Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Justice League America #26
May ‘89
“Slice and Dice! Or, ‘There’s Something Very Wrong With the Blue Beetle!’”
Keith Giffen: plot & breakdowns
J.M. DeMatteis: script
Ty Templeton: pencils
Joe Rubinstein: inks
Bob Lappan: letters
Gene D’Angelo: envelopes
Kevin Dooley: stamps
An’ the Man Helfer: editor

Justice League Europe #2
May ‘89
“Somebody Up There Hates Us!”
Keith Giffen: plot
J.M. DeMatteis: script
Bart Sears: pencils
Pablo Marcos: inks
Robert Lappan: letters
Gene D’Angelo: colors
Kevin Dooley: asst. editor
Andy Helfer: in need of therapy

Issue 26 marks the third title change for the League’s flagship book as it adopts the moniker Justice League America, suggesting that both the JLA and JLE teams are part of the overarching JLI organization. No mention of the switch is made inside, though, as the story instead focuses on Blue Beetle.

Answering the phone while pulling monitor duty, Beetle is brainwashed and proceeds to chase Maxwell Lord with a large kitchen knife. The hunt spills onto the street and finally into an alley, where Beetle is shut down by the Huntress, who in turn is shut down by Batman, since he’s late joining the fun and missed the whole part where Beetle went nuts. The book ends with questions lingering, but my money’s on everything tying back to Queen Bee and the remnants of the Global Guardians.

Speaking of the Global Guardians--namely the now-crazed Jack O’ Lantern--they and the Queen Bee are revealed to be pulling the strings over in JLE, making it appear the League is linked to Nazis. It’s a weird way to discredit the heroes, but it makes for an entertaining issue as the Leaguers partner up to investigate three different Nazi groups with links to meta-human activity. Each mini-team is intercepted, though, by a different super-powered whacko (all, interestingly, first introduced in DC's Super Friends comic in the late '70s) convinced the Leaguers really are Nazis: Captain Atom and Animal Man face the Wild Huntsman; Power Girl and Rocket Red battle the Rising Sun; and Metamorpho, Elongated Man and Flash fight Tuatara.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a complete pushover after last week’s skepticism regarding this JLE book, but I must confess, I really enjoyed issue #2. And even if Rocket Red and Power Girl do share a serious moment touching on the horrific legacy of Nazism, the book by and large keeps its tongue in its cheek, and consistently to good effect. Interestingly, on the art side, Giffen’s not credited with JLE’s breakdowns, but I’d say the layouts here look truer to JLI than did the last issue’s. Also, I think the Sears/Marcos dynamic is growing on me, especially when it comes to the fun they have with Metamorpho and Elongated Man.

Meanwhile, in news from JLA’s “Justice Log” letters page, a bit of backstory is revealed on the members of issue 23’s Injustice League. Writes Dooley, “Cluemaster was an old Bat villain; Big Sir was from Flash’s Rogues Gallery; Clock King was an old Green Arrow baddie; Major Disaster was a Green Lantern foe; and Multi-Man battled the Challengers of the Unknown.” Additionally, Dooley explains Mike McKone’s pencils on issue 24: “He’s our ace-in-the-hole fill-in artist (with another great issue in #28) to give Ty time to work on his own stuff (news of which will be forthcoming).”

The complete 60 Weeks with the Justice League on The Danger Digest:
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25/1, #27/3, #28/4, #29/5, #30/6, #31/7, #32/8, #33/9, #34/10, #35/11, #36/12, #37/13, #38/14, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #46/22, #47/23, #48/24, #49/25, #50/26, #51/27, #52/28, #53/29, #54/30, #55/31, #56/32, #57/33, #58/34, #59/35, #60/36

All images this post copyright DC Comics. Original text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

John Cassaday Interview for American Cinematographer

Every now and again, I have the good fortune of being able to spin my love of comics into my day job at American Cinematographer magazine. Previous examples included when I wrote about the films Iron Man and Watchmen. Better yet, though, was a recent "assignment" I basically gave to myself: interview John Cassaday about his experience directing "The Attic," the 10th episode of Dollhouse's second season. The gig got me out to Fox Studios to visit the set two days in a row; then, with the edit nearly locked, John and I sat down for a long chat at the fantastic Joe's Great American Bar in Burbank.

The full interview has been posted to the American Cinematographer website; you can read it here. And if reading alone isn't enough to make you click the link, I'll also mention that John shared some of his storyboards, as well as his concept sketch of the tree that appears in the middle of the Dollhouse during the episode.


Monday, February 22, 2010


Jon D. W. throws down a good bit of his hard-earned cash on comics. (And sometimes, as in the case of Essex County, he borrows the comics from friends. Or, in the case of You’ll Never Know Book One, he checks the book out of the library.) Here, he spills the beans on whether or not it was worth it. But to paraphrase LeVar Burton, don’t just take his word for it--you should read comics too.

Harvey Pekar: guest editor
Anne Elizabeth Moore: series editor

Joel Priddy, “The Amazing Life of Onion Jack”; Kim Deitch, “Ready to Die”; Anders Nilsen, “The Gift”; Lilli CarrĂ©, “Adventures of Paul Bunyan & His Ox, Babe”; David Lasky, “Diary of a Bread Delivery Guy”; Ben Katchor, “Goner Pillow Company”; Alison Bechdel, “Only Disconnect”; Joe Sacco, “Complacency Kills”; Justin Hall, “La Rubia Loca”; Chris Ware, “Comics: A History”; Rebecca Dart, “Rabbithead”; Ivan Brunetti, “Untitled”; Jonathan Bennett, “Dance With the Ventures”; Jaime Hernandez, “Day by Day with Hopey: Tuesday is Whose Day?”; Esther Pearl Watson, “Busted!”; John Porcellino, “Chemical Plant/Another World”; David Heatley, “Portrait of My Dad”; Lloyd Dangle, “A Street-Level View of the Republican National Convention”; Hob, “The Supervisor”; Gilbert Shelton, “Wonder Wart-Hog: The Wart-Hog That Came in From the Cold”; Olivia Schanzer, “Solidarity Forever”; Alex Robinson, “Thirty-Three”; Jessica Abel, “Missing”; Seth Tobocman, Terisa Turner and Leigh Brownhill, “Nakedness and Power”; Rick Geary, “Recollection of Seduction”; Tom Hart, “The Executive Hour”; Kurt Wolfgang, “Passing Before Life’s Very Eyes”; Jesse Reklaw, “Thirteen Cats of My Childhood”; Lynda Barry, “Two Questions”; Robert Crumb, “Walkin’ the Streets”

Right off the bat, I hope everyone can agree it’s a given that anything purporting to contain the “best” of something is always going to be subjective and ultimately somewhat arbitrary. So long as you’re alright with that, Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Comics series is well worth reading. Most importantly, I appreciate these books for introducing me to work I often haven’t heard of or am only vaguely of aware of. Granted, not everything included floats my boat, but again it boils down to the individual tastes of the readers, and both the “good” work and the “not so good” can be eye opening in what it reveals about comics’ potential. As noted above, Pekar serves as guest editor, and his own penchant for stories “from off the streets” shines through in many of the selections. From the political to the personal, this book has something for just about everyone. (Hell, Priddy’s “Onion Jack” is even a superhero story!)

Lynda Barry: editor
Jessica Abel and Matt Madden: series editors

Graham Annable, “Burden”; David Axe and Steve Olexa, “War-Fix” (Excerpt); T. Edward Bak, “Trouble”; Alison Bechdel, “Proxy War,” “A Terribly Civil War,” “Life 2.0,” “Scandal in the House,” “Who’s Your Daddy?” and “The Uses of Intelligence”; Nick Bertozzi, “The Salon” (Excerpt); Lilli CarrĂ©, “The Thing About Madeline”; Martin Cendreda, “Hopscotch”; Shawn Cheng and Sara Edward-Corbett, “The Monkey and the Crab”; Eleanor Davis, “Seven Sacks”; Derf, “The Bunker,” “Pressure,” “Strange Thoughts for Strange Times,” “The Man” and “Wal-Mart”; Rick Geary, “Part II. The Benders Arrive”; Matt Groening, “’Fraid Monkeys,” “Daddy I Got a Haircut,” “Important Questions About Monsters,” “King of Monster Island,” “Movies I’m Going to Make When I Grow Up,” “Will and Abe’s Guide to Bali, Parts I, II and III,” “Will and Abe’s Guide to Superheroes,” “Abe and Will in The Dinner Conversation” and “My Class Went on a Field Trip”; Eric Haven, “Mammalogy”; Jaime Hernandez, “Gold Diggers of 1969”; Kaz, “Underworld Strips”; Michael Kupperman, “Cousin Granpa”; Joseph Lambert, “Turtle, Keep it Steady!”; Evan Larson, “Cupid’s Day Off”; Jason Lutes, “Berlin” (Excerpt); Cathy Malkasian, “Percy Gloom”; John Mejias, “The Teachers Edition”; Sarah Oleksyk, “Graveyard”; Kevin Pyle, “The Forbidden Zone”; Seth, “George Sprott (1894-1975)” (Excerpt); Chris Ware, “The Thanksgiving Series”; Gene Luen Yang, “American Born Chinese” (Excerpt)

Reading a second volume of Best American Comics really helps reveal the voice the guest editor brings to the collection. Barry’s comics mix tape (so to speak), while still featuring some of the same political concerns presented in Pekar’s ’06 collection, ultimately demonstrates a zany streak absent in its predecessor. (My apologies for not including the Chris Ware-edited ’07 edition; Borders didn’t have it on the shelf when I bought these two.) There’s an undeniable sense in this collection that comics can be fun. And yeah, they can also have a deeper social point to them. But, damn it, they’re fun!

Story by Harvey Pekar
Art by Gary Dumm

Setting aside his autobiographical work (including American Splendor and The Quitter), Pekar here tells the true story of Michael Malice, a young anarchist who’s done surprisingly well for himself by refusing to play by anyone’s rules but his own. His story is admittedly a remarkable one, but I’m ultimately left feeling he would have been more interesting as a recurring character in Splendor rather than the subject of his own book. Primarily, I feel his youth somewhat undermines the sense of victory at story’s end: Malice wasn’t yet 30 years old when this book was made, and I can’t help but wonder where he’ll be in another decade or three. Despite the book’s abrupt denouement, which strives to tidy all of the loose ends, I suspect Malice has a lot of life yet to live. Nevertheless, Dumm--a Splendor veteran--presents some terrific art that serves the story well and interacts nicely with Pekar’s often dense verbiage. Indeed, despite my other reservations, the most frustrating thing about this book is that Dumm receives no credit on the cover (unless you count the artist’s “G. Dumm 2K6” signature on the illustration, which, frankly, I don’t). Overall, it makes for an entertaining read, but it falls short of Pekar’s autobiographical work. (It might be interesting, though, to see Pekar tackle some fiction at some point…)

Jeff Lemire

Comprising three parts--“Tales from the Farm,” “Ghost Stories” and “The Country Nurse”--Lemire’s Essex County traces the connections amongst multiple generations within a fictionalized version of the eponymous Canadian county where the author himself actually grew up. This collected edition’s bonus content also includes Lemire’s two Essex County minicomics, “The Essex County Boxing Club” and “The Sad and Lonely Life of Eddie Elephant-Ears”; originally intended to be included in the main story, it’s easy to see why they were ultimately excised, although for completion’s sake it’s nice having them here. None of that, though, says a thing about the devastating, beautiful book itself. Lemire’s characters are all so damn human, they all feel so alive, and they make all the mistakes that go along with that burden. The characters’ missteps themselves are rarely the focus, though; Lemire has the good sense to dwell instead on the buildup and the repercussions. His artwork, too, is perfect for the task, presenting the story in stark black and white (save a few flashback pages that mix gray watercolor with a thin black line), but in a loose style that itself seems to evoke the personal recollection of water that long ago flowed under the bridge. Also, there’s lots of hockey.

A Graphic Memoir by C. Tyler

Writer/artist Carol Tyler’s use of the name “C. Tyler” on the book subtly underscores how this is both her story and that of her father, Chuck Tyler. A number of months ago, I’d downloaded a free sample of the first 10 pages from Fantagraphics, and ever since I’d been eager to read this “graphic memoir” of the elder Tyler and his experiences in World War II. What I wasn’t expecting was the raw survey of Carol Tyler’s own life, including her messy separation from her husband. She manages to weave her own story and her father’s together seamlessly and in such a way that each complements the other--and each becomes all the more heartbreaking for it. This is very much a family history, striking at the essence of what it is to be related to someone, and in particular capturing the larger-than-life impression a child has of her father (both Carol’s view of Chuck and Carol’s daughter’s view of her estranged father). Better still, the work captures this sense in a very down-to-earth way; it feels rather like your next-door neighbor has stopped by for a cup of coffee and wound up spilling her life story. There is no pretension here, even though a close study reveals how well thought-out and planned the book’s presentation was. The horizontal orientation of the book itself adds to the feeling of looking through a scrapbook or photo album, and working with that in mind, the author pays great attention to detail; everything illustrated serves a purpose, and extraneous details are left to the imagination. Even the often hash-marked backgrounds suggest a cloud of memory swirling--or boiling--about the characters. It was no doubt difficult to put such a personal book together, and I’ll understand if we don’t see You’ll Never Know Book Two soon, but whenever it’s finished, I’ll be anxious to read it.

All images copyright their respective publishers. Text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Justice League International #25
April ‘89
Keith Giffen: plot & breakdowns
J.M. DeMatteis: script
Ty Templeton: pencils, pp 1-3, 22
and introducing Mike McKone: pencils, pp 4-21
Joe Rubinstein: inks
Bob Lappan: letters
Gene D’Angelo: colors
Kevin Dooley: assistant editor
Andy Helfer: editor

Justice League Europe #1
April ‘89
“How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm After They’ve Seen Paree?”
Keith Giffen: plot & breakdowns
J.M. DeMatteis: script
Bart Sears: pencils
Pablo Marcos: inks
Bob Lappan: letters
Gene D’Angelo: colors
Kevin Dooley: asst. editor
Andy Helfer: drinks too much coffee

Well, friends, it’s April of 1989 (in our trip down the JLI’s memory lane, that is), and that means we’ve hit the fateful period when DC decided to cash in on the League’s success by launching Justice League Europe. I’ve had mixed feelings about the second book’s launch, and only partly because it means I now have two books to write about every week. I tend to view spinoffs with more than a little trepidation. Granted, this is just the first issue, so for now I’ll withhold my full judgment, but after reading in JLE’s letters page that “JLE will be more serious” than JLI, I’m even harder-pressed to be hopeful.

Enough with the generalities, though. Let’s talk about the books themselves. JLI presents a rather weirdly placed one-off story in which Booster and Beetle are hired to capture an escaped vampire and return him to Jacobs Research Labs. It’s essentially a comedy caper through the first two acts, but act three takes a shift for the serious when the two Leaguers come to realize that the vampire, Caitiff, is the misunderstood last of his kind; then, unwilling to be subjected to the same inferred scientific horrors that befell his family, the last vampire impales himself on a stalagmite. Perhaps the sober ending is intended as a transition into JLE? (Also worth mentioning is the appearance of McKone on penciling duties for the majority--but not all--of the book. He does alright, although he’s a bit too Todd McFarlane for my tastes, and he never quite captures the beautiful zaniness of the cover.)

JLE presents the art of Sears and Marcos. Technically, they do nice work, but their panels feel full of lines, almost cluttered even, and really make me long for the elegance of Kevin Maguire’s illustrations. However, it’s truly incredible how far D’Angelo’s colors and Lappan’s letters go toward bridging the look of this book with that of the flagship title.

It’s undeniably strange to read a Justice League book with a bunch of characters who, by and large, haven’t been in the previous 24 issues--sort of like watching Joey after years of Friends. Nevertheless, Giffen and DeMatteis present an intriguing script with three distinct acts: In act one, the team moves into their Paris digs; act two presents a murder mystery; and act three finds a mob attacking the embassy. Even better, the mob scene gives Metamorpho a chance to shine.

Keep your fingers crossed for issue 2…

The complete 60 Weeks with the Justice League on The Danger Digest:
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #26/2, #27/3, #28/4, #29/5, #30/6, #31/7, #32/8, #33/9, #34/10, #35/11, #36/12, #37/13, #38/14, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #46/22, #47/23, #48/24, #49/25, #50/26, #51/27, #52/28, #53/29, #54/30, #55/31, #56/32, #57/33, #58/34, #59/35, #60/36

All images this post copyright DC Comics. Original text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Post-Holiday Distraction...

In honor of both Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day, let's reflect on the fact that even Uncle Sam's most hated enemy, the Red Skull himself, needs to take some time out for love.

The Red Skull's hot-tub conquest is from Captain America #395, published in December of 1991 by Marvel Comics. Written by Mark Gruenwald, penciled by Rik Levins, inked by Danny Bulanadi, lettered by Joe Rosen, colored by Marie Javins and edited by Ralph Macchio. Copyright Marvel Comics.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Justice League International #24
Feb. ‘89
“The Road Less Travelled”
Keith Giffen: plot & breakdowns
J.M. DeMatteis: script
Ty Templeton: pencils
Joe Rubinstein: inks
Gene D’Angelo: colors
Bob Lappan: letters
Kevin Dooley: demoted to assistant editor
Andy Helfer: will never edit a crossover book again

David Levin: writer
Dean Haspiel: artist
Jon D’Agostino: letters
Matt Webb: colors
Joey Cavalieri: editor
Joe Orlando: executive editor

“Across a Crowded Room…”
Another Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire/Rubinstein/Lappan/D’Angelo/Dooley/Helfer overcrowded, underplotted, mildly amusing super-hero spectacular!

In celebration of hitting the two-year mark with “the world’s greatest non-mutant super-hero team,” the powers that were present us with 52 pages of content across three stories all packed into one issue. As mentioned last time, this issue marks Maguire’s last appearance as the regular penciller, and he goes out with a bang in the book’s third story. I’m still getting used to Templeton’s style, although it is similar in tone to Maguire’s, and he does well with this book’s first story, which focuses on Maxwell Lord as he tries coming to terms with the revelation that he possesses some sort of “meta-gene.” (This revelation, it seems, was made somewhere in the pages of the Invasion! event I skipped. Alas.) Seeking answers from what’s left of the super-computer in Metron’s cave (from way back in issues 11 and 12), Lord winds up trapped underground, where, in desperation, he manages to send a telepathic plea to Blue Beetle.

Lord’s shenanigans continue in the second story. Existing in some sort of continuity limbo, this is basically a gag strip wherein Lord is kidnapped by mercenaries hired by some faceless terrorist organization. When the mercs fail to get anyone to pay their exorbitant ransom fee, they wind up paying the JLI (namely, Booster and Beetle) to take him back. Most interesting is Haspiel’s involvement, as he’s gone on to really shine in the years since this clunky outing. A bio page at the end of the story tells us he’d worked as an assistant to Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson and Bill Sienkiewicz, and those artists’ influences can be felt here.

In the final story, Oberon throws a party at the League’s New York embassy in order to recruit additional members to the team. Although Hawkman takes the opportunity to quit, Power-Girl, the Flash, Animal Man, Elongated Man, Wonder Woman and Metamorpho all agree to join. The story’s a hoot, bringing together a room full of DC’s heaviest hitters, while also dealing with those pesky, size-shifting Khund invaders from back in issue 22.

Finally, from the letters page, where assistant editor Dooley lets us know two important facts: 1) “Here is a list of present JLI embassies: New York, U.S.A.; Canberra, Australia; Paris, France; Cairo, Egypt; Moscow, U.S.S.R.; London, England; Quebec, Canada; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Tokyo, Japan; and Beijing, China”; and 2) “Booster and Beetle aren’t idiots. They’re fun-loving dudes.” Remember that second point, dear readers. It’s an important distinction to be able to make in this mad world of ours.

See you back here next week for JLI #25 AND Justice League Europe #1. Yo-ho!

The complete 60 Weeks with the Justice League on The Danger Digest:
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #25/1, #26/2, #27/3, #28/4, #29/5, #30/6, #31/7, #32/8, #33/9, #34/10, #35/11, #36/12, #37/13, #38/14, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #46/22, #47/23, #48/24, #49/25, #50/26, #51/27, #52/28, #53/29, #54/30, #55/31, #56/32, #57/33, #58/34, #59/35, #60/36

All images this post copyright DC Comics. Original text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Justice League International #23
Jan. ‘89
“Gross Injustice”
Keith Giffen, plot & breakdowns
J.M. DeMatteis, script
Kevin Maguire, pencils
Joe Rubinstein, inks
Bob Lappan, letters
Gene D’Angelo, colors
Andrew Helfer, editor
and introducing Kevin Dooley, King of the Universe

A bittersweet issue, this. Sweet, because it contains probably the most madcap plot we’ve yet seen in this book, supported by the best script DeMatteis has yet penned and pitch-perfect art from Maguire. Bitter, though, for two reasons: one, the story ends with a twist concluded in Invasion! #3, so I may never learn “the deadly secret of the atmospheric inversion”; and two, the letters page reveals that Maguire will be leaving the book after issue 24. (Lessening that second blow, Ty Templeton will take over regular penciling duties; while he’s not Maguire, his work in issue’s 20 and 21 was solid.)

Still tying into DC’s Invasion! event, the story begins with the League cleaning up a Khund crash site on “a small island in the South Pacific.” The zany knob gets dialed to 11 when a band of buffoons calling themselves the Injustice League hotwire a Thanagarian starship. Hellbent on world domination--or at least knocking over gas stations--the villains catch the ire of Guy Gardner, and in turn, that of the entire JLI.

Seen on the cover above, the Injustice League includes (from left to right) Big Sir, Clue Master, Major Disaster, Multi-Man and Clock King. Not pictured is the gang’s technology “expert,” Bruce:

This is brilliant fun, the best this book has been in its first two years, and aside from being continued in a different title, the story does a good job of standing on its own, so a new reader can easily catch on to the madness. And just look at Maguire’s acting chops--Templeton’s got some big shoes to fill.

The complete 60 Weeks with the Justice League on The Danger Digest:
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #24, #25/1, #26/2, #27/3, #28/4, #29/5, #30/6, #31/7, #32/8, #33/9, #34/10, #35/11, #36/12, #37/13, #38/14, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #46/22, #47/23, #48/24, #49/25, #50/26, #51/27, #52/28, #53/29, #54/30, #55/31, #56/32, #57/33, #58/34, #59/35, #60/36

All images this post copyright DC Comics. Original text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.