Comics of the Weak Comics of the Weak

Now We Know The Price Tag On Your Esteem

Nate Bulmer! Eat More Bikes! Wait what about


The big news recently was probably that bit where people fought for their lives against the elements, and the massive property damage and loss of life that ensued, which would normally be a sufficient quantity of news to digest for a week.  But rather than take some time off, the entertainment business decided this was the ideal time to announce the purchase of STAR WARS by the Walt Disney megacorporation.

Yes, the company that owns Marvel Comics as well as Pixar now owns some of geekdom's favorite characters, and fans have their fingers crossed about the crossovers that might ensue.  Captain America vs. Captain Kirk!  Spiderman vs. Sulu!  The Incredibles fighting  the Romulans!  Wolverine vs. Worf!  Who would win?  Who would lose?  Will Lieutenant Commander Data learn lessons about humanity from the Incredible Hulk?  Will Buzz Lightyear be able to make friends with even Bones, the curmudgeonly ship doctor?  Needless to say, STAR WARS fans on the internet are reeling from the possibilities.

Certainly, if the same company that brought America the hit movie AVENGERS will release STAR WARS EPISODE 7, there is more than one STAR WARS fan out there ready to say "Beam me up" to that, and now eagerly look forward to loading up the family station wagon and rushing to their local theaters, at warp factor five, engage.
But danger, Will Robinson, danger! "How will Dark Horse Comics be affected?" asked someone probably.  Dark Horse Comics had long been responsible for years upon years upon years of STAR WARS comics that probably were even read by someone, I would assume-- I mean, it's at least possible.  "I really care what happens to Dark Horse Comics," maybe someone said at some point, you would think.  Needless to say, more than one STAR WARS fans is hoping Dark Horse manages to "live long and prosper."

But what about HE-MAN?  No, no, seriously-- what about fucking HE-MAN?  On October 30th, i.e. a day where people really cared more than anything about HE-MAN and his MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE,DC Comics and USA Today promoted the new DC Comic MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: ORIGIN OF SKELETOR, "a powerful one-shot tale featuring the skeletal 1980's cartoon and toy villain and He-Man's greatest foil.  The timing couldn't be better either." Sure, sure: October 30, 2012-- perfect timing for a powerful story about Skeletor...

SKELETOR author Joshua Fialkov was quoted as saying, "Before, it was more about 'Let's do what we think the kids want,' whereas now we get to tell stories that are what the adults want."  USA Today agrees, "The interest in He-Man and Skeletor, and even for oddball bad guys such as Stinkor, continues for people who, like Fialkov, are in their early to late 30s — a huge chunk of the comic-reading audience — so deeper stories with these characters hit the sweet spot for everybody."

Oh, it's a glorious time to be an adult.  Sure, there's the part where your parents grow increasingly sick and begin to die, and the people who will have loved you more than anyone else your entire life will then be gone forever.  On the other hand, Stinkor comics are finally telling the stories you want!  Adults rule-- kids drool!  Jacks and sevens are wild!  Ptooey Ptooey!  (shooting six-guns into the air).  Ptooey Ptooey!  And there's going to be more STAR WARS!  This VITA sure is LA DOLCE for people in that wet [CAN WE CROSS OUT WET USING CROSSOUTY FONT?] sweet spot of their late 30's.  Yes, I can confidently speak for STAR WARS fans everywhere when I say KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN.


Sergeant Rock #404
By Bob Kanigher, Joe Kubert
Published by DC Comics, 1965/85
This issue of the well known war comic once featured in the closing credits of the John McTiernan film Predator took place right before a two parter titled "Angels With Black Wings", a story familiar to most 80's DC readers due to the fact that it had a full page house ad for what seemed like a full calendar year. The two parter, which I have never had the pleasure of reading, was reportedly about prejudice towards African Americans, and in classic tone-deaf DC fashion, the tagline for the advertisement was "PUT ASIDE YOUR PREJUDICES--HERE'S A WAR BOOK THAT'S DIFFERENT", reminding the reader that prejudice towards black people is a bad thing, but so is the prejudice of you motherfucking super-hero readers towards war comics. Guilt trips work exceptionally well when spouses or stereotypical mothers (either of the Jewish or Italian variety, Irish women are more consistently portrayed as martyrs), but they almost never work when the guilt trip is being laid down by DC or Marvel Comics. At least, that was the rule up until the last ten years, when all of a sudden everybody with a passing interest in comic books was expected to rush to the movie theater on opening weekend to watch whatever dipshit super-hero movie happened to be out, or else Jimmy Palmiotti would get his feelings hurt. Maybe instead of bitching and moaning back in 1985, the Sgt. Rock team could've mustered up the desire to make new issues? This one is just a reprint of a story from 1965. Featuring a seriously convoluted series of flashbacks, nestled within each other like a crotchety Russian doll, the story offhandedly depicts the death of a Rock's younger brother in a hilariously irresponsible training exercise where the two men jump off the Golden Gate Bridge without parachutes so they'll be prepared for all the times when such an absurdly unnecessary skill is required. Lucky for Rock, one of those times occurs in this comic; unlucky for his brother, who ended up leaving San Francisco in a pine box. As with many Joe Kubert comics, the whole thing looks so great you'll have a hard time believing your brain as it screams at you about how boring reading the whole thing is.

B.I. Buke
By Michael Olivo
Published by Hirnplatzine
I like everything this guy makes; I like it even more when I can see printed versions of it, and this happens to be a printed version of one of the things that he makes: all and all, that's a good deal. Except for an opening "fuck"--still the best word ever, people who don't use it should be murdered in front of their families, Prime Movers style--the comic is a silent one, tracing the journey of one humanoid creature and his interactions with some sort of cult/collective. A good bit of the comic focuses on the yanking off of someone's head and then the delivery (or rescue?) of that headless body, which spouts blood continuously. While Olvio is no slouch with color, as you can see on his website, B.I. Buke is black and white, contains close-ups of genitalia and...I'm not gonna use the word "weird", because that word seems a little too dismissive. This is a comic more in line with comics-as-music than it is comics-as-screenplay, and its the sort of thing that there really should be more of.

Winter Soldier #12
By Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice, Brian Thies, Bettie Breitweiser
Published by Marvel Comics

The only way Bucky (the Winter Soldier of the title) can get his girl back is if he allows the bad guy (who has brainwashed his girl) to also brainwash him for the purposes of making him assassinate somebody. If that seems unnecessarily complicated--why not say "you have to go kill somebody" instead of "you have to let somebody brainwash you into going and killing somebody"--Brubaker at least addresses that directly, with Bucky (the Winter Soldier of the title) describing the mind-control experience as being like "some small piece'a you is awake..watching. Like a passenger in your own body", which is the not so subtle way that we are told how bad this bad guy really is, because he doesn't just want Bucky to murder somebody, he wants him to really suffer through the experience in a meta fashion. I'd say "don't think about it too hard", but we weren't going to anyway, that's why we read things like Winter Soldier. When half the country is seriously thinking of voting for a Mormon so full of shit that even the Salt Lake Tribune won't back him up, just because the guy's road dog is a sexy P90X fan who never grew out of Ayn Rand, you're god damn good and right that those of us safe in the bosom of a city willing to prosecute rapists is going to flail around for the closest possible Wolverine related title we can find just to forget the world we live in as soon as humanly possible. He's the best at what he does, but even if he wasn't, real life is giving him a massive head start.
Like Hawkeye's recent appearances in the title, Wolverine (and Captain America, who shows up briefly) is as unnecessary from the purpose of narrative--allowing if you will the belief that what's "necessary" in a super-hero comic can be gauged on a sliding scale, meaning we ignore for now the ripe potential that maybe the inclusion of popular super-heroes is merely to spike interest in a comic title that could use a sales boost--as it is to use Daredevil as the target of the aforementioned assassination...unless one recalls that those characters are all characters that Ed Brubaker has had some decent level of affiliation with during his stint as a freelance writer of Marvel comics, and as he seems to be making good on his earlier claims of a departure from Marvel Comics, maybe he's just got a kitchen sink thing going on right now. Either way, this issue isn't very good--most of the others ones have been, so a slow one like this, dependent upon exposition and infinitesimal plot movement, well, that's going to stick out--but it's still a pleasantly hideous comic from an artist who is obviously relishing the free pass to faux-Steranko town he's been given. Marvel isn't going to be without good writers when this comic ends--I don't know if I believe that, but i'm trying to have something to look forward to--but it won't have any more comics like this, and that's going to be a loss.

Batman Incorporated #4
By Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbairn
Published by DC Comics
This is as good as that Happy comic is terrible, and whoa, that Happy comic sure is an embarassing piece of garbage, huh? Jeez. How good is it gonna be though, when the movie of that is coming out and Morrison will have to stand around pretending he knows something about the RZA and Wu-Tang and--just hip-hop in general. That's gonna be some serious trainwreck watching. Batman, whatever: this is a good long fight comic, nothing in it is abbreviated or moronic, it also looks nice, which happens so infrequently in DC comics these days that "completely hideous work by ferociously untalented amateurs who should have been drowned in the toilet bow" seems to be the official house style.  Chris Burnham is to Frank Quietly what Marc Silvestri was to Jim Lee, and while that means Burnham shoots higher, that doesn't change the fact that he works in a style that constantly reminds you of someone else that you like a little more. The illusion that this story is moving forward continues--Morrison even goes so far to insert another who-guessed-it moment as a way to pretend there's things left to reveal--putting the reader firmly in the seat of when this particular writer is at his historical worst, that being when he tries to wrangle years worth of fake-outs and goof-offs into some sort of literate conclusion. That being said, except for that totally unnecessary zero issue, Batman Incorporated has been a solid book since it started up again, and this issue might be the best one since the one where Morrison inadvertently made fun of people who took those Scalped comics seriously.

40 Responses to Now We Know The Price Tag On Your Esteem

  1. Andrew Taylor says:

    What kind of Skeletor stories can there be that adults want to read? Skeletor getting his yearly physical? Skeletor struggling with his mortgage? Skeletor meekly going through his daily routine? Skeletor driving down the highway, singing along to CCR so that he forgets about having to put up with He-Man’s shit every day of the week?

    Wait, wait, no, those aren’t stories “adults” want to read, just what I would. Of course, I’d have to get over the whole aversion to Masters of the Universe, first.

  2. David says:

    I get the comparison between Quitely and Burnham, but I think Burnham definitely steps out of Quitely’s shadow, and, while not surpassing him, certainly equals him and does great things.

  3. David says:

    What I mean is I definitely think Burnham has his own style and is a fantastic artist in his own right.

  4. Jack Feerick says:

    No no no no no — they are PSYCHOLOGICALLY REALISTIC stories about Skeletor’s TORMENTED INNER FEELINGS AND MOTIVATIONS, about WHY he must lash out and torment the good people of Eternia. Seriously, That’s what it’s about. because apparently “He’s a fucking evil skeleton, deal with it” is not an answer that discriminating, mature adult readers will find acceptable.

    These are the same people for whom that gawdawful live-action Jim Carrey Grinch movie was made — you know, the one that explored the Grinch’s tragic backstory as a way of explaining his hatred for Who-ville and Christmas and the whole schmeer. Made by grown-ups, for grown-ups, to answer the “questions” that no actual child is stupid enough to ask.

    Children understand (perhaps without articulating it) that character like the Grinch or Skeletor is best seen as a force of nature, and that questioning their motives is about as useful as trying to psychoanalyze a hurricane.

    (Too soon?)

  5. James W says:

    I honestly don’t think of Quitely when I look at Burnham’s stuff anymore, either, but then this was one of my favourite Winter Soldier issues so What Do I Know?

    I always curse myself for reading the recap page of this any comic – Brubaker’s been very good at catching you up and the whole serialised-but-self-contained approach.

  6. Andrew Taylor says:

    It’s never too soon, I say.

  7. It’s a DC comic, so I assume his girlfriend got raped, and that’s why he turned evil. And somebody probably got their arm ripped off or something, you gotta have that gore.

    I’m curious about this Stinkor fellow though. His tragic backstory had better involve some farts or something.

  8. Andrew Taylor says:

    Someone farted in Stinkor’s girlfriend’s mouth. He vowed revenge.

  9. mateor says:

    I think Batman Inc. has been one of the better Morrison books in quite some time. Since the Filth, maybe? Liable to fall apart, as noted.

    I feel like there must be a pernt to Happy, I just ain’t figgered it out yet. If it is truly to tweak Millar and Ennis, well what a waste of time.

  10. Dave says:

    This is Abhay’s masterpiece.

  11. Iestyn says:

    To me it just looks like he mixes Quitely with some Steve Dillon. But I’m in a bad mood tonight

  12. Nate A. says:

    I think you’re being unfair to Silvestri, who was shunter off of Uncanny X-Men for not being Jim Lee, who he preceded. You buy a Sivestri comic because you like half nekkid ladies with HR Geiger stuff covering the naughty bits. You buy Jim Lee because you like big strong men, but Howard Chaykin makes you feel kind of gay, which you definitely aren’t.

  13. Jeppe says:

    Fuck you Tucker Stone, for making me laugh out loud in a crowded academic conference room.

  14. Paul H says:

    I got the Skeletor comic off of pirate bay and gave it a look through. Their giving the Skeletor character the Wicked treatment. The art is by Frazier Irving.

  15. Jayhawh says:

    That quote from the SKELETOR(!!!!!!!!) author is fake right? It’s a joke that is made up and not real to be a joke right?

    These things can’t be real.

    They cannot happen.

  16. Ryan Cecil says:

    Just dropping by to say – Abhay made me LOL at work, w/ the Star Wars report/pics

  17. Chris Jones says:

    I just noticed that “early-to-late 30s” is redundant. You can just say “30s” and it means exactly the same thing. Also, Everything Else About That Quote.

  18. Dave Hartley says:

    The USA Today and Fialkov quotes are quite real :

    Skeletor gets a dark and powerful origin story – USA Today

    And there’s more :

    “Now that we’re in a position of power with the brand, we get to tell the kind of dark, complicated stories that the original creators never would have expected. You get to play with these toys in new and exciting ways,” Fialkov says.’

    “The fact that he got his face burned off is more than just the actual physical act of burning his face off. It has an emotional root.”

    No doubt She-Ra’s rape origin story can’t be far behind.

  19. Sean Michael Robinson says:

    Ah, USA Today, that last bastion of pure journalism in this world of puffery and press releases.

    For some real slice-of-life aging He-Man/Skeletor (yes, I mean that slash in the most fulsome of senses) check out Carl Franzen Nelson’s delightful, bdsm-tinged “Male-Man”.

  20. Andrew Taylor says:

    “No doubt She-Ra’s rape origin story can’t be far behind.”

    I’d shush you and say, “Don’t give them any ideas!”, but we already know this is their one idea.

  21. Christopher says:

    This is why the comics industry is in the toilet though, the inmates are running the asylum, the grizzled old pros with their beards and tent-like Hawaiian shirts are being replaced with guys and gals whose greatest ambition is to get a chance to make their fanfic tragic backstory for the bad guys from M.A.S.K. or Bravestarr officially part of the canon.

  22. D. Peace says:

    I motion for a moratorium on the use of the terms “toys” to refer to corporate-owned characters and IP, “play with” to refer to the writing of stories using said “toys” and “sandbox” to refer to any company whose “toys” a writer wishes to “play with”.

    Can I get a second?

    Just my personal preference: I can INSTANTLY tell with utter and unerring precision how much I’ll hate any given comics writer by his likelihood to give an interview where he professes to “be really excited to go play with these new toys in the other guy’s sandbox!” or how much he’d like to “really stretch out and play with some new toys!” You are, perhaps without intending, communicating that you are an infant and the writing of this comic is nothing but fanfic for you when you say these things. Yeah, I get it, you’re not literally down on the floor making action figures “fly” (insert whooshing noises here) and “shoot powers at each other” (insert PEW! PEW! PEW! noises here) but, in fact, YEAH YOU ARE THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE DOING. Except now, you’re 39 and you know what hate-sex is and you know that it’s something grown-ups do so you have to incorporate that into it. Please, please stop.

    And some of my favorite writers have done stints on corporate-owned characters but, interestingly, they never use the “sandbox” and “toys” terminology. That’s like my litmus test for when a writer is going to suck through a straw and it is shocking how well it works. If someone can point to an interview where a better writer, such as your Azzarellos, your Brubakers, your Ennises, uses the sandbox and toys terms, prove me wrong but I haven’t seen it.

  23. Andrew Taylor says:

    While we’re at it, maybe everyone can stop talking about “brands” like they’re the hotshot MBA that just got the VP of Marketing opening? That would be kind of nice. Reading all these people who are supposed to be creative talk about their work like they’re holding up a giant spreadsheet in front of themselves during interviews is just depressing.

  24. bad johnny got out says:

    You don’t really want them to stop giving you a heads up do you? Or is this a cruel game you’re playing with yourself?

  25. Jayhawh says:

    And then her dismembered corpse is found in the engine compartment of Man-At-Arms’ wing glider, and the entire next issue is He Man sitting on his throne shedding a singular tear as he talks about how he doesn’t know how he’s going to live now, and the page will have one of those embedded sound things (collector value NOW NO LONGER POSSIBLE TO CALCULATE) that plays “How Could This Happen to Me” by Simple Plan as He Man mopes around Castle Grayskull.

    Then I’ll show it to all my friends and say “see that’s why I liked it as a kid because it was secretly very grown up so He Man is still cool and that validates all of my nostalgia.”

    Although most likely I’ll wait for the Care Bears tie in.

  26. Joe says:

    No, please do keep talking about “brands” and “toys” and “sandboxes” when you talk about this trash, because then we will be sure to know what comics by what overgrown babies we wouldn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole

  27. MG says:

    Really? The tired old joke of pretending Star Wars is Star Trek is his masterpiece? You must really hate the guy, then.

  28. MG says:

    Abhay, a “Star Wars is Star Trek, lol” joke? Who are you, Joss Whedon? You really phoned it in today. You can do better, I’ve read you do way better.

  29. Pallas says:

    I loved this Snark. Brian K. Vaughan is considered a good writer, though, isn’t he?

    “NR: Is there a big difference between creating your own world, like in Y, or the Marvel books you�ve done which were pretty much set in a pre-existing universe?

    BKV: There are benefits and drawbacks to both. Your own creations are your own children; you gave life to them, so you�ll always have, if not more passion to them, more connections to them. Working on the Marvel stuff, it�s fun to go into someone else�s sandbox where things have already been established for you and it gives you more leeway to work on the characters or your particular story. You don�t have to worry about all the ins and outs. Whereas, Y takes a really long time to write since I have to do a lot of research and think about every angle of every possible scenario.”

  30. Paul H says:

    I read and reviewed Skeletor #1 here if you’re curious about it.

  31. Ken Parille says:

    I thought that the Masters of the Universe comic was sort of ok, with some interesting looking art. But after reading that interview, I feel a little embarrassed for liking it: “Now that we’re in a position of power with the brand, we get to tell the kind of dark, complicated stories that the original creators never would have expected.”

  32. MG says:

    The interview is just dumbass fluff meant to drum up sales. Utterly meaningless. But everytime some dude says this sort of thing, TCJ readers have a conniption. It’s both predictable and hilarious.

  33. Fortran Davis says:

    Quite, quite. Good thing that such a cool dude as yourself can’t stop spending time here.

  34. Fortran Davis says:

    Worked on you, though.

  35. zack soto says:

    Yeah, the comic was actually pretty good.

  36. MG says:

    Abhay and Tucker are big boys, they don’t need your echo chamber style defense. TCJ will survive having a commenter who doesn’t drink the kool-aid

  37. D. Peace says:

    HA! Alright, I do love BKV. You got me there.

  38. Fortran Davis says:

    You don’t seem like a very big boy

  39. Jayhawh says:

    I read it and I thought “this isn’t too bad I guess……………….. so why is it a He Man comic?”

    It’s like, if you have a good comic to make, why not just make an original concept?

    Although knowing them, “original concept” would mean “Okay so he is Male Person and he lives in Castle Blackskull and he fights Skellington.”


  40. MG says:

    Maybe they like He-Man? Everyone likes at least one stupid thing. Who cares? I’d rather it be a harmless dumb old kids cartoon from the 80s than something like the virulent “ironic” racism of Ben Marra or the sickening misogyny of the comics Matt Seneca excretes.

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