Neilalien : A Doctor Strange Fansite : A Comic Book Weblog  

Is Marvel going conservative or bursting with new creative energy?; JMS and Top Cow smoke peace pipe; funny Simpsons page [Lying In The Gutters]

New York Action Hero [Quesada in the New York Times via the above Gutters; reg req'd or use laexaminer/laexaminer]

Destroying A Universe: The Untold Story [Fred Hembeck also via above Gutters]

More Marvel Movie News [ICv2]
Avi Arad talks movies out through 02006, and there's a jarring absence of Dr. Strange. And a jarring presence of Gargoyle.

Understanding Comic Scholarship: The Ninth Art [A. David Lewis at Pulse]

Superman vs. the War Party [Antiwar.com via Franklin's Findings]

From the beginning, Marvel was political in its treatment of nuclear power. Almost all the heroes and villains in the early years of the Silver Age, (with the notable exceptions of Dr. Strange and Thor), were a result of Government playing with matches.

Posted 25 November 02003 - Permalink

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Marvel EIC Joe Quesada at Wizard World [Pulse]

As for upcoming projects, Quesada revealed, "Right now we're working on a pitch for Black Widow and we're working on something for Dr. Strange. I'm aware of where the Dr. Strange story is going, it's very very cool, sort of a re-envisioning. I think it'll be redefining the character."

This must be the Stracyznski project. No time frame is given. All this re-envision/redefine/revamp talk is starting to make Neilalien one very wary rigid obsessive...

Update: "There are plans for both Doctor Strange and Black Widow in 2004. Creative teams are to be announced." [Thought Balloons spots different event coverage at Comics Continuum]

When asked whether he prefers being an artist or the EIC, Quesada said, "It's tough to say. I love the Editor in Chief job, it's really a blast, but I'm under no illusions that outside of Stan Lee it hasn't really ended well for anybody."

Posted 22 November 02003 - Permalink

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Steven Grant needs Team Comix help [via Alan David Doane]

American Gods: Legendary Comic-Book Artists Alex Ross and Neal Adams Declare Their Patriot Acts [The Village Voice via Ferret Press/PANEL Weblog]
This is the Voice article mentioned here yesterday.

[Schumer] relates Tom Wolfe's description of LSD proselytizer Ken Kesey sitting "for hours on end reading comic books, absorbed in the plunging purple Steve Ditko shadows of Dr. Strange."

Posted 21 November 02003 - Permalink

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From the current Village Voice (with the Alex Ross cover): "A book party for Arlen Schumer's The Silver Age of Comic Book Art will be held on November 21 (tomorrow) at 7:00 PM at the CUNY Graduate Center, 265 Fifth Avenue, at 34th Street, NYC"
Thanks to Egon and his keen eye. He also reports re: the Voice: "Although Ross is the main focus, the feature article also spends some time talking about Schumer's book and includes quotes from Neal Adams." So who's going to crash this party with Neilalien?

Comics: The New Drug [Permanent Damage]
They should be taking us to new imaginative worlds.

Who ever read a Steve Ditko Dr. Strange story without wondering if they'd somehow stumbled into a drug trip?

Jim Starlin off Thanos [Newsarama] [Pulse]
Posted for all the old-school Cosmic Marvel fans who read this blog and elsewhere- and they are many- the ones who make Marvel Universe: The End a strong seller and Thanos #1 open at #22. Neilalien has little interest in this book and the title character, but he likes Starlin and is very curious what the "irreconcilable creative differences" are all about. Guess Starlin's Thanos just didn't wear black, swear, shrink down to perform oral sex on Death, and do all that other New Marvel stuff. It sounds like the book will be continuing without Starlin, which is simply a non-starter of an idea.

Secret War by Bendis coming in February [Newsarama]
"Secret War leads to a blowout between nearly every hero and mutant of New York, including Spider-Man, Wolverine, Daredevil, Captain America, Black Widow, Luke Cage and others." "Nearly every hero in NYC." Translation: No Dr. Strange. Sigh. It's just as well Doc's not in this, because Neilalien wouldn't buy it otherwise. Although he's curious about what links all the villains.

Marvel raises 02004 guidance again [Newsarama]
Hopefully the future will be this bright. Licensing surges along. Toy division expecting solid growth re: Spider-Man 2. Marvel to be a tax-paying citizen again. Comic book racks in Borders. And the stock is over $30 again. The bloom is not off the rose just yet there either. But no Dr. Strange mentioned in the movie plans again. There is no Doc movie, face it, true believers.

Jemas prohibited from writing superhero tales [contract amendment at The Beat]
Found via Fanboy Rampage- his message board watching is a real resource.

Benefit Book To Preserve Kirby Pencil Art Archive [ICv2]

Alan Moore's extraordinary career [Ninth Art]

The Little Art Object That Could [Forager 23] [follow-up defense paragraph]

"Eightball #22, by Daniel Clowes, is, without a doubt, one of the finest comics ever created." [Big Sunny D]

Neilalien was thumbing through Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross at the shop and was quite impressed. Breakdowns validates. Damn them Nazis can draw! (Sorry, in-joke, you had to be there. Alex Ross is not a Nazi.)

Motime has a post up about early comic book writers influenced by Hollywood. Has he ever heard of The Raven as possible inspiration for Doctor Strange?

New Flash site promotes upcoming Alien Legion cartoon! [via ComiX-Fan via WFC News]

CrossGen Death Spellwatch: El Cazador #3's intro text now says "Holy See", not "Holy Sea"

Fabian Nicieza interview [Pulse]
He'd like to do a Dr. Strange story. Many comics-industry nuggets, too, of varying quality.

Comics go to college: Symposium looks at genre's past, present, future [The Times and Democrat via WFC News]
Roy Thomas to speak, along with Jean-Marc Lofficier and his-wife-not-his-brother Randy. The link previews some of Roy's opinions on comics today.

Just not seeing the manga sailboat [Johnny Bacardi] [more]
Excellent question: Is crappy manga getting a free pass? [The Intermittent]
Decent answer found [Grotesque Anatomy]
Related: Is manga better or just different? [Worlds Within Worlds] [more]
Neilalien finds manga completely unreadable. So he relates to the sentiments expressed- although in the past he has avoided linking to rants and essays of the "What's the appeal of manga? I don't get it" type written by his fellow superhero-centrics, because it's sounded terribly "centric". We just don't grok manga. Manga and American comics feel like apples and oranges- all these comparisons of sales figures, formats, content, audience, price, selling venues, etc., Tsunami American-pseudo-manga attempts, etc. or "saving the art form" (with just another set of cliches pumped out by another set of sweatshops?), etc.- none of it rings true either, but that's an essay to attempt another day. Manga backlash! No, not really. It's okay. It's mostly not for us kiddies, but for different kiddies. And those other kiddies are buying- comic book shops ignore selling (and advertising that they sell) this cash cow at their peril. Would rather see comic book shops survive, and by selling (a wide diverse range of) comic books too. That means, of course, that the retailers don't have the luxury we do- they have to grok manga- and it's been suggested that they do not.

The floppy comic book's time is past [Franklin's Pulp Culture]
Bloggity unconvinced that the single is dead
Gone Within 5 Years or Less [retailer on ICv2]
Pamphlets Will Last a Long Time; DC TPB's are better, Marvel TPB's everything willy-nilly [retailer on ICv2]
Anthology Not the Wave of the Future; in denial about Shonen Jump's success? [retailer on ICv2]
Johnny Bacardi nails it:

If the evolution of the industry dictates that in order to survive, the floppy must die and trades will be the norm, so be it. Survival of the fittest, baby. But you'll excuse me if I don't get too enthusiastic about it, and continue to by those floppy pamphlet sequential graphic type comic books until the bitter end.

Neilalien has felt the same way Warren Ellis does. Which is why Neilalien didn't blog any of the "comic blogosphere's" recent ennui. Be a better filter. It's an old, tired discussion and didn't seem that linkworthy (except for maybe Derek Martinez' funny Books To Be Avoided Wallet List). Not as if the singles vs. trades debate isn't ancient either, but Neilalien likes that topic. The Bad Signal in question practically felt like a validation for previous non-linking. In fact, Neilalien had one of his snarky little paragraphs all written up, about WEF flashbacks, whining about one's bloated pull list, writing about the books one loves instead, and how an (activist-esque) exhortation to stop buying what the exhorter thinks is crap/mediocre is pointless (giving a particular book an intelligent, bad review is another matter). But he decided not to post it- why pick that fight? So why does Neilalien blog this now, if it's not a back-handed way to finally say in public, "Stop whining and unbloat your pull list already"? Because Attentiondeficitdisorderly's defense of eternal kvetching has softened Neilalien's heart tonight.

Oh, okay, let's blog some bitching: Retailers do not want change; "no one understands one another" in the comics business; it's saner to be positive about the good work out there [Comics.212.net]
And this Previews Review, with concluding statement, righteous praise for Invincible, praise enough to put The Walking Dead on the radar, and also this quote:

After trimming back almost exclusively to trades, I find that I'm missing the consistent thrill of a solid monthly. It's like only watching movies and avoiding TV.

Wanting More Than Anger [Bruce Baugh on fandom via Attentiondeficitdisorderly]

Posted 20 November 02003 - Permalink

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Over drinks last week, Egon reminded Neilalien to blog a great item from Comic Art Magazine #1. It's Daniel Clowes talking about a piece of Ditko art (identified as: "Steve Ditko, original art for unidentified story, Warren Publishing Co."). Neilalien might pop a scan up here if time becomes available, but even without it, the quote is precious:

This is from Creepy, or is it Eerie? I forget. I got this years and years ago. I went to a comic convention with the idea of buying, you know, Superman #93 or something, and then I saw this and thought: 'You mean I can buy this for the same amount of money?' It was no contest. It's got every Ditko cliche: the open hands and determined fists, and the weird Dutch angle in the last panel. I like that his wife is just, like, sitting in the dark, reading. Then there's the great line, 'Hair on my Palms! Another of the Signs!' I didn't even know what that meant when I first bought it, and all of my friends used to tease me. The wife looks like a man with a wig on, as do all of Ditko's women (laughter).
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To Neilalien's delight, Jim Treacher has Dr. Strange on the brain lately. Email #1:

Dr. Strange via Ennis & Fabry: David Niven?

Neilalien went with John Waters, but maybe Jim's nailed it. U-Decide:

Doc in Thor: Vikings David Niven Doc in Thor: Vikings John Waters

Email #2:

Have you seen this week's episode of Justice League? They put together a DC version of the Defenders (Aquaman, Solomon Grundy, and Dr. Fate) and pitted them and the JL against Cthulhu. Pretty damn cool.

A DC version of the Defenders on the Justice League cartoon!? This sounds like a riot. They're discussing this on the Defenders Message Board. Neilalien's got tons of technology in the orbital base, but he can't get cable hooked up. Anyone tape it? (Update: Thanks for all the offers! I'm going to take one of you up on it.)

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Bloggity wants to know what Neilalien thinks of Doctor Strange's origin, 1602-version
He sniffs this one out: it's a plot by that pamphlet-defender over there to get Neilalien to stop waiting for the trade! That's okay, Neilalien likes the singles too.

When I was a youth... I was stolen- kidnapped- by foreign sailors. I was taken to a slave market in Ankhara, where I was bought by a wise doctor. I learned much from him, but I could not be satisfied until I was free once more. My master offered me my freedom if I brought back certain secret herbs from the East. It was a dangerous journey. His last two couriers had never returned. I travelled high into the mountains beyond the Indies... I nearly died, but was rescued, and taken to a remote monastery. In that place... I learned much. When, finally, I was able to return, a free man, to England, it was with my bride by my side, and with some small knowledge of magic and of the body and the soul. And, once I had done a small service for the Queen, she made me her physician...

It's a nice quickie yarn, but it's nothing like, and Neilalien thinks it's got none of the drama of, the original origin.

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Motime wants a recap of what Neilalien thinks of that green minotaur of a mystic apprentice, Rintrah

Neilalien is a Rintrah of R'Vaal fan. And he's got some new spins on him just for Motime.

Do you watch Alias? If you don't, the point of the following might not hit home as much. And you really should be watching it because it's an excellent show.

On Alias, you've got a bunch of intense, serious people, too busy to watch all the latest television shows, with the heavy responsibility of saving the world each week. There's triangles and webs of love and hate. And there's action. You can't have Jack Bristow make a joke about Sex And The City. It doesn't work. His character doesn't make jokes, and you just know he's never seen an episode. And it doesn't work for Dr. Strange or Clea. Wong maybe, but not really either. (Although Wong makes a good street-smart guy for Doc to have around, paying the bills and keeping an eye out for dangerous artifacts on Ebay). The show needs an outlet, comic relief- a funny character outside the web of deceit or dourness who isn't "field rated", a break between the action scenes, a "normal guy" that the viewers can relate to- and the show's creators need an outlet for their own light-heartedness and humor, too. That's where the Alias character Marshall the tech-geek comes in- who's a riot, and indispensable to the show. Rintrah is a Doctor Strange book's Marshall.

Rintrah Marshall

Or at least he should have been. Unfortunately, the big gentlemanly lug wasn't written all that funny. Rintrah didn't do much to add value- he should have stayed home, watching television and sewing- he was Enitharmon the Weaver's apprentice before being Doc's. Alchemical pouches or something cool for Doc to use on missions. The way Marshall adds value on Alias with all his tech devices. Maybe he should have sewed letters on Doc's chest for him to rip off and fix words the way Letterman used to do on the Electric Company.

Letterman

Anyway, the Sorcerer Supreme book, which had started out fairly strong, was finally getting destroyed by an infinite number of Infinity Crossovers, and all that stuff was way too powerful for Rintrah to accompany Doc. He kept getting left at home. Doc was rejecting the Vishanti and getting taken in new directions, and new writers had no idea what to do with Rintrah. So they killed him off. By the warp and weft of the woven worlds, it was a dumb death, on the level of Tasha Yar's.

And yes Dr. Strange fans, Rintrah is dead. Doc says "remains"- as in corpse. It's our sad luck, as usual as Doc fans, that the only death in the Marvel Universe that's ever stuck is Rintrah's.

Update: Motime approves

Posted 19 November 02003 - Permalink

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It's a stretch but it still feels synchronistic: As the blogosphere has fun with The Onion's Mom Finds Out About Blog, it turns out that the artist of the last comic book bought by Neilalien's maternal unit, Marvel's The Life of Pope John Paul II, John Tartaglione has sadly passed away.

Pupil could be expelled for his violent cartoons [AP story at Cleveland Plain Dealer] [Journey Into Comics] [Briefs On The Outside]

Manga success in bookstores means little for American superhero or art comics [The Intermittent]
Manga's success won't save other comics in a reader-crossover/bookstore-dollar/Venn Diagram overlap way- but it might be able to economically help save the direct market shops.
Update: Grotesque Anatomy's The Trickle-Down Manga Theory has already covered more. And the art form lives on, whether it be 90%-crappy superhero comics, 90%-crappy art comics, or 90%-crappy manga.

Looks like Robin Snyder's Snyder-Ditko.com has been some kind of liver cancer search-spam site for a while now

Really Simple Syndication for WebComics [Comixpedia]

The Web's New Currency [MIT's Technology Review via Scott McCloud]
Webcomics, along with music, have become the poster children for micropayments.

Long Live the Pamphlet [retailer at ICv2]

You can't look to formats to save your industry. It's the content that's causing the sales...

Posted 16 November 02003 - Permalink

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Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex by Larry Niven [via Scott McCloud]
Neilalien swears he had blogged this classic text before in all his travels, but a search of this site came up empty. He must have read it offline and wished at the time that he could have linked to it. It's now online with the author's permission.

Posted 14 November 02003 - Permalink

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Mike Sangiacomo pulls Phantom Jack from Epic anthology, going to Image [Newsarama]
Now there's creator ownership for you! Kudos to Marvel for releasing it, considering how crappy they've made the entire Epic experience.

Of course, the Ancient One is definitely Marvel property. No news yet on the fate of the rest of anthology book or Young Ancient One. Fingers are crossed.

Interview with YAO's Rob Worley [Variety.com's Bags and Boards Weblog; you might be crappily diverted to subscribe, but keep clicking around] [via Thanator]

Michigan law obviously unconstitutional [The Intermittent] [executive summary provided]
But of course the threatening climate remains, especially for tentacle porn.

Total licensing guy fills newly-created President of Marvel International job [Newsarama]

Unfortunate Captain America WANK sound effect [via LinkMachineGo]

Captain America, I command you to wank!

Posted 13 November 02003 - Permalink

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Howard Hallis relates how Dr. Strange spent his Halloween [HILARIOUS]

Michigan protects children, threatens comic retailers [Newsarama] [Todd VerBeek]
Uber-broad law about what can be displayed to minors looms to effectively remove comic books in Michigan.

Warren Ellis wrote an excellent short piece yesterday on his Bad Signal mailing list about how Diamond is basically distributing comics to a microscopic headshop-sized world of about 100 comic shops. Neilalien isn't going to ask permission to publish it here but he hasn't seen it posted anywhere publicly yet so no linky. Most Neilalien readers are probably already subscribed, but if you want the text it can be email-forwarded to you.
Update: Permanent Damage ran it

A happy belated birthday to Bill Mantlo [Tony Isabella via Mark Evanier]
It's heartbreaking to hear that the creator's condition has worsened over the years.

Jay's Daze is getting the word out about indy Praetorian Comic Distributors

LinkMachineGo caught a great Howard Chaykin quote re: American Flagg! that Neilalien missed on Newsarama:

Twenty years ago I did a comic book about a twenty-first century America with endless reality shows based on public humiliation; a federal government secretly selling off pieces of the United States; and a citizenry so drugged out on media they colluded in their own betrayal. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Righteous love for singles over TPBs [Bloggity]
Also: Neilalien's been to Seattle's Pike Place Market's Golden Age Collectables a couple times in his travels too. It's probably a pun or a variant but Neilalien always saw that store name in neon and thought it was misspelled.

Marvel Comics glasses?! [Eyeglasses.com via Journalista]

The Marvel Comics collection features minimalist styling and coloring that mimic young adult fashion trends.

There's that licensing machine in motion. They don't look too bad, actually (Neilalien was half expecting Spidey-eye shaped rims or something). Note that Marvel is 'mimicking trends' here- reminds of the old Timely days.

Posted 11 November 02003 - Permalink

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Epic series scaled back into an anthology [Newsarama]
This is very sad news. The first issues of Young Ancient One, Strange Magic, Phantom Jack and Sleepwalker will be combined into one book. The book will quarterly- if a second issue ever comes out (they say "if sales warrant" but it's clear that Marvel just wants this thing to die).

Rob Worley shares his shock, disappointment- and some Epic-wrought positives too [Thanator]

So will that sharp Young Ancient One logo and cover art ever be used?

Looks like Neilalien will be checking out Strange Magic after all with his Young Ancient One- but don't make him check out Sleepwalker too!

An Epic finish [Ninth Art]
Paul O'Brien thinks the whole thing was doomed anyway. "And as for a comic called YOUNG ANCIENT ONE... well, the mind boggles." Boo hiss.

Gutters:

Not surprisingly a number of these new creators who were promised much and now have been delivered little are very upset and angry indeed. I've been sent a few e-mails from involved individuals and they're downhearted, disheartened and spitting teeth. They believe they've been lied to by their publisher, misled and their rights abused for the sake of internal politics... You know, I can't think of a better introduction to working in comics, can you?

Alan David Doane:

[S]ooner or later Marvel fucks everyone. EVERYONE. It's the nature of the beast.

Update: Alex Hamby of Hero Realm relates his Epic experience with a Silver Sable proposal

Posted 10 November 02003 - Permalink

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Marvel Releases Q3 2003 Numbers [Newsarama] [Pulse]
Marvel is looking like it's out of the woods. Lots of great news. Profits way up. Publishing slightly up, licensing way up, some legal disputes settled. A $31.5 million one-time gain from the tax implication of an asset on its balance sheet?! And most importantly: the company's got $211 million in cash!- $60 million more than its debt. Wow. Tons of movie news but no Dr. Strange. But toys were down, sales were flat, and the stock fell 6% today on all the news, however.
Market Mishandles Marvel [Motley Fool]

Meanwhile, Perelman's golden touch continues at Revlon.

Tribune Entertainment has filed suit against Marvel for $100 million about Mutant X [Newsarama] [Pulse] [ICv2]
Is this television show doing well enough to warrant all the litigation it has inspired?

A massive list of Ditko non-character 5-pagers has been posted to the Ditko-Kirby Yahoo Group [membership required]

CBLDF Joins the Media Coalition to fight the Patriot Act, supports ACLU fight against FBI access to bookstore and library records [ICv2] [Newsarama]

Great stuff: The Case Regarding Upper & Lower Case Lettering [Balloon Tales Roundtable via Fanboy Rampage]

The Graphic Novel in America [Stuart Moore's A Thousand Flowers]

Bob Layton's Future [Pulse]

Excellent wrap-up of the latest two brouhahas re: Black Lightning and The Pimp [Attentiondeficitdisorderly]

Some advice for 'comic book activists' [Comics Burrito]

Internet Marketing Secrets for Comic Retailers [free PDF if you sign up at Comics Promo] [via Newsarama]

All Hail Gunderloy [Boing Boing]
There was a time, long before weblogs, when Neilalien was snail-mailing cash all over the place in the zine world, thanks to Factsheet Five. Which reminds him to send some scratch for the latest Journal of MODOK Studies.

Posted 4 November 02003 - Permalink

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Happy Birthday to Steve Ditko today!

Posted 2 November 02003 - Permalink

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Commentary on Dr. Strange's Recent Appearances (Spoilers)

Doc in Thanos #1 Thanos #1. You call this an appearance?! Thanos is giving the readers a brief recap of his history, and a battle scene against the Marvel heroes is shown. In the scene, Doc is miniscule, facing away from the reader, and in the ultimate insult, he's hidden from view behind Cloak. You know, from Cloak & Dagger. Maybe Thanos found that one moment he was trapped inside Cloak during Infinity Gauntlet to be much more memorable than anything Doctor Strange's done, who was obviously pencilled in as an afterthought.

Doc in JLA/A #2 JLA/Avengers #2. You call this an appearance?! Doc is a teeny tiny piece on a cosmic chessboard, and again, looking away from the reader. Memo to Neilalien: Dr. Strange was never an Avenger. He was a Defender. He's not going to play a role in JLA/Avengers. Especially not with over-powered Scarlet Witch in the house. Get over it! We'll just have to wait for the Defenders/insert crappy DC team here crossover.

Loki with Doc's stuff in Thor #571 Loki in Thor (#571). This is an appearance for Dr. Strange's stuff- he's not in the book at all. In The Reigning story arc, it's 02170, Asgard and New York City have long bought the farm, and Thor rules Earth from their ruins. The superhero community is dead or underground- Cap's shield hangs over a doorway and Loki's walking around with Cerebro and, as you can see, wearing the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto. Neilalien will be browsing to see if they reveal Doc's fate, and how the rewind button is pressed on this entire future situation, as you know it surely must- but beyond that he's not interested. Can Loki operate the Eye of Agamotto, or are they just trophies? Loki with the Eye on his forehead would make an interesting image, but then how did he get to be so much of a good guy to make that possible?

Stephen Strange in Captain America #19 Captain America (#19). In the Cap Lives story arc, Gibbons and Weeks serve up an alternate universe in which the Nazis won, and despandexed and generally depowered non-mutant Marvel heroes (who will always be heroes, as so many previous What If?'s without gamma bombs and radioactive spiders have shown) make up the present-day resistance. Stephen Strange (it's Stephen, not "Steven") is briefly shown as part of the resistance during a roll call. He introduces himself as "Steven". He also reads an aura, but that might have been a joke. Neilalien will be browsing to see if "Steven" does anything of note in New Berlin, but in general he's not interested. The reviews have been good though, so he'll re-evaluate at the trade.

Doc in Thor: Vikings #4

Thor: Vikings

The Story. The premise of this mini-series is great. A long time ago, vikings plunder a village. While casting a revenge spell that requires some of his blood, the crazed village shaman is killed, so the spell is amplified with all of his blood. Now it's the present day, and the forever-roaming indestructible undead vikings land in New York harbor. The shaman's bloodline descendants throughout time (some choice warrior types, anyway) are needed to resolve the situation. A fantastic idea all around. Dr. Strange plays a prominent role in the story, although still no respect, he gets no Thor/Dr. Strange: Vikings billing. The pacing is casual and methodical but not padded. And its an absolute gorefest.

The Art. Neilalien prefers a thicker line, but Fabry's art does the job. Neilalien also prefers "simpler" art, but then the zombie faces and the gore wouldn't be as detailed and fun. The contrast between rich background earth-toned NYC and the blank white background of the Sanctum works.

Doc's Characterization. Ah, here's the $64,000 Question. In Thor: Vikings we get a Dr. Strange unlike any we have ever seen before. We get a bathrobed, wise-cracking, foul-mouthed, John-Waters-moustached, effeminate lounge-lizard Doc.

As any gentle reader of this blog could guess, this Dr. Strange is completely not Neilalien's style. If Rintrah was here acting like this, it would have been perfect. This Dr. Strange flouts his dire and lonely responsibilities to be Ennis' comic relief.

But let's not be a closed-minded rigid-obsessive fanboy. ("Steven"- grrr. Mindless Ones from the Faltine dimension- grrr.) One of a character's strengths that allows it to survive for 40 years is its openness to reinterpretation. If it's done well and in an interesting way, it can work.

And in Thor: Vikings, it's wonderfully done! This mini-series is a hoot. Neilalien's having a blast. "I'm Doctor Strange, not Doctor Suicidal. Chin-chin." (While holding a bottle too. Neilalien's against that whole alcoholic-Doc that was added later on in Sorcerer Supreme.) Telling the Christian warrior that Doc's cauldron is Pope-approved. At least it's funny. Doc's got more personality here than in the past two decades. It's hard to do dire well. This entire mini-series takes a sense of humor.

In fact, Thor's characterization is actually worse here. What's he talking in the third person for? That's so dumb... :)

Doc's Powers. We go to a room in the Sanctum Sanctorum where a waterfall can depict time, track down someone's descendants and pluck people out of time. This is interesting and new. It's something only Doc can do. They're not going back in time to make it so things never happened. Neilalien liked it. Doc is also portrayed well as the competent brains of the situation.

Dr. Strange in Amazing Spider-Man #500

Amazing Spider-Man

The Story. In the Happy Birthday story arc leading up to the #500 anniversary, Dormammu unleashes the Mindless Ones on Earth in order to trick the Marvel heroes: make the heroes create a portal with the correct resonance to send them all back, and Dormmamu can use said portal to reconstitute himself here. The ploy works, and the fit hits the shan. Dr. Strange performs some time manipulation to undo the damage, and Spidey gets caught up in it. Spidey goes into a time funk, sees his possible swan song, decides against undoing everything in that lab with a certain radioactive arachnid way back when, and finds his way home by following Doc's voice through a highlight reel. At the end, Doc gives Peter a birthday present- five minutes with Uncle Ben.

It was a good idea to have Spidey finally make a little peace with himself after 500 issues- but no matter how good the sitcom is, the "highlight show" is always lame. First, we only see the battles, the failures, Gwen falling, the bad things we always see over and over that haunt Peter. If you want to do something new and reaffirm Spidey as a heroic positive force, let's see some new, good things instead. Show us Rocket Racer now reformed and teaching middle school. Neilalien would have liked to see different possible swan songs, too. Let Spidey reaffirm that no matter how (badly) it ends, he would do it all over again, which would have been better shown by having the origin scene at the end, after Peter's seen everything.

Overall, the story moves along at a pretty good clip, except in two places. The battle with the Mindless Ones drags a bit. The homage to Ditko's Spidey-lifting-the-machinery brought the story to a complete halt, and probably just shouldn't have been attempted at all, don't care who's drawing it.

The ending with Uncle Ben is very touching, and almost brought a tear to even this grumpy gus' eye.

The Art. Neilalien wouldn't buy a book just because John Romita Jr. was the artist, and sometimes it slightly annoys that everyone looks like they are wrapped in mummy bandages. But Romita is a great, solid story-teller who's done a spectacular job on this run of Amazing Spider-Man.

Dormammu looking like a creepy voodoo puppet head worked very well. Much better than the Dormammu flaming-skull interpretation we got in the Majik mini-series.

We see a multicolor astral/alternative form for Doc again, first seen in the Spider-Man: Lifeline mini-series. Neilalien really likes the "shimmering rainbow" astral form. We have the color and paper technology nowadays- let's make it look neat, why settle for white ghosts anymore. It also harkens to Doc's real-world psychedelic past.

Doc's Characterization. JMS plays Doc pretty straight, no complaints, he gets the Doc-Spidey banter down perfectly, and sometimes Doc even makes a joke himself.

JMS' Doc is confident- he has calmly affirmed to Spidey on a couple occasions already, "I am Sorcerer Supreme, of course I can do x." This isn't your childhood's Doc, sweating out close victories and worrying all the way through.

Neilalien is a little concerned for JMS' Doc without Spidey, though. JMS's Doc is downright dour, and without an outlet for him (and JMS' humor), and solo Doc stories might get a little dry.

Doc's Powers. Neilalien is generally disappointed with Doc's powers in this story. Yes, it's time for the favorite rant.

The exchange with Dormammu is a beautiful image that evokes a lot of old-school power complete with shattering shields. Neilalien's going to add it as a banner image. (It's currently being used as a banner at the Defenders Message Board.) And granted that book space is at a premium and there was only a panel or two to show Doc and Dormammu battling. But it's still just the basic energy blast. Only Ditko has proven to make superheroic energy-blast magical fighting look interesting, with his contorted gestures, postures akimbo, crackling angles and sweeping curves. In Ditko's absence, and after thirty years for most readers, the writer is challenged to create a more interesting magical battle. And even back then, it wasn't always lightning bolts from hands- Doc and Dormy were using the Crimson Bands, conjurer's cones and Pincers of Power against each other, the Cloak of Levitation was getting in people's faces, illusions were played. If you have one panel to show a magical fight, a web of glow sticks is just not as interesting as a web of tentacled mouths or something.

Take for example the fight between Doc and Dormammu in the Flight of Bones mini-series. Bee stings, called lightning, bones turned into jelly, reversing spells, etc. Now that was an interesting fight between two mystic masters. A Doc who is all-powerful and can do anything is boring, but the writer is limited only by his/her imagination with Doc, kind of like with Green Lantern's ring effects or Plastic Man. There are a million ways to dish out damage. Why do we always get the boring Cyclops version of Doctor Strange?

Doc should be invoking propelled masses of nails at Dormammu. Which Dormammu should be turning against Doc by invoking a large magnet behind Doc that whips the nails around. Which Doc should be escaping by transforming the nails into harmless marshmallows (as opposed to the harmful kind). Which Wong can then toast over Dormammu's flaming head. (Damn, Neilalien's on a roll, where's that Epic submission form?!)

And the stopping or otherwise manipulating time at the last moment to get out of a jam- long-time Doc fans have seen it all before. Doc stopped time for the Omegatron in the early Defenders, Doc stopped time to escape Salome in Sorcerer Supreme, etc. It just wasn't something new. Writers just can't seem to resist showing us the big horrible and then having Superman zip around the Earth backwards.

One very pleasant surprise of the time soup though, is that we see Baron Mordo briefly again. It may even mean his return from beyond the grave? It wouldn't be that much of a stretch for Mordo to use Doc's abuse of time and Uncle Ben's visitation to his own ends. If JMS could restore Mordo to the top of Doc's rogue's gallery, then it's all worth it. Mordo's death in the waning days of the Sorcerer Supreme title was pretty bad and should never have happened. Mordo is the best Doc villain, the perfect opposite of Doc who uses the Ancient One's teachings for evil, corrupted by power. Mordo is also good for slugfests because he and Doc are at similar power levels- can't have Doc outsmarting gods like Eternity every month.

Again we get a Doc appearance in JMS' Amazing Spider-Man with a caption box promising an upcoming Doc mini-series. Neilalien will believe it when he sees it...

Image not available 1602. Waiting for the trade on this one. Will have to peek at #6 when it comes out though- the preview says that Doc's headed to the Moon.






Posted 1 November 02003 - Permalink

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