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Zing 2! Out now! And FoCo ComicCon on the Horizon!

Zings 1 & 2As you might have guessed from the photo to the right, the long awaited Zing #2 is finally done! With a Con exclusive printing and a special low price, Zing #2 will be for sale at this weekend’s Fort Collins ComicCon We will have a sweet booth in the perimeter (slot I6) and we would love to meet you all in the flesh.

If you all are keen to meet us, and maybe even purchase your very own copy of Zing #1 or #2, make sure you head over to Fort Collins ComicCon‘s page and preorder some badges!

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Can Heroes Be Saved?

Heroes-Featured-ImageThe year is 2006. It’s the height of the aughts, and Daniel Powter was having a “Bad Day.” I was a struggling journalist in Western Nebraska, trying to stay awake in the midst of local city council meetings and agricultural reports. Ideal Comics was just starting, a small, but slightly illuminous light on the landscape of independent comicdom. It was a weird time, is what I’m saying.

In this midst of all of this, I — along with millions of other comic book fans — became enamored with Tim Kring’s Heroes, a TV show focused on people who discover amazing abilities and have to decide what they want to do with them. The show was fresh and interesting, featuring a strong script, fantastic storyline, and great performances by all of the principal actors. There was mystery and intrigue, and action and suspense, all along with this underlying question of what makes a hero. It’s not an original question by any means, but it was one of the few times that primetime TV had attempted to address it, and comic book fans like myself were hooked.

At least with the first season.

Now, I fell off the bandwagon about four or five episodes into the second season. I was struggling to stay interested, and I ultimately lost that battle. From what I hear, though, I jumped shipped at a good time. The series quickly went downhill, and the following two and a half seasons are often the target of ridicule from fans that had previously praised the first season. I eventually pushed the series to the back of my mind, content with the idea that I had dodged a bullet. Clearly, I didn’t really miss anything.

A few weeks ago, though, that all changed. My wife found Heroes on Netflix and, finding the idea interesting, started watching it. She had never seen the series before, but she was quickly hooked on the first season as most people are. I watched in the background, as I worked on my computer and such, and slowly found myself drawn in again. Trust me when I say that the first season of Heroes is good TV. It is as well-written as I remember, and it definitely holds up even ten years later. Before long, I found myself rewatching this series with her, all of the feelings from when I first watched the show returning.

But, there was a major change this time. When season 2 came on, I didn’t stop. I just kept on watching. Over the past few weeks, we have watched all four seasons of Heroes, and as of writing this, we only have the series finale left which we’ll most likely watch tonight. I can see a lot of the problems that people have with the series, and I can definitely agree that it went downhill in seasons 3 and 4. I’m not sure it’s as bad as I’ve heard some people say, but I might feel differently had I watched every week, rather than binge-watching them all in one shot. I know there were a few episodes of the third season in which absolutely nothing happened, and I would have definitely felt robbed those weeks, had I been a regular watcher. Binge-watched, though, it’s not God-awful. It’s not good, but it’s not God-awful.

Heroes-1In light of such criticism of the series from the die-hard fans, I’m actually a little surprised that NBC is choosing to reboot the series with a new mini-series called Heroes Reborn. This new series starts in less than a week and looks to feature a few returning characters, along with a host of new faces and powers. Some people are seeing this series as a chance for NBC to right the wrongs of the past. Others — the more cynical of us — believe that NBC is just banking on our nostalgia, looking to cash in any goodwill it has remaining from the brilliant first season. I’m not sure where I fall in that camp, but I do believe there are a few things NBC can do with this series to avoid some of the pitfalls from the first series. While these ideas are in no way a fix for all of the problems that the series encountered, I do believe a few of them can help rebuild some of the magic contained within the first season.

(Note: I should state, right now, that I have not watched any of the webisodes that bridge the gap between the two series. We’ll probably watch them this week. So, any ideas I have here that conflict with those webisodes — forgive me in advance. Maybe I’ll write an addendum after I watch them. Also, forewarning: spoilers abound. So, beware.)

First and foremost, keep all of the characters focused on a singular goal. In the first two seasons — the best seasons, really — there was a strong drive for each character, culminating in a single event, a climax that held the fate of the world in its hands. Later seasons saw all of the characters branching off into their own directions, and the storylines all started to break down. You had story ideas start and then stop. You had characters with completely separate storylines from the main story, who were then clumsily shoehorned in at the last moment to bring together some sort of coherency. The first season — and even the second to a point — felt like a self-contained story, involving multiple threads that were all related in some way. The later seasons, not so much.

Second, along those lines, stop introducing storylines and then abandoning them. In the third season, Claire made such a big deal about losing the ability to feel pain. She talked all about how she couldn’t feel anything anymore, and she was worried about how eventually, she might even lose her emotions. Then, the eclipse happened, and it was never, ever mentioned again. Even if a storyline is bad, at least give us some resolution. In the fourth season, Hiro got a brain tumor, Peter went to Georgia to get the healing power, and then nothing. Two episodes in to the storyline, Peter got a new power, and the storyline jumped ship. Part of the joy of the first season was seeing all of these different threads come together. Do that again.

Third, stop giving people random powers. In the first season, Isaac Mendez’s power was very useful. The writers were able to storyboard entire events through Isaac’s paintings. The second season did the same thing. With Mendez’s death, however, the writers lost that crutch. To fix this, they basically gave the power to Matt Parker — for some reason that isn’t explained all that well. Something about a prophecy or a line of prophets or something. I don’t know. There’s no reason for Matt to have the future-painting ability, so why give it to him? Hiro went through the same spirit walk that Matt did in Africa — why not give the power to Hiro? Since Hiro’s ability is time-travel, that seems like a better fit. Later, Ando was given some sort of boost ability which is never referenced again, his power basically becoming red lightning bolts. Mohinder is then given a bunch of generic powers. None of these additions enhanced the story at all, and most of the time, they were only there for the sole purpose of moving the plot along. Bad form.

And, lastly, give me a well-defined villain who I can’t stop watching. Before he started all of the emotional angst of later seasons, Sylar was a great villain. He was sinister, and he was scary. Plus, he was a great foil to Peter, who was quickly becoming the “star” of the hero side. Most importantly, he had direction and purpose. He had a clear motivation that made sense. To a somewhat similar degree, I think you had the same thing with Adam Monroe in the second season. His motivation made sense. After centuries of seeing humans piss away the world, I’m sure I would feel like hitting a big old reset button myself. Compare both of them to Samuel Sullivan in the fourth season. I have no idea what his goal or motivation is. Is it the woman? Is it hatred? Is he evil? I have watched 17 episodes of this fourth season in the last week, and I have no idea what he’s doing or why he’s doing it. Now, again, I haven’t watched the finale. But, I can’t possibly see how they could possibly pull that out in forty-five minutes. At any rate, they haven’t done it for the entire season, which seems like a waste. I think he could have been a cool character had they spent some time giving us an understanding of who he is and why we should care about him. We need a good villain to keep us watching.

I don’t know if they’ll be able to pull any of this off with the new series. Tim Kring is coming back, and that’s a good sign. I think his vision is much of what guided the first season. For all I know, though, they’ll drop the ball again, and we’ll further the crapstorm that was seasons 3 and 4. I do know that the characters are there, and the ideas are still cool. If done right, I think the new season could be a return to form for the series. Here’s hoping.

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Since I’ve Been Gone

summer comicsHello, hello, Internet and Ideal Comics faithful! I know it has been several months since you last heard from me. And though I have been away from the keyboard I have not been idle. I’m sorry, what is that? What was I doing? Well, I reckon I do owe you something–some frail thread of explanation or excuse. In short, I have been busy.

So the last time I was here, I had just returned from ‘Free Comic book Day’ with a stack of comics six inches deep, including 45 free comics and a few not-free ones. While I am still trying to work through the freebies, i have had a great time with several of the DC Convergence titles, especially Aquaman and Batgirl featuring Steph Brown (some day I will write about Steph Brown but not today); as well as Lucas/Disney/Marvel‘s Kanan: The Last Padawan! Continue reading

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Revisiting Sandman #1

 

Kindly-OnesI found my first Sandman comic in a quarter bin. Now, I know that the quarter bin is usually the domain of my cohort, but for the purposes of this column, and subsequent columns in this series, I need to establish my foundation. I didn’t start with Sandman #1, though I admit that would have been a great place to start. No, I started with Sandman #57, the first issue of the “The Kindly Ones.” I had recently pulled a few issues of Bone out of the quarter bin at the local antique shop that sold some comics, and I was digging through the rest of the books trying to find more, when I came across this issue. The cover told me nothing about the comic itself, but I had heard enough about the book to be intrigued. I also knew who Neil Gaiman was from Good Omens, a book that my friend told me I had to read, but I hadn’t actually read yet. For a quarter, I thought, why not? I ended up buying the four or so issues that were hidden within the bin, all random issues from “The Kindly Ones”, and devouring them that night. I was blown away by the universe Gaiman had built, and I knew that what I was reading, even four or five years after it was published, was something special. Looking back, I can say that that moment was the genesis of my love for the works of Neil Gaiman, something that continues to this day.

Jump ahead a year or two. Rhys and I had this system where we would share comics. We would each buy different books on our monthly pull list and swap titles that we thought the other would be interested in. If we were considering adding a title to our pull list, we would ask the other if he intended to, so that we wouldn’t end up doubling up on issues, unless we really, really, really wanted our own copies. We would do the same with any graphic novels or trade paperbacks we purchased, a system which eventually led to my reintroduction to Sandman. At one point, after Rhys has traveled with his family to Cheyenne, Wyoming, he returned with a copy of the “Preludes and Nocturnes”, the first collection of Sandman comics. I, of course, snatched up the opportunity to borrow the book, and if I wasn’t hooked before, it wasn’t long before I was hopelessly addicted to the story and all it presented.

Which leads me to this week and this week’s column, the first in what I hope will be a series of terrific columns focusing on one of my favorite comic books series ever. But, first, a little more backstory. I don’t sleep very well at night. I’m an anxious person by nature, and it’s hard to turn that off. My mind is just too active with all of the different things I need to do throughout the day, and when it comes time for me to slow down and drift off, I become fixated on my life outside my bed. And it ends up taking me forever to start shutting that stuff down.

sandman1One of the ways I’ve found to solve this problem is to focus my mind on something else. While my mind may remain active, if I can narrow down its activity to a single point, it is much easier to drive that course to slumber. Lately, I’ve been re-reading “Preludes and Nocturnes”. I’ve had it on my phone for a few years now, ever since DC released the digital version on the Amazon store. When I bought a Kindle Fire, it was one of the first purchases I made to try out comics on a tablet, and now, re-reading it years later, I’m still blown away by the fact that I can hold an entire graphic novel in the palm of my hand. Crotchety-old-man-isms aside, though, I’m amazed to find that I enjoy this comic as much as I do, despite the fact that I’ve read it a million times before.

It’s hard to explain exactly what it is that appeals to me, and I know that smarter people than I have probably written dissertations on the series, but there’s something about it that just grabs me and refuses to let go. The first issue starts out simply enough. A secret society of wizards is attempting to capture Death, but instead, they capture her brother, Morpheus, the King of Dreams. He spends over seventy years in captivity, until a slight oversight sets him free. He enacts revenge on his captor and returns to his domain, the Dreaming, broken, exhausted, and nearly dead. This entire story is told through the words of Gaiman set against the beautiful backdrops of penciler Sam Keith’s simple, yet complex, imagery. The artistry of the panels can sometimes make the action hard to follow, but even that is a rare situation. Most of the time, the comic is engrossing on multiple levels. From the dialogue to the plot to the artwork to the colors, the entire book just works. As the story progresses into the second issue, and we’re introduced to Cain and Abel, two of the inhabitants of the Dreaming, and through these interactions, Gaiman begins to develop the mythos of the story that engrossed me so much as a teenager and continues to do so now.

What I’m loving more than anything with this read-through, though, is how important DC Continuity was to Gaiman, when he developed the story. Wesley Dodd, the original Sandman from 1939, had long since fallen into obscurity. With this new Sandman series, though, Gaiman weaved Dodd into the mythos, creating something entirely unique at the same time. Suddenly, all of those old Sandman stories weren’t just classic, silly Golden Age stories about a guy in a business suit and a gas mask, he was the charge of Morpheus, the King of Dreams, affecting what little he could of the world from his glass prison. Later Sandman stories featuring Dodd, both in this Sandman series, and other mini-series set in the 1930s would continue to cement this symbiotic relationship between the two, creating something altogether unique and interesting.

It’s something that neither of the two big companies would likely do in the current industry, and I think that’s a shame. Then again, I’m not entirely sure that anyone could do it quite as well as Gaiman did in this series. Maybe it’s good they don’t try. Though, to be fair, James Robinson did an amazing job of that in his Starman revival, which to this day remains my favorite example of retroactive continuity done right. But, again, modern comics have no place for anything like this, and that makes me a little sad. I know that the industry is geared toward casting the widest net possible for potential fans, and I’m okay with that.

I can understand and appreciate that sentiment. It just makes me a little sad.

Not a lot happens in the first two issues of Sandman in the grand scheme of things. We’re introduced to characters, and Gaiman starts building his worlds, and ultimately we’re hooked, and engrossed, and we want to read more. Thankfully, there is more. Gaiman wrote 75 issues of this series, and these first two issues merely scratch the surface. I have read on, and I know the truth: there is so much more to come. And, personally, I am so excited to revisit it.

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