Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bone and Beyond

I have not read Bone, but my son loves the Scholastic graphic novels, and John and his daughter are also big fans. So when I heard over on Comics Playground that the Wexner Center for the Arts down on the campus of The Ohio State University was going to have an 80 panel exhibit of Columbus-based Jeff Smith's work and influences, I suggested the four of us make the short road trip down I-71 to see it. (The hours down and back were filled with a memory provoking '80s playlist on the iPod for the dads, and DS games and Bone trade paperbacks for the kids!)

We had a great time and saw some
great work. We were the only four guests in the gallery, along with a security guard. We took our time, soaking in each panel over the next 90 minutes or so. Beautiful stuff. And afterwards, the kids got Bone plushes from the gift shop, then we called one of our old friends from college and met her and her husband for lunch at Eddie George's Grille 27 over on High Street (where my son happily peed on the Michigan logo in the urinal -- I'm so proud), followed up by sharing a small Cold Stone Creamery cup of Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream with Reese's Pieces mixed in with my son. What a great way to pass the day!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Marvel Unbound - Giant-Size Marvel

With today's Marvel Noise podcast comes the third edition of "Marvel Unbound", a new entry here on Random Thoughts Escaping, and fresh opportunity to bandy about the topic in the Marvel Noise forum's "Marvel Unbound" thread. Enjoy!

I picked up the Giant-Size Marvel trade paperback at a comic book show recently. I had flipped through it on the shelf of my local comic book shop numerous times, but couldn't justify pulling the trigger at full price. So when I saw it at the show for half-off the cover price, I figured I had little to loose. To be honest, I was buying it largely for the Giant-Size X-Men #1 issue, which I don't think I had ever read previously, but I was treated to a couple of surprising personal undiscovered gems, along with suffering through a clunker or two.

There are seven "Giant-Size" issues included in the collection with cover dates ranging from June 1974 through June 1975. The defining characteristics of a "giant-size" Marvel comic of the mid-'70s -- a part from the original comics boasting "68 Big Pages" -- appears to be the parsing of the stories into "chapters". And that breaking up of the work into multiple parts sometimes felt a bit forced in a couple of offerings here, particularly in the Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1 and Giant-Size Creatures #1.

The stories captured in Giant-Size Avengers #1 and Giant-Size X-Men #1 are both foundational to their respective titles. The Roy Thomas Avengers issue features the All-Winners Squad in flashbacks and reintroduces the Whizzer to the Marvel U. This is really the first chapter in a storyline that isn't fully resolved until eight years later in the pages of Bill Mantlo's Vision and the Scarlet Witch four-issue mini-series (one of my favorites, and the trade paperback is a potential future installment of "Marvel Unbound"!). Len Wein and Dave Cockrum's X-Men offering turned out to be a solid introduction of now-iconic characters like Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus. For being the reason behind this purchase for me, it lived up to the hype.

The Giant-Size Invaders #1 and Giant-Size Creatures #1 were the least satisfying of the bunch. I have never been a huge Invaders fan despite liking Namor, and the Creatures story included here -- featuring Werewolf by Night, Tigra (as "The Were-Woman"?!), and HYDRA was tedious at best. Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4, on the other hand, with the introduction of Madrox, was a lot of fun! And so was Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1 featuring Spider-Man! I had never read a Morbius story before, but have been meaning to get my hands on one since "Backwards" Dave McFall featured the character in his "Bring 'em Back" segment in episode 26 of Marvel Noise. I thought the issue was a lot of fun -- including the use of John Jameson and pulling the Daily Bugle's Joe Robertson in to move the story along, and subtle details like Jameson being on a date at a restaurant with a 666 street number was amusing.

My favorite find in this collection, though, is Giant-Size Defenders #4. Man, what a fun story! I'd forgotten how great the dynamics of this non-team team can be. By way of an Egghead beat-down, Hank Pym's Yellowjacket is cleverly drawn into the story, eventually joining Nighthawk, Doctor Strange, Hulk, and Valkyrie in their battle with the Squadron Sinister. Steve Gerber's oversized tale is wonderfully creative and thoroughly entertaining. By far the most satisfying read of the collection for me, it was a great surprise to find here!

Despite the lack of extras in this collection, the pair of foundational stories, the trio of solidly entertaining books, and even the couple of stories better left in the vault, provide an entertaining snapshot into what the House of Ideas looked like in a thirteen month period nearly 35 years ago. Giant-Size Marvel is worth your time even if you have these buried in a long box somewhere in your collection!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


So I finally signed up for Twitter. As Mark and I were discussing among ourselves, I'm not really sold on the value of these crazy little bite-sized thought nuggets just yet, but, hey... everyone else is doing it, right?

But I wonder... if I post a Twitter tweet about this blog entry, will the folks "following" me get caught in some kind of Matrix-inspired loop?

"You hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Action Transvestite's Journey to the Land of Cleves

We were able to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by pure chance Friday night. It was a 6.40 showing, but the theater was hardly full and there was no line at the box office. (Although I have to assume the later showings were more crowded.) The movie itself was actually pretty good. I had been very skeptical of this one based on what I'd seen early on. Harrison Ford is old. Cate Blanchett, who I adore, sports a horrible black bob haircut and an even worse Soviet accent. Shia LaBeouf hadn't really done much to impress me. Karen Allen looked kinda freaky. But... the movie held its own. A little meandering three-quarters of the way through as it devolved into typical Spielbergian daddy issues and close encounters, but otherwise pretty solid. The Ford-Allen chemistry seemed genuine, and LaBeouf was really fantastic. I would have no problem with him taking over the franchise moving forward. In short, it wasn't as good as Raiders, but wasn't as bad as Temple of Doom, I'd put it right on par with Last Crusade, and there's no shame in that. Now we just need to see what the Raiders Guys can do with this.

Speaking of Indy, my buddy Mark is again plundering the depths of his co
mic book collection for treasures and coming up empty. After hoping (and failing) to make a papal profit off Catholic nostalgia for the heady days of Pope John Paul II, he turned his attention to Marvel's adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones. Again, Mark found no market for the treasures of our youth. I remember his copy of the movie adaptation (what a cool cover!), and I actually have the first four issues of The Further Adventures. According to the reliable folks over at the Comic Book Database, the series lasted for about three years before petering out. I can't speak to where the series may have gone during that time, but I recently reread the first couple of issues written by the legendary John Byrne and thought they were pretty good.

The "Action Transvestite" here doesn't refer to Blanchett's unfortunate look in Indy 4, but rather the comic genius of Eddie Izzard. We are huge Izzard fans around here. We have Unrepeatable, Glorious, Dress to Kill, and Circle on DVD. The new material in Stripped is some of his best yet! Saturday night he performed in the same venue we saw him at during the Sexie tour stop back in 2003 -- the Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square Center (the second largest theater center in the U.S., behind only New York City's Lincoln Center). Despite being only about an hour and forty minutes long, the concert was packed with highlights, including his musings on Captain Random (a.k.a. God), Wikipedia, paper darts (that's "paper airplanes" us Yankees), the origin of Duck a l'Orange, and the persistence of badgers. While everyone in our group agreed it will be difficult for Izzard to ever match the gold standard that is Dress to Kill, this was some fantastic stuff and made for a great night out of good friends, good food, and great entertainment!