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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

THE NERD WITHIN - The Brave and the Bold #31

I love comics.

In the past month I've attended my first comic book convention, been sniped on ebay several times attempting to complete my Gruenwald Captain America run, and spent an unhealthy amount of time reading the "funny" books on my computer and in print.

I'm a story guy.

Flashy artwork is nice while mediocre art can definitely hurt a tale, but if the story is strong, I'm more apt to remember the issue and even go back and re-read it.

For my money, I've always been a MARVEL guy. I broke into the habit by picking up G.I.JOE #97 at a drug store. The enticing subscription ads in the back compelled me to branch out to other Marvel offerings and soon I was becoming enlightened by the world of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, and the Uncanny X-Men.

DC never really did it for me.

Batman was cool but every time I picked up an issue of his he seemed to be gasping in a very un-Batman like expression.

I knew Superman from his movies but the comic character seemed so boring!

The Flash tv show was AWESOME but the comic seemed so confusing with Captain Chilly's ray gun or whateverTF he had going on.

However, then you have THE JOKER.

The Clown Prince of Crime is easily the most malevolent and memorable evil creation to ever grace our mischievous magazines. When done right, the Joker shows us a dark side lurking within our being and makes us ponder - all that separates us "normal" people from the criminally insane is one ReALLy bAd DaY!

Today, I stopped at Borders book store to kill some time while God's laser light show accompanied the angel tears pouring down from the heavens. While sifting through their cluster of recent back issues unsightly wedged in a wire spindle, The Brave and the Bold # 31 caught my eye.

I knew the title was a team-up of sorts and I knew The Atom was the DC version of Ant-Man (or vice versa. Does it really matter? Ant-Man was lame. My mind associated that lameness with The Atom. I was sure they drank from the same miniaturized SUCK fountain.) so why would an obvious villain like the Joker be teamed with a tiny good guy?

Then I saw the name of the writer. Stracynski. J. Michael Straczynski.

I loved Stracynski's run on Amazing Spider-man and was curious as to what he would do with a character like the Joker. I sat down and read it.

What he did was show us a side of the Joker I've never seen- his childhood.

What he did was show me that The Atom isn't lame but actually quite funny and human in the conflict and morality he needs to gauge.

What he did was make me want to read more DC comics, at least the ones he's writing.

I came home and jumped on Wikipedia like a mental trampoline. Seems JMS has been writing The Brave and the Bold since issue 27 ( the series is coming out with #33 soon) so I have a few dishes to taste from the JMS chef.

For those who like a tasty Joker tale, pick up this comic and give it a try. The story is superb. The artwork is wonderful. The Border's off Lyndale and 494 has comfy chairs and plenty of copies jammed in their spindle.

11 comments:

  1. LOL @ Miniature fountain of SUCK

    I'm also a Marvel girl, though i have dabbled in the DC verse

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  2. wait, you really hadn't ever been to a comic book convention before? that really blows my mind...

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  3. I'm a story guy.

    Me too. And while I read more DC than you, and love a lot of their characters, I was a Marvel guy first, and I'll always be one, at my core.

    The Joker is pretty cool. Though I definitely prefer it when he's portrayed as crazy and criminally insane while not also being a mass murderer.

    Because while I firmly believe Batman shouldn't kill, there's a part of me that wonders how many friggin' people Joker has to kill before it's Batman's fault for not stopping him once and for all.

    So I much prefer the Joker stories where they downplay the "mass murderer" stuff and play up the "crazy criminal" stuff, just so I don't have to constantly grapple with intense moral quandaries while getting my funny book fix.

    Today, I stopped at Borders book store to kill some time

    Traitor!

    Ant-Man was lame.

    If you were a woman, Hank Pym'd bitch-slap you for that.

    The Border's off Lyndale and 494 has comfy chairs and plenty of copies jammed in their spindle.

    Ah! It's like a knife to the heart!

    ;D

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  4. Does Barnes & Noble carry recent comics?

    I was a closet comic book reader for several years. I don't think it was until I was out of high school that I actually read comics in front of girlfriends and such.

    The comic book convention thing never happened because I always had most of the stuff I wanted to read by driving around to local shops.

    When I went his year, the only thing I bought was a children's book from an artist in attendance.

    With ebay and amazon, it seems I can get any issue I desire cheaper than paying the entrance fee to a convention.

    It was cool to go but nothing really enticed me to want to go back.If I had a disposable income I'd probably go on a hog wild shopping spree and stock up on everything I'd ever wanted. Fiscal self-control will probably keep me from going back.

    The Joker does pose that moral dilemma. This story touches on that as well and shows the dilemma from a more crystal clear window.

    I think you may change your mind about who's responsible for the Joker's terror.

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  5. Does Barnes & Noble carry recent comics?

    They do indeed. And they have comfy chairs. Though, trust me, having seen what I've seen, you wouldn't want to sit in them.

    I actually buy probably a half dozen of my monthlies there, the one we get in consistently and aren't higher priced than at the comic shop (Marvel has this annoying policy of tacking on an extra buck to some of their newsstand-distributed titles).

    With ebay and amazon, it seems I can get any issue I desire cheaper than paying the entrance fee to a convention.

    Ah, but then you're missing the thrill of the hunt!

    Honestly, fiscal self control is what keeps me off amazon and ebay for comics. Knowing I could get pretty much every back issue I want for the right price there, I'd go broke(er) if I went down that road.

    So the money I spend at a con once or twice a year (and, since most of the dealers are cash only, I just bring a set amount and that's all I spend) is my way of budgeting my back issue hunts. These days, the only times I buy back issues are at cons, which suits me just fine.

    Oh, and if you do want to go again next year, let me know ahead of time and I can score you some comp tickets. They always have a ton, and I get offered some, but I never have anyone to give them to.

    It was cool to go but nothing really enticed me to want to go back.

    Yeah, one of things I like about volunteering at the cons is that it gives me something to enjoy about them besides just hunting for swag. I get to meet and interact with artists I wouldn't otherwise know anything about, so each year there's more and more "old friends" to catch up with, and I find I more greatly appreciate the atmosphere, just being around people that love comics, more when I'm not just spending the whole show with my head buried in long boxes.

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  6. What the hell? I've gone to the convention like 2 or 3 times while you were volunteering and you never offered me comp tickets!

    You know that Happy Birthday I forgot to give you but then did give you? I'm now taking it back!

    Anyway, my problem with Fallcon/Springcon is that it really does feel like a just a giant comic book warehouse mixed in with a few panels. I would like it if there were more "activities" involved. Although, to be fair, it's much cheaper than other conventions I've been to.

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  7. @Dr. Bitz: To be fair, you haven't attended the con recently.

    The whole comp ticket thing is a relatively new innovation, within the last year or two.

    And I did tell you before SpringCon this year that if you wanted to go, I could get you in for free.

    I would like it if there were more "activities" involved. Although, to be fair, it's much cheaper than other conventions I've been to.

    Yeah, the other activities stuff is hard. We had a "movie room" once upon a time, but no one really used it. It seems like our attendees don't want to do much else than buy comics, meet creators and go to panels. But maybe that's because there isn't anything else to do. Chicken and Egg, I suppose...

    And it's tough, because the other stuff at other cons is usually triggered by the big movie studios and whatnot getting involved to pimp their product, and we've either been too small or intentionally avoided becoming that kind of con (one of the things we always hear from creators, dealers and attendees is how much they like that our shows are still, primarily, about comics). I recently learned that the MCBA was approached by Wizard and about being bought up by them so they could have a "Wizard World St. Paul" or something, and we politely declined, because we didn't want our shows to become like theirs.

    Of course, the lack of other activities does help keep the cost down, as does the location (someone at SpringCon mentioned in passing that we should go to the Convention Center next year, to which one of the higher ranking MCBA guys responded "yeah, but then we'd have to charge $40 a head like the other cons do.").

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  8. @Teebore - Because while I firmly believe Batman shouldn't kill

    Wait, wait, wait. Batman doesn't kill people? Is this a Batman rule or an All Super-Heroes Rule? I would like to know the Super-Hero who kills people. By accident or on purpose, it doesn't matter to me - I just want some action!

    constantly grapple with intense moral quandaries while getting my funny book fix

    LOL! Love it :D

    Though, trust me, having seen what I've seen, you wouldn't want to sit in them.

    *intensely curious*

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  9. Wait, wait, wait. Batman doesn't kill people? Is this a Batman rule or an All Super-Heroes Rule?

    Generally speaking, these days Batman does not kill. Nor do most Marvel/DC superheroes.

    Back in the Golden Age of comics (the late 30s/40s) superheroes killed a lot more indiscriminately. Batman carried a gun (whereas nowadays his revulsion to firearms--his parents were shot to death, after all--is a major part of his character) and had no problem pluggin' caps in crooks.

    But those early writers soon learned something: when your hero kills the bad guy, you have to come up with a new bad guy in the next issue. If he doesn't kill the bad guy, the villain can return again another day, and you, the overworked and underpaid comic writer, don't have to create a new villain month in, month out.

    So what started out as a simple "good business" rule has, in modern times, become a general characteristic of superhero comics amongst the "Big Two" publishers: super heroes don't kill.

    There are exceptions, of course. The Punisher, who was created in the Bronze Age as a villain and became a superhero as "grim and gritty" storytelling became more popular and readers wanted their heroes to be morally gray and more realistic, kills bad guys. That's his entire schtick. He shoots lots of guns at bad guys.

    Wolverine, of X-Men fame, is another hero who's not above killin' villains, but in general, he restrains himself a bit and a bigger deal is made when he "unleashes the animal inside" and takes a life.

    Superman, Batman, Spider-Man are stalwarts of the "don't kill" set, though there are always exceptions, but generally, a big deal is made of the exceptions and they get worked into the story.

    Captain America is trickier in this regard. During the rise of grim 'n gritty storytelling in the 80s, the longtime writer of Captain America firmly established Cap as "no kill" hero to stand up to the onslaught of morally gray characters.

    Which is all well and good but for the fact that Captain America was a soldier in WWII and, presumably, killed his fair share of enemy soldiers (the Cap stories of the 40s certainly didn't shy away from depicting Cap killing Nazis).

    The generally accepted idea now is that Captain America is a former soldier who killed in the war, but is against killing villains these days, except in the most extreme of cases.

    Of course, there are plenty of imprints and alternate takes on these characters that go in different directions, but in general, Marvel and DC superheroes don't kill.

    It's actually an ongoing point of discussion in the super hero comics world these days (should heroes kill?) and represents one facet of an ongoing push and pull between reality and fantasy in comics: how "real" should comics be? Should heroes deal with villains in a more final, arguably more realistic way, or should they be held to higher, perhaps more fantastical standard, especially since they're larger than life in the first place?

    (And, of course, there's still the issue of when a hero kills a villain, that's one more new villain a writer has to create, or, at least, the writer has to explain a dead villain's resurrection).

    It's a divisive issue, with no right or wrong answers, that can certainly be felt in the work being done by both companies today (Marvel and DC both, for example, recently launched separate storyline banners, "Heroic Age" and "Brightest Day", meant to indicate a return to more positive, fantastical, traditional superheroics after what seems like a decade of gritty quasi-realism).

    Personally, I've always been a "super heroes don't kill, ever" kinda guy, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good Punisher story, or wonder sometimes if Gotham wouldn't be better off if Batman got off his high horse and dropped the Joker off a tall building once and for all.

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  10. @Joan: *intensely curious*

    Let's just say I can attest, personally, to most of the comfy chairs having been peed in, pooped on, thrown up on, made out in, and slept in by people you wouldn't want sleeping on your couch.

    And that's not counting the food and drink spills.

    At least, that's the case at my store. I assume it's true most everywhere.

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  11. I think you may have forgottn masturbated in as well- at least that's what i remember

    "If you were a woman, Hank Pym'd bitch-slap you for that."

    LMFAO!

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