I just finished tapping out this long account of my current health struggles, when I suddenly realized I had written a post worthy of WebMD– not IMJ.
Screw that noise. (I’ll do my best to leave the boring stuff for Facebook.) But for those who hate FB as much as I, let me give you the Readers Digest version of my health woes: Sudden onset of high blood pressure and a stomach ulcer. Both are apparently borderline ailments for now– so, according to the Doctor, all I have to do is “… get rid of the things that are stressing me out” and I may be able to stop taking all the wonderful new medicines they are gleefully making me shove down my throat.
Do you remember the Breaking Bad scene where Walter White rushes home to grab his drug money (and other incriminating stuff) from the crawl space under his house… Only to end up laughing maniacally at his wife Skyler while he rolls around in the dirt? I recreated that moment on my Doctor’s exam table when he told me I had to “get rid of the stuff” that was stressing me out.
When I finally calmed down, I asked him exactly what I should get rid of… My ailing mother on the East Coast or my ailing handicapped friend on the West Coast? I also asked exactly how he proposed I “get rid” of these “problems”… And did he have a medical preference concerning who I should “get rid of” first?
Let me clue you into my secret on how to survive life’s Crazy Train: Only care about stuff that really matters. Other than a few family mementos, I don’t give a rat’s ass about anything I own. If I lost it all tomorrow, I wouldn’t care– just as long as my Mom, my friend (and my GF) were alive and well. Family & Friends first.
As weird as this may sound to a group made up largely of collectors, I’ve come to believe the key to enjoying life is to truly NOT give a shit about any non-living thing in it.
Enjoy your stuff for what it is… Stuff. It’s all cool to have and very fun to look at… But none of it will fill a hole in your soul or keep you warm at night– unless, of course, you sell them to pay off your electric bill.
Alpha Big Time
Amelia Cole And The Unknown World
Art Of Bob Peak HC
Avengers Assemble Science Bros – Ack!
Bad Break HC
Best Of Archie Comics Vol 3 – NO digests!
BPRD Hell On Earth Vol 6 The Return Of The Master
Children Of Palomar HC
Doc Savage The James Bama 5-Pack Collection – Own ’em. Recommended
Doctor Who Complete Guide (Prose)
Dr Strange and Dr Doom Triumph And Torment – Read it already
EC Al Feldstein Child Of Tomorrow HC
EC Johnny Craig Fall Guy For Murder HC
Essential Fantastic Four Vol 9
Expose Vol 3
Ex Sanguine – Loved the 1st issue… I’m in! Recommended
Fearless Defenders Vol 1 Doom Maidens
First X-Men – Own the Hardcover
Flash Vol 1 Move Forward – Own the HC
Flash Vol 2 Rogues Revolution HC
Frank Cho Women Drawings & Illustrations Vol 2 – Own the HC
Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics HC
GI Joe Vol 1 Homefront
God Is Disappointed In You HC – Looks very funny!
Golden Age Greats Spotlight Vol 13 The Centaur Chronicles
Grimm Fairy Tales Jungle Book Vol 2 Last Of The Species
His Wife Leaves Him HC (Prose)
Invincible Compendium Vol 2 – Own the Hardcovers
Kiss Solo – A Mark O’Brien review chilled me on this…
LEGO Star Wars The Yoda Chronicles HC
Little Prince Vol 10 The Planet Of Trainiacs
March Vol 1 – Didn’t like the art…
Mark Schultz Xenozoic Tales Artist’s Edition HC
Mike Norton’s Battlepug Vol 2 HC – Recommended
My Little Pony Digest Vol 1 – See Best of Archie above!
Nightwing Old Friends New Enemies – DC reprints this… Now?!?
One Trick Rip Off Deep Cuts – Own the HC
Otto’s Backwards Day HC
Patrick Eats His Peas And Other Stories HC
Prince Valiant Vol 7 1949-1950 HC – Recommended
Rubicon HC – Just didn’t feel it…
Smallville Season 11 Vol 2 Detective
Thunder Agents Classics Vol 1 – Read ’em already…
Transformers 30th Anniversary Collection HC
Transformers Dark Prelude
Transfusion – Again, didn’t like the art…
What Is Above HC
Wolverine Vol 1 Hunting Season
X-Force Phalanx Covenant HC – Wouldn’t buy it with your cash!
X-Force Phalanx Covenant HC (Direct Market Edition)
Zombies Vs Robots Diplomacy
Blue Morning Vol 2
Btooom Vol 3
Bunny Drop Vol 9
Dorohedoro Vol 10
Embracing Love 2-in-1 Vol 1
Excel Saga Vol 26
InuYasha Vol 16 VIZBIG Edition
Itsuwaribito Vol 9
Judge Vol 1
Knights Of Sidonia Vol 4 – Recommended
Magi Vol 1
Neon Genesis Evangelion 3-In-1 Edition Vol 4
Puella Magi Kazumi Magica Vol 2 Innocent Malice
Spice and Wolf Novel Vol 9 (Prose)
Tiger And Bunny Comic Anthology Vol 1
Umineko When They Cry Vol 4 Turn of the Golden Witch
Wallflower Vol 31
DC Superhero Chess Figurine Collection Magazine #39
DC Superhero Chess Figurine Collection Magazine #40
Disney Girls Presents #16
Disney Princess Magazine #15
Hobby Japan #115
Video Watchdog #174
For each one of us who believe mainstream comic book publishers sap the will and creativity from their various hired-gun storytellers, there’s a 1000 fans who rarely think about it and another 10,000 who seriously couldn’t give a shit one way or the other. Which is really sad… Because there’s seemingly so much evidence supporting this belief.
Case in point: Victor Gischler, author of Dynamite’s new Shadow comic book.
I am not purporting to know how Gischler is/was handled as a creator at Marvel. I just know what I read… And his Deadpool (for example) was cute at first– then became amazingly repetitive as it wore on. (Even more amazing: Marvel Editors allowed the writer to repeat several jokes in the various Deadpool series he was writing… Making every comic extremely formulaic.)
Then Gischler wrote the Spike – A Dark Place mini-series for Dark Horse. I gave the first two issues of this comic 3 (out of 5) Stars– which is a great rating from me… even if I did note I thought the issues I reviewed seemed like a “…workmanlike effort at best.”
(For what it’s worth, I recently finished the whole Spike trade and changed my mind a little… The subsequent issues did a much better job of fleshing out the story and I decided the entire mini-series was rather well done.)
So once again, a Marvel-branded writer begins to strut his stuff outside the creative confines of the Big Two. Seems to happen almost every month these days… And looks to become a weekly event as more and more creators flee DC and Marvel to enter Image Comics’ warm embrace.
The good news is Gischler further rehabs his comic writing rep with The Shadow– making it all work by turning Lamont Cranston (the Shadow’s alter-ego) into a major league wiseass with balls the size of Buicks. In fairness, esteemed comic scribe Garth Ennis laid some of the groundwork for these engaging character traits in the first several issues of the series’ reboot… But Gischler takes them to a new level.
Gischler also does something else famously well: He’s updated Cranston and the other characters’ dialogue just enough that readers don’t feel like they’re reading dated caricatures. He knows exactly where to draw the line in this dialogue retrofit too– so you won’t find anyone spouting modern slang either. It’s all a very aware series of definitive writerly choices on Gischler’s part.
Prior to reading The Shadow Vol 2: Revolution, I would have told you Victor Gischler was a so-so comic book writer. Which is why it’s so great to be pleasantly surprised like this– to have my expectations totally upended. Gischler’s run on The Shadow shows why it’s so important that independent comics continue to thrive… And why even such usually soulless efforts as most licensed comics sometimes deserve a place on the comic shop shelf too.
The Shadow makes me fucking wonder what Gischler is capable of when allowed to run amok while writing a character of his own creation. Until comic publishers wise up and allow that to happen, I guess a few Victor Gischler prose novels are in my very near future.
Alien Saga The Poster Collection
Amazing Facts And Beyond HC
Art Of Brom HC
Bag Of Marbles
Batman Arkham Unhinged Vol 1 – No Video Game Comics!
Batman Arkham Unhinged Vol 2 HC – ditto
Crossed Vol 6 – I have got to stop buying these…
Crossed Vol 6 HC
Damned Vol 1
Daredevil by Mark Waid Vol 5 HC – Recommended
Distant Soil Vol 1 The Gathering (New Print) – Recommended
Disturbingly Awful Mad
Eric Powell Drawing Sketches & Such Book Four
Eric Powell Drawing Sketches & Such Book Five
Fagin The Jew 10th Anniversary HC
Fashion Beast HC
Feldstein Mad Life And Fantastic Art Of HC
Garth Ennis Battlefields Vol 7 The Green Fields Beyond
Hi-Fructose Collected Box Set Vol 3
In The Days Of The Mob HC
Iron Man Vol 2 Secret Origin of Tony Stark HC
Joe Kubert Tribute To The Creator And Mentor
Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Vol 6 (S&S Edition)
Kafka (New Print)
Lady Mechanika Mysteries Sketchbook
Little Prince Vol 9 The Planet Of The Giant
Locke And Key Special Edition Volume 2 Head Games HC
Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus Vol 2
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales Vol 3 Donner Dinner Party
Orchid Vol 3
Over The Wall
Rachel Rising Vol 3 Cemetery Songs – Recommended
Red Sonja Volume 11 Echoes Of War
Safe Area Gorazde HC Special Edition – Another “special” edition?
Saucer Country Vol 2 Reticulan Candidate
Savage Wolverine Vol 1 Kill Island HC
Sketches From The Sick And Twisted Mind Of Eric Powell
Star Wars Complete Vehicles HC (Updated Edition)
Thor By Walter Simonson Vol 1 – Own the Omnibus. Recommended
Thrilling Adventure Hour HC
Tib and Tumtum Vol 1 Welcome To The Tribe
TMNT Artobiography HC – Hellaciously priced…
Todd The Ugliest Kid On Earth Vol 1
Torpedo Vol 4 – Own the Hardcovers
Trekker Omnibus – I don’t like Dark Horse’s SMALL SIZED Omnibi
Ultimate Spider-Man Ultimate Collection Book 4
Venom Toxin With A Vengeance
Warhammer 40K Seventh Retribution
Warhammer Gotrek And Felix Lost Tales
Winter Soldier Vol 4 Electric Ghost
A Certain Scientific Railgun Vol 8
Alice In The Country Of Hearts The Clockmaker’s Story Vol 1
Bakuman Vol 20
Dance In Vampire Bund Omnibus Vol 3
Devil And Her Love Song Vol 10
Fairy Tail Vol 28
Happy Marriage Vol 1
Kamisama Kiss Vol 13
Kanokon Collected Edition Vol 2
Kaze Hikaru Vol 21
Kimi ni Todoke From Me To You Vol 17
Library Wars Love And War Vol 10
Naruto Vol 62
Nura Rise Of The Yokai Clan Vol 16
Pokemon Adventures Heartgol And Soulsilver Vol 1
Pokemon Black And White Vol 11
Sacred Blacksmith Vol 2
Slam Dunk Vol 29
Tegami Bachi Vol 14
Tezuka Twin Knight Vol 1
Toriko Vol 17
Witch Buster Vol 1 Books 1 & 2
Witch Buster Vol 2 Books 3 & 4
World War Blue Vol 2
Famous Monsters Of Filmland #269
Jack Kirby Collector #61
Monsters From The Vault #32
Star Trek Magazine #46
Star Wars The Clone Wars Magazine #19
Tomart’s Action Figure Digest #201
Walking Dead Magazine #5
Just finished reading Conan Vol 14 The Death Hardcover by Brian Wood (and various artists)… And all I can think to say is, “Wow, what a weird experience.”
As I’ve mentioned several times before, I love Wood’s writing. In my eyes, his comics stand as tall as any of his equally praised peers– including such lauded talents as Brian K. Vaughn. Wood is so good, I’m constantly amazed he’s contained himself mainly to this graphic medium… Especially when writers like the aforementioned Vaughn have hacked themselves out for lucrative TV shows gigs like Lost and the current (mostly execrable) Under the Dome.
With comics still the hot topic in Hollywood, I gotta believe Tinsletown’s come knocking at Wood’s door more than once… So it’s really cool he’s stayed so true. (Given his amazingly empathetic writing, it’s hard to believe Wood’s “day job” for several years was as a game designer on such franchises as Grand Theft Auto.)
Recently– like Vaughn (disappointedly) rewriting Stephen King’s Dome atrocity– Wood’s latest work seems focused on rebooting other people’s creations as well: Marvel Comics’ X-Men, George Lucas’ Star Wars and Robert E. Howard’s Conan. And while I haven’t read Wood’s X-Men or Star Wars comics yet, reviews for the latter book seem to describe the same major problems Wood’s Conan comic suffers from… That it‘s too Brian Wood-y.
When Wood is drawing on historical elements, his own imagination + futuristic speculation (Northlanders, DMZ, The Massive), he has very few contemporaries capable of matching his talents. But his is an extremely strong authoritative voice and, at times, he simply seems incapable of subverting it sufficiently when working with well-known licensed characters.
So what do we get when Wood works on such a defined fictional persona as Conan the Barbarian? We get a Brian Wood comic starring a character named Conan– who bears ZERO RESEMBLANCE to Robert E. Howard’s creation. Wood’s thin boy holds such a tenuous, insignificant connection to Howard’s bull-headed brawling Cimmerian, I’ve been known to call him Bob (as in Bob The Barbarian)… Because he sure ain’t Conan.
Which is where the weirdness takes hold.
Is Brian Wood’s Conan the Barbarian a bad comic book? Hell No! In fact, it’s a wonderful comic– filled with well-developed characters, beautiful dialogue and amazingly touching descriptions. It just ain’t a “Conan” Conan The Barbarian comic… And therefore it admirably fails to deliver what the title promises. I am all for a writer bringing his own voice to an established character, but I no more want a contemplative, withdrawn Conan than I would want a Nazi-loving Captain America kissing Hitler’s boots if I were to buy his book.
What’s even more tragic: There were 2 pages in this latest Conan Hardcover (pages 96 & 97) that contained the MOST BEAUTIFUL PROSE I believe I have ever read in any comic book ever. The words were so phenomenal, I called several people and read the pages out loud to them… And followed the words with this statement, “I’m not sure current comics deserve to have this level of talent working in them.”
I know that sounds harsh, but like 99.999 percent of everything I say– I meant it. Wood’s words– despite being so anti Conan The Barbarian— stand as a testament to true talent… To a creator intent on making a famous character his very own. I see fans split into two camps with this book: Long time Conan readers hold the highest disdain; while new Conan readers think this comic is one of the bestest ever. With a screwball sense of hilarity, I believe both camps are absolutely 100% right.
If this comic were simply called Barbarians and arrived with no preconceptions (other than the good will often reserved for Wood’s other ORIGINAL works), certainly almost everyone would love it. So I’m gonna do what I should have done all along… I’m going to keep buying Brian Wood’s Conan comic and I am going to start loving it for what it is: Another great Brian Wood comic. To end the debate, let’s call Wood’s Conan “Ultimate Conan” or “New 52 Conan”. (Without any of the negative connotations the adjectives in front of Conan’s name may portend.) When I want to read a more heavily Robert E. Howard influenced take on the Barbarian, I’ll re-read some of the older Roy Thomas adaptations — or wait for whatever talented writer Dark Horse taps to take over the title after Wood leaves.
Given my continued state of confusion, I have no idea how to end this review. (Damn near a first for me– as I am always ready to end my reviews.) But since I could go on about how Wood’s Conan is still beautiful– if not at all Conan– for a couple more paragraphs, I’ll just put us all out of our misery with this statement– which is also true:
Brian Wood’s Conan is the most wonderful Barbarian Comic not really written about Conan ever published. It stands as a beacon to his talent and a warning to comic book publishers everywhere that Brian should only be hired to write his own amazingly original, unique stuff.