Justice League Concerns

JL BannerHey. Ok, I need to get this out there. I’ve stated thousands of times previously that I am a DC fanboy. Tried and true. I don’t understand what the hell Marvel is doing with their comics and I cant find any enjoyment when I try to read their recent books.  But when it comes to the movie-side of things, I love what Marvel is doing and cant figure out what the hell DC is doing.

I’ve previously written about my opinion on the state of DC movies and my desires to see Warner Bros. make better movies, especially following Suicide Squad.  But in the end, I am a mark for all comic book movies. I want them, I eat them up and I will continue to drop my money on tickets.  I’ve been really looking forward to Thor: Ragnarok which drops November 3rd and Justice League, two weeks later, on November 17th.

However, I have some concerns about JL. It was recently announced that the run time for the movie is literally a minute-shy of two hours. Is this problematic?  Probably not but I do think its pretty short for a comic book movie, no? Granted, it doesn’t need to be three hours in length, but when it cant crack the two-minute mark?  That makes me question what’s up.

I have tried to champion this movie to anyone who threw shade at it (is that right? Is that what all the cool kids say now?  Throwing shade?) but its been difficult when the marketing hasn’t done itself any favours.  The most recent, and final, trailer dropped earlier this month and it looks alright but it hasn’t hooked me even deeper and it should have. It should have made me fucking pop with excitement. It should have made those who were on the fence jump off and say ‘fucking right!’ but it didn’t.

Visually, it still looks too CGI’d.  But the music in the trailer? Oh for fucks sake…”Heroes”? Seriously?  Come on, Warner Bros.  Did you not see what Marvel did with Thor and the might Zeppelin?  If not, check it out!  JL Flash

And don’t even get me started on what the hell they did to The Flash.  That’s for a whole other post.

In the meantime, I will enjoy the buzz and excitement of Thor; bought my tickets the day they allowed and I cant wait to go with my son. I am still looking forward to Justice League – which,  by the time your reading this, tickets have just gone on sale – but I have concerns.  I really want to love this movie. But I also have to realize…I cant keep making excuses to justify how great it could be. I just need it to be that great.

We’ll see…

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Comics: Physical or Digital?

Physical_vs_DigitalComics (both single issues and trades) are available in two different methods of delivery (sorry purists, I’m not counting weekly/daily newspaper strips): Physical or Digital.  Physical was número uno for years and then digital bounced in about 10 years ago.

I came back into reading comics in the summer of 2011 when DC’s The New 52 was launched and I was really high on reading everything on my iPad. This was the future!  Fuck paper books!  I went through my library, kept only a few books and then ended up donating the rest.  I doubled-down on the e-pub versions of books that I had physical copies of.  And when it came to comics, I thought digital copies were the bees knees, as it were. I loved them and thought there was no turning back. ComiXology Library 2

Well…if you’ve been reading this blog, you will know that I am all about the physical issues so…I was wrong in 2011.  Big time.

After about a year of reading issues on my iPad, I had a conversation with my friend Sammy who had been chastising me since August 2011 about my decision to buy comics online. Sammy thought it was great that I had come back into reading comics but then also thought that I was being short sighted, ridiculous and plain ‘ol stupid for reading my comics on a tablet. Sammy is nerd for all things pop culture.  His DNA is built upon the four-coloured world of comics from the 80’s through to today. He’s a purist, plain and simple. And while we disagree about a lot of things (such as the DCEU movies and the often-needed requirement of wearing pants), he wasn’t wrong about digital comics.

Sammy made a lot of good points about why digital comics were to be shunned and not accepted: the formatting of the comics is all wrong, including the zooming of panels; they should be viewed as one page, not bit-by bit; the responsibility to support our local comic shops and finally – the feel of a comic in your hand is more rewarding that the glass screen of a tablet.

Of course, I had disagreed with all of Sammy’s points.  I essentially told him he was an old man living in an old world and his refusal to move with the times was mind numbing.  But fuck, he was right the entire time and I was 1000% wrong.  Well, maybe 900%.

After about a year and change of buying comics online, I walked into a local comic shop and was browsing, checking out what they had and talking with the guys who owned the place.  And in my conversations, I decided to pick up volume 1 of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo Batman comic in the trade paperback format (I wrote about my enjoyment of trades a couple weeks ago,  if you want to check it out).

It was in that moment that I then started to buy the physical copies of my comics and, essentially, got back into collecting.  I finished out the Batman (New 52) run starting with issue 32.  Side note: I’ve often thought about finding the first 31 issues and completing the run just because I’m a completionist but I also know it’ll cost me a fortune. But I digress…

From that moment on, I began purchasing and collecting the physical copies of my comics. I had a couple of long boxes in my basement with my comics that I had collected as a kid and now I’ve added an additional long box (or two).  When DC rebooted their universe…sorry, course corrected it….with Rebirth, I expanded my collecting to more titles. I have also expanded to other comics (non superhero) and imprints such as Image and those decisions were made based solely on the atmosphere that you get in your local comic shop.

Batman Trade 1See, you can browse the racks and overhear or talk to the other comic nerds about what they’re reading.  You don’t get this when you’re scrolling through your ComiXology app on your tablet/phone.

I’m not shitting on digital comics.  Not at all.  In fact, the other day I wrote about a sale that ComiXology/Amazon was having (and still do!) and that I had picked up a couple of collections to read off my tablet.  The titles/story lines that I chose were ones where I was interested in reading them but was unsure if I wanted to drop the $30 for the physical trade.  If it turns out that, after reading the digital copy, I love the story, I will go out and pick up the trade from my local comic shop.

And its here where I think there can be a healthy relationship with physical and digital comics.  Personally, I think that physical comics are the best medium in which to read comics. I also, though, concede that it can be costly and some cannot afford to purchase the issues/trades but can still download and read them digitally through their local library.  I get that and have no issues (zing!) with that…although most libraries do have physical copies of some great titles on their shelves.

When you go to your local comic-con, the vendors don’t have digital codes for sale.  They have physical issues.  And as I stated above, this method of commerce is where you can expand your reading library based on the conversations with fellow nerds and comic lovers.

At the end of the day, whether you’re reading comics your purchased from your local store or online, the fact that great stories are being read and looked at is the key for publishers to continue to put out great content.  I just prefer the feel of the paper as I flip from page to page, rather than swiping on a screen.

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When I said that my bud Sammy was nerd for all things pop culture, I meant it.  He has a passion for music and is the program director for Girth Radio where he hosts a show/podcast called My Summer Lair.  He also co-hosts a weekly podcast called Back Issue Bloodbath where they talk comics (new and old), creators and other comic-related topics.

Finally, if you’re on Twitter, follow Sammy.  His opinions and conversations will either infuriate you or make you laugh out loud. May or may not be best read while going to the bathroom, I leave that to you.

 

I Love Comics. Part One.

I’m 40 and I love comics.

When I was growing up,  there was a stigma around those who read comics. This was usually fueled by the people that didn’t read comics.  I guess you were either a comics-kid or you were “cool”.  For some reason, you couldn’t be both.  Which, now that I think of it, made no sense because I think I was pretty cool.  Maybe not.

For many, comic books were only for summer camping or cottage vacations.  You’d grab them off the spinning cart in the local convenience store.  Sometimes, they would have these multi-packs…like, five comics in a bag. You’d see two of the comics on the outside but never knew what you were gonna get inside until you got back to wherever you were staying and ripped open that plastic.  Usually they’d be shit books but every once in while you’d get a decent Spider-Man comic inside.

I liked comics from a young age. I grew up watching the Super Friends on TV; I remember Spider-Man on the Electric Company TV show in 5-minute cameo spot. I had Undroos underwear with all the heroes on them.  Superman bed sheets that I still had when I was a teenager. Hey, nothing says “lets have sex!” when you bring your girlfriend home and she takes a look at your bed and wonders what the hell is she getting herself into.

I remember reading the Toronto Star when they ran Spider-Man comic strips in the Saturday  and Sunday papers. When my parents split up, we would visit my dad on Tuesdays and he would grab a bucket of KFC and a stack of comics and he, my brother and I would sit down and read the comics, passing to the next person when we were done, while gnawing on a greasy drumstick.  Needless to say, those books would never appreciate to any collector status, what with the greasy fingerprints and all.  I still have some of those books in my basement.  They’re the ones not in a plastic bag and board, but instead have the yellow-tinge gracing the pages, a sign of time (and grease) eating away at my childhood memories.

I had spent a good number of my formative years growing up in a small town.  The local comic shop was located on the top of a John Deere Rent-All place.  The building was old, wooden floors adorned the main level where all the equipment was on display. The owners son was a comic collector and seller and he let his son run a comic shop out the top of the place. I don’t remember this guy’s name, but he was in his 20’s…lets call him ‘John’.  Anyway, no one would know a comic book store was up there as his dad wouldn’t let him advertise. But John would put a handwritten sign in the window that if you squinted enough, you could make out “comics here” written in black.

My dad had told me, at age 12, to get a job.  This was unrealistic, especially in a small town where everything closed at 6pm.  That summer he and my mom were going through their issues that eventually led to their breakup and I guess he didn’t want me around the house too much to witness the insanity. I don’t know.  But I remember asking him where he thought I could get a job and who would hire a 12-year old??

He didn’t care and told me to figure it out.  So one day I went to the comic shop as I did from time to time – I had to save my allowance to get anything, so I wasn’t a regular per se – and while browsing the bins, I asked John why he didn’t have any of his books in order?  Either alphabetical or by hero or by company (Marvel or DC or Archie).  John had no real good reason but it drove me nuts trying to find stuff.  John said that he didn’t have the time to organize it all and he didn’t have anyone to help him, either.

Bing!  This is the sound that the light in my head makes, just FYI.

I asked John if he wanted me to be the organizer of these fine, four-colour comics. He told me that he couldn’t afford to pay me, but it would be helpful.  “Well, you can pay me in comics” I said to him.  And with that, we came to an agreement. My first “job” in the summer of 1988.

I had my eye on a couple of comics: The Dark Knight Returns, which had come out two years earlier in 1986; John Byrne’s Man of Steel comic which also came out in 1986 and The Killing Joke, which was published in March of 1988.

When it came to the Man of Steel book, it was the cover that grabbed me.  That iconic ‘S-shield’ on the cover. This was a reboot or realigning of Superman and his powers.  The powers had gotten outta hand in the years before Man of Steel and Byrne came in and nailed down what powers Superman actually had: Flying.  Heat vision. Bullet proof. Freeze breath.  Super hearing. X-Ray vision. Bryne also set down the origin of Superman and how Krypton looked (which is still used now, 30+ years later) and….sorry, geeking out there a bit.

Anyway, that was my summer. Bryan Adams had his summer of ’69.  I had my summer of ’88.  Admittedly, I was a pretty crappy employee.  I mean, I got the job done and it was done quite quickly.  But I came in when I wanted and most times, once John left for a bit to help his dad, I would sit on the floor and just read comics.  Lots and lots of comics.

I can still remember the feel of the wooden floors, how lop-sided they were and the dust that would fall like snow in the shine of the sun that came through the windows. The smell of the comics as I put them in the plastic bags.  The look of them scattered on the ground as I tried to alphabetize them.

By the end of that summer, John was supposed to pay me in those three books. I mean, I had been “paid” with other books but those three, The Dark Knight Returns, Man of Steel and The Killing Joke, those were supposed to be mine. My compensation. But then John reneged. He said that he could get them sold for more than cover price and instead wanted to give me a stack of other comics that I really couldn’t care less for.  I don’t remember what they were, I just remember they weren’t what I wanted. And that pissed me off.  I remember looking at John and saying “fuck you” as I got on my bike to ride home.

I never did visit that store again.  Looking back on it, I guess I should have put up a bigger fight for those books but at the same time I thought to myself how lucky I was to have read all those comics, for free, as often as I wanted. I spent a good portion of my summer reading comics, when I wasn’t playing war with my friends or watching old WWF wresting videos.

And maybe that’s where I gained an appreciating for the art of the comics. The stories that they wove.  The absurdity of most of them and the holy-shit moments from the rest. It’s funny.  As I write this out…I never did get the Dark Knight Returns or Killing Joke in my collection. Maybe I should grab the trades (short form for Trade Paperback) and add them to my collection.

I wish I was reading a comic right now.  Fuck, I wish it was 1988 right now. Things were a lot easier back then.