Oh No. They Died Again.

The first year that I did NanoPoblano, one thing that was a topic of a number of those posts were the comics I was reading with my Marvel Unlimited subscription. I still have my subscription, but this time I also have a complaint. Not about the service. I’ve never had a problem with the that. No, my complaint is about something they do in the stories.

Now, I’m not picking on Marvel here. They’re certainly not the only ones guilty of doing the thing I’m complaining about. I’ve seen it done in every form of storytelling: movies, television, comics, and novels. In fact, I mentioned it in a post that I wrote a few weeks ago. “What is it?” you ask without clicking on the link.

The answer is this: bringing characters back from the dead.

In the past few years of reading things with my Marvel Unlimited subscription, I’ve seen this done a number of times. The more I see it, the more it annoys me. And it seems to annoy me more when done in comics, especially when it’s done with a major character. The death of Superman? Of Wolverine? Was there anyone on Earth who thought either of those would stick when those stories came out?

The newest issue of Uncanny X-Men to upload to Marvel Unlimited had the death of a character in it. Two days later, I saw an article on Marvel’s website about the relaunch of one of their titles. The character who had died in the issue I just read was going to be resurrected and be in this relaunch.

Really?

Granted, six months had passed between the time the issue I read was published and it was uploaded to Marvel Unlimited, but still. It’s getting ridiculous. Even the characters themselves are making light of it. I’ve seen a couple of times when someone says to a resurrected character, “Weren’t you dead?” and they’d reply, “It’s not the first time I’ve died,” or “People don’t stay dead around here.”

A character dying should be a big thing. It’s not. They’ve turned it into a gimmick and it’s irritating the heck out of me. It’s hard for me to stay invested in a story when there’s no consequences. “Oh no! Villain X is about to kill Hero Y with his latest weapon! What will he do?

“Oh, yeah. It doesn’t matter. Even if Villain X kills Hero Y they’re just going to bring him back in a few months anyway…”

Maybe I did it in my pre-blog years, but I don’t remember ever bringing any of my characters back from the dead. I’ve taken a few of my dead characters and made them undead, but I don’t recall ever bringing any back to life. Not in any of my serious stories anyway. I think I did it once or twice in my nonsensical ones. Now, there have been a few times when I’ve been tempted to do it, but I have no plans for it any time soon.

On the off chance that I do decide to bring one back someday, it won’t be for a gimmick. No, the only way I’d do it is if doing so would not only make sense in the story, but would also enhance the story.

So far, none of the Marvel resurrections I’ve read recently have met those two criteria.

Smoker’s Alley Comics

A long time ago, in a galaxy that we’re living in, I used to draw comic books. Granted, none of them looked very good. My artistic skills are virtually nonexistent. In truth, they probably would have looked better as stick figures. But, I digest…

When I first started this, I drew them for my coworkers. My original series was started back when I worked in fast food right after high school. It was entitled “The Misadventures of the Roast Beef Workers” (I bet you’ll never be able to guess which fast food restaurant I was working at). I honestly don’t remember much about this one other than the premise of one of the stories. In it, someone pulled the fire alarm and the combination of the fire extinguisher system and the oil in the fryers (which hadn’t been changed in years) caused the food inside of it to come to life. The roast beef workers were forced to fight off walking French fries and chicken tenders.

My second foray into comics was when I worked at Hellmart. This one was entitled “The Misadventures of the Retail Bitchboys” and centered around myself and my coworkers. A few of my coworkers liked it so much that I did a spinoff of it just for them. It was called the “TP Task Force”, where I turned them into a cult that worshipped soft toilet paper. Surprisingly, only one of them took offense to this.

Both of these series were done in the style of Airplane/Mel Brooks movies. It was mostly jokes over top of goofy stories. There were also a lot of jokes thrown in about the horrible art that graced the pages. All in all, they were just me goofing around.

I “published” these books under the name Smoker’s Alley Comics. I don’t remember where the name came from. The only thing I can think of is that I was a smoker at the time. Still, Marvel and DC always had their logo or name somewhere on the cover, so I thought that I should too.

While I had plenty of ideas for new comics for Smoker’s Alley to do, the only one I ever actually drew out was a mini series about an ice powered hero named Freezer Burn. His powers weren’t very original (basically he was Iceman) and, as I learned a few months ago when I looked it up, neither was his name. But, I did like the story, so I have had thoughts about retooling it.

I used to dream about Smoker’s Alley becoming big time. I wanted to turn my stories, like Dead Set or Haunted Angel (a spinoff of Dead Set that explores what happens to Father Michaels after he leaves the pages of Dead Set), into comic books and have them be hits. I hoped that I would be able to find an artist that could put the images I had in my head on paper.

But, alas, I never found my artist. Not that it would have mattered. I knew absolutely nothing about how to go about actually publishing a comic book. Hell, I still don’t. Plus, I wouldn’t have had the money to pay for the printing anyway.

Over the life of this blog, I’ve thought about reviving Smoker’s Alley Comics on here. I’ve thought about actually taking the time to draw out a retooled version of my Freezer Burn story (and obviously giving him a new name). I’ve thought about drawing out a story that I have come up with for my character DICO (Unlike those I’ve posted on this blog, this DICO story would obviously be serious. Well, as serious as it can possibly be when DICO’s superpower is the ability to be able to throw his nipples at people.).

There are reasons that I haven’t done so yet. First and foremost, my drawings would offend actual artists. Yes, they’re that bad.

Second, I’m not sure how I’d be able to do it. Would I hand draw them and then scan them? Would I try to draw them on the computer? Would I be able to fit an entire issue worth of pages into a single post on here? If not, how would I get the issue to the people that want to read it? Would I be able to get them into a file small enough for me to email them?

See? The logistics of it all is baffling.

Once this post a day month is over, I might have the time to attempt this, if enough of you actually want me to do it. Although, if you have any suggestions about how to get this out there, I’m willing to listen.

P.S. Before any of you ask: No, I don’t have any of the old comics that I drew. They got lost or thrown away during one of my many moves since then.

What the Hell, Marvel?

While catching up on things that I  missed out on during my break from reading comic books, I came across a title on Marvel Unlimited called Uncanny X-Force. It had a few characters in it that I liked (Deadpool, Wolverine, and Archangel) and a couple that I didn’t really  care about one way or the other  (Psylocke and Fantomex).

The reason I’m asking “What the hell?” is because of a running story thread that is present throughout both runs of this book. It’s not a main story, just a side story involving the two that I didn’t really care about and their relationship. 

When the first run started, Psylocke was actually involved with Archangel. Then, at around issue 15 or so, Archangel went nuts abd tried to become the next Apocalypse. In order to stop him, they wiped Archangel’s mind clean. Since he no longer knew who she was, Psylocke took that as a sign that they were no longer together. 

Fantomex, this entire time, had been crushing on her pretty hard. He even hit on her a few times until she made it clear that she wasn’t interested. 

Now, I’m not sure whether or not Fantomex is a mutant. Regardless, his powers are creating illusions inside of people’s minds. He also has something that, while not a power, is a characteristic that becomes important later in the story: He has three separate minds living inside of his head. The three minds are, first, his own (Fantomex), second, a feminine mind  (Cluster), and third, a dark side (Weapon XIII). Somehow these three minds functioned together correctly, and as a bonus, made it hard for telepaths to read his mind.

Anyway, towards the end of the first run, Psylocke started having feelings for Fantomex. This escalated in the second to last issue in the 35 issue first run. In issue 34, Fantomex sacrificed himself so the Psylocke could live. Since this is a comic book, and nobody stays dead forever, they revived him in the very next issue. They put his body into a machine that brought him back, but when it did, it split the three different minds into three different bodies. Weapon XIII ran off, but the other two went home, taking Psylocke to meet their mother and the run ended with Fantomex and Psylocke seeming to live happily ever after. 

Cut to the start of the second run and where it gets pretty messed up.

Psylocke has left him. In a series of flashbacks, you find out that he’s kind of a douche. Psylocke then discovers that all the sweet things that he did for her in the first run  were actually coming from when Cluster was in control of the Fantomex body. So, naturally, the two women then hook up. Also naturally,  he catches his girlfriend sleeping with the female version of himself (That’s a hell of a sentence).

Fantomex gets jealous and sets her up to get arrested by police in Paris. She gets out of the trap and when she gets back to the house they all share, she discovers that not only is she sleeping with both Fantomex and Cluster, they’re also sleeping with each other. 

Let that sink in for a minute.

He’s sleeping with a female version of himself. 

So, basically, she’s cheating on her boyfriend with her boyfriend, and he’s cheating on her with himself. 

WTF Marvel?

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Weapon XIII shows back up, kidnaps Psylocke , and tries to win her back for himself. She says no and escapes. Then, Fantomex and Cluster try to talk her into some weird 3way relationship. She says no to them and then they offer to all go back into one body just so she’ll be with them again.

I don’t know what happens next because I stopped reading there. Seriously, WTF was that all about? Am I the only one who thinks that this story line is convoluted, creepy, and weird?

Looking Back: Moon Knight 

This post gets to be both a Looking Back post and a Marvel Unlimited post. The reason it’s not just a Marvel Unlimited post is that, like my previous Looking Back posts, I now view Moon Knight in a whole new light than I did before I started reading his books on Marvel Unlimited. The other comics I’ve reviewed for Marvel Unlimited are books I still have the same opinion on.

Back then: Moon Knight was cool superhero character.

Now: Why the hell did I ever like this guy?

To be honest, I didn’t ever actually read a Moon Knight comic until a year or so ago. For some reason, before then, I just really liked the character. I don’t know why. I just did. All I really knew about Moon Knight was his origin story.

Marc Spector was a mercenary hired by archaeologists in Egypt to guard their expedition. He was betrayed by his partner Bushman who shot him and left him for dead in one of the dig sites. That particular dig site was actually a temple of the Egyptian moon god, Khonshu. Khonshu resurrected Spector to be his champion on Earth.

Sounds like a cool story so far, right? I certainly thought so. That origin story is all I based my Moon Knight fandom on. A couple of years ago, when I first started at my job, there were other comic book guys there and we would talk about the characters we liked and those we didn’t. They began telling me bits and pieces of what happened after the origin story.

They basically turned him into a Batman wannabe.

Batman’s costume was all black. Moon Knight’s  was all white. Batman had Batarangs shaped like bats. Moon Knight’s were shaped like crescent moons. The Batplane was shaped like a bat. Moon Knight’s Mooncopter was shaped like, you guessed it, a crescent moon. Batman had a European butler, Alfred. Moon Knight had a European pilot, Frenchie.

In order to try to distance him from Batman, Marvel gave him a character trait that was supposed to make them different. They gave Moon Knight Dissociative Identity Disorder, or in other words, multiple personalities. One was Steven Grant, millionaire. He had money saved up from all of his mercenary gigs that allowed him to do this. Another was Jake Lockley, a cab driver, who gathered information on the street.

Hmmm…..

A millionaire persona and someone who gathers information from the streets. Why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, that’s also something Batman does as Bruce Wayne (millionaire) and Matches Malone (street information).

The only difference is, as far as I know, Bruce never had a problem with thinking these were separate identities. Well, that, plus Khonshu was always a voice in Moon Knight’s head.

Now, about a year ago, I stumbled across the Brian Michael Bendis run on Moon Knight from 2011-2012 at the library. In it, Moon Knight had ditched the above personalities and moved to Hollywood to work on a TV show based on his mercenary adventures. Instead, he had the personalities of Captain America, Spider-Man, and Wolverine in his head. He hires a former S.H.I.E.L.D tech to build him gadgets that will allow him to simulate the fighting styles of the three heroes in his head. By the end of the 12 issue run, he had defeated the main bad guy of the series, Count Nefaria (a powerful Thor villain), with the help of these gadgets.

It wasn’t bad, so when I got Marvel Unlimited, I read some of the newer Moon Knight stuff. I was not a fan. The first few issues weren’t bad. It was a continuous story about Moon Knight falling out of Khonshu’s favor and the moon god choosing a new champion. Not a horrible story, but not great. Also, they were now saying that he didn’t have DID. It was brain damage from Khonshu sharing space in his head.

After that, it all went downhill. It was nothing but a bunch of one-shot comics that were just complete crap. One story had him fighting a guy who abused dogs until they went out and stole valuable merchandise for him (No, I’m not making that up). Another had him fighting a guy that could capture ghosts in a special glove that he wore.

I haven’t read any of the current volume of Moon Knight, but from what I’ve heard, it starts off with him waking up in a psychiatric hospital thinking that his entire life as Moon Knight was just a figment of his imagination. Considering he has been a part of at least a couple big crossover events, I don’t see the whole “your Moon Knight adventures are all in your head” thing sticking.

If it were up to me, I’d get him away from all the mental health problems and get him back to mythology side of things that started the character. I actually have a story worked up that would actually usher this in. Now, I understand that nobody at Marvel will ever read this here blog, but it would be cool if I could at least pitch this idea to them. More than likely, I’d be shot down, but I could at least say I tried.

Someday, I may come back and read this new volume of Moon Knight to see if they made him better, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. I’ve got other things I’d rather read now.

Character Renderings

One of my great regrets is that I’m not a better artist. I would love to be able to be at least decent at drawing. There are so many ideas I have for comics that I would be able to see to fruition if I was able to convey the images I see in my head onto paper. I’ve tried so many times and it has yet to come out right.

Recently, I got an idea for a character after having a Facebook conversation with everyone’s favorite dinosaur, Ra. Normally, an idea is as far as it goes, since I am unable to properly draw the character. This time, because Ra is so awesome, I decided to go ahead and try out the drawing thing again. As she is the one who made the picture at the top of this here blog, I even went as far as to try to style my drawings after hers.

In the end, I finished with 3 different images.

Here he is standing in front of a door.

invisible-1

Here he his standing in front of a window.

invisible-2

And, lastly, here he is in his backyard.

invisible-3

Well, there you have it, folks. Those are the first renderings of Tom, the invisible man. What do you think of my pictures? Do they really capture the essence of the character?

Too Many Stories

Months ago, when I did my “Worth It” post, I told you all that I was working on 3 different stories in some phase of the writing process. One that most of my writing was done on, and mostly just had to worry about editing. The other two I was actively writing on.

Well, all of that is still true.

Unfortunately for my brain, those aren’t the only stories rattling around in my head.

Besides the two novels I’m working on, I’ve also been coming up with new comic book stories. If you click on the My Stories link at the top of my page, you’ll find 3 such stories I’ve already done: Dead Set (my serious one), Captain Procrastination (my off the wall, goofy one that was never meant to be taken seriously), and DICO (which is a little bit of both, although more ridiculous than serious). Two of the story ideas I have are continuations of these already established tales.

I’d like to continue on Dead Set at some point, if only because I stopped writing it in the middle of a story arc. I also have an idea that will tie all my comic stories together and, while I don’t need to continue with this story to do so, it would make things clearer if I did.

The second idea I want to work on is one I started a while ago and gave up because working on it made me realize how much I absolutely loathed writing in script form.

The third idea is to put DICO together with others and have him join a team. Obviously, to do this, I’m going to have to get a little more serious with it. Although, it will never be completely serious. The guy throws nipples for Pete’s sake.

My plan is to have them all happen in the same universe. The other two stories would just take place 10-20 years after the events of Dead Set. Since all of Dead Set so far has been written in story form, that would be how I finished it.

The other two, however pose a problem. I’d rather not write them in story form because I really do want them turned into actual comic books. Given my lack of artistic talent, that is problematic. I can’t draw them and have I mentioned how much I hate hate hate hate hate writing in script form? I also haven’t found anyone willing to draw for me for free, since I have no money to pay anyone to illustrate it for me. So, what to do?

What I think I’m going to do is this: Do two issues of each book, drawing them myself in my ‘stick figure/ a fifth grader could probably draw it better’ style. Once they’re done, I’m going to show them to a select group of people that I know are comic book fans and get their opinions. If they think I’m on the right track (minus the horrible artwork, of course), I’ll continue working on the stories. If they think the books aren’t worth the effort I’m putting into getting them made, I’ll probably just shelve the ideas for a while and see if I can’t come up with some improvements.

So, between my novels and my comic books, I have 6 stories that I’m trying to write at this moment. That doesn’t include the two books I’m reading right now or the ideas I sometimes get for blog posts.

Oy vey…..

Is anyone that reads this blog rich? I need someone to give me a lot of money so I can write full time instead of going to work. Maybe then I could get all the stories to stop fighting for supremacy in my mind.

The New 52

It’s been a long time since I read comic books regularly. I’d say I stopped somewhere around 2005 or so. I didn’t really want to stop, but paying things like rent, car insurance, and electric became more important than seeing who Daredevil was battling that month. Eventually, I got used to not reading them, but I still would get nostalgic every once in a while and want to revisit my old books. Unfortunately, I had run out of room at my apartment and gave them to a friend of mine as a wedding present. I now kick myself for that decision. 

A few years ago, my wife and I started going to the library regularly  (which you all should do because the library is awesome). After going a couple of times, I finally realized that they had a comic book section. There were quite a few graphic novels and collections of comic book issues. Most of what they had was on the newer side, so they didn’t have any of the books I  used to own. It did give me the opportunity to catch up on some things, though.

The first thing I did was read the Mark Waid run on Daredevil. It was pretty good, but it did have some not so great moments. After that, I moved on to my next favorite character, Nightwing. That meant The New 52.

Prior to this, I had heard nothing but bad things about The New 52, most of it from die hard DC fanatics. So, I was expecting the worst when I started reading it. I didn’t get to read all of the Nightwing run (I’m pretty sure I only missed the ending of it), but it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t as good as the old books, but it wasn’t atrocious either. Then, I read what Nightwing turned into, which was the series Grayson….

Grayson was a steaming pile of pus-filled horse crap.

In the finale of Nightwing, Dick Grayson faked his own death because he was publicly outed as Nightwing. In Grayson, he goes undercover for Batman to infiltrate a super secret spy organization named Spyral… No, I’m not making that up. Spyral? Seriously??? That may have been clever back in the 60s, but now it’s just ridiculously stupid. No spy organization would ever have the word ‘spy’ in it anywhere.

I could forgive the stupid name if the story was good. It wasn’t. 

My hope for the New 52 dwindled. I’ll admit that if I had to pay to keep reading them,  I would’ve stopped. Since they were free from the library, I gave some more of them a shot. All titles listed are ones I read at least 2 collections of (the equivalent of around 8-10 issues).

Green Arrow: Pretty much blew.

Green Lantern, New Guardians: Not half bad. I’m not a big Lantern guy, but this was better than I thought it would be. 

Suicide Squad: First book, good. Second book, suck. I was too afraid to try the third one.

Red Hood and the Outlaws: Good enough to keep me interested, but not good enough for me to say I liked it.

And finally, the one I thought I’d like the least but it ended up being better than the rest of them, except for Nightwing: 

Aquaman. 

That’s right. Aquaman. 

The only reason I even gave this a try was a guy at work told me that they went out of their way to make sure that Aquaman wasn’t a joke in The New 52. He was right. They made sure he was a force to be reckoned with.

They also addressed some of the jokes made at Aquaman’s  expense. In the first issue he walks into a seafood place and orders fish. The people in the restaurant flip out. “You’re Aquaman, you can’t eat fish!” “Aren’t they your friends?”

He tries to explain to them that he can telepathically communicate with them to give them commands, but he doesn’t have conversations with them. When they still hounded him, he asked, “What do you think I eat when I’m underwater?” and that shut them up. There were also some scenes where cops say that they’re embarrassed that Aquaman helped them catch criminals and then he saves their lives from some super baddies.

I read the first 3 collections of it and they were all good. Hopefully, they kept it up.

What about you? What’s your opinion on the New 52 books?