Some comics worthy of consideration for 2015

I am hurrying to get my Hugo nominations in (deadline is March 31!) and made up this list of the f/sf comics stories that came out/wrapped up in 2015:

Bitch Planet Book One (issues 1-5), Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
Bizzaro (issues 1-6), Heath Corson, Gustavo Duarte, et al
Book of Death: Fall of Harbinger, Joshua Dysart, Kano, et al.
Colder: The Bad Seed, Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra
Conan the Avenger: Blood Oasis (Conan the Avenger issues 16-19), Fred van Lente, Brian Ching, et al
Crossed Plus 100 vol. 1 (issues 1-6), Alan Moore, Gabriel Andrade, et al.
Empowered vol. 9, Adam Warren
Heart in a Box, Kel Thompson and Meredith McClaren
Here, Richard McGuire
Kaijumax Season One (issues 1-6), Zander Cannon
Knights of the Dinner Table: The Pwn Brian Express (through issue 222), Jolly Blackburn et al
Ms Marvel: Final Days, G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
Mind MGMT (complete series), Matt Kindt
Prez: Corndog-in-Chief, Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell, and Mark Morales
Private Eye, Bryan K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin
Sandman: Overture, Neil Gaiman and J. H. Williams III
Satellite Sam, Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin
Sculptor, Scott McCloud
Secret Wars: Siege, Kieron Gillen, Filipe Andrade, et al.
Silver Surfer: Last Days (issues 11-15), Dan Slott and Mike Allred
Southern Cross, Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger
The Life After vol. 2, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel You Know It's True, Ryan North and Erica Henderson
Unwritten: Apocalypse, Mike Carey and Peter Gross
Wayward: Ties that Bind (issues 6-10), Jim Zub and Steven Cummings
Wicked and the Divine: Commercial Suicide (issues 12-17), Kieron Gillen, Jaime McKelvie, and many artists

I'm disappointed in myself that so few of the comics here are written by women (just 4 out of 26). I did read a lot of other comics written by women that didn't quite make this list, but I honestly would have expected better than 15% in my long list.
  • Current Music
    Lektro Spektral Daze, "Infinite Number of Steps"

Comics Read, 2014

In 2014, I read 1,281 comics on 254 separate days.


Later this month (it is now January), I will endeavor to suggest some titles for the Best Graphic Story Hugo award. Once again, there is an abundance of good material.

#GamerGate, a righteous rant, and not forgetting

The following text was written by my friend Greg Costikyan and posted to his blog at Gamasutra. It was then deleted by Gamasutra. If Greg asks me to take it down, I will do so.

If you don't know what #GamerGate refers to and feel a morbid interest in the privilege-laden cruelty of the worst of the gaming community, I'd recommend starting with Video Games, Misogyny, and Terrorism: A Guide to Assholes and stopping there, too, then taking a long shower and, upon emerging, playing a good game with someone you love.

Gamersgate: STFU
by Greg Costikyan on 09/07/14 12:55:00 am

"As a male voice in the game industry," writes my daughter Vicky, "you should speak out about this."


I wanted to hold my tongue. Because when I let loose, it usually does me no favors. But she's right.


What do you think you're defending? An industry in which greed-head executives make brain-dead games on a yearly basis that show little to no innovation from one title to the next? You fucking -want- Madden? And the next Call of Duty game, same as the last but with new content from hundreds of exploited drones working hours that destroy relationships because the suits think that's what they want?

For decades, we had a market that catered to Maxim-reading horny boy-men who bought games by developers who spent man-years on developing better physics to make tits bounce in the next beach volleyball title. For decades, we had shameless manager jackasses who thought the best way to market their titles was to hire high-breasted bimbos to pose and giggle at their booths at E3.

For decades, we had the best creative minds of our industry SHUT DOWN whenever they proposed the slightest design innovation, because increasing budgets meant all design risk must be minimized.

For decades, we had no way for people who wanted to do anything creative be able to find any path to market.

Finally, finally, and thank god, we have a viable path of market for indies, and a way for people who want to express themselves through games that will never sell in the millions to find a market. And you find that a PROBLEM?

What kind of blinkered idiots you are?

And of course, indies do whatever the fuck they can to get noticed, because they don't have MILLIONS OF MARKETING DOLLARS TO SPEND. What the fuck would you expect?

Let me explain something do you. Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision: Mutimillionare. Anna Anthrophy? Stroppy indie developer who probably has problems paying her rent. Who has the power here? What the fuck are you talking about?

There's some kind of conspiracy by the in-group to promote indie games at the expense of "real" games? What the fuck are you talking about? Who cares who Zoe Quinn fucked, or didn't fuck? It's none of your fucking business, unless you were one of the people involved, and most of you would give your left kidney to fuck her, if you had any brains. You are unlikely ever to touch anyone with an iota of her talent or intelligence.

And what does that even mean? Have you suddenly noticed that the game industry is undergoing weird changes as a result of this supposed conspiracy? The next Call of Duty being cancelled in favor of triple-A treatment of the next Anna Anthropy design?

Do people who actually care about whether games can be more than degraded violence porn for young men sometimes get together and talk about games that actually matter? And do they sometimes write about such games?

You're fucking right they do! And you should be fucking grateful that someday a more mature and interesting landscape of videogames may emerge from that! That's not what we call "conspiracy;" that's what we call "gamers who care about games."

And what is it with this mysoginistic bullshit?

I want to tell you some stories.

1. The studio head who invited me -and a female employee- to join them at a strip club at a conference, expecting we would all enjoy this as a 'fun time.'

2. The party given by an industry marketing firm where I and Dan Scherlis were approached by a scantily clad woman who was evidently hired to show their clients a good time (not necessarily including actual fornication) and had to explain that we were both involved with people we cared about, and actually were having a perfectly enjoyable time talking to each other.

3. The -very- gay friend of mine who was hired by another firm and started sweating when I approached their booth at a conference, in fear that I would reveal his sexual orientation to his new boss.

4. My friend, Dan Bunten, a seminal figure in early PC gaming, who decided he was a woman, and after extensive surgery, became Danielle Bunten Berry. "Shabbily treated" wouldn't even begin to describe it.

I have no idea why gender and such is even an issue in this conversation. Women have always been a minority in the games industry, to its loss; but they have never been entirely missing. Roberta Williams created the Sierra adventures. Brenda Garno, later Brathwaite, later Romero, was one of the key talents behind the Wizardry series.

If you look at recent IGDA surveys, 80+% of all jobs in the industry are held by men. This is a problem, particularly as industry surveys say that a majority of gamers are women. To be sure, they're playing Candy Crush and not Call of Duty, and maybe that doesn't qualify as a "real game" to you, but if so, fuck off. Games are games, games are good, and it's great that more people are playing them. Stop masturbating with your console controller and get a life.

Anita Sirkeesian has told some pretty obvious truths about the treatment of women in games; controversial ones, and others are free to debate them, but "debate" doesn't normally involve threats to rape or kill.

You can like, or not like, Zoe Quinn's work; tastes vary. But her sex life is not, and never has been, any of your fucking business.

Leigh Alexander is one of the most interesting journalists working in games.

This is bullshit, you are assholes, and shut the fuck up.

Deal with the fact that not all games are, or will be in the future, the same corporate crap that you apparently love so much. And understand that the money-grubbing entities who dole out this crap will continue to feed your fix, because it's a far larger market than is reached by the indie people, whom you despise and spit on, can possibly ever hope to reach.

You're attacking people who have problems making their rent, apparently in defense of people who make millions off your fanboy lusts; and somehow feel threatened by people who love games -- as I supposed you do -- but love games that are a little different.

You are assholes.

Worse, you are poor examples of men. Men, good men, defend women. They do not attack them.

To which end: To defend the honor of Anita Sirkeesian, Zoe Quinn, Leigh Alexander, or yes, Anna Anthropy, I will be willing to meet any of you, on horse or afoot, with sword or pistol, at a time and place of your choosing.

It is time this stopped.
  • Current Music
    "Start Again", Bishop Allen

On the TV, me and nellorat

While we were gone at DetCon1, I got an e-mail from Drew Breese Beebe, a reporter at Bloomberg TV, who had been assigned to do an article on comics to tie in with Comic-Con International (aka the Sandy Eggo Comic-Con). He had come across my name in a Bloomberg Business Week article from last year about comics fans my age discovering that their collections were, in fact, almost worthless. He wanted to do a piece about comics collecting, with some discussion of the financial aspects but ranging over as many subjects as I felt comfortable discussing.

Given that I am an attention whore whose primary mode of discourse is the lecture, I was happy to oblige, so Tuesday night we rendezvoused at Carmine Street Comics, my Friendly Neighborhood Comics Shop and the store that has the portion of our collection that is for sale. We talked and filmed for about 4 hours, at Carmine Street, in his car, and within Valentine's Castle. Most of the discussion at home was me solo in my study, but nellorat joined us in the basement to show off the comics-filled filing cabinets.

I will confess that I had some fear of being made ridiculous (well, more ridiculous than usual), but Drew called back on Wednesday with a follow-up question about the collapse of the industry in 1994-95 that he would only have asked if he were serious about the subject.

The piece went live on Bloomberg TV this morning and I'm very impressed at how it came out. It's really well-edited, both in the sense of finding many of my most interesting and concise statements and in the juxtapositions of words and image when it's not just my talking head.

nellorat points out that the article doesn't convey the degree to which we are also drowning in books, fanzines, stuffed toys, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, though he did manage to work in a reference to the ratties!

Go, enjoy.

Footnotes: It is in fact very unlikely that I have spent $100,000 (net) on comics, even if you lump in things like traveling to comics conventions. However, the figure is closer to $100K than I care to admit. Of course, we moved to New York so that I could pursue a job in comics which never materialized; that cost quite a lot of money. Deathmate, which triggered the collapse of the comics industry in the 1990s, finished in early 1994; the Marvel bankruptcy was about 2 years later, not quite as immediately as I implied. I did not woo nellorat with Swamp Thing; she had rediscovered that on her own (though I did, many moons later, get her a copy of #20, Alan Moore's first issue, which precedes "The Anatomy Lesson").
  • Current Music
    "Don't Change", INXS

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the publication of the first Batman story

I remember nellorat once saying words to the effect of, “Christianity would be much better if it focused on the image of La Pietà instead of obsessing on the Crucifixion.”

I feel the same way about “There Is No Hope in Crime Alley” vis-à-vis The Dark Knight Returns.

Happy Batman day, Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff, Denny O’Neil and Dick Giordano, for all we, the superstitious and cowardly lot.

(This is not the most pretentious thing I have ever written about comics.)
  • Current Music
    "Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)", Tom Waits

Stuff to read on Marvel Unlimited

Marvel Unlimited is Marvel's subscription-based digital comics service. It has an astonishing range of back issues available (as well as more recent issues) in an all-you-can-eat format.

What are the indispensable runs at Marvel? In rough order of importance, here are my top 10:

  • Ditko/Lee: Amazing Spider-Man #1-38, Annual #1
  • Kirby/Lee: Fantastic Four #1-51, Annual #1-2
  • Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne: X-Men, Giant-Sized #1, #94-150.
  • Gerber/Brunner/Colan: Howard the Duck #1-27, #29, Annual #1, and the 2 short stories from Giant-Sized Man-Thing #4 and #5
  • Simonson (w/Buscema): Thor #337-372
  • Starlin's Warlock: Strange Tales #178-181, Warlock #9-15, Avengers Annual #7, Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2
  • Englehart/Brown et al.: Avengers #105-141, Giant-Size Avengers #2-4
  • Miller (w/Jansen) Daredevil #168-191
  • Steranko's Nick Fury: Strange Tales #151-168, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D #1-5,
  • Priest/various artists, Black Panther #1-62

(I'm trying not to repeat characters or creators or else easy inclusions would be Ditko/Lee's Doctor Strange in Strange Tales; Gerber's Defenders and Man-Thing; Stern/Romita's Amazing Spider-Man; or Lee/Romita's Amazing Spider-Man. I'm also very partial to Peter Gillis's run on Doctor Strange, which spanned the final issues of the first Dr. Strange series, the 1980s Strange Tales split-book, and the first few issues of the second Dr Strange series. The Moench/Gulacy/Day/et al. Master of Kung Fu absolutely should be in the list, but it's not available through Marvel Unlimited.)
  • Current Mood

Best Graphic Novel Hugo suggestions for 2013

I'm sure I'm the last person to prepare a nominating ballot, but here are 19 18 sf/f/h comics stories that were completed in 2013 that I suggest to your memory:

Alabaster: Wolves, Caitlin Kiernan & Steve Lieber
Archer & Armstrong: Far Faraway, Fred Van Lente & Pere Perez
BEDLAM vol. 1, Nick Spencer & Riley Rossmo
Chew: Bad Apples, John Layman & Rob Guillory
Colder, Paul Tobin & Juan Ferreyra
Dial H: Exchange, China Mieville & Mateus Santolouco
Doctor Who: The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who, Paul Cornell & Jimmy Broxton
Empowered Volume 8, Adam Warren
Glory: War Torn, Joe Keatinge & Ross Campbell
Leaving Megalopolis, Gail Simone & Joe Califiore
Locke and Key: Alpha and Omega, Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
Mind MGMT: The Futurist, Matt Kindt
Morning Glories Season 1, Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma
Prophet: Empire, Brandon Graham & Simon Roy
Saucer Country: The Reticulan Candidate, Paul Cornell & Ryan Kelly
Storm Dogs, David Hine & Doug Braithwaite
Uber vol. 1, Kieron Gillen & Canaan White
Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice, Michael Carey & Peter Gross
You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, Tom Gauld

(The Tom Gauld is actually a collection of single-page cartoons, but I'm pretty sure it still qualifies.)

ETA: I forgot about the Doctor Who comic because, although it came out on December 31, I didn't read it until the following week; thus it wasn't in my list of comics I read in 2013.

ETA again: I guess the Gauld isn't a "story" in any meaningful sense, so I'm nominating it for "Related Work" instead.

Going to be tough narrowing that down to 5.
  • Current Music
    "I Shall Be Released", Bob Dylan

Texas, so far

My grandmother had a younger brother, Manny, who (with his lovely wife Katrina) had seven children. Five of my cousins* live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and have been asking me to come visit them for, I exaggerate not at all, 27 years. Well, I'm finally here.

*Strictly speaking, they are my first-cousins-once-removed, but screw that. Cousins it is.

I am staying with cousin Wanda and her husband Ken in Southlake; they took me out for some superb BBQ at Feedstore BBQ on South White Chapel Blvd, which apparently really was a feed store that sold BBQ on the side until they realized where their strengths really lay. The ribs are among the best BBQ ribs I've ever had, and the fries and fried okra were very strong as well.

Today, my cousin Sylvia and her husband Roy took me to the one tourist attraction I really was not going to miss: Dealey Plaza. We spent about 15 minutes walking the site--the locations of the limousine on Elm Street are helpfully marked with Xs, and there were information hobos helpfully pointing out interesting things like the rail switching tower from which Lee Bowers thought he saw smoke behind the wall atop the Grassy Knoll. I stood by the pylon from which Zapruder made his film and realized that if someone HAD been shooting from there, he would have had to have known--he was, like, 5 feet away from the wall himself. So that was informative. Then we took the tour of the Sixth Floor Museum, which was surprisingly great. Besides the thrill of morbid authenticity of seeing the sniper's nest and the approximate view a shooter there would have had (you can't look out sniper's window, but you can look out an adjacent one), the museum itself is an extremely well-made JFK retrospective, covering his entire life, death, and legacy as well as the rounds of examination of the assassination. Display objects are well-chosen (e.g., cameras like those carried by the various witnesses; actual teletype rolls); the descriptions on the objects are well-written and fair; there are several extremely good short films on the subjects.

The exhibit doesn't flinch from the assassination; in one of the best pieces of the museum, a short hallway has stills from the Zapruder film on one wall and stills from another film from a reverse angle on the opposite wall. (I think this is the Nix film.) The exhibit presents a wide variety of alternate interpretations respectfully, if briefly. All in all, time and money very well-spent, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to one and all.

Tomorrow we are going to Fort Worth's landmark Mexican restaurant Joe T. Garcia's, and then I'm taking a bus to Austin. I'll be there overnight and then head down to San Antonio on Thursday for Worldcon.

My cousins are wonderful hosts, and it has been great spending many uninterrupted hours in their company, getting more of a sense of them as individuals. I highly recommend sharing ancestors with them.
  • Current Music
    "The Bullet & Big D", Bishop Allen

A note about the first Iron Man film

While writing a long comment to Marc Singer's very perceptive short essay on Man of Steel, I made this aside:

The first Iron Man movie made me realize that I have exhausted my tolerance for superhero stories where the good guy wins just by being a little more gooder, or more strongerer, or because the story has to be shaped that way.

Note that Singer's essay and my comments both have some discussion of significant plot surprises for MoS.

To elaborate on that aside (massive spoilers ahead for Iron Man):

In Iron Man, the big fight has two climaxes: Tony Stark leads Obadiah Stane into the stratosphere, where Stane's suit ices up, an established problem with the early generation of the suits. Stane appears to die, but shockingly surprises Tony on the ground; Tony manages to fuddle his way through the fight until Pepper blows up the rooftop reactor at Stark Industries, killing Stane and nearly killing Tony.

The script gets the two climaxes of the fight scene in exactly the wrong order. Blowing up the reactor should have come first, with Stark and Stane miraculously both barely surviving with badly damaged armor. THEN Stark should have lead the chase into to the stratosphere that iced up Stane's suit; Stane falls, inferior suit shatters, Stane dies. Stark could even try to save Stane as he falls, but oops, the fight has left his suit so badly damaged that he just can't catch him. In this ordering of events, Stark wins by virtue of his defining trait--he's the best inventor in the world--and Stane dies of his own malice.

By the way, I'm still alive and posting frequently on Twitter. (@womzilla).
  • Current Music
    "Particle Man", TMBG