Archive for Frank Miller

Batman #689

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 14th August, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Winick's new Batman is a joy to read.

Winick's new Batman is a joy to read.

“Long Shadows Part Two: New Day, New Knight”
Author: Judd Winick
Artist: Mark Bagley
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colorist: Ian Rannin
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts

I’ll be the first to admit that I absolutely hated Judd Winick’s run on Batman prior to Grant Morrison’s “Batman and Son” arc, but I have to hand it to him this time – I love what he’s done with the place since Bruce has gone.

As the title suggests, “New Day, New Knight” takes on a much lighter tone than we’re used to in a post-Miller Batman story, thanks in no small part to Dick Grayson’s circus sensibilities and Mark Bagley’s joyous artwork.  There are plenty of moments that brought a smile to my face, and they should do yours as well.  Batman #689 opens with a smile, as the new Batman busts up a gambling racket.  Granted, this particular incarnation of Batman is a little too talkative for my liking, but it’s good to see Dick finally revel in his mentor’s shoes.

Behind the curtain, Two-Face and Penguin posture themselves for control of Gotham’s underworld.  Two-Face’s camp has been filtering out Penguin’s plans to Batman through the appropriate channels, while Penguin forges dark alliances with some very dangerous people.  His days as a “legitimate businessman” could well be numbered as their cold war is brought to the boil.  I’ll be following this development with keen interest.

Despite this issue’s lighter tone, there’s plenty of room for an emotionally poignant exchange between Dick and Alfred.  I think we all miss Bruce, so I never get sick of these scenes.  Judd – through Dick – really cuts to the core of Batman’s butler, bringing out the human element in him and the rest of the cast, from Dick to Damian, even to Bruce  posthumously.  Winick emotionally grounds the story with a very simple and clever device.

The closing scene is reminiscent of Watchmen, as Batman races to extinguish a burning high-rise in his hovering Batmobile, no less.  He puts on such a splendid show, I half expected him to make coffee for the rescued residents a la Owlman.  It’s not all fun and games, though, as a classic rogue returns to ruin all of that.

Winick’s new Batman is a welcome departure from his old Batman.  It may be light-hearted, but it’s certainly not light on heart.

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Batman and Robin #1

Posted in Batman, Batman and Robin, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 5th June, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Together again for the first time.

Together again for the first time.

“Batman Reborn – Part One: Domino Effect”
Author: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover Artists: Frank Quitely and J.G. Jones

For all intents and purposes, Batman and Robin #1 is the real All-Star Batman and the Boy Wonder. Anyone who’s read Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman (and Frank Miller’s woeful All-Star Batman) will know what I mean. This Dynamic Duo returns for this new limited series Batman and Robin, with an all-new Batman and Robin.

It’s at this point that I should issue a general spoiler warning for those who haven’t read and intend to read Battle for the Cowl. It’ll be impossible for me discuss future issues, or indeed any future Batman titles, without first disclosing the outcome of that battle. Henceforth, I will no longer tread around the identities of the new Batman and Robin.

Here it is: Dick Grayson is the new Batman, and Damian Wayne (al Ghul) is the new Robin. Tim Drake’s new role has not yet been addressed, but I assume he will be headlining the new Red Robin series. Now, onto the story!

Grant Morrison’s back with his trademark verve and kineticism. The style of this series is very much a throwback to the Adam West TV series and that good ol’ Silver Age magic, albeit with a mature, modern twist (as Morrison is in the habit of doing). The book opens with Batman and Robin bearing down on Mr. Toad and his band of miscreants in a flying Batmobile. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, that just happened. Now, the difference between what you’re probably imagining, and what ended up on the printed page, is that Morrison actually makes it work (as Morrison is in the habit of doing).

Frank Quitely’s flying Batmobile is beautifully retro, as are Alex Sinclair’s colours. Quitely’s pencilwork is crisp and clean, though his ruddy inks belie a fondness of wrinkles, for better or worse. I think it makes for expressive character work, though others may beg to differ. If you’ve seen his work before, you’ll know what to expect, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint in my view. His incorporation of the onomaetopoeia into the actual artwork (water splashing forms the letters ‘SPLSH’, for instance) is quite clever, and not something that I’ve seen before. The sparseness of Morrison’s script has really allowed Quitely’s art to breathe, and it’s clear the team are comfortable in each other’s company here.

Bat-Shark Repellent is well-known for its Morrison worship, and for the sake of journalistic integrity, I make a point of highlighting this fact on every occasion. But allow me to highlight this as well: there’s a reason for it. One being that he always gives the most satisfying pseudo-scientific explanations! He gives one for the flying Batmobile, and it fits perfectly within comic book sensibilities and the Batman mythos.

The other reason, in this case, is just how well he makes all the elements mesh together. The new Batman and Robin suit the colourful tone of this book in a way that Bruce Wayne never could – there was always a heaviness and a seriousness to the post-80s Bruce that doesn’t lend itself to these kind of stories. Dick Grayson is Batman, but he was also the first Robin, and it’s clear here that that personality hasn’t been swallowed whole by the Bat-symbol. He still pays his dues to his Father and Teacher, and he wears the cape and cowl with a certain pride and trepidation, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously either. Which is a good thing when you have a handful like Damian al Ghul for a sidekick! Robin’s witty retorts and sense of entitlement are a hilarious counterpoint to a more patient and casual Batman – and why not? This Batman’s been Robin before; he just shoots back an even wittier reply and smiles knowingly.

Morrison is quick to establish this character dynamic, and also to distinguish this duo from previous incarnations. Then again, when was the last time you saw Batman and Robin really work together? I thought so. Watching them interrogate Mr. Toad is particularly entertaining.

This issue sees a villain known as Pyg and his Circus of Strange announce themselves as disturbing additions to Batman’s rogues gallery. Pyg is as deliciously creepy as any of Arkham’s inmates, while his henchmen are ‘themed’ villains in the vein of Batman’s more obsessive foes. His torture methods are the frightening antithesis of the Dynamic Duo’s interrogation. I mean it, he’ll give you the chills. The Circus of Strange is another well-meshed concept given Dick Grayson’s circus background.

If none of this makes sense to you, fear not! This is by far the most accessible Batman story I have read in a long time, possibly ever. The storytelling is simple, the dialogue is sparse, and yet it’s packed with plenty of brilliant concepts and comic action. I can think of no better time or place to jump in than here and now.

Wolverine TPB

Posted in Comics, Marvel, Wolverine with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 19th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Four parts brilliant to two parts...not-so-brilliant.

Four parts brilliant to two parts...not-so-brilliant.

Author: Chris Claremont
Artist: Frank Miller
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Colorist: Glynis Wein & Lynn Varley
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Artist: Frank Miller

Uncanny X-Men 172-173

Artist: Paul Smith
Inker: Bob Wiacek

Much like the recent Wolverine film, I recommend the first two-thirds of this trade paperback for the ideal Wolverine experience.  That is to say that I recommend reading the Wolverine mini-series penned and penciled by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, and not so much the issues of The Uncanny X-Men that succeed it.  While the additional issues may add to the perceived value of this collection, the drastic shift in tone, plot and pacing diminish the impact of the core 4-part story.  This shift can be attributed to two factors: the absence of Frank Miller, and the presence of the X-Men.

I can only conclude Frank Miller’s heavy involvement in the scripting of Wolverine, as the disparity in Claremont’s writing is striking.  Wolvie’s visceral tale of revenge and honour is not an easy act to follow, but the appearance of the X-Men is crude and garish by comparison.  The super-team feel like a cameo in their own book; an unwanted intrusion into Logan’s story.  I would recommend tracking down the mini-series alone if the price is right.  If this trade paperback is all you can find, then I implore you to stay your curiosity and stop reading when Miller stops drawing.  Not because Miller’s art is that much greater (though it is) – I honestly believe the issues that follow spoil the overall story.  I don’t know if that speaks to Logan’s character as the quintessential lone wolf, but I’ve still seen him operate effectively in well-written X-teams, and unfortunately this is not one of them.  Perhaps Claremont’s ongoing X-Men work was running on a tighter schedule and he was simply phoning it in.  Perhaps sales were flagging in the main book, and Wolverine’s re-introduction really was forced into the story, rather than the other way around.

Rogue’s character is particularly grating, both in dialogue and concept.  Case in point: Rogue casually mentions (in her irritating Southern accent) that she is half-alien, hence her immunity to poisons, and so of course she is the best candidate to help Logan on his mission!  Logan accepts her explanation as a matter of course, and is all of a sudden willing to put all his misgivings about her aside and take her on board(!).  Claremont infers that Wolvie employs good ol’ logical reasoning to arrive at this decision (“Hmmm…half-alien, immune to poisons…I guess you have a point”)!  On the back of a classic Japanese revenge tale, you can probably appreciate that I found this *a little* hard to swallow.  Also present is a pointless cameo of The Phoenix, Scott Summers’ new girlfriend who COINCIDENTALLY LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE JEAN GREY AND COINCIDENTALLY SURVIVED THE VERY SAME PLANE CRASH THAT JEAN GREY DIED IN – but it’s not Jean Grey; it couldn’t possibly be Jean Grey! X-fans curious as to the hallowed origins of Storm’s mohawk will also be pleased to know that its contrivance is explained herein!  See what I mean?  Well, I suppose you won’t until I elaborate on the mini-series itself.

Wolverine is the story of Logan’s battle for the heart of his ex-lover, Mariko.  Three obstacles lie in his path:

  1. Mariko’s father is Shingen Yashida, crimelord extraordinnaire.  His return to Japan necessitates:
  2. Her political marriage to an abusive Yakuza.
    And;
  3. Mariko is Japanese, Wolverine is a Gaijin (basically the n-word for white people, meaning ‘outsider’ or ‘foreigner’).

This means Wolvie has to try extra-hard to prove his worth.  That Lord Shingen is trying to kill him with his elite ninja force doesn’t help any.  To further complicate matters, maverick assassin Yukio also falls for Logan, despite being contracted to kill him.  Yukio proves to be an interesting character, surprisingly free-spirited for someone in the business of taking lives.  Unfortunately, this eccentricity is overplayed in Uncanny X-Men.  (To spare you the torture, Yukio has the dubious honour of inspiring Storm’s mohawk.)

Our (anti-?)hero’s position as an Westerner coming to grips with the Japanese ideology is well-placed from a writing perspective.  It would have been foolishness for Chris Claremont to claim mastery over a foreign culture.  As Claremont’s understanding increases, so too does Logan begin to embrace Japanese concepts of honour and duty.  Having read the very Japanese Ronin and Sin City, I can’t help but wonder whether this could have benefited from even more involvement from Frank Miller.  His artwork is cleaner and more academic than the style he’s become renowned for, but remains distinct and dynamic, especially during action scenes.

Without a doubt, Wolverine’s solo debut is a defining moment for the character.  Even his famous line “I’m the best at what I do” is coined here, but never overused; and the phrase feels fresher for knowing.  This is recommended reading for any comic reader.  Ignore the extras and you’ll be just fine.

The Dark Knight Cram School: The Greatest Batbooks of All Time.

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC, Detective Comics, film, JLA, The Dark Knight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 14th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

To celebrate the birth of Bat-Shark Repellent, I thought I’d lend my expertise to you all by recommending the Greatest Batbooks of All Time. I’ve made no secret of the fact that my comic book collection threatens to swallow my entire bedroom, so rest assured – I’ve read a lot of Batman. So if you’re looking for a good jumping-on point for the Caped Crusader, you’ve come to the right place. Here goes…


16. Batman: Venom

This story marks the second time Batman is broken, this time by addiction to a performance enhancing drug known as Venom. Venom has an almost surreal quality, but the story takes a very Bond-like turn when the Batman hunts down his tormentors. And yes, Bat-shark-repellent is involved!

15. Superman: Red Son

While not a Batbook per sé, Red Son features the coolest iteration of the Batman that you’ll ever see. It’s also one of the greatest Superman stories you’ll ever read. It’s an Elseworlds tale [i.e. outside of continuity] that poses the question: what if Kal-El landed in Russia instead of America? It further poses the question, how would a Russian Batman react to a superhuman Communist dictator?

14. Batman: The Man Who Laughs

A menacing Joker tale by veteran Ed Brubaker. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if his interpretation of the villain informed Heath Ledger’s performance.

13. Batman & the Monster Men

A young and naive Batman faces off against the abominations of Dr Hugo Strange. Written and drawn by the legendary Grendel creator Matt Wagner.

12. Batman & the Mad Monk

Matt Wagner returns for a supernatural romp through Batman’s past. It’s pulp and spectacle with a modern touch.

11. Son of the Demon

Batman marries the daughter of his greatest foe, Ra’s Al Ghul. The Bat and the Demon must work together to stop a terrorist threat, for Talia’s sake and the world’s. A controversial tale that has recently come into play in a big way.

10. Batman: Black & White Volumes 1 & 2

A series of Batman vignettes by comic book greats and mainstays, all in black and white. It’s amazing how much story they can cram within a few pages. A great laugh and a great deconstruction of the character. Pick up Volume 3 if you’re keen, it’s just not quite as good as the first two volumes.

9. Batman: Blind Justice

A surprising amount of material has been mined from Blind Justice to bring you Batman Begins, and this is chiefly because it is the authority on Bruce Wayne. It’s funny considering the author is none other than Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm. Never has Batman’s alter-ego [or past] been shaped so definitively. Believe it or not, Henri Ducard and Ra’s Al Ghul are two separate people. It’s a pity about the kooky mind-control, though.

8. Batman: Gothic

It’s surprising just how well Batman goes with the supernatural. Trust Grant Morrison to pull it off [and he continues to do so now!]. Everything about this tale is gothic, especially the art of Klaus Janson.

7. Batman: Year 100

Year 100 takes place in a dystopian future Gotham, which is eerily similar to the old Gotham: a dark place full of crooked cops. Batman is once again a wanted outlaw, though the authorities prefer to deny his existence altogether. Paul Pope’s gritty and brutal future is believable, and reminiscent of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. A great read with no strings attached.

6. Batman: The Cult

One of the greatest bat-villains was a one-and-done character, Deacon Blackfire. Criminals are being brutally murdered, while the homeless disappear from the streets of Gotham. He defeats the Batman in the worst possible way: by breaking his spirit. Another supernatural Bat-story written to great effect by comics stalwart Jim Starlin. Jason Todd (the second Robin) has never been so likable than in this book, which is surprising.

5. Arkham Asylum

Once again Grant Morrison gives supernatural depth to the Batman mythos, this time to his rogues’ accidental lair: Arkham Asylum. Batman’s greatest foes have taken the house hostage, challenging him to a game of wits. The Batman accepts, but he soon finds that the building has a life of its own. Drenched in symbology, each page is hand-painted by the legendary Dave McKean.

4. The Killing Joke

The Greatest Joker Story Ever Told. If there was ever a book to read before seeing Dark Knight, this is it. Comics legend Alan Moore proposes a possible origin for Batman’s arch-nemesis. Short and sweet.

3. The Long Halloween/Dark Victory

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale team up for one of the greatest Bat-mysteries ever told. Batman must sift through his rogues gallery to solve the mystery of the Holiday killer. The fall of the Falcone crime family; the definitive Two-Face origin story; the origin of Robin – it’s all here and it’s all told beautifully in a true marriage of word and picture.

2. Batman: Year One

Frank Miller redefines the Batman for a new era. Make no mistake, the Batman of Year One is the Batman we know and love today. The definitive Batman origin story, Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham to wage his personal war on crime. Gritty, dark, and grounded, Batfilm enthusiasts have this book to thank for its rich source material.

1. The Dark Knight Returns

Before Miller wrote his beginning, he wrote [and drew] the Batman’s end. A retired Bruce Wayne must don the cape and cowl once more to reclaim the streets of Gotham from Violence and Unreason. Without a doubt the Greatest Batman Story Ever Told, and one of the greatest graphic novels ever written.

Honourable Mentions
This is a list of other Batbooks that are still worth a read for Batfans, but have not been included in ‘The List’ for reasons I will state below:

Batman: Knightfall Part One – Broken Bat
Knightfall is like the Rocky movies: a great overall story arc, but the execution leaves a little to be desired. The chapters written by Chuck Dixon are pretty good (especially the moving finale), but most of the fill-in stories are abhorrent. Nonetheless, an important chapter of Batman’s life, though it suffers from the trappings of 90s event books and B-list villains. Bane puts the Batman through his paces, letting his entire rogues gallery loose upon Gotham. He breaks his spirit and then his back.

Batman: Nine Lives
A cinema-style noir murder mystery and a damn fine Elseworlds tale. It just feels a little dry, and the Batman takes a while to surface.

Batman: Thrillkiller
Again, this is a great Elseworlds tale, starring Batgirl and Robin, this time in the early 60s. Each panel is painted beautifully, but Batman’s glaring absence is once again noted for most of this tale.

JLA: Tower of Babel
A pretty good Justice League story with one tiny problem: Mark Waid’s Batman is a prick. This was the era of the know-it-all Batman – the House M.D. of comics, if you will – never explaining the methods behind his madness until the very end. Ra’s Al Ghul [you’ll hear his name a lot] procures Batman’s secret files to use them against his allies.

Tales of the Demon
If you can get past the West-ian campiness you’ll enjoy some of the greatest Ra’s Al Ghul stories ever written.

Strange Apparitions
Such an apt title for such a strange book. Following the death of Dr Hugo Strange, this story proves once again that the Bat mixes well with the supernatural. But if you can’t handle a little West-ness, you might want to steer clear.

A Death in the Family
An extremely imporant chapter in Batman’s life, but pretty poorly executed. The fact that the ending was voted for only cheapens the emotional impact.

Gotham by Gaslight
Another Elseworlds tale that suffers from not enough Batman. Batman must hunt down Jack the Ripper before it’s too late, but when Bruce Wayne is suspected, things go arye. The identity of the infamous serial killer is a little disappointing, especially when you compare the mystery as a whole to Alan Moore’s From Hell.

Hush
Hush amounts to nothing more than a gorgeous fangasm, really. Still a good read, up until the ‘big reveal’ at least. It’s still a pretty fun ride through Batman’s gallery of rogues and allies.

Batman & Dracula: Red Rain
The Batman must become a bat-man to protect Gotham from its bloodthirsty tormentor. It’s a pretty decent Elseworlds tale with a great idea behind it, Moench just doesn’t get as much mileage out of it as I had hoped.

Batman: Child Of Dreams
A Japanese take on the Batman, author Kia Asamiya actually deconstructs Japanese culture better than the character himself. This is essentially Batman for a new audience (the Japanese), so it’s understandable that many of the ideas presented are well-worn. It’s still well-executed and an intriguing read, nonetheless.

Death and the Maidens
Greg Rucka cooks up a storm within the Al Ghul family, building up a new heir and Bat-villain in Nyssa Al Ghul. But to kill a man who has resurrected himself time and again with such apparent finality – it’s a little hard to swallow – and with Ra’s’ recent resurrection last year, it all feels a little ineffectual. It is Greg Rucka and Klaus Janson, though, and you can’t blame them for trying.

So that does it for me – if want to dive headfirst into the Batman mythos, check out the books I’ve recommended above. If you want to go further, give the others a try – I’ve been a little harsh on them – they’re not the greatest, but they’re still enjoyable reads. I also highly recommend Grant Morrison’s current run on Batman, but be warned – it’s extremely zany, and requires a lot of background knowledge to follow.

What about you? Do you fancy yourself a fellow Bat-fan? Have I left out your favourite Batbook? If so, gimme some hell!

TMNT #1 25th Anniversary Reprint

Posted in Comics, Mirage, TMNT with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 10th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
"Go check out the East Warehouse over at Lairdman Island."

"Go check out the East Warehouse over at Lairdman Island."

I’ll be honest with you, when presented with a second choice of free comic for Free Comic Book Day, I was fairly indifferent.  I was even thinking of picking up a second copy of Blackest Night #0 just to be a tool and sell it on eBay.  But being the considerate guy that I am, I surveyed the stand to see if nothing else would catch my eye.  My eyes stopped on a familiar image:

Is that the first issue of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’?

I checked the corner of the cover art, and sure enough it was signed ‘Eastman ’84’.  Sounds about right.  Looked at the back cover: ’25th Anniversary 1984 – 2009′.  In my Sherlock-ian wisdom, I reasoned that okay then, this must be the 25th Anniversary reprint of TMNT #1.  “I’ll take it!”

Now, before I read this comic, I’d have proudly declared my intimate knowledge of the Turtles mythos.  I own 30+ Ninja Turtle action figures with weapons; the Turtle Van (or ‘Party Wagon’ as described on the box); four limited edition, fully-posable, hand-crafted Ninja Turtle figures based on the original comics still in their box; two copies of the Ninja Turtles Joke Book (which, you won’t be surprised to hear, is terrible); and a copy of their first (and best) live-action motion picture on VHS recorded from TV – NO ADS (it still hasn’t been released on DVD in Australia), among other things.  I memorised the ‘T-U-R-T-L-E Power’ rap!

I worked hard for my Turtles fandom.  When I was 6 years old and these mutant amphibian warriors set playgrounds alight the world over, my mother would not allow me to watch the cartoon because it was “too violent”.  So what did I do?  I watched it in secret.  Four o’clock, Channel 7, every afternoon after school.  I don’t even remember how I furnished such an elaborate lie, but I did, for an entire year before I was discovered.  After which, my mother, in her Sherlock-ian wisdom (which she has since passed down to her son), allowed me to continue watching it, as she deduced that I had not become (noticeably) more violent over the past year.  It took another year of wearing them down to get my first action figure.  In the meantime I had to settle on a handheld Game & Watch-style Ninja Turtles game (which I got a lot of mileage out of) “and that’s it”.

My parents' first Turtles concession - <em>"and that's it"</em>.

My parents' first Turtles concession - "and that's it".

Next thing I know, I’m 8 years old and I’m holding my very first Ninja Turtles action figure (Raphael) “and that’s it”.  This went on until I collected the whole set.  Eventually, I think my parents gave up.  They must have resigned themselves to the fact that Ninja Turtles and I were destiny.  They wouldn’t let me see the live-action film at the cinema because it was, well, live-action (you can watch the cartoon series, “and that’s it”).  When it aired on TV, my father recorded it for me and cut out the ads for me.  Bless his heart.  Bless both their hearts.  Hopefully now you have a fairly accurate picture of my TMNT pedigree.  Now, allow me to drop the megaton on you: I HAVE NEVER READ A NINJA TURTLES COMIC BOOK IN ALL MY LIFE. Until now.

This comic grabbed me, shook me violently, slapped me in the face multiple times, and rebuked me in a terrible, Shredder-like voice, “YOU KNOW NOTHING OF THE TURTLES FOUR!!”

When I read in words and pictures, black and white, the true origin of the Ninja Turtles, and their greatest foe, Oroku Saki, I was surprised by the marked differences between the comics, the cartoons, and the live-action film.  To their (and their characters’) credit, Eastman and Laird have been more than flexible, adapting their creative property with a clear sensibility for medium and audience, but by the same token, I empathise with the true Turtles fan’s impossible task: to reconcile these clearly contradictory continuities into a cohesive mythology.  I suppose it’s really no different to the task of any comic book reader (Marvel’s 616 Universe vs. the Ultimate Universe, DC’s pre-crisis Multiverse vs. the post-crisis Universe vs. the post-post-crisis Multiverse, etc.), but these continuities contradict and parallel each other to this day.  For me, it’s simply a case of picking and choosing the bits that I like, and willfully ignoring the parts that I don’t.  More ardent fans likely have to settle with juggling three or more separate Turtles universes in their heads at the same time!

To begin with, Hamato Yoshi was a member of the Foot clan in Japan, a guild of assassins by trade.  Secondly, it was not Oroku Saki who competed with Yoshi for the love of the woman Tang Shen (a surprisingly Chinese name), rather his brother, Oroku Nagi (that’s right, ‘Oroku’ is the surname, and it is spoken first as is the custom in Japan).  Oroku Nagi assaulted Tang Shen when she refused his love, and Yoshi in turn beat Nagi to death in his blinding rage.  Yoshi, disgraced for having killed a fellow clansman, flees to America with his wife Tang Shen, while Saki swears vengeance for his brother’s blood at Nagi‘s funeral.  Saki becomes the Foot’s most accomplished assassin by the age of eighteen, and is sent to New York to found their new base of operations in the U.S.  As the Shredder, Saki tracks down and kills Shen and then Yoshi.  And the rest, as they say it, is history – Splinter sends out his fully-trained Ninja Turtles on their first mission to avenge the death of his Master.

That’s right, the Ninja Turtles fight and kill their greatest foe – The Shredder – in their very first encounter; in the very first issue!  That this one-and-done story spawned a series and a franchise is nothing short of amazing, and yet, at the same time, it isn’t.  Laird defends the hasty disposal of one of comics’ most notable villains in his opening letter, and rightly so.  It lends the story a raw power and urgency – as Laird confides, he wrote as if there was no second issue.  He also mentions that Eastman and himself simply wanted an opportunity to play on the same field as their heroes Jack Kirby and Frank Miller (an odd couple if ever I heard one), and the two influences shine through in this issue.  On the Kirby side of things, I could feel the energy and vitality of a story that may never be told again.  In the Miller corner, I could see the grim and gritty visual style; the heavy line-work; the fascination with Ancient Japan; and even the *suggestion* of an intersection with Daredevil’s origin story (could the ooze that transformed the Turtles be the same chemical that blinded and empowered Matt Murdock?).

Daredevil: The Secret of the Ooze.

Daredevil: The Secret of the Ooze.

It’s indie; it’s lo-fi; it feels like rare vinyl and vintage jeans.  The lettering and panel layouts are very rough, but all in all, I could really appreciate the inherent, visceral power of what is essentially a classic Japanese revenge tale.

Certainly the Ninja Turtles have since taken on a life of their own, larger than Eastman and Laird’s original vision, but damn if this comic wasn’t a great place to start.  Otherwise 25 years would have been a bit of a stretch.  Happy Birthday, boys!

Get Out Of My Comic Books, U.S. Navy.

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 6th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

I have a bone to pick with the U.S. Navy.  And it’s not what you’d expect.

It all started with a comic book that I was reading about seven months ago.  It felt remarkably solid, and didn’t have the usual flexibility of a comic book.  When I went to flip the page (from the edge, so as not to contaminate the ink with the oil from my fingerprints), I found that I couldn’t, and had to physically grip the page between my thumb and forefinger to turn the page.  I found the offender on the next page – a cardboard reply post paid slip, courtesy of the US Navy.

It was part of a recruitment drive, and it had a series of tick-boxes on it with suspicious-looking codes next to each choice.  Presumably the idea was that comic book readers were a previously untapped demographic for the armed services.  It only stands to reason, after all, that people who enjoy reading the likes of Checkmate, Suicide Squad, or the Secret Six would also like to participate in the joys of actually killing people and blowing things up in real life, right?

I don’t know. I was busy trying to figure out how on Earth this cardboard slip got in there, and how to best pull it out.  Turns out it was folded along the staple-line and slipped in between the staples, so I had to pull it out through one side without uprooting said staples.  It was only in a couple of comics, and I figured it out eventually, so no harm done, right?  Wrong.  The following week, the same damn slip appeared in EVERY SINGLE ONE of my comic books, and the week after that.  As of today I have enough recruitment forms to have joined the Navy at least 28 times.  To tell you the truth, I’ve been throwing them all around the floor and making snow angels with them, so I kind of lost count.

I understand the U.S. Navy’s need for new blood to patrol the open seas, but next time, how about just taking out a page ad with a hotline number like regular folk?  This kind of advertising is just plain annoying and intrusive.

[Then again, ‘intrusive’ is probably more their style…]

Don’t they know that most comic book nerds are either a) overweight, b) overly weedy, or c) lefty scum?  And then there was the fact that I’m an Australian, and I buy my comics from an Australian comic book shop.  That’s one of the questions, though: “Are you a U.S. citizen?”  So presumably they don’t care if you’re American or not either.

Who knows, maybe a Batman fan out there wants to strike fear into the hearts of terrorists the world over.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather leave that type of thing to Batman.  Incidentally, there is a graphic novel in the works called Holy Terror, Batman! by Frank Miller, who else?  I’m guessing it’s satirical, though, and therein lies the difference.

So let this be a warning to you, U.S. Navy.  If you don’t stop infiltrating my comics, every pizza coupon I can find will be piggybacking its way back to HQ par avion.  And thanks to your generosity, you’ll be footing the bill.