Friday, May 27, 2005

California, Here I come!

Historically, as everyone knows, when a blogger or other site owner plans on going on hiatus she or he would post a photo of a can of Campbell's Mushroom Soup. Sadly, this blogger hasn't figured out how to post pics yet so you will have to make do with a link to my destination.

If you click on the headline above, or go over to you can at least see how the weather & traffic is out in the Laguna Niguel vicinity.

Donna and I are heading out to spend some time with The Child (as she is known here at Chez Chaput). Kristina, and her father Michael, have a party planned for our arrival so if you happen to catch an episode of COPS in the near future, you may just see us enjoying ourselves.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend and a Happy Fleet Week to my fellow New Yorkers!

I don't know if I'll have a chance to post out there so I'll probably catch you in a week or so.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Manji is a samurai, a skilled warrior who carries and uses dozens of bladed weapons. He is also immortal, "condemned to a life of combat until he spills the blood of a thousand evil men." Cursed by an ancient nun and with his body enfused with magical worms which will repair almost any wound (save decapitation), Manji must forefill his destiny of wander the earth forever knowing no peace.

Dark Horse Comics publishes the creation of writer/artist Hiroaki samurai, one of the best known (if mysterious) manga artists in Japan. Rarely making public appearances and never photographed, Hiroaki brings to mind the American comics artists Steve Ditko. Like Hiroaki, Ditko says that he prefers for his work to speak for itself. The work he produces for his best known creation certainly speaks very well.

First published in Japan in the mid-1990s, BLADE tells the tale of Manji as he wonders the country as 'bodyguard' for Rin, who seeks revenge for the death of her parents. The art is the books is deceptively simply in some panels, but Hiroaki demonstrates a masters pen in the full page (and sometimes double page) scenes of Manji in battle. The writing, translated by Dana Lewis and Toren Smith, may strike some folks as odd as it switches from the formal speech of some characters to the street lingo (very contemporary in some aspects) of others. This reflects what Hiroaki intends in his original, so the translators do their best to respect and follow his lead. Once you get used to it it makes sense as the language easily shows the emotions and attitudes of the speakers.

Over a dozen issues of BLADE are already in print and readily available in many bookstores and better comic shops. Here in Queens the popularity of not only this title but manga in general has moved the library system to carry this and other manga translations.

This is different from something along the lines of LONEWOLF & CUB, but if you enjoy manga, especially of the samurai/adventure variety I think you'd be doing yourself a favor by at least checking out an issue. You should start with the first, but their is editorial material in each book which explains the basic plot and things about the style and era in which the story takes place.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Fullmetal Alchemist (VIZ Graphic Novel) - You may have seen the animated version of this on [adult swim] over on the Cartoon Network. The Elric brothers, Edward & Alphonse lost their mother at an early age, and dedicated themselves to learning the secrets of alchemy (a sort of scientific magic in this book) in order to bring her back from the dead. Even in magic, we discover, there are rules which must be obeyed. Tragically the two siblings learn (or rather ignore) this rule and both suffer accordingly. Alphonse is killed and his older brother Edward loses his leg. To save his brother, Edward willingly sacrifices one of his arms, but only Alphonse's spirit returns and is now imprisoned in a large suit of armor. Together the brother wander the land, working for the military government which rules this world.

Writer/artist Hiromu Arakawa works in typical manga style, bringing a light touch to the more humorous sequences, but still able convey the action and sometimes horror which the brothers must deal with in their journey.

Vol. 1 of FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST brings together the first three stories from the Japanese manga Shonen Gangan. Here we learn how the brothers became as they are and also meet some of the other members of the alchemist fraternity with which they work. Recommended for Teens and adult fans of this type of material.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Howard Morris: RIP

I feel badly that I missed hearing of the passing of comedian and character actor Howard Morris. I read of it for the first time just a few moments ago over at Mark Evanier's site.

I actually had the opportunity to see the man in action at one of those wonderful voice actor panels that Mark puts together at many San Diego Comic Conventions. He was just as funny and antic as you would imagine.

My condolences to his family, friends and millions of fans.

"Uncle Goopy!!!!

Monday, May 23, 2005

PREVIEWS: a look at what's ahead

Holy crap! (to quote one of my role models, Frank Barone)

I haven't had a chance to look at an issue of PREVIEWS for about a year or so, back when I was still regularly buying comics in Connecticut. I can't believe that I actually used to get through this each and every month, plus fill out the order form. The amount of comics material is incredible, and that doesn't even include the trading cards, models, animation and other stuff. You'd have to be in the Bill Gates category to even begin to afford just the regular titles from the major and alternative publishers. Hard to believe that the industry was bordering on self-destruct only a decade ago.

Some things remain the same, while there are evident changes in what is hitting the shops these days. We seem to have weathered the "Bad Girl" influx of the mid-90s, with only a few titles like LADY DEATH and a few Verotic titles still around. VAMPIRELLA and RED SONJA, both early entries in the barely dressed heroine sub-genre, remain favorites with both male & female fans of that type of thing.

Of course, the latest issue of PREVIEWS is filled with the usual hundreds of titles from DC, Marvel and Image, with Dark Horse producing their own wide range of material. The Big Two continue to focus on the super-hero books which made them into the driving forces in the industry, surviving after dozens of other publishers fell by the wayside. Only the books produced by Archie Comics have been around as long as those from the the former National and Atlas stables. Now it seems that the super-hero books are being kept around more for the abililty to be marketed to non-print media. Hollywood is once again making a number of films based on characters and stories from the four-color world. (SIN CITY is more black & white, but you know what I mean!)

There are two real bright spots reflected in this issue. First, the amazing popularity of manga (Japanese comics & graphic novels) which seem to have brought a new audience into shops and book stores. Perhaps some of those kids (and their parents) might just find some American made books which would also appeal to them. Secondly, a number of publishers (chiefly small companies and self-publishers) have begun to produce titles which will appeal to an "all-ages" audience. It seems that some wiser heads have taken a look at what is available in Europe & Asia and realized that the industry should try to broaden its appeal. The fanboys will always bee there to see Uber-man and Thumb Twister battling each and every month, but these guys are not going to keep the market viable and they are not getting any younger.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I bought PREVIEWS, but it ended up giving me a positive feeling about my hobby and its ability to change and remain relevant. It may even get me back into the shops when I have a few extra bucks.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Comic Review: Countdown To Infinite Crisis

This short review is filled with spoilers, or rather one big spoiler about a DC character. If you haven't already read this book, and would rather not have a major plot revealed you should stop at this point.

BLUE BEETLE is not one of the major DCU heroes, in fact it seems that he has always been treated as little more than a third-rate BATMAN imitator. He wasn't always like that, in fact the original BLUE BEETLE was a well-known comics character back in the Golden Age. His name was Dan Garrett and he was killed. Ted Kord blamed himself for that death and so became the second hero to take the name. Unlike Garrett however, Ted Kord did not have superpowers, he used his scientific ability and some gymnastic skills to do what had to be done.

This second Blue Beetle was created over at Charlton comics, during the 1960s and brought over to the DCU during the original Crisis on Infinite Earth. He had his own short-lived title at DC for a while, and then became (along with fellow second stringer, Booster Gold) part of the Justice League when it was more about Bwa Ha Ha than grim & gritty dramatics. At both Charlton and at DC I always liked Ted Kord and his light-hearted alter ego.

DC is gearing up for another 'this changes everything' multi-issue event. This is going to be called INFINITE CRISIS and like every other 'event' will change the status quo for about six months to a year and than be retconned away, by the next hot writer to come along. Of course, in this era of comics you can't shake things up without killing a few characters. This is apparently to show the fans that this time we're serious. ***Yawn***

So now Ted Kord is dead. Shot in the head by his former "friend" and fellow minor-league entity Max Lord. Apparently, Max was planning some major double crosses all along, but we (the reader) didn't know this. How stupid of us!!

The only positive thing that I can say about this 80-page comic is that it only cost $1.99 and that investment will keep me from buying any other DC comics for the next year. Thanks, fellas!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Playing catch up on comics!

I'm beginning to feel like Rip van Fanboy here. Ever since hitting Jim Hanley's Universe on Free Comics Day I have been trying to figure out what has been going on in comics for the past year. In some ways I appear to have missed a lot, but on the other hand it seems like more of the same.

Both DC and Marvel have company wide 'events' planned for this summer (more of the same, as I said), which seem to be more and more senseless and meaningless each time. Unless you are really going to make permanent changes why bother going through the motions. I suppose I can see the marketing department's getting excited about this, but I wonder why fandom circles continue to buy into them?

I guess as long as it keeps writers & artists working it's a good thing, huh?

I just got the first issue of my new CBG subscription so I may have a few comments about that coming up. Much of it ties-in with the release of the new STAR WARS movie, with a look back at comic adaptations and new stories involving the series characters. I'm also skimming the latest issue of PREVIEWS and will probably have some outrageous & damning things to say about that as well. :-)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Doulgas Preston & Lincold Child: Monsters & more

I first enoucntered these authors when i tracked down the novel upon which the horror film, RELIC was based. While I enjoyed the film I discovered that there was more to the story and the characters than had been adapted to the screen. I also found that Preston & Child were in the midst of creating an interconnected world in which characters from one novel appeared and reappeared in others. Not exactly a series, but a small world where events were not always what they appeared.

One of the most fascinating characters, and a favorite of the authors as well as their fans,is the rather mysterious FBI Special Agent Pendergast. The heir to a family fortune as well as the descendent of a rather odd family heritage. The Pendergast family has not always been a beacon of civility and has some dark secrets not so well buried. As events reveal themselves in subsequent novels is appears that this particular FBI agent may have similarities to Fox Mulder, as well as Sherlock Holmes. Brilliant and carrying some inner-demons which might be best left unreleased.

The site offers information about what the authors are currently doing, individually and together, as well as samples of previous and upcoming novels. Included is an unpublished novel which the authors invited fans to complete. The original manuscript as well as the contest winners' additions can all be read on line. A great introduction to the work of the writers, plus a nice place to discuss it with other fans.

P.N.Elrod: "Mistress of the bloodthirsty whodunnit!"

P.N. Elrod, creator of both the Jack Fleming & Jonathan Barrett series has her official site over at I have always been a fan of horror fiction, generally of the H. P. Lovecraft variety. Elrod doesn't write in that style (at least in her series), but rather uses a hard-boiled style in the Jack Fleming and a more romantic/historical fiction one for the Jonathan Barrett novels. Both deal with the lives and adventures of a couple of vampires. Fleming was killed in Prohibition era Chicago and uses his supernatural abilities to solve mysteries and bring justice to wronged individials. Barrett, on the other hand, is involved in the American Revolutionary War, often caught between the fighting where both sides are not above less then gentlemanly tactics. It is revealed in one of the later Fleming books that there is a connection between Barrett & Fleming, but I won't spoil it here. Elrod has also revealed the 'true' fate of Quincey Morris, whom we believed killed in Bram Stoker's DRACULA. It turns out that the Texan had a bit more in common with the Count than we had thought. I recommend both series and the first book in the Quincey Morris series (the only one I've read). If you enjoy vampire fiction I think that Elrod will show you the undead in a different light than Anne Rice, but still fascinating.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Comics review: TWO BITS from Image Comics

TWO BITS #1 (Image Comics) This twenty-five cent special gives us brief samples from the first two issues of forthcoming Image titles.

A Bit of Lullaby – Created and illustrated by Hector Sevilla, written by Mike S. Miller & Ben Avery. Alice of “Wonderland” fame never did return from that world of the Chesire cat and the Mad Hatter. Instead she grew up and became a warrior in the Queen of Hearts’ army, leading them to conquer all of Wonderland. She is now the Queens right-hand, although her staying has more to do with her own fear of loosing her head should she fall from favor. The art is absolutely amazing, with Sevilla bring a touch of manga to a very realistic/classical style. Though this preview was shot from pencils it is obvious that the finished work is going to be even more stunning. Sadly, the brief sequence prompts more questions than it answers and it isn’t really clear where Sevilla & Miller are going with the story. If you’re a fan of the work that Eric Shanower did on the Oz series you might want to take a look at this, since Sevilla’s style does have a touch of the magic that Shanower brought to his. I think that parents might want to read the series before they offer it to younger children, but I don’t believe that teens would be put off by the non-graphic violence.

A Bit of The Imaginaries- Created by Mark S. Miller, written by Ben Avery with art by Miller and Greg Titus. Superhero G was a comic book character created by young Tanner. When the teenage artist discovers his parents are about to divorce he decides that it’s time to put childhood fantasies behind and grow up. What happens to all those imaginary friends and playmates when they are no longer needed? This theme has been touched upon in numerous books, films and other comics, but Miller has his own take on it. It seems that all these creations go to another world where they must make a new life for themselves. What, for instance, would Barbie have to offer that dozens of other fashionable gals couldn’t? Is there really a place for somebody who can leap tall buildings and run faster than a bullet train in such a place? The preview introduces us to some of the main characters and sets up the premise nicely. As with LULLABY, I think that teens and adults won’t have a problem with this title. To be honest this seems more my cup of tea than the previous work, but I might check out the first issues of both to see if they hold my interest.

While neither book strikes me as completely original concepts, they seem to be from folks who want to bring something a bit different to the comics shop shelves. That in itself is a welcome change from more of the same old super-hero nonsense. Recommended with the caveats I mentioned above.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

World Famous Comics

If you click on the headline above or over on the link at the right you can head over to the World Famous Comics site. There are a great number of comics related pages on the 'net, but personally I enjoy WFC. One of the reasons is that it's the online home of THE Tony Isabella, known far and wide as "America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist". I've known Tony for over a decade, being fellow veterans of Capa-Alpha (the oldest comics related apa) and have actually had the chance to hang with him and fellow WFC columnist Bob Ingersoll (another Capa-Alpha alum).

Prior to getting a new subscription to the Comic Buyer's Guide, Tony and WFC were my primary source of comics information and reviews. The nice thing (one of many really) about Tony is that you can actually tell how he feels about a comic by his review, unlike some reviewers who appear to be trying to curry favor with certain publishers or creators. Tony has burned all those bridges years ago. :-)

Take an hour or so to check out the various message boards, reviews, comics and other assorted stuff at WFC. I think you'll make it one of your regular stops a few times a week, just like I do.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Comics Review from Free Comic Book Day

BUZZBOY/ROBOY RED/MAJOR DAMAGE TRIPLE-FROSTED FUN COMICS! From Sky-Dog Press. (This was another Free Comics Day promotional item.) This is a nice introduction to three distinct all-ages books which would appeal to a wide range of comics’ fans.

BUZZBOY by John Gallagher has been around for a while and I have several issues in my collection. Once a side-kick Buzzboy is now grown and aided by one-time villain & mad scientist Doc Cyber. Using his buzzbelt to give him super-human powers BB fights an odd assortment of wacky villains in light hearted spoofs of the usual superhero fare. In this stand-along story deals with a bit of time displacement and Buzzboy meeting his younger counterpart from another dimension. Recommended.

MAJOR DAMAGE was created by Chris Baily for a short-lived Image imprint. This is a kid’s fantasy gone wrong. Melvin Grimes dreamed of growing up to be his favorite comic book hero. Unfortunately, when he is abducted by aliens (and don’t you hate when that happens?) they use their advanced technology to grant his with. He’s now an 8-yr old kid trapped in a super-powered adult body, trying to convince his Mom that he really is her son, while fighting an assortment of villains who think that this is Major Damage. This whole thing is certainly not as much fun as Melvin thought it would be!

Finally, ROBOY RED, works with a boy robot created by a corporation (with a nod to Walt Disney and the Disney company) to make children’s film. When it becomes apparent that some folks in the corporation have more sinister ideas in mind the robot’s creator, Tuck and the mysterious Dara Dare (aka Jet Girl) make off with Roboy to protect him. This seven page story vies us the history and background of the Roboy Red character and then a few pages of Halloween mischief. Rich Faber and John Gallagher give the reader enough information and a sense of where they want to go with their creations.

Overall this freebie allows fans a taste of three books they may have not discovered previously. You should know enough when you’ve finished to decide whether or not you want more. The creators also present pages on how to draw the characters and other fun stuff. A very nice job by all involved.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Comics review: RUNNERS #1

RUNNERS #1 {Remastered} from Serve Man Press: Created, written and drawn by Sean Wang, RUNNERS is a six issue series which will be collected in TPB this coming June. This issue (part of the Free Comics Day promotion) is a redrawn & relettered version of the original first issue. Apparently, the issue as originally presented will be included in the up-coming TPB.

The series deals with the voyagers and adventures of the merchant space ship, Khoruysa Brimia. The crew is a mixed group of aliens from different planets and with different backgrounds, but they have formed a friendship which serves them well. You get the usual banter, although you don’t get a lot of heavy back-story, at least not in this issue. Other than an inside cover blurb and a ‘cast of character’ list a reader goes into the story with very little information. Frankly, I’m glad that Wang didn’t spend half the issue telling us the backgrounds of each character in detail. Enough is revealed in some comments and exchanges to show that there is a history between the crew and possibly the space pirates they encounter later.

While on a routine mission to rendezvous with another vessel the crew picks up a distress message from that ship. They soon discover that the other ship had been attacked and bordered by pirates. They also find that the pirates may have left behind the cargo for which they came. Namely an unconscious female discovered covered in some kind of liquid. The first issue ends at that point, but the book includes several pages of previews from the next four issues, which was enough to interest this reader.

Creator Wang’s art is cartoony, but also detailed enough and able to convey the emotions of the various characters even in silent panels. I think that his style and humor would appeal to those STAR WARS fans and others who enjoy a bit of SF fun. Not complete satire as in FUTURAMA, but with the feel of some segments of the original SW film, especially those scenes which took place on the Millennium Falcon. Wang gives each of his characters a personality which comes through even in this action filled first issue. The reader will want to learn more about each and the preview pages promise some interesting things involving the past of several of the crew.

Personally, I think there is a lot of potential here and certainly RUNNERS would make a great animated series or film in the right hands. Recommended for teens & adults.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

My Free Comics!

I just got back from Manhattan, where I stopped off at Jim Hanley's Universe over on 33rd St. In my opinion Hanley runs the best comic shop in the city, but then again I haven't been to all of them so your opinion may very well differ.

Anyway, Hanley's was giving you the choice of four 'free comics' or three comics and some small Batman figurine. I went for the four comics, since I'm not a big one on action figures, to be honest. I have a few but don't go out of my way to collect them.

Some shops will lay out all the comics on a table and you can pick from what you want, with a limit to only four (frankly what are they going to do with the rest? they had boxes of the things behind the desk!) I went with some things I thought might be a bit different. I skipped the Marvel and DC books, as well as the Gladstone & Archie titles. It's not that I might not have enjoyed them, but I was more interested in checking out some books I'd heard of on line.

The four I have are: BUZZBOY from Sky Dog; RUNNERS #1: REMASTERED from Serve Man Press; RONIN HOOD AND THE 47 SAMURAI from Beckett Comics {How could I possibly resist that title?}; and BONE SHARPS, COWBOYS AND THUNDER LIZARDS from General Tektronics Labs (Jim Ottavianni and the fine folks who brought us TWO-FISTED SCIENCE)

I'll have reviews of all of these at some point, along with comments on the comics for which I actually paid. Among those are the lead in for DC's INFINITE CRISIS, FLAMING CARROT, THE ESCAPIST and a couple of others.

Hanley was also giving out copies of HOUSE OF M Sketchbook promoting Marvel's big cross-over event and the latest issue of CSN (Comic Shop News) which promotes "Free Comics Days" on the cover.

It's been a few years since I regularly picked up any mainstream Marvel titles, so I know I'm not the audience for this. Then again the same can be said for INFINITE CRISIS, even though I am much more familiar with the DCU since I was buying a half dozen of so regular titles from DC up to about a year ago. I probably would have passed on IC, but Tony Isabella reviewed this and I just had to see for myself.

Hope that you made it to your local shop or can get to one this week. Many places will probably be giving away the Free Comics titles while they have some in stock. That is the point isn't it?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Remember Free Comic Book Day!

Once again I want to remind folks that tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day around the country. If you get a chance you should swing by your friendly neighborhood comics shop and see what they might have. Even a non-comics readers just might find something that would be of interest. It's not all super-heroes, you know!

Speaking of comics, I just finished the Warhammer 40,000 compilation of the BLOODQUEST trilogy. Outstanding! Tony Isabella gave the Warhammer series (a British comic based on a role-playing game, or is it the other way around?) about a galaxy far away which seems to exist only for warfare. Lots of stuff getting blowed up real good, but also some very good art & storytelling on a grand scale. I hope to have more to say about the series next week, as I plan on picking up a couple of more Warhammer related items at Jim Hanley's Universe.

Have a good weekend & see you in the funny pages!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

An animated Sunday

Donna wanted to watch a movie on television Sunday night, so after watching COLD CASE (see Parting Shots for more on that) I went into the bedroom and caught some animation.

I'm really glad to see FAMILY GUY given a chance once again. The opening even jokes about how the show won't get on the air until dozens of other Fox shows fail. The gag being that, in fact, they all did! The rest of the episode is even better including take offs on NORTH BY NORTHWEST and an escape from Mel Gibson. The show pushes the envelope and really deserves another shot.

It was followed by the first episode (at least the first I've seen) of AMERICAN DAD. The show features the homelife of a mid-level CIA operative and his family. Over the top, which is what you'd expect from the same folks (Seth MacFarlane & Co.) who bring you FAMILY GUY. It will take more than one episode to win me over, but they seem to be off to a good start.

I love the fact that there is an alien living in the house, with no explanation, along with a gold fish who speaks (everyone can hear him) in a German accent. The family just accepts all this, which adds to the silliness of the whole thing.

After this, I switched over to Comedy Central and caught a couple of episodes of SOUTH PARK from the past season. I'm not addicted to the show as I once was, but love to check it out now and then. It continues to be as cutting edge as ever.