Saturday, April 30, 2011

Comic Con News: Walt Simonson in Baltimore in August

information from the official press release . . .

Baltimore Comic-Con Welcomes Walter Simonson in Time for Thor Release

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - April 29, 2011 - Just in time for the release of Marvel Studio's motion picture Thor, which opens on May 6, 2011, the Baltimore Comic-Con is happy to announce classic Thor writer/artist Walter Simonson as a confirmed guest for this year's show. The show will take place August 20-21, 2011 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

Simonson is best known for his run on The Mighty Thor throughout the 1980s. His classic run was recently collected by Marvel in The Mighty Thor Omnibus by Walter Simonson, a massive tome which featured issues #337-355, #357-369, and #371-382, as well as the mini-series, Balder the Brave #1-4.Simonson Thor Omnibus

Simonson will be joining a host of other creators who have worked on the God of Thunder attending this year's show, including inker Mark Morales and colorist Laura Martin. Morales was nominated for the Harvey Award for Best Inker on Thor in 2008, 2009 and 2010, winning the Award in 2009. Martin was nominated for the Harvey Award for Best Colorist on Thor in 2008 and 2009, taking home the Award in 2008. Both artists were part of the creative team that reintroduced Thor and the other Asgardians into the Marvel Universe.

"Walter Simonson is one of the seminal creators to have both written and illustrated Thor," said Marc Nathan, show promoter of the Baltimore Comic-Con. "His work redefined the character in the '80s and with the release of Marvel Studio's Thor next week, the timing to revisit his run couldn't be better. We are thrilled to have him attending the show again this year."

          Other confirmed guests for the Baltimore Comic-Con including: Jason Aaron (Scalped, PunisherMAX); Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead); Cliff Chiang (Greendale); Frank Cho (Jungle Girl, Hulk); David Finch (Brightest Day, Batman: The Dark Knight); Ron Frenz (Spider-Girl); Mike Grell (Action Comics, The Pilgrim); Steve Hamaker (Bone); Jamal Igle (Supergirl, Zatanna); J.G. Jones (Doc Savage, DC Universe Legacies); Barry Kitson (Secret Invasion, Amazing Spider-Man); David Petersen (Mouse Guard); Brandon Peterson (Ultimate Vision, Strange); Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo); Jeff Smith (Bone, RASL); and Nick Spencer (Morning Glories, Iron Man 2.0).

This year's Baltimore Comic-Con will be held August 20-21, 2011. Convention hours are Saturday 10 AM to 6 PM and Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM. The ceremony and banquet for the Harvey Awards will be held Saturday night, August 21th.

About The Baltimore Comic-Con
The Baltimore Comic-Con is celebrating its 12th year of bringing the comic book industry to the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area. With a guest list unequaled in the industry, the Baltimore Comic-Con will be held August 20-21, 2011. For more information, please visit


Thursday, April 28, 2011

They Said it Better: Action Comics #900

Sorry posting on my part has been light lately. I have a stack of hardcovers to write about, but I'm still catching up from being out of town for a few days. Thanks, as always, to Mike for picking up the slack.

In the meantime, please enjoy this well-written review of Superman's triumphant return to Action Comics in #900. It's the culmination to Paul Cornell's Lex Luthor story and, in a way, it turns out that story was about Superman all along. I recommend the issue even to people who haven't been following the book since "New Krypton". (Though you should be, and the first hardcover is available now.) The Doomsday stuff is a bit of a distraction, but I look forward to Cornell's next move because he seems to get Superman perfectly. I have mixed feelings about the other stories in the book, which I'll let the reviewer get into below, but Geoff Johns' brief Legion story was a delight.

Matthew Meylikhov reviews Action Comics #900 for Multiversity Comics

More thoughts on Superman and Action Comics #900

Edited 5/1 to add: Of course, I wrote this before the citizenship thing blew up all over the place. Shame on the media and politicians for making a big deal out of this in what was not a slow news week, especially for people in the southern U.S.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Technology Update - - - Dark Horse + IDW digital apps

Some recent information from press releases . . . . .


           The Dark Horse Comics iOS digital app will be available for free download in the iTunes store. The app will feature the first issue of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction already pre-loaded into your collection. All users who have signed up for the Dark Horse Digital newsletter so far will also be able to download the full first issues of Criminal Macabre, Abe Sapien: The Drowning, and Joss Whedon's Fray for free! There are still two more comics yet to be unlocked and an iPad 2 up for grabs, so there is still time to visit to sign up for the digital newsletter.

Dark Horse Digital Countdown

          In addition to the iPhone and iPad, Dark Horse digital comics will be able to be read on any modern web browser.  A native Android app is currently in development. In the meantime, the Dark Horse digital store launches with hundreds of their most popular titles, including Mass Effect, Serenity, Conan, The Goon, Hellboy, BPRD, and more.

IDW ATTAINS PUBLISHING MILESTONE . . . . . . IDW Delivers Over One Million iPad and iPhone Comic Apps

           IDW Publishing today confirmed its leadership position in the digital comics world with the announcement of another major milestone - distribution of over one million apps on the Apple App StoreSM.   Demonstrating the breadth of IDW's overall digital strategy, more than three million IDW digital comics have been distributed across all platforms worldwide.

          IDW Publishing was one of the first major comics publishers to step into digital distribution. IDW digital comics are presently available for more mobile devices and platforms than any other major publisher, including the Apple AppStoreSM, Sony Digital Comics for the PSP, the Nokia Ovi Store, Amazon's KindleStore, the AT&T AppCenter® and BlackBerry's AppWorldTM, with more to be announced throughout 2011. The IDW digital comics catalog includes single issues and graphic novels,all formatted for tablets, phones and game devices, with titles ranging from top licensed brands to fan-favorite creators. IDW also offers comics through several partners, including iVerse,, and For-Side.


Friday, April 15, 2011

The next flag captured

Another event of note for the BC Refugees blog site!
Sometime between April 14 and 15 the number of views on our site passed the 20,000 mark.
Onward and upward.
Should I anticipate the 25,000 plateau within the next 30 days? Or longer?
I'm not feeling confident enough to predict anything right now - - but I'll be watching.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rondo Hatton Award Winners for 2010 - best in classic horror

From Arlington, Virginia comes news of the winners in the 9th Annual  Rondo Hatton Awards for the best in classic horror of 2010. This information provided by David Colton, a key member of the Hatton Awards organization:
BEST HORROR COMIC BOOK = THE WALKING DEAD, by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard





BEST FILM OF 2010 = THE BLACK SWAN                                                                                  

Runners-up: INCEPTION; THE WOLFMAN.     Honorable mention: LET ME IN


Runner-up: DOCTOR WHO.     Honorable mentions: SHERLOCK; TRUE BLOOD





BOOK OF THE YEAR = THE ART OF HAMMER:Posters from the Archive of Hammer Films, by Marcus Hearn

Runner-up: CONFESSIONS OF A SCREAM QUEEN, by Matt Beckoff.  Honorable mentions: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever, by Joe Kane .     RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Master of the Majicks, Vol. 3, by Mike Hankin.     FORRY: The Life of Forrest J Ackerman, by Debbie Painter.     HOUSE OF ACKERMAN: A Photographic Tour of the Legendary Ackermansion, by Al Astrella, James Greene


Runners-up: Trailers from Hell;; Universal Monster Army.  Honorable mentions: Dr. Gangrene's Chiller Cinema; Count Gore de Vol's Creature Features; Horrorhost Graveyard


Runners-up: The Drunken Severed Head; Terror from Beyond the Daves; Video Watchblog. Honorable mentions: The Good, the Bad, and Godzilla; Final Girl; Cinema Suicide; Monster Magazine World

The full listing and additional information can be found at:

FEAR ITSELF Prologue - - The Book Of The Skull

FEAR ITSELF: BOOK OF THE SKULL #1 (Marvel One-Shot, May 2011)  Ed Brubaker, writer.  Scot Eaton, Penciler.  Mark Morales, Inker.  Sunny Gho of IFS, colorist.  Joe Caramagna, lettering & production.  Marko Djurdjevic, cover art.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK revived the filmic pulp tradition and brought us one of the most exciting prologues/lead-ins to a movie in recent memory. Through the cine-magic of co-directors Spielberg and Lucas we were riveted to the screen and couldn’t wait for the main story to begin. In similar fashion, magicians Brubaker and Eaton use FEAR ITSELF PROLOGUE: BOOK OF THE SKULL to whet our appetite for the mini-series to begin.

The descent into the secret desert lair of the Red Skull during the opening moments of this story reminds me of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK as well. There are many similarities throughout this book—the desert setting in Egypt, the WWII background with the presence of Nazis (the ultimate villains), the unworldly atmosphere as an ancient artifact/entity (possibly a weapon, or an awakened demon/god) is sought for and discovered, and the implications of what it means for the outcome of the War as well as the future of the planet. There are also some unsettling and creepy images/events in BOOK OF THE SKULL that remind me of THE EVIL DEAD film—human sacrifice, ancient tomes bound in flesh, a mythic text that awakens eternal spirits, etc. I believe I read something about Ed Brubaker that mentioned his interest in films of a pulp and noir nature—and that influence can be seen here.  My son Dave also reminded me of another 1991 film OPERATION CONDOR, a Jackie Chan martial arts action movie that featured a secret Nazi underground base in the Egyptian desert!


BOOK OF THE SKULL also reminds me of Brubaker’s fine body of work on CAPTAIN AMERICA (who is also featured here, but not in the main spotlight). This reads like a CAPTAIN AMERICA book and is just as entertaining—in your face action, brief but insightful glimpses of character traits and values, an implication of world in peril that enhances the sense of history behind the characters and their connection to WWII, and Brubaker’s patented story methods that utilize suspense and pacing to keep us turning pages right up until the end.

Scott Eaton’s fine artwork also reminds me of the CAPTAIN AMERICA book, as if he took some cues from the dynamic realism of Steve Epting’s work on this title. The panel placement and the use of dark borders/background also reinforce that feeling. In fact, this book could have been re-titled CAPTAIN AMERICA #615.2 and I wouldn’t object to that. I should also mention Djurdjevic’s perfectly symbolic and evocative cover image.

I’d rather not summarize the story and potentially take some of the fun away from you.  Here are a few things you can look forward to:

  • Some wonderful action scenes as Baron Zemo and Sin, with guns a ‘blazing, battle the Red Skull’s still active Nazi robots in the secret underground site of the buried treasure.
  • Sin’s thoughts/memories as she takes out one robot after another – -  “All you kept hidden, my hated father…your darkest secrets and plans…now they will be mine. You never saw that…how I was made for this…how blood and violence and screaming…to me…they’re like returning to the womb.  And when you died, father…Steve Rogers wasn’t the only one who was reborn.”
  • The background tale from 1942 Germany featuring Captain America, Bucky and Namor as they thwart the Red Skull’s plans for the newly discovered artifact.
  • The pride and rage that constantly flows through the veins of Namor and the calm, cool and focused manner of Captain America no matter how unsettling the situation is.
  • And back to more prophetic thoughts from Sin: “Are you watching from your pit in Hell, father?  Do you understand now? That it was always my destiny…never yours. The Red Skull’s failure will be his daughter’s triumph…and I will reshape this world.”

I always approach these “events” from comics publishers with a sense of foreboding, as if I’m about to get sucked into a marketing whirlpool of hype and promises that sometimes flattens out with little impact as it ends. Nevertheless, I await the future issues of FEAR ITSELF. I took the bait.

There is an absolutely stunning video to promote FEAR ITSELF from MTV of all places.  I tried to embed it here for your viewing but I lack the technical computer skills to pull that off.  Hopefully, you can find it by using the link below.  Maybe it will even take you there if you click on it  (no promises, though).

This review appeared in a slightly altered but similar format on the Captain Blue Hen website on Wednesday, April 7, 2011 . . . . .

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Randomizer 04/07/2011 – Sherlock + Grimm Myths

SHERLOCK HOLMES: YEAR ONE #3  (Dynamite Entertainment, 2011) “The Twelve Caesars, Part Two” - - Written by Scott Beatty.  Illustrated by Daniel Indro.  Colored by Tony Avina.  Lettered by Simon Bowland.  Covers by Francesco Fancavilla, Aaron Campbell, Daniel Indro.

Sherlock #3 imageHandler

This work by the team of Beatty and Indro just gets better and better, especially the art.  The splash page showing a victim being strangled at the top of some steep stairs and then hurtling down those stairs towards the bottom of page 2 is delightfully depicted.  The vivid details of the art in this book are a wonder.  I can only imagine how much time Indro must have spent putting the finishing touches on these great looking pages.  Beatty continues to build an intriguing storyline as more victims are discovered in London, all with cryptic notes attached to them that are written in Latin.

The side plot revolves around Watson trying to uncover more  information on the mysterious Sherlock Holmes. While having lunch with a constable he learns of a disastrous ship explosion that may be connected to Holmes as well as some past friends (male and female) with questionable backgrounds.  Meanwhile Holmes is figuring out the connection that links the recent spate of three murders - - all linked to Caesar – and determining there will be nine more.   This book is a lot of fun.  If you are a fan of either Sherlock Holmes or RUSE you will not be disappointed by SHERLOCK HOLMES: YEAR ONE.

GRIMM FAIRY TALES: MYTHS & LEGENDS  #3  (Zenoscope Entertainment, March 2011)  Story by Raven Gregory, Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco.  Written by Raven Gregory.  art by Novo Malgapo.  Colors by Jason Embury.  Color Consultation by Neil Ruffino.  Letters by Jim Campbell. 

grimm 3

Events become even more violent, bloody, and graphic in Issue #3.  This is not a book for younger readers - - not because of the “skin” that Zenoscope has a reputation for -  but rather for the vividly drawn scenes of carnage including severed and torn limbs, decapitation, etc.   But this is much more than just a “splatter” or “slasher” book.  It’s exploring the modern horror story while paying tribute to EC and other horror comics of the 50’s/60’s while linking it to some other myths and legends (godlike women and ferocious mammoth-sized werewolves). 

There’s a power failure at the institute for troubled youth while the were-creature roams the halls in search of prey and the elusive counselor with a connection to the legend of Red Riding Hood.  More patients and inmates go down as the creature starts picking them off in search of its desired prey.  Meanwhile, more creatures lurk outside the gated compound as if waiting for more mayhem to ratchet things up a tad.  This is a very well-done book and story and art complement each other.   I’m enjoying this even though it’s moving slowly - - it would be a better read in a continuous trade paperback  - - but I’m too impatient to wait for that.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Books I Read: What If? Dark Avengers

I'm a great fan of the "What If?" concept; I own all 7 volumes (so far) of "What If? Classic". But the end-of-year "What If?" specials from the last few years haven't impressed me much, with the exception of the Jessica Jones one where her "What If?" life was actually better than her real life at the time. The 2010 batch has just been collected, so let's see if they did a better job this year.

I was excited for "What If Tony Stark Had Become Doctor Doom" because it's written by the old school team of David Micheline & Bob Layton, but I was disappointed. The change in the timeline didn't have enough basis for me, and I didn't think the story made sense internally: Why would Doom-as-Tony design an Iron Man style armor instead of a Doom style armor and vice versa? It's great to see Batman artist Graham Nolan back in the game, though.

Better for me was "What If Wolverine Had Raised Daken?" by Rob Willams and Greg Tocchini. The story results from a little tweak to the original, which I like, there's some suspense to how Daken is going to turn out, and it's got the classic "What If?" tragic twist.

"What If Spider-Man Killed Kraven The Hunter?" is one of the best looking stories in the book, drawn by regular Spider-Man artist Paul Azaceta. Writer Mark Sable wisely turns the story on a single split-second decision, but Peter spirals out of control so fast that it strains credibility. This one probably would have worked a little better with a few more pages.

"What If Hawkeye Killed Norman Osborn?" is the best plotted story in the book. Jason Henderson's story has room to breathe, nobody's out of character, and events proceed logically but surprisingly. There's a bit with Clint's middle name that I particularly like. On the downside, the dialogue isn't great ("You can't hide from the Spider, buddy.") and Sana Takeda's art is a touch too much towards anime for this story.

"What If Venom Possessed Deadpool?" was the backup story in the individual issues, so it feels like it goes on forever when put together here. It's not nearly as funny as Rick Remender seems to think it is, unfortunately, though I laughed at the Billy Ocean and Highlander jokes. (Which may say more about me than about the story, come to think of it.)

I was looking forward to "What If Norman Osborn Won the Siege of Asgard?" because it sounds like an interesting idea and Marc Guggenheim is one of my favorite writers, but it turns out this is one of those cases where the flip side of the "real" story is not that interesting. Basically, Norman wins and a lot of people get killed. There's nothing wrong with the writing, it's just that for me the premise didn't go anywhere. Dave Wilkins' art is good, but I thought the coloring made it look too garish instead of giving the painted look I think they were going for.

Stan Lee's "What If the Watcher Killed Galactus?" is surprisingly serious, given the goofy takes he's been doing on his characters lately, and it works. Former FF penciller Dale Eaglesham does a great job, as you'd expect. His two-page spread of the council of Watchers is especially nice.

The bonus features are well tailored to a fan like me: an interview with Roy Thomas about how "What If?" was created, a list of some favorite "What If?" stories by Marvel creators, a reprint of one of their favorites: Frank Miller's "What If Elektra Had Lived?" (in which the Watcher is kind of a dick, I discovered upon rereading), a complete cover gallery of all 200 issues, and some of Dale Eaglesham's pencils from the Watcher story.

A mixed bag, to be sure, but overall I liked this better than previous years' offerings.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

They Said It Better: Jimmy Olsen One-Shot

I may have talked about this series a little when it was the backup in "Action Comics", but now these stories have been collected with the unpublished chapters to tell the story of a week in Jimmy Olsen's life. These were my favorite Superman-related stories in a while, and writer Nick Spencer manages to modernize the character while retaining his goofy charm. There's a touch of romantic comedy between Jimmy and Chloe Sullivan (not Lucy Lane; "We don't talk about Lucy," says Jimmy), and Spencer invents a rival for Jimmy that helps drive the stories and show us what kind of guy Jimmy is. R.B. Silva's art is grounded enough to support the comedy, but expansive enough to cover stories that include aliens and such.

CBR's Greg McElhatton gave the book a 5-star review, and I totally agree.

It seems unlikely that this will get into a trade, since it's so short and there isn't really another place to put it -- can't see it going in a JMS Supes volume, for instance -- so I recommend getting this from your local comic shop or mail order vendor while you still can.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Comic biz news briefs - - - Monsterverse April 04, 2011

Last year was a better than normal year for horror comics, and one new entry that excited me with it’s debut issue and the promise of even better things to come was BELA LUGOSI’S TALES FROM THE GRAVE #1 from Monsterverse Entertainment.

I’m happy to learn that new issues of this title are coming in 2011.  Issue #2 is set for a July release and will be featured in the MAY PREVIEWS from Diamond.  Cover art was completed by famed make-up artist Rick Baker and it is stunning.  The L.A. TIMES previewed the art on its online page, which you can access here . . . . . . . .

A re-listing of  Issue #1 will also be solicited in the MAY PREVIEWS.  Another new issue is planned for Halloween 2011, a special holiday editon of BELA LUGOSI'S TALES FROM THE GRAVE, as well as publication of the highly anticipated horror graphic novel, FLESH AND BLOOD, from creators Robert Tinnell and Neil Vokes.  (Neil Vokes is also making a local appearance at Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark ,Delaware on Free Comic Book Day – Saturday, May 7th.)

Books I Read: Thorvalanche!

Marvel doesn't want people to forget there's a Thor movie coming out in a couple of months, and they've been releasing an unprecedented number of Thor collections so that moviegoers will have a choice at their local bookstore. Assuming their local bookstore is not a Borders. (Too soon?)

Mighty Thor Omnibus Vol. 1: This is the grandaddy of all Thor collections, of course, featuring the original stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby from "Journey Into Mystery" 83-120. I admit to not rereading most of the stories in this volume -- there's a lot of other stuff in the to-read pile and I remember most of these from reprints when I was a kid -- but they look great oversized and recolored on nice paper. The issues are complete, including letters pages but not ads, even including the "Tales of Asgard" backups that were recently collected separately. There are a few Stan Lee essays, some from previous collections, scattered throughout the book and there's a cover gallery of those reprint volumes I mentioned. Worth having on the shelf if you can get it at a discount and don't already have the issues collected elsewhere.

Thor The Mighty Avenger Vol. 1 & 2: I've talked about this book before, and there's praise for it all over the 'net so I won't repeat too much other than to say if you have even a touch of whimsy in your soul you should check this Reuben award nominated book out. Yeah, I wish the collections weren't undersized, and that they were in one volume, and that the upcoming Free Comic Book Day issue was included, and that the darned thing didn't get cancelled in the first place, blah, blah, blah, but this is genius work from Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee and I'm thrilled it exists. From the trailer, the movie looks to be on a grander scale than this book, but similar enough in tone that I bet people who like the movie will relate to this well. Both volumes include a couple of original "Thor" stories from "Journey Into Mystery", which seems a little reader-confusing to me given that it's a different interpretation of the character.

Ultimate Comics Thor HC: Why, yes, it's a third version of Thor, this time telling the origin of the Ultimate universe Thor by Jonathan Hickman. This is really well done, as Hickman tells the story in three time periods: ancient Asgard, 1939, and the present day leading up to "Ultimates" #1. It's complex without being as intricate as Hickman's "FF" or "Secret Warriors" and there are plenty of surprises for readers used to the Marvel Universe history. As a Teutonic deity, it's logical for Thor to be involved in WWII, which is a concept that Roy Thomas also played with back in "Invaders". No knowledge of other Ultimate continuity is required, though there's lots for readers of "Ultimates" to appreciate, and Carlos Pacheco's art is excellent as always. Highly recommended.

Thor: First Thunder TP: And we're back to the Marvel Universe for a modern retelling of Thor's origin and first year on Earth. These kinds of things can go either way: either they add another level of meaning to the original (Joe Casey's "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes") or they drag on so interminably that you appreciate what Stan & Jack were able to accomplish in 8 pages (Joe Casey's "Avengers: The Origin"). This volume leans more towards the latter, unfortunately. Writer Bryan J.L. Glass and artist Tan Eng Huat, whose full names only appear on the back cover (the stories are oddly uncredited inside for some reason), do get from Don Blake to Thor in the first few pages, I'll give them that. However, after that there's a lot of running around and shouting that doesn't really add much to the original stories, and the finale shows Thor in such a bad light that it's not credible that he was allowed to join the Avengers afterwards. Glass plays the Blake/Thor relationship in the JMS mold, where they co-exist inside Thor's head. I don't mind that bit of historical revisionism so much, but Glass uses it to add a parallel by having Blake complain about his father, who (as far as I know) doesn't really exist since Blake was originally a construct of Odin. Huat, whose work I liked on John Arcudi's "Doom Patrol", seems rushed here to the point where in the last issue the Thing is drawn almost the same as one of the Stone Men from Saturn in the origin story. Even given that this is the early, lumpy, Thing that's a stretch. I can't recommend this, unfortunately.

Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn HC: I left Avengers books off this list deliberately, but this is pretty Thor-centric and has some subtle ties to the Hickman book above. I didn't care for Jeph Loeb's previous Ultimates mini much, but he plays much more to his strengths here with each issue narrated by a different (sometimes surprising) character. It gives the book a tone more like "Spider-Man: Blue" or "Daredevil: Yellow" without sacrificing the over-the-top in-your-face nature of the Ultimates. Frank Cho's art here is my favorite from him ever, equally nailing the big battles and the small emotional moments. If I had one criticism, it's that there are a few too many characters -- there's no reason for Ka-Zar and Shanna to be involved except that Cho probably wanted to draw them, for instance -- but overall this is good stuff. The hardcover also includes a massive fold-out of Cho's interlocking covers for the series.

Thor: Siege Aftermath TP: Oh, look, I've reviewed these issues (#611-614) already:
Rather than keeping things in limbo until Matt Fraction is ready, Kieron Gillen chose to use his post-Siege issues to tell a sweeping epic called "The Fine Print". The deals that Loki made with Hela, Mephisto and the Disir resonate even after his death, and Thor is forced to journey to Hell to save what's left of the Asgardian afterlife. There's some really beautiful character work in this arc. Gillen remembered something about Thor's mother that I had forgotten and used it to great effect, and the ending revelation about Loki's motives and how they affect one of the major characters from the JMS run took my breath away. My only (extremely) minor quibble is that there wasn't much room for Don Blake in Gillen's Asgard-centric run, and I hope Fraction uses him more. I think the book works best when there's a balance. This arc is getting collected in November with some 1966 Thor issues, and I highly recommend it.
Those classic Thor issues (actually from 1970) turn out to be an unexpected treat because they're drawn by Neal Adams. An alternate "Women of Marvel" cover and some of Doug Braithwaite's pencils, which I should have mentioned before are spectacular, are also included.

Thor: Godstorm HC: This Kurt Busiek and Steve Rude miniseries from the beginning of the century finally gets a collection, and a nice oversized one at that. Busiek's story of a sentient storm that defies Thor's will across the ages is light and engaging, and doesn't require any knowledge of continuity (though it works within it.) Rude's art is at it's Kirbyest here, which works well and looks great on the bigger pages. His painted covers are especially beautiful. Because the tone is similar, this might be a good volume to give to any "Thor: The Mighty Avenger" fans that are sad that book is gone, but aren't interested in the regular book.

Thor: The Warriors Three HC: Not the current Bill Willingham miniseries, this instead is a collection of Marvel Fanfare stories by Alan Zelenetz ("Alien Legion") and Charles Vess. Back in the '80s, "Marvel Fanfare" was an anthology title meant to display great artists who might not otherwise have time to do a Marvel book. Vess, who you might know from Neil Gaiman's "Books of Magic", "Sandman" and "Stardust", doesn't disappoint: the pages of each stand-alone story are gorgeous. An oversized hardcover would have been nice, but it's something of a minor miracle that these stories are collected in the first place, so I won't complain. The book opens with the Warriors' first full-length solo tale from a 1976 issue of "Marvel Spotlight". The story, by Len Wein and John Buscema, is a little dated but fun as the Warriors, left on their own in Manhattan, find a damsel in distress and accumulate a motley band of New Yorkers as they help her. (Fandral to cabbie: "Thou art a most valiant man indeed, Myron J. Maxwell, but thy place is here, in the defense of the fair lady!")

Thor: The Quest for Odin HC: These 1977 stories are interesting to me because they're from after the Stan & Jack era, and after I started reading comics, but apparently before I discovered Thor because they're not familiar to me at all. (I may not always be able to come up with details of things I read long ago off the top of my head, but if I see something I can always tell you if I've read it before.) Written by Len Wein and mostly drawn by Walt Simonson (!) and John Buscema, these stories feature Thor, Sif and the Warriors Three boarding a giant wooden sailing vessel (which I am not making up) and sailing from Asgard into space to look for the Doomsday Star where Odin allegedly is. Along the way, they encounter such luminaries as the Stone Men from Saturn, the Kree Recorder, the Destroyer and the Grey Gargoyle while Balder and the Norn Queen deal with the Enchantress, the Executioner and (surprise!) Loki back home. What can I say, it was the '70s. The stories are fun enough and my 10 year-old self probably would have enjoyed them, as would kids today, but for grown-ups I can't recommend this for other than nostalgia reasons.

Thor: Worldengine HC: In 1995, Marvel hired Warren Ellis to revamp Thor. Not, according to his introduction, "one of those revamps where Everything You Knew Before Was Wrong" but "one of those revamps where Everything You Knew Before Isn't quite so interesting as What's Happening Now". Ellis takes us inside Thor's head for the first time by having him narrate in plain English, and amps up the Norse mythology while at the same time stranding Thor on Earth. I still like this, but I wasn't as impressed on this reading as I was when these issues originally came out. The pace is awfully slow, and it's got yet another chain-smoking Englishman with a bad attitude in it. Mike Deodato's art remains excellent, however. A "Journey Into Mystery" reprint issue is also included, because this is apparently required by law.

Thor: The Lost Gods TP: (Warning: Does not contain Thor.) From Warren Ellis' promising start above, we get this mess. Somehow I missed (or wisely avoided) this 1996 version of "Journey Into Mystery" that took place while Thor was tied up with "Heroes Reborn". Because of the events of "Worldengine", the Norse gods have been scattered across the Earth (well, mainly New York) in mortal guises without their memories, and replacement Thor Red Norvell has to seek them out and restore them. (Sound familiar, JMS fans?) Though I often like Tom DeFalco's work ("Spider-Girl", "Thunderstrike") this is not his finest hour, and it's not helped by "Deodato Studios" drawing everyone in unfortunate '90s fashions (rollerblades? really?) with their giant unfortunate '90s butts sticking out every which way. Hard to believe this lasted 11 issues. Pass.

Thor: The Death of Odin TP: These books never work out well for Odin, do they? Poor bastard. Anyway, I've read the latter half of Dan Jurgens' run, but these stories were new to me. I thought they were weaker than the later issues, which I really liked at the time. Things start to come together about halfway through the book when Stuart Immonen takes over the art, but there's still a lot of space spent on "inside baseball" stuff like how the Thor/Jake Olsen transformation technically works, how he heals from injuries etc. Decent stuff, and worth having if they collect the rest of Jurgens' run, but not amazing.

Thor vs. Hercules TP: An anthology of Thor/Hercules battles, starting way back with their first one in 1965's Thor Annual #1 and going all the way through Thor's "Incredible Hercules" appearance. Like all anthologies, it's a bit uneven, but the stories here are generally good. I'm partial to the "Incredible Herc" story (though I already have it collected), but my other favorites were the Steve Englehart/John Buscema story from 1976, the Bob Harras/Jackson Guice fill-in from the Walt Simonson era, and the two included issues of Mike Oeming & Scott Kolins' "Blood Oath" (the full collection of which is out of print, according to Amazon.)

Also available is the Thor by J. Michael Straczynski Omnibus, containing his entire run on the book including the anniversary issue and the finale issue. I talked about those individual issues when they came out, so I won't go into them again. (But I liked them a lot.) There's also a Thor Spotlight out, containing the usual spotlighty features like interviews with Matt Fraction, Kieron Gillen, Robert Rodi and Dan Jurgens but very little about the movie even though the issue has a Chris Hemsworth photo cover.

Captain America product is starting to roll in too, including some more Omnibuses (Omnibi?) (I may have used that joke before), so I'll be back to talk abut those books soon.

Friday, April 1, 2011

March Madness - - I survived it ! ! ! = THE BIG REVEAL


I’m not talking about the NCAA College Basketball Tourney here.  However, I did participate  in a “pick ‘em” league for pure fun and bragging rights (no monetary rewards)  and tanked after two rounds.  All my picks (high-seeded teams as well) got knocked off.  When we got to the Final Four I only had one team left (Connecticut) with little chance of picking up any more points in my fantasy league. ( I picked Ohio State and Pitt for the final game, with Pitt the victor.)  I really don’t know what I was thinking when I entered this contest and felt I had a good change to pick up the most points.

I had a similar “what are you thinking?” moment when I set a personal goal for the month of March.  What made me think that I would be able to post something to this web site every single day in the month of March 2011?   Yet, that is exactly what I determined to try and do some 32+ days ago. And, with a few exceptions, that daily content has been an actual review.

beer dog

I’m relieved and glad it’s over.  There were days when I felt too tired to do this  --  and I pushed myself. There were days when I put something else off in order to get some content on this site - - and they are not things that I could or would neglect on a regular basis.  I’ve got plenty of catching up to do at many levels right now. 

I’m an aspiring writer.  It’s a hobby of mine, and this website has been a great outlet for me to post my writings on a regular basis.  In addition to comics, I’d like to write about music, movies, books - - and even attempt some short-story writing.  I’ve often heard that if you want to become a writer you have to read within your genre of choice and also write something every day.   I’ve often been in agreement with that philosophy but found it difficult to pull off every single day.  So, for starters I wanted to see if I could do that for at least one single month.  I’ve also read and heard that doing something repetitively and consistently is the way that you build a new habit.

Have I learned anything from this experiment?   Oh yeah, and then some!                                                            I’ll need to answer this in two parts. 

Here’s PART ONE:   I now know that I can actually do something like this - - and it helps build a sense of confidence in my abilities.  Also, after writing every day it becomes easier to do and starts to require less time.  Additionally, doing this every day has made it easier and quicker to also gather my thoughts and not meander around trying to figure out how to start an article, etc.  And,  I realize that I love this type of work!  Which leads directly to  . . . . . .

PART TWO:  I’m giving up my day job and reducing it from a full-time salaried position to a part-time consultant (at higher fees, naturally) in the same industry.  That frees me up more time to devote to writing . . and to reveal what else is in the works for yours truly - - - a potential gig with a major comics publisher.


I’ve been trying to make contacts within the industry and have been somewhat successful in that certain E.I.C.s have been visiting this website and scrutinizing my work.  It’s worked like an on-display audition for me.   Through some e-mail correspondence I’ve elicited some serious attention as well as some serious responses to challenge me further.  A comment was made to me  that “you know working in comics requires incredible discipline and often long hours and long days.  It can become a grind – but you still have to grind it out.”   . . . . . . . .  My work here in the month of March has been my answer - - my way of showing that I can do it.  And I made that undisclosed interviewer aware of my goals in February.  I really kept what I was doing under the radar with a few exceptions.

So, if all works as planned  - - sometime before the end of 2011 you may actually be able to read some well-known superhero and horror titles scripted (or assisted) by me.  I can’t steal the publishers thunder by giving specific details before their own press releases get out - - but some more changes are scheduled to occur.  My stories will be single issue super-hero team adventures, often with a moral or revelation at the close.  Many story arcs will conclude and cross-over events wrap up  - - as the publisher reverts to stand alone tales in order to encourage people to try more titles as well as not distress new readers (who often object to having to buy more and more books to complete a story).

Also, some of the books I’ll be taking over are written by a very popular creator with 3 famous initials (starts with B, ends with B).  He has also expressed an interest in walking away from these titles and trying something different.  Rumor has it he will be involved with re-boots of once popular books, also focused on single issue tales.  I can actually tell you their names because the characters and titles are going to be “morphed” a little bit to more suit this writer’s style.  ( Two Gun Kid, Night Nurse, and a new version of Planet Terry). 

Lastly, I’ll be working on a brand new title utilizing some scripting techniques that have worked successfully for recent cartoon movies - - make them for children but add content that adults will understand so that they can enjoy the film along with their kids.  First title to debut will be THE ULTIMATE AMAZING ASTONISHING SPYDER-FLEA.  In one upcoming story, the UAASF is attracted to an unusual scent and travels below the belt/south of the border into a type of Bermuda Triangle, where he enters the Pubic Forest and skirmishes with the incredible micro crab lice of the scheming Dr. STD.   Another story has Spyder-Flea being drugged and abducted by a traveling flea circus where he is made to perform on command.

Of course, I intend to keep posting articles right here on the BC REFUGEES blogspot.  I hope that you will check out some of the new things coming up that I will be involved with.  I’d do the same for you.  Just kidding, friends . . . . . Happy April 1, 2011 to you . . . . may the “fool”  be with you (all day).