A week long look back at the 94 Event Vertigo Zombies!
An Interview With Phil Kahn!
Discussions Of Sexism In Comics
Originally The Gray Area ran on Socialfist and was written by Tribe One aka Niles Gray aka The Evil Villain Demonos aka Devil Rhymeosaur. While Niles is currently on tour with Adam WarRock, MC Lars and MC Chris he has given us the permission to rerun the old articles.
Originally published online May 3, 2011 at Socialfist as “It’s Late and I’m Tired and You Should Read Scalped. Ignore the Rest of This. It Doesn’t Make Any Sense.”
So, my main man Luke asked me to write up some comics reviews for his site to post today (Monday). Instead I’m going to be talking a bit about the nature of fiction and sequential storytelling and it probably won’t be going up until Monday night at the very earliest (Sorry, Luke). I guess this could be considered a review of the latest issue of Jason Aaron’s Scalped, issue number 48, but if I’m being completely honest “review” is going to be a bit of a stretch.
Comic books really are a unique form of fiction, not only because of the fanaticism they inspire in their fans (although other genres like SF and fantasy fiction do as well) but because the progressive nature inherent in serialized storytelling. Only recently, it seems, have other genres really begun to take advantage of the idea of telling a whole story in multiple pieces. There have been notable multivolume books (Lord of the Rings, Dune, etc) but in recent years it seems as though every fantasy/SF book is part of a trilogy. Even so, this still does not put them on the same scale as comic books, in which stories evolve and adapt and take place over decades and multiple creative teams and visions. Man, this is sounding really pretentious. Sorry, guys. I’m a librarian who was an English major.
Anyways, I read the latest issue of Scalped, which came out this week and it raised a couple of questions in my mind about character progression, story progression and how they interact both because of and in spite of each other. Specifically, it made me think about what the reader wants to happen and what actually happens in a story.
Scalped, for those unwashed non-readers among you, is a comic book series that follows the lives of certain residents of the Prairie Rose Native American Reservation. There are no happy endings–nor beginnings or middles, for that matter–to be read here. It’s a story of unhappy people finding new and more complicated and ingenious ways to make each other even more unhappy. And sometimes dead.
It is amazing and you should be reading it.
Scalped’s main character (maybe protagonist, though the series seems to only have antagonists) is Dashiell Bad Horse of the Prairie Rose Lakota Tribe Native American Reservation in South Dakota. He is a bad person. He kills people. He does hard drugs. He is in the process of betraying the people who believe in him. What makes this book both fascinating and frustrating is that Dash is supposed to be becoming a better person. He’s back on the reservation under some false pretenses after several years away and since he’s been back he’s seen and done some things that should have changed him. I thought he had changed until the moment he was given a choice in this latest issue and he made the choice he would have made on page one, panel one of the first issue.
I was heartbroken.
Looking back, however, I realize that it couldn’t have gone any other way. Dash’s defining characteristic is that he is incapable of choosing the right thing to do. Because the narrative is so agile in moving from perspective to perspective and character to character, as readers, we are privy to things to which none of the characters in the story have access. So we already know what the consequences of each of Dash’s choices will be. That’s a testament to Aaron’s ability to weave this story. As such, we know what Dash is supposed to choose. But we also know what he is going to choose, as much as it hurts us to watch him make that choice.
It’s almost like sleight of hand, the way Aaron is able to make us believe that Dash has undergone these profound, life-changing experiences only to lift the veil and show that he hasn’t changed at all. He’s been undercover the whole time, putting on a front as much to us as to Red Crow.
And here is where I make the case that this is only something comics can achieve. Is it possible for a well written book to pull the rug out from under us? Of course. Now that I think about it, Scalped is more of an argument for comics as literature than anything else. Scalped and books like The Walking Dead (which also had a new issue this week) are books that eschew the mainstream (read: big two) comics convention called “the status quo.”
The status quo is the bane of comics’ existence. It is, it could be argued, the dividing line between acceptance into the annals of American Literature and the junkyard of disposable pop art; pulp. Fuck Literature, I say. If Literature is too good to be associated with Norse gods smashing the shit out of impossibly advanced robotics in the name of American Freedom, then I want no part of it. No thank you, sir.
There are only two examples of Big Two comic books I can think of that ignore the idea of a status quo and are currently being published. These are Captain America and Batman. And Captain America is in the process of reestablishing its status quo (just in time for the movie! *gasp*). That leaves only Batman. Already a symbol of the one-man pursuit of change, Batman is one of the oldest superheroes in existence. How funny that Captain America is nearly as old and also currently in the midst undergoing a major upheaval. Things that make you go “hmmmm” (or not).
Let’s look at the major factor shared by the four titles named thus far: Batman, Captain America, Scalped, The Walking Dead. They are all written by one person over a years-long stretch. Captain America: Ed Brubaker, issues 1-50, 600-617. Scalped: Jason Aaron, issues 1-48. The Walking Dead: Robert Kirkman, issues 1-84. Batman: Grant Morrison: A whole bunch over several titles. We all know that Steve Rogers is going to be taking up the mantle of Captain America again and James Buchanan is going to be Bucky again (just look at the solicits for the title’s name change to Captain America & Bucky), but Batman is another story altogether.
The recent change in Batman’s status quo seems like it’s going to stick. No take backs. From now on there’s going to be a whole lot of guys called Batman. That’s just how it’s going to be. Of course, there can only be one Bruce Wayne, but the management at DC would have to be really dense and pretty goddamn stubborn to take the cape and cowl away from Dick Grayson. That’s a huge goddamn deal, you guys. It’s something that only “indie” comics have been able to get away with since pretty much ever. This is a real change in a comic that’s been the exact same since the 1930’s. This is the first ever Batman story ever told that couldn’t have been told by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
I’m going to go ahead and wrap this thing up now since it’s become something I never intended it to be and also because it’s now past midnight and this was supposed to be up on Monday. Basically, what I’m trying to say is this: Think of a comic book that has changed significantly since you first started reading it. You can probably count the number of titles on one hand. That’s totally ok though because comics about men who dress up like robots don’t have to change. They’re already awesome. They’ve already outlived their creators and they’ll outlive this generation of creators as well.
The real revolution in comics is happening on the other side of the mainstream. It’s happening despite Captain America getting shot and Superman renouncing his American citizenship. It’s happening whether you’re reading it or not, and more often than not, you’re totally missing it. I don’t even know if I’m making sense anymore. I know I’ve lost track of my original point. Oh well. See you next week. Good night.
Every year hundreds of thousands of people go to comic book conventions and unknown to them, like the fast food joints they eat at while at the cons, there is a secret menu of items. This is Secret Convention Items.
The Marvel Legends line of toys which began in 2002 has been a staple of toys for the comic fan and collector alike with character from a wide variety of series and even allowing more obscure characters to have a time to shine. Coupled with variant figures and special build a figure series the Legends stand as one of the great toy collections – minus a few figures.
In 2006 the Marvel Legends 14 line was released with figures such as the extremely rare Luke Cage and it’s even rarer variant, the first appearance version of Iron Man and the alwats hella confusing Psylocke. Coupled in with the set though were some less favorable figures – Falcon, Longshot and the turd of the set – Baron Zemo.
These series of toys starting with 9 also contained the build a figure pieces allowing those who purchased all of the figures in the series to create a bigger figure. Some of these like Apocalypse, Galactus, the Sentinel and Giant Man (inexplicably in the same set as Ant Man thereby meaning Ant Man has his own foot) are still sought after pieces.
The problem was somebody believed not only that people would want all of Series 14 of toys, but that they would want a Mojo, the cyber-spider tub of green fat as a reward.
As previously mentioned, the variants were also a popular add-in offering palette swaps of the characters or even fully different cosmetic changes such as Thing with a trenchcoat, Sentry Jesus, ionic Wonder Man and more. The Baron Zemo also had a variant though – a maskless Zemo.
If you are unfamiliar with the history of comics and characters, Baron Helmut Zemo was a Nazi who fought Captain America. In one of their earlier fights, the Nazi was tossed into a vat of boiling glue without his mask resulting in horrific burns which is why he wears a mask. Somebody thought – “You know what my kid wants? A Nazis with a burnt face and no mask. Oh, and we can couple that with the horrific head of Mojo for the best nightmare fodder ever.”
While the completionist and collectors begrudgingly bought the Nazi, mostly the mask on version, thousands of Zemos piled up and were sold in massive blind box toy sales where $400 would get you a cardboard boy of Marvel Legends and other figures, mostly the shitty ones. Eventually collections consolidated and the first Zemo Block was created and recorded for sale in 2007 with 480 Zemos weighing in at a total of 720 pounds and standing at a height of 5 feet high setting the standard for a Zemo Block.
Most conventions actually have a list of Zemo Block holders and their prices (it turns out that you can mention you have a block for sale) that way they can be sure to bring it with them since carrying an extra 720 pounds that might not sell is less of a hassle.
Now prices range anywhere from $700 to $3000 depending on the seller and the show but due to the immense weight for shipping and the shame that comes from owning a Zemo Block, a sign of bad salesmanship, these Blocks are not listed online. Unexpectedly if you find a variant only block, the price circles down to around the $500 -$800 area because melted Nazi faces sell horribly. The variants are seen as an impurity in the collection and cause the price to go down.
Now you might say – what can I do with 480 facially scarred Nazi figures?
I have no idea but since when was collecting based around things making sense?
Join us next week when we discuss the rare Daredevil Batroc bust.
Since we are still a new magazine with a mostly brand new crew we feel it is our responsibility to introduce ourselves to you, the new readers, so that we can be boiled down to archetypal characters and then placed into your FF7 fanfictions because you can only read about Cloud and Sephiroth banging for so many times.
[Since new contributors Dominic Griffin & Jim Bizon live in the same house, separated only by a wall, not unlike Run DMC and Aerosmith, we decided to let them interview each other.]
Jim: What’s up? Have you seen this new AFLAC Commercial?
Dominic: Is it awesome?
J Eh. It isnt Gilbert Gottfried. [long silence] So, who exactly is Dom Griffin?
D: He’s a sort of writer person. Pop culture junkie. Movie nerd. Professional wrestling mark. Likes: Batman, Grant Morrison’s impossibly shiny dome, tacos. Dislikes: Pants, oligarchy, tiny buttons. Why do people call you “The Jimma?”
J: Funny enough, It all started as a typo sometime around 2001 on an ancient Social site called Bolt.com, I just kinda ran with it, Y’know…Like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
D: Same thing happened to The Rock. Someone was trying to write a fan letter to Charles S. Dutton, star of television’s ROC, and it ended up in Dwayne’s mailbox. True facts.
J: Not suprising, He strikes me more as a Clancy. So, Comics?
D: They’re great? I learned how to read from old Claremont/Byrne X-Men issues, so comics hold a special place in my heart, nestled carefully between cookies and freedom. You’re an artist. Who are your biggest influences?
J: Jeez. That’s a toughy. I’d honestly say Bruce Timm’s Work on “Batman: The Animated Series” is pretty high on my list, and of Course Jack Kirby, for he is King. But in all honestly, alot of internet artists: Chris Haley, Jay King, Joe Hunter, Deanne Trippe, Olly Moss, Ming Doyle, Jess Fink and Mike Mitchel…they got the fire going under my ass again.
D: I concur, in that I maintain giant crushes on all those you named.
J: So you mentioned Grant Morrison earlier. You’re good with the words, who are some of your revered scribes?
D: The aforementioned bald one. Mark Waid. Warren Ellis. Outside of comics, David Mamet, Charlie Kaufman, Noel Coward, Paul Schrader. Um, Shakespeare. I’m a big fan of anything Chuck Klosterman writes anywhere. SEX, DRUGS, AND COCOA PUFFS changed my twentysomething life. It was like the toilet paper letter from the “prisoner” in V FOR VENDETTA. Like, wow, I am not alone in this depth of geekery.
J: So, I’d say we’ve known each other for a minute?
D: …15 years?
J: Give or take a day or two in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber.
D: OUR FRIENDSHIP IS OVER 9000!!!
J: CHA LA, HEAD CHA LA!!!
D: …do you want to pimp stuff?
J: Shameless plugs?
D: Yes. That’s what I meant. Not, like, prostitution.
J: It’s not like I need to tell people to follow you or I on Twitter.
D: Yeah, it’s not like people need to know that you and me are on Tumblr.
J: Also, they probably already like Xaiados Studios on the facebooks.
D: …I still have a Friendster*.
*Editor’s note: NO ONE still has a Friendster.**
*Now get me pictures of Spider-Man. – Actual Editor.
This week, when it was announced that celebrated scribe Ed Brubaker would be penning the silver screen adaptation of his critically acclaimed crime fiction series, cleverly titled CRIMINAL, fans rejoiced. Why wouldn’t they? Brubaker is one of the biggest and most successful comic book writers in recent memory not named Brian Michael Bendis and CRIMINAL, though blandly named, is a reliably brilliant addition to any shelf it sits on. This is the man who killed Captain America, brought Bucky back to life, saved Matt Murdock from getting raped in prison by Stilt Man and brought the semi-relevant ¾ of one of the eight X-Men teams back from space. His work deserves to reach the widest audience possible.
There was, however, a time before Ed Brubaker was a household name. Before he took a ride- along through Gotham and hypothesized how a Steven Bochco Batman TV show might look, Brubaker pitched a tent in Metropolis, and that tent was named BIBBO.
In late 1994, just before Brubaker and Eric Shanower’s criminally underrated PREZ reboot (PREZ: SMELLS LIKE TEEN PRESIDENT), Vertigo editor Karen Berger accidentally left an issue of Dark Horse Presents in the passenger seat of Jerry Ordway’s car after a lunch meeting. Brubaker & Shanower’s serialized tale “An Accidental Death” lay therein, sparking Ordway’s long dormant twentysomething urge to tell a darker crime story and his current, burning passion to one-up Frank Miller’s SIN CITY. DC commissioned the newcomer to pen a 4-part miniseries starring the legendary SHAZAM penciller’s co-creation, Bo “Bibbo” Bibbowski.
Bibbo had long been portrayed as Superman’s punch drunk, cranially challenged erstwhile pal. In professional wrestling vernacular, if Lois Lane was The Man of Steel’s Miss Elizabeth, then Bibbo was his Brutus Beefcake; a loyal, meaty, if less than mentally available compatriot. Brubaker set out to poise Bibbo as a classical noir protagonist, a tough and determined brute beset upon by dishonest dames, labrynthian plot dynamics, and painfully opaque exposition delivered through terse, double entendre laden dialogue. It was an exciting effort.
The story began with a lowly drug dealer on the run from Intergang enforcers seeking sanctuary in Bibbo’s bar, the Ace O’Clubs, which for whatever reason, was drawn to look exactly like Hell’s Kitchen dive bar Josie’s from DAREDEVIL. The dealer is killed by Livewire, moonlighting as a contract killer for Intergang, at the end of the first issue, leading Bibbo to solve the mystery of why the thug was on the run with the help of the girlfriend he left behind. Clever appearances from Bibbo’s scientist brother, Professor Bibbowski, Morgan Edge and mild mannered reporter Clark Kent were worked into the twisty tale’s house of wet playing cards narrative structure. Every chapter break was telegraphed by Bibbo being punched in the face before fading to black and a smirking “to be continued…” tag promised even more noir theatrics the following month.
After the third issue hit the stands and Frank Miller took serious (potentially litigius) offense to Ordway drawing Bibbo to look more and more like SIN CITY’s Marv, DC pulled the plug on the miniseries, choosing to conclude the dark tale in a Dan Jurgens written and drawn eight page back-up story in an Action Comics annual. Brubaker’s proposed grisly ending was written to feature Maxima and Knockout as a pair of lesbian femme fatales murdering members of Intergang after a double cross using only their hilariously thick thighs, where Jurgens’ new ending had the Guardian team up with an updated version of he Newsboy Legion to get to the bottom of the mystery using a simple combination of fisticuffs and journalistic integrity.
Needless to say, Brubaker found his tastes better suited to the darker adventures of the Caped Crusader and the rest was history.
In a story so bizarre that even Mojo would be plussed, an issue of “X-force” No. 1 featuring the first appearance of the X-force team recently sold for a whopping price of $.82.
The issue which originally was released in 1991 was sold Saturday by a private seller to a private buyer, according to 26 Panels chief editor Chris Mason.
It’s not the highest price ever paid for an issue of the X-force #1 but it is the highest price paid since two weeks after its release when the resale price sharply dropped for $100 to $.50.
According to Mason, the price paid is the highest paid in the past few years.
“The fact that somebody would buy an issue of this comic shocked me enough but $.82 is an exorbitant amount,” he commented. “The fact that someone looked through a collection and was like ‘Oh, I’ll take the Liefeld comic,’ positively shocks me.”
Usually it has been comics from any period but the 90’s that typically are purchased on purpose for any reason. The fact that this was created by one of the most controversial artists of his time makes the story more noteworthy.
“Last year when I hear somebody paid $20.00 for X-force #1 I was shocked. I did some research though and it turned out it was the “Uncanny X-force” series that started last year signed by Rick Remender and Jerome Opena.”
“Uncanny X-force” No. 1 has long filled dime bins at comic shops, signs of the once booming comic industry which focused around purchasing multiple issues of comics with the hope of selling them off later. When the market collapsed due to too many shitty comics being sold to investors whom would never make money, trillions of potential dollars were lost.
The issue was the first of the series created by Rob Liefeld, who illustrated and wrote the story with Fabian Nicieza. The cover depicts Cable, Boom Boom and Feral as they seem to attack the audience, possibly in an attempt to dissuade them from buying the issue.
The series helped to provide more work for Rob Liefeld who quickly expanded to over 20 monthly series with himself providing most of the art, writing and letters in the letters column.
Mr. Liefeld was not contacted to comment on the article.