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Issue #134

You don't have to write me for permission to send review copies. I'm happy to review anything anyone sends me. I can't promise a good review; the best I can promise is an honest response.

The address to send to is always – always – at the bottom of the column. It's there now. All you have to do is look for it. So I'm not going to respond to any e-mails asking a) whether it's okay to send review copies or b) what address to send to. You have your answers: a) yes, and b) look below.

Okay?

[Trashola #3]Top of the stack is TRASHOLA #3 (if there's a price on it, I can't find it). I've reviewed TRASHOLA before and remember liking it, but this issue left me cold. Josh Divine's main story involves a low-rent sex-obsessed slug of an alcoholic succumbing to a gypsy fortune teller and his own inebriated stupidity, and Divine's underground-inspired cartooning works just fine, but Charles Bukowski it's not. It's not really much of anything. Better are Divine's punky short bits at the back. It's also got a nicely drawn but fairly pointless strip by Brian Wood and Ryan Yount about pre-adolescent punks on a rampage. (I didn't get the priest joke right away, but that bit was amusing.) Divine's obviously got an attitude and a sharp eye, but too much of the former shows up here, and not enough of the latter.

James Hudnall recently started his own publishing company, Dark Planet, and launched two titles in collaboration with Spain's Sulaco Studios, a crime comic called 2 TO THE CHEST, and ROGUES, a tongue-in-cheek barbarian epic ($2.99@). Despite somewhat shaky art by Mazi and Miguel Lacal (next issue the more stylized Jose Aviles takes over the art), 2 TO THE CHEST is looking to be a fairly strong thriller, as a young cop is almost killed during a chase and wakes from surgery to find himself involved in a conspiracy he knows nothing about. A tight little piece with a good cliffhanger, though there's a suggestion of the supernatural in it that I hope I'm misinterpreting. It's worth checking out. ROGUES is weaker, featuring a male-female pair of con artist thieves, who end up in possession of a ruby various factions in their barbaric world want. It's played as a parody, which might be interesting if parodying sword-and-sorcery weren't so damn easy, and hadn't already been done along a string from Fafrhd And The Grey Mouser to Barry Windsor-Smith's THE FREEBOOTERS, and done better. I'm assuming this is old material, since it's drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, who does much better work at Avatar. It's not bad, but after 2 TO THE CHEST it's a letdown. (I should mention Dark Planet books are in color, a rarity for independent publishing these days.)

[Ruule]Also in color is RUULE: GANGLORDS OF CHINATOWN (five issues, $2.99@), from Beckett Comics. I know about Beckett's magazines but had no idea they were publishing comics now. RUULE is a mixed bag. In physical terms, it's a real bargain: prestige format, full color, terrific production, really stylish David Mack covers. Mike Hawthorne and Rick Remander's art is pretty good, though a bit Amerimanga for my tastes, reminiscent of Humberto Ramos, but it's clean and effective. The story, by Ivan Brandon, is a little dodgier. It's set in a future Bay Area ruined by some disaster, and mostly abandoned, leaving a Mad Maxish culture of separate gangs dominated by bikers, until a divinely-inspired warrior rises out of Chinatown to bring a new order to the area. Unfortunately, Brandon doesn't tell us what happened, which is a huge distraction in the first issue. (I understand his logic in not specifying, but it doesn't work; the unanswered question overwhelms other points of interest.) It's more sword and sorcery than science fiction, and in some ways it doesn't hold up as a story. It's more of a character study of the protagonist, as other characters who seem to be main characters never really take part in or matter to the action or resolution; they seem to be there strictly as moral mirrors but never really play that role. Despite my reservations, there are very nice sequences and some good characterization in it, and, once the milieu settles in enough to let the questions recede, the backdrop works well. Just the sheer professionalism of the package makes it worth at least checking out, and it's strong enough to consider Beckett a contender as a new publisher.

Not particularly professional in any aspect is Jason McNamara & Tony Talbert's LESS THAN HERO (Polite Strangers; $3), a hamfisted superhero parody that gets by mostly on raw energy, fight scenes and scatology. It's as if Jack Kirby had decided to do an underground comic via distorted Xeroxes of his work, which sounds good on paper but if you think about it there would be sensibilities catastrophically at odds there, and so it is here. There's almost something here, but McNamara & Talbert have to make a couple quantum leaps to make it any good.

[The Dreamland Chronicles]Astonish Comics is also trying to get in the game, with really good production on Ted Dawson's SPOONER #1 ($2.99) and Scott Christian Sava's THE DREAMLAND CHRONICLES. SPOONER's actually a collection of comic strips from Dawson's daily strip, along with a couple of new comic book-style stories, sort of a BABY BLUES for newlyweds. As such, it shares the weaknesses of most daily strips – the newspaper market dictates inoffensiveness that keeps any of SPOONER from being uproarious (one wonders how PEARLS BEFORE SWINE got syndicated) – but it's pleasant and at times even charming, nicely written and cartooned. In fact, that's probably the best description of it: nice. THE DREAMLAND CHRONICLES is also nice, loaded with CGI art that makes it look like the comics version of SHREK, which is its main selling point. In that regard it's really spectacular artwork, though to the extent the fantasy story revolves around elves and fairies and dreams that turn out to be visits to other worlds, my interest waffles. Still, as that sort of thing goes it's not terrible, and it's a visual accomplishment I'm not sure any other comic has matched.

Over at Moonstone, bossman Joe Gentile and artist Trevor Von Eeden have resurrected radio's Mysterious Traveler in MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER ($5.50) and MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER RETURNS ($4.95), with mixed but mostly good results. (Nice covers by Dennis Calero as well.) If I remember correctly, the character was originally a narrator for an anthology show; here, now an aging black man working off some sort of guilt, he's a stronger participant, if still basically a bystander in other people's stories, trapped on a phantom train and doomed to unearth people's stories as they travel to their fates. It's hard to pull off that kind of limited character in an interesting way, but, at least for two stories, Gentile does a pretty good job of it, structuring things so the Traveler is more of a detective guiding his "victims" past their blindnesses and self-deceptions, until they understand what has driven them to their destinies and what has to be done about it. There are two Trevor Von Eedens – the good one and the not-so-good one – but, fortunately, the good one's at work here, with mostly solid artwork that's starting to resemble John Byrne's, particularly in the second volume. The stories need a bit more oomph, but, all in all, pretty good.

The twist in Juan Diaz Canales and Guarnido's detective series BLACKSAD is it's BLACK MASK-style pulp fiction populated by anthropormorphs, like Art Spiegleman's MAUS. The eponymous hero is, as far as I can tell, a black panther with a white muzzle, and in all aspects he's a standard tough-as-nails grim but morally pure detective hero, and in BOOK 2 (IBooks, he's on a mission to the "Deep North" to find a kidnapped girl in a heavily racist society. At first, the "funny animal" aspect plays a bit like a tack-on, and it's annoying, since it seems the same story could be told without the affectation. About halfway through, that sensation evaporates, as the animal aspect becomes central to the message. The story's set roughly in the 1950s, but it's more like 1920s Indiana, when the Ku Klux Klan was at the height of their influence there, and after awhile there's nothing like having white furred animals tout their superiority over black or brown furred animals (not to mention white furred animals with tufts of brown or black) to show how really, really ridiculous racism is. Good story, good message, terrific art, excellent book.

For a long time, comics fans have complained about the need for another magazine that approaches comics intellectually without the supposed prejudices of THE COMICS JOURNAL. Robert Young's COMICS INTERPRETER is looking like a pretty good alternative. VOL. 2 #1 ($4.95) has the usual reviews and tidbits, interesting articles like Gene Phillips' "Defining The Superhero" (though I'd quibble with aspects of Phillips' argument), and interviews with Glenn Fabry, Alex Pardee, Paul Pope and Hans Rickheit. Kind of nice to see unabashed interest in everything from Marvel to mini-comics, though there's clearly an alt-comics sensibility at work. The magazine's strength is also it's weakness, though – while the interviews are good, there's too much emphasis on interview and not enough on interpretation or illumination – and the graphic design is also uncomfortably mechanical and lifeless. Still, it's worth supporting if you're in the market for a critical journal of comics art. Their hearts are in the right place, and their heads aren't far from there either.

Brit Jamie Delano, a longtime mainstay of 2000 AD and the first writer Alan Moore turned to when DC decided to give John Constantine his own book, is one of the great forgotten comics writers of the '90s, and 2020 VISIONS, a 12 issue maxi-series from Vertigo with art by Frank Quitely, Steve Pugh, Warren Pleece and James Romberger, is one of the great ignored series of that period. These are four vaguely interlinking touching nightmarish tales spread over a decaying future American landscape (though it's evident that Delano, as Warren Ellis was with TRANSMETROPOLITAN, which 2020 VISIONS in some ways prefigures, was writing about the time in which he was writing it). Anyway, Cyberosia has rescued it from oblivion in a new trade paperback collection ($29.95) that unfortunately in black and white, but this is material you should track down in whatever form you can find it. I believe it's due out at the end of the month. Consider it a must buy, and let's get Jamie back on something regularly. Imagination like his shouldn't be going to waste.

"In regards to the reader in this week's column, who said to dump Diamond and hire a sales staff, I caution anyone from trying that. This is exactly what we did at Future Comics and the resistance from the retailers, to having to order from another source, was incredible. There was so much inertia to their ordering and many of them just did not want to deal with it. Could it work? Yes, if one of two things were to occur:

1) You are publishing a product, trade paperbacks for example, with a much longer shelf life for the retailer and does not require monthly ordering commitments

2) You are selling and distributing a lot of product, at a better rate, with free shipping. For example, Crossgen could have done something like this, maybe if they teamed up with one of the smaller distributors, and offered small publishers the kind of price breaks the big ones get through Diamond. As for free shipping, it was amazing how many retailers were in love with the free shipping idea. Some were insane enough to pay more overall, as long as the shipping was free."

"Now we are talking. DC buys Marvel, and they will make everything more convoluted by having the characters get thrown together in the same universe. Marvel buys DC (as you suggested) and things go more my way. The universes stay separate (for the most part), and DC gets a house cleaning.

Cancellations: Without the need for unnecessary titles to keep the company afloat, Marvel cancels the extra stuff. Supes is pared down to ACTION COMICS and SUPERMAN. Batman appears in DETECTIVE and BATMAN. The other Bat universe books stay (depending on sales) and buzz. BATMAN/SUPERMAN continues too.

New Directions: JSA is untouched, but JLA gets a solid direction ending the rotating creative teams. Captain Marvel is brought back with his name on the cover instead of SHAZAM, and Peter David writes it.

Mature Readers: MAX is abandoned and Vertigo bridges the two lines of comics. All mature readers Marvel and DC characters go here now.

Wildstorm: Same strategy as before, but creator owned work gets to finally come to Marvel here.

Wow, I feel bad for all the other comic companies if this actually happens."

Other companies need not fret; it almost certainly won't, and I suspect if Marvel bought DC (which I didn't suggest, I just said if we were continuing the WWE-WCW parallel, that was the likeliest scenario) it wouldn't play out like that at all. Would Marvel even keep DC as a separate line? What would be the percentage for them? It's not like the general public identifies particular characters with particular companies. Most civilians I deal with think Marvel publishes Superman and Batman (and Spider-Man) anyway, and it's no secret that most DC titles would sell better if they had the Marvel label on them. So why would Marvel even continue the DC name if they bought the company? What's the point? Tradition?

And you do realize a Brian Bendis ORIGINAL CAPTAIN MARVEL would almost certainly be on the way?

"The idea of one DC buying Marvel (or vice-versa) is an intriguing one, but I'm not sure that integrating the two universes is a good idea. On a fanboy level, it sounds great (Hey, you could get a series like CAPTAIN AMERICA AND SUPERMAN: AMERICA'S FINEST or an annual Avengers/ Justice League team-up, a la the old Justice League/ Justice Society gatherings), but I don't think it will work well in practice. For one thing, you get some serious redundancy and overlap. The Avengers and JLA are essentially the same concept and having them constantly co-exist would bring into question the reasons for having them both (Yes, I know there have been multiple titles for both series in the past, such as WEST COAST AVENGERS and JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE, but those spin-offs didn't last all that long and, likewise, either the JLA or Avengers may have to be cancelled). The fact that it's mentioned that the Batman and Spider-man rogues galleries are basically interchangeable doesn't help; is it really all that different if Spidey fights Killer Croc instead of the Lizard? Do we really need both Namor and Aquaman? What about the Punisher and the Vigilante? Thanos and Darkseid? At least while these similar characters are at different companies, they seem less redundant by virtue of not co-existing, just as Majestic still has his own identity by being left in Wildstorm; in the DCU, he's just a dull Superman (yes, I know he moved to DC-proper temporarily a little while ago, but Superman wasn't around to step on his toes). The idea of Marvel and DC integrating is fun to dream about, but not very realistic.

On a separate note, just thought I'd comment on the Bush administration's push to make the government unanswerable to the U.S. public. I could be wrong, but doesn't this completely contradict the idea of democracy? It's both funny and very disturbing to see yet another display of your current government's disregard for the basics of your country (I'm Canadian, by the way)."

The administration isn't really interested in making the government unanswerable, just the executive branch. They're hardly the first administration to try that, and it's not surprising, since that would take originality. A lot of things in American life and government contradict the idea of democracy, which is why it's so important to keep insisting on it, because there are them – quite a few of them – what don't.

As for the company merger, it's not like each company doesn't incorporate a lot of redundancies of their own. The main issue would be what sells and what doesn't, though you inadvertently suggest an interesting scenario, a real "Crisis on Earth-Marvel/DC" pitting all the characters from the one line against all the characters from the other and wiping out huge chunks of them. (Or, as John Bunyan put it, "what of my dross thou find be bold to throw away, and yet preserve the gold.") I suggest the companies merge in a hurry, and hire Warren Ellis to write the slaughter.

"Actually, the most interesting thing to me about the Hand Puppet and the Veep agreeing to testify wasn't that they would only do so in the absence of recording instruments, e.g. cameras or tape recorders, but the fact that they will only testify together. That is, the two will be questioned for three hours while in the same room. I mean, it's a given in criminal investigations – not that I'm saying this is criminal – that the suspects are interrogated separately so they won't be able to get their stories straight. I'm thinking this means the Hands under the Puppet are unsure of his ability to actually stay on message or not screw it up completely without the Dick's support. The odd thing being no one seems to notice that this is an odd thing."

You don't think they're just there together for moral support?

"I work at Sam Goody's selling overpriced CD's, and we were until recently owned by Best Buy. Both chains have a subscription offer for ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, which is offered to every customer that pays with a credit card. The customer can get eight issues free, then cancel if they don't like it; or have their credit card charged for the next batch of issues (and every renewal, automatically).

A lot of people assume this is a screw-job from the start: you forget to call, and you get shafted. Nah. Even if you forget, or lose the number, it will show up on your statement with the phone number to cancel and remove the charge if you want. Screwing the customer isn't part of the big plan. Even getting them to sign up for good isn't even the big plan, not really. I think all those subscriptions add up, so EW can claim them when setting ad rates.

Break it down now: I work at a smaller volume store, and it's expected to turn in one subscription about every $1100 in sales, roughly ten a week. (The store receives eleven bucks per subscription, the sales associate receives...um, let's move on) Say ten EW's a week per each Sam Goody, Suncoast, Best Buy, and related stores; and even if only active subscriptions are counted, it's got to be a ton.

I get free copies, and I usually enjoy them, although I don't know that I'd buy any. It's also sometimes tough to get people to sign up: they think it's a scam, they aren't interested in reviews, they don't read, and so forth. But it's a big expectation at work. It would be easier if they rotated magazines every so often: EW one month, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED or something the next. If any comics company still had enough pull to get on something like that, it might be the last shot at getting the number up; but that seems pretty pie-in-the-sky there."

"In a step toward solving the younger reader (or an older reader wanting to maintain their inner younger reader's viewpoint) versus older reader problem of mainstream character development or situations, would a division of children and adult imprints help the situation? For example, if DC were to publish a Superman comic aimed at late pre-adolescent /early teen and a Vertigo Superman catered to college crowds. Thus, DC most popular properties like Superman can cater to both children and mature readers without alienating either demographic market or sacrificing brand identification. While comics aimed at late pre-adolescent/early teen Superman could handle truth, justice, and the American way, the Vertigo-esque Superman could handle more complex human relationships, current affairs, or material suitable for an older audience. Theoretically, DC's younger readers would gradually move to the older imprint while still attracted to the comic property e.g. Superman. Do you believe this would be feasible?"

It's theoretically possible, but in a corporate environment that has largely depended on selling Superman to children for decades, it's unlikely. Not that I'd mind seeing a "Vertigo Superman," but it would certainly open up bold new possibilities for market confusion and parental screaming. The trick is to make children and the general public aware of the difference between brands so that no "Vertigo Superman" ends up in the hands of the pre-adolescent Superman reader – who would probably want the Vertigo Superman the instant he knew it existed, the way most people are about forbidden fruit. Hence the parental screaming. It's not the worst idea I've ever heard, but from a corporate/public relations viewpoint it's arguably a time bomb waiting to blow up in their faces. I think way too much is made of "comics for younger readers" anyway, since there's not exhaustive evidence younger readers actually want comics tailored for them. Let's face it, the main entry comic in the business is X-MEN...

"FirstWave Printing & Distribution is run by my good friend Brad, and the prices are pretty reasonable. Orders have been light, but if there are creators out there who want the option, could you possibly mention us in a future column?"

No.

Finally, a couple weeks ago I mentioned the dearth of apparent promotion by DC at WizardWorld Long Beach for their new Focus line, emphasizing people with extraordinary powers in non-superheroic situations, which prompted the following from my friend Steve Gerber, who's writing the first title in the line, HARD TIME:

"'Notable in reports of DC news [from the WizardWorld convention in L.A.] was no mention of their 'superpeople who aren't superheroes' line, Focus, which suggests either DC has already lost interest in it or the comics press has.'

For the record, DC has definitely not lost interest in the Focus titles. HARD TIME has been given the green light for a full year, and DC assures me they're approaching both the book and the imprint with an eye on the long term.

I can't speak for the comics press, of course, but I'm getting a different impression there, too. Most of the reviews continue to be favorable (with the occasional glaring exception), and I'm still getting requests to do interviews. Two months into the run of a new book, that's unusual.

None of us associated with HARD TIME -- artist Brian Hurtt, editor Joan Hilty, VP-Editorial Dan Didio, or myself -- ever expected the book to be an overnight hit. As you well know, that's virtually impossible in the current market for any series that isn't a revamp, devamp, revival, or relaunch of some familiar superhero concept. If HARD TIME succeeds, it'll happen the way it did for series like PREACHER and TRANSMET: over time, and fueled by impassioned word-of-mouth from the readers.

Lately, I've been picking up snatches of a grassroots conversation that's begun about the book. It's been noticed. I remain optimistic."

The always entertaining Alex Toth page now has a new Toth essay on the role of characters' body English and facial gestures in comics storytelling that's brief but worth checking out.

My new favorite show is HBO's DEADWOOD (10PM Sundays), which HBO has already renewed for a second season after only three episodes in. If you have access to HBO and haven't seen the show, they're rerunning all three episodes this Friday. Set those VCRs!

The celebration of Alan Moore continues! Not long ago, Gary Millidge (check out his lovely self-published STRANGEHAVEN if you haven't, distributed in the States by Top Shelf) published ALAN MOORE: PORTRAIT OF AN EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMAN ($14.95), an appreciation by many hands honoring the great man on his 50th birthday, as a benefit for Alzheimer's charities. To date, the book has raised $36,854.45. Congratulations, Gary. Congratulations, Alan. Also recently read George Khoury's THE EXTRAORDINARY WORKS OF ALAN MOORE (TwoMorrows Publishing; $24.95), which is really a very long, elaborately illustrated career-examining interview with Alan, featuring many rare Moore works and new art from Dave McKean, David Lloyd, Chris Sprouse, Ian Gibson and numerous others. No Moore bookshelf is complete without either of them.

For months, I've been hearing about the film 21 GRAMS. Sean Penn even won an Oscar for it. Finally saw it. Terrible movie. Just terrible. It may be the worst well-acted film ever made. Something of an achievement, I admit. Making a bad film with bad acting is easy. Making a really bad film with really good acting takes real work. Penn deserves his Oscar. Naomi Watts may be the best film actress in the world today. Benecio Del Toro and Melissa Leo (formerly of HOMICIDE) are terrific in it. And the story stinks. The self-destructive Penn receives the heart of Watts' husband (run down, along with their daughters, by Christ-obsessed ex-con Del Toro) and doesn't accept he deserves it, so Penn stalks Watts into a relationship and comes up with a really stupid way to prove his own worth. There's so little story in it that the director chopped it up and spliced it together non-linear to make it even remotely interesting, but there's no rhyme or reason to the editing or revelations. In something like MEMENTO, the structure of the story is thematically essential, and makes the film's ultimate kick possible. In 21 GRAMS (they have to beat a dead horse with a stick at the end of the film just to justify the title, but it's gibberish) it's just pointless window dressing, the Emperor's new clothes. It's a morose mess, and a shame such good acting was put to such slight use. Skip it.

You may have heard of THE LOSERS, Andy Diggle & Jock's much-lauded but little-selling espionage/action thriller from Vertigo. Yet there are many people out there who feel the book is deserving of support, and a few of them have come up with a novel way to promote it: a contest where you can win either an entire set of THE LOSERS or a LOSERS poster signed by Andy and Jock. I'm told this is a test for a regular contest that would support a different series each month (am also told it's an R-rated site, so take that into consideration) so if you're interested click on the link.

For the many who've asked, three weeks after my car crash I'm fine. No pain or tenseness anywhere, the only physical sign of anything a wobbly fading yellow streak on my chest. Started lifting weights again yesterday, though I'll work my way back up over a couple weeks to what I was pushing pre-crash. Except for playing catch-up financially, it's all over now, baby blue. Thanks for suffering through it with me.

You can also hit up your local comics retailer for:

DAMNED: trade paperback from Cyberosia, art by Mike Zeck and Denis Rodier, coloring by Kurt Goldzung

Crime. A parolee jumps parole to fulfill a promise to a dead cellmate, and finds himself hunted by mobsters looking for missing money he knows nothing about, in a city where he has no friends.

MORTAL SOULS: trade paperback from Avatar Press, art by Philip Xavier

Crime/horror. A police detective tracks and kills a female serial killer, only to gain her gift of seeing her targets for what they really are: the dead, who run the world, and who hate the living.

BADLANDS: trade paperback from AiT/PlanetLar Books, art by Vince Giarrano

Crime story, set in 1963 and starring the man who really killed John Kennedy.

BADLANDS: THE UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY: text from AiT/PlanetLar

Screenplay version of BADLANDS, designed to ward off anyone who wants to make a movie of it.

PUNISHER:CIRCLE OF BLOOD: trade paperback from Marvel Comics, art by Mike Zeck and John Beatty

Crime. The original mini-series that transformed The Punisher from a minor character into a movie-franchise spawning star. Imprisoned for his killings, the Punisher fights to survive and escape, but the war he declares on organized crime once he's out takes an unexpected turn.

HATED AND FEARED: Best Of X-MEN UNLIMITED: trade paperback from Marvel Comics collecting a number of short X-Men stories, including two by me: a "Blob" story with art by Sean Phillips, and a "Lockheed The Dragon" story drawn by Paul Smith.

GREEN LANTERN: TRAITOR: trade paperback from DC Comics, art by Mike Zeck, Gil Kane, Scott Kolins and Klaus Janson

Superhero action. Three generations of Green Lanterns – the alien Abin Sur in the old west, Hal Jordan joined by the Atom in the Silver Age, and the modern Green Lantern Kyle Raynor – battle an unstoppable cyborg powered by the stars and driven by a religious calling to snuff out all life in the universe.

FRANK MILLER'S ROBOCOP, monthly comic from Avatar Press, art by Juan Jose Ryp

Science fiction action. The most faithful adaptation of a screenplay in history. From the version of ROBOCOP 2 that was never filmed, Frank Miller's vision of the decaying future city of Detroit is realized for the first time, as Robocop crosses swords with a demented squadron of military police and a program-altering self-proclaimed moral watchdog, while the real police go on strike and OCP readies an even more powerful Robocop to replace him.

I encourage the patronage of local comics shops where applicable, but don't forget that if you can't find what you want there, you can always shop the fine online retailers Khepri and Mars Import. Lately I've been getting a lot of e-mails from people wanting to know what address to send review copies to. If you continue reading down to the bottom of the column, it's right there.

And, once again cribbing from last week (because, frankly, I'm running out of time):

Remember that the final issue of the first MY FLESH IS COOL miniseries is now out, with lovely art by Sebastian Fiumara. Next up: a little thing I like to call SACRILEGE, but more about that later.

You can also hit up your local comics retailer for:

DAMNED: trade paperback from Cyberosia, art by Mike Zeck and Denis Rodier, coloring by Kurt Goldzung

Crime. A parolee jumps parole to fulfill a promise to a dead cellmate, and finds himself hunted by mobsters looking for missing money he knows nothing about, in a city where he has no friends.

MORTAL SOULS: trade paperback from Avatar Press, art by Philip Xavier

Crime/horror. A police detective tracks and kills a female serial killer, only to gain her gift of seeing her targets for what they really are: the dead, who run the world, and who hate the living.

BADLANDS: trade paperback from AiT/PlanetLar Books, art by Vince Giarrano

Crime story, set in 1963 and starring the man who really killed John Kennedy.

BADLANDS: THE UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY: text from AiT/PlanetLar

Screenplay version of BADLANDS, designed to ward off anyone who wants to make a movie of it.

PUNISHER:CIRCLE OF BLOOD: trade paperback from Marvel Comics, art by Mike Zeck and John Beatty

Crime. The original mini-series that transformed The Punisher from a minor character into a movie-franchise spawning star. Imprisoned for his killings, the Punisher fights to survive and escape, but the war he declares on organized crime once he's out takes an unexpected turn.

HATED AND FEARED: Best Of X-MEN UNLIMITED: trade paperback from Marvel Comics collecting a number of short X-Men stories, including two by me: a "Blob" story with art by Sean Phillips, and a "Lockheed The Dragon" story drawn by Paul Smith.

GREEN LANTERN: TRAITOR: trade paperback from DC Comics, art by Mike Zeck, Gil Kane, Scott Kolins and Klaus Janson

Superhero action. Three generations of Green Lanterns – the alien Abin Sur in the old west, Hal Jordan joined by the Atom in the Silver Age, and the modern Green Lantern Kyle Raynor – battle an unstoppable cyborg powered by the stars and driven by a religious calling to snuff out all life in the universe.

FRANK MILLER'S ROBOCOP, monthly comic from Avatar Press, art by Juan Jose Ryp

Science fiction action. The most faithful adaptation of a screenplay in history. From the version of ROBOCOP 2 that was never filmed, Frank Miller's vision of the decaying future city of Detroit is realized for the first time, as Robocop crosses swords with a demented squadron of military police and a program-altering self-proclaimed moral watchdog, while the real police go on strike and OCP readies an even more powerful Robocop to replace him.

I encourage the patronage of local comics shops where applicable, but don't forget that if you can't find what you want there, you can always shop the fine online retailers Khepri and Mars Import.

Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail me but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it's not trying to sell me something. IMPORTANT: Because a lot of people apparently list it in their e-address books, this account has gotten a slew of virus-laden messages lately. They're no real threat but dealing with them eats up time I don't really have, to the extent I can no longer accept unsolicited e-mail with attachments. If you want to send something via attachment (say, art samples) ask me first. If I say okay, then send. Unsolicited e-mail with attachments will be wiped from the server without being read. You can also leave messages for me and have discussions on other topics at my Delphi forum, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Please don't ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.

Those wanting to subscribe to the WHISPER e-mail newsletter should click here.

I'm reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I'll mention them – at Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074, so send 'em if you want 'em mentioned, since I can't review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can't do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.

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