Archive for December, 2004

Stan Lee interview (December 2004)

December 20, 2004 | Interviews

Stan Lee turns 82 next week having had a career as a writer than is bordering on legendary. Many of the characters Lee co-created over the years at Marvel Comics, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk and Daredevil to name a few, are among the most recognizable in the world. So why doesn’t he take it easy instead of continuing to write books like his new Stan Lee’s Superhero Christmas? “Greed was obviously the motive,” Lee said with a laugh. Lee, along with illustrator Tim Jessell, have created what they hope will be a new festive children’s classic with by making what the writer said is a very natural combination. “It was kind of fun to think about Santa Claus dealing with super-heroes because Santa is the ultimate super-hero,” he said. To contrast all that goodness, Lee had to come up with the ultimate villain. The result was the cold-hearted Ice King. “The idea of this guy who could imprison Santa is this cell of ice and had these little trolls working with him seemed good,” he said. The story sees Santa trapped by the Ice King on Christmas Eve. When the heroic Protector rushes to Santa’s aid and is also caught, it’s up to his wife, the Protectress, with the help of their children, Carolyn and Robert, to save the day. A return to his super-heroic roots was inevitable, Lee said. “To tell you the truth: people just expect it of me, he said. “Whenever I want to write something they say ‘what kind of super-hero story will it be?’ “I guess I’m a little bit typecast.” This new holiday release is something Lee hopes will become an annual tradition and maybe even become an animated film or direct-to-DVD project in time for next year. “It’s got some things that most Christmas specials don’t have: adventure, super-heroes, the ultimate super-villain, Santa Claus and it has the happiest of endings,” he said. Lee said he never had any interest in returning to his classic Marvel creations to tell this tale. “I’ve done those and I’m happy with them, but that was yesterday,” he said. “I like to do new things today.” So as he celebrates birthday No. 82 on Dec. 28 and is still writing, working on developing TV shows, feature films, video games and more, is he ready to slow down and take it easy? “I’m not (ready to) retire,” he said. “I’ve never worked harder in my life or enjoyed it more.”

Holiday gift guide 2004

December 14, 2004 | Trades

The Complete Peanuts 1950-1954 Box Set Fantagraphics Books $49.95 US (hardcover) It’s hard not to equate the Peanuts gang and Christmas. The long-running A Charlie Brown Christmas animated special which runs every December is a tradition and many people feel it’s just not the holiday season with out Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and good ol’ Charlie Brown. This slipcase two hardcover set of every single Peanuts strip done by the late Charles Schultz from late 1950 to Dec. 31, 1954 will take you back to a simpler time where you can watch the evolution of one of the most iconic strips of the 20th century take shape. This is also a gift that can become an annual tradition, as every one of Schultz’s strips until his retirement — a span of 50 years — will be collected and released at a rate of two books a year for the next 11 years. Bone: The One Volume Editon Cartoon Books $54.75 (paperback) The One Volume Edition of Bone is a 1,332-page behemoth, but rarely will you find a finer read in a more compelling package. One of the most deservedly lauded series of the past 15 years, Bone tells the epic story of three cousins trapped in a lush valley filled with dragons, rat creatures and people good and evil. Full of simple, yet elegant art by creator Jeff Smith, Bone is witty, suspenseful and thoroughly enjoyable. This volume contains all 55 issues of Bone (or all nine previous trade paperbacks, if you prefer) and at about $4 per issue or $20-25 per trade this book’s value becomes clear. The only thing that could deter people from the One Volume Edition is its hefty four-pound weight. But it is well worth setting down on your lap for a long winter read. The Art Of Usagi Yojimbo Dark Horse Books $39.95 US (hardcover) This year marks the 20th anniversary of Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo and to celebrate, Dark Horse Books is pulling out all the stops. This over-sized hardcover covers everything you need to know about Sakai’s creation — an anthropomorphized rabbit samurai who lives in 17th century Japan — beginning with two illustrated pieces on how the writer/artist creates an issue of the comic book series, from concept to completion. Other highlights include a look at the character’s origins from rarely and never-before seen sketches, a look at Usagi’s early years and the development of the long-running series and a section on Sakai’s stunning painted work which illustrates his truly immense talents as an artist. The book also features a gallery of Usagi sketches by other famous artists, such as Frank Miller, Sergio Aragones, Tim Sale and Jeff Smith. The DC Comics Encyclopedia DK Publishing/DC Comics $50 (hardcover) Having access to the complete DC Comics Universe in one volume is the dream of many a comic fan. Well wishes can come true and for the first time in over a decade, an updated guide to the DCU is here: The DC Comics Encyclopedia. From Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to the more obscure heroes and villains produced by this venerable comic book company over the past 60+ years — this book has it all. This guide is packed with information in the typical encyclopedic manner and features illustrations by some of the top names in comics covering over 1,000 characters, places, vehicles and weapons that make the DCU such an amazing and evolving place. Wrapped in a cover by acclaimed comic painter Alex Ross, this is a high-priority present for the comic fan in your life. Star Wars: Panel To Panel Dark Horse Books $19.95 (paperback) It’s less than six months until the release of the final piece of the Star Wars puzzle: The Revenge Of The Sith and the Jedi nuts are starting to come out of the woodwork. Everybody knows a Star Wars fan, closet or otherwise, making gift giving to them a piece of cake. And Panel To Panel is a perfect gift for one wise in the ways of The Force. The work of Dark Horse Comics on the adventures set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away have been terrific over the past 13 years. To commemorate some of the amazing work produced by some of the industry’s finest creators, Dark Horse has released Panel To Panel. From galleries on the heroic Jedi Knights to villains and rogues such as Darth Vader and Boba Fett and others on spacecrafts and aliens, Panel To Panel is a collection like no other. Dreamwave Pockets Dreamwave Productions $10.95-$12.95 US (paperback) Markham’s masters of action, adventure and fantasy have got the perfect stocking stuffer for the comic fans on your list this holiday season. Dreamwave Productions, best known for reviving the Transformers comic franchise several years ago have been roaring full steam ahead since then, producing handfuls of entertaining series, including several based on licenced characters such as Megaman, Duel Masters and, of course, the Transformers. In addition to the traditional trade paperback collection to bring together the first five or six issues of these series for come-lately fans, Dreamwave has released them in handy novel-sized pocket editions. For a younger crowd, try Megaman, Duel Masters and Transformers: Energon. If you’re buying for a slightly older fan, Darkminds, Warlands, Transformers: War Within and the ultra-hot Transformers/G.I. Joe are a perfect fit.

Creatures Of The Night

December 6, 2004 | Comics

Creatures Of The Night Neil Gaiman, Michael Zulli Dark Horse Books $12.95 US (hardcover) **** (out of five) Creatures Of The Night contains two dark, poetic and visceral tales of magic and mystery that are haunting and beautiful. Yep, Neil Gaiman is back writing comics. Gaiman, best known as the creator of The Sandman, along with artist Michael Zulli, weaves together something special with the first story, The Price. After the owner of a country home takes in another stray into his home full of cats, he is mystified to find the large black feline covered in wounds every morning when he gets up. Determined to find out what has been harming his new friend, the owner stakes out his property one night. But the startling truth of what the cat has been battling is worse than the man could have ever imagined. The second tale sees a girl who was abandoned as a baby and labeled as cursed for being The Daughter Of The Owls, is forced into a dilapidated convent where she is to remain for life. But years later, as she lives alone in the convent, the men in the nearby town hear of her great beauty and come for an ill-willed visit. What will owls do when their daughter is threatened? Creatures Of The Night, Gaiman’s second comic book project in as many years after last fall’s The Sandman: Endless Nights, is pure pleasure. Now if only he could be convinced to get back on a monthly series.

Y: The Last Man Vol. 4 — Safeword

December 6, 2004 | Trades

Y: The Last Man: Safeword Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, Goran Parlov Vertigo/DC Comics $19.95 (paperback) **** (out of five) Monkeys and skinheads and bondage, oh my! The most cutting-edge comic around gets its fourth collection, Safeword and a series that was already pushing boundaries has smashed the heck out of them this time. Yorick Brown, the last man on Earth after an unknown malady has killed every other Y chromosome-carrying thing around except for him and his monkey, continues his travels west to find his missing fiancée, but gets sidetracked in Colorado. To save his ailing monkey’s life, his travelling companions, the enigmatic Dr. Mann and the mysterious government Agent 355 leave him in the care of another Agent, No. 711. But left in her care, Yorick quickly finds himself drugged, bound in leather and chains and facing a stern interrogation courtesy of Agent 711’s riding crop. The biting and frank dialogue and subject matter that arise next includes homosexual rape, suicide fantasies, a weird little Wizard Of Oz dream featuring Yorick as Dorothy and few more things that aren’t appropriate to print in a family newspaper. Writer Brian K. Vaughan and artists Pia Guerra and Goran Parlov raise the bar on an already exceptional series with this mind-bending fourth collection.

Love As A Foreign Language Vol. 1

December 6, 2004 | Comics

Love As A Foreign Language Vol. 1 J. Torres, Eric Kim Oni Press $5.95 US (paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) Korea is finally getting the best of Joel. After 10 months as an English language teacher he is homesick for Toronto and fed up with the peculiar food, the bizarre TV shows and the pesky cockroach that keeps eluding him in his apartment. But there’s this girl — this beautiful girl. And he keeps seeing her around. Just as he’s at the end of his wits and ready to quit his job and head home, Joel finds out his dream girl, Hana is joining the staff at his school. But is that enough to make him stay? Love As A Foreign Language, written by Toronto’s J. Torres and illustrated by Eric Kim, is a cute and clever cultural essay that is over far too fast. This first volume whets your appetite (and makes you crave Kimshi) and then leaves you hanging. But the fate of Joel and his crush on Hana up in the air will likely be enough to make you come back for more.

Transformers — War Within Vol. 2: The Dark Ages

December 6, 2004 | Trades

Transformers War Within Vol. 2: The Dark Ages Simon Furman, Andrew Wildman Dreamwave Productions $17.95 US (paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) Optimus Prime and Megatron are gone and Cybertron stands on the brink of civil war. All it will take is one little push and the whole house of cards will come crumbling down. This second volume of tales of the ancient past of the popular Transformers, sees the chaos that ensues after the events of the first book, which saw Megatron, leader of the evil Decepticons, and Prime, commander of the peaceful Autobots, disappear at series end. Amidst the conflict and confusion, an ancient warrior, perhaps as old as the planet itself arises and begins a nefarious plot to bring about a new dark age. Told with a much grittier edge than traditional portrayals of these characters, The Dark Ages is entertaining and imaginative is a good bet for TF fans, but could be a tad difficult for new readers to follow along.

JLA Vol. 15: The Tenth Circle

December 6, 2004 | Trades

JLA Vol. 15: The Tenth Circle Chris Claremont, John Byrne DC Comics $19.95 (paperback) *** (out of five) They say you can never go home again — and sometimes you shouldn’t even try. To breathe some life into a flagging franchise, the legendary comics team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne have been reunited on JLA (Justice League of America). The men responsible for some of the most famous adventures of the Uncanny X-Men re-team to bring us The Tenth Circle, which sees the League take on the role of vampire slayers to try to stop a child kidnapping ring and prevent the worst of the bloodsuckers from being raised from the pits of hell. This collection also serves as a launching point for Byrne’s new Doom Patrol series. No matter how good this story arc is it will be compared to the duo’s groundbreaking work of 25 years ago. Well times have changed and neither of these professionals is on the cutting edge anymore. They both produce interesting work, but trying to recapture the magic of a bygone era just isn’t going to happen. As a result, The Tenth Circle is what it is: a decent JLA story which, in the end, signifies nothing.

The Awakening

December 6, 2004 | Comics

The Awakening Neal Shaffer, Luca Genovese Oni Press $9.95 US (paperback) ** (out of five) A knife-wielding maniac is picking off a group of teen girls one at a time and the only person who might know the killer’s identity has lost the power to speak. Sounds like the recipe for a terrific book doesn’t it? But The Awakening never really pulls it off. Between trying to lay a foundation where you care about the characters, then killing them off and then solving the mystery in this tight little 104-page book just doesn’t cut it. The Awakening’s premise is sound and it is easy to be endeared to the lead character, Francesca. However the violent murders of most of her friends, the plodding police investigation and the resolution of the case leave much to be desired. Perhaps another 100 pages would do it.

Carnet De Voyage

December 6, 2004 | Comics

Carnet De Voyage Craig Thompson Top Shelf Productions $14.95 US (paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) Craig Thompson would be a pitiable man if he weren’t so amazingly talented and successful. While fans of the creator of one of the best graphic novels of the past year, Blankets, wait with great impatience for his expected 2005 follow-up, Thompson has been the toast of the comics’ scene. His 2 1/2 month publicity tour/vacation through Europe and Morocco earlier this year has resulted in Carnet De Voyage, an illustrated account of the quirky odyssey this neurotic, yet smashingly talented artist endured. Beautiful portraits and landscapes mixed with Thompson’s observations on societal and cultural differences and a harsh look at himself and his occasionally tortured existence as an artist make Carnet a trip worth taking.

Solo #1

December 6, 2004 | Comics

Solo #1 Tim Sale DC Comics $7.50/$4.95 US **** (out of five) Finally: a worthy showcase for some of the top talent in the comic book industry. Beginning with Solo #1, featuring the art of Tim Sale, this 48-page, bimonthly series gives DC Comics’ artists a chance to stretch their wings and try telling different kinds of stories. Sale, best known for his work along with writer Jeph Loeb on Batman: The Long Halloween, Catwoman: When In Rome and more, shines in this anthology, which lets him show his talents for telling fast-paced action, tender love and gritty crime stories — aided by writers Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Superman), Loeb and Toronto’s Darwyn Cooke. This free expression idea is a terrific one and should get better in late December with the release of Solo #2, featuring Hellblazer artist Richard Corben.