Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Whither the anthology?

Woo-hoo! I finally got some links up, so check them out. Most are blogs dealing with comics, so be warned. Those comic book people who come here should already know about them. If your link is broken, let me know -- I probably typed something wrong. Links are fun.

Solo #3 came out last week, featuring the story and art of Paul Pope. I've never been a fan of Pope (one of the drawings in the book of Batman is, well, awful), but a lot of the blogiverse is, and that's fine. I bought the first issue of Solo, featuring art by Tim Sale, and like the idea of giving an artist a book to go nuts on. It makes me wonder about anthologies.

I wonder why comic-book companies don't do more anthologies. I know, I know -- no one buys them. Well, that makes sense. But if any retailers/people in the know come to this blog, I would ask them about this idea.

A big company (let's say Marvel, for the fun of it) decides to revive the anthology. Since they're charging no less than $2.25 for all the rest of their books, they price this sucker at, I don't know, a dollar (or even $1.50). They make it bigger than other comic books. Sure, they might take a bath for a while, since nobody buys anthologies, but what if they did this format:

The first story in the book is by big-name creators. Bendis and Finch, maybe. Claremont and Sienkiewicz. Millar and Hitch. It could be a story set within the Marvel U., but not a character that has his/her own book (the character could be in a team, but not have a solo book -- Bobby Drake, to pick a name at random). It could be a stand-alone story or a serial, but it wouldn't be a long one in each issue. If Marvel had the cajones, they could even allow the creators to tell stories completely unrelated to the Marvel U. -- without making it a MAX series or an Icon production or an Epic thing. Anyway, that's the hook.

The other stories could be by creators who aren't well known -- "indie" guys. Kirkman could do his Spider-Man/Moon Knight story without having to carry a title alone. Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount (I'm sorry, I'm still loving Scurvy Dogs) could get some mainstream exposure. Again, Marvel could force these guys to do a story related to the Marvel U., or it could be something completely different. Remember Mahfood's Generation X story from a while back? That was freakin' hysterical, and Marvel published it (yes, it was back in the Jemas days, when they had stones)! It looked like an indie comic, but it starred the merry mutants of Generation X! A great comic book. Now, I don't know how much talent remuneration goes into the cover price of a comic, but I would guess you wouldn't have to pay these guys as much as Bendis and Finch -- they would do it for the exposure. Isn't that the way it works in other entertainment venues, not to mention the real world? Anyway, again, these could be one-shot stories or a short series -- it doesn't matter.

This would be a good idea, I think, for a few reasons. First, the superduper superhero geeks would say, "Ooh -- a Bendis and Finch short story about the Hulk! Me must buy!" Then they would get exposed to others' work and maybe end up buying, I don't know, the trade paperback of Scurvy Dogs (sorry, but you really should read it -- buy it here!) or something. Indie-type people could read it because it has indie-type talent on it. You could use forgotten characters from the Marvel U. (yeah, like there are any in today's geeked out Internet world, but I'm sure there are some) and give them some exposure (remember Jill Thompson's Dazzler story from X-Men Unlimited? -- excellent stuff) and if fan response is positive, then you could launch a new series with that character, instead of flinging them out there to die slow deaths (let's see -- Runaways, She-Hulk, Alpha Flight -- maybe that last one didn't deserve a series, but it might deserve a one-shot or a mini). DC did this with the Birds of Prey mini-series, and now the ongoing is up to issue #79 and still going strong. Marvel did this with Marvel Comics Presents, and from that we get Barry Windsor-Smith's classic Weapon X story (sure, it didn't answer many questions, but it looked really cool).

Anyway, that's my modest proposal (there's a lot of them out there these days). I'm sure it's not viable economically, but can anyone tell me why? I would love to know.


Elisabeth Braddock is a no-longer-dead babe!

Before I begin, my lovely wife has posted a very funny (to me) look at dealing with insurance companies over at my other blog. Check it out if you've ever been on hold with an insurance person!

Well, Psylocke is back from the dead. All my faithful readers (hi, you four!) know that I have not been buying Uncanny X-Men, even though it has pretty art by Alan Davis, but the last two issues, #455-456, have Elisabeth Braddock comin' on back from the great beyond. I guess Joe Quesada's declaration that "dead is dead" means, well, jack shit. That's okay, because it's comics, after all, and nobody stays dead forever (when is Gwen Stacy coming back, by the way?).

Elisabeth Braddock's resurrection, at the hands of really, two of the three creators who ever respected her (Claremont and Davis; Alan Moore, I would argue, is the third), makes me want to take a look at her, since I love her. Yes, I love her. I love three X-Men: Psylocke, Dazzler, and Rogue. Yes, Alison Blaire. Deal with it. Betsy has been, I would argue, treated the worst of all of them. I'm not exactly positive why this is. Some review of her history is necessary (I'm going total nerd mode here, so those who can't handle it might want to avert their eyes):

I have no idea when Betsy first showed up, but the earliest I know of her is in the Captain Britain trade paperback written by Alan Moore and drawn by Alan Davis. Now, it's conceivable that Claremont created her, but who knows. Anyway, Betsy is Captain Britain's sister, and she's a telepath. She's working for the British equivalent of SHIELD, and she asks for Brian's help (Brian is Captain Britain) when her co-workers start getting killed by Slaymaster. Captain Britain kicks the crap out of Slaymaster, and all's right with the world. The next time we see Betsy is when Jim Jaspers and the Fury shows up. The Fury is one of the great one-note evil things in comics -- it's built to kill superheroes, which kind of limits its effectiveness in the Marvel U. (Claremont tried to bring it back recently, but what's the point when it can't actually kill anything?). Jim Jaspers is an insane mutant with the ability to completely remake reality. Jaspers takes over England and drives the heroes underground, but his soldiers find them and kill some and drag others, including Betsy, away to a concentration camp. She's out of the picture for the rest of the trade, which has two of the most intense super-battles ever put on paper -- Jim Jaspers versus the Fury, and Captain UK versus the Fury. Simply staggering.

In the next trade, written by Jamie Delano and then Alan Davis, Betsy sits on the sideline for a while, until Brian gives up being Captain Britain. The British government decides that England needs a Captain Britain, and they recruit Betsy, playing on her sympathies for the children born while Jaspers was warping reality. They get Captain UK (Linda McQuillan, who is from another dimension) to train her, and then Betsy flies out to defend British interests everywhere! She runs into Slaymaster, who beats the crap out of her and rips her eyes out, in another one of those intense moments that are etched in comics history. At the end of the trade, she's off canoodling with one of the agents of the British government in Switzerland. She doesn't really need her eyes, since she's telepathic, and can visualize stuff rather well.

She arrived in American comic books in New Mutants Annual #2 (1986), in which she was kidnapped by Mojo and Spiral and given bionic eyes with tiny cameras in them, the better for Mojo to spy on our world. This began her long association with Spiral (I'll get to her later) and also had a keen little plot idea (her eyes) that never really went anywhere. It also had a weird, somewhat creepy romantic angle between Betsy and Doug Ramsey, otherwise known as Cypher, who developed a bit of a crush on her. It also never went anywhere, but it was still creepy -- Doug was a young teenager, and Betsy was at least in her twenties, and not shy in the ways of l'amour. Doug's first sight of Betsy was in the buff, so it's perfectly understandable that he'd have a thing for her, but it was still weird. Doug went off to fall for Kitty Pryde, a much more suitable match for him, and then got himself killed.

(A bit of an aside: Doug Ramsey had one of the coolest mutant powers ever -- the ability to decipher any language. It was how the New Mutants were able to communicate with Warlock. He was picked on for his "stupid" powers, and Claremont never really figured out what to do with him, so Marvel killed him. The only other power as cool as Cypher's was Kylun's, who had the ability to exactly duplicate any sound he heard. Brilliant stuff from the mind of Alan Davis.)

Betsy joined the X-Men in the semi-classic #213, when she fought Sabretooth for the first time and held her own, allowing stupid Wolverine to step in and "save" her. She was a regular after that, and after the X-Men went through the Siege Perilous at the end of the "Fall of the Mutants" story, she became more of a leader in the group. These issues, from about #225-270, are really the forgotten classics of the X-Men. Claremont had a grand plan that Marvel never really let him do (it involved bringing Jim Jaspers "back," sort of -- Jaspers is actually one of the lawyers in the trial of Magneto from issue #200 -- and having him destroy the Marvel U.), and these issues often suffer from fill-in art and no artist sticking around very long (Silvestri and Lee are the most famous artists on X-Men during this time, but Leonardi was there for a bit, too). However, this is Psylocke's Golden Age with the book. Eventually, the X-Men fall apart, and in #251, we learn that Betsy tricked them all into going through the Siege Perilous again to escape Donald Pierce and his Reavers. It's an interesting evolution of the character during the #230s-250s -- Betsy starts wearing armor and becoming more aloof and even bitchy. This was, to my late teenaged mind, the best X-team: Dazzler, Rogue, Storm, Colossus, Longshot, Havok, Psylocke, and Wolverine. When they went through the Siege Perilous the first time, they all became invisible to electronic scanning devices (something else that's gone by the boards). Rogue goes through the Siege again when they fight the Master Mold Sentinel, Storm supposedly gets killed when they fight Nanny and the Orphan Maker, and Wolverine is always off in Madripoor. By the time issue 251 rolls around, the team is down to Psylocke, Colossus, Dazzler, and Havok (Longshot quit at some point). Betsy offers them the option of going through the Siege Perilous, which is some weird cosmic gateway that judges if you're worthy of moving on, and if you're not, you get resurrected with no memories of your former life, blah blah blah. Anyway, the last four X-Men go through, and Logan (soon joined by Jubilee) is the only one left. It's a great story.

The next time we see Psylocke (after the unbelievably cool issue #255, which takes place on Muir Island and has a cameo with Betsy) is issue #256, which is the first of the "Psylocke-as-Mandarin's-assassin" trilogy that started with great potential but led to the ruination of the character. This was part of Marvel's "Acts of Vengeance" crossover, which sucked in books like Amazing Spider-Man but here actually made some sense and tied in with the rest of Claremont's story. (The idea was that the villains would switch heroes because the heroes wouldn't be expecting them, having always fought their "own" heroes. It really wasn't as stupid as it sounds.) #256-258 feature Jim Lee on art and are really the apogee of Psylocke's popularity and accessibility. The idea is that the Hand found an Asian woman off the coast of Hong Kong who turned out to be Psylocke. (Okay, I lie. She wasn't Asian when they found her, in issue #255. By #256, she was. I'll get to it.) Issue #256 is another one of those excellent issues that makes me weep when I realize that today, Claremont is nothing but a hack. It's packed full of not only the Hand offering Mandarin an assassin, but also Psylocke's psychological and, indeed, physical journey to becoming an Asian woman. (Another aside: why was she Asian? Because ninjas are cool! Especially in 1989. See? Lack of respect for the character, even from Claremont -- we need a ninja, because ninjas are cool. Hey, where's Betsy these days ...?) Spiral is behind it. Spiral has this weird place called the Body Shoppe, where she changes who you are (if you happen to dislike who you are). Like any Faustian bargain, there's a price. She tempted one of the X-Men before, back in #207-208-209 (one of those) when she lured Rachel Summers away from her home and wiped out her memory (Rachel eventually resurfaced, of course, in Excalibur). Here, Claremont uses some of the important points in her past to show Betsy's desire to become something more than just a lesser version of both her brothers (her twin Brian and her older brother Jamie, who went nuts -- another sadly unrealized character), not to mention her desire to break out of the sheltered English school girl shell she had been placed in. Betsy's addiction to action had been explored before (Davis made her Captain Britain, after all), and with this issue, Claremont allows her inner wild child to break free. She psychologically destroys all the X-Men on the way to gaining all of the Mandarin's power rings. In the end, Mandarin thinks she is his slave, but we know that Spiral and Mojo have taken her soul. It's a powerful issue, made prettier by Lee's spectacular art.

In the next two issues of the trilogy, Psylocke fights Wolverine and Jubilee and struggles to regain her wits and soul from the Mandarin. More excellent stuff, as Psylocke taps into Logan's psychoses, which breaks the Hand's programming but ties Betsy to Logan's craziness. At the end of issue #258, Betsy, Logan, and Jubilee are off to find the rest of the X-Men, but Jubilee doesn't trust Betsy, and Betsy doesn't trust herself. It's one of those wonderfully ambiguous endings, rife with plot danglings and future problems, that Claremont did so well for so long.

Psylocke, unfortunately, suffered when Claremont stopped writing her. Sure, other writers attempted some things with her, but mostly, it was forgettable stuff. The fact that she was Asian was finally addressed in the ridiculously obtuse and dense story with Kwannon/Revanche, with whom the Hand apparently switched ... you know, I'm not even going into it. She died (of the Legacy virus) and Betsy moved on. They had her trying to seduce Cyclops for a while (and why is he such a chick magnet?), but that never went anywhere. She got in another fight with Sabretooth and almost got disemboweled. This led to the weird "Crimson Dawn" story, where she was cured with some magical elixir that also, in true comic book fashion, came with a price. Again, I have no idea what it was all about, but it was stupid and featured pretty Joe Madudiera art. She hooked up with Angel for a while, but that never went anywhere (and Angel, apparently, cheated on her, if I remember that Peter Milligan one-shot about Warren). Marvel, deciding that with Charles Xavier and Jean Grey running around they didn't need another telepath, neutered her when she trapped the Shadow King in her mind and could only keep him there by never again using her telepathy (oy!). Claremont brought her back when he returned to the X-Universe in 2001, but this time, she was a telekinetic and she was inexplicably in love with that Indian dude (not because he was Indian, but because they hardly knew each other). I hate it when they switch telepaths to telekinetics -- they've done it with Jean Grey too. It's just dumb. Anyway, at some point (during the Kwannon mess), Betsy got her sight back (who knows what body her mind is in these days), so the Mojo-cameras were left by the wayside. Finally, in X-treme X-Men #2 (Aug. 2001), Claremont kills her. Off-panel, no less.

Yes, I've gone on too long. Sorry. This just annoys me. It's not like Betsy was Paste-Pot Pete or something. She was a viable member of the X-Men for 15 years, and her death scene is a tiny little reflection in Hank McCoy's eye. Now, maybe Claremont wanted to show how great Vargas was, but please. Jean Grey gets killed more times than she changes underwear, and every single time, we're supposed to believe it's the most dramatic thing ever. Psylocke can't even go down in a blaze of glory. It's just a measure of the lack of respect writers have for the characters. You understand, I'm not bashing the fact that Psylocke was killed -- she's fictional, for God's sake, and I'm all for killing characters, even my favorites. It's when it's handled so poorly and again, with such lack of respect. After Claremont left the books in 1991, no one did Betsy well. It's this lack of knowledge about the characters that pisses me off, and is really a symptom of the change in comics, one that I'm not really sure I like -- the de-emphasis on the soap opera aspects of the books, especially in the Marvel U. I talked about this briefly when I looked at Amazing Spider-Man #238-251, and it really does bug me. Betsy (and to a lesser extent Alison Blaire, just because I love them both) had great potential (I know, potential is a French word meaning "hasn't done shit yet") because they had lives outside of the X-Men, and any writer worth his salt should be able to read up on these people. Betsy was an action junkie with a superhero twin brother (and a crazy, really powerful big brother), ties to the British government, trauma in her past, freakin' bionic eyes given to her by the absolute ruler of another freakin' dimension!, yet no one ever used to her best potential. Dazzler was a freakin' rock star, for God's sake, whose father wanted her to be a lawyer and was disappointed when she didn't. But back to Betsy. She was dead, and that was fine, but even Colossus, as lame as his death was, got to die saving mutants everywhere. It really bothered me that another of my favorite characters was condemned to comic book limbo because no one knew how to write her.

Now she's back. I have flipped through the two issues of her return, and I have some hope because it's Claremont and Davis, but Claremont is a shell of his former self and Davis doesn't write the book and probably won't last long on it anyway. I don't know how she's back from the dead, but if I know Marvel, it will be a stupid reason (they don't even trust her -- Peter comes back and they welcome him with open arms, but Betsy's back and they tie her up -- and yes, I know it's two different writers, but that's why we have editors -- remember them?). In my mind, there are two perfect ways to explain Psylocke's reappearance, and both make some sense in the context of the Marvel U. (Someone said they performed an autopsy on Betsy, so that might make it more difficult to explain her reappearance, but let's put aside the fact that they know how she died -- stabbed with a sword, people! -- and that an autopsy wasn't necessary and just focus on other things.) First, Spiral. Spiral is a woefully underused character (Vaughan's introduction of her in Ultimate X-Men has potential, but we'll see). Spiral, as I've pointed out, can reweave reality. Bringing people back from the dead wouldn't be that hard, would it? If Marvel allows Claremont to do that, it would bring Spiral back as a evil little manipulative twister of souls, something the Marvel U. needs (I haven't seen Mephisto in a while, after all -- not since his memorable appearance early on in Priest's Black Panther series). Spiral is also obviously an avatar of Shiva, and Shiva is both the destroyer and the creator. I'm amazed someone hasn't run with this idea more, preferring instead to make Spiral always in the employ of a buffoon like Mojo. (This idea is copyrighted Greg Burgas 2005, by the way. Hah!) The other way Psylocke could come back is through the good graces of her brother, Brian Braddock. I know Bendis introduced a new Captain Britain not long ago, but as far as I know, the last time we saw Brian, he had taken over for Roma as Guardian of the Multiverse. In the old Captain Britain series, Roma was always messing around with reality, and in the Excalibur mini-series (from early 2001), Brian gets her job. Back in the old Captain Britain series, Alan Moore killed Brian, but Merlin and his daughter Roma were able to resurrect him with just a few scraps of his hair and clothing. It seems that Brian, now that he has Roma's job, could do that, especially if the corpse is his sister. This would also tie into Marvel continuity, it wouldn't violate anything that hadn't been established before Joey Q. came on board, and it would allow Betsy's family connections to be re-established. (This is also copyrighted Greg Burgas 2005!) I have very little faith in either of these ideas being adopted.

Anyway, that's my rant about one of my favorite characters. They could have left her dead, for all I care, but if they're going to bring her back, do it right. One of the reasons why I'm so annoyed with the X-Universe these days is because of the ridiculous amount of characters they have, all of whom apparently need to star in their own book somewhere. Remember the good old days when someone could guest star and then you wouldn't hear from them again for months or years? What was wrong with that? Betsy is a perfectly good character who has a great deal of depth that has yet to be explored. If they choose not to, that's fine -- let her move back to England until someone comes along who is interested in her (that's my request, Marvel, for a Psylocke mini-series that I can write). This lack of respect for anything that has come before is why we have a lot of crap in mainstream superhero comics these days.

Ah, my inner nerd is satisfied. Carry on!


Comics for 23 February 2005

Well, it's another week, and so I must tell you what you ought to be buying and why you should be buying it instead of giving your hard-earned money to, I don't know, The Outsiders or Nightwing or X-23.

Since Grant Morrison came out with a new book this week (see below, I must say I can't freakin' believe I forgot Flex Mentallo on my list of 100 Things I Love About Comics. So pretty. So weird. So brilliant.

Black Widow #6 by Richard K. Morgan, Goran Parlov, and Bill Sienkiewicz
$2.99, Marvel

Black Widow comes to a close inconclusively, which is kind of annoying, even though it promises a "Volume 2," also written by Morgan. It's the same tactic Ellis uses in Ultimate Nightmare (see below), and I don't like it only because if they promise a mini-series, they should deliver a mini-series. If you want Natasha to go on as an ongoing series, fine, but at least wrap things up here and then come up with a new plot for an ongoing!

Anyway, this is a nice series and a nice ending, with the retconning of Natasha's past taking an interesting turn, as we learn some keen things about her relationship with Nick Fury. We also get Kestrel's lesbianism coming back to bite her employers in the ass (so to speak), but it was still nice to see a lesbian handled rather well in this comic (especially with what happened to Northstar). Morgan doesn't make a big thing about it, and the scandal that envelopes Kestrel is not only about her being a lesbian, but is something that could conceivably happen to a straight person as well. Anyway, it's fine. The story has a ring of truth to it in that it's unseemly and ultimately idiotic and sad, but realistic in that I can believe people are willing to kill for such a hollow thing. And Natasha kicks ass.

I've always liked Black Widow and I'm glad she's getting some work -- I want to see who the artist is on the next series, because Sienkiewicz, even when he's just finishing Pavlov's layouts, as he does this issue, is a very good match for Natasha (Greg Land, who does covers, is less so -- they're beautiful covers, but Natasha is not as glamorous as he's made her). I'll be looking out for the next series, because this one was a good one.

Containment #2 by Eric Red and Nick Stakal
$3.99, IDW

Man, four dollars is a lot to pay for this, especially because IDW has 1) taken to putting short prose pieces at the end of their issues, which is an interesting idea, but when all the stories are about vampires, just give it a rest!; 2) GrimJack also came out this week (from the same publisher), and although they're both 22 pages, Ostrander's story feels much more packed than this one. However, this continues to be a nice little story, even though it rips off Alien, right down to Trumbo cast in the Paul Reiser role from the second movie. I suppose that was inevitable, though -- not everyone can be nice when your crewmates have turned into zombies! We get a nice explanation for why half the crew is now mad for brains, and the art does an excellent job at showing the claustrophobia and dankness of the space ship, but I think this would read better in trade paperback. It's a decent enough book, but man -- 4 dollars!

Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink #1 by John Kovalic and Christopher Jones
$2.99, Dork Storm

This is the first of two laugh-out-loud funny books I bought this week, and it makes me wish more books were funny (yes, Giffen, DeMatteis, Maguire, Rubinstein, and Lappan bring it to you, but that's on a limited basis -- funny comic books don't seem to last -- see The Heckler, Major Bummer -- why is that -- do people not like to laugh?). Phew. That was a long aside. Anyway, Dr. Blink is a funny book. No, it's not particularly deep, and for 3 dollars, it's not particularly long, but what the hell -- it's funny. You know it's funny from the cover, where Dr. Blink is looking out the window where his patient, Major Amazing, is on the ledge threatening to jump, and the good doctor is saying, "This would concern me more if you couldn't fly, you know ..."

Anyway, it's funny. Major Amazing has a death wish, but he's invulnerable. The good doctor tries to give him a reason to live, but since he's not only invulnerable, he's apparently been alive for millennia, he's can't stand life. The doctor has to figure out what's wrong with him, because he doesn't believe he's suicidal. Everything works out in the end, with a nice gag.

Like I said, it's funny, and I don't want to give the jokes away. However, it's fun to give a tease, like the meeting of "The Avenging Legion of Titan Justice Defenders Society of America League!" Actually, it's the re-naming sub-committee meeting, since they're a little upset that they outsourced the job of naming the group to a super-chimp. More hilarity ensues. The only problem I have with the jokes is that Kovalic feels the need to explain Major Amazing's discovery of "the only weapon in the entire cosmos that can actually kill" him -- he calls it the MacGuffin Gun, and that's funny, but like the man said, if you have to explain a joke, it's not funny, and Kovalic explains it. Oh well. This is a funny book, with nice and goofy art by Jones that is somewhat reminiscent of Oeming's on Powers. Check it out if you want a nice chuckle.

Fade From Grace #4 by Gabriel Benson and Jeff Amano
$1.99, Beckett

This issue came out of few weeks ago, but I just got it (and many thanks to Guy LeCharles Gonzalez for reviewing it so I realized I missed it) and so I will pass on to you, all 3 of my readers, a brief review. Really, if you're not buying a book that retails for $1.99 and has a sweet story, fine art, and the kind of innocent, do-it-because-it's-the-right-thing-to-do superheroics that sucked us all into comics in the first place, I can't help you. That being said, this is a nice issue, although I wish more had happened. Grace gets kidnapped by shadowy bad guys and John rescues her. That's it. It's a cool car chase, and John does learn something disturbing about his power, but it's basically John rescuing Grace. Next issue is, according to the last page, the final issue, and that's a shame, unless that's the way it was supposed to be. Beckett is trying to give the comic-reading public a cheaper option, and I would be sad if they went the way of CrossGen. We'll see. Pick this issue up cheap and see if it's for you! There's really nothing to lose!

GrimJack: Killer Instinct #2 by John Ostrander and Timothy Truman

More fun stuff from the minds of Ostrander and Truman. This is a swell book, packed with action and fun and again, you need know nothing about John Gaunt's history to enjoy it (although, as I was reading some reviews of it, you can enjoy it on another level if you have some knowledge of his history). It begins with a long chase scene, as Jack and Fangs (whose real name is Josephine Chaney, by the way) try to escape the Wraiths that thwarted the assassination attempt last issue, and they zip around Cynosure, showing us all the bizarre parts of the trans-dimensional city. When they escape, they get chewed out by their boss, get suspended, and then Fangs gets Jack to train her. This leads, inevitably, to the sex (come on, once he escaped with a woman, you knew it was coming!). It sounds like a cliched cop drama, and sure, the cliches are there, but Ostrander obviously has such a good grasp of the characters and the setting that we don't mind the cliches -- in fact, this is one book when the cliches might help, because we're reading a rollicking adventure, and we know the formula and are comfortable with it. Ostrander often rises above the formula, even in GrimJack, but for this mini-series, it's fine. Truman's art is fabulous, showing all the grimy and interesting sections of the city, and Gaunt is sufficiently hard-edged. This is a fun book, and actually worth the 4 dollars.

Seven Soldiers of Victory #0 by Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams III
$2.95, DC

If you're a fan of comics, you are probably buying this already, and if you don't, you should have your "geek card" revoked. This is Morrison in his element, playing with forgotten corners of the DC Universe and creating characters (I think) that fit in well with the crazy tradition of said universe. Some of his familiar themes are back in this "prologue" to the massive undertaking he's, well, undertaking over the next year or so (is that Oubliette from Marvel Girl? sure looks like it), but Morrison is so good at this sort of thing that it doesn't matter. Of all the great comic book writers, Morrison is, I think, the best at taking utterly madcap ideas and making them work. Here has Slaughter Swamp and references to Solomon Grundy, a tiny little man riding a mosquito, and a new comics conspiracy -- all in the first few pages. We move on to another familiar theme, that of secret identities and what they really mean, and then, of course, the wackiness of Morrison superheroes -- Gimmix, who tells stories about when she ran into Aquaman (Laura Gjovaag wishes she were Gimmix!), Blue Boy, who has a ghost suit that makes him "lighter than air or harder than diamond," and Dyno-Mite Dan, who is described as a "hero-vestite." These wacky heroes are brought together to fight a giant spider, and things don't go as planned. Another thing I've always liked about Morrison is his utter ruthlessness when dealing with his (fictional) characters. He likes them, but he has no compunction about using them to fit the story. (That's probably why his love affair with Emma Frost was so vexing -- I was amazed he had the stones to kill her, but then he freakin' brought her back!) But back to Seven Soldiers: this just sets the stage for Morrison's 7 4-issue mini-series about the 7 Soldiers of Victory. This is going to rock, I can tell.

Williams' art is unbelievably gorgeous. Before he did Promethea, he was just a pretty good artist. Now, he's one of the best in the business. This is a beautiful book to look at, as he switches styles for the various settings, and when the gods attack (just read the book, all right!), he draws a double-paged spread that is violent, beautiful, stirring, and sad all in one. Words fail me.

Buy it. Oh, you already have? Good.

Small Gods #7 by Jason Rand and Juan Ferreyra
$2.50, Image

I really like this book. It's very nice to look at, it's in black and white, which I think helps it a lot, and it has some intriguing stories that don't appear to be much on the surface, but really get under your skin. This story, about Bobby Pope and how he witnessed a massacre of drug dealers by crooked cops and has to go on the lam, is an example: it's a standard noir kind of story, but it works because of the fact that Rand has obviously thought about this world he's created, one in which telepaths, psychics, and those sorts of people are common and accepted, and also, that these people wouldn't necessarily be superheroes, they would just be people who try to get a little extra in life. That's Pope -- he's not a bad guy, but he's not really a good guy either. He can be nice, but he can be a jerk, and he's just looking to get by in life. It's a good, noir story (I know, I wrote noir twice in one review) that hold up because of the characters and the look, which is why any noir story holds up. I read a review somewhere that had some issues with Lucy's breasts in the issue, and so do I. She has painted-on clothes on for most of the issue, and then, after sex with Bobby, she's sitting around naked, but the Ferreyra places her arms and other stuff across her breasts so we don't (God forbid) see nipple (remember how funny the first Austin Powers movie was, especially when they satirized this convention?). Now, there's quite a bit of cursing in Small Gods, and it ships code-less. I remember an old letter to some Vertigo title: you have a Mature Readers label: use it. Why can we have cursing in Small Gods and not nipples? It's a mystery. Either put Lucy in some clothes or show her in all her glory. Deliberately hiding her nipples distracts us even more, because we keep saying "Those breasts are weirdly shaped if you don't see a nipple there!" Anyway, that's my nipple rant. No, I'm not a dirty old man. Moving on ...

Ultimate Nightmare #5 by Warren Ellis, Trevor Hairsine, and Nelson (or DeCastro)
$2.25, Marvel

Well, that was an excruciatingly long wait for what is just the first of three mini-series, all dealing with the strange, evil, ridiculously powerful threat from the stars (news flash: it's Galactus). It's fine, I suppose, although this is why, if you like Warren Ellis, you need to read Ocean, or Planetary, or this new Desolation Jones, or his mini-series for Avatar, because with this Ultimate stuff, it's frustrating to see his talent being held in check by either his unwillingness to really go nuts with an established franchise, or Marvel's unwillingness to allow him to go nuts with an established franchise. Gee, the Ultimates fight the X-Men! Why, exactly? Gee, Captain American fights Captain Crazy Soviet, and kicks his ass. Gee, Ultimate Vision tells of the coming of the "uncreator antimessiah poison wave universal endbringer Gah Lak Tus." Haven't we seen that before? Sigh. Since I'm a sucker, I'll probably buy Ultimate Secret, especially because McNiven's art is excellent, but this is just an okay book, nothing special. And any mini-series that ships late ... that's just inexcusable. I still don't know why companies don't wait until all the books are at least drawn before soliciting them. Not only was this late, Hairsine didn't even draw the whole thing. At least McNiven should have a healthy head start, as his series was supposed to be out at least a month ago.

X-Men #167 by Peter Milligan, Salvador Larroca, and Danny Miki
$2.25, Marvel

This deepens the "Golgotha" mystery a little bit, and it's a better issue than last time, but I still have some problems with it. The art is still too freakin' dark. There's still way too much being left unexplained. I'm all for mysteries, but when plot points are plopped down in the middle of the story as if we've already seen them (like what the heck's going on in Los Angeles? did I miss something?), I get peeved. I actually really like what's going on in Los Angeles, but I felt I had missed an issue, and I know I didn't. I also like how the X-Men seem to jet anywhere they want in a matter of seconds -- they're in Antarctica! they're in Israel! they're in Salem Center! Anyway. Milligan has a nice grasp of the characters, and he's got some more character development this issue, and the big monster is sufficiently weird and creepy, and that's part of the mystery I don't mind waiting for. Larocca's art is beautiful, if a little dark, and I always like a strange little religious tale. It's part one of five (par for the course these days in the Marvel U.), so I'm sticking around at least that long.

I also bought a couple of trade paperbacks this week, both worth a look. The first is Skizz, Alan Moore and Jim Baikie's tale of a stranded alien on Earth and his friends' efforts to keep him from being taken by the government. This came out in the classic comics magazine 2000AD in 1983, and it's a fun story, another example of a good writer taking something that is familiar and transcending the cliches. In this case, showing how alien not only Skizz is to Earthlings, not only how alien we are to him, but how alien different classes of people are to each other, and how alien different generations are to each other. It's well done, with decent art by Baikie.

The other book I bought is the other hilarious one, and that's Scurvy Dogs by Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount (published by Ait/Planet Lar), which is only 13 dollars and a real treat. It's about modern-day pirates who are dealing with, well, modern-day problems, such as the fact that there's not much to pillage these days and they need to get jobs. As Adam Beechen says in his introduction, many people said about this book "I laughed so hard I wet myself," and although I have better bowel control than those people, it was close. The art is rough but serviceable, and the stories are slight, but really funny. For instance, one of the pirates gets a job at a dentist's office, because not only is he acquainted with scurvy, he also brought his own hook (on the end of his arm). Blackbeard the pirate had a falling-out with his brother, Bluebeard, because Bluebeard is of the opinion that Anson Williams (yes, Potsie) is really under-appreciated as an actor. There's even a mini-crossover with Vampirella. It's really freakin' funny, and you owe it to yourself to run out and buy it. That is all.

Next: hell, I don't know. I don't plan these things all that well!


"I'm clockwork, and you're quartz"

My old friend Dave and I have taken different paths in life. He used to be, quite literally, nutty. Some say now he's nuttier, but I don't -- he's just a born-again Christian. More than that, he's an intelligent, well-spoken born-again Christian who has some difficulties believing that not everyone is a Christian. This leads to some interesting e-mails from him, but it also makes your brain work, and that can't be a bad thing, can it?

I have mentioned that my daughter has a traumatic brain injury. (And I might as well plug my new blog, The Daughter Chronicles, in which I give a detailed look at raising a child with a brain injury.) Anyway, I sent out an e-mail not long ago telling some people about taking her to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and how although its cost was prohibitive, it doesn't bother us since we'd pay much more than that to help our daughter. This sparked something in my friend Dave's head, and he replied. It led to a long discussion about rebellion and acceptance and, I thought, is really quite interesting. So, with his permission, I give you: The Greg and Dave Roundtable!

********** (He started it):
I do have to make some overtly Christian commentary though to what you wrote (or it just wouldn't be me would it). You said, "It costs around $5000, which doesn't bother us, since we'd pay much more than that to help Mia." I remember my pastor in Cincinnati was doing a message one time and talking about if he had to pay everything he owned to help save one of his kids and he said his response would be, "Who do I make the check out to?" He was trying to find an illustration to compare the love we have in saving our children to the love the heavenly Father has in wanting to save us from our sin and separation from Him. God essentially said the same thing but instead of giving a very large value of money. He gave Himself ... His own life ... an Infinite value. Wouldn't you be hurt if Mia got older and didn't acknowledge any of these efforts you expended to try and rescue her from her calamity? That feeling you would have is just an itty bit like how God feels to those who ignore or don't cherish with their whole heart the sacrifice that He made. Let's say Mia was older and had choice about whether she would submit and surrender to all of the costly treatments and therapies you are providing for her to help. Not only would you feel the hurt of her rejection if she chose not to receive those gifts you so badly want to give her but also compound this with watching as she would then not be cured or helped in her condition. This is the same double damage that God feels when those who dismiss Jesus Christ, the costly cure for the condition of our soul. God feels the pain of the rejection and the pain in watching us live lives now and for eternity un-cured and un-helped, because of our own rebellion. Would you want Mia to reject you and your efforts to help her the way you have rejected God and His effort to save you? What do you think?

Love you bro,

********** (I replied):

Hmmm. I would say I expect Mia to reject us at some point, because that's kind of a necessary step on the road to self-actualization. Also, it's her life, and while I would feel hurt, I would also attempt to deal with it. She will, at some point, be an adult, and she has to make her own choices. I hope we will raise her correctly and she won't, but if it happens, it happens. That's what raising kids is about -- making sure they have everything they need to succeed as adults, and then letting them go. That's where I think your analogy breaks down a little, if I'm reading it correctly. If God is our spiritual father, and he sacrificed himself so that we could grow up, he's still holding us back from growing up by putting a guilt trip on us because we reject him. As a father, he should want us to rebel, since rebellion is part of becoming a fully realized adult. Rejection of parents is what becoming a parent is all about. As long as we don't reject God, spiritually we're stunted and immature. How's that for deep analysis?

********** (He came back with):
I would first question the presupposition that rebellion is a necessary thing in the step to adulthood. Just because it is what we both experienced to varying degrees doesn't mean we're the models for successful growth to adulthood, right? If there is such a thing as truth, then experience doesn't always determine or reveal truth. Many times truth should guide and determine our experience so that our experience can become more genuine and honorable. I know kids who grew up Christian who never had the typical "rebellious" stage and had intimate close relationships with their parents. I don't want to detach myself or stop reaching out relationally to my kids in anticipation of some phantom rebellion stage and create a self-fulfilled prophecy. I hope to prove the fallacy of the "mandatory rebellious stage" with my kids if at all possible. Witnesses beforehand can say I'm in denial of reality and after there is no rebellious stage can scoff and say we just got lucky if they want but I know it will be the true and living God working in our hearts and theirs if it is accomplished, not luck.

Secondly, as I reflect, my rebellion attempts were all the times when I came closest to physically dying on my way to adulthood, not the times when I was increasing in life more abundantly. My rebellious attitudes and actions were the things that typically granted me a greater measure of emotional depression, isolation, loneliness, guilt, paranoia, shame, anger, pain, hate, apathy, numbness, lust, etc. I wouldn't call these attributes stepping stones on the way to reaching stable emotional and relational maturity and happy adulthood. Only when I finally realized I needed to surrender my life utterly to God did things like peace, love, and joy even begin to emerge on the inside of me because of the power of Jesus Christ, not my own positive thinking.

With regard to the analogy I tried to make, I didn't think out and explain my analogy to the Nth degree so I could see you might see it breaking down. My analogy to the spiritual would utilize an image of reaching spiritual "adulthood" once you are in heaven. This would be the same as if Mia needed the treatment you provided in order to even make it alive to adulthood and yet she still rejected it. God as the perfect parent has given us (Himself) everything we need in order to make it to "adulthood" (heaven) yet we have rebelled and rejected his provision. With the analogy being placed with the rebellion occurring prior to adulthood, this would be something like a daughter running away from home at age 10-13 or so in physical/earthly terms. This would most likely be catastrophic to her successful growth into adulthood and she may end up resorting to stealing, prostitution, and could end up dead. This is the picture of us rejecting Jesus and going out on our own, thinking we can make it without our heavenly Father's provision and ending up spiritually dead, forever separated from Him. But thanks be to God that He loves us and in that love He gave us what we needed to survive to "adulthood" by sending Jesus Christ to take our wounds and injuries (our sin) upon Himself so that we might have life, eternal life. Why would anyone say no to such awesome love of such a perfect Father?

With HIS love,

********** (But I retorted):
I would say rebellion is a necessary step to adulthood. In varying degrees, we all have to rebel against our parents -- the whole Oedipal thing, maybe. It doesn't necessarily have to be a violent, overt act of rebellion, but if we don't rebel, we're never fully formed as people, we're just versions of our parents. I think everyone should go through it (whether or not they do is another matter). That doesn't mean I'm going to "stop reaching out relationally" to Mia (and the next one) and I hope I can guide her through the rough stage of adolescence (and we're probably going to have to do a lot of it, since her independence is in question), but I expect her to rebel and I hope that she rebels in the "right" way. What does that mean? Well, I rebelled against my parents, and so did you. We both rebelled in different ways, but we both had the "cushion" of being raised more or less correctly (I can't speak for you, but I know your parents provided you with everything you needed to know what's good in life) and so even though we rebelled, we were, I would say, rebelling in the "right" way. Yours was a little more extreme, but you got through it. You'll say you got through it with the grace of God, and so be it. You still got through it.

As for saying that your "rebellious" periods were times when you weren't "increasing in life more abundantly," I would argue the opposite. "Whatever does not kill me makes me stronger," that sort of thing. Yes, you were crazy, and were perhaps a little crazier than a lot of people, but your experiences ultimately drove you to God, which saved your life. Without your downward spiral, would you be where you were today? Your experiences, I would argue, gave you the strength to give up. That's not a bad thing, wouldn't you say?

You again make the argument about God giving "himself," which gets into semantic arguments that I'm not going to discuss. However, it still remains that you wonder why people would "reject" his gift? Not to drag comic books into this, but there are plenty of comic books in which heroes try to set up a perfect society and can't believe people would reject it. You're right that people have to accept the gift willingly, but what is ugly about Christianity is that many Christians do not understand this and force it on people. To go back to the parental analogy, it's like my parents forcing me to go to a university I didn't like because they thought it was good for me. That's kind of lame, but it's the best I can do. Yes, to you we all need to accept Jesus' gift, and it's painful to the Big Guy when we don't. It would be excruciatingly painful for me if Mia were to reject our best efforts, and I understand your point about a child running away. In other words, in God's eyes, we're all children. I'm sure that's you're argument, but spiritually, we're all at varying levels of adolescence. Is it better to simply accept God into your heart and have no doubt, or struggle with spiritual awakening on your own? I honestly don't know.

********** (Quick as a wink, he came back with):
As usual, I agree with some of your points but disagree with many as well. I think we've each explored our own understanding of the "child growing to spiritual maturity" analogy pretty thoroughly so I won't beleaguer (correct word use? Or maybe belabor?) the metaphor much more on my end.

In summation, it all really comes down to our rather different views on Destination and Transportation. I believe Heaven (ultimate unity with God) is the Lord's desired Destination and Jesus Christ is God's prescribed Transportation. As it seems you don't believe in Heaven, an earth-bound "spiritual" maturity of some sort is the most one can attain it seems you would believe Independence should be our Destination and good Parenting with just a touch of the "right" Rebellion is the Transportation. Your view doesn't really deal with the reality of Death as I understand it. How does your worldview explain or deal with the fact that we will all die? Is it the "we die and then that's it" explanation? Or maybe death is the ultimate climax to Independence, where we are then utterly alone in the cold darkness and not Dependent on such silly things as warmth, light, love, and God who created our life to begin with. If there is anything that life has taught me it is that I'm not independent. Maybe for you the greater independence you exercise the happier and more fulfilled life becomes. For me, the more independent I try to be the more pain life brings to prove to me -- I Need. And of course all the needs I experience in life are pointing to the thing I ultimately Need ... God in Jesus Christ. I need good parents -> He is the loving Father. My body and house need maintenance -> He is the sustainer of all things. I'm wandering and lost and need guidance -> He is the good shepherd. I suffer penalties and pain due to my own sinful stupid behavior -> He is the sacrificial lamb of God. I need companionship and rescued from loneliness -> He is God with us. I need help from trials and distress -> He is the Comforter. I am hungry and need food -> He is the bread of life. I am thirsty -> He is the living water. I need joy -> He is the true vine. He is the Lord of all creation, the way, the truth ... Life.

Needing Life,

********** (Feeling the end was near, I responded):
Just to finish up, I don't know what comes after death. I agree, that's where we differ -- you are certain, I'm not. I want to believe in Heaven (who wouldn't?) but I have no idea if it exists or not. Death is something that's there, but I don't worry about it. I don't necessarily believe Independence is the destination, but I would agree with you that spiritual maturity is something you attain on your own. You attained it on your own, I would argue, even though "on your own" means giving your life over to God. I haven't reached it yet.

********** (But he rallied, and hit me with this):
How can spiritual maturity be attained "on your own" by "giving your life over to God"? These two things are contradictory. Putting your life in God's hands means very significantly that you are not on your own. The New Testament often uses the term "in Christ" when referring to believers. I would say the Bible teaches that we are either "in self" or "in Christ" and spiritual maturity is when you are no longer "in self" (on your own) but when you are "in Christ".

(And not only that, but his wife chimed in too!):
I believe Trini will rebel in little ways because it is part of growing up. She will (and I hope she does) rebel against some of what I tell her in that she will be looking for the answer herself and not just because I told her it is right. I think she should be taught to question everything including me. Not in a rebellious "why" attitude for the sake of questioning but to learn for herself and a true quest for knowledge. I don't want her to be a carbon copy of me with a "yes mommy I believe you because you said so" attitude. But as far as disrespecting me and doing things behind my back with no respect that is what I am trying to avoid. Maybe you want to explain to Greg that there is acceptable rebelling so that she learns things for herself but that we are also trying to have an open enough relationship with them so that they don't have to hide things from us. That there is a difference between rebellion and disrespecting and I think we are trying to get our children to be respectful and expect some minor rebellion. I think to say they will always do what we say is naïve but our overall goal is to help them through life and help them know that even when we are not around they are accountable to God and when we do mess up He will forgive them like we do. I can see what Greg is thinking and where he is coming from and you may want to tell him you understand the difference too. Make sense?

********** (Well, that brought us to the final end -- we both like to have the last word, but I think I got it here):
See, your wife articulates exactly what I was thinking. Hang onto her -- she's obviously smarter than both of us. What I mean by attaining spiritual maturity on your own by giving your life to God is that you gave your life to God on your own -- it wouldn't mean anything if you did not come to that conclusion on your own. Now that you have made that choice on your own, yes, you are continuing the journey with help, but the initial step had to be done on your own, or it would be meaningless. One of the problems I have with many Christians (and, I'm sure, Jews, Muslims, and members of any other organized religions) is that they do it because it's tradition in their family, or because their spouses do it, or for a number of other reasons that have nothing to do with spiritual awakenings. Maybe I'm just being cynical, but that's the way it seems to me. Even though I disagree with you on a number of things (but not that 1980s hair bands RULE!), I still think what you have done with your life is a lot more interesting and challenging than a lot of people out there.

There you have it. Maybe you don't care, but I thought it was interesting. People who think differently CAN get along -- Dave is a good friend, and I'm glad he challenges me on some things.


Not just flotsam, but also jetsam

I have a lot on my mind (people who know me will say, "That's new"). Sunday was a blah day that I spent surfing the net and riding my bike and wondering why networks program interesting stuff (the SNL First Five Years special) against ratings blockbusters (Desperate Housewives, which I watch). My wife says, only half jokingly I'm convinced, that this is why we need TiVo. Like I need a reason to watch MORE television.

Blogs are fun. Here are two that I found yesterday: Radio Free Nepal (I'm still waiting, Mr. President, for the invasion of Nepal, and let's throw in Togo, as well) and I Hate My Flatmate, which is quite evil but laugh-out-loud funny. There's also some fun stuff from the always-worth-a-look McSweeney's, including Rejected York Peppermint Pattie Commercial Blurbs, Ways In Which She Could Have Blinded Me With Science, and Four Ways In Which My Life Is Just Like Pac-Man's. Many thanks to Toner Mishap for bringing these to my attention, and also for this. Finally, there's an unpublished Batman story. I'm sorry, I'll move on now.

A lot has been made about President Bush not denying smoking marijuana in these new "secret" tapes that were just leaked. Personally, I don't care if the president smoked marijuana, as long as he's not still smoking it -- it might actually explain a few things. (For those of you who are new to this blog, I don't like the president. Shocking!) However, it's more disturbing that he thought John Ashcroft would be a "very good Supreme Court pick." Now that's scary. (Yes, I'm being unfair, perhaps, to our vaunted leader. I'm a blogger -- what do you expect?)

So I'm riding my bike around the East Basin yesterday (Arizonans like to call it a valley, but it's really a basin, as Ron Wolfley calls it) and I rode past a gas station. Now, those in the know here like to tell us we're in the middle of a nine-year drought. It's also true that February has been weirdly rainy here in the desert, enough so that people are actually complaining about the possible alleviation of said drought and wishing the rain would go away. It's also true that it rained steadily all day Friday and Saturday. So what was going on at this gas station? They were watering the lawn. I kid you not. People keep moving to this area (why, I'll never know) and no one seems to care that the Colorado River has turned into a trickling stream. I give this blighted landscape 20 years, and then -- no more golf courses for you, old people!

I have less against Bush I than I do Bush II, but G.H.W. Bush said something stupid. In this article, he's quoted as saying, "I don't think there's ever been a tragedy that affected the heartbeat of the American people as much as this tsunami has done.(emphasis mine)" Now, I'm sorry, and if he had not said "American," I might be inclined to agree with him. But perhaps he's forgotten a certain terrorist attack from so many years ago (well, three)? I tend to think that affected Americans a lot more.

The Arizona Republic had a presidential quiz today in honor of this lame holiday (let's go back to Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's birthday, please! -- not to besmirch Martin Luther King, Jr., but he has his own day, after all!). I knew only a few of these, and I know a little about history. See how many you know! (I'm not going to link to the article because you'll just cheat -- I see it in your black hearts!)
1. Which presidents owned beer breweries?
2. Who was the first president to have his mother attend his inauguration?
3. Who was the first president to live in the White House?
4. Who failed to mention on his epitaph that he had been president?
5. Which president kept an alligator as a White House pet? (No, the answer is not "Clinton," and he named it "Hillary.")
6. Who was the first U.S. citizen to become president?
7. How many bachelors have been elected president?
8. Who served as president and vice president without ever being elected to either office?
9. Which president refused to accept a salary for serving as president?
10. Who was the first president to have a child born in the White House?
11. Which presidents won the Nobel Peace Prize while in office?
12. Which president trained to be a math teacher and created an original proof of the Pythagorean theorem while serving in the House of Representatives?
13. Which president invented, among other things, the pedometer, the swivel chair, and a machine to make fiber from hemp?
14. Which president had two of his vice presidents die during his term in office?
15. Who was the most recent president with a beard?
16. Who was the most recent president with a moustache?
17. Which president hated broccoli and banned it from his plate?
18. For which president did the Jelly Belly Candy Co. create a blueberry jelly bean so that he could keep bowls of red, white, and blue jelly beans in the White House?
19. How many teeth did George Washington have at his inauguration?
20. Who was the only president not to live in Washington, D.C.?
21. Who was the first president elected without the most popular votes or most electoral votes?
22. Which president was arrested while in office for running over a woman with his horse?
23. Who was president when the first telephone was installed in the White House?
24. Who was the first president to ride in an automobile?
25. Who took the oath of office from a woman?

Have a nice day! Next: religion invades the blog!


Comics you should own (Amazing Spider-Man)

Amazing Spider-Man by Roger Stern (writer), Tom DeFalco (script on #251), John Romita Jr. (penciller), Ron Frenz (pencils, #248, #251), and John Romita Sr. (inks, #238, #247), Frank Giacoia (inks, #239, #241), Bob Layton (inks, #240), Kevin Dzuban (inks, #242), Dave Simons (inks, #243, #245), Klaus Janson (inks, #244, #250, #251), Dan Green (inks, #246, #249), Brett Breeding (inks, #248), Terry Austin (inks, #248) (Apparently Marvel couldn't keep a finisher on the book for too long!)
Marvel, 14 issues (Vol. 1, #238-251, Mar. 1983-Apr. 1984)

These 14 issues are the first part of the mid-1980s Hobgoblin Saga, and they constitute what I would call the high point of Spider-Man between the death of Gwen Stacy and J. Michael Straczynski's renaissance of the past few years. It's pretty shocking that for ten years (essentially the 1990s) Marvel would treat their flagship character with such disrespect, but that's the way it was, true believers. Let's look at better days.

The Hobgoblin Saga has been covered, better than I ever could, in these articles. It's highly recommended reading about how the editors of Spider-Man allowed this great villain to descend into stupidity. Since I'm dealing with just stories before he became lousy, I won't get into the whole thing. However, I'm sure I'll repeat some of the things said in these articles.

So: Stern on Amazing Spider-Man. In need of a "Green Goblin" type villain, he creates the Hobgoblin. Here's generally how the issues break down:

#238-239: Introduction of the Hobgoblin. We don't know who he is, but he's scary!
#240-241: A two-part Vulture story. Remember two-part stories?
#242: Spidey fights a robot belonging to the Mad Thinker. Remember one-part stories?
#243: Mary Jane returns to Peter's life! Yippee! And Peter quits graduate school.
#244-245: The Hobgoblin returns, and Spidey is supposed to believe he dies. Peter's not buying it!
#246: J. Jonah Jameson, Felicia Hardy, Mary Jane, and Peter all daydream about their perfect lives. Holy cow, a one-part story about daydreaming!
#247-248: Thunderball returns. Spidey beats him.
#248: The second part of the book is "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man." Many people have a soft spot in their hearts for this story. I am not one of them.
#249-251: A Hobgoblin trilogy! Holy crap -- it's decompressed storytelling, 1980s-style! Included in this is the "Special Normal-Sized 250th Issue," as the cover tells us, with Hobgoblin himself in the corner logo telling us to steal the book. Remember when Marvel had a sense of humor?

So those are the stories in this little collection. Stern and Romita, ably assisted by a cast of thousands of inkers (or finishers, in most cases), bring us some brilliant stories. But why should you buy them?

Well, the interesting thing about these stories is how Stern is able to build on the past without wallowing in nostalgia. These days, comics seem to give us nothing but nostalgia (a trend that started with Marvels, as I've stated before). There's nothing inherently wrong with nostalgia, but when it gets in the way of the growth of an artistic medium, it tends to strangle anything else in the cradle. I don't mean that all of comics do this, but many do, especially those put out by the Big Two. When a writer tries to break free of the past, he gets excoriated in some circles (Straczynski on Amazing Spider-Man and Morrison on X-Men come to mind). Then, to appease the fans, writers who do push the envelope do some extra-special wallowing in past glory (Straczynski with Gwen Stacy boinking Norman Osborn and Morrison's own Dark Phoenix Saga). In 1983, Marvel hadn't really developed the cult of Lee/Kirby/Ditko yet, so its talent was free to build on the past without slavishly aping it. This is what we get with the first part of the Hobgoblin Saga -- Stern respects the past and uses it, but at no time does the Hobgoblin kidnap Mary Jane and take her to the top of the George Washington Bridge (yes, it's my obligatory shot at Mark Millar, although he's not the only one guilty of this).

I'll get back to this idea. Let's look at what Stern is doing in these stories. The Spider-Man books back then were a ridiculous convoluted soap opera, with all kinds of crossovers, but what was nice was that you could only read one title without worrying about what was happening in the other. Felicia Hardy (the Black Cat) spends all 14 issues in the hospital because of injuries she sustained in Spectacular Spider-Man. We don't need to read the other comic, because Stern reminds us how it happened more than once. Meanwhile, in Amazing, we get Spidey fighting bad guys while life goes on around him. Aunt May is seeing someone (I don't remember whatever happened to Nathan Lubensky) and turning her home into a boarding house. Spidey lets a bad guy go, and he stumbles upon a secret lab of the Green Goblin. He tells a shadowy figure about it, and this mysterious man becomes the Hobgoblin. Peter relives the guilt he felt about letting the burglar who killed Uncle Ben go all over again. It sucks to be him.

The Hobgoblin immediately begins looting all of the old Green Goblin hideouts, and he starts making improvements. He experiments on a small-time hood named Lefty Donovan, injecting him with the Goblin's strength serum and sending him out to fight Spider-Man dressed as the Hobgoblin. Donovan dies, but the Hobgoblin gets all the data he needs. Finally, he tries to blackmail Jameson, Harry Osborn, and a group of elite businessmen whose secrets he discovered in Norman's journals, but Spider-Man (with some help from Wilson Fisk) thwarts him. At the end of #251, the Hobgoblin is presumed dead at the bottom of the river, but Spider-Man knows better.

The idea of the past intruding on the present is different from nostalgia, and Stern uses the continuity that Peter and his gang have with the past to his complete advantage. This is a time when the Marvel Universe was only 20 years old and was still relatively simple enough that you could keep track of everything. Now, this kind of storytelling is quite impossible, and I would argue that comics are cheaper for it. Stern takes an idea that has bothered Peter for years -- letting the man who killed his uncle go, and instead of rehashing that old chestnut, he finds a way to put a new spin on it. Peter did all he could to get the bad guy, and he's not presented as a jerk, like he is in the original story. Here, it's just life -- the man escapes into the sewers, and Peter thinks the cops will be able to find him. It's a much more complex take on the "with great power comes great responsibility" theme, since in the first instance, Peter was just being a jerk. Here, he's already a hero, but one with a life, after all. He agonizes a bit about it later, but he's mature enough to deal with it.

The Hobgoblin is obviously a homage to the original Green Goblin, and it's an interesting choice by Stern to create him rather than bringing Norman Osborn back from the dead. I haven't read many comics prior to the 1980s, so I don't know how often people were resurrected in those days, but I think that today, the writer would just be lazy and bring the original Norman back (I think this because that's what Marvel did in the mid-1990s). It's so much more interesting to watch the Hobgoblin go through the various stages of his development. We don't know who he is, but Stern had his ideas, and he dropped plenty of hints. The Hobgoblin is someone with a family and a decent career, because he thinks about them occasionally. He is also convinced he's not crazy like Norman Osborn was, and it's fascinating to watch how he eventually becomes as crazy as Norman was (he's not really nuts by issue #251, but he's getting there, and later writers ran with it, although not as subtly as Stern does). The mystery of the Hobgoblin is fun because it takes the original Green Goblin concept and deepens it -- Peter's always wondering not only who the Hobgoblin is, but if his existence will make Harry remember all about the Green Goblin, as well as if the Hobgoblin is going to find Spider-Man's secret identity in Norman's journals. Stern balances the sense of Spider-Man's history without devolving into self-indulgent nostalgia, which is not as easy as it sounds.

He does the same thing with the minor stories in this arc. The Vulture story is interesting because it gives us an origin of the villain (I don't know if we'd ever gotten one before) and it also gives us a plausible reason for where he is and why he returns. The Mad Thinker story, even though it's lightweight, flows naturally from the events occurring in the greater Marvel Universe, as does the Thunderball story. These days, using an old villain, it seems, is cause for more and more hype that ultimately fails to deliver, and using villains from other "corners" of the Marvel Universe is almost unheard of (I mentioned this in my look at Spidey's fight with Juggernaut, but it bears repeating). These stories show, once again, that Spider-Man does not exist in a vacuum, and it's nice to see.

Another big event in this arc is, of course, the return of Mary Jane Watson, which would eventually lead to her marriage to Peter. Stern is excellent at juggling the many storylines weaving their way through both Spider-Man books, and bringing MJ back is a stroke of genius. She is another example of honoring the past without dwelling on it. Peter mentions his marriage proposal to her, but Stern doesn't linger on it. MJ is presented as a party girl, but Stern lets us know that she has more depth without beating us over the head with it. MJ immediately causes Peter some consternation, since he's supposedly in love with Felicia at this time, but since Felicia only knows him as Spider-Man, he's conflicted. The soap opera aspects of Peter's personal life are not obnoxious and not fantastical. They don't need to be, since he's a freakin' superhero, after all. His "Peter Parker" life moves along like real life, and offers a nice balance to the antics when he's in his costume. This is why some superhero comics are so frustrating today -- things never happen (a process Dave Fiore, with his maddening genius for things comic-book, calls "dynamic stasis" -- a great term). But in Peter's life back in these days, things did happen. He quits grad school because he can't make all aspects of his life work, and grad school is the odd man out. Obviously, he breaks up with Felicia later and marries Mary Jane, but that's down the line. Aunt May is also moving on with her life, and even J. Jonah Jameson steps down as Editor-in-Chief because of his involvement with creating the Scorpion (it's why Hobgoblin is blackmailing him, and JJJ confesses in the newspaper rather than pay). Harry and Liz have a house-warming party at their new place, and the romance of Lance Bannon and Amy Powell (I found out her last name) moves on as well. These are all people who have a significant impact on Peter's life, and Stern realizes that they are going to change and move on. When Amy is putting the moves on Peter, we know it's because she wants to make Lance jealous and not because she's a crazy bitch-queen (I'm looking at you, Emma Frost as written by Grant Morrison). Real people, doing real-life things. In a superhero comic book.

It's really fun to read these books, because they are done with such lack of ironic detachment that seems to be the norm in many books today, and also without the "we'll never write stories as good as Lee and Kirby, so let's just retell those" mindset that also seems prevalent these days. These are stories that you can read with no knowledge of Spider-Man beyond "He was bitten by a radioactive spider and got powers." They can also be enjoyed if you know everything about Spider-Man. They are stories not just for comic-book geeks, but stories that are exciting and adventurous, but also thoughtful. Because they weren't written in the 1960s, I doubt they're collected in trade paperback (I honestly haven't looked), but you can probably track them down in the long boxes. Stern left the book with #251, and the Hobgoblin began a weird slide into craptitude before it was revealed that he was Ned Leeds (that's not who Stern said it was, but he was long gone, so he had no input) in a story written by Peter David, of all people (who has also weighed in on the subject, if you go to the entry on 18 November), but for these 14 issues, he was a true inheritor of the Goblin legend, and I would argue, the last time the Goblin motif was used in any kind of good way. Seriously, what has happened since then that's better? Bendis? Don't make me chuckle.

I haven't gone into the clues Stern drops about the Hobgoblin, but like I said, there's that great article I linked to above. It's really interesting reading, I swear!

All you non-comic-book fans out there (all what, 3 of you?), I promise I won't keep blogging about comics! Although maybe you should get reading! Don't you want to be a comics geek?


Comics for 16 February 2005

Before I dive in, there's some things I'd like to expound upon:

First, over at Comics Should Be Good, there's a fabulous post that has devolved a little bit in the comments section (the post is about a porn comic, so be warned -- the language is a little rough). The poster compares the art in the porn comic to Birds of Prey (a little unfavorably, I might add), and interestingly enough, Gail Simone, the writer of Birds of Prey, shows up to make a comment and explain it's all because the poster has an issue with her (this is when it gets a little snide). I don't buy Birds of Prey, but isn't it just accepted that many regular superhero books are, to some degree or another, soft-core porn (especially when Ed Benes is doing the art -- it's very nice art, but come on)? I mean, check out this month's issue of the book. Thorn is wearing what can only be described as a bondage costume, and Huntress's hot pants look awfully uncomfortable. I have no problem with that, but Simone should know about this, don't you think? Maybe I'm naive. And the other point is -- she's never going to win against the blogiverse (maybe that's why Bendis hates bloggers). If Dan Rather can't win against the blogiverse, Gail Simone certainly isn't. On the same web site, the same poster makes a comment about nerds who like Batman punching out Guy Gardner. I'm not conceited enough to think he saw it on my 100 Things I Love About Comics list, but considering he already thinks I'm an idiot because I don't like the Pixies, maybe he is taking a shot at me. Who cares? Life's too short. Gail Simone is writing a popular book that gets a nice measure of critical acclaim. Who cares if certain people think it sucks? Let them write a freakin' comic.

Moving on, since my rant against Mark Millar, I've noticed some others ranting too. Since Wanted #6 came out, Millar's work has included: a lame ending to the "Trial of the Hulk" story in which Bruce goes on the run -- how original!; a story in which the Green Goblin kidnaps Mary Jane and takes her ... to the top of that bridge where Gwen Stacy died (the George Washington?) -- how original!; and a story in which Wolverine kills off Marvel's only openly gay superhero! Yes, Northstar is unbelievably boring and was never actually in any kind of gay relationship, but what does it say about Millar in particular and Marvel in general when of all the lame characters they have, they kill off the gay one? Join me in my anti-Millar boycott!

And finally, Faust #13 came out. Holy bleepin' bleep! I listed the first 11 issues in my 100 things I love about comics (see below) and now I learn #12 is out there somewhere (I'll get it eventually) and #13 came out the day after I posted. It's a weird world. For those of you who have no idea what Faust is, it's a ridiculously violent, almost hard-core porn, pretty Satanic comic book about a guy (Satan) who is also a mob kingpin and how he creates the perfect killing machine, who naturally rebels against him. If it doesn't sound like your cup of tea, so be it, but it's cool. Tim Vigil's art is unbelievably gorgeous, even when it creeps you out because so many people are being slashed to pieces. The writing is a little over-the-top, but David Quinn tells a gripping story. It's been over 15 years since this story started, so back issues might be hard to find, but if you're interested in trade paperbacks, check out this site. Incredibly enough, they made this into a movie on the Sci-Fi Channel a few years ago. Without the ridiculous violence and disturbing sex, what's the point? Someday I'll do an in-depth look at this. For now, I have to track down issue #12.

So now we have the rest of this week's comics. Given my financial situation, you'd think I'd have more restraint. But, considering this is the only thing I spend money on, I guess I'm entitled to indulge myself. Soon, the culling will come!

303 #3 by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows
$3.99, Avatar

The last page of this says "End of Part One." What the huh? I thought it was a mini-series. Maybe it still is. The second part looks like the Russian sergeant is going to get some revenge. I hope not. He's not the Punisher, Garth!

Still a nice book. We learn what the plane crash was about, and we find out what happens when you piss off Afghan women. The dialogue between the Russian and the Brit is very nice, and reminds you again why Ennis is the perfect person to write war comics. Avatar continues to put out nice stuff, and they're starting to get some more press. Go support them instead of buying, hell, I don't know, Teen Titans!

The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty #7 by Gabriel Benson and Mike Hawthorne
$1.99, Beckett

The bad guy is back, even after Cole killed him. Of course, their are Indian ghosts roaming around, so that's not such a horrible thing. Cole and Red have reached the town where Beauty is, and the whole issue is a set-up to the big, and possibly final showdown between Cole and Drake and Red getting the girl (presumably). Unfortunately, this is kind of a treading water issue, which the big companies can get away with, but I don't think Beckett can. It's still a bargain for 2 bucks, but I wish more had happened. Check it out, because it's still a nice comic. Buy it instead of the New Invaders!

Captain Gravity and the Power of the Vril #3 by Joshua Dysart, Sal Velluto, and Bob Almond
$2.95, Penny-Farthing Press

Boy, this is a nice-looking book. Velluto and Almond and Mike Garcia (the colorist) really make this art beautiful. The story is cooking along, as Joshua fights Nazis who have the same power that he does, we learn more about the Vril (an interesting little idea), Chase meets Hitler, and fun stuff abounds. I'm a little less than thrilled with the framing story, which takes place in 1962 (during the Cuban missile crisis), because it abruptly pulls us out of the story, but it's still a good comic. Pick this up instead of, let's see, the latest issue of Wolverine!

Catwoman: When in Rome #4 by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
$3.50, DC

In conjunction with this comic book, I should mention this article. It's good stuff!

Catwoman is kind of limping along. I'll probably finish buying this, but there's no reason you should. It's kind of disappointing, because Loeb and Sale are capable of such great work. I think they've mined "Year One" enough and need to move on. Or maybe they need to split up, get a divorce. I don't know.

Sale's art looks sloppy and rough. Maybe that's what he's going for, but I don't think so. The fight between the Cheetah and Selina is just ugly, an adjective I never thought I'd use when discussing Sale's art. The dream sequence at the beginning is nice, but all in all, not his best work. Loeb's story moves along glacially along, and we get more hints about what's going on, but who really cares at this point? That's a sad statement, but it's true. And Selina making out with Edward Nigma is something I don't think anyone wanted to see -- it's not quite Helen Hunt making out with Jack Nicholson, but it's pretty much the comic-book equivalent. Oh well -- a disappointment from a good art team. Go read The Long Halloween for good stuff by these guys.

Daredevil #70 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
$2.99, Marvel

Sigh. A nice fight scene by Maleev. Another story that ends weakly, as Bendis does quite often. And Alexander Bont flies too close to the sun. Shocking! Bendis and Maleev are finishing their run soon, and I hope that when I re-read these in one sitting, it will all fit together better. Bendis's run on this title has been excellent, but occasionally, it feels tired, and this is one of those times. The last time I felt this way was #50, when Matt Murdock declared himself Kingpin. After the excruciating Echo storyline, it seemed Bendis and Maleev came back stronger than ever, but now ... I don't know. Bendis fills us in on the year when Murdock was Kingpin starting next issue, so that might be cool. I hope, because I really like what Bendis is doing on this title, and don't want to see it ruined.

Ex Machina #8 by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister
$2.95, Wildstorm

Boy, this is a nice title. Vaughan does some brutal things and does not flinch from uncomfortable things. It's sometimes unpleasant, but it works in the story, and makes for good storytelling. We find out more about the mysterious symbols in the subway, Mitch goes on a date, and the FBI pays the mayor a visit. We keep jumping back and forth in time, which is not really disorienting at all. The art, as usual, is excellent. This title is really good.

Human Target #19 by Peter Milligan and Cliff Chiang
$2.95, DC/Vertigo

And so the final story of this title begins, and Tom McFadden, Christopher Chance's one-time assistant, returns, and he has some issues with his identity. More problems than Chance does, actually, which is saying a lot. He wants Chance to help him, but at the end, he decides to just take Chance's life instead, and there's a big DUM-DUM-DUHHHH! at the end of the book. Chance's life, however, isn't all it's cracked up to be, since he gets a bigger sexual rush out of impersonating people than getting it on with his hot wife. Poor Chris! More craziness from Milligan!

I'd say you should read this, but it'll be gone with issue #21, so it won't matter. Of course, you could always pick up the last three issues and see what a great book this is and then buy the trade paperbacks. It's a cool book.

JLA: Classified #4 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, and Joe Rubinstein
$2.95, DC

The sequel to Formerly Known as the Justice League is notable because it features Sue Dibny, and again shows why killing her was a dumb idea. No one misses Ice (well, I do, a little), but Sue will be missed. This is an okay issue, but I worry that the boys are getting a little smug. In the old JLI, things happened occasionally. Here, nothing much happens. Yes, Booster Gold is a gold-digger. Yes, Blue Beetle is trying to be mature. Yes, Sue and Ralph fight. Yes, L-Ron makes snide comments. Yes, the boys make penis jokes. Yes, Guy Gardner's back. It's amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny, and I want it to be funny and exciting. Please, gentlemen, use your considerable talents to make a great comic book!

Oh, and Beatriz DeCosta bonds with Mary Marvel. Actual funny stuff. I love Bea.

Livewires #1 by Adam Warren, Rick Mays, and Jason Martin
$2.99, Marvel

I wasn't planning on buying this, because I'm not a manga fan and Warren is the closest thing to manga in the U.S., but I liked the preview I saw a few months ago, and decided to pick it up. I like it a lot. It flies along at a breakneck pace, and Warren introduces the whole team, throws threats at them, and dazzles us with the best technobabble this side of Warren Ellis (and it's more of a fun book than Ellis usually writes -- not that it's better, but it's definitely more fun). It's genuinely humorous, with a touch of creepiness, and lively art and story. This is a fun comic. Buy it, because it's only a six-issue mini-series, so you can get a nice taste.

Noble Causes #7 by Jay Faerber, Gabe Bridwell, Kris Justice, and Fran Bueno
$3.50, Image

This is a nice issue, with Race trying to keep his promise to Liz about not getting involved so much with superheroing. They have an interesting conversation about the differences between their lives, and it's all very sappy, but nice. The art, by Bridwell and Justice for most of the issue (Bueno provides an epilogue about the heroes on the other planet, where bad things are happening) is much better than Bueno's, actually. We also get a cameo by various superheroes from the Image Universe, including Savage Dragon, reminding us again that all of these heroes do exist in a "Marvel Universe" kind of place. Anyway, it's a very good issue, and highlights Faerber's strength -- characterization. And Laura Gjovaag, who has a charming fixation with Aquaman, gets a letter published in it. It's weird to see someone I've heard of get a letter published.

Ocean #4 by Warren Ellis and Chris Sprouse
$2.95, Wildstorm

For an issue where nothing much happens, a lot happens in this issue. What the huh? say you. But lots of hints are dropped and we learn a lot of junk, even though there's not a lot of action. It's the kind of issue where decompression works, because the story moves slowly, but the dialogue really adds a great deal to the overall story. Although the art is a lot of talking heads, it's still wonderful. And the manager of the corporate space station turns out to be a lot more menacing than he appeared. Cool stuff. This is good Ellis. Ultimate Nightmare, on the other hand ...

Trigger #3 by Jason Hall and John Watkiss
$2.95, DC/Vertigo

I still haven't made up my mind about Trigger. I want to like it, and I do, but I don't know if it's blowing me away, and that means it might be on the chopping block soon. We find out why Carter was covered in blood at the end of issue #1, and we learn a little more about Deirdre's mysterious benefactor, and there's a creepy guy at the center of the spider web, and there's a Minority Report kind of prison thing going on. Ethicorp is being revealed as even more insidious than already, and Carter's piecing some things together. It's a good book, and I do recommend it, but I'm still on the fence about it. Why oh why are comic books so freakin' expensive?!?!?

Big week, and I know I didn't do justice to every book I got. Oh well. I'm sitting here typing as I watch television (I can waste time multi-tasking with the best of them!) and Virtuosity is on. I saw this in the movie theater back in 1995. Can I get a shout-out for Virtuosity? I love it -- it's crap, but glorious crap. Come on, Denzel and Russell Crowe? How can you not love it?


Lemming-like, I run cliffward

It started here. Then it went here and here. Then here, where there are too many links to mention. How does he do it? Then a bunch of others did it too. So I figured, what the hell?

I separated these into two categories -- actual comics and comics-related stuff. The actual comics are in alphabetical order (yes, I'm anal -- deal with it). The comics-related stuff is in order I came up with them. I know I forgot some stuff already, but 100 is enough. Some comments follow some entries. I could go on, but I won't, except to say you may notice some names here many times. Well, I'm sorry -- there's a reason they're great writers and artists!

100 Things I Love About Comics
Actual Comics
1. 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
2. The Adventures of Tintin
3. Animal Man #1-32 by Grant Morrison, Chas Truog, and Peter Milligan (#27-32)*
4. Asterix and Obelix
5. Atlantis Chronicles #1-7 by Peter David and Esteban Maroto
6. Automatic Kafka #1-9 by Joe Casey and Ashley Wood
7. Aztek the Ultimate Man #1-10 by Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, N. Steven Harris, and Keith Champagne (gone too soon!)
8. The first Joker story in Batman #1 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger
9. Batman #251 by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams ("The Joker's 5-Way Revenge!")
10. Batman #515-552 by Doeg Moench, Kelley Jones, and John Beatty*
11. Big Numbers by Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz (only two issues, sadly)
12. Camelot 3000 #1-12 by Mike Barr, Brian Bolland, and Terry Austin (interior Bolland art!)
13. Captain Britain by Alan Moore, Alan Davis (with help from Jamie Delano)
14. ClanDestine by Alan Davis (this is for David)
15. The Crow by J. O'Barr
16. D.R. and Quinch by Alan Moore and Alan Davis
17. Daredevil #227-233 by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli ("Born Again")
18. Daredevil #284-300 by D.G. Chichester and Lee Weeks*
19. Detective Comics #471-476 by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin
20. Detective Comics #567-574 by Mike Barr and Alan Davis
21. Detective Comics #583-594 by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle
22. Detective Comics #629-633 (Peter Milligan writes)
23. Dr. Fate #1-24 by J.M. DeMatteis and Shawn McManus*
24. My Greatest Adventure/Doom Patrol #80-89 by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani
25. Doom Patrol #19-63 by Grant Morrison and Richard Case*
26. Dreadstar #41-64 by Peter David and Angel Medina*
27. El Cazador and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (dead too quickly when CrossGen bit the dust)
28. Elektra: Assassin #1-8 by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz
29. Elementals #1-5 by Bill Willingham
30. Faust: Love of the Damned #1-11 by David Quinn and Tim Vigil (I've never seen the last two issues, although rumor has it they exist)
31. From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
32. The Golden Age #1-4 by James Robinson and Paul Smith
33. Grendel #1-12 by Matt Wagner and the Pander Bros.
34. The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson
35. Hellblazer #27 by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
36. Hitman #1-60 by Garth Ennis and John McCrea
37. It's a Bird ... by Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen
38. Justice League International #1-44 by J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen, Kevin Maguire, Adam Hughes, and others
39. JLA #1-42 by Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, and John Dell*
40. JLA: Earth 2 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
41. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
42. Longshot #1-6 by Ann Nocenti and Art Adams
43. Major Bummer #1-15 by John Arcudi, Doug Mahnke, and Tom Nguyen
44. Marvel Boy #1-6 by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones
45. Marvelman #1-16 by Alan Moore, Gary Leach, Alan Davis, John Totleben*
46. The Maze Agency #1-5 by Mike Barr and Adam Hughes
47. Moon Knight #1-38 by Doeg Moench, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Kevin Nowlan*
48. Orbiter by Warren Ellis and Colleen Doran
49. The Originals by Dave Gibbons
50. Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
51. Sandman #1-75 by Neil Gaiman and various artists
52. Sandman Mystery Theatre #1-70 by Matt Wagner, Steven T. Seagle, and Guy Davis*
53. Secret Origins Special #1, "When is a Door?" (Riddler story) by Neil Gaiman and BEM (the last Riddler story -- there's no reason he should ever be used again)
54. Sensational She-Hulk #1-8 by John Byrne (yes, Byrne is nuts, but what a fun series)
55. Shade, the Changing Man by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo*
56. The Spectre #1-62 by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake*
57. Starman #1-80 by James Robinson, Tony Harris, and Peter Snejbjerg*
58. StormWatch #37-50 by Warren Ellis and Tom Raney*
59. Suicide Squad #1-66 by John Ostrander and various artists
60. Swamp Thing #21 and #34 ("The Anatomy Lesson" and "Rite of Spring") by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, Rick Veitch, and Jon Totleben
61. X-Men/Teen Titans crossover by Chris Claremont and Walt Simonson
62. Uncanny X-Men #172-213 by Chris Claremont and various artists (Wolverine's wedding through the Mutant Massacre)
63. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
64. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
65. Whiteout and Whiteout: Melt by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber
66. WildC.A.T.s/Aliens by Warren Ellis and Chris Sprouse
67. X-Force #116 by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred
68. New X-Men #114-116 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely ("E is for Extinction")
Titles with an asterisk indicate that others besides those listed worked on them. The talent I listed are the ones most associated with the titles.

Comics-related things
69. Wonder Woman in bondage (do a search on that and see what scary stuff comes up!)
70. The cover of Captain America #1
71. Captain UK kills the Fury
72. Slaymaster blinds Psylocke
73. Cliff tells Kay Challis to "come in from the rain" for the second time in Doom Patrol #63
74. Evey stands naked on the rooftops and realizes what V is trying to tell her
75. Adrian Veidt says, "I'm not a Republic serial villain," and then really drops a bombshell
76. Bruce Wayne thinks about Clark Kent, "I want you to remember the one man who beat you," as his heart stops
77. Batman has a son! (It's totally true!)
78. Batman single-handedly defeats the Martians in JLA #4
79. Morpheus tells Lucifer why he has power in Sandman #4, "A Hope in Hell"
80. Dr. Destiny kills everyone in Sandman #6, "24 Hours"
81. The cover of Uncanny X-Men #251
82. Buddy Baker sees the audience
83. Wilson Fisk teaches Matt Murdock that a man without hope is a man without fear
84. The battle royale in The Golden Age #4
85. Noh-Varr carves "Fuck You" into New York City
86. Fans go nuts when Hal Jordan turns into a mass murderer -- it's like he's a real person!
87. Scorpio always wants a beer in Defenders #46-50
88. The way Todd McFarlane draws Spider-Man and Venom (everything else is awful, but his drawings of those two are way cool)
89. Slade Wilson's jailbait girlfriend, Terra (is anyone else creeped out by that?)
90. Bullseye kills Elektra (unfortunately, she didn't stay dead)
91. Batman floors Guy Gardner with one punch and Black Canary weeps that she didn't see it
92. J'onn J'onzz likes Oreos
93. Shade gets a second chance with Kathy
94. Batman #426, not because it's any good, but because it was the very first comic book I bought
95. Arguments over which hero is stronger -- is there anything more geeky?
96. Gothic geeks writing sestinas to Sandman
97. Future comics writers getting letters published
98. Hell, letter columns in general
99. The Marvel Universe
100. The comics blogiverse -- such time-wasting fun!