Comics Ate My Brain

July 13, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: friday night fights, meme, superman — Tom Bondurant @ 10:15 pm
It’s Superman’s birthday, but he’s got a present for Mongul!

Yeah, I know, Friday Night Fights is more about punching, so I hope Bahlactus doesn’t mind.

[From "For The Man Who Has Everything," Superman Annual #11, 1985. Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Dave Gibbons.]

My Old Kentucky Comics Habits

Filed under: meme, meta — Tom Bondurant @ 2:33 am
Because Dick demanded it, here are my memories of a comics consumer in Lexington, Kentucky, starting in the mid-1970s. I’ve been down this road a bit before, but since only I was reading the blog three years ago, it’s probably new to you-all.

Age-wise, I guess I fall between Dick and Johnny Bacardi. Lexington’s about the size of Spartanburg, probably over a quarter-million people by now. Both Dick and Johnny can probably make better comparisons than I.

Still, it took me until high school to realize where the direct-market shops were. Until then I had been relying on the local grocery stores (Kroger, Foodtown) and the familiar Kmart 3-comics-in-a-bag deal.

My grade-school purchases were all pretty unfocused, as you’d expect. I started reading superhero comics in the mid-to-late ’70s, but I was familiar with the characters through “Super Friends” and the Adam West “Batman” reruns. Probably the first superhero comic I owned was The Flash #241 (May 1976), at the tender age of six, and it was probably bought at a Kroger.

I got mostly DC and a few Marvel into the early ’80s. Junior high was 7th-9th grades, so I decided that would be the cutoff for my comics. An older friend, who was already in junior high, told me very seriously that no one in my new school would care about such things. Instead, junior high introduced me to the much more mature pastime of D&D.

Still, D&D got me back into comics. I switched gaming groups at the start of 10th grade, and got in the habit of picking up a couple of comics at the local Convenient on my way to our Saturday sessions. I bought DCs again, including the wedding of Donna Troy (I had been a New Teen Titans fan just before the “new maturity” set in), but the series that got me into a LCS was Mike Barr’s Star Trek. It was right after Star Trek III‘s cliffhanger and I was jonesing for some 23rd-Century action.

The shop I started patronizing — the only one in town, as far as I knew — was The Comic Connection, just across the street from the University of Kentucky Medical Center. It was a couple of miles from the house, so not a bad walk; and in the winter of 1984 I started going there every Friday for almost the next ten years — through high school, college, and law school.

It started out as a little hole-in-the-wall, almost a shotgun shack of a store. It moved into an adjacent space at least twice as big within a few years (1987, let’s say). Through that store I was introduced to the Direct Market and to independent comics: all the big ones, like Cerebus, Love & Rockets, and American Flagg!. I kept up with the industry through Amazing Heroes, which featured writers like Mark Waid and Andy Mangels, and looked forward to its Preview Special, which covered dam’ near every single title.

Still, I was reading DC at just the right time to be suckered in by Crisis On Infinite Earths, Dark Knight, Watchmen, and the revamps of 1986-87. Marvel was impenetrable to me: I tried reading X-Factor, having somehow missed out completely on the Claremont/Byrne X-Men, but it just wouldn’t take; and as it happened I had also just missed the Byrne Fantastic Four.

During these ten years I also became aware of other comics shops in Lexington. The D&D shop I visited so often started selling comics, and there were a couple of stores in other parts of town too far away for me to haunt. I was loyal to Comic Connection, and besides, none of these others lasted too terribly long.

The thing that finally drove me away from Comic Connection was its seeming over-reliance on things: action figures, statues, and other bric-a-brac. By the early ’90s it had also been sold. The owner I first knew was a much older fellow who I never saw that often. His employees were guys a few years older than me who I’d also see working at the local used-record store a half-mile up the road. They did a little more than tolerate me — I can drone on, if you believe it — but it’s not like we exchanged Christmas cards.

Anyway, I got the feeling they knew what they were doing, business- and art-wise, and I didn’t get that from the new owner. He was a few years older than me as well, but he was kind of clueless. When I got out of law school in the summer of 1994, and moved closer to another shop (Collectibles, Etc., in a strip-mall on the edge of one of the ‘burbs), I took my business there.

Collectibles didn’t invest as much in the trinkets, although they were pretty big in sports cards, pogs, and Beanie Babies, as each of those trends ebbed and flowed. They were consistently about the comics, and I appreciated that. They were less inclined to carry independent books, though. At the time this suited me fine, because I was spending so much on DC and a few Marvels anyway.

Therefore, Collectibles fit my needs pretty well. Towards the end of my patronage, the owner suggested that we regulars e-mail him our picks every Monday, and this effectively took the place of tthe pull-list/folder system for those who participated. Having since read Brian Hibbs’ columns, I can’t imagine how this helped his business planning.

Comic Connection closed a couple of years after I stopped going there. It’s now the UK med-school bookstore. Another shop, Red Rock Collectibles, flourished for a while in the mid-’90s, but it’s gone now too.

When I left Lexington two years ago, there were three decent shops: Collectibles, A+ Comics, and The Comic Interlude. As far as I know they’re still there. Each has its charms. A+ is probably the largest and cleanest, which is not to say that the other two are dark or smell of nerd. Comic Interlude is the most focused on toys, with action figures covering one wall and two mid-sized shelves. Collectibles is the smallest, but it’s bright and clean. I don’t have any horror stories about any of them.

So there you go — thirty years of comics collecting, from 1976′s grocery-store spinner racks to 2005′s Direct Market shops. I tried to make it interesting, and I probably got some things wrong. Dick, if you’ve got more questions about what I bought in particular, please let me know — I tried to keep the nostalgia to a minimum.

If anyone from Lexington wants to chime in, feel free!

July 12, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Filed under: meme, superman, thursday night thinking — Tom Bondurant @ 11:20 pm
Succinct this week, Diamondrock!

And for once, I think we all agree — we’re with you, Morgan.

[From "The Guardian Fights Again!," Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #139, July 1971. Written and pencilled by Jack Kirby, inked by Vince Colletta.]

July 9, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

Filed under: star trek, sunday soliloquy — Tom Bondurant @ 12:44 am
I’ve been on I-64 most of the day, so not much time to think about this week’s soliloquy. Thankfully, in this respect, Chris Claremont is the blogger’s best friend.

[From Star Trek: Debt of Honor, written by Mr. Claremont, pencilled by Adam Hughes, inked by Karl Story.]

July 6, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: batman, friday night fights, meme — Tom Bondurant @ 11:19 am
Why is this SWAT cop being punched through a wall?


Because Batman loves cats.

(Bahlactus seems like more of a dog person to me….)

[From "Black Dawn," Chapter Three of "Batman: Year One," Batman #406, April 1987. Written by Frank Miller, drawn by David Mazzuchelli, colored by Richmond Lewis.]

Thursday Night Thinking

Filed under: meme, new teen titans, thursday night thinking — Tom Bondurant @ 2:08 am

So much THINKING, it spills across the top of a two-page spread!

Here are the large-print versions of the panels, to go a little easier on the eyes:




Diamondrock is back in Titans’ Tower!

[From The New Teen Titans #1, November 1980, written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Romeo Tanghal.]

July 5, 2007

"Eight" rhymes with "late"

Filed under: meme — Tom Bondurant @ 7:13 pm
Rich tagged me with the Eight Rules meme last Friday. Yes, it’s taken me this long to think of eight things.

Here are the rules:

- Each player starts with eight random facts about themselves.

- Those who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight facts and post these rules.

- At the end of the post, choose some people to get tagged and list their names.

Ready?

1. I really enjoy “The Thomas Jefferson Hour.” I had never heard it before we moved to Williamsburg, and of course it makes sense that a radio show about Jefferson would be found on a Virginia public radio station. However, it’s based in … North Dakota?!?

Each week is split between talking to “Jefferson” and the man who plays him, Clay Jenkinson. I wish I could remember David the co-host’s last name, because he’s great too, but the show’s website is down at the moment. It comes on at 1:00 p.m. every Tuesday, so I try to catch it in the car if I’m out at lunch. There’s also a podcast, but …

2. I don’t belong to iTunes. I don’t have an iPod. Instead, I still burn MP3s onto CDs. When did that go out of style — 2003?

3. I would totally buy plush toys of ‘Mazing Man and/or Genius Jones (the latter as designed by Cliff Chiang, of course). Now that DC Direct will have a little more time on its hands, maybe someone can make that happen, hmmm?

4. For various reasons, I’ve managed to miss at least one episode of every live-action Star Trek series: “The Lights Of Zetar” (TOS), “Manhunt” (TNG), “Destiny” (DS9), several Voyager episodes from when the local independent station dropped its UPN programming, and that one Enterprise where the Xindi go to Detroit. (I think it was Detroit.) I did watch all the Animated Series episodes, though.

5. One time I broke up — or at least postponed — a domestic dispute. I used to live across the street from the excellent Magee’s Bakery (Lexington, KY — tell ‘em Tom sent you!) and would head over Saturday mornings for donuts. (And a bran muffin for balance.) Mmmm … donuts.

Anyway, I was waiting to cross the street when a car stopped at my red light. A woman got out of the car, yelling at the driver. He then followed her to my corner. She was yelling “leave me alone, leave me alone,” and he was yelling at her to get back in the car with him. They were on either side of me, so I gave him a look and said, “Why don’t you just leave her alone?” He didn’t know what to make of that, so I gave him another I-mean-it look and he went back to his car.

In hindsight, the fact that he left his car running, stopped at what had become a green light, on the aptly-named Main Street, probably had something to do with his decision.

6. Speaking of donuts, Magee’s are the most decadent I’ve ever had, and therefore much more satisfying than Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, and (yes, Lexingtonians) Spalding’s. The secret is the butter-creme icing.

7. My unique superstition: I think my Fantastic Four buying and reading habits somehow affect the fortunes of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team. I base this largely on buying big stacks of Byrne FFs just before 1994-95 losses to UCLA and Louisville. This means I have to finish going through that “40 Years” DVD before November.

8. I am distantly related to two U.S. Presidents (the Harrisons) and I think also to the Clooneys (George, Nick, Rosemary, etc.).

And there you have it — can’t get more random than those!

I’m copping out of tagging eight more people, because most of the blogs I visit have already done this. If you want to join in, have fun!

July 4, 2007

"Assemble freely, bear arms — the works!"

Filed under: doonesbury — Tom Bondurant @ 3:40 pm
I grew up reading Doonesbury. I didn’t quite understand all the cultural and political references, but I liked its rhythms and Garry Trudeau’s style.

For this year’s Fourth of July, here are some strips reprinted in the Doonesbury’s Greatest Hits collection. They’re about Zonker’s ancestor Nate Harris, a little-known figure of the American Revolution. (Apologies for the poor scan quality.)

I had thought Trudeau produced these for the Bicentennial, but these first ones actually came out in late July and August of 1975. Even as he celebrated their achievements, Trudeau poked fun at the white-male culture which produced the Declaration of Independence. Later strips, written in support of the Equal Rights Amendment campaign, had Nate’s wife Amy become an apprentice silversmith under Paul Revere.

However, he returned to Nate for the strip which appeared July 4, 1976.

I love my country, and I love its potential. Let’s never forget, as this day reminds us, that governments are instituted to secure our basic rights. Ultimately we’re in charge, and we have the power to make even the most arrogant, spoiled plutocrat who stumbles into office do what we want.

It’s not perfect, but let’s resolve to keep trying. Back to less political content soon.

[Strips from July 23-25, 31, and August 1-2, 1975; and July 4, 1976.]

I can see the destiny you sold/Turned into a shining band of gold

Filed under: green lantern — Tom Bondurant @ 2:21 am
This one’s for Ragnell. She knows why.

Probably because my comics habits overwhelmingly favor DC’s superheroes, I tend to distance myself from the works of Geoff Johns. I like to think I don’t have any particular bias against Mr. Johns, and I’ve followed his titles in the past. However, I’ve also dropped a number of his books, including JSA and Teen Titans, and I was very frustrated with his Flash tenure.

I was therefore leery of his Green Lantern revamp, mainly because his comments leading up to its release seemed to indicate that he considered most of Hal Jordan’s growth as a character in and after the Denny O’Neil years to be a mistake. Hal should be resolute, steadfast, possessed of an indomitable will, I heard Johns saying. By contrast, I thought Hal’s self-examination not only facilitated his own development, but also fueled a healthy skepticism about the nature of his bosses, the Guardians of the Universe. Nothing stopped Hal from finding his inner fighter jock, but at the same time that fighter jock would constantly test the limits of his ostensible superiors’ authority over him. At least, that’s what The Right Stuff taught me about test pilots.

Therefore, I’ve been pleasantly surprised these past few years to find myself more happy than not with Johns’ Green Lantern. I thought Johns did a credible job of rehabilitating Hal and reviving the Green Lantern Corps, and the ongoing Green Lantern book has been pretty solid space-superhero adventure ever since.

I joked a while back about Johns writing his ultimate Green Lantern story and explaining once and for all How The Rings Work, and here we are with a Sinestro Corps, a Star Sapphire Corps, and probably four other color-coded Corps on the horizon…. Anyway, in the Rebirth miniseries, Johns cast the GL Corps in a quasi-mystical light, explaining that Parallax fed off fear and another entity fed off willpower. We’ve seen in the recent Star Sapphire story that the Zamarons’ power gems use love, although there it seemed like the weird, candlelit-photo-shrine kind of love. Maybe I was reading too much into that. Maybe I’ve said too much.

Regardless, that brings us at last to the Sinestro Corps Special, which apparently kicks off the Sinestro Corps War. Opinions seem to vary as to its accessibility to the non-GL/non-DC reader, but I found it fairly efficient in its exposition. Thanks to the Internet, I kinda knew what happened in the Ion miniseries, but I didn’t read the miniseries itself. Explaining why two Superman villains were in a Green Lantern book might have been helpful, as might an explanation of the Cyborg Supes’ connection to the original, but maybe that’s coming up later. As the first part of what looks (please, Lord) like a storyline with a definite end, the Sinestro Corps Special got things started well. Since I like to compare Green Lantern to Star Trek, this was “The Best Of Both Worlds, Part 1.” And yes, that makes Para-Kyle Locutus, although with the space-bug controlling him he should really be Chekov.

In the old days a Sinestro Corps wouldn’t have been possible. The yellow power ring — which I take it runs on a different yellow energy than the fear-based Sinestro Corps rings — was, if memory serves, powered by siphoning energy from Green Lantern rings and batteries. It was a unique item (there might have been two, but my memory’s fuzzy) that in theory was actually more powerful than any single GL ring. It had no impurities and no 24-hour limit. When Guy Gardner acquired Sinestro’s ring after being booted out of the Green Lantern Corps, it was a big deal.

The idea of a Sinestro Corps, like a Star Sapphire Corps, therefore shifts the focus of Green Lantern away from the mechanics of a power ring and towards its underlying meaning. The Green Lanterns are fueled by willpower, the Sinestros by fear, and the Sapphires by candlelit– okay, by love. In theory this makes the Sinestros the most powerful, because if fear is dominant then it can crush willpower and love. (I suppose that love includes the fear of having it taken away, but I don’t want to get too New Age-y here.) Accordingly, Johns needs to be careful not to make the Sinestros either too powerful or too easy to neuter. They can’t turn into the Borg. They need to be White Martians: used sparingly and only to indicate the most dire peril. Hopefully the fact that Superboy-Prime and the Anti-Monitor are both involved speaks to this caution. After this, Johns might do well to leave these two alone for another twenty years or so.

I should probaby read Rebirth again, because I don’t remember Sinestro having quite the mad on for Kyle. I do think that Kyle was handled pretty well in this issue. His utter humiliation was a bit much, bordering on the old “hurt/comfort syndrome” of fanfiction, although the overall effect showed how eevil Sinestro was, and not how easy Kyle was to defeat. In fact, the Special might have gone a little too far in the other direction, with all the “Angel of the Corps!” talk and the buildup of Kyle as the Super-Lantern.

I would also have enjoyed more John Stewart, considering that this was his first appearance in a Green Lantern book in several months. Giving him a ring-constructed rifle also seemed out of character for an architect, but that’s a debate for another day. Seeing Ch’p and Arisia made up for it, though.

Overall, the Sinestro Corps Special was a fun book to read. Not “fun” in the sense that I enjoy seeing carnage, sadism, and (off-panel) death; but “fun” like the first act of a good adventure story should be. The stakes get raised, our heroes get tested, and through the application of their own gifts and talents, they pull through. The fun lies in seeing how they do it. That’s why I read superhero comics, after all.

July 1, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

Filed under: american flagg, howard chaykin, sunday soliloquy — Tom Bondurant @ 11:54 am
First, thanks to Shane Bailey for the mention in his latest “Meanwhile” column! If anyone else out there wants to show off their comics’ speechifying, please be my guest.

As for this week … well, how about a little civil disobedience?

In the dystopian future of 2031, the United States is run by a mega-corporation called The Plex, and idealistic, pragmatic Reuben Flagg is Plexmall Chicago’s newest lawman.

American Flagg! is twenty-four years old, but some sentiments never go out of style.

[From "Hard Times, Conclusion," American Flagg! #3, December 1983. Written and drawn by Howard Chaykin.]

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