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Brian tries to be cheerful (or… blame Joe Keatinge)

Brian Hibbs

It is weird, after reading ARSENAL a couple of weeks ago, I feel like a straw broke somewhere for me — I don’t want to READ bad comics any more, let alone say snarky things about them…

Aw, let me put a jump in here, this might be long?

I *think* it is just a temporary aberration, because comics (even awful ones) are in my blood, like printer’s ink, but twice I’ve sat down to write something here and twice I thought “why am I wasting my time talking about things I don’t actually care about?”

We can also lay a little blame at Joe Keatinge’s feet, as he’s leaving SF for Portland (man, a lot of people do that!), and he doesn’t want to move everything he owns. We got to talking about prose, and Stephen King, and I mentioned that “The Dark Tower” was the only bit of King’s output that I’ve never devoured — I had read book one a decade or more back and pretty much hated it (a rare response for me with King), and never read the rest of the cycle.

Joe is, as I said, moving and doesn’t want to carry stuff, so he said, “Here, let me just give you my collection of DT books, they’re great”

That was a week and some 1600 pages ago, and I’m THOROUGHLY absorbed in Dark Tower right now.

Book one? Still not-so-good, though better than I remembered it to be — I *think* I read the “original” version of DT v1, and what Joe gave me was the “revised and expanded” version, which reads better. Not great, but better.

But with book 2…? Whoa, now I liked that shit, yes I did!

I’ve got about 10% of book 5 left yet, and I’m really looking forward to devouring 6 & 7, and then maybe my mind will really be ready for comics again.

You know what’s weird? DARK TOWER reminds me, in a lot of ways, of everything I liked about LOST — there’s a TON of (surface) similarities: people torn from their lives to deal with crazy weird stuff, there are flashbacks that tie back into current insanity, there are strange occurrences of numbers, there are mysteries which will be revealed, but “a little later”, there’s strange things going on with pregnancies, and heroin junkies, and raids from Others, and even a character in a wheelchair… and a sense of, in many ways, of things being made up as they go along, but I have a better sense that King will have it all actually make a certain amount of sense at the end of the day.

So, yeah, digging that, and not digging comics all that much the last two weeks.

I started to read some more comics last night, from this week’s stash, and I find that I don’t really want to talk about BATMAN #700 or whatever — I only want to talk about things that make me feel like “Wow, comics are wicked awesome!”, and of the 12 or so things I read last night before giving up and going back to Roland and his Ka-tet, almost none of them touched me.

In fact, the only thing I liked, really even a little, was YOUNG ALLIES #1…

It wasn’t even that I even loved it all that much, but it made me think of, dunno, NEW WARRIORS or something — a new title that no one really has any faith in, featuring characters that no one would really say “that’s my favorite!”, but that delivered a solid base-hit of entertainment regardless. the difference between YA and NW is probably more that I have no faith (none), that YA will still be published in a year — the market is all wrong for a comic like this right now, buried in Brightest Days and Heroic Ages and Avengers relaunches… in fact, the single worst week they could have possibly released a book like YA was this week where Marvel is also launching AVENGERS ACADEMY #1, which has a number of (surface!) similarities, but ties into the Avengers franchise.

Given a choice, THIS reader would rather see YOUNG ALLIES make issue #24, than AVENGERS ACADEMY, though I kind of don’t think either of them is going to make it that far, naturally.

YA #1 had *zero* preorders at my store, and that’s a REALLY bad sign because, right now, virtually no one is looking to add new titles to their pulls, and if you don’t catch them right out of the box, the chances of them coming along a few issues later is extraordinarily small.

I *could* push and promote and really talk up YA (though, actually, it isn’t really THAT good to warrant the full-court-press — like I said, solid base-hit here), but mathematically, there’s not a great return that is going to pay off into — as a comic book retailer, who reads the market pretty well, thankee-sai, I’d be shocked if it made it to issue #13. It is a condundrum.

I thought YOUNG ALLIES was a fairly GOOD comic, and you might like it as well, but if it is unlikely to last out a full year, I’m not sure there’s much point into telling you that? I don’t know, flip through it at your local store — it isn’t sexy, but it’s more solid than a lot of other launches lately.

Hopefully, something a bit later in the stack will light me on fire, but I think Roland’s world is where my loyalty will stay for the rest of the week.

Still, I am, I think, genetically predisposed to a certain amount of snark, so this was the one that hit me when I was unpacking the box yesterday…

I wish I had the mad photoshop skills, because all I could think was….

POOCHIE!

“Pencilneck G!”? HAHAHAHAHA, man the mind just fucking boggles, doesn’t it?

That’s still not The Sensational Character Find of (June) 2010 — that one might go to “Freight Train” in this week’s issue of OUTSIDERS, who proclaims:

“Choo-Choo, mother–” “Freight Train!”

Yes, the mind boggles, and thankee-sai.

What do YOU think, anyway?

-B

23 Responses to “ Brian tries to be cheerful (or… blame Joe Keatinge) ”

  1. I love the Dark Tower series and hadn’t noticed that, yeah – it does kind of read like Lost. The tricky bit is still the ending, please be sure to post your response when you get there. I’ll hold off on any comments until then.

    Be sure to check out the comic run when you’ve finished the books. The comics are a (mostly) spot-on return to Roland’s world. Good stuff!

  2. You have inspired me to return to the world of The Dark Tower, Mr. Hibbs. I never really recovered from the nigh interminable riff on The Magnificent Seven (Wizard And Glass?), and the bit where they start business planning(in the penultimate book? Was I that close?! What’s that all about?!)sent me scurrying off until your wake up call arrived.

    My failure to complete the series has been a real itch in the back of the mind ever since. But, as I say, you have inspired me and so I shall travel back to the land of The Dark Tower. Anyway, I want to find out what happens to the ill starred character from another King book (Naughty! Not telling who!).

    Oh, and if I read all those pages and the ending blows chunks you and me will palaver, Mr.Hibbs. Also: no spoilers for at least the next year, Mr. Rudi! (Just jesting, people.)

  3. I got bored of the first DT book and didn’t bother again. I’m sure I’d be a big fan too if I stuck with it, though. But no time.

    You prety much summed up why I cut my comics buying by 90% over the past couple of years. Why spend so much time, especially as a consumer rather than a retailer, reading books that I don’t love? “Like” doesn’t cut it anymore. Not for $2.99, let alone $3.99. I was going to check out Young Allies but not at that price.

  4. Fellow comics retailer here. I’m equally…disillusioned?…with mainstream comics right now. Tired of relaunches that let creators retread well-trodden ground.

    What happened to the creators who would try and push the envelope a little bit? I want experimentation. Animal Man, Doom Patrol, Planetary…stuff like that. Final Crisis tried to varying levels of consumer success, but it looks like that might be the end of mainstream experimentation for quite some time. Instead of opening creators eye’s to some new ways about how to think about delivering a story, Final Crisis’ lasting effect might be scaring the mainstream into regurgitating the same tired stories over and over incessantly.

  5. I also read DT in one big gulp and loved every page (especially BK 2 onwards). And I think the LOST geezers have name checked DT and THE STAND as major LOST influences.

    Am now going to check out YOUNG ALLIES. Love teen characters, plus Arana and the INVADERS connection, however slight.

    And Brian, I am sure your tastebuds will return eventually. Too many good comix out there.

  6. I loved the first Dark Tower book, I’d even go so far as to say its one of my favorite books ever. I love that sense of vast emptiness, of desolation, of everything and everyone being run down and about to die, and the book really drives that home in a way the rest of the series never quite does. I love the whole series, but to me book 1 is the high point.

    I won’t get spoilery with the ending, but I’m really curious to find out if you’ll feel as good about it after the fact as you do now. People tend to criticize King’s endings for a reason.

  7. The Dark Tower’s high point was book 4 – I think – the Wizard & Glass one all about Roland’s past. Things go downhill rapidly after that. There are some bright spots here and there, but I can’t comment on those without spoiling stuff. The ending was nice, though. It’s not great or anything, but it’s nice. If you’re in it for the journey, you’ll be ok, but if you’re reading for the ending, you’ll be disappointed.

  8. I’m happy to be of service!

    Even happier you’re digging the series.

    I can’t wait to talk when you’re finished.

  9. “What happened to the creators who would try and push the envelope a little bit? I want experimentation.”

    All I want are more “base hits” that can provide me with a little entertainment.

    Mike

  10. Got to admit, my own pull list is very short at the moment. Think I’ve kinda lost my taste for comics too. It’s been a gradual thing.

    All I really get in terms of single issue comics is King City, Stumptown and Criminal. Nothing else really takes my interest enough to warrant the cover price and the space in my longbox under the bed.

    I sorely miss Fell, and Phonogram (RIP).

    I’m currently reading the final Planetary trade, which has been enjoyable. Good hard sci-fi comics.

  11. The DT series is one of the high marks of fantasy literature. I had the pleasure of listening to it via audiobooks with excellent narrators. The first book was just ok but the rest, especially WIZARD AND GLASS, were fantastic. Just wait till you read the very last page. What an ending!

    I too am feeling a little down on comics. I look at PREVIEWS every month and just can’t manage any enthusiasm for the current offerings. I’m tired of reading poorly written or very average ones. I have too many truly good books yet to read that I’ve made a decision to stop reading a lot of titles “just because”. I think I’m going to be a lot happier because of it.

  12. And when Pencilneck G isn’t in the panel, everyone should ask, “Hey, where’s Pencilneck G?”

  13. This is pretty cool. And it’s really sad. But you’ll see just how much JJ and team are enamored with DT series.. $19.00 awesome:

    Link: http://www.darktowermovies.com/20091111/damon-lindelof-drops-out-of-the-dark-tower-project/

  14. Pencilneck G. Hmmm…

    Back when I was a kid, life was going swell.
    Till something happened, blew every thing to hell.
    That night my daddy stumbled in, all pale and weak,
    Said “A woman up the block just gave birth to a geek.”

    Mom said, “Sell it to the circus, what the heck.”
    Dad said, “Nope, this one’s a pencil neck.
    And if there’s one thing lower than a side show freak,
    It’s a grit eatin’, scum suckin’, pencil neck geek.”

    You see if you take a pencil that won’t hold lead,
    Looks like a pipe cleaner attached to a head,
    Add a buggy whip body with a brain that leaks,
    You got yourself a grit eatin’, pencil neck geek.

    (Chorus)
    Pencil neck geek, grit eatin’ freak,
    Scum suckin’, pea head with a lousy physique.
    He’s a one man, no gut, loosing streak.
    Nothin’ but a pencil neck geek.

    “Pencil Neck Geek”, by Freddie Blassie (see the rest of the lyrics here: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/f/freddie_blassie/pencil_neck_geek.html

  15. Is Batton Lash writing the Arhies Freshman story? It’s worth buying to ibclude in Secret Santa Chirstmas gifts for underprivileged kids. Pencilneck G showed as an alt-Jughead. Kinda hope that works – and how did I miss how much the Archies map to the LSH? Archie/ Lightning Lad, Dilton – Brainy, Jughead- ME Lad, Sabrina – White Witch, Midge- Violet, Betty – Imra,

  16. …iae, it’s actually good to see that some comics for kids remain. Is Pencilneck to be the gay member of the Archie gang that was in the news?

  17. I understand your burn out, and do think that if you’re feeling that way you should cut back on the savage part of the reviews and focus on recommendations. Why? Because they’re more important.
    It’s different in movies; there are three new films coming to my cineplex this weekend, and if one of them is crap there’s a darned good chance that it’s the one I’m planning to see, and warning me away is likely to do good.
    But there are eleventeen new issues coming to the comic shop this week, and any one of us is likely only buying a small sliver of that. If you tell me that Punchdude #17 is lame, then I might enjoy the snark, but odds are that I wasn’t going to buy it anyway, so you haven’t saved me from anything. On the other hand, if you tell me Little Girl, Big Fist is awesome, then you’re likely to have changed things, to have me getting something good that I missed. And the effect is multiplied, because if you steered me away from Punchdude, you’re likely only saving me from one issue, because even I can figure out something is crappy after actually reading an issue…. but when I fall in love with Little Girl, Big Fist, I have a run of issues to enjoy.

  18. Brian,

    From Marvel you should be pushing Shield and Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine. They’re more like home runs than base hits: actually fresh (even with tired characters like in the latter) and customers are responding great whenever I put them in their hands. Hickman and Aaron – and I know I’m preaching to the choir here – are THE exciting new voices moving into the mainstream (like Bendis, Millar, et al. 10 years ago).

    It’s easy to get burned out. The Marvel glut makes doing their section of the Previews order pretty mind numbing and I definitely ask myself why so many of these books are being published and what audience I’m supposed to be selling them to. On the other hand there’s still piles of awesome comics coming out. This week in particular was one of the best weeks of releases – at least on paper; I haven’t finished reading everything – that I can remember in ages. Strong, idiosyncratic, eclectic books that make me stand up and pay attention and, honestly, make me wish I had more time to read all this stuff (between World Cup games!).

    I mean just two weeks ago we got Return of Bruce Wayne #2 which was one of the best superhero comics since All-Star Superman ended. It’s not so bad if you ignore the drudgery!

  19. I say keep bringing on the snark. I got *way* more enjoyment out of the Arsenal review than maybe any review I’ve ever read and I even bought the book to enjoy on my own.

  20. I think that’s what Brian is a little disheartened about, Nate. Why promote crap books when there’s great stuff out there? But I do like a mix of positivity and savagery.

  21. That’s the problem, Brandon – there isn’t much great stuff out there. I mean, yeah, there’s Achewood and Love & Rockets and evergreens like that. Vertigo has stepped their game up recently with Daytripper and Sweeet Tooth. And there’s some other great stuff out there, but it’s not like there’s so much greatness coming out that we’re in danger of missing any of it. Why bother propping up mediocrity and calling it good versus the sea of crap out there? But there’s a ton of really awful comics coming out now, so why not have some fun blasting them apart?

  22. I’ve been buying comics every month for over twenty years, and I truly enjoy what I buy now more than I ever have in the past. Sure, I miss the diversity I used to get (Eightball, Queen & Country, Grendel, True Swamp, Blue Monday, Madman, etc.) but there are some mainstream gems out there today. Sure, there’s plenty of crap, but I’ve learned enough over the years to steer clear of most of it.

    Instead I’m discovering Parker, Hickman and Aaron, and still loving Morrison, Rucka and Brubaker. If you told me 15 years ago that in the future I’d be buying (and loving) Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Batwoman, Hercules, Punisher and Ghost Rider (all of which I thought were stupid, played-out concepts in the mid-90s) I’d have said you were crazy/high. I sure never would’ve bought (and loved) a book starring undead-cyborg-Bucky!!! I love being wrong :)

    And while it’s sad that indy publishers have mostly dropped off my radar (except for Tales Designed to Thrizzle!), I’m thrilled that the Big Two are still offering books as amazing as Criminal and Scalped.

    Oh, and Hellboy/BPRDs still going strong too!

    Lots to love :)

  23. Although I’m still sad about what’s become of DC. I just told a friend the other day that Marvel has worked magic to make me love characters I used to not care about, and DC has worked the same magic to make me not care about characters I used to love :)

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