Saturday, December 06, 2008

Hello to Comics, Interlude 1: Hello to VIDEO GAME ADS!

If any one ad got me excited about video games, it was this one for Metal Gear on the NES. I still toiled in the Atari Mines when I got Marvel Tales #215, so the prospect of realistic trucks and HUGE PILES OF WEAPONS seemed so exotic and thrilling that I spent countless minutes poring over this ad, imagining what it would be like to blow up terrorists with a rocket launcher, or rush to cure myself with the mysterious orange antidote. And a remote-control missile? Are you shitting me? I thought controlling a mere tiny motor vehicle would be a mind-blowing experience. And who knew I would ever need to punch through a wall in one hit?

Actually playing the game turned out a lot less exciting than anticipated, and it wouldn't be until years later that realistically blowing shit up would become more visually appealing and involve a lot less lurking and a lot more gratuitous boom-boom.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hello to Comics, Part 3: Hello to THE TRANSFORMERS!!

My love for Transformers likely peaked the Christmas I received Starscream, my first Transformers toy. I hated Starscream and his horrible voice. How could I have him in my very house? Anger at my family and their poor choice shortly faded as I changed that plane into a robot for the first time.000I picked Transformers #4—of a four-issue limited series!?—off a spinner rack at the Winn Dixie grocery in December of 1984. Undaunted by the issue number issue, Marvel rewarded me with an issue five a few months later. I likely haven't read this since then, and a quick flip through reveals immediately one of the staples of early 1980s mass media: the spandex-clad dance class.

It seems some guy named Buster has run off to befriend giant talking space robots. His girlfriend Jesse is so distraught by this that she leaves town, too, most likely having received a generous scholarship from a prestigious ballet academy in Italy.

I'm going to hit the highlights on this issue so I can show the incredible cover to issue five.000Jesse has no idea what her native land is in for, as shortly we see Decepticon leader Megatron head out for a stroll, buy a case of Tang, and withstand the firepower of an entire army battalion.

Six pages after dance class we learn the origin of the Dinobots:

So, right, there's that, and then Shockwave, the raygun-based Decepticon (or does he have his OWN agenda?) blasts into the room and kicks ass all over everyone, the end.

Aw, crumbs, a fifth issue just to show off an incredible cover taunting us with the prospect of 22 pages of dead robots? And how does Shockwave spend his ill-gotten free time? Walking through his room full of robots hung up like slabs of beef and catching up on all the tv shows he missed in sleep mode for four million years, like Let's Make a Deal, a cheesy soap opera, and news about the building of an offshore oil rig being built off the coast of Oregon. He deems all this "Very illuminating." And if you ever said to yourself "There's no way a comic book about giant robots could ever open with a splash page of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton, and Alice lurking in the background," well, I've got a fantastic Alan Kupperberg drawing for you:

The rest of the issue is filled with pages and pages of Buster Witwicky talking to an ambulance and hanging out in a hospital room. BORING! Let's see what Optimus Prime is up to, already!

Aw, shit, you guys. There's no way out of this Morrisonian nightmare. Unless...

Damn it, Buster. You'll never save the Autobots if you're passed out on the floor.

Eventually Optimus gets himself a bad head, which he pops off so Jetfire can drop his good head back onto his body, we meet the Dinobots and the Constructicons, and a paralyzed girl in a tinfoil circuit board suit zaps things with electricity. It's just that tame sort of fucked up that keeps a seven-year-old entertained and feeling just a little subversive. The cartoons, in contrast, had many fewer dance school scenes and robots flying apart.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hello to Comics, Part 2: Hello to THE BIBLE!

Mulling over my life as a comics reader gave me no clear idea which comic could be called my first. I'm sure I still have my first comic, and "Sheldon Mayer and Joe Kubert Present: THE BIBLE" might well be it. Originally gifted to me by a friend of my mother's, this DC Comics Treasury Edition book saw publication in 1975.

Rather than try to explain it myself, I offer you the introductory text and accompanying headshots from inside the book's front cover:

It says that the creators did a good deal of research for this book, but I can't help but imagine Mayer getting drunk on scotch and yelling about the bible to Kubert over the phone.

The book's first biblical tale is that of Adam and Eve. Being treasury-edition-sized made for literally thousands of acres of naked Eve.

...and our first ancestors eating suggestive fruit. Yes, suggestive of the power of knowledge:

This book also features the first appearance of DC's Cain and Abel, who were revived by Neil Gaiman for his Sandman series.

Included in "The Story of Abraham" is a super-hot lady statue:

We also get a lesson in biblical archaeology, and coverage of "The Tower of Babel" and the story of "Sodom and Gammorah" and crazy old Lot:

I feel lucky to have found this comic again in the midst of moving one summer, buried in the bottom of a box of random books. This is truly the Ten Commandments of comic books, featuring astounding craft that fits the format used:

Oh, whoops. That's more naked Eve.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Hello to Comics, Part 1: Hello to Comics!

My hometown of New Albany, Indiana, played host to two Winn-Dixie stores in my youth, one in the New Albany Plaza on State Street and one adjacent to the K-Mart on Grantline Road. I anticipated trips to either due to their proximty to stores that sold toys.

That faded after I found the spinner racks. Not that my lust for toys ever vanished completely, as my shelves will attest, but the lust for comics burns over the fire with no flame.

My name is Mark Hale. Using scans of and images from actual comics I purchased in my youth I will document my life as a comic book reader. From the spinner racks to my first comic book shop, from state to state and shop to service.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Some words from John DiBello about the San Diego Comic-Con

I'm lucky enough to be acquainted with John DiBello, the swell guy who takes Bully the Little Stuffed Bull on all his grand adventures. John noticed some serious things at the San Diego Comic-Con while Bully had his little stuffed head stuffed into some quarter bins. John's asked that folks be made aware of the sexual harassment he witnessed (and that others no doubt witness and experience at cons all across the country). More prominent bloggers than myself have posted this, but every bit helps. I'm not much of a con-goer, but some day when I grow up I'd like to be able to go with my girlfriend and her daughter without feeling like I have to worry about them any more than usual.

John's words are at the link above, and they are also reprinted here with his permission:

Overheard at San Diego Comic-Con while I was having lunch on the balcony of the Convention Center on Sunday July 27: a bunch of guys looking at the digital photos on the camera of another, while he narrated: "These were the Ghostbusters girls. That one, I grabbed her ass, 'cause I wanted to see what her reaction was." This was only one example of several instance of harassment, stalking or assault that I saw at San Diego this time.

1. One of my friends was working at a con booth selling books. She was stalked by a man who came to her booth several times, pestering her to get together for a date that night. One of her co-workers chased him off the final time.

2. On Friday, just before the show closed, this same woman was closing up her tables when a group of four men came to her booth, started taking photographs of her, telling her she was the "prettiest girl at the con." They they entered the booth, started hugging and kissing her and taking photographs of themselves doing so. She was confused and scared, but they left quickly after doing that.

3. Another friend of mine, a woman running her own booth: on Friday a man came to her booth and openly criticized her drawing ability and sense of design. Reports from others in the same section of the floor confirmed he'd targeted several women with the same sort of abuse and criticism.

Quite simply, this behavior has got to stop at Comic-Con. It should never be a sort of place where anyone, man or woman, feels unsafe or attacked either verbally or physically in any shape or form. There are those, sadly, who get off on this sort of behavior and assault, whether it's to professional booth models, cosplayers or costumed women, or women who are just there to work. This is not acceptable behavior under any circumstance, no matter what you look like or how you're dressed, whether you are in a Princess Leia slave girl outfit or business casual for running your booth.

On Saturday, the day after the second event I described above, I pulled out my convention book to investigate what you can do and who you can speak to after such an occurrence. On page two of the book there is a large grey box outlining "Convention Policies," which contain rules against smoking, live animals, wheeled handcarts, recording at video presentations, drawing or aiming your replica weapon, and giving your badge to others. There is nothing about attendee-to-attendee personal behavior.

Page three of the book contains a "Where Is It?" guide to specific Comic-Con events and services. There's no general information room or desk listed, nor is there a contact location for security, so I go to the Guest Relations Desk. I speak to a volunteer manning the desk; she's sympathetic to the situation but who doesn't have a clear answer to my question: "What's Comic-Con's policy and method of dealing with complaints about harassment?" She directs me to the nearest security guard, who is also sympathetic listening to my reports, but short of the women wanting to report the incidents with the names of their harassers, there's little that can be done.

"I understand that," I tell them both, "but what I'm asking is more hypothetical and informational: if there is a set Comic-Con policy on harassment and physical and verbal abuse on Con attendees and exhibitors, and if so, what's the specific procedure by which someone should report it, and specifically where should they go?" But this wasn't a question either could answer.

So, according to published con policy, there is no tolerance for smoking, drawn weapons, personal pages or selling bootleg videos on the floor, and these rules are written down in black and white in the con booklet. There is not a word in the written rules about harassment or the like. I would like to see something like "Comic-Con has zero tolerance for harassment or violence against any of our attendees or exhibitors. Please report instances to a security guard or the Con Office in room XXX."

The first step to preventing such harassment is giving its victims the knowledge that they can safely and swiftly report such instances to someone in authority. Having no published guideline, and indeed being unable to give a clear answer to questions about it, gives harassment and violence one more red-tape loophole to hide behind.

I enjoyed Comic-Con. I'm looking forward to coming back next year. So, in fact, are the two women whose experiences I've retold above. Aside from those instances, they had a good time at the show. But those instances of harassment shouldn't have happened at all, and that they did under no clear-cut instructions about what to do sadly invites the continuation of such behavior, or even worse.

I don't understand why there's no such written policy about what is not tolerated and what to do when this happens. Is there anyone at Comic-Con able to explain this? Does a similar written policy exist in the booklets for other conventions (SF, comics or otherwise) that could be used as a model? Can it be adapted or adapted, and enforced, for Comic-Con? As the leading event of the comics and pop culture world, Comic-Con should work to make everyone who attends feel comfortable and safe.

--John DiBello

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Chris!

Best wishes from your friend and your President.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Off-Panel but not Forgotten.

Should I happen to die someday off-panel...

I hope it is Orion who eulogizes me on-panel.

(Ineligible for but in the spirit of FNF

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The call is coming from INSIDE YOUR MIND!

Yesterday I wrapped up reading the first volume of the Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibus series as well as the first issue of Grant Morrison and JG Jones' "Final Crisis." Were I feeling more eloquent I'd talk about the similar feel the works share, but mostly I wanted to show this panel of Dr. Bedlam letting his fingers do the walking:

Everyone loves Kirby machinery, but there's a simple joy to be had in a panel of a dude with a big pink noggin on a phone, cranking a guy in a green, red, and yellow leotard.

I figure if I want to show the next panel I should explain what's going on. Doctor Bedlam drops something called THE PARANOID PILL into an office building and challenges Mister Miracle to make his way from the top floor, through all the raving paranoid cubicoids, and out through the lobby. Many fantastic Kirby-style freakouts occur, but this fellow on the right is my favorite:

And now it's time for...


Doctor Bedlam
Architect of the Chandler Towers Experiment

Dr. Philip Zimbardo
Architect of the Stanford Prison Experiment


Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Forever People: Proto-Hipsters

With the arrival of the fourth and final volume of Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus I've decided to delve into the titanic tomes for a taste of the terror and tumult tucked inside and, brother, it's a wallop.

There's manic energy in these stories that I hope would have grabbed me as a youngster in the early 1970s, and a kind of infectious earnestness, right down to the next-issue blurbs, that amuses the hell out of me as (what passes for) an adult. It reads quick, it reads clear, and everyone down to the background characters is excited and exciting.

History rightfully praises The King and The Man's early Marvel work, but reading this and the recently released Devil Dinosaur Omnibus from Marvel makes me want nothing more then Kirby Unleashed and On His Own. (Devil Dinosaur is great, but I'm insanely grateful for the text pages reprinted therein. Reading them makes you believe that Ol' Jack's brain never shut off.)

But I'm here to talk briefly about The Forever People, which, halfway through the first volume, is tied for second with Mister Miracle as my favorite series in these reprints. The aforementioned earnestness is on full display here, with heaping doses of angst, overwrought emotionality, and jive talk that would make Bob Haney proud.

Also, hideous furniture:

I gotta say, Big Bear's love of gaudy old furniture echoes my own. I've had my eyes on a particularly hideous couch at a local library that's been there since childhood and were I built more like Big Bear and less like Ichabod Crane said couch would have been mine long ago.

Mark Moonrider shares not just my name (the "Mark" part of it, anyhow), but an affinity for ugly lamps as well:

And that's pretty much why I'm totally jazzed to have four big books of this stuff on my shelf.