Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Scooby Doo Comic by...Ivan Brunetti ?!?

My son is getting quite a collection of comics in his own right, and going through his books recently, I found this strange and wonderful thing: a Scooby Doo story drawn by alternative cartoonist Ivan Brunetti. Which was pretty amusing to me, since I mainly know Brunetti from his sick and wrong series of "Schizo" comic books he did  for Fantagraphics in the 1990's. In all honesty, I can't recommend Schizo, or it's collection Misery Loves Company to Scooby Doo fans, but I can recommend it to mature, misanthropic readers who like their humor dark.

An immensely talented cartoonist who has since become lauded in the altcomix field, Brunetti combined a classically influenced style of bigfoot cartooning with sick, taboo humor. His self loathing, multi-page rants were made palatable by the zany cartoons, but the man obviously was working out some real issues, albeit in an entertaining manner. How odd then, to see his art on an innocuous Scooby Doo comic. And here it is:

"Scooby Snooze!"
Script: Chris Duffy
Art: Ivan Brunetti
Story scanned from Scooby Doo vol.1: You Meddling Kids!, DC Comics (September 2003).

Friday, July 23, 2010

So Far, the Best News Out of SDCC 2010 Involves a Racoon and a Tree.

Yes, please. Rocket Raccoon and Groot, January 2011.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One Other Moment in Time

"One Moment in Time" is set to begin this week in Amazing Spider-Man #638, and as the complaining begins, let us take a moment to look back at the classic original story that will be undone by this twist in the established continuity. Unlike today's "OMIT", hacked out by the egotistical, unpopular* Editor in Chief, surely Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 was a timeless classic, crafted by the most caring artisans with a keen eye toward the past and future integrity of the character, right? Well, not so much, actually.

Far from an organic event borne from the ongoing Amazing Spider-Man storyline, The Wedding was a rather abrupt and unnatural turn of events, engineered by Jim Shooter, the egotistical, unpopular* EIC of Marvel at the time in response to events in the Spider-Man newspaper comic strip. The wedding was originally conceived when Stan Lee, reacting to declining newspaper circulation, decided to shake things up in the Spider-Man strip by marrying Peter and MJ. That may have made sense in the strip continuity, where they were a longtime couple, but in the comic books, Mary Jane had only recently returned to the book after years of absence, and further, had returned with the bombshell that she knew Peter's secret identity, and had known for years. The two were still dealing with these relatively new facts. Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz had been the regular creative team circa 1986, and DeFalco's last issue, #284 showed MJ still dealing with grave misgivings about Peter's dual life, and about her ability to deal with it. She kept up her party girl facade, but was terrified of Peter's dangerous double life and was thinking of leaving New York again. Apparently, editorial decisions led to the team being ousted at issue #285, and abruptly, the next time we saw her in issue #286 she was bubbly, flirty, and Spidey-supportive. In ASM #290, Peter proposed to MJ, and after some hemming-and-hawing, she accepted. Shooter had learned of Stan's plan, and decided that the comic books must trump the comic strip, and the stage was set for a wedding, including a big publicity push with an actual "wedding ceremony" at Shea Stadium, officiated by Stan Lee.

Amusingly, the printed story comes off as half-hearted, at best. After spending several pages in battle with Electro, Peter and MJ spend the rest of the story internally moaning and groaning about the upcoming nuptials. Peter mopes about Gwen Stacy for the ten millionth time and has a goofy dream sequence while MJ is tempted by a cheesy mullet guy in a ferrari who dangles champagne and Chippendales models before her to sway her from boring wedded life.

All of this took place in 1987, long before the internet, so as a reader, I wasn't privy to the behind the scenes stuff, and was jolted by the suddenness of it all. This was far from the first time a comics company has let the tail wag the dog, but in this case, given the significance and weight of the Spidey newspaper strip over time, the dog was a great dane and the tail was bobbed. I and other readers adjusted soon enough, but as time went by, Peter's subplot potential dwindled to "bickering with MJ about money" and "MJ is being stalked for the 37th time" with other subplot possibilities becoming more and more contrived.

Ultimately, this led to more and more fantastical subplots that simply focused on the superhuman side of Spidey's life, like the infamous clone saga, Spider-totems, altered powers, and Gwen Stacey's Norman Osborn offspring. Spider-Man's personal life and civilian supporting cast dwindled away until the books became all about Spider-man, with Peter seeming to be an afterthought. In many ways the marriage turned out to be a bad and misguided move for the character.

So when it was decided to finally undo the marriage, as a longtime reader, I recalled how it was forced into the storyline in the first place by editorial fiat, and how it never has fit, and I wasn't entirely against a change. The question was always HOW do you undo the two characters' marriage without doing further damage? That's where the current regime stunned me by going in the worst possible direction by having Spider-Man make a bargain with a Satan analogue to undo his marriage in order to save Aunt May's life. Of all the morally neutral options (cosmic reset, time paradox, magic) in their toolbox, I'm baffled that they went with Mephisto, but I guess it got the job done, and now they can patch up the cracks with "One Moment in Time". I suppose we'll see how well that works out, starting this Wednesday.

* Relax, I'm not being entirely serious here. There are a lot of good things to say about both of these guys.

Pages scanned from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, art by Paul Ryan and Vince Colletta

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kirby Saw it Koming!

In OMAC, Jack Kirby imagined a bizarre dark future where mankind's base appetites were fed by far-flung technological excess. In his cautionary tale, outlaw corporations produced scientific horrors that required a One Man Army Corps to set things right. OMAC #1 was originally published in 1974, and at the time, was apparently a bit too far out and fantastical. The book was canceled after eight issues, but I contend that Kirby was ahead of his time, and that OUR world is slowly turning into OMAC's world!

The first issue introduced us to Buddy Blank, a faceless nobody working at Pseudo People Incorporated. After being bullied by a co-worker, Blank is sent to the "Psychology Section":

That scene was the very first thing that came to mind when I saw this story about a Chinese frustration venting chamber on Boing Boing recently:

But that's not the only future prediction that Kirby pegs in this issue. Buddy later is transformed into OMAC to bust up the Pseudo People factory when he finds out that the "Build-A-Friends" that the factory produces are being used as assassination devices!

Yes, Kirby was once again presaging the existence of a horrifying reality, in this case the RealDoll. Although at least no one has figured out how to make a RealDoll into a WMD (yet).

Now, I know it won't be long before some evil rich bastard manages to buy an entire city as his personal debauched playground...

Or before some withered old megabuck$ sickos figure out a way to transplant their brains into stolen young bodies so they can live forever...

But you know it's gonna happen sooner or later. In the world that's coming, we're gonna need OMAC: One Man Army Corps! 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lex and Death

Well, it looks like Lex Luthor will be having a close brush with Death of the Endless in Action Comics #894, and not Swamp Thing as I recently speculated. That's obviously an even bigger coup for Paul Cornell, and apparently he has Neil Gaiman's blessing to use her, so the legendary Vertigo embargo will be broken for the first time in twelve years as Lex crosses over to the Other Side in his ongoing arc. The "Other Side" being Vertigo or the afterlife, depending on how you look at it. Sandman characters last crossed with the DCU in 1998's JLA #22, when Daniel, the then-new Dream led the JLA into the dreamworld to combat a Starro creature invading humanity's subconsciousness.

My, how time flies. Why, that's way back when DC was still pretending that Kyle Rayner was going to last as Green Lantern:

As I recall, Grant Morrison was a Kyle-as-Green Lantern booster, as was I, but we all know how that turned out. Back to the subject at hand, I like to see some crossover between the DC and Vertigo universes. Let's see if Action Comics #894 opens the door for more.  

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fired and Hired!

Sorry about the recent lack of posting around here, folks, but as regular readers may be aware, your friendly neighborhood blogger has been besieged by real-life concerns of late. I lost my engineering job last May, and since then, I've been pounding the (virtual) pavement looking for another one, to the detriment of Again With the Comics. Well, my severance pay ran out on July 6th, and lucky duck that I am, I was informed on July 7th that a job interview from the previous week paid off, and I now have a new, better paying job. In these harsh economic times, that is a huge relief. The good news for you, dear reader, is that I can now focus on what really matters: comic books. "Normal" service shall resume shortly!