Podcast - Episode 85: Kong Skull Island / King Kong in Comics

I invite you to join Dave and me for a KONGversation!

We saw KONG: SKULL ISLAND, and we talk a bit about that. And Dave has put together a history of King Kong in comic books.

But before all of that, we talk about important things like the newly released images of THOR: RAGNAROK. Like this one:

Oof. Yes please.

And speaking of which, here is the Chris Hemsworth workout video, which you have surely watched hundreds of times by now:

And here is the Fantagraphics trailer for their All Time Comics superhero line:

I feel like that's all I need to post here. Enjoy the episode!

Things That Frightened Me as a Child, Part 4



My local library (okay, local bookmobile) had a copy of the first Alan Moore Swamp Thing trade, and by Gord that thing haunted my tiny dreams - you want to know the real reason that the New Guardians didn't work? It's because one of their members was an insane mass-murdering monster, that's why - but the stand-out performance in the field of Freaking Out Wee Johnathan was the three-part tale of the Monkey King.


For those of you not familiar with the comic in question, well, that's just sad, as this is basically exactly what a shared-universe horror comic should be. In brief, it's the tale of a shape-changing monkey demon that fears on fear and terrorizes the inmates of a home for traumatized children. It's an utterly loathsome thing, and that is compounded by the fact that it's a little bit adorable. And then quadrupled by the twisted tenderness that it treats the boy that it has adopted as its master with. And also it ends up fighting Swamp Thing and the Demon, which is one of the best ever team-ups.

And Alan Moore really delivers on the "takes the form of your worst fear" front. No giant snakes or whatever here, oh no. This thing comes at you as the existential fear of cancer, homeboy.  I cannot express how much better that is than the usual treatment of the fear power - I recall reading a book where someone's greatest fear was a villain who beat them up once, which is maybe valid, but sure as hell didn't scare the crap out of me while I read about it. Or for the next ten years, for that matter.

So yeah, the Monkey king was terrifying. Case closed. I read these books again recently and was almost as freaked out by the thing as back in the day. Thing is, I read a heck of a lot of books in between, so am in a position to recognize several other ways in which this story is awesome:

1. The secret origin of the Monkey King

Turns out that Kirby did it:

Yup, the Monkey King turns out to actually be something called the Kamera that Jack Kirby came up with in the original run of The Demon. And let me tell you: twice as adorable; almost as frightening. 

2. Speaking of the Demon...

As I said, the Demon gets involved in this story, and he's terrific. Even though the basic character design involves a brutal, beastlike head, I think that this is one of the most effectively inhuman versions of him that I've ever encountered. Plus Alan Moore writes rhyming dialogue that works.

3. Oh god, this.

This scene - in which longtime supporting cast member Matt Cable has been in a devastating drunken car crash and gets a visit from a horrible fly - freaked me the hell out in my youth, even though I had no idea what was going on. Since then, I've come into some knowledge, and knowing doesn't help. If anything, it makes it worse. Don't swallow your uncle-in-law, Matt. You'll only end up as a raven.

4. Best takedown ever.

The Demon Etrigan shows everyone just how to take care of a fear-powered demon monkey.

And that's why the Kamera will not be making any more appearances. Hey, if you have to go out...

John Buys Comics, All Continues as Normal

This may be it, folks. We may have hit my point of karmic balance for those two astonishingly good weeks of new comics: a week of decent comics that are components of pretty good series. And that's okay, I guess. Kind of leaves me high and dry for reviews though. Let's see what I can do with talking about series rather than issues:

Legion of Super-Heroes - By Gar I'm happy to have a Legion series coming out, especially one that features lots of focus on Legionnaire interpersonal drama and sweeping future society hijinks. And heck, even if Matter-Eater Lad left for parts unknown off-panel last issue, the fact that Quislet and Tellus are hanging around balances my humours sufficiently to be joyful. Best of all, I kind of think that this series could be jumped onto with minimal research. Sure it's filled with callbacks to olde schoole Legion history, but none of it is actually necessary to understand what's going on. Pick up the trade of Geoff Johns' Legion storyline in Action a few years back and you should be good, plus you'll have a really fun comic to read.

Power Girl - Sure it's not as amazingly great as the first twelve issues were, but honestly I don't know if there's another creative team on the planet who could have continued the Connor/Palmiotti/Gray magic. Anyone who could have produced something equally as marvellous would have also done something completely different with the series, which would have paradoxically made it less good. So hooray for decent continuations, yes? Winick and Basrai have taken the reins with a minimum of fuss and have produced some genuinely enjoyable stories - I can be happy with that.

Supergirl - I read this comic, along with maybe four others, at lunch today and for some reason this was the one that the office wags mined their material from. "Supergirl!", they'd exclaim, a one-word challenge to my masculinity. "Why not Superman?", they would continue, but that was dangerous territory, and my boss for example got a pocket explanation of the House of El and its doings on Earth that he wasn't quite prepared for, mwaha. Besides, how can I stop reading what has been the most consistently entertaining of the Super-books for, like a year and a half and counting?

Justice League: Generation Lost - Wait, so the white lantern wants to prevent the events of Kingdom Come from happening? Isn't that, like Earth K-12 now anyway? How much do I have to pay for a multiverse that doesn't double up on themes? At least it kind of looks like Brightest Day might end with someone bumping off Magog.

Cowboy Ninja Viking - This is one of those series, one with a basic idea - folks with multiple personalities being trained as assassins - that could turn into a bunch of stupid and repetitious jokes by issue three but instead we have an engaging if somewhat silly character-driven tale of extremely violent international espionage. How did this happen? The main character is just a collection of memes, and yet I was genuinely heartbroken over a plot development in this issue. Bravo, I say, from my nest of perplexedness.

Hit Monkey - Okay, I guess that this one is over. But it was good, and that is important. See, you may have noticed that I don't read a lot of Marvel comics. At first, this was because I came back to reading the comical booklets just as Civil War was kicking off and DC was in its astonishing couple of years of excellence post-Infinite Crisis. Nowadays, it's mostly inertia that's keeping me away from the Marvel books, that and the event banner that most of them are sporting across the top of the cover. Books like this, that tie in to the Marvel Universe but don't really require outside knowledge, are really helping me ease my way in. Plus, you know: monkey assassin.

Sleep tight, folks. I am out of here.

John Buys Comics Like They Are Hotcakes That Are Going Out of Style

Hit Monkey (One Shot)

What a strange little comic.

I bought this pretty much on a whim and due to an abiding love for odd characters, but honestly I was expecting something along the lines of Mr. Stuffins: a funny-style book where a lot of the humour was generated by taking a tough-guy role and filling it with an adorable-style character. Instead, this is more akin to… I have no idea what. It’s somewhere between a Kurosawa film and Hinterland Who’s Who, if that makes any sense, which it won’t if you’re not Canadian.

Basically, I wasn’t surprised by the fact that I enjoyed this book but am almost in shock over the fact that it was actually so good. It’s good enough that I’m not letting myself write any spoilers, people! And that’s hard!

Human Target No. 1

Man, I can’t believe that I’ve become one of those “no TV” guys. I did it completely on accident, I swear. I still download Death Comes to Town every week, regular.

But I am a guy without a TV, and so I miss stuff like the fact that there’s a Human Target series on Fox. I literally just found out on the ISB yesterday. And even though Sims was giving the show a hard time about not actually being about a guy who disguises himself as other guys, you know, like THE HUMAN TARGET does, I was a bit interested. I picked up the comic of the show based on a comic.

Bleah. If ever a comic read like a TV show, this is it, all glib one-liners and tough talk. (not like a comic book at all, no sirree) Quiet, parenthetical aside. This is teevee-style glib dialogue and it doesn’t belong in a comic book. It just serves to underscore the fact that this version of Christopher Chance is just some Transporter-like glorified bodyguard. Too bad he doesn’t have a gimmick to make himself interesting like I don’t know dressing up like his client and having identity problems

Double bleah.

Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom

So I guess that it has now been conclusively proven that I cannot resist any comic that involves HP Lovecraft having Cthulhu Mythos-style adventures, especially if they’re adorable. I managed to hold out for about five minutes before finally putting this one on my pile, but it was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

But really, how can you go wrong with a story that involves a young, huge-eyed Lovecraft reading a magical book and being transported to a regular-style fairytale land in trouble which he, as the kid from another land, has to fix. It all works quite well, both as a young-person-having-an-adventure romp and as a Mythos tome.

And of course, tentacles abound.

The Unwritten No. 10 – No specific reason, but this was the first issue that felt to me like the series was going to be around for the long haul. This is a very good thing and basically exactly what I’ve been wishing for the last year (ish).

Invincible Presents Atom Eve and Rex Splode No 3 (of 3) – What fun! I miss Rex.

Batman and Robin No. 8 – Now this is proper Morrison writing: jam-packed with ideas and on the very cusp of losing you without actually doing so, with at least one idea per issue that makes you shout out “Of course!”

Daytripper No. 3 – Oh man I just got that it’s the same guy in every issue. I’m freaking out, dude.

Solomon Kane: Death’s Black Riders No. 2 – I’m trying to follow the Hellboy Protocol on these Solomon Kane series and not just go “Omigod you guys this issue was awesome just like the last eight and Solomon Kane shot another dude in the face!” every time one comes out, but this issue Allie and Guevara managed to incorporate the terrific little Kane story “Rattle of Bones” into the ongoing narrative and with aplomb, so I must use this space to praise them mightily. I raise my imaginary glass to ye, comicsmen!

Action Comics No. 27 – I demand more Kryptonian mythology! Well done, everyone.

Booster Gold No. 29 – Wait, first Metal Men, now Blue Beetle? Stop being cowards about things, DC. Keep the backups going, you jerks. Putting a little message in the last page doesn’t make things cool between us over this.

Adventure Comics No. 7 – Ugh. Bad call making the first issue under a new creative team a tie-in to Blackest Night. I’ll reserve the right to do a SECOND MONTH OF JUDGEMENT on this one.

R.E.B.E.L.S. No. 13 – Even if this series weren’t great every month, the drawings of Despero’s head regrowing a tiny little body would make it totally worth buying.