free will. Free will and a nice rack, but you get my point.

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When I was a working comedian, some inconsiderate dickface sent some True Believers (and if Stan Lee hasn’t sued the Christ out of that dickface’s estate for trademark infringement, then comics’ lawyers are spending too much Goddamned time keeping me from reading new Miracleman stories) onto flying machines to do something unspeakable. And in the face of this tragedy, we working professionals needed to figure out how to be effective in addressing the scenario in a way that didn’t feel disrespectful to the people affected it. What we did was to write material about the fringes of the tragedy. We didn’t write about the guts of it, we wrote about what people were doing in the face of it. We wrote about how people were reacting to it, and how it affected our understanding of American myths and legends.

Dave Stevens, the creator of The Rocketeer, died of leukemia in 2008 after having written and drawn only a very few stories about a character so compelling it spawned a movie – sure, a movie that John Cartered, but what the hell; it’s still more than Wonder Woman got. IDW Comics is now publishing a Rocketeer Adventures series, and they’re doing what we comedians did right after 9/11: they’re telling stories about The Rocketeer by telling stories around The Rocketeer. And those stories are generally pretty Goddamned cool.

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Like most guys who came of age during the 1980s, I grew up as a Stephen King freak. And like many of those guys, I was a Dark Tower fanatic, initially because you just couldn’t get the Goddamned thing. The first Dark Tower book was listed in King’s C.V. starting with Pet Sematary, but until 1988 it was only available in a long sold out limited edition that, provided you could even find a copy, would requiring beating off other like-minded fanboys to get it. Possibly literally.

But once it, and its sequels, started reaching the mass market, it hit the sweet spot for comic book fans. It was a fantasy, but not one about some other wimpy pretty boy with a magic sword. No, Roland was a bad motherfucker who was well-trained with a gun – medieval Batman with a sandalwood-handled .45. And as the series went on, it tied into King’s other stories. And his other stories tied into the Dark Tower (which is one of the only redeeming reasons to read King’s Insomnia). He built an entire, cohesive universe tied to the actions of Roland and his hunt for the Tower, turning his entire body of work into a continuity-laden universe. This shit was crack for a comics fan.

The Dark Tower series officially ended in 2004 (although King’s dropping another book of short stories set in the Dark Tower world called The Wind Through The Keyhole later this year), but King kept feeding the fans’ back monkeys by authorizing Marvel to produce Dark Tower comic books, which they’ve been doing since 2007. The initial pitch to stir up the rubes – including me – was that the comics miniseries would fill in gaps in the stories from the novels. And some of them, like The Fall of Gilead and Battle of Jericho Hill, have done just that. Unfortunately, others have just retreaded parts of the original novel in comic form as straight adaptations.

The current mini, The Way Station, is a straight adaptation. It’s an adaptation of a part of the first Dark Tower book that takes place in and around one building, where a lot of the dialog is internal in nature. This isn’t probably the best thing to try to make into a comic book.

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A beleaguered detective agency. A hot blonde who doesn’t fit in. An ill-advised love story. A bizarre cast of supporting characters. Celebrity cameos. Breaking the fourth wall. Snappy patter by the bucketload. I finally figured out why I like X-Factor so damn much: it’s Moonlighting. Moonlighting with superpowers. And a more reliable production schedule.

X-Factor #230 is the second part of a decompressed storyline and there’s next to no action in it… but I wholeheartedly recommend it anyway, even for new readers. Because it is just so much damn fun to read, and that’s saying something for an issue where the male lead is dead, the female lead is depressed into inaction, and the only fights-and-tights action happens in the in-house ads for Avengers Vs. X-Men.

To bring you up to speed (Although Amanda is perfectly capable of doing so… go ahead; I’ll wait), Madrox The Multiple Man is dead… although he appears to be alive and jumping through multiple alternative dimensions. But his team at X-Factor Investigations isn’t aware of that, mostly because the evidence all points to his being dead… that evidence being that they’ve got his body in a Frigidaire in the conference room. It’s a tragedy… because that means the office beer must be sitting on a desk getting warm somewhere.

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