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Skyhigh — Hibbs on 6/6/12

Brian Hibbs

Hello from 30k feet!

Well, no, not exactly — I’m writing this on a plane, coming back from Chicago, where I went to my cousin Ian’s wedding (Ben was the ringbearer, and looked crazy awesome in a suit), but I won’t post this until I hit the ground again. I only took a handful of comics with me, and only have something to say about maybe half of those, but I’ve been trying hard to have reviews every week, and I won’t let something as small as “not being in town” stop me!

Nice town, Chicago — last time I was here I was maybe 12 or so? Also for a wedding, for that matter, between my dad and stepmom, and I’d love to come back, so someone get married, and invite me! I had a chance to visit Chicago Comics, and see Eric Kirsammer and his kids, and that is a swell store, one of the better I’ve seen; and one I’d certainly shop at if I lived locally. I wanted to see several other stores (including Challengers, which I’ve heard nothing but swell things about), but, y’know, family obligations and all that.

Anyway, I don’t want to write a travelogue, and I promised myself I’d tear through these books before I landed, so on with the show…!

ACTION COMICS #10: Wait… when is this taking place? It has to be just after the last storyline, I think, not in modern times, as the Justice League portion is a flashback. But why does he bounce back and forth between the t-shirts and armor, with no real mention of what’s going on? I was a little excited, actually, about the notion of the death of Kent, and a new secret ID, because if anyone could actually make that happen (yeah, yeah, I’m a sucker), it would have to be Grant, but if this is still in flashback mode, obviously that’s all garbage. Bah, for a time when I was less bitter and jaded, and when we’d just accept a premise straight-forwardly. I’m *liking* this, still, but I desperately want to be *loving* this, and 10 issues in and I’m not. ‘sfine, but I want better than just GOOD, y’know?

AVENGERS VS X-MEN #5: that’s a fun little plot twist, “the phoenix five” and all that, and while I’m totally willing to wait and see what they actually DO with it, it’s hard to see in my head how characters used to/used by vast otherworldly power, like Peter and Illyana will work in this context. Or will they just ignore, wossname, cyttorak, is that the Juggernaut’s mentoring power? I’m still deeply disliking the art, but the story is sorta kinda growing on me as act one closes. GOOD.

FUCK ALAN MOORE BEFORE WATCHMEN MINUTEMEN #1: As I said, I’ve not be in SF all week, so I haven’t the foggiest notion as to how this is selling, but, after reading issue #1, if I was “just” a reader, I’d definitely not be coming back for issue #2. Not because it’s badly crafted — because it is very well-illustrated and written, indeed — but because it didn’t tell me anything I already didn’t know, and, as a first issue, it was PAINFULLY “recappy”. Absolutely nothing “happened”, it just assembled everything we already knew from WATCHMEN into a chronological order. What the hell is the point of that? Darwyn Cooke was the one BW creator that I thought might actually make something I want to read (on this project, I mean), and was the one who, potentially, had the biggest canvas to play with, since the Minutemen characters aren’t exactly character, but world-buildy background, but there’s just nothing here at all. 17% of the page count gone, for shit-all purpose, foo. That’s bad enough with “normal” comics, but on something as divisive as this? Ugh, no way. This was perfectly OK, but if you’re going to take a big shit on Alan Moore, you’ve got to do a whole fucking better than this.

I ganked this picture from here

CREATOR OWNED HEROES #1: Really? Man, so first, that’s a fucking AWFUL title for a comic, as it says just nothing about content. (Seriously, find me 50 people in the entire nation who inherently cares about the ownership of a work, rather than “is it any good?” I’ll wait — I had a “self published” section in the store until I got sick of answering people what that MEANT, so trust me, I KNOW) And second, the content is more padded than a twelve year old’s bra. If what you want to do is “A magazine nowhere near as good or relevant as fucking HERO ILLUSTRATED, with a bunch of mediocre comics”, that’s cool, but shit, you could have told us that’s what you were delivering. I Just don’t give a damn about your convention snapshots (that’s what Facebook is for, not something you’re charging me $4 for!!), or features on cos-players, or, and this is the one that really got me, creator interviews that aren’t ABOUT creator-owned work! I mean, the VERY FIRST LINE of the Gaiman piece is “I love his work on SANDMAN”, which, y’know, is a notoriously creator-owned comic book, right? What a mis-thought project from ship to stern. AWFUL.

DARK AVENGERS #175: I’m mostly writing this bit for anyone writing up sales chart analyses: Marvel kept the NUMBERING of THUNDERBOLTS here, but did a really really weird thing after that — it had Diamond assign the book a new SERIES code. A series code is an invisible-to-consumers code that allows retailers to sign up customers, well, to a series. Like (say) 123456 is the code for CAPTAIN FANCYPANTS, and it allows the computer to know that CAPTAIN FANCYPANTS #1 and CP #2 are *the same thing*. It also allows me to, say, take the various BPRD series, and assign it to a custom series code (like CUST123), so that every BPRD series gets pulled (even though Dark Horse treats them as *entirely separate* things, go figure)  In the past, when Marvel changed, say, INCREDIBLE HULK to INCREDIBLE HERCULES they kept the series code the SAME, which meant that all of the preorders AUTOMATICALLY transferred, here they consciously did NOT do that, in other words: eliminating 98% of the marketing-driven reason to carry over the numbering. What’s even weirder, is that it really IS TBOLTS #175, and it’s a bit hard to follow if you haven’t read those previous issues (well, or the last year or so at least), while at the same time kicking off all of the people  who WERE buying it. I don’t get it. The comic itself was perfectly OK.

EARTH 2 #2: Normally I despair against “decompressed” comics, but I have to say that I find the very slow world-building on display here to be very fine. I’ll probably want it to move a whole lot faster once all of the players are on stage, but for now? I’m loving the hell out of this. VERY GOOD, and easily the best comic I read this week.

Right, almost time to turn off electronics, so ending it there. What did YOU think?


28 Responses to “ Skyhigh — Hibbs on 6/6/12 ”

  1. I’ve not actually read the comics part of Creator Owned Heroes yet, but I got a big laugh out of the non-comics parts. On one page is Steve Niles taking about how this is to be the comics magazine for adults, yet a few pages is spent on some young lady cosplaying as a character in black leather with a gun! So very adult! Seems they missed even their own benchmarks with this one.
    I think you nailed Action and Earth-2. Both good, hopefully going to get better.

  2. Action #10 won me over just with the scenes of Superman with the rescued hamsters. “So no one wants two adorable hamsters and no one wants to tackle poverty in Somalia?” I love lovable Superman! To cross-reference a complaint I mentioned on another blog, I’m already tired of Adorable Loki, but I think I could read Adorable Superman FOREVER.

  3. I don’t give a crap about Alan Moore’s whining, but you totally nailed the first issue of BW. I had hoped that Cooke would do something clever, like deconstruct Moore’s premise that costumed vigilantes like Nite Owl would have ever been workable, even as some sort of cultural fad, but we got nothing.


  4. I don’t see how anyone can review MINUTEMEN #1 in a normal, quality assessment, sense, since it’s not a standalone story. What’s the basis for comparison: the prequel Moore might have written, or the original story Cooke might have done on a similar subject?

    If someone reviews Spider-Man story #1379 and compares it to a randomly selected group of other Spider-Man stories, he might be able to provide buyers with useful info, although a quality assessment would be harder. With the BEFORE WATCHMEN titles, though, the reviewer has to compare them not only with hypothetical other works, but also WATCHMEN’s impact on the reader as a close-ended standalone story, versus the prospect of seeing the characters turned into endless serial playthings, who, ten years from now, after being prequelized, sequelized, retconned, updated, etc., resemble the WATCHMEN characters only in their names.


  5. Well, I was at only 6 feet this week and I pooped the goose on content. So, uh, sorry, Mr. Hibbs. Also: kind of hoping for a travelogue there from you(probably more entertaining for us foreigners, I guess).

    I give a crap (turgid, bloated, hard to shift)about Alan Moore’s “whining” so I may be biaised here but I thought Moore’s (well, part of it) premise *was* that costumed vigilantes were unworkable. Didn’t the Minutemen disband because they kept getting shot or got their necks broken in revolving door-cape accidents and the criminals didn’t want to play dress up. They didn’t have anything to do and when they did they were bad at it. But then I thought I’d already read what happened to the Minutemen before WATCHMEN. It was in WATCHMEN.

    I liked your joke cover but I liked Trouble With Comics joke about the cover more. Sharp as a tack that was.

    That DARK AVENGERS re-coding is nuts. I have been catching up on this series in TPB (cheap book shop had a few) and I’d have liked Parker, Walker et al.s work rewarded by a larger audience. Even if that audience is just bovinely attracted to the words “Dark” and “Avengers” regardless of content. I guess that won’t happen thanks to Marvel’s idiocies here.

    Good day!

  6. Re-coding INCREDIBLE HERCULES seems like it would be a wee bit more ethical. But DARK AVENGERS, yeah, go figure.

  7. “I thought Moore’s (well, part of it) premise *was* that costumed vigilantes were unworkable.”

    It was workable enough to Nite Owl I to retire and get an award for his career. Wasn’t it also workable enough for Nite Owl I to show up at a dinner party IN COSTUME? It was also workable enough for both Rorschach and Nite Owl II to reminisce about the good old days when they busted up criminal gangs. It was workable enough to Captain Metropolis to still be active in costume 20some years after he got started. It was workable enough for vigilante activity, by about 5 people, to be such a huge issue that it could cause massive rioting.

    Moore’s premise was taking us into the emotional underbelly and inconvenient realities that would exist in a sub-culture of costumed heroes. But he assumes that such a sub-culture could be big enough and sustain itself long enough for such things to come into being. In the real world, someone like Nite Owl would have a crimefighting career that lasted…what? A week? Maybe a month? And then end with his death, maiming or arrest? While some of the Minutemen had tragic ends, at least 5 (Nite Owl, Comedian, Moth Man, Silk Spectre, Captain Metropolis) hung around long enough to meet Doctor Manhattan. That’s not exactly casting super-heroes as an “unworkable” idea.


  8. “It was workable enough for vigilante activity, by about 5 people, to be such a huge issue that it could cause massive rioting.”

    Yeah, I never really bought that part of the backstory, did you?

    “In the real world, someone like Nite Owl would have a crimefighting career that lasted…what? A week? Maybe a month? ”

    Maybe not quite the same thing, but Phoenix Jones seems to have been live since at least January ’11 — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJQi7yYhVVA, so he had 16-ish months?


    For those that care, I’m back at the store and just looked, and BW:M#1 sold an anemic 16 copies out of 50 copies ordered through the release-to-first-weekend. I have 5 more in pull that are “guaranteed” sold. That looks pretty lousy to this viewer.


  9. @MBunge: Well sure, I guess the vigilantes were workable in that they all didn’t die and they did some stuff. But it doesn’t take much to reminisce and it doesn’t take much to fill a memoir book, and Captain Metropolis might have worn his costume for 20 years but, c’mon, he was probably buried in his costume; he was an idiot. I took unworkable to mean that you couldn’t ever actually have a Batman in real life; you could have a man in a costume who was quick with his fists and survived more by luck than judgment but that’s not Batman. I don’t know, they came across (for me, to me)in the book as a campy fad that was fondly remembered until…Dr. Manhattan.

    Because, yeah, the riots but…the riots were due to Dr. Manhattan’s influence/power/consequences of on govt policies, Vietnam, Nixon, Cold War etc. etc. Until Dr. Manhattan pops up the vigilantes just seem like a campy fad but once a real super-hero appears with special magic powers everything changes. It’s Dr. Manhattan, the only one with any real special magic powers who changes the game; who stops it being a game and makes it real. It’s Dr. Manhattan that really stops the world of WATCHMEN from being our world and makes it a different one.

    And I know what happened to Dr. Manhattan before WATCHMEN too. It was in WATCHMEN.

  10. @MBunge: Oh, I guess I should say the preceding remarks were submitted in the spirit of engaging in a discussion about a remarkable piece of work rather than, you know, you are wrong and I am right. I could be totally mistaken and if I am I will bear that wound stoically. This being The Internet I just, y’know, wouldn’t want things to spiral off out of control.

    @Brian Hibbs (and America as a whole: Is that a real thing you linked to? It is worryingly convincing. I am a bit terrified by that being real.

    You may have only sold 21 copies but DC sold 50!

  11. No, that’s real, John. Or at least “real” in that those cats are out running about — a chunk of it could certainly be staged, but not all of it is, AFAICT.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Jones and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rain_City_Superhero_Movement

    I know I read something (on Comic Alliance, maybe?) about the first supervillain, but that looked as NotReal as could be… *search search*, ah yes, here: Rex Velvet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ivkzosgyx-U


  12. “Because, yeah, the riots but…the riots were due to Dr. Manhattan’s influence/power/consequences of on govt policies, Vietnam, Nixon, Cold War etc. etc.”

    Yeah, I don’t know if Moore has talked about any of that in interviews, but that stuff wasn’t in the text. Maybe I’m misremembering it but those riots were presented as being almost entirely about vigilantism (Give us back our cops!) and not government policy.

    And you talk about it as a fondly remembered campy fad, but Nite Owl and Moth Man were still around to meet Dr. Manhattan at that party and Comedian was still around to attend Captain Metropolis’ attempt at forming the Crimebusters.

    WATCHMEN was about pulling at the loose threads of the super-hero tapestry, but you can only do that if the tapestry exists in the first place.


  13. Maybe I’m just stating something really super-obvious here but… WATCHMEN is appealing on many levels, and has many selling points, but none of them include – nor are any of them SUPPOSED to include – a rigorously “realistic” depiction of what superheroes/costumed vigilantes would look like in the “real” world. Moore and Gibbons have a lot to say about the nature of power and its abuse, about the problematic nature of the very concept of the superhero, about the history of the comic book medium in North America, about the cold war and right-wing paranoia, about a whole lot of things other than “what would Batman act like if he were Really For Real”. So the question of whether, say, Hollis Mason could have had a viable career playing dress-up crimefighter was never remotely as compelling a question to me – and, I’d guess, to Moore and Gibbons – as was the question of, say, how an America with a kind of magic “get out of jail free” card on mutually assured destruction would behave in the run-up to a nuclear war.

  14. “Phoenix Jones seems to have been live since at least January ’11”

    I saw some news reports on that guy. He was more like a super-neighborhood watch than a super-hero, but he’s close enough for argument. I’m pretty sure that most of the other people doing this sort of thing are even more like super-social workers than super-heroes, helping the homeless and all that.

    I guess what I’m talking about is that it would have been very interesting if Cooke has presented Nite Owl I and the rest as more like Phoenix Jones and less like the derring doers of classic comics.


  15. “nor are any of them SUPPOSED to include – a rigorously “realistic” depiction of what superheroes/costumed vigilantes would look like in the “real” world.”

    Well, that’s what I’m saying. If Cooke had tried to deconstruct some of the elements upon which Moore and Gibbons built their deconstruction, that might have been a really cool take on this whole prequel thing that somewhat validated it creatively. Instead it looks like we’re going to get a well-drawn, well-written and extremely decompressed repetition of what Moore and Gibbons already did with these characters.

    For example, the stuff where Cooke tries to argue that Moth Man had to be incredibly brave to do what he did before cracking up? That’s a different spin from Moore and Gibbons and that’s what I had hoped to get a lot more of.


  16. @MBunge: Fair enough. I interpreted (and still do) the riots differently to what was presented on the page but that’s on me. If I take those pages literally, yes, you (and Mr. Brian Hibbs) are correct – it is far from convincing. You win, damn your eyes!

    moose n squirrel: Judging by your extensive appraisal of the scope etc. of the book I doubt you are missing anything. We’re just nattering on about that one aspect because that’s the one aspect MBunge found most noteworthy (or its absence)in this Darwyn Cooke comic. I think that’s why, anyway. Nah it’s not rigorous or intended to be the whole point but, for me, it’s still sufficiently there in the original. For me, that is. MBunge, however, would like more rigour! He’s not getting it it seems.

    Hey, I wonder if anyone will be talking about BW in this depth close to three decades later?

    @The United States of America: I am still kind of reeling at the Phoenix Jones etc. stuff. I lead a sheltered life. However, I truly doubt the sincerity of Rex Velvet’s supervillainy.

    Also: Social workers *are* superheroes. Word!

  17. I’m hesitant to getting into this discussion because opinions on Moore’s work normally end up in the sort of discussions like debates on politics, religion, or kicking babies in the balls, but I thought Moore’s point with Night Owl was a commentary on the sadness of the inherent sadness of the superhero fantasy. It works if you picture it in a “simpler” time, but place it in the “real” world and it all falls apart…unless, like John K and moose n squirrell say, you have a real superhero like Dr. Manhattan. Plus, a million other things like you fine gentleman have been discussing. Watchmen was an incredibly layered work.

    I’m not surprised to hear the sales weren’t so hot, Mr. Hibbs. A friend and I traded some e-mails laughing at how DC submarined BW by focusing all their marketing on the gay Green Lantern. The two markets they might have hit were the “Screw Alan Moore” crowd and the people who don’t read many comics but liked Watchmen. But they missed the second crowd by assuming they’d show up anyway when running to the stores to buy gay Green Lantern.

    But, like John K said, DC sold 50 copies regardless, so they won.

  18. @JohnK (UK): If you want more of the unbelievable truth about Phoenix Jones (and some of the other “real-life superheroes”), let me highly recommend the little e-book from another UK Jon, the highly entertaining Jon Ronson (who wrote THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS and THE PSYCHOPATH TEST, among others). THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF PHOENIX JONES is available on Kindle and who knows what other formats, and features on-the-street slices of life from Phoenix Jones’ patrols that are at turns alarming, pathetic, hysterical, and inspiring. A slim read, but at $2.99, more value than you would get from a similarly priced comicbook. Especially if that comicbook is BEFORE WATCHMEN.

  19. Rex Velvet is both real and not-real. He’s not-real in that it’s all obviously a goof, but he’s also real in that he regularly makes statements pointing out the absurdity of having Phoenix Jones out there patrolling the streets of Seattle, and he’s trying to take Jone down with the only super power he has — a sense of humor. Jones, predictably, misses the point entirely and has been challenging Velvet to fights.

  20. About the riots in WATCHMEN: in the context of the story it doesn´t matter much what the riots are about. It is just another sign of the changing times. In the 40s nobody would have protested against costumed heroes – or the war – on the streets. Years later times and people have changed.

    Maybe too much is written in the prose parts of the original. Hollis states in his book that his retirement was due because he got old and Dr. Manhatten changed the game. This is the part which in the usual comic serial just can´t happen; Batman or Tony Stark gets upgraded constantly. Stark became Iron Man again in every major conflict of the last 50 years. But the Minutemen just got old – and often bitter.

    There also is a fine irony in the prose parts I had forgotten about. In the one which has those memos about superhero merchandise from Veidt Industries there is this part about the Moloch figurine, how tasteful it is after Jacobis death. But as there is no estate, nobody can complain or sue, so the lawyers give it a green light. Considering this was thought as a fictional commentary about the business of merchandise it reads like creepy prophesy about BW, especially the cynical comments from Veidt.

  21. @John K “And I know what happened to Dr. Manhattan before WATCHMEN too. It was in WATCHMEN.”

    Well then smarty pants, maybe you can tell us the real reason he left his watch in the lab, hmmm? He’s a scientist, so clearly he couldn’t possibly absent mindedly misplace something whilst working! And don’t be bringing up motif’s with me sonny, I demand a plot driven reason for him to have done it – otherwise the whole thing is just too unbelievable!


  23. Hilarious

  24. Watchmen is not about super heroes, realistic or otherwise. It’s a mistake people keep making over and over again.

    Watchmen is about super-hero comic books. To see it any other way is completely missing the point. It’s also one of the main reasons that any kind of follow-up story with the same characters in the same situations is at its very best unnecessary and redundant.

  25. I miss the old Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and Ted Grant. They’re unforgettable.

  26. @chris hero: Wait … you’ve experienced “kicking babies in the balls” being ARGUED? Like, someone was vigorously taking the “pro” side?

    And I thought *I* lived in a tough neighborhood …

  27. Can anyone count the times Moore shat on classic characters?
    (or raped them)

    Not buying Before Watchmen, because the original wasn’t all that good.

  28. @SteveD: Got that book now! I enjoy Ronson’s stuff so this should be a nice read. Thanks very much indeed for the heads up!

    @Ben Lipman: Okay, you are right, I am on tenterhooks now! I hope JMS can deliver!

    mckracken: I know Alan Moore is magic and stuff but I don’t think he can rape fictional characters. Make coins appear from behind startled children’s ears, maybe, but not rape fictional characters. As for what he does in the loo that’s up to him. Can’t we allow the man his privacy at least?

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