By Glenn Walker
Those of you who don't know might be asking, What is nerdcore? The phenomenon probably dates back to filking at science fiction conventions back in the sixties and seventies, and it probably caught real fire with the wizard rock that accompanied the Harry Potter books and movies this century, but nerdcore is a music trend not likely to go away any time soon. Now nerdcore bands and performers sometimes headline comics and scifi conventions.
What is it though? It's music for nerds by nerds. It is usually hip-hop, rap and/or rock, with lyrics that would be meaningless to most folks, but genre relevant to fanboys and fangirls alike. What follows is just a sampling of some of my favorites, as well the leaders in the nerdcore field.
One of the originals on the scene was MC Frontalot. His first album from 2005 pretty much coined the term nerdcore with its title, Nerdcore Rising, and he's been the official rapper of the Penny Arcade webcomic website since 2002. Here's my favorite Frontalot tune, "Spoiler Alert."
Oh, and this video, as well as the other videos and songs in this blog entry, is probably not work or family safe. You've been warned.
Schaffer The Dark Lord is another favorite of mine. He performed at the New York Comic Con last week, hope you got to see him if you were there. My favorite STD tunes are "Supervillain" and "Nerd Lust," but there are no videos for them, so here is his "The Rappist."
And just don't you think that all nerdcore is about rap and hip hop, there's nerd rockers Kirby Krackle. Here's "Ring Capacity," which I think if it was included in a certain movie from a couple years ago, that flick would've been a huge hit.
My absolute favorite nerdcore artist I saved for last. Adam WarRock is the man. I first discovered him a couple years back when he was giving tracks away free on his blog/website (which he still does from time to time). He put out a free EP about the West Coast Avengers, and from that moment, I was irrevocably hooked. He's done songs about Chew, "Game of Thrones," "Doctor Who," the whole Marvel Universe, and even entire EPs about "Firefly," "The New Warriors," and X-Factor. His output is incredible, here follows just a sampling…
"When the Winter Comes..."
"F.451," a tribute to Ray Bradbury...
...and his first official music video, "This Song."
Welcome to the Nerdcore.
There was initially some static and resistance by fans to read Spider-Man after his marriage to Mary Jane was controversially dissolved by Mephisto. It was into this whirlwind that writer Dan Slott began writing his favorite superhero, and I think it's a shame that a lot of folks weren't there in the beginning to see his terrific work with the character, because Dan Slott knows Spider-Man. Despite any initial problems, or lack of problems, there may have been, Slott hit the ground running and hasn't stopped since. Case in point - Spider-Island.
Imagine this, everyone on the island of Manhattan has Spider-Man's powers, superheroes, super-villains, and civilians alike. Sounds like a dumb fanboy idea, right? Sounds like something even Stan Lee would turn down, and Stan never tossed out any ideas. This is the magic of Dan Slott. He takes the concept and makes it powerful, gripping and must read. Add in the phenomenal art of Huberto Ramos, one of the best action illustrators around, and you've got a winner. And it's not just the regular Amazing Spider-Man creators, as this epic also has work from other comics and their creators as well, including Rick Remender, Stefano Caselli, and Tom Fowler. This is the Spider-Man epic of the year, don't miss it!
This hardcover lists at $39.99 and includes Amazing Spider-Man #666-673, Venom #6-8, and Spider-Island: Deadly Foes, as well as additional select material from other comics affiliated with the storyline. Get it now, available at All Things Fun!, it's worth every penny! Catch the Spider-goodness!
One of the gems of DC Comics' New 52 has been Justice League, and this week, with issue #12 having its controversial content spotlighted on various news programs and Match.com, it's no small exception. It happens on the cover, and it happens late in the comic itself, but it's what everybody is talking about - the kiss between Superman and Wonder Woman. Writer Geoff Johns says that this will be a major relationship in upcoming DC Comics making the two a real power couple. Where this leaves their lovers from former continuities, Lois Lane and Steve Trevor, only time will tell.
Notably, the kiss is not all that's going in Justice League #12. This issue also brings the "Villain's Journey" storyline to a tragic close, revealing what Graves' real motives are. As always, Johns and artist Jim Lee bring the big guns out with their Justice League. This issue also gives hints as to what the future holds for our heroes, including the Trinity War, and the new Justice League of America title. Do not miss Justice League #12, on sale this week at All Things Fun!
By Allison Eckel
My affinity for the character of Tim Drake is no secret (reference my confession here). So, when comics geeks all over Twitter rose up to support him on July 15, my heart constricted in my chest for fear the writers planned to end him. After all, Wally West was my second favorite character just before DC Comics switched to the New 52, and I have missed him.
Apparently, Teen Titans writer Scott Lobdell made a statement at the Young Justice group panel at San Diego Comic Con regarding a change to Tim’s origin story: “…as near as I recall, as it is now Tim goes straight from being Tim Drake to being Red Robin in that there was no official period of time where he was Robin. We keep most of the origin in tact in that he was one of the few people who could get very close to learning who Bruce is...but it will be a much updated version of his origin." (as reported by Kiel Phegley, Comic Book Resources)
I first crafted the rest of this post to argue why Tim’s time as Robin pre-New 52 is important to the character, but scrapped it all in the end. It’s not worth the time to make that argument. If I did, I would also have to argue that Superman is better when married to Lois, that Dick Grayson is better with his fellow Teen Titans (Cyborg, Starfire, Dona Troy, etc.), that Batman is better without Damien, and that Green Arrow was just better.
The New 52 changed all that – and more – and as readers we need to go along for the ride or jump ship. After more than 30 years reading DC Comics, I can say that I have been with the company longer than many of its decision-makers, and will likely see many of them move on.
So where does that leave Tim? Mired in conflicting continuity. Lobdell seems to be shepherding many characters through the upcoming #0 event, which is intended to reveal missing character details roughly one year after the launch of the New 52. Taking away Tim’s time as an official Robin would be just another in a string of altered origin details except for the four instances of direct reference as a former, official Robin. In order of publication date:
Canon: Batman #1 (Scott Snyder, writer), Teen Titans #1 (Scott Lobdell himself, writer), and Batman & Robin #10 (Peter J. Tomasi, writer). In the latter, Bruce monologues to Dick, Tim, and Damien about how they are all equally worthy of Robin status:
“AS ROBINS, YOU’VE ALL HAD YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES … BUT YOU’VE ALL HONORED YOUR TIME AS ROBIN – EVEN JASON. YOU SHARE SOMETHING – A RED AND GREEN UNIFORM OF SERVICE THAT SHOULD BE A BOND BETWEEN ALL OF YOU…” –Bruce Wayne, addressing Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne in Batman & Robin #10 (words by Peter J. Tomasi).
The fourth reference is not canon (that is, it did not appear in a comic book): DC Comics ran a running print commentary on the Young Justice panel. At time marker 10:06, a staffer printed this: "Scott Lobdell starts things off by talking about Teen Titans #0. It will focus on Tim Drake start and will be an origin story on how a would be Olympic star and computer genius went on to become Batman’s third Robin."
The statement by Bruce in Batman & Robin #10 is the most difficult reference to explain away. In the two issue #1s, the casual mention as a “former Robin” could fit with Lobdell’s panel statement “no official time” and the staffer writing the online commentary could have been working from a script Lobdell did not see ahead of time. But Bruce stating that each boy wore the official red and green is a sticky wicket.
Contradicting that could throw open the door for writers to contradict anything else their colleagues have written in pursuit of a new story direction. So far, the New 52 gambit has been executed well, showing that a master plan is unfolding. Lobdell's contradiciton in Tim's story undermines all of that hard work.
It's high-flying new adventures for The Savage Hawkman starting with issue #9 as a new creative team takes over the wings. Comics legend Rob Liefield takes over covers and co-scripting duties, with stunning art by Joe Bennett, but the big news is dynamic local talent Mark Poulton will be co-writing with Liefield.
You might know Mark from his work on Avengelyne and Brigade as well as his own projects Koni Waves and A Cat Named Haiku.
The Savage Hawkman #9 features a bold new direction and great jumping on point for new readers, and if you're an old school Hawk-fan, this is the issue you've been waiting for!
You must not miss The Savage Hawkman #9! And don't forget to come see Mark Poulton at All Things Fun! this Saturday at 1:30 PM for a very special in-store signing!
By Allison Eckel
I saw a great photo on Twitter last week of a group of fans at the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) in fantastic hero costumes. The group included Thor, Captain Marvel, and Iron Man; and they were all girls. Not in a jokey, drag queen way. But in a fantastic display of girl power uber-craftiness, this group of fangirls transformed Marvel’s most indelible heroes into Wonder Woman-worthy heroines.
In the DC Universe, girls can find many strong role models, most of whom lead their own books. Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Batwoman, and even Catwoman are no-nonsense, strong-minded, self-confident women who are regularly kicking butt and saving the world; and selling books by the boatloads to male and female readers. That is fantastic.
Guys are not the only ones who love role models who are strong protectors of the innocent and are steadfast in their commitment to the Good Fight. I was in kindergarten when I watched Linda Carter wear Wonder Woman’s star spangled bathing suit while kicking Nazi ass and carrying an injured Steve Trevor to safety. I was instantly finished with Disney Princesses; Princess Diana rescues herself while deflecting bullets! Plus, her symbol looks really great on a t-shirt.
So, Marvel: What have you got?
I asked at my Local Comic Shop (All Things Fun, which also publishes this blog) for examples of female-led Marvel comics titles. We couldn’t find any. She-Hulk and Elektra both had their own titles, but not since about 2009.
The Marvel Universe does have strong female characters. But since they are hidden in the pages of large team books like Avengers and X-Men, they are not approachable to outsiders. And they are not immediately inspiring to little girls. Invisible Woman from the Fantastic Four may be a contender – purveyors of super-cute apparel Tokidoki have put her on a fun, pink t-shirt (available at All Things Fun, natch). A few X-Men have potential. Storm, as a weather witch, commands great forces. Rogue and Kitty Pride are younger and may be more relatable to little girls. But they require too much explanation to be embraced immediately by girls hungry for strong female heroes.
Marvel recently announced an overhaul of its Captain Marvel character, as Glenn wrote previously. New series writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is quoted in an interview on Marvels’ news site. She explained that Carol Danvers will “have to figure out how … to marry the responsibility of [the Captain Marvel] legacy with the sheer joy being nearly invulnerable.” Based on her interview, I would hazard to say that Captain Marvel could be a first for Marvel: A successful, solo-female hero book. Except…
The character’s name has a long history of association with males, and with DC Comics (see Glenn's post for deatils). Plus, the character’s new costume is highly derivative of Supergirl (they even share a last name). In fact, the look is almost the same as Kara’s in 1998’s Elseworld’s Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl.
So, Marvel is on the right track to branding a powerful female hero, but so far, they are cobbling her together from what looks like left-over pieces the other kids left behind. Not exactly my idea of a great effort.
For now, I will continue my daughter’s indoctrination to the girl power available from DC Comics. Luckily, Old Navy has been selling Wonder Woman t-shirts for a while now, so I have been able to keep my daughter well-outfitted in Girl Power apparel. I will also learn from those awesome cosplayers at C2E2 and teach my daughter that when you can’t find that great female role model, you make her yourself.
By Glenn Walker
The mantra used to be Comics aren't just for kids anymore, but these days things have changed. A thought occurred to me several weeks back while watching the Super Bowl. We have gone mainstream. The nerds have inherited the earth.
I had friends and family call me during the game, not about the game, mind you but about the commercials, pushed to call by seeing trailers for the new Ghost Rider flick, and The Avengers of course. They didn't call me to find out what these movies are because they already knew – they wanted to know what I thought of them. They also wanted to know if there would be previews for The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, or even The Man of Steel during the game as well.
None of these things were unknown entities. They were all known quantities to folks who know nothing about comic books. This was not a game of ask-the-geek because he'll know what the hell it is, it was ask-the-geek because he'll know if we should see it. Gone are the days of only nerds knowing how many days until the next comic book movie comes out, now everyone is on that clock.
And for clarification, when I say things like nerd, geek, fanboy, etc., it's a term of endearment, and to differentiate ourselves from this new type of fan, the mainstream fan. Remember the days when nobody knew who Green Lantern was outside of your comic shop? Well, game over, your mom knows Green Lantern now. He's Ryan Reynolds in that flick that bombed last year. But still, there is awareness.
Almost all of our Hollywood blockbusters these days, whether they succeed or not, are based on comic books. Audiences around the world get indoctrinated to geek culture on a weekly basis watching "Big Bang Theory." Kevin Smith just started a nerd version of "Hardcore Pawn" set in his own comic book shop. Comics-based "The Walking Dead" gets better ratings on AMC than "Mad Men."
Comic book culture has gone mainstream. It has already happened. Nerds rule. The bad news is we're no longer special. Just sayin'.
By Allison Eckel
Experiences at New York Comic Con are as diverse as the cosplayers in line for Speed Dating. Some go for the panels of industry movers and shakers, hoping to hear exclusive details on upcoming projects. Some go for Artists Alley, hoping to score an exclusive sketch of a fave character by a fave creative. Many go in costume, hoping to connect with other aficionados of the “cosplay” universe. And then of course, we all go for the convention hall, that endless labyrinth of geek-fueled consumerism (and I mean that in a good way).
I go for Kids Day because I love to share my fandom with my son, now a fourth-grader (he was the special kids’ comics reviewer for the All Things Fun new comics vidcast this summer. In this one he shares his thoughts on Justice League #1). With him in tow, I stop worrying about panels (the lines are too long and the best points will appear online by day’s end anyway) and focus instead on the special programming slate reserved for Sunday. This is a difficult program to get right, and NYCC organizers try something new every year. The offerings run the gamut from quiet and focused to massive chaos: drawing workshops, group light saber battles, celebrity appearances, gaming demonstrations, and more. This year, they put the Kids Day program in its own location, separated from the not-always-all-ages convention hall. This was good and bad. Located in the remote North Pavilion of Javits, Kids Day was very far removed from everything else. Once we got there, we couldn’t just flit in and out; we had to commit to staying long-term. Luckily, the North Pavilion had its own restroom and food cart.
At the 2011 Kids Day, we were joined by another family who is hip to geek culture, but not exactly comics. NYCC newbies, you could say. I was eager to see NYCC through the eyes of not only my nine-yr-old comic fan, but his newbie buddy and sci-fi geeky parent. We started the day by learning the motions for several spells from Bellatrix Lastrange and Narcissa Malfoy cosplayers; checked out a Beyblade Tournament; tossed the quaffle in a pick-up game of Quidditch; embarked on a mini-Dungeons & Dragons adventure; and spotted a few celebrities. Oh, yeah: The celebrities who appear for autographs were shoved in the back corner as though the organizers didn’t quite know what to do with them. Overall, the boys had fun, but not for long. By lunchtime, we were ready to head back into the fray of the main convention.
One of our favorite choices in the Kids Day program is the drawing workshop. My son’s first NYCC was 2008, when most of the Kids Day schedule was workshops, held classroom-style, taught by working comics artists. He had a blast and soaked up every trick and tip the artists would teach him. But, overall, those workshops were poorly attended. In subsequent years, fewer workshops appeared in the program. This year, we found only one. But this one was fantastic.
Titled “Nursery Rhyme Comics,” and listed as appropriate for kids aged four and older, we feared it would skew too young for the two fourth graders in our group. We learned that Nursery Rhyme Comics is the title of an awesome new book published by First Second that showcases 50 nursery rhymes as interpreted by 50 different artists. The workshop brought a few of those artists and their editor together to talk to kids about ways to take existing text and interpret the visuals to tell the story.
Then the kids had a chance to try it out. My son took “Star Light, Star Bright” and turned it into a dramatic, romantic encounter between Hal Jordan as Green Lantern and Carol Ferris as Star Sapphire (when she was evil). I am completely proud.
Of course, we did brave the convention hall. And brave one had to be, for the teeming masses were grumpy by the afternoon. The cool booth attraction this year was digital green screen photos. DC Comics put you into the new Justice League line up, Dell Ray audio books put you into a battle with a dragon, and more. Hasbro toys gave out mini Optimus Prime figures to promote their new Kre-O building blocks (Lego competitors) licensed with Transformers. DC Comics gave out plastic blocks of ice that glow green to promote the Nov. 29th release of Smallville’s entire 10-year-run on DVD (and more of those super-hero logo pins). But most booths gave out marketing fliers only, if anything. Freebies were rare, but demos were not. Many booths offered video game demonstrations, prompting more than one disgruntled fanboy to complain that this was no longer a “comic” con. All I know is that the gaming booths were so crowded we didn’t even try to see what they offered.
We slowly slogged through the crowd to Artists Alley in hopes of doing a few video interviews for the AllThingsFun You Tube channel. Alas, the Alley hosted way too many fans. Which is a good thing. Keeping my video camera secure in my pocket, I did manage to meet a few artists, including Amy Mebberson and Katie Cook. I wanted to meet Todd Nauck, but the boys were tiring fast and his line was too long. Our final stop was the great pair behind Tiny Titans, Art Balthazar and Franco (Aureliani), but they had stepped away from their table.
There is a moment when a boy’s brain becomes exhausted, but he doesn’t believe it. We reached that moment at 3:00. So we headed to the aisles of book publishers, where I craftily parked them at DK, where the boys sat on the floor, leafing through visual dictionaries of Star Wars ships and Lego figures while I darted in and out of the booths surrounding them. Most book publishers at NYCC have “special prices” that are not that great. I can see a book at the Con, buy it from Amazon with my home, and read it the next day – or better yet, download the digital copy and read it on the train home.
Except for Graphic Universe. This all-ages graphic novel imprint of Lerner Publishing offers a wide catalog of titles, including Sherlock Holmes adaptations, a line of myths from various cultures, tween fiction, and more. Their show special, at least by Sunday, was three paperbacks for $10. Since the first book I picked up was $9.95, I call that a good deal.
By 4p.m., we left the Javits convention center. The boys protested, asking to see “just one more booth,” but we were all tired, hungry, and getting short tempered. This year’s NYCC Kids Day was a blast. We did not fulfill our wish list, but we had a lot fun together. Which, I suppose, is what comics fandom is really all about.
Other People’s Heroes: A completely engaging superhero novel
By Allison Eckel
I was wary at first by the idea of a whole novel about superheroes – all new superheroes. I have read Knightfall by Dennis O’Neill (1994), a novelization of the Bane story arc that appeared throughout the Batman titles in 1992 and 1993. That was awesome, but I came to the reading with a lot of prior knowledge. Blake M. Petit's original novel Other People’s Heroes came to me from an author I did not know and features a whole world full of new characters I was not sure I was ready to care about. However, my fears were quickly laid to rest, then forgotten altogether.
Other People’s Heroes is the story of Josh Corwood, an Everyman reporter for a newsmagazine called Powerlines, which reports on the Capes (good guys) and Masks (bad guys) of Siegel City. Like most of us office workers, Josh is overweight, frustrated by his job, disliked by his cat, and unlucky in love. Still, he has bright spots – he writes about the heroes he loves, and has a plucky gal pal named Sheila.
The day Josh lands an interview with heroic Dr. Noble is the day it all changes. The hero turns out to be an overweight, self-aggrandizing jerk who is managed by a shifty PR agent. Josh, disillusioned, then finds himself in the middle of a battle between Noble and the mask Miss Sinistah. In a moment of panic, Josh discovers that he has a latent superpower of his own.
Thus begins Josh’s trip down that darned rabbit hole. He puts together his own costume and sets out to fight crime; instead, he finds a grand conspiracy, a moral dilemma, many more mysteries, and unlikely friends.
I truly enjoyed this book. The pace is fast and fun and the characters are instantly recognizable without being derivative. And that’s really hard to do in a genre that so often relies on pre-set types or templates. Although I suspected the big reveal, I did not guess the true perpetrator.
Petit first published this book in 2002. I read the second edition, which he released this year as an eBook, available in many eBook formats here.
I love comic books, but they are taking over my life – physically. My collection of bankers’ boxes in the guest room closet has morphed into bags, piles, and stacks all over the house. DC’s Trinity and 52 events are grouped in large bags next to my under-used rowing machine. The New Krypton saga is stacked on my nightstand along with bits of the Sinestro Corps War. My office… well, I will let the photo speak for itself. Suffice it to say that all my husband wants for Father’s Day is a clean office!
My problem, I think, is that my process has not kept pace with my volume of consumption. Or, maybe that process is now too involved to fit into my life. The process used to begin with one monthly trip to my local comic shop. I would spend that evening logging my new books into my self-styled database (using FileMaker Pro). I did not log creator names because that slowed down the process; I kept the data gathering to a drop-down list of issue titles plus simple issue numbers, dates, prices paid, etc. Then, as I completed reading the issues, I taped their bags closed and filed them into their boxes, alphabetically by title.
Now that I am a comics commentator participating in a weekly new comics vidcast, my old process doesn’t work. I now have a weekly trip to my local comic shop (woot!) and a need to consume certain stories faster than others; plus, long cross-over event books – such as the current Flashpoint – often need to stay close at hand for months. My beloved FileMaker database lives on a laptop that I seldom open (and currently wont charge). I have lost control of the process to the point that I sometimes forget which books I read!
Now, compound that process breakdown with the fact that my alphabetical storage of issues in boxes is no longer that simple. In 2001, I saw High Fidelity and decided that John Cusack’s character had a better way to organize his beloved collection of vinyl: contextually.
So, I disrupted my carefully alphabetized collection – which numbered around 3,000 issues then – and proceeded to group them according to main character affiliation. For example, following the JLA issues would come Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Arrow, etc.: Those would be in alpha-order. Of course, there are some titles that didn’t fit into this scheme. What should I do with titles such as Robin that fit with a team only sometimes?
Eventually, I needed a faster way to stash new issues in boxes, so in 2007 I started putting all new issues into new boxes by copyright date. So, if I want an issue of Robin from May 2008, first I find the section for 2008, then find May, then find Robin. But, if I want Robin #10 (1994), do I look with Batman, with the Zero Hour cross-over or with Teen Titans. Wait, was he with the Titans back then? See my dilemma?
Now I have less than one month to take control of this process, deal with all the books currently in piles, sort the rest of my office, and thereby reach my Father’s Day deadline. A wise woman I know once said, “Solve the problem where it lives.” Ok, so where does this organizational problem live? Data entry (office)? Reading (office, family room, bedroom…)? Filing (guest room)? Let’s take data entry, since that is the first step in the process. My old database is not getting the job done.
Do you database your comics and if so, what do you look for in a collection database? I think I would like one that is online rather than stuck on one computer. I would love one “in the cloud,” that I can update from home or on my iPad, and that includes cover images. Those needs rule out most of the results of a Google search for “comics database.” The three I am left with are ComicBookDB, StashMyComics, and Collectorz.com. The first one isn’t mobile and the third one isn’t free. So far, StashMyComics seems to have most of what I want: a mobile version, cover images, key data, and it’s free.
I just signed up for a free account, which was easier than expected (they don't collect any demographic info!). I test-logged Flash #10 and #11, and Brightest Day #23 and #24, since they were sitting next to my keyboard. Adding comics to my "stash" was quick and easy. Plus, I can add custom categories for an added level of sorting (I like to sort books by cross-over event). I will continue to use it for a while and let you all know whether it’s worth keeping.
Once I return to a rhythm of logging new comics, I need to sort out where to put them. I will need at least a full day – probably more like three – to undo the craziness that is my current “filing system.” When I dug into the collection in February for my post "Eros in the Air," I found more craziness. Apparently, I tried to save money while in high school and put two issues per bag for a little while. But I also have many issues with no bags at all. And of course, most of the collection (I've lost track of how many now, but it must be close to 5,000) is without boards.
Maybe I can bribe my kids to help me. Once they are pulled out of the old boxes and properly bagged and boarded, I think I will return the issues to their original alphabetical order. The downside to that is that every time I file issues, I need to access several different boxes. What schemes do you all use for organizing your issues in your boxes? Is there one I haven’t thought of yet?
If all goes according to plan, I will get this massive hobby under control in the next couple of weeks. I welcome your ideas and will let you know how it all turns out.