Friday, December 31, 2010

"10...9...8...7..."


My Thoughts Exactly!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 25: A Comic You'd Like To See Told In Another Medium

Reload

At one point in my past, a group of friends and I decided we wanted to create a television show.  This show would be set in a small town in Vermont.  The lead was a priest who had come to town after the previous priest was sent to the local insane asylum.  It was called "The Darkest Hour".

As the series progressed (we had mapped out the first season of 22 episodes and two 90-minute movies) we would have learned that an ancient evil was drawn to the town and was the source of a whole lot of trouble.  We would have also met the town's sheriff, his deputy and a few others who would become co-leads.

I am not as good a writer as the others, so I mostly adapted other works, including two or three unused scripts from "The Night Stalker", that would be used to flesh out some of the characters and the history of the town.

The character we created that fascinated me the most was Sheriff Alan Hanfield.  He had come to the small town of Addleton with a lot of baggage.  

After that chapter of my life ended, I came across this series.  I like a lot of Warren Ellis' work and this story was no exception.

After it had been completed, I adapted a screenplay that would let this story about the assassination of the President become Hanfield's back story.  I worked in opening and closing scenes that would allow Hanfield to become the lead.

I believe I have the screenplay sitting on the hard drive of the last computer I owned before our upgrade....actually, I think all of my "Darkest Hour" stuff is on there....




Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dorothy Mock Jones

Dorothy Mock JonesHartford, VT – Dorothy Mock Jones, 89, died December 21, 2010 at her home in Hartford. Dorothy was born September 26, 1921 on the family homestead in Hartford, VT, where she was raised. She was the daughter of Lester and Doris (Howard) Mock. She graduated from Hartford High School, class of 1939. She attended Posse School on a basketball scholarship and earned a B.S. degree in Physical Education at Temple University. Dot also coached and played semiprofessional basketball for the Bellows Falls Squaws; winning the New England tournament and qualifying for the national tournament.

Dot taught Physical education at Bellows Falls High School for 25 years and obtained a Master’s degree in guidance from Keene State College. Dot was director of guidance at Bellows Falls Elementary for 14 years.

An early equality advocate for women’s sports, Dot headed the move for the first girls state basketball tournament held in Springfield, VT. Dot was a very successful coach and also officiated for many years in basketball, softball and field hockey. The “Dot Jones” League for basketball was started in her honor with 8 participating schools. Ms. Jones was inducted into the Bellows Falls Hall of Fame.

After Dot retired from teaching, she served the town of Hartford for 17 years as lister and 9 years as a Hartford Town Library trustee. Dot is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, Eastern Star, the Upper Valley Community Grange, Vermont Retried Teacher’s Association, Hartford Women’s Club and Hartford Historical Society. Dot served as president of the Hartford Historical Society for many years. She had a strong sense of place; she was a true Vermonter. She valued her family, friends, home, her town and state. 

She is predeceased by her brother Colonel Richard Mock and his wife Louise (Keane) Mock and a nephew Peter Mock. 

Dorothy is survived by her special friend Lorna Ricard of Hartford, nieces Anne Whitman of Williston, VT and Susan Mock and her husband Daniel Freeman of Middlebury, VT; grandnephews Christian Mock and his wife Nancy, Justin Mock and his wife Jennifer; Marc Whitman and his wife Meredith, Lars Whitman and his wife Susan,  and Lee Freeman and his wife Kate; seven great-great nieces and nephews as well as many cousins and close friends. She is also survived by her aunt Florence Howard of Montpelier, VT. 

Friends may call at the Knight Funeral Home in White River Jct., VT Monday December 27, from 6-8 PM. A funeral service will be held Tuesday December 28 at 2 PM at the Greater Hartford United Church of Christ. Burial will be in the Hartford Cemetery. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to the Hartford Women’s Club, Box 331, Hartford, VT.

Monday, December 20, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 24: A Comic That Changed Your Life

Avengers Annual #10


I will admit that this comic did NOT change my life per se, but changed my thoughts on the characters and stories of my hobby.

This was one of the first comics I read that picked up dangling threads from other stories. It had lots of "guest-stars" and was worthy of being a "larger" issue.

Avengers #200 had come out in the summer of 1980.  In that story, super-heroine Ms. Marvel suddenly found herself pregnant.  She undergoes the whole 9 month pregnancy in the matter of a few days.  Her baby is born, grows to adulthood (calling himself Marcus) and seemingly poses a threat to the Avengers.  

While the story has subsequently garnered A LOT negative press, it ends with Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) joining Marcus in Limbo.

Sometime later, Avengers Annual #10 came out.  The gist of the story is that Ms. Marvel, in limbo, under Marcus' control, got to watch as Marcus' misalignment with the time stream caused him to age rapidly and die, leaving her stranded. Somehow she returned to our dimension, but upon her return Rogue stole her powers and memories, leaving her a miserable, empty, friendless shell. Therefore she attempted to throw herself off the Brooklyn Bridge and would have died but for Spider-Woman's intervention.

But the part of the story that changed my thinking was that the Avengers had failed Ms. Marvel.




It rocked my world.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

30 Days of Comics: Day 23: A Comic With A Good Death Scene

Uncanny X-Men #137


It is unfortunate that "death" in comic books has become such a cliche and it is unfortunate that it started because of this comic.  When this comic book came out, the death of a hero in comics was a rare thing. 

Jean Grey was a founding member of the X-Men.  While her early days were less than stellar (Snell has done a good job of finding some ludicrous use of her power HERE on his blog "Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep!"), she took a major turn and became one of the "big guns" in X-Men #100, shortly after the "new" X-Men arrived on the scene.

Her story played out over the next 37 issues, culminating here.  If you know comics, you know her story.  If you don't, all you need to know is absolute power corrupts absolutely and the power Jean Grey was given in issue 100 was absolute.  

Before the retcons and resurrections, the all too human Jean Grey could not control the power within her.  She made mistakes and her actions caused the death of  5 billion sentient beings.  She was sentenced to death.

In this issue, the X-Men fight to save her....to prove that she can be reformed and control the power.  

The X-Men are wrong.

As Jean Grey fights herself to remain human and control the power that rages within her she realizes that there is only one way to save herself, her friends, and possibly the entire galaxy.


Cyclops' wrap-up is talky by today's standards, but to me it is still powerful.  And like the "best" death scenes (see the runners-up below) it has been rendered moot...








Friday, December 17, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 22: A Comic With An Unusual Number

Astro City ½


Back before I started collecting again, Nan got me a subscription to Wizard.  One of the first issues had a list of the "Best" 100 Single Issues of Comics.  I figured hunting down some of these would be a great way to find out what I had been missing during my sabbatical.

SPOILERS:

This story is called "The Nearness of You".  In the story we meet a man named Mike Tenicek.  He is haunted by the memories of a woman named Miranda.  Unfortunately, he doesn't know the woman, but he knows everything about her, even dreams about her.

His "memories" begin to overwhelm him and start to interfere with his job and social life.  Even though he lives in "Astro City", where heroes and villains battle on a daily basis, all Mike can do is try to track down Miranda.  He is so convinced that he MUST have known her.  He asks his family and tracks down old friends in an effort to gain any help....but no one knows who he is talking about.

Mike decides to turn to sleeping pills in an effort to sleep and put his dream girl out of his head.  As he is about to up his dosage, he is visited by "The Hanged Man", a ghostly super-being who holds the answer to Mike's dilemma.  

The narration lets us in on The Hanged Man's words: "YOUR DREAMS TROUBLE YOU, AND IN TURN THEY TROUBLE REALITY.  YOU FEAR YOU ARE GOING MAD, YOU ARE NOT....I SHALL SHOW YOU."

Through The Hanged Man's narration (via flashback) we learn that after being defeated in 1943, a super-villain named The Time-Keeper was defeated.  Frustrated, he found a way to rip a hole in "The Time Barrier" and is confronted by Eterneon, Lord of Time.  A mind-blowing battle ensues where we see time torn asunder and rewritten and torn apart again.  In the space of 6 panels, we see time re-woven to the best of the heroes abilities.

We return to the present day and Mike realizes what happened.  "She died, didn't she?  I knew her, and she died in that...that maelstrom."  The Hanged Man replies, "SHE WAS YOUR WIFE, AND SHE NEVER EXISTED."

We understand that the "chronal reconstruction" was not exact.  Miranda was a casualty of the tampering with time.  The Hanged Man tells Mike that now that he knows this, Mike's mind can be at peace, and The Hanged Man can help ensure that Mike forgets both Miranda and this meeting.

Resurrecting Miranda's time line is not an option, but The Hanged man can give Mike the ability to forget Miranda and live the rest of his life in ignorance of the love they once shared, if the pain of the loss is too much for him to bear any longer.

Mike barely takes a moment to decline the offer.

The Hanged Man then shares that Mike and Miranda were only two of many "civilian" casualties.  He starts to leave to visit the others.  Mike suddenly asks him, "WAIT!  Others? What...uh...what do most people choose?  Do they forget or..."

"NO ONE FORGETS...NO ONE."  And The Hanged Man disappears..... 


My summary does not do the story justice.  I just love it.  All these stories I read, with the fantastic and the powers and the cosmic sprawling epic stories, it's a "love story" like this represents the "best" of what comic books can be.



Thursday, December 16, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 21: A Web Comic You Love

http://xkcd.com/




Not sure if this counts, but since it is the only comic I read on-line, I guess I will go with it.

I think I "get" about 35% of the published strips and about 15% of the alt-text associated with the strips.

I don't even remember how I stumbled across the site, but I am a day behind in these posts and I have been unable to think of any other web comic that has made an impact on me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 20: A Comic Book More People Should Read

Tiny Titans


Of all the comics I purchase on a monthly basis, this is the one with the lowest sales figures.  I know that ICv2's listings don't include sales to any place other than specialty shops, but this title is GOLD!  If my hobby is to have ANY hope of surviving into the next generation, this is the gateway drug that will help turn kids into full-fledged addicts.

When I started reading comics, the motto of the creators was that any issue could be someone's first.  So sometimes the dialog laboriously filled the reader in on what had been going on recently and who the characters were.  Re-reading some of the older issues from my youth now is painful, but for the most part I could give the comics to just about anyone to read.

Not so much these days.  The refrain I hear most is that comics are now written by fanboys for fanboys.  They are dark.  They are impenetrable to new readers.  They are not for kids.  While there are exceptions to this, it does seem to be the rule.

Tiny Titans is wonderful.  The storytelling is surprisingly nuanced.  The material is age appropriate but a treat to adults for its subtle nods and winks to us and to DC Comics' history.  All issues are "one and done".

And it helps that the artist, Art Baltazar, is one of the nicest professionals I have ever met.  My children each have autographed sketches from him, as well as some of his other works.

If you have a young one, especially one who is a struggling reader, Tiny Titans, as well as the rest of DC's line for younger children, is a MUST have.

The pictured issue sold 7,713 copies, ranking #197 of all sold comics last month.  The number one comic last month sold 99,545 copies.  I keep hearing 10,000 as a publishers "do or die" limit...the lowest comic to sell that was in #163rd place....

Monday, December 13, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 19: A Comic You've Sold

Invincible #1-4


Though I recently sold a slew of X-Men to finance our trip to Canada, sold a bunch of comics for credit at mycomicshop.com, and lots of others in the last few decades this was my most recent sale.

I picked this up when it first came out, thinking it was a mini-series ala Firebreather.  When it wasn't, I set it aside and forgot about it.  

When I started giving The Armchair Squid comics, I pulled this one out as something I remember liking but not enough to buy monthly.  I checked mycomicshop.com to see how much they would give me first (sorry, Squid) and discovered that this was Robert Kirkman's "other" book and sought after.

An eBay auction later and I have a little extra dough to spend on the kids this Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 18: A Comic You've Lost

Amazing Spider-Man #229

A long time ago, I nearly lost my entire collection.  There was a point in my life where walking away from EVERYTHING made more sense then staying in the situation I was in.  I walked and left my comics, toys, CDs, clothing, EVERYTHING behind in an attempt to make my life better.

When the ship got righted and the most glorious person I ever met convinced me it was time to be who I always wanted to be, I decided I wanted my comics back.

All my toys were gone, but I was told I could have my comics back....for a price.  Literally, for cash.

When I raised the money and got the books back, the only one I noticed missing was the above comic and the one after it.  I'm not sure why they were gone when so many more with "value" were left.  Perhaps I had recently purchased them and they were elsewhere and had been thrown away.  I'll never know.

I'm still unsure about re-buying them.  I know the story is well liked (and I do remember reading it) but for some reason they have never made it to any of my "Want Lists" when I go shopping.

"Thor" Movie Trailer

Saturday, December 11, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 17: A Comic You Should Have Bought

Giant-Size X-Men #1

The title of this post is somewhat misleading, as I never really had the opportunity to purchase this. I look at it like a "Holy Grail" of comics. I've read the story in other places but still think it would be cool, as a collector, to have a copy in my collection.

I sometimes look at the ads in old comics, especially for Mile High or Moondance, and see this and other books at somewhat reasonable prices. But then I remember the comic I am reading is decades old and I didn't have $50 in 1982, even for a Mint copy of this issue!!

I guess when push comes to shove I have been fortunate enough to be able to pick up the comics I covet when I see them. I still refuse to pay double digits for any single comic but I really have all the books I want. I occasionally read about an acclaimed run and will seek out the individual issues but all in all I am happy with my collection.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 16: A Comic You Own More Than One Copy Of

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #7

This is the only issue of this series that I own. I may have read some of the earlier ones, but if I have read this issue, it does not stand out for me. It is the second part of a four issue story arc. It has a manga-influenced look to its art, which is something I do not care for.

And I have a total of 12 copies of this comic book in my collection.

The reason is simple: my daughter.

Before my son was born, my little girl would do EVERYTHING for me. She wanted comic books and action figures and to watch baseball games and Star Wars with me.

She still does all of that, but from birth until some time after the above comic came out, comics were everything for her. So much so, she wanted to write a letter to the writer of this comic.

She composed a letter and with my help sent it off to Marvel. Her letter was printed in this issue. I tried to get a photo of her letter (as I have no scanner) but couldn't swing it (no pun intended).

It is a rambling letter. It reads like she is trying to be "grown up" and "serious". It is so "her".

Anytime I visit a new comic shop in my travels, I will look in their back issues and pick up a copy of this book.

I sometimes get these grand notions that my collection might mean "something" some day....not for any huge value but recognized for complete runs or conditions or...something. When I think about it being looked over and discussed after I am gone, I would love for there to be some puzzlement over the scores and scores of copies of this issue I eventually amass.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 15: A Comic You've Read But Don’t Own

Walking Dead: Volume 1
I accidentally discovered that the IT guy at my last school was a comic fan. He loaned me the first 4 or 5 volumes of this series to read. I am not a real zombie fan and as I have said non-superhero books usually leave me cold, but these were a fun read. I liked that not too much was given away and that NO characters were really safe.

Since I couldn't afford the single issues, I didn't pick the series up. I flirted with the idea of buying the collections, BUT I felt I needed to have them all (complete-ist mentality!) and buying the ones I had read didn't seem to make sense. My local library isn't carrying these so unless I make an occasional trip to Barnes and Noble, I'm not going to catch up.

I am half way through this "challenge" and am still enjoying it. I think I have missed two days. I had pre-written 6 or 7 of them and school got busy so I missed getting the next one out on time. Since moving to "daily" writing, I only missed this past Monday, which was a HORRIBLE day at school (Top 5 worst "school" days ever) and I couldn't muster the energy to write.

Long story short (too late!), there is more to come....

"All We Are Saying..."


1940-1980

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day of Infamy

From the address given by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., on December 8, 1941:

"[On] December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific."


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30 Days Of Comics: Day 14: A Comic You Own But Haven’t Read

Shadow #2

Again there are many comics that could fit in this category. I have a huge stack of recently purchased comics on my desk that I could explain why I bought them, but I expect them to be read in short order.

Also, my collection is littered with lots of freebies and giveaways from my days of ordering my monthlies on-line.

But the above comic has a little bit of a story and I don't think I will EVER read it.

Back around the time that Batman: The Dark Knight Returns came out, DC Comics announced Howard Chaykin was going to revamp The Shadow, moving him to contemporary times and making him "gritty". The series was going to only be available on the Direct Market and therefore, as I mentioned previously, it was only going to be available where my grandfather lived.

Once again David, Chris and I sent Gramps to Earth Prime Comics and he did his best, but we had missed issue #1. He got us each a copy of the only issue they had. It was a dark time for collector's in Vermont, as there were (and really still aren't) any competing stores. We had only a vague understanding of mail order options and obviously no internet so we all dropped the series.

But I kept this issue. I have gotten rid of other strays throughout the years and completed other series, but this one holds a special status and will always remain in my collection and remain an orphan.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 13: A Comic About Your Favorite Character

X-Men King Size Annual #4


If push comes to shove, my all time favorite character is Nightcrawler. There was something smooth and suave about him. I loved the look of the character. I loved the simplicity of his costume. I loved his power and the mystery that surrounded him.

There was a time when comic book companies would put out an "Annual" issue. It was usually bigger and better than what could fit into a monthly book. It was something to look forward to.

This annual was released in 1980. It came out shortly after the death of Jean Grey and just as Kitty Pryde had joined the team. It was written by regular X-Men writer Chris Claremont, with art by John Romita Jr and Bob McLeod.

In this story, Nightcrawler is celebrating his 21st birthday. A mysterious gift arrives. This gift is a trap and Nightcrawler is apparently killed. Shortly after, the rest of the X-Men and Doctor Strange are sent to Hell to free him.

I'm not doing the story justice. It is a loose take on Dante's "Inferno" and added a great deal to Nightcrawler's backstory. To my 13 or 14 year old mind, it "read" like something more than just a comic book. To this day, it remains one of my all time favorite single issues.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 12: Your Favorite Cover

Uncanny X-Men #175


This was a tough post.

According to the software I use, I have 7,953 comic books in my collection (of which 7,825 are "unique"). The software tracks just about EVERYTHING you could think of, including credits for creators.

I break down some of the categories thusly: If an artist penciled and inked the cover, he is listed as "Cover Artist" and if two different individuals penciled and inked, they get "Cover Penciller" and "Cover Inker" credits.

John Byrne is listed as "Cover Artist" for 263 of my comics, "Cover Penciller" for 107 and "Cover Inker" for 4, a total of 374 comics (about 5% of my whole collection!)

George Perez is listed as "Cover Artist" for 227 of my comics, "Cover Penciller" for 73 and "Cover Inker" for 17, a total of 317 comics (about 4% of my whole collection!)

No one else comes close. It made sense to look at their work....and there are LOTS of good covers from both of them....
X-Men 128 George Perez (p) Terry Austin (i)

X-Men 113 John Byrne (p) Bob Layton (i)

X-Men 137 John Byrne (p) Terry Austin (i)

Plus there are a slew of new comic book artists who produce work that is "art", just gorgeous paintings or dynamic action shots.....Joao Ruas, Alex Ross, Alex Maleev and James Jean come to mind.

But so many covers these days have little to nothing to do with the story inside.

Unlike the Uncanny X-Men 175 cover.

When I bought this issue, I had only been "officially" collecting for two or three months. I had no idea of the back story of this issue, having only bought three issues of the series. But I've always been wowed by this cover.

I love the colors, the action, and the fact that it does tie-in to the story inside. Of all the elements, I think the "claw" and the "rubble" are the most striking to me. Just glancing at the cover, you can pretty much figure out each character's abilities. You know who the "bad guy" is.

This cover was created by Paul Smith, who is often over-looked when mentioning the artists who drew the X-Men. I understand why when names like Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne and Jim Lee are attached to such a storied franchise. Smith only penciled 10 issues of the X-Men (#165-175, except #171) and he only worked 21 covers in my entire collection (17 on his own and 4 with someone else inking him).

Regardless, this is the cover that stands out for me when I think about my collection.

Friday, December 3, 2010

30 Days Of Comics: Day 11: A comic you bought because of the writer

Caper # 1

Similar to my last post, this was one of those comics I bought when money wasn't an issue.

A series that really caught my fancy when I came back was called "Exiles". It was sort of a "Quantum Leap" meets "What If" using a bunch of versions of different X-Men characters. I absolutely loved it and hunted down all the issues and added it to my monthly pull list.

At first I just recognized that I liked the stories. I eventually made note of the writer and poked around a little bit.

Judd Winick, as I would come to learn, was once a cast member on MTV's "The Real World: San Fransisco". From what little I know, this was a season that had both a virulent homophobic anti-Semite with poor hygiene as well as an HIV-positive individual. Winick, who is Jewish, ended up rooming with the HIV-positive Pedro Zamora. Both had run-ins with the "difficult" roommate (who was later evicted) and bonded. The story was chronicled in a comic entitled "Pedro and Me" which I subsequently read and does a MUCH better job explaining all of this!

So, long story short ("Too late!") I liked Winick's writing and was looking to expand my horizons as a comic fan. The premise of the series was intriguing and something I am glad I bought.

“Caper is a 12-issue creator owned maxi series that follows a thin familial line over three time periods,” Winick has said. “These are three separate stories, four issues a piece, each set in a different time period and each revolving around a particular crime oriented adventure.”

For some reason, Winick has become a divisive figure in comics. I like his stuff and am not sure why he is often ridiculed. I don't search him out anymore, but then again I don't search anyone out like I was once able to do.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

30 Days of Comics: Day 10: A comic you bought because of the artist

Solus #1

Many comics would fit into this category. When I first started collecting there were a handful of "hot" artists. I would tend to follow an artist on to a book because if the comic was pleasant to look at, then usually it made the story easier to enjoy. George Perez was one of those artists whose work was just GORGEOUS to look at.

When I got back in to collecting, it was the first time in my adult life that I was collecting when money wasn't a huge concern for me. Plus I had a VERY supportive partner who not only encouraged me getting back in to collecting, she made it almost impossible NOT to do it!

I missed the rise of CrossGen as a company and only have a passing knowledge of their (almost) inevitable implosion. The local comic store mentioned that this book was going to be done by Perez. I didn't think much of it.

My previous school sent me to New York City for a three day technology conference. On one of the afternoons, I walked most of Manhattan and hit every comic book store I could find. This was on the shelf at one of them so I picked it up.

I vaguely recall thumbing through it and my database indicates I purchased the second issue, but it obviously didn't grab me enough to continue with it.

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