Monday, December 31, 2007

Art In Close-Up: Firestorm #8

I mentioned it yesterday, but this deserves it's own post, so here it is. Waiting for me when I got home on Monday was this:

You may recognise it from this:

Hell yeah. The cover to Firestorm #8 by Matt Haley. This thing is sweet. In one of my art posts during the year, I posted a pic of some prelim sketches by Matt for the Firestorm #11 cover (one of my favourite covers ever). I figured that was as close to owning one of his covers as I was ever likely to get, atleast anytime soon. Being a regular on eBay, cover art goes for hundreds, even for obscure titles. So yeah, no chance...

At some stage I stumbled across the Comic Art Source website, which has some pretty cool stuff on it. They were offering this cover for $500US, which is actually a pretty decent price (Matt Haley Firestorm covers currently on eBay are asking $650+), but was still miles outside my budget. Then a couple of months ago I was bored and clearing out my bookmarks, and found this site again. And behold, they were having a sale! The cover was now $300! Still expensive, but not excessive (well, relatively speaking, heh). I thought about it for a couple of days, then emailed them asking various questions about it. I was pretty nervous paying that sort of money to someone outside of the likes of eBay. I did a google search on them and they seemed legit, but still, anyone could put up a fake website and end up scamming you out of the money.

I decided to go for it, in the time honoured tradition of buying ones self a christmas present (atleast that's how I justified spending close to $500NZ on a drawing hah). There was a pretty big lack of communication, atleast from my nervous perspective, which didn't help with my confidence. It was about 3 weeks after I paid the money until things started moving, but hey, that's life. It's here now. And it was packaged like a freaking tank. It arrived stuck to a bloody big piece of wood!

That's insane. But very very appreciated. By far the best packaging job I've recieved, and I must've had a dozen or so deliveries of art from the US this year.

As you might expect, I'm incredably stoked to have this. I paused to take a few pics of it, then it was straight into a frame and onto my wall. I replaced a Pat Olliffe page from Firestorm #18 with it. I need to get a new matt for it, the green one I had doesn't really work, but it will do for now.

That's about the only spot in my room that doesn't get bombarded by direct sunlight. I went so far as to frame it still inside it's protective bag, which may be a bit wimpy of me, but I'll reassess once the drooling has stopped. I stop and look at it every time I'm passing.

A few closer pics:

Who's an angry boy then? Love that face.

There's a ton of whiteout on it. There's a fair bit used for correction on the faces of Jason and his parents, but on the Firestorm figure it's used for effect.
It's sort of blended in to break things up and smooth the transition from white to black, which is an interesting idea.

I'm being strong willed and not looking at eBay anymore, think I need to wait a while before I start buying anything else ;)

3 Hours To Go...

...until 2008, as I sit here typing this (don't believe the time Blogger says I posted this, that's stupid American time, not NZ). Random thoughts on the year past...
  • Blue Beetle continues to rock, everyone should be reading it.
  • Stuart Moore and Jamal Igle consistently hit a home run each month on Firestorm, but that wasn't enough to save it. If Blue Beetle goes the same way, I will be pissed.
  • Tad Williams had an excellent entry into the field of comics. It's just a shame he was writing good stories about a stupid character. Hope Aquaman getting cancelled hasn't put him off writing comics.
  • Meeting Doug Jones at a convention was a definite highlight of the year. Didn't really know the first thing about him beforehand, but he turned out to be an awesome guy.
  • Battlestar Galactica, season 3, episode 4. The scene with Galactica jumping into New Caprica's atmosphere and launching vypers, then jumping out, will be burned into my brain for a long time to come. Stunning.
  • All the Jason haters that wanted Ronnie Raymond back as Firestorm managed to completely miss that all the elements that made Firestorm a fun comic in the early 80's, were present in the current version.
  • Isn't part of the reason we like DC due to the legacy element of characters?
  • Gail Simmone leaving Birds Of Prey still sucks.
  • I discovered the joys of original art via eBay, picked up about 20 pieces this year. In some ways it's fitting that on the last day of the year, my crown jewel arrived from Texas. Matt Haley, Firestorm #8 cover. Hell yeah. This thing is gorgeous (pics to come later)
  • The Silver Surfer managed not to completely suck in the F4 movie.
  • SS has had a couple of pretty average mini series this year though.
  • I rediscovered the joy of drawing. Now if I actually had the time to do it properly.
  • Firestorm joined the JLA about a year too late. Maybe the exposure could've saved his title.
  • I didn't post on this thing nearly as much as I wanted to. I wish I could blame it all on work.
  • Keith Champagne showed potential when he wrote a JSA arc, but kinda blew it this year with WW3 and Arena...
  • This year really proved that being successful in a different field doesn't necessarily mean you'll be any good at writing comics.
  • I'd like to thank Upper Deck. Increasing the set size for the DC VS game last year has made it too hard to complete any sets without resorting to ebay. Hence this year I stopped buying cards, and have saved a bunch of money. If you can buy 2 boxes, and still end up 20 cards short (all rares) of a set, then it's not worth bothering with.
  • Iron Fist!! For some reason I haven't added it to my pull list yet, which is stupid because it's awesome and my shop has a habbit of selling out of things that are good.
  • Every year this happens- someone comes over for the convention, and then a few months later I discover their work. Brian K Vaughan came here in April, and now in the last month I've actually read some of his stuff. I've got all the Y trades now. Dammit.
This list is already too long, so I'm going to stop now.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Grumpy League Of America

Justice League #228, where everyone is having a bad day. Especially Martian Manhunter, who is on the run from his people. His ship is being pursued, so he buzzes the JLA Watchtower on his was down to Earth, to try and get some help. It works.
Geez, that's a bit harsh, and Black Canary puts Aquaman in a mood for the rest of the day. The heroes reach New York in time to see J'onn get shot down by the airforce. Cue Aquagrump:

Firestorm can't make him see reason, maybe Red Tornado will?

So there!!!

Next to get told off is Green Arrow.

Meanwhile, Aquaman hunts down his target, but the Martian Grumphunter is in no mood for talking.

He goes invisible and swims off, while the others try to find him. Firestorm has the brilliant idea of turning the river into steam (never mind all the boats...), since Martians don't like fire and MM will surface to get away. It doesn't go so well though (surprise), and he cops an earfull.

Every team has days where they just get on each others nerves.

2007 - The Music

The Good
Candlemass - King Of The Grey Islands. Unquestionably the album of the year for me. The previous album was very average, so I had no expectations for this one. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. Lots of energy, Lars putting in his best ever lead guitar work, and a vocalist that slays everyone that came before him. I've bought this album 3 times, in mp3 form when it first came out (yes, I pay for mp3s), then on CD when it arrived here 6 weeks later, and just recently on vinyl (with an exclusive bonus track). It's been totally worth it.

Nightwish - Dark Passion Play. So the band kicked out their vocalist and got a new one, and all the fans of the old one said it was the end of the band being any good. Sorry, but Nightwish just went and did maybe their best album. End.

Paradise Lost - In Requiem. Pretty much carries on from where their last s/t album left off. Their return to the metal fold has continued to the point where this album would've been a great follow up to Draconian Times, and we could all just forget about those gothy albums that happened over the last 10 years (which would actually be a shame, since some of them were pretty good).

The Bad
Dimmu Borgir - In Sorte Diaboli. A mess. There's too much going on, and no real hooks to the riffs to keep things grounded. The entire album basically merges into one big, uninspired noise.

Ulver - Shadows Of The Sun. My fault for buying it, given that Ulver have been playing shitty electronic music for years now, but I thought it was worth a try, since Garm was going to sing on it for once, and I used to love his voice. None of his old glory or tone are present sadly, it's all very subdued. As I said, my fault for expecting something that Ulver were unlikely to deliver anyway.

The Frustrating
Darkthrone - F.O.A.D. I like modern Darkthrone, possibly even more than I like their 'classic' early 90's material, but something about this album doesn't quite feel right. There's some good songs as always, but the songs that fail, fail badly. The likes of "Canadian Metal" and "Raised On Rock" are just a little too tounge in cheek for their own good.

Vintersorg - Solens Rotter. The album was billed as a return to his "folk metal roots", which was an exciting prospect, even though I've enjoyed the prog vein of the last 2 albums. Something went horribly wrong though, and this wound up sounding almost exactly like his prog albums. Only weak. In trying to have clever instrument arrangements, Vintersorg has overlooked the key to strong songwriting - being catchy. Too many of the songs wander around aimlessly in the vocal department, which blows me away, since he's been my favourite singer for the last 5 or so years. Atleast he's back to singing in Swedish exclusively, so we don't have to deal with shitty lyrics about philosophy and stars.

Winds - Prominence And Demise. First up I must say, their debut album "Reflections Of The I" was brilliant. A laid-back, final maturing of the neoclassical metal style spawned by the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen in the early 80s. It was perfect. Which is what makes this, their 3rd full length, so frustrating. They've upped the aggression and heavyness of the guitars, which is cool, but it's rendered half the band useless. This thing's like Metlzer's Justice League- you've got Superman on drums, and Batman on guitars, both kicking major ass. Then there's Geoforce on piano, who just sounds totally out of place and does nothing for the music except get in the way. The vocalist can be Red Tornado, someone who can deliver the goods, but wanders around aimlessly for the most part. Seriously, it's like the band split in half and wrote their own parts without checking back to see what the others were doing. And whoever wrote the lyrics needs to just stop it.

Biggest Surprise
Ava Inferi - The Sillhouette. This is without doubt the best The 3rd & The Mortal album since 'Nightswan' in 1995, heh. I never thought I'd hear someone reproducing T3&TM's sound so effectively, but there it is. Sure it's not perfect, but it's just so nice to see the 'return' of a sound that was so great, even if it's done by a bunch of completely different people. All this from the guitarist from Mayhem, which is the last person I'd expect to come out with a serene Doom album.

2nd Biggest Surprise
Mayhem - Ordo Ad Chao. Seriously, did anyone see this coming? It's just so dark and cold and daaaaamn, it's like black metal used to be 15 years ago. Atmosphere to burn.

Good Once More
Within Temptation - The Heart Of Everything. 2005's album was pretty bad. This one is pretty awesome. Catchy, decent vocals, good orchestral backing. Nice return to form.

Clawfinger - Life Will Kill You. Another band recovering from a weak 2005, they went back to what works- strong riffs with a dark edge. A fun band when they get it right, they keep up their track record of alternating between strong and weak albums.

Head Scratcher Of The Year
Agua De Annique - Air. So the vocalist from The Gathering decides to leave the band, citing a desire to try new things. Then she releases an album that sounds exactly like The Gathering (only not as good- guess the rest of the band actually did contribute to the songs). I don't get it.

Also a shout out to Funeral, Therion, and Rotting Christ, who all released good albums this year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Guest Appearances: Firestorm in JLI

I have many shitty one-panel appearances of Firestorm in my collection. It's time to share the worst, Justice League International #9:

It's the side of Firestorm's head...

Though thankfully (for me), I didn't actually know about the Firestorm appearance when I bought it, I got it because JLI is awesome. It was just a "bonus" that it happened to knock something off my Firestorm list. Awesome issue, too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How Not To Treat Girls, Featuring Firestorm

Becoming a superhero is a good way to get girls.

Becoming a creepy superhero isn't.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ooooh, shiny

Was just browsing through the rings available at Arroba Silver, and saw the (what I assume to be new) Sinestro ring.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Guest Appearance: Silver Surfer in X-Men

Today, it's the Silver Surfer in an encounter with the X-Men and the Shi'ar, from X-Men Unlimited #13

Someone has destroyed all life on Zenn-La, the Surfer's home planet. In a trick taken straight out of the "Heroes vs their friends" handbook, that someone has also framed the Silver Surfer for the crime, and the Shi'ar now want to take him down. How will they fare?

About how you'd expect- they get their asses kicked, or in this case, blown up. What do you think about it, Surfer?

I dunno, but let's find out!

He's clearly puzzled by the information, so it's time to investigate. This is an X-Men comic though, so it figures that he was going to run into them at some point. Will old alliances hold fast, or will we have a pointless fight?

Yeah, I know we all knew the answer to that already, but I figured I'd ask. Y'know, just in case.

Fight time! The X-Men deploy their super weapon, Rogue!
So clearly it's laughable to think that Rogue would be able to get anywhere near the Silver Surfer, but then her touching him and maybe absorbing his powers is an interesting enough proposition, so we'll let it slide.

Mutant powers vs Cosmic force. Unfair fight?


Thankfully for the mutants, SS isn't really spoiling for a fight, and is concerned for his foe/friend. Cyclops has his doubts, but Rogue clears things up.

Atleast that little skirmish was over quickly. They all realise they have the same goal, and team up. The Surfer pulls them into hyperspace with him, and it's off to Zenn-La.

Once there, SS discovers a strange force hiding and goes to investigate. For some reason he takes Rogue, for all the help she's likely to be. But then if he did it all himself, this wouldn't be much of an X-Men comic. (Ok, so it's not much of an X-Men comic to begin with...)

The big villain turns out to be some borg-like collective, only one that feeds on souls (currently the departed residents of Zenn-La) and looks like a giant skull.

You know what would be really wacky? If they were somehow able to assimilate Rogue.


They weren't able to assimilate her breasts though! There's a 7 of 9 joke in there somewhere, I'm sure. It's a pretty lame bad guy though, the surfer dodges that one blast, and frees Rogue with a blast of his own. There's a pretty cool idea for the killing blow:

One surfboard bomb later, the entire entity explodes, leaving the Silver Surfer to take a dazed Rogue back to the ship. Things wind up with SS going off to mourn his lost planet.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How Not To Treat Girls, Featuring Firestorm

Galvanometer: "instrument used to measure and detect small electric currents."
Thankfully this was the narrator, and not Firestorm, that chose this device. If you're going to incorporate a device into an explanation of how strongly you feel for someone, don't make it a device that measures small things.

Also, don't call your girlfriend a helicopter.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Steve Seagle vs Joe Public, Round 2

Following on from yesterday's post, it's the letter column from "House Of Secrets" #11. The previous letter writer shows he's all class in the face of defeat.

Good for him. Someone was irked by Seagle's response though, and decides to step in to the ring.

Heh, ouch. That's how to flame someone. The response?

Pretty restrained really, though I love that end comment about Sandman.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Seagle vs Joe Public, Round 1

One of the cool things about the great Vertigo title "House Of Secrets" by Steven Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen, was the letters page. Regularly inhabitted by both creators, and atleast one of the editors, it led to some fun exchanges.

It wasn't all sweetness and light though. Someone decided to call out Seagle on his writing in the letter col of issue 7:

Game on. How successful will someone be taking on the books writer? Well:
(click for readable version)


Will there be a response? Find out tomorrow...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Song Of The Week - The Forever People

Inspired by an ad found in Action Comics #596, I thought I'd highlight one of My Dying Bride's early classics. From their 1992 debut album "As The Flower Withers" (complete with Dave McKean cover art), it's:

The Forever People.

I went with a rather groovy live performance, since it's free, but it's pretty spot-on to the LP version.

My Dying Bride have always been at the forefront of the Doom Metal genre, with a very theatrical approach and mad poetry for lyrics.

The Forever People Lyrics
They would take a more gothic approach in following albums, but their debut is heavily rooted in the Death/Doom genre. What makes the album, and this song, stand out is the way the brutality is contrasted by atmospheric sections, notably in the middle of the song. The whole thing combines to be pretty unsettling.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Gues Appearances: Firestorm in Action Comics

Week 4 of Millenium, and Action Comics #596 has a tie-in featuring Superman and The Spectre.

Judging by the cover, it's bad new for the residents of Smallville. How could Firestorm possibly feature in this?

He doesn't. Cue flashback.

One panel, appearance over. Everyone go home. It's not a bad John Byrne rendition though, atleast he gets the chest emblem right, which is more than can be said for various people that actually drew entire issues full of Firestorm.

There's 14 characters in that panel, aside from Superman, so I guess there's potentially 14 checklists of appearances by the various characters out there, each with this issue included. We all get shafted by the existence of that panel, though quite why anyone would collect Rocket Red appearances is beyond me.

As an aside, the comic does make a good start, reaching 9 years into the future and borrowing the title from one of Edge Of Sanity's best songs.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Art in close-up: Firestorm #57

Firestorm Vol.2 #57
Page 1

Pencills: Jose Delbo

Inks: Steve Mitchell

Letters: Carrie Spiegle
Colours: Nansi Hoolihan

Writer: Barbara Randall

I just got hold of the first 7 pages of Firestorm #57, for a measley $45US. No in-costume shots of Firestorm, but plenty of Ronnie Raymond. Plus I thought it would be cool to have a large sequence of pages.

Page 1 is a splash page (the first one for my collection), and there's several cool things about it. I'm very close to retiring one of my framed pages to my art folder, and hanging this in it's place, even though there's no superhero action (or action of any sort really) going on.

On with the show:

Since it's a splash page and I can't really talk about each panel, here's a numbered version:

Areas 1 - 4: Transparent Film with pre-printed lines has been stuck to the art. Someone even had to cut it to fit around the thought balloon in area 2, since the lettering is done directly on the page. Interesting that they chose to do that rather than draw it directly.
Area 1 is still clear, but 2, 3 & 4 have yellowed, which I think gives a nice extra tone to the black and white page.

Area 5: D'oh, the thought balloon has fallen off at some stage over the years (heh, I wonder where it is). It was originally supposed to be in the whited-out part under the "Due Monday" label, but there's a note in the margin to move it. I might hit up my father to come up with a replacement, he used to do professional calligraphy.

Area 6: I like the economy of detail on the trash and pizza.

Area 7: Copyright info is pasted on. I wonder who the poor bugger was that had to paste those on to every title page.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

And you thought Alex Ross was pushing it

So Alex Ross's rendition of Citizen Steel on the cover of a recent Justice Society caused a bit of a stir with his realistically portrayed nether regions. English comics > US comics in that regard though. 2000AD #1555 has this charming scene in the 'Stone Island' story:

Really so much more than I needed to see.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Beating a joke into the ground, lesson 3

Hey, I called it in a previous post. And I was right- in the final installment of Blackblood's story in the current ABC Warriors saga, he continues his quest for "General Public".

But not before he gets beaten to death by a goth chick with an axe.

Any final requests?

It's even less funny the third time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Guest Appearances: Firestorm vs All-Star Squadron

I've been doing this for the Silver Surfer, now I'm going to start including appearances by Firestorm, since I'm a completist nut about both characters. Just to reiterate, the point of these "Guest Appearance" posts is not to review the comic as such, but to look at how the character in question is addressed. And so that others can be discouraged from the brilliant idea of buying comics sight-unseen because a checklist somewhere said it has an appearance by X character (not to be confused with the actual X character)

So we kick things off with All-Star Squadron #14. The rollcall on the cover has the JLA, JSA, and Squadron, and look, there's Firestorm.

Things open with a grim scene.

Hey, the Justice League would be really handy against Degaton, I hope they turn up soon!

*23 pages later*

Oh, there they are.

I'm glad they put that character list on the cover, because I would've been totally confused without it.

And with that, it's time for All-Star Squadron #15.

Will Firestorm actually do anything this issue?

I mean other than team up with Aquaman and bug PowerGirl.

Oh hey, he gets to fill in the assembled heroes on what's happened so far. That's pretty important. Dr Fate totally cuts him off though.

Then he has to spoil it all by being an idiot.

"Youngster"? Oh the insult!

Ronnie, you're in high school. Get over it.