House of Seven Gables + DC Festival of Asian Heroes

Given how much of Julian Hawthorne I’ve been reading lately, I thought it behooved me to read a bit more of his father’s work, and I just happened to have a fairly nice illustrated copy of The House of Seven Gables lying around waiting to be read.

I get why kids who had to read this in high school hated it, I really do. Though it is a tale of mystery, murder, madness, mesmerism and a wizard’s curse, so very little happens and Hawthorne takes his sweet time in the telling to get there.

Yet, despite how tedious and absolutely turgid House of Seven Gables is, I feel like it could be easily adapted into Children’s Puppet Theatre, probably boil the whole bloody gist of it down to about 20 minutes.

I have to admit that I felt a bit smug that Henry James’ afterword for House of Seven Gables seemed to entirely support and justify this belief.

He notes that the characters, while lavishly and intricately detailed, are mere “pictures” and grotesques, acting out their tropes, than truly fleshed out ‘real’ characters. The book focuses almost entirely on tableau and scene, painting the picture of these characters.

So, while the “story” is, imo, great–fantastic, really–it is such a small portion of the work itself–buried, really, like the old sorcerer himself, underneath the endless description of the house and its accursed inhabitants.

I think that it could be distilled easily into 20-30 minutes:

  • Narration of the Pyncheon vs. Maule saga culminating in the bloody death
  • A brief parade of the characters and their foibles, culminating in Phoebe’s awkward introduction to Jaffrey
  • Tableau of the dinner, Phoebe and Clifford’s relationship, maybe the bit with the weird chickens, done in a couple minutes’ description and puppet pantomime
  • Phoebe and Holgrave + Holgrave narrates the story of Alice, Phoebe departs.
  • Jaffrey’s attempt to confront Clifford
  • Clifford and Hepzibah’s flight + a very condensed version of Clifford’s rant about impending modernity
  • The return to Seven Gables, Phoebe & Holgrave’s union, and the discovery of the lost “treasure” could be condensed to a single scene with a narrated happily ever after.

I’d probably cut Uncle Venner, since, while he may be thematically important, I think he can be removed wholly from the narrative and the story remain unaffected. He’s there only as commentary and to comment on the other characters who are engaged in the plot.

Anyway, whether or not I’ll have time to come up with a puppet operetta, we’ll have to see…

So, I recently picked up Festival of Asian Heroes as an excuse to introduce myself at a new shop. I don’t know what I was expecting, but somehow this book was much worse and much more cringe than I imagined. Practically no one knows how to write cape stories anymore… practically every story just doing the “here is the character monologuing about their life and their feels while things happen in the panels.” Plus the awful strawman villains in the Katana story were oof.

Literally the only short I liked was Tamaki’s Cassie, and even tho it was mostly monologuing, at least it pulled off being cute. It sucks that they chose to showcase Asian capes [somehow Damian Wayne qualifies as this?] in such a lousy book with such lousy stories. I’d say these characters deserve better, but I’m not really caring that much anymore.

Foreword: “There just weren’t any Asian heroes in comic books when I was a kid.” will_smith_wildly_gesticulating_at_the_glut_of_now-forgotten_asian_led_titles_in_the_70s_and_80s.jpg

Dice Latte - DC Festival of Heroes The Asian Superhero Celebration #1 (One  Shot) Cover B Stanley Artgerm Lau Variant
Pretty much the only reason I bought this.

The ArtGerm variant was gorgeous, I was curious to see what Gene Luen Yang was gonna do [was kinda disappointed] and it was an excuse to meet the new store without having to add it to a pull [so at least DC doesn’t get to boast about order numbers from picking up an extra that the new place had.]

  • Sounds: Liked it, favorite of the bunch. I think I’m forgiving of internal monologuing when it’s Cassie because she has a speech impediment.
  • Dress Code: eh… So, asian green lantern wears an asian dress tunic. plz do not make fun of him.
  • Hawke and Kong: okay, I guess. Two Asian expys of other heroes who don’t get along fight a villain and become friends. Whatever…
  • Special Delivery: didn’t like it, also I guess Damian Wayne is Asian?
  • Masks: okay, but mainly I guess it was the sort of story I would’ve liked to have seen after the new Cheshire had been brought into Catwoman [I don’t know that they’ve done anything at all with her since she was introduced, and I had just about forgotten about her.]
  • What’s in the Box: I don’t even know who the other character who is not Cassie is
  • Family Dinner: Cringe and tired ‘meeting the parents’ story. Seriously, can we stop doing “gay superheroes meet dad/mom over dinner and it’s awkward” comics?
  • Kawaii Kalamity: cute but didn’t really do anything for me
  • Festival of Heroes: Ultra cringe with a stupid strawman villain [a bunch of white supremacists show up to harass people at an Asian food festival]; sad that this was what they had for the Katana story.
  • Perseptible: dull, didn’t like it, but I’ve never really liked Captain Atom.
  • The Monkey Prince: torn between okay and cringe; kinda wanted to like it cuz I love what Yang has done w/other books, but I rolled my eyes a lot. May still give it a chance. On one hand, a Son Goku vs. capes comic could be a lot of fun, but this gave off really bad “How do you do, fellow kids?” vibes that are really disappointing considering that Yang writes/wrote two of my favorite DC titles [Terrifics and Batman/Superman]

Really, DC missed out on a great opportunity to introduce a new anti-Asian villain, The Fixer–an obese enby who goes around “fixing” Asian people’s artwork.

Speaking of comics, be sure to check out the next installment of Badaxe in the Summer issue!

Comic Review: Otis Stein

Recently, I was sent a review copy of Matthew “Skinny” Vealey’s indie horror comic, Otis Stein.

Otis, a strapping young redneck, is the husband of Mary, a reformed cultist. Their daughter tragically died of cancer, and her medical expenses have left them ruined.

They’re about to be foreclosed on, Otis blows himself up in a moonshining accident, and Mary’s old “associates” come looking for her!

Mary’s attempt to use her occult arts to resurrect her husband is interrupted as the cultists close in. The cultists have their own designs on Otis to use him as a host for dark supernatural powers! Will the evil forces hold sway or will love triumph?

Otis Stein is a book that I appreciated more on subsequent reads. At first, it seems rather rough and simple, but there’s actually some nice depth and nuance that you’ll catch reading it more than once. The art is ugly, but in a way that is suited for the genre and story; “grotesque” may be a more accurate term. It gives the book a throwback vibe to some of the more obscure black & white indies of the 80s. The art does what it needs to for the story, and it does it well enough.

The pacing of the book is a steady launch ramp, starting with a slow burn setup, but never really wasting time getting where it’s going. The turns from mundane to macabre to monstrous in the three acts of the book are nicely done and reminiscent of Swamp Thing’s origin in House of Secrets [though much more grisly]. Much of the last section of the book is pure grisly action-horror, where the art style really has a chance to shine.

To be honest, at first I wasn’t impressed by Otis Stein, but I think I just didn’t know what to expect and failed to appreciate it on its own terms. I think it’s easy to read a single issue comic and not really appreciate it on the first read and then toss it aside and forget about it. But with Otis Stein, the more I come back to it, the more I find that I really do like it and the more it grows in my esteem.

If you enjoy horror comics or gore comics or even romance comics, you might consider picking this one up.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/SkinnysComics

Also, if you haven’t already, there’s still time to back The Cosmic Courtship on Kickstarter!

Reggie Byers to Resurrect Shuriken

You heard it here first, folks!

Reggie Byers just stopped by the Cirsova blog to let us know that he plans to digitally reprint the first four issues of Shuriken and intends to launch an ongoing.

I hope that Marvel/Disney does not fight him over the rights to the character. While Malibu/Eternity owned the character, the Shuriken in Ultraverse/New Exiles was an entirely different character [Brittany Chien; chinese instead of japanese; some superficial similarities, but otherwise a distinct character], and Byers’ Kyoko Shidara never appeared in any Marvel titles.

It’s kind of strange… Shuriken is a property that I called “mediocre,” [and admittedly, the art and writing are sufficient but not great], but there’s something about it that spurred a fervent interest in it. I’ve got ALL of Shuriken now [except for #9], multiple copies, even, as I tracked it all down.

Contrast that with Billy Tucci’s Shi, which I checked out because of the Kickstarter and picked up a bunch of back-issues from a bargain bin. While it’s VERY similar and better technically in almost every way, it just leaves me feeling ‘eh…’

But this girl? I love her.

Image

One of the few pieces of comics “memorabilia” I own and am incredibly proud of is an original portrait Byers did of Shuriken. It was listed only as “anime girl” and I got it for a song. I’ll have to scan and post it one of these days.

Meanwhile, I would be remiss to not mention that Cirsova Publishing is reprinting another cool black & white 80s indie comic, Badaxe. The first issue is reprinted in our spring issue and we’ll be serializing it over the next two issues later this year.

Quick Review of Soulfinder: Black Tide

Soulfinder: Black Tide (Book 2) - Hardcover

Recently got in my copy of Doug Ernst’s newest installment of his Soulfinder series, Black Tide.

With everything Tim Lim has going on, Doug had to switch artists, but with Matt Weldon taking over pencil duties, it still has excellent artwork.

The core of Black Tide is a nautical horror/monster story; a cultist in the navy absconded with a nuclear sub and its crew and is looking for an incorruptible who sank to the bottom of the ocean. Without offering up too many spoilers, they go out to sea, encounter the cultist, fight the monster.

The most impressive part of Black Tide may be its gorgeous packaging; I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a comic presented as nicely as this–multi-textured casewrap hardcover, heavy-stock pages, gold-foil leaf, sewn in ribbon. It’s REALLY nice.

The comic itself was good, but I don’t think it was quite as good as Demon’s Match. This might just be a matter of taste, but the first Soulfinder delved a bit deeper into the characters, and I think that’s where Ernst’s work really shines. In Black Tide, the characters are there but the circumstance of their mission has to carry the book, because there’s not much new that we see in regards to their backgrounds.

If I had any real complaint about Black Tide, it’s that the story didn’t have enough space to properly breathe and unfold. The setup is one which should allow for a greater buildup of menace and suspense. But I also understand that there’s always the fear with the graphic medium that decompression not only leads to pacing issues, it inflates costs. That said, I think that Black Tide needed more pages and more time to let the tension between the Soulfinders and the crusty old sea captain simmer. I also think that a longer story would have better suited the ultra-deluxe presentation of this volume. Strangely, while both Demon’s Match and Black Tide are 56 pages (I actually had to check), Black Tide felt substantially shorter.

Fans of the first Soulfinder will enjoy this–I did–but I don’t know that Black Tide is a good jumping on point for new readers, particularly at its price. The production values certainly justify the price point, but some readers may want more story for their money.

You can get Soulfinder: Black Tide direct from Iconic Comics.

What the Heck is Going on with Future State and Batman?

One of the rules of modern post-Crisis DC has been Batman never reboots. Never fully. They will do soft reboots, slide the timeline around a bit, but generally tend to avoid doing a hard reboot on Batman. And Future State has been no different, though, they’ve gone about it rather strangely…

Death Metal most recently hit the reset button on the DC universe, but it ran at the same time as an incredibly successful Bat Family event that repositioned the direction of the myriad Bat-books going forward out of Joker War.

Future State is either the remnants of an aborted project known as G5 or a spinoff event from Death Metal [with everything being framed as part of the infinite possible futures following the latest reset of the multiverse] depending on who you ask.

For Batman, it’s a weird postlude to Joker War. Like I said, Batman’s not allowed to be fully rebooted, so all of the Future State Bat-books are following a storyline of the aftermath of Joker War, taking place roughly two years later.

Asian cop who lost his eye in Joker War won his mayoral election right before Future State launched, and his anti-mask platform has turned Gotham into a police state, where all the criminals and capes are being hunted and locked up.

Bruce Wayne/Batman has been killed, but he hasn’t, Lucius Fox’s son is filling in as Batman, the rest of the Bat family is around struggling and not doing so hot, Batman is in hiding, or he’s in a prison, or he’s on a train. I’m not entirely sure. There’s a clear chronology to the Batman Future State books, but they’re being published out of order so that it can all run concurrently over the course of two months.

The problem: Future State did a two year time skip, but the Future State Bat-books all tell parts of a single story that spun out of Joker War… Where will the mainline books pick up in March? Things were ending just before Punchine’s trial, and Tec was set up to build into the story that would become the Future State Magistrate story. Will the Future State Batman storyline just be the new normal going forward; will Batman go back to a pocket continuity [like Tom King’s run before he killed Alfred] while it wraps things up that happed during the two years before Dark Detective and Next Batman? Will things rewind to Punchline’s trial and the Mirror gang and Future State doesn’t happen? Who knows.

Anyway, one of the main things I’ve noticed about Future State bat books [other than the homogenous neon mud coloring] is that it seems like a pendulum swing–someone was like “oh, crap, we have to run an ACAB storyline, because Joker War ended up being anti-BLM!” I do wonder what happened to Clown Hunter, whether there’s a story reason for him not being in Future State or if Tynion just said “no.”

Critical Blast Interview with Michael Tierney, The Local Comic Shop Guys, and Wild Stars Art From DarkFilly

Friday night, Michael Tierney and I were on with R.J. Carter of Critical Blast talking about the new issue of Cirsova and The Artomique Paradigm.

Saturday, Michael also appeared on the regular Critical Blast feature round-table of comic shop owners.

Here’s a piece of the Red Queen of the Space Pirates of Corsairiana with Achilles Hister the Elder of the Artomiques by Dark Filly.

Be sure to back our kickstarter for our 5th Anniversary Issue!

On with Superversive + Sneak Peek at Badaxe!

I was on with Anthony Marchetta and Ben Wheeler of Superversive on Sunday. It was a pretty long podcast, but we had a lot of fun! Anthony in particular had a lot of great things to say about Teel James Glenn’s Tiger, Tiger, which was our Winter Cover Story.

As you ought to know by now, we’re taking pre-orders for our Spring 2021 issue. One of the features of 2021 is we’ll be reprinting Paul O’Connor’s epic Sword and Sorcery Comic, Badaxe, which has been digitally restored by Michael Tierney. Below is a sneak peek.

Want more? Back the Spring 2021 issue on Kickstarter now!

Cirsova 5th Anniversary Highlight: The Artomique Paradigm

One of the showcase items of 2021 will be Michael Tierney’s newest Wild Stars novel, The Artomique Paradigm.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cirsova/cirsova-5th-anniversary-issue

What are the Wild Stars?

Aeons ago, Earth was nearly destroyed by an alien invasion. Refugees were led to the stars by a powerful immortal being from another universe, known only as the Ancient Warrior. These refugees became the Wild Stars. From time to time, they have revisited Earth, checking on humanity’s progress.

Now, after two centuries of modern man exploring and colonizing the stars, humanity’s Wild Stars cousins have re-established relations with Earth and her colonies.

Who are the Artomique?

The Artomique are refugees from a now-destroyed timeline where fascist Germany had nearly conquered the world.

They are led by Achilles Hister, the son that timeline’s equivalent of Adolf Hitler, and have worked in the shadows to attempt to restore their timeline. Failing that, they have worked to establish a new Artomique supremacy using stolen Wild Star technology and become one of the dominant political factions on Earth.

A Very Brief Outline of the Wild Stars

  • Exodus from Earth following the Marzaanti invasion. (Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising)
  • Erlik, son of the Ancient Warrior, wins the Icarus stone (and with it custodianship of Earth) from Carthage. Carthage allies with the wolf-like Brothan and Artomique to wage war against earth. (Wild Stars: Book of Circles)
  • While the Brothan have lost the war, Carthage exacts revenge on Erlik’s family, leading them on a wild goose chase through time. The Artomique begin a secret arms race using stolen Wild Stars technology. Hyper-intelligent dinosaurs get their hands on a Marzaanti space probe which accelerates their evolution. (Wild Stars II: Force Majeure)
  • Terraformers begin discovering evidence of Wild Stars presence on worlds thought to have been uninhabited. Space pirates have orchestrated a large-scale mind-control coup against humanity. Extra-dimensional monsters are unleashed in a tear in the fabric of the universe. (Wild Stars III: Time Warmageddon)
  • The Ancient Warrior returns, having laid the foundations of an aeons-long plan to rescue Phaedra from the prison of the God-Father and his knights in the heart of a super-massive black hole. (Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising)
  • The Wild Stars have revealed themselves and are prepared to reunite humanity among the stars, except the Artomique have been developing new weapons in secret while their leaders have achieved a sort of immortality using stolen Wild Stars cloning technology. (Wild Stars V: The Artomique Paradigm)

Quick Post-mortem on Shuriken Cold Steel

When I got a bunch of issues of Caravan Kidd to fill in the gaps in my collection, I also picked up the last three issues of Shuriken: Cold Steel to complete my set.

I’ve talked at length about the different Shuriken series, and Cold Steel was easily the worst, but I wanted to see if it turned around before the end [because the series after Cold Steel by the same writer WAS good].

Well, it didn’t.

Start to finish, Kyoko is kind of a cold, self-centered bitch, drastically unlike her characterization in the original Byers runs. The art from Christopher Taylor never gets better and maintains a serviceable-but-generic B&W Indie aesthetic that doesn’t jibe with the IP. Cold Steel also feels like S.A. Bennett trying to back-door his own superhero team book through the then-popular Shuriken. And his superhero team isn’t terrible, but it’s not what I would’ve picked up a Shuriken book for.

Cold Steel didn’t publish many letters in its short run, and the few they did more or less like the new title, but at least one person who had previously been a fan unloaded on the shoddy writing.

Cold Steel is the one Shuriken book that’s just plain bad. Bland and no charm at all, which is a shame. I really wondered what happened between Cold Steel and Shuriken Vol. 2–whether it was an editor stepping in, Bennett taking the character more seriously and trying to understand her, or maybe he got into some weeb stuff and figured out how to write a Shuriken story, he goes from having written one of the worst Shuriken books to what may be one of the best Shuriken books.

Anyway, that’s it. That’s all I have. If Cold Steel was the first Shuriken book I’d read, I probably wouldn’t have read any others. As it is, it gives me something to gripe about in context of some more enjoyable titles.

This cover is about the only good thing to come from Cold Steel

Now all I have to do is find the Hellbender one-off…

Who Are the Best DC Superheroines?

Was playing Mortal Kombat vs. DC with GF last night and we got to talking about Wonder Woman.

Now, I don’t hate Wonder Woman, but let’s face it–she’s kind of a garbage-tier hero that everyone pretends is A-list for ReasonsTM.

She’s not that interesting, outside of Greek Gods, her only memorable villains are the furry cat girl and the Chinese egg. A lot of her clout comes from being part of the DC Trinity: stick anyone with Batman and Superman, and they’ll feel important. But on her own? Wondy is kind of eh… That’s me, though. Other than War of the Gods, I can’t think of any meaningful Wondy events. [No, Death Metal is not a Wonder Woman event, no matter how much the writers insist otherwise.]

My girlfriend also thinks she’s kind of cringe and rolls her eyes at the “she’s so empowering!” reasoning most folks will give for liking Wondy. She’s not really into cape comics that much, and was wondering “aren’t there better ‘female role model’ characters in comics than Wonder Woman?”

I thought about it a bit, and while the answer is “Yes”, I realized a lot of them are overshadowed by Batman, because a lot of the best ones I’m familiar with are from Bat-books, and she hadn’t heard of most of them:

  • Katana [this is the only one she knows, because I actually collect Katana merch–I don’t have a lot, because there’s not much merch for her]
  • Spoiler
  • Orphan/Black Bat
  • Huntress
  • Oracle
  • Zatanna [I know, she’s not really ‘from’ Bat-books, but that’s mostly where I’ve seen her]
  • Montoya [okay, I don’t actually like her in the comics that much]
  • Bat-Woman [not exactly a ‘role model,’ but Kate Kane, at least in the books I’ve read, is a fascinating and tragic character, moreso maybe than Batman, because her problems are mostly her own creation yet she proceeds under this Calvinist shadow of doom]

So, what have you got? Who are your favorite DC ‘Best Girls’ who you like for reasons other than ‘teh sexy’?

We would especially like to hear from some of the women in the audience–who are your favorite women in DC comics?

Or can you convince us that Wonder Woman has better bona fides than just being a character with roots in the Golden Age and being the Silver Age Justice League’s Smurfette?