Podcast - Episode 42: Vertigo and Shelly Bond

What a god damn week, huh?

We thought we'd talk about Vertigo Comics this week, with the announcement of DC's "restructuring" of the imprint and the firing of CEO Shelly Bond. Because seriously, DC. What the hell?

We also talk about one of my least-favourite people on Earth, Eddie Berganza. Who is STILL EMPLOYED BY DC!!!!

I posted the super dumb DC Nation column he wrote in 2007 on Twitter this week. Here it is, in iPhone photo format:

Cool stuff, E.

So anyway. That guy sucks.

I wrote a post on this blog about the Minx comics line when it folded back in Sept 2008. It expands on some of the things I mention on this episode. If you like there is also a little interview I did with Mariko Tamaki about her Minx book, Emiko Superstar. Shelly Bond gets some love in that interview. And here is a post that Dave wrote in 2009 about the Vertigo Crime line.

But enough about things we wrote. Let's instead talk about shirts Chris Evans wore. In particular, this one, which he wore in Singapore:

I'm just saying a sudden downpour would not have been unwelcome.

Also important this week, Chris hugging Sebastian:

Sebastian holding hands with Winter Soldier:

And Chris Evans full on checking Sebastian Stan out. On stage. In front of everyone:

The flirting between those two, and between Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie, was out of control this week. On next week's episode I will tell you the story of how Chris Evans reached over in the middle of a press conference and removed a stray hair from Sebastian's face. Because he did that. That is a thing that happened.




John Buys Comics and Things Go Squirrelly

Yes I bought comics; so many comics did I buy. Events, however have conspired to ensure that I've read almost none of them. As such, I have only two small observations this week:

1. Surefire way to make Johnathan sad: fill the newest copy of I, Zombie with printing errors. Specifically, one third to one half of the book was just the same two or three scenes repeating over and over, and not in the "this is an arty comic" kind of way. I guess it's a measure of how much I love the book that I was so devastated by this, but all that really means is that my enemies now have a new way to strike at me. !!! Maybe they already have!

2. Not that those Return of Bruce Wayne one-shots where he visits all of the extended Batman family and spies on them for a while have been excruciatingly awful, but Batman and Robin number 16 shows them all up by being one of those comics in which Grant Morrison writes something perfectly, in this case the reintroduction of Batman to the DC Universe (Mild Spoilers Ahoy). Batman appears at the climax of the Dick/Damian/Dr. Hurt battle (dramatic reappearance), utterly destroys the Doctor in a head-on confrontation (demonstration of essential Batmanishness) and gives his partners some credit/a great-big grin (proof that his attitude toward his peers has shifted away from insufferable and humourless). Zip, bing, bong, no White Casebook malarky required. Oh, plus he punches the Joker, which I'm sure he missed on his long voyage through time.

And that's it, pretty much. Good night, all.

John Buys Comics, huzzah.

Lots of indie books fulla monster-fighting this week, which is just how I like it.

First up, Mystery Society hit the magic number and so it's time for the long-absent THIRD ISSUE RECAP to make its triumphant return. Here's the poop: young wealthies Nick Hammond and his wife Anastasia Collins have started the Mystery Society in order to investigate/bring to light the occult, aliens, government conspiracies and so forth. All of the usual stuff. The story starts [[in media res with Nick in prison, then flashes back to the formation of the Society, which involved a) advertising for members and b) breaking into Area 51 to liberate a pair of pshychic twins who had been cryogenically frozen since the 50s. The break-in has had repurcussions (specifically, trumped-up murder charges) and now the whole society is on the run from government forces.

There is nothing inherently and explosively original about this setup, but I am very much enjoying the execution. Rather than defaulting to the standard "paranormal investigation" cliches (bigfoot, the Greys, yadda yadda), Niles and Staples are making up interesting new weird things for the heroes to encounter - in this issue, for instance a remote-controlled alien blob monster that occupies a brutish humanoid battlesuit. Heck, the two members of the Society that joined up via the advertisement are themselves pretty neat: the first is Secret Skull, a twentysomething girl who died and then kept on moving around and now wears a skull headpiece and a costume reminiscent of a 1940s movie villain. The other is a Victorian robot with the brain of Jules Verne. Together, they are my favourite new motorcycle-riding comic-book duo.

Next up, King! from Blacklist Studios, the folks behind John-favourite R13. Here is King! in a nutshell: take Bruce Campbell's rendition of Elvis from Bubba Ho-Tep and make him a young man, then drop him into the Evil Dead series. As someone who enjoys a good comic about monster-punching, I have to shine the full light of my approval on Thomas Hall and Daniel Bradford for this one.

Oh, hey! There's a zombie Elvis in Zatanna! How many other cultural icons can claim to have simultaniously occupied both sides of the undead/monster-puncher duality? Not too damn many.

I didn't weigh in on Morning Glories last month and now here it is at number two. This is one of those comics that I am happy to have impulse-bought: it's the tale of a group of problem and/or gifted high school students who are offered admission into a prestigious new private school, which is very exciting, I know. But then they figure out that they all have the same birthday, and then their parents start claiming not to know who they are, and then things start getting sinister. Writer Nick Spencer has done a terrific job of hinting at a lot of deep dark secrets and now he just has to dole them out at a measured pace and I'll keep on getting this. Well, as long as it doesn't turn out to be one of those books that is totally dumb once you knwo what's actually going on. I'm going to be optimistic.


Grant Morrison, you have fooled me once again. Joe the Barbarian almost seemed like it was going to end this issue and now I am in a heightened state of suspense which, coupled with my sadness over the fact that this most excellent of series is almost over, will surely wear me down to an emotionless nubover the next month. I will refer my loved ones to you, sir, when they accuse me of neglectful, robotic behaviour.

It kind of looks like I was wrong about Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors being a police procedural in space, but I suppose that I can deal with the crushed dreams. At least it's a good time, even if it is full of the sort of fluid-spewing grievous bodily harm that the various GL books have become known for in recent years. I can definitely have a good time with a comic about Guy Gardner, Arisa and Kilowog meeting and greeting with a selection of colourful Lanterns while en route]] to a confrontation with a snake-barfing evil mastermind. And I think that it might not engender a massive crossover, even!

John Buys, How You Say, the Comics

Another great week! Once again I feel a vague sense of dread – does half a month of terrific comics forebode some stinkers in my future or should I be more concerned. Perhaps my long-overdue Gelatinous Cube attack is finally imminent. Please try to recover my bones from its improbable depths.

First up, Daytripper ended at issue number ten and it was excellent. If you’ve missed the three or four other times that I’ve waxed enthusiastic about this book then here are the basics: 1) it’s by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (with colouring by John-favourite Dave Stewart) and consequently looks fantastic. 2) It’s the story of the life of a man named Brás, told in non-chronological order and one-day increments. Brás dies a lot. 3) This is an excellent storytelling device that I wish I had something really profound to say about but organizing my thoughts on the matter is going to take a lot of hunting up of individual issues from my disorganized comics-boxes or (much more likely) the purchase of a shiny new trade in a few months time. In essence, every time Brás dies you end up looking at his life up to that point as a completed story and contrasting that story with those generated by his deaths as older and younger men creates a much more intimate view of the character than a straightforward telling of his life story might have. Having seen what his life might have become, I had such an incredible investment in what his life did become that this was one of the most satisfying final issues of any comic series for me.

And then we have Billy the Kid’s Old-Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London, which might not be quite as thoughtful as Daytripper but certainly has a longer title. The original BtKOTO was a particular favourite of mine, and I don’t anticipate that this series will change that. I was going to maybe get snarky about the fact that Billy the Kid hasn’t actually changed much as a character despite the events of the earlier series but someone did that in the letters page and I get the impression that “unrepentant asshole” is Powell’s vision for the guy. And that’s okay, really, they do exist. Hell, I could probably hit a couple with a rock from where I’m sitting (Oh wait, I'm at home now. I should probably take that back before I get in trouble with the dog).

Meanwhile: a Weird War Tales one-shot! I will hazard a guess that this was put out in order to maintain the trademark or copyright (delete as appropriate) on one of the best titles that DC has. This was a very odd comic for me, in that I enjoyed all of the stories but was unimpressed by the book as a whole. It was just too damn short, especially for four bones. Damn fine cover by Darwyn Cooke, though.

Did you know that  this week’s Batgirl was a joy? I am very much a fan of superhero friendships, and Batgirl/Supergirl is a team that should always exist as a counterpoint to the often rocky and troubled Batman/Superman relationship. Of course, friendships can’t just spring from the void fully-formed, which is why you need something like this issue every once in a while. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve made while hunting fake Draculas through the streets of a great metropolis. And speaking of streets, here’s a panel that made my commute this morning 100 times better:

Segway Dracula is one of the hardest Draculas to defeat. He’s so damn mobile!

If you’ve been doing some sort of week-by week analysis of my likes and dislikes, possibly with a line and/or bar graph for visual [oomph], then you might have been able to predict that I found this months Batman and Robin and BPRD: Hell on Earth to be fantastic. But was your science able to tell you that I would be absolutely blown away by The Sixth Gun No. 4 and its increasingly epic story? Huh? Well, it probably was. Hell, the book itself is probably registering on scientific instruments tuned to pick up extreme levels of incredible, or perhaps blowmyfriggingmindium radiations.

And finally, we have a collection of the Dr. Horrible one-shots and digital comics, notable for these reasons:

- No attempt was made to make it a musical comic book. This is very good, as those usually don’t work.
- Aside from (and probably because of) that, these comics are a terrific adaptation of the web series’ feel. Everything in this book works in the context of the show.
- There is a new Evil League of Evil story that is pretty darned fantastic. Fake Thomas Jefferson!
- This one is only really of interest to me but I have this forum and I will use it, dammit. I saw a live version of Dr. Horrible at the Halifax Fringe last week (still on for at least a couple of days! Tickets only ten dollars!) and it was great and there was a new Moist song and I was trying my damnedest to describe his origin story to my friends after the show, AND THEN THE TRADE CAME OUT THREE DAYS LATER. I feel that I may have warped reality a bit, and all so that I could lend this book to my pal Tubby. Kind of a waste of a power, when you think about it.


John Buys Comics - Ill-Advised Edition

Yes, it's the weekly comics review by me, Johnathan. This week: I have been lured away from my post by old university friends and am, to put it euphemistically, suffering from heat exhaustion. 

Jersey Gods No. 12 - Oh, hell. I was really enjoying this series, but I guess that 12 is one of the magic "YOUR BOOK ISN'T SELLING ENOUGH" numbers. Wait, why wasn't this book selling enough? It was great! The entire population of a planet fused together into one colossal cosmic entity to destroy an asteroid! Kirby-style cosmic being had to meet Earth-style in-laws! There was a fast guy named Rushmore! Dammit, there are Philistines all around me.

Kill Shakespeare No. 2 - I may not have read quite as much Shakespeare as I convinced my English professors that I had, but I have to admit to being downright excited by some of the character dynamics in this comic. Richard III and Iago, two of the most deceitful characters in history, leading Hamlet, one of the most credulous, around by the nose? Only hijinks can ensue! And the art continues to delight! Please stifle any reverse-snobbishness that might be preventing you from picking this up: it is wonderful on any level of in-the-knowishness.

Atomic Robo and the Revenge of the Vampire Dimension No. 4 - Look, my love for Atomic Robo is a matter of public record, but independent of that, I wish to state that Dr Dinosaur is one of the greatest comic book characters of all time. In support of this, I refer you to page 3, panels 2-5. That is all. 

War of the Supermen No. 3 - I know that I have been harshing on the Superman family of books on and off all year, but ultimately I would have to say that this is how you should run an event: keep it in the pants of the character's books. In the case of superman, things have been playing out in his own book, Action, Adventure and in half a dozen miniseries like this one. Tons of other heroes appear, sure, but in supporting roles, because there's no real need for the JLA and the JSA and the Teen Titans and Simon Dark and Oberon to each have their own special in which they battle an enraged Kryptonian. You can already picture how each of those fights go, right? TAH DAAA! No need for one thousand crappy tie-in issues.

Zatanna No 1 - Oh dang, I totally bogarted this from Dave even though he had something to say about it. Sorry Dave!

Wait, I have something to say too! AHEM: this issue has about one hundred really cool ideas, tied together by so-so writing. I'm going to blame the so-so-ness on the fact that this issue is chock-full of exposition and such, because there is the core of a really cool series here. And some very cool villains, too. I just hope that things even out in subsequent issues, because I really like the idea of a war against the magical Mob, complete with bearded guys in robes as enforcers. Keep on keepin' on, Dini!

The Spirit No. 2 - A huge improvement over No. 1, even if Yvette Plaisir/Angel Smerti had a weirdly and inconsistently rendered head and neck (I'm talking disconcertingly small, here). I'll continue to reserve judgement.

Legion of Super-Heroes No. 1 - I am definitely not the right person to tell you just how accessible this is to folks who aren’t already familiar with the Legion, as well as the DCU in general. I think that this issue and by extension this series are fairly accessible, barring having to pick up the trade of that Action Comics story from a couple of years back. Basically, as someone who reads comics that were written before I was born as a hobby, this sort of thing is super-plus great. For those of you that live in the now, I reckon that it could be regular great. Trust me.

Hey, I wrote this one while I was sober! "Brightest Day No. 2 - Okay, it looks like there aren’t going to be as many people saying “Brightest Day” in this as the Number 0 issue made it look, so instead I’m going to start tracking the ratio of horrifying events symptomatic of the kind of storytelling that this series is supposedly part of a general trend away from AS COMPARED TO the total number of issues. So far: 3/3.

On a positive note, it kind of looks like Firestorm is black in this issue, like he’s a combination of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch(sp?)’s physical forms, and that would be a cool way of addressing the whole “inadvertent whitewashing” aspect of rolling back so many of the legacy heroes. In this one case, of course; it doesn’t make Ryan Choi less dead. Also, it might just be all of the weird lighting effects on Firestorm’s face because of his head being on fire."

Later Addendum: I don't really think that he looks black. I just want to. Dammit DC, THROW US A BONE HERE.

American Vampire No. 3 - THIRD ISSUE RECAP!

Pearl, an aspiring actress in 1920s Hollywood, is lured to a party and used as fodder by aristocratic European vampires. Despite being driven out into the desert and tossed into a mass grave, she manages to survive long enough for her friends to find her and get her to a doctor. She is still slowly dying, though, which prompts the enigmatic vampire Sweet to turn her and set her on the path of revenge. Bloody hijinks ensue.

Also, there is a backup story written by Stephen King and detailing exactly how Sweet came to be the only American vampire. Lots of beheadings!

Weathercraft - Came out last week, but I was lazy. It's no better this week, because I really have to go to bed soon, so in lieu of a legitimate review, here is an anecdote. 

When I used to work in a library, I abused my powers to take The Frank Book out for more than six months, in which time I read it maybe a dozen times. Jim Woodring's work is fascinating, folks, and Weathercraft is no exception. If you don't have a visceral dislike for books that are wordless and in black and white then I heartily recommend it.

And that's that. No pictures this week, unless I get really ambitious in the morning. Just the drunken truth, ayup. 

Good night, folks.

"John Buys Comics!" he exclaimed.

Hellboy in Mexico


I have no idea when I first encountered the idea of Hellboy spending some time fighting monsters in Mexico with three luchadore brothers. It may have been as recently as last year in the Hellboy Companion or it might have been hinted at in a letters page back in 2002. The exact date is, in fact, immaterial because I have been craving this so hard since whenever it was that it felt like forever ago.

And now it’s here! And it’s good, as all Hellboy one-shots are. I think that it’s a natural law, as-yet unquantified by our science. It’s not terrifically deep, of course, but who needs deep, especially when the other series in the Hellboy universe are concerned with portents of doom and the deferral of monstrous destiny. As much as I love all of that, sometimes it’s nice to sit down with some old-school monster-punching action.

That’s not to say that this book is only about punching. There’s enough abridged exploration of loyalty, friendship and vengeance here that it could have made a fair-sized miniseries. But it didn't have to be: everything is there and everything is fantastic. The punching and assorted moves that I no longer know the names of (early 90s Johnathan is slightly ashamed of this) are executed with admirable skill, even when not compared to books in which fight scenes are mere bundles of unresolvable limbs. It is wonderfully and abundantly clear what each character is up to in this book.

izombie No. 1

There’s a pretty good chance that you caught the preview for this that was floating around the last month or so but just in case, here’s the skinny: it’s written by Chris Robeson and drawn by Michael Allred, and it’s about a girl who is a zombie, but not the corpse-lookin’-lurch-around-the-countryside type, just a bit pale, a bit dead. The catch is that unless she eats a fresh human brain each month, she will become the lurching and mindless sort of zombie. To facilitate her pursuit of brains, Gwen (that’s her name) works as a gravedigger.

The preview also set up the fact that there would be mystery-solving in this comic, as Gwen must placate the echos of the people whose brains she eats, absorbed during that super-gross process. What I did not know ahead of time was that this was going to be a girl detective kind of story, complete with Sixties-era ghost sidekick, nerdy were-dog love interest and crypt HQ! Even if I hadn’t read old Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon adventures throughout my formative years, I would be all over this.

I don't really know what else to say. If fun writing, Allred art and plucky supernatural girls solving mysteries isn't enough to get you interested in this one then I guess that we're very different people.


How happy was I to see this collection? SO HAPPY. I used to have access to the individual issues of this comic but then lost them in what can only be described as a messy roommate divorce. What fun to have them again!

Superf*ckers is an incredibly satisfying book, essentially about what a group of super-powered teenagers would probably really be like, and while it’s certainly not what I want to encounter when I pick up an issue of Legion of Super-Heroes it’s nonetheless very cathartic to read about over-indulgence, petty politicking, mind games and misfiring hormones in a similar context. I was a pretty innocuous teen, but I'm pretty certain that given the chance and the powers I'd have been smoking grote and engaging in ethically questionable behaviour just as readily as Jack Krak or Orange Lightning.

All the old clichés get illustrated, Kochalka-style: tryouts, super-romance, disgusting sidekicks, too many rules. I think that it gains a lot by being adorable and brightly-coloured as well - not having to waste energy on being grossed out and offended leaves a lot more for delighted clapping and squeals of glee.

Sparta U.S.A. No. 3

THIRD ISSUE RECAP: Sparta is a town in… another dimension or a fantasy land or the future, I’m not sure. Or maybe someplace else. Wherever it is located, it appears to be a football-obsessed small American town. Look a little closer, though, and there are a lot of strange things about the place, like the fact that its citizens are encouraged to get ahead by any means necessary, up to and including murder, as long as they don’t get caught. The people of Sparta don’t know anything about sexual reproduction - their babies are delivered on a semi-annual basis by the Maestro, their sinister blue Governor. And nobody leaves town because they’ll probably be eaten by yeti.

The hero of the book, Godfrey McLaine, has left town and learned about the birds and the bees and so forth, and now he's come back in order to free the people from the Maestro. So far this has involved getting his ass handed to him by the entire town (who just wanted to watch football, dammit), but he subsequently formed a militia out of the only people in town willing to have more faith in him than the Maestro: all of his former lovers.

Having written this out I now realize that it is all very strange. I assure you, however, that it is strange in a good way. Every issue has more yeti than the last!

Brightest Day No. 1 - Nobody said "Brightest Day", so one point to them.  

Batman and Robin No. 12 - Good job, Grant Morrison. You caught me completely off-guard.

Astro City: Dark Age Book Four No. 4 - Holy poo! Dark Age is done! Not that I didn’t enjoy it but it must be said: I am incredibly excited to read some

Orc Stain No. 3 - Fully half of this issue reads like a video game, in the best possible sense. That is, not like most comics based on video games. It’s like… like when you’ve been playing a game for a while and you’re on a level that’s giving you some trouble and then suddenly you just nail it. You fly through the level like it was nothing. That is exactly what the action in this book felt like to me. Astonishingly good.

Secret Six No. 21 - Hey, Dwarfstar! Always good to see someone keep on being a super-villain even after the series they started out in was cancelled. Also: there is a joke in this issue that is so good/bad that I guffawed, though subsequently I learned that it was impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t read comics, no matter how fast you talk or how many times you assure them that what you're talking about makes sense.

Batman Confidential No 44 - My, but that Sam Keith story was interminable. It’s good to get back to reading short, unconnected Batman stories. Hey, check it out, it's the second-best zombie from Return of the Living Dead!