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Archive for January, 2008

Mark Schultz is one of the small handful of creators whose work I seek out pretty much anywhere that I can find it, and I’ve been trying to build a comprehensive collection of his comics work for years. To that end, I was surprised to find that the TwoMorrows Modern Masters: Mark Schultz volume that I had pre-ordered arrived last night. I didn’t have as much time to begin reading as I might have liked, but after some interesting discussion surrounding his youth and creative influences in the introduction, I’m just now hitting the Xenozoic portion of the interview and I can’t wait for the insights he’ll have to share there.

Like, for example: Hannah Dundee ‘has a roman nose’.

Unfortunately, about that time I looked up at the clock and saw that it was about time for me to hit the hay for the night — but I hope to get a little more time in the Xenozoic Era again tonight. So far I’ve either seen, or own reproductions of a lot of the art used for this volume already, but that doesn’t make owning this volume any less worth it – and if you haven’t encountered it before, then this release is probably one of the best ways for you to jump in with both feet. Prepare to be floored.

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What I wanted to discuss this go around was the ‘resurrection’ and of Bucky Barnes to the Marvel Universe proper, and how I view it as a Captain America fan. I know that there are long time Cap fans who both agree and disagree with my approach to all of this and I figured with the release of Captain America #34 today, that now was as good a time as any to expound on some of the things I’ve said elsewhere on the subject so as to attempt to organize my own thoughts and try to present them in a coherent manner.In quickly recapping the events of the last two years, Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America was seemingly assassinated as Marvel’s Civil War event was nearing it’s conclusion (truth be told, I chose to skip that event almost entirely as I wasn’t in the mood for another round of Marvel’s politic and I wasn’t all too impressed by a number of the creative teams involved). While in custody following his surrender, Cap was shot at close range by (a brainwashed) Sharon Carter a.k.a. Agent 13. Since that time, his closest family, friends, teammates, and the M.U. as a whole have been trying to come to grips with his death and how to best move on with his legacy. Whilst trying to track down the perpetrators. Long story short, one of the biggest players in all of this is Rogers’ former side-kick, Bucky Barnes.

“Wait! Isn’t Bucky dead? And wasn’t he on the short list of those characters that Marvel wasn’t supposed to ever bring back?”

That’s the very one. And Bucky is who I wanted to discuss a little more here.

Ed Brubaker’s extended run on Captain America has been a very successful one for Marvel, readers, and critics alike. Though that’s not to say that everyone is on board with all that has gone down. While seen as a positive move by many, others have certainly expressed frustration that — among other things — Bucky Barnes was brought back from the dead at all. And while I’d love to discuss any number of things that have happened since his return, at length, that will have to wait for future entries. What I’m concerned most about here is his initial return.

There have been numerous criticisms surrounding Bucky’s re-appearance, and any number of them are worth discussing, but more than any other criticism is the re-occurring declaration that: ‘Bucky should have stayed dead.’

To this, I simply ask: why?

I’m not here to be an apologist for Brubaker and his storytelling, but taking this approach to Bucky’s return just doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to me. In disagreement, I could at least understand the sentiment if Bucky had nothing more to offer a reading public. I could understand it if Bucky’s death was akin to Barry Allen’s and the multi-verse’s fate hinged on it, and I could understand it if this kind of return to the land of the living never happened, but what I can’t understand is why this character ‘needs’ to sleep peacefully in the drink when the reason he was offed in the first place, the reason his potential was cut short, was ultimately because Stan Lee didn’t like teen sidekicks!

“One of my many pet peeves has always been the young teenage sidekick of the average superhero.” – Stan Lee.

Truly, Bucky’s “death” was a heroic one and his life and memory have long been honored by Cap, and those that knew and read of his bravery. That memory even became an integral part of Captain America’s own motivations over the years (for good and bad). I honestly respect that, but when we have the option of adventuring alongside a viable legend it puzzles me why he’s ‘supposed’ to be dead when he only met that fate in the first place because Stan Lee wasn’t all that keen on the sidekick. Now, I’m not knocking Lee, or begrudging him his opinion on the matter but why the stigma that Bucky should stay forever gone and buried? In this medium?

Death should be always be a serious, thought-provoking subject — even in comics — but were that same stigma applied to other characters then we’d be without any number of the following: Captain America (Steve Rogers), Superman (Earth-2), Superman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), The Silver Surfer, Hawkman, Wonder Woman, Jean Grey, Captain Mar-vell, Adam Warlock, Wolverine, Magneto, etc. The tip o’ the barrel at that. Should all of these characters have stayed dead in a similar manner? Sincerely, why is Bucky resigned to that short list of ‘never-to-returns?’

The only thing I can come up with is that Bucky provided a serious measure of guilt and torment for Captain America over the years. His unfortunate death was a spur in Captain America’s side for good and bad and as a result he has long been relevant in both life and death. But hasn’t that angle been played out long past its natural progression? That subject has been touched on for 40+ years. Is it not just as credible to say that Bucky’s return provides a whole new set of motivations for Steve Rogers?

Or as Brubaker recently wrote:

“But the real important part of that is that if you’re going to take away the tragedy of Steve losing his best friend during the war, you have to replace it with something else that serves the same function. And the tragedy was that, not only did he lose his friend in the war, but his friend was turned into everything that he would have hated. So when Bucky comes back, he’s a real conflicted character. I think that’s why people like the character. He doesn’t feel like a stunt character. He’s become a classic Marvel character. He’s not a black and white good guy or bad guy. He’s a good guy who’s had a lot of bad stuff happen to him. He’s done some bad things that he totally regrets. And I think that makes his character really work.” – Ed Brubaker.

Honestly, it wasn’t until Brubaker brought Bucky back that I really gained a bona-fide appreciation for the character. Certainly I’ve admired his service and his sacrifice over the years, I considered him an integral part of Cap’s great supporting cast and I enjoyed those flashback stories and reprint issues a great deal thanks in no small part to his contribution. But honestly, Bucky just never came alive (sorry…sorry) as a character for me to the degree that he’s done so under Brubaker’s care. And as a result, he’s quickly become one of my favorite characters! So, for the time being, I’m anxious to see how he handles the mantle of Captain America. I can think of no character more appropriate and deserving of it — in Rogers’ own absence — as Bucky Barnes is.

Now, let it be known that, to me, Captain America will always be Steve Rogers. And more than that, he is the character that I’ll always prefer to see in the role. He is the original, he is the success story, and he is the man that has forged the legend ever since determining to stand up for a just cause. Cap has long been a hero of mine (and my favorite comic character) so you can know that I hope for a speedy return. I just also happen to be of the mindset that, like Mark Gruenwald before him, Brubaker has a plan, that the good Captain isn’t forever lost to us, and that we can enjoy the ride in the meantime as he tells the story of Steve Rogers’ influence on one of Marvel’s great supporting casts and Rogers’ own best friend. As always, “Go get ’em Cap!”

I welcome any comments here, and elsewhere.

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Let me start this one off by saying that, If I could afford it, there are an awful lot of titles that I’d love to pick up — just for the heck of it. You probably know the feeling:

“Dang, I love this cover, and I’ve heard this is a great series, but…I’d better not.”

Robert Kirkman’s Invincible was like that for me. I heard nothing but praise for the series for years, I loved Ryan Ottley’s crisp art, and I’d constantly flip through the book just to see what the pages had to offer when I’d pass by. I just didn’t know much about it beyond the fact that it seemed like a fun series and that I’d love to try it…if I could afford another book. Y’see, I’m not poor by any means but there’s only so much that I can spend on this hobby a month and I’m already invested in so many great stories and characters that after a couple of decades of reading these things new books are simply facing an uphill battle where my wallet is concerned. Particularly at that $2.99-3.99 price tag.

Well, I’d been mulling over trying out Invincible for months and after “oohing and aahing” over the art again a few weeks back I figured I’d just take the plunge and read the first TPB: Invincible Vol. 1: Family Matters. I found a copy for ~ $4 online and figured I couldn’t lose at that price. When it arrived about a week later, I opened it and started reading with Kurk Busiek’s foreword, the one in which he warns any potential readers to ‘turn back! To not let Kirkman’s Invincible get its hooks into you while there was still time! To NOT turn the page!’

Well, I turned the page alright (“hey, he told me not to!”) and it turns out that Busiek was right, I would be hopelessly lost if I dived in, because by the time I had finished the first thin volume I was ready for the second. Mark’s world is instantly immersing, as is the refreshing cast, and I found myself really wanting to know what was going to come next. Granted, it’s easy to draw numerous parallels between Invincible, Marvel’s Spider-Man, DC’s Superman (and in-between) but that’s kind of the point and Kirkman goes far beyond parody and gimmick with a multi-layered cast, whether they’re the one’s in costume, or concerned parents. Just great stuff! Anyhoo, I quickly looked into the best and most cost effective way to get cracking on the back issues and decided that the oversized Ultimate Collections (HC) were the way to go. The first one arrived this weekend, and I spent a couple of hours yesterday evening pouring over issues #7-13. Obviously a heck of a lot changes from those first half-dozen books and I have to admit that for the first time in awhile, I was completely surprised by the revelation surrounding Mark’s Dad, Omni-Man. Surely, there was a twist to what I saw in those final pages? Surely the Global Guardians weren’t…? There’s gotta be an explanation. Well, there was, and I even managed to guess about 2/3rds of what that explanation could be…and I still can’t believe it.

(I’m purposefully being cryptic for those who haven’t yet read the first volumes of the series. You don’t want to be spoiled.)

Needless to say, I’m hooked, and when next month rolls around I’m sure I’ll be ordering the second HC volume. I think I’m going to go ahead and pick up the series in this format being that I’ve already started on it, and have so much to catch up on, but I can’t wait to see what’s next for Mark, his Mom, Atom Eve, Allen and the rest. Kurt Busiek was right, you can’t turn back once you’ve started reading

Did I mention that I was thinking about trying Kirkman’s Astounding Wolf-Man? (Gulp!)

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A couple of weeks ago I was searching for some random information on Hayao Miyazaki (i.e. I needed some inspiration) and I came across a news blurb stating that a new Studio Ghibli animated film was in the works entitled Ponyo on a Cliff and that it was to be both written and directed by Miyazaki (his 9th Ghibli film). There are few film-makers, if any, whose craft I respect more than Miyazaki’s own so this was pretty great news — and I’m actually kind of surprised I hadn’t caught wind of it earlier.

Ponyo on a Cliff is the story of a princess, a goldfish princess, that seeks to become human; and what little we know beyond that is that she befriends a 5-year old boy named Sōsuke in the process. We also know that the animated film will prominently feature a watercolored look and texture — which I heartily welcome as I’ve been trying to re-ignite my own interest watercolors in the last several months and I’m sure this film will provide me with more than a few things that’ll drop my jaw to the floor and provide yet another impetus for me to get off my back-end and put those brushes to paper. I really do appreciate the fact that this film won’t be heavy on the CGI as it’ll be a nice change of pace after seeing so many movies that thrive on it completely. I love ’em, but “variety is the spice of life” and I’m glad we’re getting an old fashioned, hand-drawn, labor of love from Miyazaki and friends.

Maybe Ponyo will cause a few other studios (including their U.S. distributor) to dust out the ‘ol attic and remember just how fantastic, hand-drawn, 2-D animation can be!

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I’m currently reading a variety of things, though way too much of it before nodding off for the night. Here’s a look at what I’ve currently got on my night-stand, and a good launching point for some discussion surrounding them in the near future.

Annihlation: Book 2

Carl Barks’ Greatest Ducktales Stories Vol. 1-2

Madman and The Atomics TPB

Usagi Yojimbo: Green Persimmon Special

And on the novel front, after a ton of recommendations, I just dove into:

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)

I’ve also got Robert Kirkman’s Invincible Collection Vol. 1, Kazu Kibuishi’s Flight Vol. 1 (with Amulet, the Stonekeeper Vol. 1 pre-ordered), Mike Allred: Modern Master and a few others on the way. All of which that I’m really looking forward to.

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“Howdy!”

This is my first real attempt at a blog, but seeing as how I’m an aspiring writer & artist — with an awful long way to go — I thought that it would do me good to finally make a journal of sorts so that I can discuss history, art, pop-culture and perhaps some of my creative attempts in the process. Granted, there are more than a few of these out there already, but I hope that if nothing else, I’ll learn something in the endeavor…and perhaps entertain a few of you in the process.

Keep ’em Flying!

Madman Rockets!

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