Comic review: Marvel Adventures Spider-man #10

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #10Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #10

Written by: Paul Tobin
Art by: Matteo Lolli

In this issue, Spidey’s attempting to train a new “superheroine,” Lynx. “Superheroine” in quotes because she’s only in it for unrelated, self-serving reasons… none of which help her or Spidey much when old Spider-Man villain the Scorpion shows up to cause trouble.

I liked seeing the Lynx “comic strip” scenes, which are drawn in a more simplified style than the rest of the story. The confrontation between Lynx and the Scorpion (who seems bewildered at why she’s even there), where she learns her lesson about being a hero, was also entertaining. I also thought the closing line of the story was amusing.

This comic contains a one-page public service ad for New York City’s city government resources website, using Spidey, Mary Jane, and Doc Ock. (It even passes the Bechdel Test, at least for the one panel where Mary Jane’s seen talking to her female career counselor.) It’s part of a campaign between Marvel Comics and Mayor Bloomberg/the city of New York to help job-hunting New Yorkers (more information: http://nyc.gov/html/media/html/news/marvel.shtml).

There’s also a backup story, a short Iron Man/War Machine piece promoting a new upcoming Iron Man comic, “Iron Man 2.0.” Unlike the Spider-Man story, this one isn’t all-ages/kid-friendly, as a few mild swear words (“pissed,” “hell”) are used. I assume this title is set in the mainstream Marvel Universe. (A brief bit of online research shows “Iron Man 2.0″ is rated T+ by Marvel, i.e. appropriate for ages 13 on up, making the choice of this title as a backup story odd.)

Comic review: Darkwing Duck #8

Darkwing Duck #8Darkwing Duck #8

Written by: Ian Brill
Art by: James Silvani

The “Crisis On Infinite Darkwings” story arc finally comes to a close, as Darkwing, Gosalyn, and Morgana, along with the *many* alternate versions of Darkwing, all team up to face Negaduck and a second villain, Paddywhack (who I assume is another villain from the original TV series, though I’m unfamiliar with him). As expected, everyone (including Magica de Spell, for awhile anyway) contributes to defeating the villains, and manage to send the alternate-Darkwings home. Though one plot thread from this storyline is left lingering at the end of the story (to be continued next issue).

Nice to see Darkwing figure out how to defeat the threat, drawing from a previous (TV) adventure to do so. However, the best part of this issue, of course, was seeing the different versions of Darkwing that showed up. Versions that I caught (among *many* others):

  • The amusing “caveduck” and “spaceman” Darkwings from the previous issues
  • Quiverwing Quack (Green Arrow-like version of Darkwing), the main alternate-Darkwing that plays a role in the plot
  • A version resembling Mr. Incredible from “The Incredibles”
  • A Roger Rabbit version
  • A Tron version
  • A Popeye version
  • A version resembling the Flash
  • A Darkwing resembling Rorschach from “Watchmen”(!)
  • An Indiana Jones version
  • A Harry Potter version
  • A version looking like the classic “Big Boy” statue
  • A version resembling Optimus Prime from “Transformers”
  • A version resembling the Tom Baker Doctor from “Doctor Who” (complete with a TARDIS in the background)
  • And finally, what looks like a trio of Darkwings as some sort of rock group (though I don’t know which one it’s parodying)

Overall, a fun outing!

Comic review: Tiny Titans #36

Tiny Titans #36Tiny Titans #36

Written by: Art Baltazar and Franco
Art by: Art Baltazar

In this issue, it’s “Titans to the Center of the Earth” (as the cover proclaims), as Terra takes some of the fire-themed Tiny Titans (Hotstuff, Kid Devil) and Beast Boy (who begged to go) on a trip to the “center of the Earth” (melodramatically proclaimed). Of course, the trip proves to be different than expected, including hot dogs, strange creatures, and a cameo by Etrigan, DC’s demon who usually speaks in rhyme.

My favorite parts: the melodramatic “journey to the center of the Earth” statement of Terra’s; Beast Boy seeing “danger at every turn” of the trip to the point of paranoia; the surprise-but-funny cameo at the end of the story.

This issue also has several ads for Archie comics’ digital comics platform, just like last month’s issue contained. I’m guessing it’s some part of the recent spate of interaction between DC and Archie (the Tiny Titans-Little Archie crossover and the use of the “Red Circle” superheroes by DC).

Sliding timelines in cartoons: “The Simpsons”

Continuing from the previous articles on sliding timelines in cartoons, I next come to an interesting example, “The Simpsons.” Interesting because:
  1. Despite being a sitcom (and thus adhering to sitcoms’ episodic nature and minimal continuity, i.e. everything’s wrapped up in 30 minutes and events rarely or never influence the next episode, thus making it easier to air sitcoms in any order in syndication), it does for whatever reason mostly observe this timeline trope for its various flashback episodes; and
  2. It’s a rare example in television. This aspect (and the unfamiliarity/rarity of this trope to the average TV viewer who isn’t a comic fan) might explain the reaction I’ve seen online to one particular episode (more on that below).
Since nearly all of the episodes take place in the present—no matter how long the show’s been on or when the episode was made—and since the characters (being cartoons) generally don’t age, most of the episodes can be ignored in this discussion. We can just assume that Homer and the family have had a “very busy” past year or two (Maggie’s lifetime). Also not relevant here are flashbacks to certain decades-ago historical events (World War II for Grandpa and Mr. Burns, Vietnam for Skinner); just like the Justice Society, Grandpa’s pretty tied to the “Big One” no matter how old he gets (and being old *is* the main source of his character’s humor).

Homer and Marge in 1974The first flashback episode came in what’s one of the show’s best episodes, season two’s “The Way We Was.” There, we learned that Homer and Marge first met in high school in 1974. Keeping with Marge’s age quoted in the first season as being 34, and this episode airing early in 1991, this episode suggests that Homer and Marge were about 34-35, confirmed for Homer to be 36 in later early episodes; Homer’s age was upped to 38 in season six, with Marge’s age soon also upped to 38 to match. Later seasons upped Homer to 39 (apparently leaving Marge at 38). For the purposes of this post, I’ll go with Homer and Marge being 38 (the most-often-cited age I’ve seen in the show).

The next flashback came in season three’s “I Married Marge,” which aired in late 1991. Here, we see a flasback to 1980 (or about “10 years ago”) where Marge and Homer, out of high school for some time, finally get married after they conceive Bart. Later, we see Homer get his job at the power plant, and Bart’s birth.

Other flashback (and flash-forward) episodes of note:

  • 1992′s “Lisa’s First Word,” where a flashback to Lisa’s birth in 1984 (“8 years ago”) and the family moving into Evergreen Terrace is seen, followed by Lisa saying her first word about a year later. Bart here is 2 to 3 years old.
  • 1992′s “Itchy and Scratchy: the Movie” flash-forwards at the end to “40 years in the future”, but no specific year is stated. A flashback to the first moon landing (in July 1969) is also shown, with Homer seen as a teenager.
  • 1993′s “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet,” where we learn in 1985 (or “about 8 years ago”), Homer, Barney, Apu and Principal Skinner had a successful barbershop quartet. The kids are shown here as about the same ages as at the end of “Lisa’s First Word” (despite Lisa being rather verbose… then again, she’s one of the smartest characters in the show).
  • 1993′s “The Front” sees Homer and Marge attend their high school class reunion, where they’re stated to be “class of 1974″ graduates.
  • 1995′s “And Maggie Makes Three” flashes back to Maggie’s birth (no specific year stated, just the episode taking place “a year or two ago”).
  • Probably the first episode that indicates how long the show had been on (which gets amplified in latter seasons’ flashbacks as the show runs even longer) is 1997′s “Lisa’s Sax” (which was one of a batch of a few episodes made in 1995, but took several years to get on the air). Here, the flashback-du-jour is about how Lisa got her saxophone at age 3, as well as Bart’s first day of school at age 5, all in…1990 (the date the show debuted, which Homer lampshades at one point).
  • 1995′s “Mother Simpson” explains why Homer’s mother is unseen in the show—she left during Homer’s childhood to go on the lam from Mr. Burns (after falling into a counterculture/protest group in the late 60s that destroyed a biological weapons lab of his). This was stated to be “27 years ago”; Homer accordingly is about 11 years old.
  • Also in 1995 was another of the series’ best-regarded episodes, “Lisa’s Wedding.” In a flash-forward to the oh-so-distant year 2010(!), 23-year-old Lisa is a college student who almost marries a British classmate.
  • An episode from 1998 flashes back to Homer’s mother taking Grandpa and a young Homer to Woodstock in 1969 (in real life, Woodstock took place several weeks after the moon landing). By this point, enough (real-world) time had passed that Homer was now a young grade-schooler in 1969, and not a teenager (per the previous-mentioned moon landing flashback).

Around 2000 I gave up on watching the series, but I’m told that there were a few more flashbacks, including a 2000 episode where Krusty meets his daughter (who’s the same age as Bart, and was born during the first Gulf War), and one that seems to have made a bunch of those still watching the show ticked off: 2008′s “That 90′s Show”, which flashes back to a still-dating young Homer and Marge; here, Marge is shown attending Springfield University, while Homer starts a grunge rock group. By this point, enough (real-world) time had passed that Homer and Marge’s young adulthoods had been moved up to the early-to-mid-90s. This apparently irritated a lot of fans, claiming it was “wrecking what was established about the show”, citing the episodes with Marge and Homer in high school that were set in the 70s as “proof.” Apparently, the above-cited flashback episodes, which already showed events in the characters’ past moving forward to take place in the 90s (“Lisa’s Sax”, “And Maggie Makes Three”, the episode with Krusty’s daughter), and continuing to slide forward as the years roll on, didn’t bother said fans for some reason (given those episodes have been much praised). Perhaps the episode just wasn’t funny (regardless of the time-era setting)…

As I’ve noted previously, the idea of a sliding-timeline isn’t familiar outside of comics circles, and thus seeing it used in a more popular mass medium (like television) looks odd to the average person. *Especially* on a place like a TV sitcom, which being a sitcom/television doesn’t have the patience, concern about or room to explain such things that (as far as Hollywood writers are concerned) “only nerdy losers on the Internet” care about.

Going by this trope, as of 2011, Homer and Marge would’ve been born in or around 1973 (age 38), Bart in 2001 (age 10), Lisa in 2003 (age 8), and Maggie in 2009 or 2010 (age 1). Given the show’s reliance on pop culture references (especially in newer episodes), and how much the show’s writers love flashback episodes (which let them take advantage of making fun of older pop culture milestones), I don’t see the writers giving up on this timeline trope anytime soon, especially since the series is apparently deemed uncancelable by this point. Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future, an epsiode was made about Homer as a young unmarried man somehow involved in the *second* Gulf War, inspiring Steve Jobs to come up with the iPod, and/or somehow inspiring Lady Gaga to start her career!

2011 Oscar animation nominees

Here’s a list of the nominees for this year’s Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Animated Short Subject:

Best Animated Feature

  • “How to Train Your Dragon” (Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois)
  • “The Illusionist” (Sylvain Chomet)
  • “Toy Story 3” (Lee Unkric)

Will win: “Toy Story 3.”
Should win: Not seen “Dragon” or “Illusionist,” so can’t say.

Best Animated Short Film

  • “Day & Night” (Teddy Newton)
  • “The Gruffalo” (Jakob Schuh and Max Lang)
  • “Let’s Pollute” (Geefwee Boedoe)
  • “The Lost Thing” (Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann)
  • “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” (Bastien Dubois)

Will win: My guess is “Day & Night.”
Should win: Not sure, only having seen “Day & Night.”

In addition, “Toy Story 3″ is one of the films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Though after “Brokeback Mountain” got snubbed in favor of the likes of “Crash,” I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over the Academy’s choice in this category. I also guarantee the winner won’t be a “lowly cartoon,” especially with tough competition from “The Social Network,” “Black Swan” and “The King’s Speech.”

A full list of nominees is available here: http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/83/nominees.html

Miscellaneous comics news: “Wizard” magazine closes shop, more on the death of the Comics Code

Wizard magazineSeveral miscellaneous comics items:

Today’s big news is that “Wizard” magazine, a monthly magazine covering the (mostly superhero) comics industry, is shutting down. Back in the 90s (when my modern interest in comic books began), I used to buy “Wizard” every month, budget-permitting. However, changing reading tastes, budget issues, and a dislike of “Wizard”‘s sophomoric tone made me stop buying it. I haven’t bought a copy in years… and judging from the sales figures quoted here, neither has anyone else.

I have to wonder why “Wizard” didn’t move to an online format sooner, instead of ceding their former “king of the hill” status to Newsarama and Comic Book Resources. Though I suppose that might’ve involved taking a cue from those two sites and not promoting a 90s-style speculator mentality and/or acknowledging the existence of female readers/non-superhero genres.

The other comics-related item: evidence that the Comics Code Authority hasn’t actually approved any comics (even ones submitted to it) in at least several years. Which might explain why the Comics Code got stamped on the “Joker Chainsaw Massacre”-type of comics DC’s been putting out lately. Guess the recent announcements of DC and Archie dropping them were only a mere formality, then.

Comixology experience and digital comics thoughts in general

Comixology displaying an Archie comicRecently, I signed up for Comixology, an online digital comics store that allows one to buy and read a selection of some comics from various companies, including DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Archie, etc.

Comixology’s store relies on Flash. On the plus side, this means not being reliant on a particular operating system (it’s Linux-friendly) nor a particular brand of cell phone (read: iPhone-and-iPad-only). On the minus side, it might’ve explained some of the issues I faced: a pair of “magnify” arrows on a pop-up menu didn’t keep the page enlarged, reverting back to its normal size after a few seconds. Pressing the space bar, however, worked fine. The digital comic image quality was quite excellent.

Purchases made are supposed to show up under “My Comics,” however, new purchases wouldn’t appear until I logged out and logged back in. Purchases are organized by the title of the comic (and its general logo, with an indicator how many issues are under each).

As for selection, Comixology has lots of companies (though one big one is missing: Marvel), but the selection leaves something to be desired. Due to not wanting to offend brick-and-mortar comic shops, the companies seem skittish on releasing digital comics either on the same date as paper ones or a fuller selection. Thus, the Archie comics were months-to-several-years old for the most part, as were various DC comics. Pricing was cheaper than paper ones, by a dollar or two. Archie recently did announce same-day digital for their comics (having few brick-and-mortar comic shops to offend—mine doesn’t carry them at all), so hopefully this also will extend to Comixology (vs. only the proprietary Archie iOS app).

As for the digital comics themselves, it seems the comic companies have learned nothing from the music industry (or fear offending their physical retailers), and insist on releasing digital comics in the most crippled manner possible. In Comixology’s case, you can read the comics online via a Flash-based interface in a web browser, or via an app for iOS devices (read: iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad). Not particularly open format-wise, nor do you actually get to own the comics (via a file on your computer)—you’re basically paying to “rent” them indefinitely. No indication what’ll happen to your purchases if, say, Comixology goes under. (An option to download the comic as a .PDF/.CBR/.CBZ file to your computer would be much better a solution, even if they feel compelled to charge an extra fee for such). Other competitors seem to have similar proprietary issues with their digital comics. Between this and the selection available, digital comics have a long way to go before things reflect the current state of digital music sales. *Legal* digital comics, of course—illegally, it’d be simpler to download (from Usenet/Bittorrent) any recent comic in a .CBR or .CBZ format, keep the file on one’s own computer, view it on any number of devices, and not worry about a digital comic store going under/not being Linux-friendly/only catering to Apple device owners.

Of course, the Usenet scenario for digital comics is the current situation for digital music stores like Amazon.com (where I can buy MP3s without digital-rights management, have a wide range of current material to choose from, and be able to use the MP3s how I wish on any of my devices), and Amazon seems to be doing just fine (as are the record companies, their teeth-gnashing aside). I feel the Amazon.com model is the way to go for digital comics’ future—mixing the advantages of downloading from Usenet (wide selections, no DRM, files in an open format, etc.) with the virtues of, well, actually being legal and compensating the writers and artists.

UPDATE (1/24/11): Via a Twitter tweet I received from Comixology, I’m told that Marvel *is* available, but only via the iOS app. There’s also an Android app now available. Better, I guess, even if the above proprietary problems remain.

22nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards outstanding comics nominees announced

Veronica #202 coverGLAAD, an LGBT media watchdog group, recently announced nominees for its annual media awards (for positive portrayals of LGBT characters). While animation unsurprisingly isn’t one of the nominated categories (given LGBT people are infrequently portrayed period and/or infrequently in a non-stereotyped manner in American animation), comic books are. Here’s their nominees for “outstanding comic book”:

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Scott Allie, Brad Meltzer, Joss Whedon (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Fogtown by Andersen Gabrych (Vertigo/DC Comics)
  • Veronica by Dan Parent (Archie Comics)
  • X-Factor by Peter David (Marvel Comics)
  • Young Avengers: Children’s Crusade by Allan Heinberg (Marvel)

A full list of nominees may be found here.

Nice to see “Veronica” is up for a nod. With Kevin Keller due to get a miniseries later this year, they might have another shot for next year as well. Imagine “X-Factor” and “Young Avengers” are also strong nominees (with gay characters or gay-friendly plotlines being featured in both). “Fogtown” is a hard-boiled detective series taking place in 1950s San Francisco. And “Buffy” is, well, “Buffy.”

Everything’s Archie…except the Comics Code

On the heels of yesterday’s news of DC Comics dropping the Comics Code comes another surprise announcement—Archie Comics is pulling out of the Comics Code as well:

Newsarama article on Archie’s dropping the Code

As I noted yesterday, Archie can easily get by without the code, as their current output is already family-friendly (Archie’s President in the article notes they aren’t about to “start stuffing bodies into refrigerators…,” in a pointed but amusing jab at DC). With Archie gone, the only remaining major publisher using the Code is Bongo, and I doubt they’ll bother to stick around for long, either. Either way, it looks like the Comics Code may as well fold up shop at this point, as it’s now pretty much dead.

UPDATE: Bleeding Cool reports that Bongo dropped the use of the Code a year ago, replacing it with an “All Ages” label instead. Apparently they didn’t make any fuss about it/nobody noticed. So with all the major players no longer using the Code, the Code is now deader than Elvis.

Anthony’s picks for DC Comics for April 2011

The All-New Batman: TBATB #6Time again for my picks and remarks about DC Comics for April 2011:

http://www.newsarama.com/comics/dc-april-2011-solicitations-110120.html

What I’ll be buying:

  • The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold #6, on sale April 13, $3
  • Tiny Titans #39, on sale April 20, $3

What I’ll consider buying:

None.

Comments:

This marks the first month of DC’s new post-Comics Code ratings system. As I predicted in my post on the subject, not a single DC title outside of the Johnny DC line is rated “E”; the majority are “T” (suitable for ages 12 and up), while some are T+ (suitable for ages 16 and up). Guess it confirms what we’ve all suspected of DC’s output—none of its mainstream material (not even a character like *Superman*) is deemed kid-friendly, which seems very short-sighted to me. (Even Marvel has *some* of its mainstream Marvel Universe titles as rated “A”, for readers 9 and up, along with the all-ages Marvel Adventures line.) It’s also quite at odds with (and divorced from the reality of) the kid-oriented media appearances of said heroes (in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” “Young Justice,” and reruns of “Justice League,” “Krypto the Superdog,” and “The Batman” that are still on TV). As of this month, the only superhero material DC makes that’s been deemed appropriate for grade-schoolers (aka their future readership) is “Tiny Titans,” “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” and “Young Justice” (two of them titles based on TV shows).

Oh, well… guess it’s a good thing my niece (age 8) seems to prefer “Betty and Veronica” over the DC heroes (much as I’ve tried to get her interested in “Tiny Titans”). Would hate having to explain to her why I won’t buy her a comic with Batgirl or Batman in it (other than their Johnny DC versions or older reprints)…

Back on-topic, “Tiny Titans” this month features Lois Lane (who I don’t think has shown up in this title yet), and “Batman:TBATB” features J’onn J’onzz and Clayface. “Young Justice” also continues publication.

In the mainstream books, the only trade paperback/reprint of older material of remote interest is “Infinity, Inc.”‘s first several appearances, though it comes at a rather steep $40 price tag. Wonder if/when they’ll get around to reprinting “All-Star Squadron”…