Ambidextrous 275 - "Worth Mention"

Ambidextrous 275 - "Worth Mention"

While working my way through this week’s stash, I began to think…

This has been known to happen on occasion, and often leads to entire columns devoted to all manner of things, both slightly and incredibly relevant. I hope this particular article contains far more of the latter, as it features musings on the greatness of Lee Ferguson, the impending cover price increase, Geoff Johns’ contributions to the emotional spectrum, and other most pressing business. Enjoy, and as always, thanks for stopping by.

All in the Family-

So, my man Lee Ferguson had two books released last Wednesday--- his artistic stylings graced both Sheena: Dark Rising #1, and Zen: Intergalactic Ninja #0, published by Devil’s Due. Obviously, I’ve known about this for some time, but it was still incredibly gratifying and cool to see not one but two comics from a great friend and a great artist drop on the exact same day. On top of that, Felix Serrano is coloring both series, and Zen is written by Joe Casey, who might as well be considered a friend of the family at this point.

Since Miranda has been on its little publishing hiatus, no one has been busier than Lee, who is working on pages, character designs, and layouts for our eventual return, in addition to fielding (and even turning down) several offers for paid gigs. Couldn’t be happening to a better or more deserving guy, and we decided months ago that every project we could get our hands on would only make it that much easier to re-launch The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury when the time comes. The movement shall come in many forms, you see.

Both Sheena and Zen are in stores now, and I’ll probably be able to premiere some exclusive artwork from upcoming issues in the coming weeks and months. So check ‘em out if you see them on the stands, and watch this space for more developments.

Inevitable-

I’ve been spending a lot of money on comics recently. Have officially gone from a 30-35 dollar average per week to the 40-45 dollar range, and the reason is pretty simple---$3.99 comics. Every single week I’m buying more books of this ubiquitous distinction, and this past Wednesday I left the shop with five of them. Yes, all of them were annuals, specials and the like, but there’s no question the major publishers are testing the waters with this new price point. There’s also no question that a time where most comics are sporting this tag is rapidly approaching.

It’ll be a big deal for everyone when it finally happens, but most independents have been using it for awhile now, and it’s a simple fact that most of our entertainment avenues (movies, plays, sports, DVDs) only see their prices increase as the years roll on. Hell, even my grocery bills have gone up significantly, and just in the last six months. Blame paper prices, or the economy, or inflation, or whatever, but everything will eventually cost more than we’d like to pay for it and this includes comics. What we’re willing to pay…? Well, that’s the interesting part and I’m anxious to see if this leads to any major changes in the actual content of the books.

Is it enough to begin including behind-the-scenes material, like script excerpts or creator commentaries? Will all the letters pages start looking like the ones in the back of Powers? Will anyone abandon the now standard 22 page frame and increase it? Something will likely be done to amplify the perceived value of the monthly, if only to prevent everyone from adopting a trade-wait policy that will decapitate any book that doesn’t feature a well known character.

But it’s coming, and as with every other obstacle that publishers, consumers, and retailers have faced in the marketplace, adjustments will be necessary and some of the unpleasant things people have suggested will probably happen, but most of them won’t. We’ve proven a fairly resilient bunch and have faced down “the end of the industry” several times now, but we’re still here and getting it done…perhaps with second jobs to support our comic habits maybe, but you know what I’m sayin’. Enjoy the good times while they last, and treasure your three dollar comics while you’re still able.

Image United-

Had to go to two different stores to get a copy of Spawn #185. The day after it dropped, Image posted word of a complete and total sell-out, which means that my main shop wasn’t the only one to severely underestimate the demand for this. It looked pretty simple to me---a superstar creator returns to the character that built his entertainment empire. Say what you will about Spawn, but it’s one of the most successful independent properties ever launched in comics, and Todd McFarlane taking on a more active role in the series, while recruiting another Image founder to handle the art chores, is a fairly big deal. Enough of one to merit ordering another few copies, I would think.

The result is a very interesting teaser of things to come. There’s an incredibly long and somewhat laborious opening scene that doesn’t make total sense until you reach the very last page, and I hope what they’re alleging is the real deal and not your typical comics fake-out. Presuming it is makes it clear that McFarlane is serious about bringing a huge change to the title, which is the assertion anyway; based on how many times his name appears in the credits. The mystery and turmoil surrounding a coma patient regaining consciousness is well played and Portacio’s artwork looks great under Todd’s inks and the coloring of Jin Han. There’s also a little “shout-out” to a scene from one of Spawn’s first issues (quite possibly the very first) featuring the Violator and a fun lettering clinic put on by Tom Orzechowski.

Barring Todd returning to the interiors, it does feel like the band is getting back together for something cool, and I’ll be around for the next few months to see what it turns into. Second print is on the way, if any of you crazy kids are willing to join me.

ROYGBIV and His Amazing Kryptonian Friends-

I’d strongly encourage every single person that’s been following Morrison’s recently completed All-Star Superman series to quickly devote that attention and those dollars to Action Comics. To refuse so is to risk missing out on a number of exceptional Superman stories being told by Geoff Johns, which really offer an effective complement to the quick, self-contained, and unhampered by continuity stuff Grant was doing.

A couple storylines down and it’s obvious he’s putting in the same care, respect, and excitement for the mythos which has turned the Green Lantern books into fan favorites. He’s building a strong foundation with the supporting characters, rebuilding the rogues’ gallery, and most importantly, bringing a toughness and grit to Superman that doesn’t contradict who he is or what he stands for. There’s no reason Superman can’t ____ Brainiac up in the same story that he gives his cousin the strength to do something impossible with just a few honest words. Expect him to continually prove just why in a world now home to 100,000 Kryptonians, only one of them is called Superman.

Forgive the cliché, but Johns’ interpretation of Superman is just a little cooler than I expected, which mirrors my feelings about Wally West, then Hal Jordan, and more than likely, Barry Allen. Johns always finds a way to really plug into the essence of what makes characters tick, and then takes several years to fully develop and explore his concepts, the arcs feeding and building off each other until you get something like last year’s The Sinestro Corps War. Which on the one hand was a true culmination of a couple years’ worth of plotting and planning, and on the other, just another well-orchestrated chapter on the road to Blackest Night. People give him a good deal of credit for attempting to respect continuity at all turns, but I think his strength really lies in the creation of new continuity. Everything is long-term and nowhere is this most evident than in his recent introduction of the broader “emotional spectrum” in the GL books.

This might’ve been a real risk for someone else, but the time Johns has put into establishing the mechanics of the universe allows him to have Green, Blue, and Red Lanterns, all occupying the same space, but with very different origins and goals. With every new faction, the stakes keep rising, and you know that once Johns is done and people step back and look at all the things he installed into the characters and the world, it’ll stand as another of comics’ great modern runs.

Though a bit premature, I assume we’ll probably be having a similar conversation in regards to the Superman books in the next couple years.

Steampunk Reunion-

Was I the only person that loved Joe Kelly and Chris Bachalo’s Steampunk unconditionally? Cause I shouldn’t have been, but yet feel like I am. Anyway, that’s a subject for another piece, but because of their lovely collaboration there, I am compelled to follow them both wherever they go. And this week, that meant Spider-Man, which I’m already buying anyway, so easy for me. What did I find there, you might ask? Gloriousness, people---sheer gloriousness.

Kelly gives you probably everything anyone could ever want in a Spider-Man comic--- intelligence, wit, menace, big action, take your pick. I knew he was a perfect addition to the ranks, given his Deadpool run, that excellent Webspinners arc that no one but me remembers, and his Hammerhead warm-up in an earlier BND special, but this is…wow. Dude just gets it and this is the perfect follow-up to the recently wrapped New Ways to Die, which seemed to be the first time these books were judged on merit and not negative vibes lingering from you know what.

But this book actually opens with masked clowns on gliders trying to retrieve a rat with a microchip in its brain, which is in the care of a homeless woman named Greta, whose breath smells like something died in her esophagus. We know this of course because she’s riding on Spidey’s back, and screaming something about Charlton Heston. Do we receive even the slightest explanation of what the whole thing was about when it’s over? Of course not---the only thing that matters is that Peter throws up in his mask, and that it’s funny when he does. Kelly powers his way through “Family Ties” with a succession of great scenes, great lines, and great art by Bachalo. Bottom line---Spider-Man makes a fool of himself tryin’ to talk tough, Aunt May says “hook up,” and Hammerhead is no longer a joke. Either of these things is reason enough to buy this comic, and Joe Kelly has given you all three. Also, fantastic line at the end that I don’t have the heart to spoil here.

On and On and On and On-

This is my 275th Ambidextrous column. Was at a wedding over the weekend and said that out loud to someone and they looked equally impressed and terrified, which about sums up my own feelings. Far from the longest running soapbox on the ‘net, but I am genuinely surprised to still be writing these on a (nearly) weekly basis. Lot of things have happened in my life since June of ‘01, but this little platform has been the one constant, and I’m genuinely grateful for that. And you know, for the whole it helped me break into comics thing and without it who knows how far I would’ve gotten…that’s cool too. Don’t expect to write another 275 more, but the one thing I’ve learned over the years is that you have no idea what’s coming next.

Last bit before we close out--- I’m starting a new monthly feature on my website called What I Wrote (and Why) that takes my highly obsessive method for keeping track of my weekly progress and turns it into something possibly even more obsessive. First one should be posted up already, so check it out here and let me know what you think.

Back in seven (or so) with another edition of This is Why, featuring another of comics’ great modern runs--- one that continues to leave its mark on the world of superhero comics to this very day.

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