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Random Thoughts! (May 15, 2012)

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Random Thoughts! (May 15, 2012)

Random Thought! Today, I buy a suit. It’s Random Thoughts time! Get excited!

Link Thought! GraphiContent for comics. butterbeatleblog for popculture. 411mania for wrestling reviews and the occasional CD review.

Random Thought! I actually reviewed an album last week on 411: Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before by Barenaked Ladies. Also, after last week’s discussion of the Avengers as facists, this week’s “Riding the Gravy Train” looks at them as anti-mutant racists.

Random Thought! I am wary of Thanos showing up in Avengers Assemble. Very wary given the last time he ‘appeared,’ he didn’t sound anything like the character. Granted, it was Dr. Strange posing as Thanos, but still. That’s also a character that I have a hard time accepting when anyone other than Jim Starlin is writing him. Even the Abnett/Lanning Thanos never ‘felt’ right. I guess I can always assume any non-Starlin Thanos appearances actually show the adventures of some of his clones. That’s what Starlin assumes and who am I to disagree with him?

Random Thought! I’ve been struggling with how I view Captain America for a while. I no longer look forward to reading new issues. I don’t dread them either. I’m fairly neutral — usually forgetting the book exists until I see it’s on a shipping list. And, yet, every time I read an issue, I walk away satisfied. Not blown away or anything. Just happy to have read a solid, entertaining superhero comic. It’s like the book being that isn’t enough…? Being a good superhero comic with few flaws is somehow a bad thing… That’s insane. But, that’s how I seem to feel. It’s weird. I’m going to try to not think that way so much anymore.

Random Thought! For the record: Batman is not actually a bat. The Court of Owls are not actually owls. The food chain that applies in nature to those animals does not necessarily apply to humans who dress up like them. After all, spiders tend to not continually beat up vultures or octopi. I think. Maybe they do…?

Random Thought! My Hunter Thompson books quiz was published as an official Sporcle quiz yesterday. My girlfriend thinks that’s really cool.

Random Thought! I haven’t started it yet, but Essential Black Panther looks like two completely unrelated books slammed together because they happen to feature the same character. The first half and the second half look nothing alike. And that’s kind of cool. What’s not cool is Marvel leaving out the final two issues of Kirby’s run.

Random Thought! I got my tax return last week and used 3/4s of it to pay off a credit card. Because that’s what responsible adults do, I’m told. I’m using part of the remaining bit to get the various Clone Saga/Ben Reilly as Spider-Man trades, because my inner child demands I do so. And because I don’t know when they’ll lapse out of print and become much more expensive to track down.

Random Thought! Apparently the Paul Pope story meant for Mystery in Space was shunted to a future Vertigo anthology. Nice of DC to make that fact well known, because it’s not like Paul Pope’s presence could possibly be a selling point or anything. No one likes that guy…

Random Thought! While I’m bitching: no Esad Ribic and Dean White, plus Billy Tan drawing an upcoming issue means The Ultimates is no longer the high quality comic it once was. Recently, it’s been occupying the coveted ‘read first’ spot any week it’s come out (unless it comes out on the same week as The Boys, which has held that spot any week it comes out for, like, four years now). Now, I fear it may slip back into the middle of the pack.

Random Thought! How do you order your comics when you read them? I tend to have a few of the superhero ones I’m looking forward to most first, while Vertigo and other non-superhero titles are almost always saved for the end. The middle is comprised of the rest. For example, here’s the order I’ll probably read tomorrow’s comics in: Avengers vs. X-Men #4, AVX: VS #2, Avengers #26, Uncanny X-Men #12, Avengers Academy #30, Wonder Woman #9, Daredevil #13, New Mutants #42, Winter Soldier #5, Manhattan Projects #3, Fury MAX #2, and Scalped #58.

Random Thought! Release schedule fun: five Avengers vs. X-Men comics this week and one next week. That’s how you space things out intelligently! You can bet that I’ll be talking about Secret Avengers #27 in the 8th “Riding the Gravy Train,” I guess.

Random Thought! For some reason, Amazon.ca had Rize of the Fenix by Tenacious D available for order last week (not pre-order), so I got my copy on Friday. It’s a good album. Tight with a couple of songs that really show the band’s full potential (“Roadie” and “39”). It sounds weird, but this album seems like a transition album from their first two albums, the TV show, and the movies, and heading towards something more… mature? While still being funny/crude at times. I don’t know. It’s good stuff.

Random Thought! I discovered last week that the Hives have a new album out on June 5 (same day as new Neil Young & Crazy Horse!) and will be playing in Detroit on June 27. That band is on my list of bands I really want to see live, so we’re obviously going. Tickets have been purchased. Like I said last week: everything seems to be happening/coming out right now. It’s weird. But, still: THE HIVES! LIVE! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Random Thought! My shop was shorted on Silver Surfer: Parable last week, so I didn’t get my copy yet.

Random Thought! Matt Seneca’s “Life on Earth Q” posts on All-Star Superman have been excellent so far. So read them and keep checking back for new ones.

Random Thought! Rereading Bret Easton Ellis’s books in not-quite-order. Have reread Less than Zero, Imperial Bedrooms (because I wanted to see how it read right after Less than Zero), and The Informers (it was apparently written when he was in college, so it makes more sense to be paired with Less than Zero). Currently rereading The Rules of Attraction and I always struggle with this one. I really like the idea of the multiple narrators that tell conflicting accounts, but often get bored in some parts. I think I’ve hit my stride, though. Also, I’ve backed The Canyons on Kickstarter, a film that Ellis wrote and they’re trying to get financed. As tempting as the $5000 level reward of Ellis writing a public review of your novel is, I only opted for the $25 one for the DVD. Can you imagine anything more terrifying than a writer you really respect giving his honest opinion of your work in public? That sounds like a punishment, not a reward… Especially since you know Ellis would be completely honest, too. Terrifying.

Random Thought! Finished reading the second volume of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World this week. Funny how, during the first volume, New Gods was my favourite and The Forever People was my least favourite and, in this volume, that pretty much reversed. I’d say Mister Miracle is my favourite, followed by The Forever People and New Gods with Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen bringing up the rear. I enjoy them all, but I’m curious to see if the third volume will bring about different favourites. Kirby really gets into the heavily serialised stories in this volume with only Mister Miracle sticking to relatively self-contained stories in each issue. I can’t wait for the next two volumes.

Random Thought! As tempted as I am to pick up that Justice League International annual that picks up plot threads from OMAC, I’m pretty sure that Keith Giffen was the part of OMAC I liked the most, not Dan DiDio. Just a guess.

Random Thought! Not even intrigued by The First X-Men. Not even by Neal Adams. Though, I think they’re missing the big audience for The First Force Works, a series that readers only discover upon purchase reprints random issues of Avengers West Coast/West Coast Avengers.

Random Thought! Based on Hulk Smash Avengers #2, I propose a new series: Joe Casey is given two consecutive issues of Avengers and must create a ‘lost’ issue that takes place between them and fits in to that time period. He could probably do it without breaking a sweat, written mostly on coffee breaks from big TV meetings, and it would be awesome.

Random Thought! I wish I were successful enough a comic critic that I could run a comic convention called GraphiCon. Actually, I don’t. I just want a convention to be named that and have my approval, but for someone else to do all of the work.

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Random Joe Casey Question! When attempting new or different techniques (eg. the letter in the final chapter of Codeflesh, the infoscroll in The Intimates), do they usually come out of the comic you’re writing or are they something you apply to the book externally, hoping the two will mesh together well?

Random Joe Casey Answer! When I’m developing a new project, things like that tend to rise to the surface fairly organically. Besides which, I usually have several techniques or tricks that I’ve probably already thought about in the abstract, either based on some sort of outside input (like the 24-hour news networks for the infoscrolls) or an untapped comicbook influence, something a past master did that no one has been able to apply to their own work yet in any tangible way. I’ve been on a huge Steranko trip recently, trying to deconstruct how he did comics, how he constructed his individual issues, so you may see that kind of influence showing up in future work.

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Random Comments! Less snarky responses from me this week. Maybe…

CW Atkins said: What particularly get’s my ire up is the totally meaninglessness of the star rating, as it’s completely subjective. Some random Thunderbolts issues get’s 5 stars. Ok, an enjoyable comic. But what’s it’s rating compared to Watchmen #12? Is it still a 5 star comic if they come out on the same week? Is Wonder Woman a 2 star comic becuase the reviewer doesn’t like the details of the story, while admitting that from a craft perspective it’s very well done? Honestly, at this point I read them more for a slightly longer plot synopsis than anything else.

I was generally not a fan of the star ratings, mostly because that’s where people’s opinions of the reviews tended to begin and end. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I often changed my star ratings as I wrote my reviews to fit what I wrote, basically using the same technique I used for thesis statements in essays in university where I’d write them last to fit what I said in my essay as closely as possible. I do think context matters. Like you said, if you compare most comics to the best comics of all time, we’d rarely see anything over three-and-a-half stars and that’s not practical. I do think the reviewers on CBR tend to skew too far towards the positive and it’s a problem I’ve had for quite some time. I usually found that, on average, reviews should fall in the 3-3.5 range. That’s still on the positive side of things given that it’s a ‘mainstream comics’ based site and that, because most comics reviewed have to be purchased by the reviewer, the reviewers are more inclined to like what they’re reviewing — I mean, it’s something that, odds are, they’re buying on a regular basis. But, I still think they tend to lean too far towards positivity. That’s what you get when you have someone saying they go out of their way to review things they’ll like, though, which, honestly, disgusts me and gives a fairly clear indication that that’s a reviewer whose opinion I can’t take too seriously. This isn’t an exercise in ‘comics are great, everyone try to make everyone feel good.’ But, yeah, star ratings… not really a fan myself either and, on more than one occasion, I told Augie that I just threw one on because I had to and if he thought my review suggested a different rating, feel free to change it.

And, yes, I use them on my site, but I just throw those on, too. They’re not meant to be taken too seriously.

DrewT said: A D fan eh? What did you think of the Pick of Destiny?

I liked both the movie and the album. Neither blew my mind or anything, nor was either the best I’ve seen from Tenacious D. But, they’re decent and I watch/listen to them from time to time.

Travis Pelkie said: In potato chip flavor news (or flavour, since you’re a subject of the crown), I’ve recently gotten a couple of different flavors. Lay’s has a BLT flavor that’s decent, and Herr’s (a more regional brand, I think) has a Classic American Hot Dog flavor. It’s pretty tasty, like when I have a hot dog with ketchup and mustard, and mix the 2 on the dog with some chips. Mmm. America and wacky chip flavors. That’s what freedom’s all about, baby!

No BLT flavour here in Canada (at least not in my area). The only recent new chip flavour of any kind is a new Doritos flavour. Smokey chipotle BBQ, I think it’s called. I bought a small bag and it was alright. Surprisingly bland flavour, some nice heat — the flavour does grow stronger as you eat more, which is something I dig sometimes. There’s something nice about a flavour that slowly builds as you eat. But, I found that flavour to be a bit too similar to their bold BBQ flavour, so… why bother with this new one?

Yeah, what a dick Batman is, for being concerned about his own broken back more than how his replacement is doing!

He stops worrying about that after, like, two issues. He then becomes obsessed with the kidnapping of Tim’s dad and his doctor/love interest. But, seriously, there’s not a single thought about the new Batman. That’s just weird. I’m not expecting him to obsess over it or anything — just ask Tim how it’s going or something? Maybe?

Billy said: And people are…flexible… Sometimes people honestly need to set hard lines that they won’t cross, else they continually drift into situations that they don’t like. (Look at auctions as an example. People will say “That is worth X”, but when the bidding war starts, they often end up willing to go beyond “X”. )

(I just grabbed a sample because I didn’t want to quote a long comment…) Your comment basically makes my point for me. I’m not against people having a content/cost margin that works for them. I’m against hardline arbitrary lines like “I won’t buy ANY $3.99 comics” or “I won’t see ANY movies in theatres that less than 90 minutes.” Statements like that are stupid and act like all art is equal and just a commodity to purchase like tooth paste or garbage bags. Of course people are flexible — and should present themselves as such. That was my point.

Rusty Priske said: Short books should cost less than big books. Part of the cost in maufacturing, so it just makes sense.

That ignores who is making the book or its potential for fitting into people’s concept of ‘good.’ If I put out a giant 2000-page book, while Thomas Pynchon puts out a short 75-page novella, which do you think people would be willing to pay the most for?

Mecha-Shiva said: That presumes I expect to pay more based on assumed quality. Movie theaters charge the same for oscar contenders as they do for Twilight. There is some variation in comic prices, but it’s not based on quality. Scott Snyder’s Batman costs the same as Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics. Albums/sons by your-favorite-band cost basically the same as those by your-least-favorite-band.

Single issues comics cost the same, yes, and, under the iTunes model, music tends to cost the same, but that doesn’t always extend beyond those places. David Bowie albums are usually more expensive in stores — same with the Rolling Stones. Some band’s albums can be obtained for five bucks each, while others tend to hover in the high teens. They’re not all equally priced.

Joe H said: Seems that someone mis-quoted me and missed the point of my comment.

I didn’t misquote you. I selectively quoted you to suit my purposes. And doing so again. Media bias!

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Later.