Issue #238

CELLULOID DREAMS: lessons to be learned from V FOR VENDETTA, and what should comics expect from the movies, anyway?

COMING DISTRACTIONS: Creators bring us up to date on their 2006 projects, coming soon to a comics shop near you

STREET LEGAL: why the Republican Congress' hopes all lie south of the border

: Comic Creators On X-Men, A Handbook Of American Prayer, ConstantineNOTES FROM UNDER THE FLOORBOARDS: my script book at last, reality shows, apologizing to Peter, Comics Cover Challenge results that'll turn you green, cheap shot fun and more

All that aside, it was entertaining enough to sit through, and (might as well damn with faint praise while we're at it) a far better adaptation of Alan's work than FROM HELL or THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. The story logic got shaky in parts but at least it wasn't blisteringly obvious during viewing, and obviously the Wachowskis abandoned Alan's sympathies for those on the lowest rungs of society by focusing on the middle class and transforming Evey from a desperate streetwalker to a semi-pampered office worker, and the weakest moments in the film in fact come out of their longwinded, clunky speeches (which also helped sink the two later MATRIX films) that have none of the cadences and style of Alan's; where the movie lifts dialogue directly from the graphic novel it soars. (Particularly Valery's deathnote.) But Natalie Portman, whom I haven't much cared for since her debut in THE PROFESSIONAL, is pretty much flawless in the film, Stephen Rea is so vital and young looking it took me twenty minutes to be certain it was him, and Hugo Weaving deserves an Oscar for crystallizing the character of V so perfectly without benefit of an actual face, or even eyes. I liked Stephen Fry's character, willing to tolerate and even ignore the system because he thinks it can't apply to him. (Could've lived without the Benny Hill sketch, though.) Too bad John Hurt and Tim Pigott-Smith's characters were so cartoonish, because those four certainly weren't. A brilliant movie? Not so much. A way to kill a Saturday afternoon? Perfectly functional.

(Feel free to go here for a vehemently opposing viewpoint.)

Prior to the film's release, there was much speculation that it would rouse the ire of right-wing pundits for its not so tacit defense of anti-state terrorism; I think it's fairly significant that neither many pundits nor much of the moviegoing public take that aspect of the film all that seriously at all, which suggests it's not all that hot button an issue. (For right wing pundits that would be hypocritical anyway, since not very long ago they were exhorting their audience to arm themselves against the inevitable day when the (liberal) US government would have to be overthrown by force.) The biggest firestorms around the movie burn in comics circles, sparked by executive producer Joel Silver's ill-considered invocation of Alan Moore's non-existent endorsement of the film, and Alan's subsequent denunciation of Silver, DC Comics, Hollywood and any contracts he may ever have signed that made any film adaptations of his work possible. The flames were recently fanned when FROM HELL/LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN producer Don Murphy (immortalized in Quentin Tarantino's legend of having punched Murphy out at Hollywood eatery Ago) annoyed various fans, including CBR's own Rich Johnston on the Newsarama message boards with his interpretation of Alan's behavior. Much of what Murphy said was dismissed as coming from a defensive stance, but his most interesting comment was pretty much ignored by everyone:

"He thinks that the VENDETTA movie changed his work and this upsets him. Did Lewis Carroll ever conceive of his heroine having lesbian sex with JM Barrie's Wendy? Or, for that matter, did Alan ASK Robert Louis Stevenson if he wanted Mr. Hyde to fancy Bram Stoker's Mina Harker?"

Which is a perfectly valid observation, and not specifically to do with Alan. In the years since Philip Jose Farmer did his first stories about knock-offs of Tarzan and Doc Savage, comics creators in particular - many of them following Alan's example - have taken to viewing old literary characters (not to mention historical ones) as fair game, while there has also been growing sentiment especially in the fan community but also in the professional community that the use of concepts by those other than the creators should match the creators' original intent. (Interestingly, this viewpoint tends to vanish when they come up with their own variation on, oh, The Blue Beetle or whatever.) But Murphy's point stands: if we can cherry pick and reinterpret other people's ideas and creations with impugnity, why shouldn't other people be able to cherry pick and reinterpret ours? I mean, sure, it's kind of inane that Sam Raimi's version of Spider-Man makes webbing naturally out of his hands - sure, spiders make webbing naturally, but from their mouths is we're getting naturalistic in our old age - but hey. It's his movie.

Which leads up to the question of what should comics expect from Hollywood?

Anyone who has paid any attention to Hollywood films over the last 100 years or so would immediately conclude that faithfulness to the original concept isn't something we should expect. It's always nice, of course, and there are times when it even happens, usually when Hollywood feels they're letting themselves in for more trouble than it's worth if it doesn't happen (the HARRY POTTER franchise) or when a director and producer make special efforts to stay as faithful to the work as possible (LORD OF THE RINGS). And even those take some major liberties with the source material.

Aside from the complex web of permissions and interferences that beset any Hollywood film - much as we like to think of filmmaking as an Irving Thalberg paradise of vision and artistic expression, the main intended function of movies is to make lots and lots and lots of money, as any banker responsible for film financing will tell you - the fact is that almost any graphic novel worth its salt cannot be faithfully adapted. While Hollywood adapts a lot of novels to film, short stories come in at a much more appropriate length if we're talking faithful adaptation. There's just not enough room in a two hour film to cover that much material. So characters get dropped or incorporated into others, entire subplots vanish, stories streamline. I mean, hell, if they do it to Victor Hugo I don't know why anyone's expecting they're not going to do it to Alan Moore. In FROM HELL and V FOR VENDETTA, Alan wrote very complex narratives that are very difficult to capsulize; the right medium for a faithful adaptation would be the long TV mini-series, not the two hour movie, and even then it's unlikely their lengthier philosophical passages would make the cut. Audiences are simply trained not to focus on long speeches on film or TV, or long dialogues in which nothing happens but talk. A Platonic society we're not.

In fact, the perfect medium for FROM HELL, V FOR VENDETTA and LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN turns out to be comic books. Where Alan put the stories in the first place.

So if the film versions were never going to be faithful adaptations in the first place, why pursue film adaptations of comics and graphic novels? (Not, of course, that Alan did, but much of the focus of the comics industry these days is pursuit of the movie deal, epitomized by the extraordinary number of publishers that have come and largely gone in the last few years with the business plan of developing comics properties they can then sell to film and TV.)

This is the value of film for comics, of which Marvel is well aware:

Money. Not that there's as much money involved as everyone seems to think there is - unless you're willing to go in there and fight for it in your deal (the same goes for control, which studios are loathe to surrender but that's the only way you're going to be absolutely sure from the start you'll end up with a faithful adaptation of your work) which only works if you're willing to walk away from the deal if you don't get what you want, and most people aren't - but there is money. For talent, the money that can be got from film sales, if the talent is smart enough in their business dealings, can mean a few months of doing the comics they want to do without concern over how they'll pay their mortgage. That may sound flip but it's certainly a big consideration. The trap, of course, is when you start concocting comics just so you can pitch the concepts to Hollywood. Believe it or not, even a Hollywood producer can generally smell the difference between an idea that actually interested its originator and one slapped together for a sideways movie pitch.

Publicity. Movies can do for comics what they do for novels. It doesn't always happen, but it's not uncommon now that movies come out and the graphic novels they're based on sell more. The V FOR VENDETTA collection has been flying off the shelves. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE got that book back into print. Max Allan Collins did just fine on sales of ROAD TO PERDITION in the wake of the film, and even spun off prose novels from it. In general, movies mean more sales. It's easy to forget now that the revival of public interest in comics in general in the late '80s was fueled in large part by Tim Burton's BATMAN film, which galvanized the then-fading comics shops and, courtesy of DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, prompted wider interest in more sophisticated comics, especially things like WATCHMEN, SANDMAN and V FOR VENDETTA. Not that there weren't many other factors at play, but the importance of BATMAN shouldn't be overlooked, and that the field gutted itself through short-sighted, predatory business moves later (presaged, actually, by the subsequent "Batman collapse" where Batman merchandise abruptly stopped selling after the film cooled) doesn't diminish its importance. It's not impossible that another film could pop up that would generate a new wave of widespread interest in American comics. V FOR VENDETTA (which someone cleverly and correctly dubbed "George Orwell's Batman") may not be that film, but it's part of the continuum.

The main disconnect for many fans and professionals when it comes to adaptations of comics work is that they just can't quite absorb that the adaptation is not the original work. It's highly unlikely that most filmgoers strongly judge source material by the film adapted from it. Most filmgoers go to the movies to see movies, and the main function of filmgoing in our society isn't entertainment or enlightenment but foreplay. That's it. And most are schooled enough in the ways of Hollywood to at least wonder how close a film is to what it's based on. I suspect most are experienced enough to know the answer is usually "not very."

The fact is, and I'm far from the first to acknowledge this but it should be said as many times as possible until everyone gets it, that the original work stands regardless of the adaptation. The adaptation can never change the original work. Anyone who comes out of V FOR VENDETTA and wants to experience the original can still experience the original, and it's an entirely different experience. Adaptation of any sort is the sincerest form of treachery, and treachery is the least we should expect. If we can get over the misapprehension that a film based on a comic book is somehow a reflection or replacement of that material, and see movies made from comics as what they really are - subsidies - individual talent and the business at large would have an easier time of dealing with them.

So here they are, the 2006 crop:

From Steve Roman's Starwarp Graphics:

DOCTOR WHO: SHORT TRIPS: FAREWELLS: The latest in a series of anthologies from Big Finish Productions, producers of the Doctor Who CD audio adventures. My contribution is "Into the Silent Land," a 4th Doctor (i.e., Tom Baker) story that deals with how he comes to terms with his upcoming regeneration. The book's in hardcover and retails for £14.99 in the UK, which means it's in the $23-$25 range here in the States. Available in March. [cover jpeg attached]

X-MEN: DARKTIDE: A straight-to-DVD CGI cartoon that I co-wrote with animation director William Vaughan for toy manufacturer Art Asylum. It features Minimates versions of the X-Men (think Lego-type people) fighting Magneto and Sentinels. The DVD comes bundled with 4 Minimates figures and retails for around $18.00. Available right now at comic shops and Target stores. [cover jpeg attached]

IF I WERE AN EVIL OVERLORD: A villain-themed anthology from DAW Books. My story is "To Sit in Darkness Here, Hatching Vain Empires," about an evil genius (of course) and what happens when his latest plan to take over the world goes horribly wrong. The book will probably be a mass-market paperback and retail for $6.99 or so. No release month has been announced yet, but it *will* be out this year.

From Mike Baron, Gabriel Eltaeb & Bighead Press:

In the far future, musicians will flee earthly state authority, and gather on a planet where they hope to build a better world based on their love of music. But as is sometimes said, "Man makes plans, and God laughs." In THE HOOK, a new graphic novel written by Mike Baron, this world of musicians is divided into numerous enclaves ruled by violent gangs. Each enclave is at war with the others. Conventional weapons were banned, but musical instruments have become even deadlier. On Granite Planet, chords can kill. Trumpets can decapitate. Tympani can terrorize. Beginning in April Big Head Press will be posting pages from The Hook on their website every few days. Readers can go to the site and read the pages for free. There will be NO catches, no registration, no credit card numbers required, no tricks, just read the comic for free. After the series has been completed on-line the book will be released as a Trade Paperback.

From Stuart Immonen and One Horse Leadworks:

50 REASONS TO STOP SKETCHING AT CONVENTIONS, an 80 page b&w pocketbook collecting the irreverently satirical series of comic strips which expose the peculiarly strained relationship between creator and fan, Stuart Immonen's 50 REASONS is a gentle poke in the eye and a tongue-in-cheek handbook for comic book convention etiquette. It's available for $5.95 at www.immonen.ca.

From Stuart Moore:

FIRESTORM - DC Comics - art by Jamal Igle and Keith Champagne, color by David Baron, covers by Brian Stelfreeze. Ongoing monthly comic; $2.50 ($2.99 as of May). Can an ordinary college student and a junior U.S. Senator share a superhero identity without driving each other crazy? What contrived reason have I come up with to team up Killer Frost and Mister Freeze? And what happened to Professor "Floating Head" Stein, anyway?

JSA CLASSIFIED: "The Fall and Rise of Vandal Savage" - DC Comics - art by Paul Gulacy and Jimmy Palmiotti, color by David Baron, covers by Gulacy. Four issues of an ongoing monthly comic (#10-13), March through June; $2.50 ($2.99 as of May). A tale of brain damage and revenge spanning the entire lifespan of DC's twisted, 37,000-year-old villain. Features probably the only pirate scene I'll ever write.

WOLVERINE: "The Package" - Marvel Comics - art, color, and cover by CP Smith. One extra-length issue (#41) of an ongoing monthly comic, out in April; $3.99. Wolverine must escape from a devastated African country, past an army of savage killers -- with a baby strapped to him. Yes, I pitched it as "Logan Wolf and Cub."

STAR TREK: "Chaotic Response" -- prose novella appearing in CONSTELLATIONS, a 40th Anniversary TREK anthology edited by Marco Palmieri, September 2006, from Pocket Books. Trade paperback, $14.00. Kirk and McCoy must rescue Spock from a deadly mental trap that takes them from the trauma of the Vulcan's early logic training to his first day on board the Enterprise, commanded by Captain Pike. Geeky goodness infused with actual logic theory (what little I know of it).

EARTHLIGHT book 1: "Staring at the Sun" - Tokyopop - art and cover by Christopher Schons. Original OEL manga, October 2006. A high school drama set on the first moon colony -- a tense place of tangled international politics, rigid safety regulations, and the constant threat of terrorism. Kind of like a Heinlein YA novel with a really nasty twist near the end.

Not yet scheduled: REALITY BITES - Games Workshop - my second prose novel in their revived Dark Future series. AMERICAN MEAT, my first, is on sale now. REDWALL - Penguin/Philomel - art by Bret Blevins. Adaptation of the bestselling fantasy novel. And assorted short stories, including a lovely ESCAPIST piece with Phil Winslade that will appear when Dark Horse decides how to reformat the new material.

From Bart Thompson & Approbation Comics:

Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies Preview #1-4 (Approbation Comics, $3.50) First looks at Approbation Comics most anticipated pop culture parody comic! Zombies have taken over the city and the only hope we have for humanity's survival lies in the hands of the three buxom remaining members of the Epsilon Alpha Zeta Upsilon sorority! Issues #1 & 2 currently on sale now!

Lethal Instinct Vol. 2 (Alias Enterprises, $2.99) Homicide Detective & werewolf Frank Aaron returns with a new case. A mysterious and empowered serial killer plagues Blackstone City and the detectives have to discover his sinister pattern and stop him before his ultimate twisted plans come to fruition.

Blood, Shells, & Roses (Arcana Studios, $3.50) A popular heavy metal band is framed when a concert full of their fans are brutally slain. Now fugitives, the band must outrun the police while hunting the monsters wrecking a trail of havoc.

ChiSai: Duality (Approbation Comics, $3.50) After nearly losing her life for vengeance, Shy puts aside her bulletproof uniform and weapons to try and lead a normal life with her family. But after three years of violence, Shy's old life comes looking for her & she has to make amends for what she's done... which means donning the uniform once more.

From Gary Reed:

RED DIARIES, from Image/Desperado, art by Christopher Jones, Laurence Campbell & Larry Shuput, 168p trade paperback, $16.95. A conspiracy saga of the mysterious diaries kept by Marilyn Monroe and then continued by a hitman which reveal the murder of Marilyn, who killed Kennedy, and all the cover ups involved.

From Dan Mishkin & Tom Mandrake:

THE FOREST KING by Dan Mishkin and Tom Mandrake leads off a new line of short, richly illustrated young adult novels by comics creators, published by Actionopolis. Available in comics shops and bookstores this July (it's in the April Previews), the novel tells the story of Justin Woodlark, who moves to a small New England town in the aftermath of a family tragedy, and discovers that an ancient evil is on the rise there. But before he can confront the menace that lurks in the forest, Justin has to confront his own fears, as well as the risk of becoming an outcast among the other young people in the town. Hardcover, $12.95.

From Dwight McPherson:

"A Zombie Tale" in CRYPTIC MAGAZINE (Dead Dog Entertainment, $7.95, Diamond code NOV05 3364) with art by Aadi Salman. It's the end of the world as we know it... at least for New York City. Inhabitants wander the streets seeking food and finding none. This is a tale of one of these hopeless zombies narrated by the zombie himself. And you won't believe what he is thinking.

Story Title: "Morbid Milton" in CRYPTIC MAGAZINE (Diamond code MAR06 3626) with art by Bob Byrne. Milton loves toys just like every other kid. But every other kid doesn't have toys made from cadavers! Join Milton and his abominable toys in this prequel to the upcoming Dead Dog mini-series Morbid Milton Saves Scarytown.

ABRA CADAVER: The Afterlife Adventures of Harry Houdini (Dead Dog Entertainment mini-series, $4.95@) Death was just the beginning of Harry Houdini's adventure. Plunged into the depths of Hell, Harry managed to escape with the assistance of an unknown benefactor. Defeated, Satan sent him into the future-- March 1945. Now, with the assistance of his wife's displaced spirit in a crystal ball, he is forced to combat the most evil man the world has ever known: Adolph Hitler. With the fate of the world is in his hands, it will take every fibre of his illusionary prowess if the human race is to continue.

JIM REAPER: Week One (from Silent Devil Productions, 40 pg one-shot, $3.95) with art by Mathieu Benoit, July 2006. Fearing an imminent breakdown, the Grim Reaper decides to take a Holiday. After an exhaustive search for a replacement, he finds only his cousin's nephew's son to collect the souls of those who are perishing. Enter the timid Jim Reaper. The only problem is that Jim is scared of his own shadow and his first week on the job may ultimately prove the destruction of his own immortal soul-- or worse.

MORBID MILTON SAVES SCARYTOWN (from Dead Dog Entertainment, July mini-series, $3.95@) with art by Bob Byrne. Neighbors suck. But when a new neighbor moves in who has vowed to end your life, that REALLY sucks. When Milton's arch-nemesis, Destructo, moves next door, it's a fight to the death between Milton and his toys made from human cadavers and Destructo with his robot battalions. Cadavers, giant robots, laser death rays and jet packs-- what more could you possibly ask for?

LI'L HELLIONS: A Day at the Zoo (from Silent Devil Productions, $3.95 September one-shot) with art by Mathieu Benoit. A day at the zoo for a group of kids is no cause for alarm -- unless those kids are from the bowels of Hell. Join Jim Reaper, Louie and Lucy, twin children of Satan and Boog, the son of the Boogey Man as they decide to escape the monotony of their existence in Hell and pay a visit to a zoo on our mortal plane. When their field trip goes terribly wrong, it's up to Jim Reaper to save the earth from destruction... if he can control his bowels long enough.

From Mike Baron & Andie Tong:

Veteran comics writer Mike Baron will join the next wave of Web-comics creators with The Architect, a 70-page graphic novella created with the hot up-and-comer artist Andie Tong, from Big Head Press

From Shon C. Bury:

THRESHOLD #1 (of 5) (Narwain) By Shon C. Bury, Goldman, & Waysek. Imagine Joseph Campbell's Hero Cycle, but peppered with both comic relief and Everyman situations. Enter a world of demons, goddesses, and mystical gurus when grad-student Joey King receives a mysterious journal, a magickal staff (with a "k" no less), and an amulet that is as ancient as it is strange. Joey has little time to ponder these items as Shadow Wraiths attack! Full color. Cover price $3.99. March Diamond Preview page 310, product code MAR063323.

From Sam Hart:

BROTHERS: THE FALL OF LUCIFER (Markosia, $3.50, 36 pgs, 10-part series, begins in March) by Wendy Alec, Tony Lee, Sam Hart and Artur Fujita. Lucifer begins to wonder about God's plans for the new race of Man... and an insane jealousy starts to grow - one which could not only threaten his relationship with his two brothers, but also split the angelic armies in half! Based on the book by Wendy Alec.

STARSHIP TROOPERS: BLAZE OF GLORY - ALAMO BAY (Markosia, $3.50, 36 pgs, 4-part series, begins in March) by Tony Lee, Sam Hart, Rod Reis and Kieran Oats. Rookie Will Tanner joins Tamari's Tigers - one of the fiercest units in the mobile infantry - in time for their next mission: to rescue the survivors of Alamar "Alamo" Bay from a planet full of bugs.

From John Fultz:

PRIMORDIA, a 96 pg graphic novel of epic fantasy (Dreams Illustrated) by John R. Fultz & Roel Wielinga. Alleyar leads his savage Sun Tribes against the monstrous Night Tribes of his twin brother, Driniel the Moon-Lord. Vega, a princess of the mysterious Woodfolk, must decide between these two warring kings, both of whom she loves deeply. The Gods of Primordia watch from their sky palaces, oblivious to Man's suffering as the mortal races spill their blood across the primal stones. Yet the scheming Lord of Secrets knows the truth: that the power of the twin sorcerers will forever alter the destinies of men and gods alike...

From Jiba Anderson:

THE HORSEMEN: DIVINE INTERVENTION (The Dirt Mug Collection) (Griot Enterprises, 144 pg graphic novel, $21.95) by Jiba Molei Anderson & Patrick Brower. The Horsemen is the story of seven ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, as the gods of ancient Africa possess them. The gods have chosen them, to protect humanity from itself…whether humanity wants them to or not. They have been chosen to combat those who control the fate of the planet. Through their actions, the world would never be the same.

From Drew Melbourne:

ARCHENEMIES (Dark Horse Comics) by Drew Melbourne, Yvel Guichet & Joe Rubinstein. A superhero and his archenemy don't realize that they're roommates in their secret identities. As hero and villain, they hate each other. But as roommates, they hate each other even more. The first issue of ARCHENEMIES will be on stands April 5th, the same day as the column!

From Mark Verheiden:

SUPERMAN/BATMAN: #26 is the amazing jam issue tribute to Jeph Loeb's son Sam. #27 starts my official run on the title and features art by Kevin Maguire (it's one year later and what in the world has gotten into Superman/Batman?), then with SUPERMAN/BATMAN #28 we start a six issue arc with amazing artwork by Ethan Van Sciver. Down the road, but already in the pipeline, I'm writing a three issue SUPERMAN/BATMAN/METAL MEN story with art by Pat Lee. In other media, I'm writer/co-executive producer on season three of the TV series BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (coming back in October, tell your friends!), and writer/producer of the feature film MY NAME IS BRUCE, starring and directed by Bruce Campbell, shooting later this Spring.

From Adam Wallenta:

PUBLIC ENEMY, the official comic book series of the world famous hiphop band, by Chuck D and Adam Wallenta, from American Mule Entertainment ($2.99, ongoing comics series. Issue #0 is available in the April Diamond Previews on page 225 Item code will be APR062899. Our giant sized issue #1 will follow in July.) The evil Executives and their New World Order are about to unleash their master plan for world domination. Before they can succeed though, they must eliminate a young boy named Vincent who holds the key to their ultimate secret weapon. Unfortunately for the Executives, Vincent is a Public Enemy fan. In a desperate attempt to destroy their enemies, the Executives devise a plan that will eliminate Vincent, Public Enemy and their Underground Railroad allies in one clean swoop. This is the beginning of an epic battle for peace and justice as Public Enemy and the Underground Railroad fight the powers that be to keep the America people free from tyranny and oppression.

From Shawn Richter:

AGAINST THE WALL By Dino Caruso & Shawn Richter, $11.99 80pg graphic novel from Caruso Comics. Dalton Prior's dream is to make independent movies. To finance that dream, he's been playing Wall Ball...a one-on-one baseball hustle. But Dalton doesn't realize that he's about to be betrayed by a former opponent who sets up a sting involving a dangerous woman and a big money game.

From Anthony Taylor:

THE FUTURE WAS FAB: The Art of Mike Trim, by Anthony Taylor with Mike Trim, published by Hermes Press. 144 pages. Trade Paperback, 9x12 inches, $29.95. Celebrating more than forty years as a designer, Trim has now collaborated with author Anthony Taylor to produce a full-color collection of his works, an in-depth review of the artist's entire career as a sci-fi designer and illustrator. Featuring hundreds of full-color and black-and-white drawings, paintings, marker comps and photos, the book offers a one-of-a-kind, up-close-and-personal view of how the artist foretells the future at the end of a paintbrush. Also chronicled: his techniques and influences, unproduced and upcoming projects, and more. Available July 25.

From Steven O'Connell:

BLOODRAYNE: TWIN BLADES, from Digital Webbing, by Steven O'Connell, Steve Scott & Stacie Ponder. $3.99 U.S., 32 pages. Twin Blades reveals a tale of Rayne's young life when she meets up with Declan Finney -- a Dhampir who claims to have been cured by the Brimstone Society and is now human. Can anyone shed their Dhampir skin? Rayne hopes so...by the end of this tale, fans will know one thing for certain -- the origin of Rayne's spectacular blades. Diamond code MAR06 3170.

From Mike Imboden:

FIST OF JUSTICE: REBIRTH, PT 1, in DIGITAL WEBBING PRESENTS #29, by Mike Imboden, Chad Hardin, Ryan Scott, Ed Dukeshire & Randy Buccini. $3.99 comic book. Fist of Justice returns in a feature-length tale as he comes face-to-face with not one, but two villains from his past - but are things really what they seem? Don't miss the boat, bunky!

From Arcana Studio:

KADE, SON OF PERDITIONS #1 by Sean O'Reilly & Stjepan40 page comic. $3.95

From Lovern Kindzierski:

GENESIS FIVE, from Guardian Comics this summer by Lovern Kindzierski, Claude St. Aubin, Chris Chuckry & Dave Lanphear. Regular comic format. Cab driver Walter Jones is charged by God with prophetic leadership: mentor five angels through high school. These angels have the appearance and personalities of regular everyday school kids, but still have the power and potential of their divine personalities.

From Russell Lissau:

"Pressing On," a short story in the trade paperback anthology HOPE: NEW ORLEANS by Ronin Studios, from Russell Lissau, G. Gerald Garcia, Gary Mitchell & Thomas Mauer. A semi-autobiographical short piece about a young reporter trying to make sense of a hurricane's destruction. The overall project is a fund-raiser for the Red Cross' Hurricane Katrina fund. All of the stories are supposed to be about the Gulf Coast, especially New Orleans. It's due to hit stores this summer, ideally in time for the Wizard World Chicago convention.

From Richard Starkings:

ELEPHANTMEN #1, Image Comics. 36 FC pages for $2.99, ships July 2006. My HIP FLASK prequel, monthly.

From Justin Eger:

"Reunion: A Tale of Johnny Alabama," in the Blue Day Media anthology CITY LIMITS. The first venture by Blue Day Media, "City Limits" is a series of short stories that feature fragments of life in the city of Port du Ciel and all the madness therein. My story, with art by Winrick, follows double-tough Johnny Alabama on his first printed adventure as he comes to the city to reunite his family, though not exactly how you might expect. The book is due out in May, with more information and preorders available at www.bluedaymedia.com. $15 trade paperback.

From Tim Eldred:

GREASE MONKEY, 352 pg black & white hardcover graphic novel, $27.95. Written and drawn by Tim Eldred, introduction by Kurt Busiek, to be released 5/30/06 from Tor Books. In the distant future, a mysterious alien attack has wiped out most of humanity. Helped by an interstellar race of benefactors, humankind has taken to space...but not alone. Artificially "accelerated" to higher intelligence, gorillas now live side-by-side with humans, and the results are enlightening to say the least! GREASE MONKEY is the story of a cranky gorilla spaceship mechanic and his naive young human sidekick. Backed by an all-woman fighter squadron, their determination to break all the rules is matched only by their ability to embarrass each other. Written with equal parts comedy and SF, it is suitable for all ages and genders, endorsed by no less a luminary than Will Eisner as "a good, good read." More info and the entire first chapter can be seen at www.greasemonkeybook.com

STAR BLAZERS REBIRTH, webcomic written and drawn by Tim Eldred online at www.starblazers.com. STAR BLAZERS, which played on US TV in the 1980s and has since been released to home video, originated from Japan¹s SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, the greatest SF anime saga of all time. 25 years after their first mission, the Star Force is reunited and their ship rebuilt to take on a new challenge; a black hole that threatens to consume the entire solar system. But old enemies lie in wait for them, and the dead may prove even more dangerous than the living! Based on an unproduced anime feature film called SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO REBIRTH, this series can be read for free at the website listed above. New chapters are added every 60 days.

From Jeff Palmer:

HOLLYWOOD NOIR, from Narwain. A special cast for this one shot noir genre set in Hollywood. Legendary Dick Giordano (Batman), veteran Joe Rubinstein (Spiderman), and Jeff Palmer (Kenpo Comics), with talented Dario Maria Gulli (Wall After Wall) tell about a noir story, crowded of Femme Fatale, set in a corrupt Los Angeles, Hollywood and its horror movies provides the backdrop for the story. A comic book inspired by Brian De Palma's movies. A strange murder, an actor obsessed by success, a woman who loves sex .... here's the ingredients of this noir story, realized by an excellent staff! Full color 48 pages $5.95 USD

From Dan Wickline:

I AM SPARTACUS by Dan Wickline & Ilkka Lesonen, 50 page full-color OGN from Cellar Door Publishing. $5.99. The heads of a corporation are sent reeling after several attacks of corporate espionage; but when it escalates to the murder of a vice president, they must turn to someone outside of the inner circle for help. Tiffany Munday, former police detective and now head of Hallotech security, begins investigating. But the only clue that ties the crimes together is a tag line left at the scenes: I Am Spartacus.

From Chuck Satterlee:

OF BITTER SOULS Vol. 1: Saints And Sinners TPB, available in May from Markosia. A mysterious New Orleans pastor named Secord chooses four individuals and adorns them with powers that, to their delight or disgust, are directly related to their character flaws. One is a hooker who can now control minds. One is a brutal dirty cop who is given incredible strength. One is a drug addict and gang-banger who can now shapeshift to become anyone he wants to be. The fourth is an addicted gambler and con-artist who is given the ability to turn back time. It begs the question, what should we do with the gifts we are given? Under the guidance of Pastor Secord, the four flawed heroes will be set loose on the vampires, ghosts, zombies and other supernatural baddies that are so prevalent in New Orleans' legends. They will be a force for good... if they don't destroy themselves with their own powers first. Mixing New Orleans mythology & architecture with superheroes and theology, created and written by: Chuck Satterlee and drawn by Norm Breyfogle. $18.99 USD.

OF BITTER SOULS Series Re-Launch from Markosia starting in July. The series picks up one year after the events of the trade paperback. We learn what they have been up to since disbanding. Nobody is quick to get together again either. Something big has to happen in the Big Easy to get the team together again. Oh... and it does... By Chuck Satterlee, Norm Breyfogle & Jason Newcomb. Monthly FC $3.50 USD.

From John Morrow and TwoMorrows Publishing:

TITLE: COMICS GONE APE! by Michael Eury, $14.95 US 128-page trade paperback, shipping September 2006. Everything you need to know about popular comics primates, including Gorilla Grodd, Beppo the Super-Monkey, BrainiApe, King Kong, Titano the Super-Ape, Cy-Gor, Konga, Magilla Gorilla, Detective Chimp, Blip, Gleek, the Gibbon, Lancelot Link Secret Chimp, Mojo Jojo, Angel and the Ape, and a barrel of others. Loaded with a chest-thumping gallery of comics covers featuring apes, and behind- the-scenes looks at Planet of the Apes, Arthur Adams' Monkeyman and O'Brien, and Joe Kubert's Tarzan. With its all-new Avengers-as- gorillas cover by Arthur Adams, you won't be able to keep your filthy paws off this book!

ALL STAR COMPANION Vol 2 by Roy Thomas, $21.95 US 208-page trade paperback shipping October 2006. Roy Thomas' new sequel, with more secrets of the JSA and ALL STAR COMICS from 1940 through the 1980s, a wraparound Carlos Pacheco cover, more amazing information, speculation and previously unseen art, unpublished 1940s JSA story art, a full listing of all the 1963-1985 JLA-JSA team-ups and the 1970s JSA revival, coverage of the 1980s ALL-STAR SQUADRON, YOUNG ALL-STARS, & SECRET ORIGINS features, with scarce & never-published art!

MODERN MASTERS VOL 8: WALT SIMONSON by Eric Nolen-Weathington & Roger Ash, $14.95 US 128pg trade paperback, shipping July 2006. A look at Walter Simonson's life and work, featuring an extensive, career-spanning interview lavishly illustrated with rare and unpublished art from his files - plus an enormous sketchbook section with some of the most amazing illustrations Walter has ever produced.

THE KRYPTON COMPANION by Michael Eury, $24.95 US 224-page trade paperback shipping July 2006. A behind-the-scenes exploration of Superman's adventures from 1958 through 1986, through all-new interviews with fan-favorite Superman writers and artists; previously unpublished and/ or immortal artwork by Curt Swan, Neal Adams, Wayne Boring, José Luis García-López, Adam Hughes, Nick Cardy, Jim Mooney, and others; Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel's "lost" imaginary story "The Death of Clark Kent"; a roundtable discussion where comics pros of today- including John Byrne, Alex Ross, and Mark Waid-discuss the Superman of yesteryear; and other revealing features! Plus a (last-page) introduction by Bizarro No. 1 (abetted by Seinfeld writer David Mandel) and a super cover by Watchmen's Dave Gibbons!

SWAMPMEN: MUCK MONSTERS OF THE COMICS by Jon B. Cooke & George Khoury, $24.95 US 224-page trade paperback, shipping July 2006. Since the first appearance of The Heap in 1942, beasts from the bayou have captured reader imaginations and have been a staple of the horror genre, whether under the guise of such characters as Swamp Thing, Man-Thing, Bog Beast, It, The Glob, Solomon Grundy, The Swamp Lurker, or even Marvin, the Dead Thing! Some of these nightmarish hulks have also found their way beyond comics, into novels, live-action TV series, toy shelves, cartoon shows, and even major motion pictures. Now, authors Jon B. Cooke and George Khoury exploring these creatures through dozens of fascinating interviews with the creative talents behind the comics, including Steve Bissette, Steve Gerber, Mike Ploog, Rick Veitch, John Totleben, Val Mayerik, and many more! Also included is an in-depth conversation with the award-winning author of FROM HELL and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, Alan Moore, on his revitalization of the most famous muck monster of all, Swamp Thing! With page after page of eye-popping art-much of it never- before seen and created especially for this book-plus descriptions of just about every such monster to grace the funny-book page, and the definitive history of this odd and captivating subject. So, if you're a fan of comics, horror stories or American pop culture, come join us down by the bayou for a little storytelling! Cover by Frank Cho!

ROUGH STUFF, edited by Bob McLeod, a new $6.95 100 page magazine shipping June 2006, spotlighting never before published penciled pages, preliminary sketches, detailed layouts, and even unused inked versions from artists throughout comics history. #1 features a who's who of Modern Masters including Alan Davis, George Perez, Kevin Nowlan, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Arthur Adams, John Byrne, and Walter Simonson, plus a feature on animation and comics genius Bruce Timm! Included is commentary on the art, discussing what went right and wrong with it, and background information to put it all into historical perspective, and before and after comparisons let you see firsthand how an image changes from initial concept to published version.

From Dara Naraghi:

I'm currently working on a short story for volume 7 of the anthology I produce with the other creators in the writers/artists collective known as Panel. "The Twilight Order" will appear in the themed anthology PANEL: LUCK. It's about a stolen Luck Imp being used for illicit gain, with art by Andy Bennett (KOLCHAK: THE NIGHTSTALKER from Moonstone.) The book will also feature works by Tom Williams (NO DEAD TIME from Oni Press,) Matt Kish, Tony Goins, Tim McClurg, Sean McGurr, and Craig Bogart. Published through my Ferret Press imprint in May, it will be 40 pages, black and white, for $3. www.ferretpress.com

I'm also working on the next two vignettes for my slice of life webcomic, Lifelike, which runs under the Stan Lee's Sunday Comics banner at Komikwerks.com. "Repair" is set in an auto shop and deals with loneliness and compassion, with art by Shom Bhuia. "Smoke Break" ties together a purse snatching outside a hospital with romance and addiction, featuring the artwork of mpMann (THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS from Archaia Studios Press.) Lifelike is updated every Wednesday at Komikwerks.

From Buzz Dixon:

Realbuzz Studios is launching three new series in fall of 2006 in conjunction with Barbour Publishing:

America's premiere inspirational manga continues with LIFE! CAMERA! ACTION! STARRING SERENITY, a 128 page "flip book" where half the book is a continuation of Serenity's ongoing story and the other half a "movie" that Serenity and her friends make that counterpoints her life. Price point TBD. Half color, half black and white.

HITS & MISSES is a 4 volume graphic novel mini-series of 128 pages each following the trials and travails of a girls' fast pitch softball team. Price point TBD. Black and white.

GOOFYFOOT GURL is a 96 page ongoing graphic novel series set in the Orange County surf set. Price point TBD. Full color.

From Anne Timmons:

GOGIRL! by Trina Robbins & Ann Timmons, 184 pg softcover graphic novel from Dark Horse for ages 8+, $14.95. Release date: 6-28-06. The award-winning GoGirl! is back with two exciting new adventures in one volume in this original graphic novel. Video games can get too realistic, as the flying teenager, GoGirl! discovers in "Prisoners of the Machine," when she and her friends find themselves trapped inside a computer and menaced by giant anime-robots! And in "Double Trouble," GoGirl!'s arch-enemies create a robot that looks just like her, except that it has the mind of a master criminal. How can our heroine convince the cops that she didn't rob that bank, when everyone saw her do it? Plus, GoGirl!'s sidekick, Haseena, tired of always being rescued by the flying teen, takes up sleuthing herself in "Haseena Ross, Girl Detective." ISBN#1-59307-409-3.

From Paul Benjamin:

MONKEY VS LEMUR: CRISIS WITH INFINITE CRITTERS #1, 40 pg full color anthology, Diamond code FEB063235, $3.95. One monkey, one wagon, one lemur, one big wheel... Do the math: no matter how many variables you try, it can only add up to mass destruction! The ultimate battle for primate supremacy continues this spring with a new collection of Monkey in a Wagon vs. Lemur on a Big Wheel. Tales with platypi ninjas, lemur lycanthropy, a crisis with infinite critters, Egyptian curses, and hot rod cars -- this special 40-page issue ranges from the zany to the absurd. If you like lemurs this book is for you! We all like monkeys, so this book is for you!

From Christian St. Pierre:

GRAFENVEER by Wayne Sanders & Christian N. St. Pierre, from Open Book Press's Smash Comics, 36 pg prestige-bound comic, $3.99. GRAFENVEER is the coming of age tale of Ra Nimbulo who was taken from Africa as a child, along with his mother, and sold into slavery. King Grafenveer finds them in Spain, buys their freedom, and returns with them to Germany. Under Grafenveer's guidance, the young Ra becomes one of the greatest knights and dragon-slayers in the kingdom. Unfortunately, Ra's skills do not impress the jealous and scheming Prince Manira. At the same time, both Men and Dragons become concerned about a prophecy which tells of armor constructed from Dragons' blood that can only be worn by a truly fearless warrior, a prophecy that Ra may be part of. While the Prince plots against Ra, the armies of the Dragon Clans plan an attack that will bring the entire kingdom down.

Quite a list. It doesn't matter who you are, I know there's something in there you want.

(This is hardly the first time this sort of codewording has been engaged in. In 1937, the banning of hemp - did you know you can buy hemp oil skin cream at Wal-Mart? - was engineered by renaming it "marijuana" specifically to evoke images of swarthy mustachioed Mexican fiends pushing evil alien drugs at our sons and daughters, an image retooling they desperately needed to turn people against the widely known and used hemp. "Illegal alien" is the "marijuana" of today.)

The arguments against them are really pretty spurious: the main ones are that they take jobs away from Americans, they bring crime into our country and they cost municipalities social services money. Of course, many Republicans in Congress are still dedicated to gutting social services across the board wherever possible, especially those Washington underwrites, especially since we can't have Washington underwriting much of anything now that they've spent all our money breeding terrorism in Iraq. (The better to generate future military expeditions, of course.) The fact remains that, if illegal aliens were enforcedly embargoed by the United States, the price of groceries and specifically produce would quadruple in this country overnight, and whole hotel chains would go out of business. The fact is that much of our economy, certainly California's, depends on illegal aliens. The jobs illegal aliens take are the jobs that Americans wouldn't take, not at the wages and under the terms inflicted on illegal aliens. It's a bad system, and worth reforming, but this is the system we're working with right now. Sure, illegal aliens are "draining" social services coffers if that's all you look at, but the money their presence saves Americans, by them working for far less than minimum wage with no benefits, more than makes up for it. As we learned via the Hand Puppet's much-touted tax cuts (which have yet to "pay for themselves," as they were supposed to do in their very first year, according to the propaganda) money that you "save" one place just comes out of somewhere else; Americans in general now pay more taxes than before the tax cuts, since the cuts forced states and municipalities to raise taxes across the board, without the leavening effect of federal involvement. (The tax cuts sure didn't put a stop to pork barrel politics; "tax and spend" Democrats have simply been replaced by "spend and spend" Republicans.) Taking illegal aliens out of the system isn't going to put any more money into the coffers of schools or hospitals. It's just going to force people to spend their money other places, like supermarkets.

And, sure, a certain amount of crime comes in with them. Crime has always been a popular way to make money in the USA, regardless of ethnic origin. Never mind that statistics indicate most illegal aliens come to the USA to work and have a strong work ethic, or that the vast majority of crimes in this country are committed by young Anglo males. Stopping illegal aliens at the border is not going to put the brakes on drug smuggling and similar activities, because those are the activities various authorities get paid a lot of bribe money to allow. As with most "wars on crime," all it will accomplish is wiping out the small independent operators, which might be considered at least something of a victory if it didn't only cement the power and widen the grasp of the landed drug gentry.

But Congress needs an issue they can trot out at home during this election year to prove they're "protecting" us. After all, they can't debate the civil war in Iraq because they're not allowed to admit one exists. Most of them refuse to openly challenge the Administration lies that got us in there, because that'd be, you know, "disloyal." (As long as nobody's lying about sex, anyway.) But with the emphasis the White House puts on "loyalty" - any revelations about their often borderline criminal behavior are now routinely greeted by investigations to root out whistleblowers - that's understandable. (According to the White House, privacy is the right of all Americans. As long as they're in the White House. If they aren't, forget it.) Congress can't tout its "accomplishments"; even the so-called "reform" of the Patriot Act was mostly a sham, with the biggest effect to shorten the length of time it takes for states to legally kill somebody. Then there are all the scandals raking the House and Senate, with fish as big as Bill Frist and Tom deLay (who dropped out of his re-election campaign today while facing a host of corruption charges in Texas) being scooped up in the next, while investigations into lobbyist favors continue. They've got nothing to brag about on the international front, with Iraq in full disintegration mode and even our "triumph" in Afghanistan badly tarnished by the turmoil there over a possible death sentence for a Muslim man who converted to Christianity. On top of that, you've got a lot of Republican candidates having to ride the coattails of a now very unpopular president who's becoming more unpopular by the day.

So, basically, they've got nothing to take home with them.

In that climate, fearmongering about them thar feelthy Meskins - whoops, I mean "illegal aliens" - what else have they got to fall back on?

An aside: I loved the Hand Puppet's counterproposal of legalizing illegal aliens already in this country. All they'd have to do is pay $1000 a head. I'm sure most of them will just write out a check.

From Titan Books:

COMICS CREATORS ON X-MEN ed. Tom deFalco, 256p trade paperback ($17.95)

For better or worse, the X-Men stand pretty much at the dead center of American comics. This collection of interviews shines a little light on the back alleys of the thought processes behind the series, from Stan Lee in the early days through the Roy Thomas and Claremont eras down to recent work by Morrison and Millar. deFalco's questions - at least as they're presented here (it's entirely possible they were edited way down from what was actually said) - come off as generally tepid and repetitive, but his subjects seem eager to talk nonetheless. It makes for some curious moments - the chat with the normally outspoken John Byrne is informative but lackadaisical - and the best interviews come from those with possibly the least sense of legacy, like Louise Simonson. A little more depth and follow-up would have made it a stronger book, but what's collected here presents a fascinating array of perspectives that are arguably much more interesting than most of what's been in the X-books themselves.

From Thunder's Mouth Press:

A HANDBOOK OF AMERICAN PRAYER by Lucius Shepard, 263p hardcover ($22)

This came out a couple years ago but I only just got around to reading it. Not long ago, Shepard was one of the best of the so-called cyberpunk school of writing, but like most of them has moved into other areas and A HANDBOOK OF AMERICAN PRAYER fixes his new reputation as a fantasist of Neil Gaiman caliber. In fact, fans who've devoured all of Gaiman's available novels would likely be right at home with HANDBOOK, which treads fearlessly and with great skill and wit into Gaiman's favorite subject matter as well. A con survives prison by concocting a secular approach to prayer as a means to achieve desired ends and, prodded by various parties, publishes his prayers as poems and emerges back into the world to find himself an international celebrity on the verge of creating a new religion, but also finds himself haunted by rivals, enemies and a violent possible god that he may or may not have created himself. Shepard is an atheist, though he's never less than respectful of his own concept, and maybe that distance from religion gave him the objectivity and perspective a book like this requires. At any rate, he's a terrific, undeservedly ignored writer, and this is a terrific book. Recommended.

From Pocket Books:

CONSTANTINE by John Shirley, 321p mass market paperback ($6.99)

So adaptation isn't always treachery. Shirley, described by Bruce Sterling as the only true punk among the cyberpunk writers, isn't really a better fit for that group than Shepard is, but he was always among the best cyberpunk writers and hasn't missed a beat since shifting mostly to horror fiction in the '90s. The film version of CONSTANTINE was okay as a popcorn film, but logically unsound and a distant cry from the original comics rendition of John Constantine, though Keanu Reeves managed to pull off much of the character's persona. (He did, however, skip over the subtle joi de vivre the character has always had despite everything, though that's understandable given that Constantine was dying of lung cancer in the movie.) Shirley's novelization improves on the film version in every conceivable way, somehow making it possible to see the character in the novel as both the Reeves version and the original (except for the lack of Englishness, which may be a key factor for some), he's well versed in the comics version and makes constant subtle references to it and he strongly fleshes out the sense of creeping doom, until even if you've seen the film and know the story some aspects are still surprising, not to mention far better explained. Shirley's real flair is for character and dialogue, amply demonstrated here. Reportedly he's working on original Constantine novels, but you might as well start with this one. It's good, a big advance on its source material that comes very close to the source of the source material. It's good.

At last, my latest pdf book, HEAD CASES, a collection of ten comic book scripts from the last fifteen years of my career, including some rarely seen stories and one sold but never published, plus art, reminiscences and notes, is finally available at Paper Movies for $6.95 via Paypal if shipped by email. As usual, in two flavors: optimized for print or optimized for reading onscreen. As of this writing - 11:45P Tuesday - I don't have the Paper Movies website updated for orders and won't until noon Wednesday, so if you want to order it before that, drop me a line, and I'll email you ordering instructions.

My apologies to Pete Von Sholly for spelling his name wrong last week. As you may remember, Von Sholly has created the one-off MAD-style COMIC BOOK NERD for TwoMorrows skewering comics fanzines and semi-prozines. I've seen a little more from it but not all yet, but it still seems worth a look. At minimum, it's MAD-level amusing, but some of the stuff I've seen is very funny. I'm just glad he hasn't turned his attention to online comics zines. (I imagine Newsarama is too.)

Once in awhile, someone in TV does something clever, even if I don't care about the show. Which no one does anymore, really, which is why they're doing it: THE MISS AMERICA PAGEANT, whose ratings absolutely disintegrated over the past couple decades and was bought a couple years ago by Donald Trump, is recasting itself as a "reality show" following various contestants and leading up to the pageant as big finale. It's a standard but winning formula for reality shows from ULTIMATE FIGHTER to AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL, so it makes a lot of sense if you're trying to sell the show in today's market. I still have zero interest in watching it, but it makes a lot of sense.

Speaking of ULTIMATE FIGHTER, Ultimate Fighting Championship's reality show of young fighters competing for a UFC contract, returns for its latest season on Spike TV on a new night this week: Thursday 11P. The show has done well enough for Spike that they're doing an hour and a half debut, and, unlike many TV "talent competitions" where the winner never really goes on to accomplish anything in their chosen field, ULTIMATE FIGHTER has developed a tradition (if you can call two seasons a tradition) of contestants, winning or losing, continuing on in UFC in usually pretty good fights. It's funny that in the last six months or so, the sports press has generally shifted from writing articles about how MMA (or mixed martial arts competitions, of which UFC is one brand among several; for those of you who always want a comics connection to these things, Wizard's Gareb Shamus is now sinking money into his own MMA brand to compete with UFC) is "human cockfighting" to how it's going to replace boxing because boxing now mainly appeals to old farts and "the kids" are all gravitating toward MMA as the new combat sport. (Boxing, by the way, is statistically far more dangerous than MMA matches, which has been slowly standardizing rules, and the likelihood of dying from an injury is far greater in boxing than in MMA because MMA uses little gloves that allow for grappling while boxing has the big thick gloves. The myth about boxing gloves is they exist to protect the boxer being hit. They don't. They exist because bare knuckle boxing matches often didn't last long enough to provide entertainment. Funny thing about bones in hands; bones in faces are generally much harder. Those big thick gloves pad hands enough for a boxer to put as much power as possible behind a punch without shattering his fingers. Impact is a big crowd pleaser but it doesn't do a lot for, oh, braincases and such.) The growing popularity of MMA became apparent when California governor Ahnuld signed into law a bill allowing MMA competitions in California - he took a lot of flak for it - and the first authorized MMA show in California last month, by a no-name little operation, sold out an arena. ULTIMATE FIGHTER features competitions in two weight classes per season - don't know which are coming up this time - and contestants are split into two teams, each with a professional MMA fighter for a coach. The twist this season is that the two coaches, Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz, reputedly genuinely hate each other. (In the first two seasons, the coaches were friends.) ULTIMATE FIGHTER has been a very entertaining show. I know people who'd never watch an MMA match in their lives who follow it eagerly.

The best "reality show" on TV, however, remains AMAZING RACE, which stumbled a lot last season with a "family" version that wandered North America and had way too many precious moments before it whittled down to its last, very entertaining competitors. There's also a curve on AMAZING RACE where it's hard to remember who's who until they've whittled down the number of contestants, and this season has found their formerly cozy Tuesday berth rough going, particularly against the Fox juggernauts of AMERICAN IDOL and HOUSE. So, as of tonight, CBS has moved AMAZING RACE to 8P Wednesdays. And just in time: the contestant roster is down to manageable, memorable length. Currently a pair of happy-go-lucky latter day hippies are in the lead, surprisingly if you take them at face value. What they've demonstrated so far - consistently putting themselves far ahead of the pack in more than one way - is that there's way more to them than face value. They're who I'm currently rooting for, which means they'll probably be eliminated within two weeks. But watch the show; currently wandering through Italy, it's still one of the most entertaining things on TV.

Congratulations to Glenn Simpson, who was the first to solve last week's Comics Cover Challenge. We had some very creative entries again, but those of you who came up with them, get ready to kick yourselves: the theme of the week was green. Every comic shown featured a character with Green as part of their name. Glenn wants to point everyone to the website for his favorite artist, George Perez.

I just realized today's date is 04-05-06. How often does that happen? Meanwhile, Marvel fans (hell, all comics fans) will find themselves amused if they click this.

And don't forget my two books are available in pdf e-book form at The Paper Movies Store: TOTALLY OBVIOUS, collecting my Master Of The Obvious essays on comics, culture, creativity and the freelance life; and IMPOLITIC: A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEARS, a running commentary on American life and politics in the first half of the Terror Decade. 250+ pages each, $5.95@ or both for $10.95. What are you waiting for?

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.

Crisis on Infinite Earths Arrowverse logo
The Flash's First Glimpse of Crisis Is Straight Out of the Comics

More in CBR Exclusives