• Flashback: How Marvel's "House of M" Changed an Industry and a Universe

      House of M and New Avengers were the beginning of the end for me reading comic books. It feels a touch ironic looking back now since both were spectacularly written and the artistry was some of the best of the decade (initially David Finch on New Avengers who manages the line between gritty realism and super heroism better than most - and I’m hardly the only person who thinks so.)

      The main point of the article is the new model crossover that House of M popularized. And from a fan’s perspective, I was dying for it. My biggest beef with collecting comic books (nothing new if you have read any of my prior commentary on the topic) is that crossovers made it virtually impossible to collect the entire story. If you ordered your issues by subscription, you didn’t have the opportunity to examine art and storytelling the quality of which varied widely from book to book. You expected that and it was demanded sacrifice in the act of following a crossover plot. The other path was to collect your books and fill in the blanks of the plot as best you could.

      Interesting sidenote #1 how the internet and digital comics have changed the ability to “fill in the blanks” but maybe that’s a story for another time.

      I chose to subscribe to my core books only and browse the comic shops and maybe buy other issues in the crossover. I almost never did. I would read enough in the store to get the point. That was always my choice - sometimes guided by the lack of funds as much as the right to critique the work itself before buying.

      The idea that a story would be self-contained was highly appealing to me. House of M was thrilling. But it also gave rise to a weird disconnect between comic book collecting and storytelling. Unexpectedly worse than crossovers intertwining plot across three or four series, now we had entire world-altering stories that seemed virtually exclusive to the core titles themselves. The impact of change happened “off screen” if you will and it created a shocking dissonance.

      I stopped collecting for other reasons too. And some of this perspective is 10 years in the making. Which is really what I find fascinating about the evolution of the industry. As comic book heroes cross mediums and really become part of a collective consciousness, the art of collecting has become obsolete. Not just paying for comic books (the cost! It’s as bad as a cigarette habit) but loyalty to a series.

      Interesting sidenote #2 thinking back to Secret Wars - a model for the one series to rule them all crossover. The reason this didn’t create a similar disconnect with the core titles is because Secret Wars didn’t matter. It had almost no impact on anything going on in the Marvel U at the time. Eventually the series produced a black suit for Spider-Man

      What House of M and Civil War (both exemplary) really did (among others) is usher in an era that eliminated the notion of core titles being the focal point - at least among the big 2. They still published series but more as complementary to universe-shattering events happening elsewhere. The reverse-Secret Wars model if you will. The plots and events of regular series no longer matter which in turn undermined the hobby of comic book collecting and at least for me, turned me out of the industry altogether.


    • Kirk, Spock and Sulu Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before — Charon!

      I like the thought but this is not going to make Pluto more respectable. Might increase tourism…


      This image contains the initial, informal names being used by the New Horizons team for the features on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Names were selected based on the input the team received from the Our Pluto naming campaign. Names have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). 
      Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute


    • Concert Central » Billy Joel, Fenway Park Boston, MA July 7, 2015

      Go see Billy Joel NOW! Before he’s too old to walk across the stage.

      It was all pretty straightforward and entirely fantastic. Dipping into every era of his catalog, from 1974’s The Entertainer to 1993’s River of Dreams, there was a stylish energy throughout the set.


    • Tilting at Windmills: Chaos in the Multiverse - Comic Book Resources

      This article - however unintentionally - perfectly sums up everything I have hated about comic books since Avengers Disassembled in 1998 (essentially the year I stopped collecting comic books). I read a fair bit into the Bendis reboot (formally known as New Avengers) because he’s a compelling writer as well as House of M and Civil War. On the face of it, those storylines were thrilling and the main titles were brilliant bits of comic chaos.

      Those were major story arcs built with respect to the continuity and history of the books that came before. Yes, I know House of M essentially unraveled the X-gene but it did so in a way that was a believable consequence of the chaos. (And frankly, Marvel had a long tradition of alternate reality-hopping and then returning the universe to its rightful state so there was every reason to expect this formula would be applied to House of M.) But those stories also presage a new constant that engulfed Marvel: the renumbering and constant push to release Title #1. (A strategy, for the record, that was already a DC staple.)

      The business of comic books made it harder to collect them and assuredly blunted the joy of reading them. It was bad enough when crossovers spread storylines across multiple books whose quality varied widely. Factor in the continuous rotation of new and expiring titles that has become the norm even before 2015′s Secret Wars, the break of continuity from the known universe, the convergence (to use a DC word) of various realities so they can interact with each other, and the retcon of major events that have already been retconned to hell and I’m not sure why anyone reads comic book anymore. Factor in a reader’s limited budget or limited interest and what you have is a specialty media without a mainstream audience. Which is where we are at now (and as I have noted in the past, this is absolutely undercut - not helped - by the popularity of the movies.)

      It makes me incredibly sad because I have such a joy for the comic books I read as a young man. I still read them through the eyes of my younger self and feel this intense pleasure of discovering the art and characters as I turn every page. I can channel those emotions over and over again but only up until 1998. Around then I start to see the art of storytelling unraveled by business decisions that, to my mind, haven’t benefited the industry, the fans or the rich history of the books themselves. Maybe the publishing companies benefit (well surely profit factors into the decision) so if I have any need to understand it, yes, I understand that. But I couldn’t even recommend comic books to a new generation. I would discourage them from getting invested, steer them to other interests (or at the very least, the independent publishers) because the proposition of value in the modern age of comic books has been utterly ruined for me. 



    • Boston Comic Con | July 31 - August 2, 2015

      The cost for admission has almost doubled in the last five years. I’ll admit this convention has scaled in proportion to the cost (and it’s Boston, I’ll hear inevitably) so I respect that. There is purposeful aim of providing a better product, and providing value for the consumer dollars. But almost $50 just to walk in the door has priced me out of it. 


      I can’t help feeling like this has trampled on my childhood in some irreversible way. Comic books are childhood escapism, longing to be different, better, stronger, live in exotic lands, fight as part of an elite team of heroes. Comic conventions don’t carry on the fantasy at all. They are corporate and sterile and completely unvarnished. Conventions wash out any element of fantasy that is the cornerstone of their product. Ironic and inevitable, maybe. And disappointing.

      It’s a little melodramatic, to be sure. And I’m not really disputing the quality of this convention. But I don’t see where the little kid stands in line, hands over his allowance at the entrance and just runs madly through the aisles of the sales floor while his dad stands back and rifles through back issues of Leather and Lace. (In fact, dear Boston Comic Con: please provide separate access just for the sales floor next year for a pittance.) This year, they are not even allowing for day-of ticket sales. Everything is online, in advance, with the stern warning: We anticipate a sell out event this year. So, please plan accordingly. Comic conventions don’t seem targeted at little kids at all. In fact, I am their target audience. I grew up on Claremont and Silvestri’s X-Men, and Giffen and DeMatteis’ legendary run on JLI and Justice League Europe. I have disposable income. I keep up with the comic books and am not coming to the convention just because I saw Thor The Dark World (believe me, I’m not). It’s important to note, I am the person they want to be there. Because the kicker is that once you get inside the building, it’s expensive to attend a comic book convention.

      I don’t really have a solution to offer. I cannot on the one hand say the organizers are doing a good job of creating a comic book convention experience and then on the other, insist they are charging through the nose for it. Yet, for the second year in a row, I also probably won’t be there. The siren call of my childhood is the only hesitation. There is a kid inside me who insists it will all be worth it if I just step one foot inside the convention floor. Fortunately the child doesn’t control the wallet, the adult does. If they really do sell out in advance, it’s clear mine is a solitary protest (and if they do, it will be on the strength of the movies and television shows based on comic book characters and not the comic books themselves, but that is a post for another time). The sorry but inescapable truth is that attending a comic book convention doesn’t recapture my youth. It has never transported me for even a split second to the time of joy I had as a thirteen year old reading a near mint condition, freshly purchased Uncanny X-Men comic. I have the actual comic books to read for that.

      First Guest Announcements for Boston Comic Con 2015
      The Boston Comic Con returns to the Seaport World Trade Center for a three-day show from Friday July 31 to Sunday August 2, 2015. We’ll have plenty more to announce about our lineup of media guests and comic writers, artists, and creators in the near future!
      Stay tuned for news on events, panels, and tickets to meet-and-greet and photo op events.
      We’re excited to announce our first confirmed guests: Brian Azzarello, Frank Brunner, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Humberto Ramos, Don Rosa, and Robin Lord Taylor!


    • photo from Tumblr

      Snow globe


    • "Weird Al" Yankovic Announces Massive Tour

      The “Mandatory Tour” features tons of North American dates

      Following his latest album Mandatory Fun, his first album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard chart, “Weird Al” Yankovic has announced the massive “Mandatory World Tour”.  Find the dates below.

      “Weird Al” Yankovic:

      05-12 Las Vegas, NV - Planet Hollywood
      05-13 Las Vegas, NV - Planet Hollywood
      05-14 Las Vegas, NV - Planet Hollywood
      05-15 Las Vegas, NV - Planet Hollywood
      05-16 Las Vegas, NV - Planet Hollywood
      05-19 Tulsa, OK - Brady Theater
      05-20 Oklahoma City, OK - Hudson Performance Hall
      05-22 Biloxi, MS - Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
      05-23 Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium
      05-24 Robinsonville, MS - Horseshoe Tunica Bluesville
      05-28 Indianapolis, IN - Murat Theatre at Old National Centre
      05-29 Mount Pleasant, MI - Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort
      05-30 Cleveland, OH - Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica
      05-31 Greensburg, PA - Palace Theatre
      06-02 Boston, MA - Wilbur Theatre
      06-03 Boston, MA - Wilbur Theatre



    • #Unapologetic: Out With the Old Madonna, In With the Old Madonna

      Sums up my feelings about Madonna nicely, including the excellence of the new album (or at least the six tracks that were already released). No one expects Madonna to break new ground in music (except maybe Madonna herself but if I had to guess, I would say even she is not that self-delusional) and certainly not based on her recent track record. But there’s derivative and then there is just unimaginative and lazy. If Madonna is inspired by what’s already come before (even if it’s herself) there’s nothing wrong with that particularly as long as the music itself is inspired - as Rebel Heart appears to be based on the evidence so far. It’s when the songs come out shallow and lethargic that derivative becomes detrimental.

      As a brand, very little about Madonna appeals to me, but the music hits home two out of three albums:

      Ray of Light (1)
      Music (2)
      then American Life (3)

      or if you prefer

      Confessions on a Dance Floor (1)
      Hard Candy (2)
      then MDNA (3)

      Ray of Light and Music managed to capitalize on a hot sound without losing the Madonna-ness of Madonna’s music. It sounded transformative for its time, not tired and joyless. (Unless you don’t like her to begin with but then you read pretty far into this post, didn’t you?) On the flip side, MDNA is the worst offender of her post-Evita career. Not only lacking any individuality whatsoever, worse, it was just no fun to listen to. American Life is equally unlistenable as a studio album but in a totally different way. It produced the best tour of her late career though, so that happened.

      She’s wise to keep pushing out new music even if her motivation for albums is narcissistic backscratching. It allows some of her fans, like me, who care little for the celebrity of Madonna to still enjoy the music. If I had to guess, Madonna would call that a win.


    • Hopebreaker (The Great Iron War, Book 1) by Dean F. Wilson at the Kindle Store

      Hopebreaker New release from a friend of mine. On the reading list for the new year.


    • Day made. Ridiculously happy with the new tracks.


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