A few links aren’t working after the latest upgrade. I’m upgrading the blog to a new version of WordPress, and will soon be migrating over to a new domain. Details forthcoming.

…most AWESOME superhero movie ever?

Spoiler-free thoughts:

1. Goddamn, that was good.

2. GodDAMN, that was good. A really fun movie, with a ton of cool stuff to make up for whatever slow points existed. My buddy Glenn will probably find something to pick on, because he’s a better movie critic than I’ll ever be, so go look to him for that sort of thing. But I was damn happy for my $10.

3. Seriously, when did movies in Central Jersey go to $10?

4. So that’s where Stephen Platt got to! (He’s a storyboard artist for the movie.) I remember those few weeks when Platt was the next superhot comics artist back in the mid-90s when all it took to get that designation was the backing of Wizard and the ability to spill ink on the page. Good times.

5. There was an “Adam Austin” listed in the credits. At one point in the sixties, legendary comics artist Gene Colan worked for Marvel under that name. And what did he draw?

Well yeah, Daredevil and Tomb of Dracula. But also, Iron Man! Neat.

6. Nice to see the Jack Kirby credit at the end. Wonder if that makes up for the fact that Marvel doesn’t pay the Kirby estate any royalties on the reprints of the comics that led up to all of that stuff, including the new $100 Iron Man Omnibus? (Yeah, I didn’t think so either.)

7. Stay past the credits. TRUST ME.

8. Wonder how much it bothered Joe Quesada, Marvel Editor-In-Chief, to see a primary villain in the movie smoking a cigarette in a prominent scene? Quesada has banned depictions of all Marvel characters smoking cigars or cigarettes in the comics because of the death of his dad and grandfather, among others, from smoking-related illnesses. I’m sure we’ll hear from him on that at some point.

Edit: Huh. I screwed up the image link. It’s now fixed.

Just opened my copy of the Kirby biography by Mark Evanierfrom Amazon today. It SMELLS like old comics. And that’s a good thing, a wonderful thing.

I’ll be able to say more about it after I’ve read it. But good God, the book smells like a pulpy old comics store. And that’s the feeling you should get when reading Kirby, isn’t it?

<br /> <img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/s/noscript?tag=whyilovecomic-20&#8243; alt=”” /><br />

Thanks to the good people at Collected Editions, I will be attending SPLAT!, a graphic novel symposium in NYC this Saturday. This event is sponsored by the New York Center for Independent Publishing, and panelists include Understanding Comics‘s Scott McCloud, DMZ‘s Brian Wood, I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets‘s Paul Karasik, and many more luminaries in comics.

I’ll be reporting on the event both here and at Collected Editions.

Daredevil #1 cover by Quesada

Congratulations to Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief. The mayor of Orange County declared March 8, 2008, as Joe Quesada Day, recognizing his accomplishments in comics.

We can argue about the individual stories that Marvel’s put out over the years, but Quesada has been the most open high-ranking comics exec over the last decade. And I’ve found out first-hand that he’s a genuinely nice guy. Last year, when I was suffering with my hip problem, I commented about it on a Newsarama thread. I received a personal message from Quesada wishing me well. It was a bright spot during a lousy day.

Congratulations to a classy guy!

(Any accusations that I picked the title for this post just so I could post up an old school jam are completely, 100% true.)

I’m ending my months of silence on the blog starting now.

2007 was a weird year for me. In the first few months of 2007, I was basically crippled. I had a painful hip injury that made walking very difficult. I was very fortunate that, after seeing several specialists, I found a doctor that found the problem and fixed it. Good thing, too, because right after that, my three-year contract with my employer was ending. Luckily, in the last few months of 2007, I picked up a gig for a big company in Manhattan. Since I live in central NJ, this meant I spent five hours a day on an NJ Transit train going to and from work.

I still read a lot of comics. But I just didn’t have time (and during the painful times, little inclination) to talk about them.

Now, I’m now employed at a great company 15 minutes from home. I’m 70 pounds lighter than I was last year, and I can move better than I did ten years ago. I have more free time than I’ve had in years. And I want to talk about why I love comics again.

Quite frankly, I’m tired of muting myself. There’s more great things going on in comics than ever before. There are more talented people creating comics than ever before. Webcomics are redefining how to layout and distribute comics. We’re seeing many more women and young girls reading comics through the manga invasion. Libraries and bookstores have made graphic novels a hot sector for the book business.

I remember the days when a bunch of comics bound together to look like a book was a visual oddity, a sort of grand extravagance that looked out of steps next to the wall of comic book pamphlets at my local comics shop. I remember when a comics store would have nothing but superhero comics (which I still admittedly love), or would have a box in a dark corner filled with “alternative” comics. Those old days were fun, but today is better.

My problem is figuring out how to write about comics without duplicating what other people are saying. I’ve had some success; I STILL get comments on the saddest comic post. I have had problems just fixating on the superhero-topic-of-the-day. I don’t think I’m the best at talking about the problems of DC’s Countdown, or how Marvel’s One More Day story was so unsatisfying (although no one has been able to explain to me why Norman Osborn and the Infinity Gauntlet wouldn’t have been a better antagonist in that story than Mephisto). I still want to talk about superhero comics, but I want to balance that against all of the other things that I’m enjoying. So I’m going to work on that.

I also want to do a little retooling to the look of this site. Hey, I could spend all day tweaking the theme here, but then I wouldn’t write. Still, I’ve yet to find a theme for WordPress that SCREAMS comics. Guess I’ll have to cobble one together. But I want to focus on the writing, so I may just leave things alone.

Thanks to everyone (including my wife and my Comics Widows buddy, Glenn Walker) for sticking with me over the last year. And thank you, reader, for checking in. Now let’s have some fun and talk some comics!

Ringo memorial

Mike Wieringo passed away yesterday of an apparent heart attack. Newsarama has the details.

From all accounts, Mike was a healthy 44-year old vegetarian. All who knew him said he was in great shape. His death feels senseless.

I’ve never hidden my love of the Fantastic Four. When I think of the stories I’ve enjoyed the most, I usually think of a small, elite group of creators who have told the absolute best FF stories. I’ve called them the FF Pantheon at different times. There’s the creators of the series, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, along with Kirby’s best FF inker and the man who really added the polish to the characters for nearly 200 issues, Joe Sinnott. There’s John Byrne, who brought the series to new heights in the 1980s. There’s Walt Simonson, whose short run in the early 90s was both thrilling and funny.

And there was Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, part of Nu-Marvel’s initiative to revive all of the classic Marvel characters. Waid and ‘Ringo reframed the characters for the new millenium, raised the stakes in the Reed-Doom rivalry , and paid respect to Jack Kirby by revealing his status as, well, God of the Marvel U. Through it all, Wieringo’s art was a winner on the series. To the untrained eye, it was simple and solid, but further looks revealed the skills of a master storyteller. In many ways, Ringo was the perfect answer to the over-rendered Lee-Liefeld clones of the nineties. His work had elements of Art Adams and John Byrne, but Ringo’s style was unique, crisp, and dynamic.

It’s just an awful thing.

From Newsarama:

“IDT Internet Mobile Group (IMG), a division of IDT Corporation, has formed Zedge Studios to develop and license digital content for distribution through web and mobile platforms. Additionally, IMG has acquired a controlling interest in IDW Publishing (www.idwpublishing.com), a leading independent comics publisher pre-eminent in the horror, action, and sci-fi genres, boasting such high-profile titles as The Transformers, 30 Days of Night, CSI, Star Trek, 24, and Scarface.

Moshe Berger, formerly CEO of IDT Entertainment, which was sold to Liberty Media in 2006, is now working towards making IDT’s Internet Mobile Group an industry leader. “We have seen the explosion of digital content, especially user-generated content, over a variety of platforms,” said Mr. Berger, IMG CEO and head of Zedge Studios. “This is what the new generation of consumers craves. Our intention is for Zedge Studios to become the worldwide destination for content on the web and on mobile devices. IDW Publishing’s stellar reputation in the comics and graphic novel arenas and its emphasis on original intellectual properties in the action and horror genres are a perfect fit for Zedge Studios. Working closely with IDW’s brilliant management and creative team will bring us one step closer to achieving our global goal.””

There’s some interesting things going on here.

IDT is a holding company out of Newark, NJ. Their stock price has been in the toilet over the last few years, trading from a high in Jan 2004 of ~$23 to today’s close of 10.10. This lousy performance occured while stocks overall have done very well. In fact, the stock is down 24% in the last year alone.

(Image courtesy Yahoo!, and most of the research was done through their site.)

While their latest 10-Q filing with the SEC states that they’re a diverse company in the introduction (“We are a multinational holding company with operations that span several industries.”), the truth is that they’re primarily a telecom that focuses on phone cards. In the last quarter, over 85% of their revenues were generated through their telecom subsidiaries. And it’s not a profitable business- while revenues were $485.4 million, costs were $533 million. The company does have some other smaller businesses- an “ethnic grocery” division, the Net2Phone subsidiary, and some energy concerns, among others.

According to Yahoo! Financials, most of the business value is simply cash. Cash makes up more than $8 of the value of the stock, which means the rest of the business is not valued highly. Some of that cash came from the sale of the IDT entertainment division to Liberty Media. That division held quite a few businesses related to comics, including minority shares of Archie Comics Entertainment, POW Entertainment (Stan Lee’s side company), and Manga Entertainment.

IDT settled a class action lawsuit in January that saw them promise refunds of up to $20 million over problems with their phone card business. They are currently suing other phone card makers, asking them to raise their standards to avoid defrauding their customers. They are also suing Skype, a division of eBay, over patent claims. In 2004, the company was sued by a number of former employees, claiming that the company discriminated against non-Jewish employees over issues such as promotions and holidays.

So we have a company, IDT, that’s not doing well as a telecom, deciding to get into the comics business. IDW mostly published three lines of comics: its 30 Days of Night horror books, licensed books (CSI, Transformers, Star Trek, 24, and Spike, among others), and art books, mostly by Ashley Wood. They also publish Grimjack and Jon Sable reprints, and picked up Peter David’s Fallen Angel series when DC stopped publishing the book.

So a niche telecom company has bought the fifth largest comics publisher in the Direct Market. One explanation may be Clifford Meth, the current Executive VP of Strategies/Editorial at IDW and a former VP of IDT Entertainment. In the press release announcing Meth’s appointment with IDW, it was announced that “he will put his vast network of entertainment industry relationships to work in order to create new opportunities for the burgeoning publisher.” This, apparently, is the new opportunity.

Disclosure: I currently am a consultant for AT&T, which is also a telecom. However, my current assignments with the company have nothing to do with this situation in particular or IDT in general; in fact, I’ve never heard the company mentioned during my tenure at AT&T. All information about the company has been obtained through public findings or cited sources. I have bought quite a few books that IDW published, and enjoyed them all. I hope to be able to continue to do so.

It’s the 50th anniversary of this great cartoon! Go catch it on YouTube. (Thanks to Fark.com for the reminder.)

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