Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Take a week off and the pile begins to get out of hand. What’s a poor bastard to do?

Written by Neil Kleid and Drawn by Miguel Montenegro
Published by Image Comics

I’ve been curious about this one since I first heard it announced. Kleid is a talented creator, and certainly has the ability to take this concept (which is sort of “what if you put Superman or Captain America in a group of super-assholes like The Authority?”) and run with it. And while this opening salvo shows promise, the pacing of the story doesn’t quite let Kleid stretch his wings.

The Intimidators are the supergroup of last resort for the American government, the ones they call on when absolutely no one else is available or when the threat level is so high that it requires a ludicrous bunch of idiots to solve the problem. The most competent of the group is Crash, a super-strong and super-fast fellow who also has a tendency to pass out in the middle of missions from the use of his powers. Then there’s Fetish, a homicidal teleporter who spends her off-hours as a dominatrix. Limit, another teleporter, who’s a bit of a pussy. And Firepower, an armored British drunkard. Quite the motley crew. The last member of the cast, Astroman, doesn’t show up until the final page, so basically, this issue is pure set-up and display, with the real plot to follow later.

Threatening the world this time around is a mafia goon with a nuclear weapon armed in downtown Detroit. Backing up his ploy is the goon’s robot mafia, so there are plenty of bad guys for the Intimidators to beat up on. The entire battle sequence is insanely over-the-top, and it does give Kleid a couple of moments in which to have his fun; Fetish’s treatment of a Mafioso opponent is a snicker-worthy exercise in black humor. But mainly, it exists to show us what these lunatics can do, because it will balance against the future behavior of Astroman. Fair enough. You have to get to the point where your story really begins.

Montenegro’s art serves the story well, eschewing fancy layouts and clipped poses in order to keep the story flowing in an organic fashion. That’s certainly a happy and satisfactory development. And again, there are some darkly amusing moments that kept my head in it along the way. I suppose what I’m saying is that INTIMIDATORS #1 didn’t quite give me what I was expecting out of the gate, but that doesn’t necessarily rank as a bad thing. I found plenty enough here to make me want to settle in and give it the time to grow that I think it needs.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

MILE HIGH COMICS presents THE BEAT at What it feels like for a girl

Heidi, as usual, is right. Go read it.

What stuck out to me most in the piece, is this snippet: "But the main thing that got me thinking is that sexual assault is not comics' problem; it's society's problem. While an examination of how comics treats women is always welcome, I was not convinced that this account had anything whatsoever to do with comics, or sexual harassment, based on the information given." She later goes in the direction that I'm about to, and I fully admit to hitching my wagon to hers, so I apologize in advance. But this stuff cannot be ignored.

It isn't a secret that assholes are a problem everywhere, regardless of where they're employed. I once had a former employee report to me that a man in a different department asked her about the events of her upcoming weekend while pretending to dry-hump a chair. Another male employee was let go because he wouldn't stop asking inappropriate questions about female employees' sex lives. It was maddening to me that this even needed to be done; who raised these morons? Who let them believe that was appropriate behavior? As Heidi says, this is a societal problem. But it's one we can address and absolutely do something about.

I am the (now former) step-father to three young girls. The youngest came into my life at the age of five, and even though she had never read a comic in her life, she already enjoyed tying a blanket around her neck, pretending to fly, and calling herself Supergirl. As quickly as I could find one (and they were damned rare), she got her first Supergirl action figure, and I encouraged her to start reading comics with me.

Start 'em young, right?

But I was also very aware of the fact that my hobby was one that was not as open and friendly to little girls as it needed to be. So I was very selective about what I showed her. And I kept her away from the local comics shops at the time, because they were unfit for her presence. Thanks to the terrific Brian Johnson and Khepri, I was able to find enough material to keep her interest moving along, though.

If you pull back and look at our society as a whole, the problems glare at you with eyes of steel. Poverty. Crime. Corruption. The list goes on. As an individual, it's easy to feel powerless when confronted with it all. The mountains are so large that the peaks seem out of reach. But you cannot let that powerlessness settle in to your soul. You just can't.

What you have to do, and as I said, Heidi's essay gets into this late in the text, is look at your neighborhood. Look in the immediate five foot radius. Make a difference. Then expand your reach a bit. Make it ten feet. Get the person next to you involved, either by spirit or by shame, and get them working on their own radius. And make it continue to spread.

Clean up your neighborhood.

That's what the brave young woman who was on the receiving end of that recent assault did. She drew a line in the sand and put the dirt on notice. Comics is no uglier a slum than any other, but it's the one we live in, because we love them. We don't love every resident or every house, but they're ours. Enough of us need to feel enough of a sense of duty and honor to each other that we start pressuring the other neighbors to paint their houses, cut the grass, and tow away the dead cars. It is shameful that we live this way. There's no reason we should.

We need to live in a place where I'm not afraid to take a five-year old girl inside without worrying about what she'll see or whom she'll meet. We need to gather on a block where a woman can walk down the sidewalk is seen as a creative spirit and collaborator, not as fresh meat. Yes, those problems will remain on the outside, where the rest of the crime and corruption have taken root. No question. In an optimistic world, we'll clean those neighborhoods someday, too. But for today, let's start at home. Don't patronize retailers who create that kind of environment. Don't buy comics from people known to be encouraging and participating in the worst behaviors. Support the works of those speaking out and those trying to make a difference.

Grab a broom. I've made a clean spot. Looks like I have to keep going.


Sunday, January 08, 2006



Really. Wow.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve devoured these four volumes in succession, and I’m nothing short of blown away at how much I enjoyed them. In fact, I more than liked them; they were a revelation to me, and I cannot recommend highly enough that you check them out.

Written Mostly by Marv Wolfman
Drawn Mostly by Gene Colan
Published by Marvel Comics

I had never read a single issue of the comic as a kid, so I knew very little about what to expect in these pages. Dracula had shown up in UNCANNY X-MEN a couple of times, and later was killed for good by DOCTOR STRANGE, but the rich supporting cast and history were beyond my grasp at that point. I know now just how much I was missing.

These were, for the most part, simply brilliant comics. It took a few issues for Wolfman to come on board as the writer, but once he did, he never left the driver’s seat, toiling away on the title for over seven years and creating a distinct and indelible horror title in which he had to create enough of a threat to his main character to keep the audience in check, yet never forget that this was a comic about a villain (and if my memory tells me true, easily the longest running title of that nature). That meant tapping new levels of creative height in discovering ways to challenge the vampire and his pursuers, and Wolfman was always up to the challenge.

However, the real star of the show was the legendary Gene Colan. Colan drew all seventy issues of the main title, along with extra stories for annuals and the Dracula magazines, becoming the defining artist for the character and setting the bar at such a high level that others who drew stories featuring the vampire looked pale in comparison. What impresses you as you read these collections is the amount of detail that graces his pages, and the graceful storytelling that flows through his pages. Another legend, inker Tom Palmer, would do the blacks for the majority of the book’s run, making this one of comics’ all-time consistently great titles. Also, as you page through these, you feel fortunate to have these in this format. It seems damned near criminal that this work was originally printed in color; Colan’s art is so beautiful that the idea of ruining it with the old-time color process on newsprint is horrific. I’m sure it still looked wonderful, but not as good as it did when Gene turned in the work.

Wolfman gained most of his notoriety in comics for his collaborations with George Perez on TEEN TITANS and CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, but TOMB OF DRACULA, taken as a whole, is the equal or better of those two titles. Of the four volumes, the third stands out most, as there is less extraneous material collected from magazines and such. Every story but one in volume three is written by Wolfman; every story but one is drawn by Colan. And by the way, the story not drawn by Colan? Drawn by Steve Ditko. It’s just that good, folks.

Of all the ESSENTIALS I’ve read over the last month or so, nothing else even comes close to just how excellent these four books are. I implore you: check out the finest work of Colan’s career and give yourself a different view of what Wolfman is capable of as a writer. You’ll be very, very glad you did.