Game Review: Diablo 3

Diablo 3 is out. But is it a game? Or is it the most brilliant money making scam in internet history?

Movie Review: The Avengers

Okay, okay, I posted my Avengers review. Get off my back already, geez.

The Most Important Comic Book You've Never Heard Of

Action Comics #1. Detective Comics #27. Why is All-American Men of War #89 as important as these great comics -- and why have you never heard of it?.

Tales From the Vault: Lois Lane #93

If you thought Superman was a total tool before, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Mass Effect 3: The Official Review

Mass Effect 3 isn't the end of the world, it just portrays it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Invitation to Readers of The Vault

Hey guys. What's going on? Anything cool? Done any reading recently of any comics or anything? Read any good comic book websites?

Actually, I'm guessing that last one is a big fat no considering I haven't posted anything in a dog's age. And, as usual, I have a wicked lame excuse -- I've just been too damn busy working for money to pay the bills.

But I don't want to let down all my faithful readers, especially since we've fostered such a nice community here over the last year and a half. Unfortunately, my work schedule seems to be getting busier rather than... less busy... so I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to really get back into the swing of things. Luckily, though, I've come up with the perfect guest writer to take over the blog for the time being until I can get back on track. And the name of that guest writer?


Yes, you! Not the guy behind you, but you. Here's the deal: I'm throwing open the doors to any and all Vault readers to gust write your own article. Got some comic-based rant you need to get off your chest? Want to discuss the latest issue of your favorite comic? Have some obscure old series you want to wax poetic about? Well, now's your chance!

Here's how this will work: contact me either through my facebook account or at this email address and let me know what you're going to write about. Then, once I've given you the papal blessing, you'll be free to send me your no-doubt inspired comic book commentary, secure in the knowledge that literally millions of readers will be entertained and informed by it.

So get cracking, you guys. Because this site has been silent for too long and this time, if there's no cool content you're the one to blame, not me.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Marvel at Disney World: A Brief Review

Hello folks. I know you've been in serious withdrawal since my last post, lo, these many weeks ago. But now I am finally back from vacation and have found a few moments of free time to provide a brief recap of what I saw at Walt Disney World. No, I don't mean the rides and the characters and the tens of thousands of out of shape tourists (and that was just in mirrors around the park); no, I'm specifically talking about the presence of Marvel Comics at the Disney World resort.

Or, more to the point, the lack of presence. granted, it has only been a year since Disney purchased Marvel, so no doubt many of the strategy meetings on how to best integrate the Marvel brand into the existing Disney world are still taking place. And the theme parks and their attendant resort areas are bound to be one of the trickier arenas to figure out, because frankly, the tone and style of the Marvel Universe isn't necessarily a great match for Disney World; I have a hard time, for instance, picturing am X-Men roller coaster sharing space with the Country Bear Jamboree, for instance.

Still, Disney bought Marvel for a reason, namely the fact that Marvel's superheroes are becoming the 21st century version of Disney's animated stable; in a real sense they are creating the pop mythology for this generation as Mickey, Donald and Goofy created the pop mythology for the Depression era. So there has to be a way to integrate the characters into Disney World in a way that both utilizes them properly and allows them to co-exist with current Disney favorites without affecting the successful atmosphere that has made Disney a family destination for decades.

Putting Marvel rides in the parks, however, is likely to be the last step that Disney undertakes simply because it takes years of planning to design a ride and then build it. With this in mind, then, it makes some sense that during my trip to Disney I saw only a very minimal Marvel presence -- but still a presence that could lead to bigger things.

The only signs of Marvel that I actually saw at a park was at Hollywood Studios (the most logical place for a Marvel presence, as I will get into later), this being a small side shop that used to be devoted to Disney-themed stationery but which now is basically a coffee shop with a few books in it. Among those books, however, there was a full shelf of hardcover Marvel collections for sale. Best of all, as part of the decorations there was a poster-sized reproduction of a pre-code Atlas romance cover.

I've also learned, thanks to the folks at Robot 6 (these photos also belong to them), that I missed a big display of Marvel comics at the Villains store at Hollywood Studios.

Beyond this, my only encounter with anything Marvel during my trip was a rack of Iron Man merchandise at the gift shop inside the Port Orleans resort area. I didn't have a chance to visit the shops in Downtown Disney, but my understanding from Robot 6 is that there is also a Marvel section in the World of Disney store there that sells TPBs, clothes and toys from across the Marvel line.

While this all still adds up to a pretty minor presence for Marvel at Walt Disney World, I think they are going about things the right way. After some thought, here is my three stage plan for integrating Marvel into the Disney World experience:

1) A Marvel Store at Downtown Disney Having a section in World of Disney is nice, but in order to really maximize and promote the Marvel brand -- and more importantly, begin to get tourists used the the idea that Marvel is part of Disney and the Disney World experience -- I think they need to build a whole Marvel-only store. Perhaps they could call it "World of Marvel" or something; whatever the case, having a Marvel-themed store filled with Marvel merchandize -- including, importantly, exclusive Walt Disney World Resort merchandise featuring Marvel characters -- would be a good first step towards leveraging the Marvel brand within Disney World.

2) A Marvel-themed Resort Area Disney World already has oodles of themed resorts, including stuff like All-Star Sports and the Pop Century resort. A Marvel resort area would fit right in with this. Logically it should service Hollywood Studios, but wherever located, it could become a destination resort for Marvel fans by allowing you to choose which Marvel headquarters you wanted to spend your week in, with hotel rooms inside replicas of Avengers Mansion, the X-Mansion, the Baxter Building, Stark Enterprises and the Daily Bugle. This is an experience that Universal, even with their Marvel rides at islands of Adventure, cannot offer.

3) Marvel Rides at Hollywood Studios Finally, once tourists are used to the idea of Marvel being a major part of their Disney vacation, rides should be introduced. This is the diciest part of the plan, as currently rival Universal Studios has a deal with Marvel for rides at their Islands of Adventure park. Whatever they need to do to get out of it, though, Disney should eventually plan to have Marvel rides at their Hollywood Studios, which is the only one of the four parks that thematically makes sense for Marvel rides. And frankly, Hollywood Studios is currently the weakest of the parks and could use a bit of a boost. My suggestion would be to put them at the opposite end of New York Street from the Muppet Theater; New York is a central character in the Marvel Universe and would be a good place for the Marvel heroes to hang out and sign autographs, and right now there's really nothing down at that end of the street anyway.

Lastly, an entire Marvel-themed park wouldn't be completely out of the question, but I'm not sure how viable it would be. It has been well over a decade since Disney's last new park, The Animal Kingdom, opened, so a fifth park at Disney World wouldn't be a surprise. Whether or not there would be enough interest in Marvel characters to anchor an entire theme park, well... hard to say. But in the meantime, the previous three steps I've outlined would be a good way to integrate Marvel into the Disney World experience over the period of five years or so, something that could only help Marvel in terms of expanding their brand visibility -- and help Disney begin to realize the ancillary profits they no doubt expected when they decided to buy up the stable of Marvel characters.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

In-House Ad Showcase: Sabre

Hey guys. You're probably wondering if I've been eaten by a panther or something, but calm you fears; I've just been so blasted with work that I haven't even had a chance to update the Week in Geek depsite the fact that feature's sole purpose is to allow me to present content when I'm too busy with work to do anything else. It's just been that busy.

Part of the reason it's been so busy, though, is because I've been trying to get ahead on work to clear the decks for a Disney vacation. Which I am now going on. Don't worry, once I get back I expect to be able to get back on a regular schedule and answer those questions you submitted, as well as catch up on other things.

In the meantime, in honor of my trip, I thought I'd present a special In-House Ad Showcase featuring the original ad for Sabre. For those of you who may not be familiar with Sabre, it's like this: Sabre is basically an alternate universe version of Jimi Hendrix, only with mad king-fu skills and a bunch of pirate-style weapons. He lives in a post-apocalyptic future where, alongside his main (inter-racial) squeeze Melissa Siren, he battle the forces of future-fascism -- all inside a near-exact replica of Walt Disney World.


It was also originally released as one of the first graphic novels back in 1978 for a then-unheard of sum of $6, this at a time when the cover price on most comics was 35 or 40 cents.

So am I hoping to run into a dystopian kung-fu version of Jimi Hendrix while I'm at Disney World? Duh, of course I am. In the meantime, here's the kick-ass original ad for Sabre, from the pages of Heavy Metal, featuring art by Paul Gulacy. As always, click on it to enlarge:

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Disney and Marvel Begin Cross-Marketing

Ever since it was announced last fall that Disney was going to bu Marvel, people have been wondering just what it was going to mean for both companies. One thing has always been taken as pretty much gospel fact, though: considering how much Disney has pushed "synergy" with every other company they have purchased, like ABC and ESPN, it was just a matter of time before Dinsey began cross-promotions with Marvel. The real question was when and what form would it take.

Well, now we have at least an idea of what the future is going to look like, because Disney and Marvel have announced two new cross-promotions coming in the next couple weeks: a series of TRON Variant covers across the Marvel Universe and a series of Marvel-themed covers for ESPN the Magazine -- one for each of the 31 NBA franchises.

Of the two I have to say the ESPN covers seem like a more natural, organic fit. Yes, it does smack a little of the recent announcement that Stan Lee was going to be doing a line of NHL-inspired superhroes. But still, a comic book cover depicting each of the NBA franchises as superhero teams isn't too crazy; at best it's kind of a fun gimmick and at worst, well, what harm can it do.

Plus, some of the covers are downright fantastic, particularly John Romita Jr.'s inspired take on his father's iconic splash page from Amazing Spider-man #50. This is almost too sweet to be real:

And most important, the gimmick seems to be working on some level; just google "marvel espn covers" or some variation and you'll see ream after ream of blog and newspaper articles about the covers, with local fans for each market debating the merits of their cover. That has to be a positive thing for Marvel even in markets that don't like the covers. For what it's worth, here's my local team, the Celtics:

All in all, it's not a half bad start for the Marvel/Disney marketing team.

Less successful. on the other hand, is the series of TRON Variant covers being slapped onto Marvel books over the next two months. I just don't get the connection at all. While I'm sure on some level there was the thought that Marvel might benefit from TRON fans picking up the comics, I have a hard time seeing that happening, mainly because there's just no connection at all between TRON and the Marvel characters. I dunno. On the face of things these two marketing campaigns may seem similar, but the TRON one really seems forced to me.

That's not to say that the art isn't cool; the Ghost Rider cover, featuring him on a light cycle, is a clever idea and this Captain America cover, for example, is pretty darn awesome:

But the whole thing just seems random, like a Burger King toy tie-in instead of a natural synergy between the two companies. And actual TRON comic book? Sure. Thor drawn as though he were in TRON? That I don't really get.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Saturday With Adam West and Barack Obama

Over the weekend I headed down to the New England Comic Con in Boston and had a chance to buy some back issues, rub elbows with creators and pop stars and, oh yeah, enjoy a visit from the President of the United States. So here's a quick recap of the festivities for those of you who didn't have the unusual experience of seeing Adam West and Barack Obama in the same hour.

This year, the NECC (which really should be sponsored by New England's traditional candy, the Necco Wafer, don't you think?) was put on by the folks at Wizard, who are responsible for Wizard World Chicago and that sort of thing. I was a little iffy about this since I mostly consider Wizard to be a tool of the devil, but on the other hand I hadn't been to a show in a long time and Mike Grell was supposed to appear so I figured, what the hell. How bad could it be?

You'll notice my mistake right up front there -- it's the part where I wondered how bad a Wizard experience could be. My trip to the show itself, though, started out just fine; held at the Hynes Convention Center, the show had the privilege of sharing the building with a rally for Governor Deval Patrick, where a certain special guest by the Name of Barack Obama was suppoed to appear. That doesn't happen every day, so I thought it might be cool to both hit the comic show and see the president, but when I arrived those hopes were dashed thanks to a massive queue of several thousand people who had apparently been camping out all morning for a chance to get into the rally. So, scratch the Prez off the want list. I thought.

My con pain began when I got to the ticket counter. See, I've been to a lot of shows in Boston and at no point have I ever paid for than ten bucks to into one. So it never even occurred to me to see what the prices for this show were going to be because, really, ten bucks isn't that big a deal.

You know what is a big deal, though? $35. Which happens to be the one-day admission for the show. I was pretty much caught the Demon and the deep blue Sea Devils at that point, though, because my options were to a) pony up, b) go stand in line for another 3 1/2 hours to see Obama or c) waste my whole day driving into and out of Boston for no reason. So I reluctantly paid up and headed into the show, hoping it would be so awesome it was worth every penny.

Which, no. The reaosn the price was so high, it turns out, is because Wizard has decided to try and emulate San Diego Comic Con in every way possible, which means tons of pop stars and whatever. But since, unlike San Diego, there's no reason to show up in Bosotn, Wizard has to pay appearance fees, meaning that my #35 helped subsidize some other random person getting an autograph from Charisma Carpenter. Whoopde damn doo.

Plus, to be honest, there just weren't a whole heck of a lot of real deal comic book dealers. There were probably a half dozen booths of dealers just selling TPBs, which is kind of sad for a comic book show in my opinion, but whatever. Add in another four or five guys just selling recent issues and you're left with basically five dealers who had authentic back issues. Only one of these, though, had the classic Comic Show Cheap Boxes, which on the one hand made it a lot easier to search for bargains but on the other hand meant I didn't actually find anything I needed.

Basically, I was a grumpy damn dude.

There were some highlights of the show, though. Firstly, official Friend of the Vault Bob Almond was on hand and was as personable as ever. He also was working hard on behalf of The Inkwell Awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in comic book inking. I got to talk to Bob for a good while, which is always a pleasure, and I strongly recommend checking out his website for some learnin' on inking.

I also had the chance to meet a personal idol of mine, the legendary Mike Grell. After paying $35 for entry to the show I wasn't too psyched to find out he charges $5 for every signature after the first one, but I'm guessing it's to cut down both on people bringing entire stacks to be signed as well as those stacks then appearing on eBay. Since I rarely bring more than two or three issues to get signed (in this case I wanted one each of Warlord, Jon Sable and Green Arrow) it wasn't that big a deal. After getting his autograph I thanked him for finally tying up that goddamn Tinder storyline that had been unspooling as a subplot for over three full decades; he seemed very pleased that someone other than himself cared about that and shook my hand, so that was cool.

(As an aside, he was working on a drawing of Hawkeye when I spoke to him that was totally awesome beyond belief.)

And I did find a couple of very hard to find and quite expensive golden age comics I was looking for, namely (and you know what's coming) Boy Comics #5 and #13. I was extremely happy with the purchase of #5 in particular as it's the third issue of the series and very hard to get in decent condition.

But overall I was pretty displeased with the whole experience. I mean, Lee Majors is cool (even if I didn't actually see him) and there was a line for those Buffy people, so I guess someone gives a flying crap about them, but when I go to a comic book show I want to buy comics and I want to talk to comic book writers and artists. If I wanted to go to a pop culture TV convention I'd do that, but I don't and frankly it pisses me off that I had to pay through the nose so other people could co-opt my comic book convention experience. Even standing elbow to elbow with Adam West on my way out of the show wasn't cool enough to redeem the day.

But you know who was cool enough? The President of the United States, that's who.

So, it's like this: as I exited the convention, I ran smack into a crowd of people being ushered down a long hallway by some workers telling everyone to keep left. At this point it's like 3:30, a full hour after I thought the rally was scheduled for, so I figured, hey, these must be the people leaving the rally. So, assuming they were all being shown the exit, I joined in the mix and wandered with the crowd.

About halfway down the hallway, though, it donned on me that this wasn't leading to an exit but rather to some escalators going further up into the building -- and these folks weren't leaving the rally, they were heading in. Well, far be it from my to skip out on the President, especially since I just somehow skipped several long hours of standing in line for it. So, saying what the hell, I headed up into the convention hall.

Sure enough, there was a big stage set up (with, I might add, James Taylor playing live) and a crowd of folks waiting eagerly for Obama to come out. And we didn't have to wait long; about ten minutes after arriving, the rally kicked off, first with an introductory speaker, then the Lt. Governor, then the Governor and finally the President of the United Damn States of America. Right there, bro, no more than 75 feet away.

So that was pretty cool, though it would have been cooler if he had autographed my copy of Amazing Spider-man #583. And naturally I didn't actually stay for his whole speech; I mean, he's a great speaker, but i already knew what he was going to say and after hours of standing around the con I didn't feel like getting stuck for another hour pushing through a mob to get out. So I bailed.

All in all, the experience as a whole was surreal enough to make up for how disappointing the actual comic convention was, but next time Wizard comes around I'll be taking a giant skip on the proceedings. I only have so much money to spend on comics, after all, and wasting $35 of it for a chance to chat with James Marsters really isn't part of my fiscal planning.

Now, if they can get the President to come back again and sign this time, maybe we'll be in business...

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Week in Geek: October 3-9

Sometimes geek news slips through the cracks, and when that happens, I'm here to catch it in a segment I call "The Week in Geek." Yes, folks, hard to believe but it's been an entire week since my last update on everything geeky, which means you're all one week closer to death. And that should be all the incentive you need to check out this latest batch or articles, because seriously, don't you need something fun to at least temporarily distract you from the looming specter of eternal non-existence in the cold nothingness that reigns beyond our world?

Yeah, I thought so. Let's get geeky, friends!

October 6 -- Emma Stone is Having a Blonde Moment: Yes, rehead Emma Stone is playing the blonde Gwen Stacy, a reverse of last time when blonde Kirsten Dunst played the redheaded Mary Jane Watson. Apologists claim that Stone is actually a natural blonde, but whatevs. Stone is cool, but this is weird.

October 7 -- Sam Raimi is The Man Behind the Curtain for ‘Oz’ Prequel: Raimi gets a lifetime pass from me thanks to Evil Dead 2. And if they do get Robert Downey Jr. to play the wizard in this prequel, well, there's at least a small chance I might go see it.

October 8 -- Dan Aykroyd Super Pumped For ‘Ghostbusters 3: I couldn't care less about Ghostbusters (blasphemy alert!), but you need to check this out if only to click on the link to Aykroyd's new ad for "Crystal Head Vodka," which seems like an SNL skit but is totally real. Maybe the world is the joke.

October 8 -- Noomi Rapace May Become The Girl in the ‘Alien’ Prequel: I'm only slightly more interested in the Alien prequel than I am in the Oz prequel or the Ghostbuster sequel, but this casting choice seems like a great idea.

October 8 -- ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ Loses an Entire Dimension: In the best decision of the week, Warner Bros. decided not to convert the new Harry Potter film into 3D because 3D conversion blooooooows. Very smart move, WB, thank you.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Stan Lee's NHL

Back when I was a kid, I thought it would be cool if there were sports themed superheros. I don't mean crap like NHL Superpro, I mean like a superhero who has the Red Sox logo for his symbol and battled the evil Yankee to preserve the forces of good. Eventually, of course, once I got a little older, I decided this was a really, really stupid idea.

Then again, I'm no Stan Lee.

Which brings us to the surprise announcement of the week: Stan lee is teaming with the NHL for the "Guardian Project," which will have him co-create a team of 30 hockey themed superheroes, one to represent each NHL franchise. I shit you not.

"This is unlike any project Stan has ever done," Guardian Project chief creative officer Adam Baratta said, using massive understatement. "We worked hand-in-hand with the NHL over the last 10 months to specifically design each character not only to look and feel like the moniker, but to be infused with the spirit that represents the fans of each hometown."

As a Bruins fan, of course, I'm curious to know what my new superhero icon is going to be like and the Boston Herald, for this one time only, has the answer. "The superpowers of the Boston superhero bear called “Bruin” include precognition, or the ability to sense trouble, and serve as the “early-warning system” for the rest of the Guardians. His powerful roar can freeze enemies in fear, and his olfactory power allows him to “smell” when someone is lying and be a strong interrogator."

In addition, the Herald claims that "Bruin will be gritty, hard-working and, since he’s Boston-educated, the most intellectual of the bunch. And, yes, he’ll have a Boston accent."

I'm not sure whether to laugh, cry or get out my checkbook.

According to the press release, which was issued in advance of today's big rollout event at the New York Comic Con, the Guardians -- who will be marshalled by a 15-year-old kid -- are set to star in a line of comics books as well as a novel, video games and NHL marketing campaigns. If that all happens and the Guardians catch on, of course, I will literally swallow my Terry O'Reilly jersey whole, but more power to 'em I guess. Good luck getting this to fly.

For the life of me I haven't been able to find any images yet of the various Guardians, but trust me, as soon as I find some, I will be posting them. In the meantime, though, it struck me that just about every NHL team already has an established superhero or supervillain that could easily represent the franchise. So with that in mind, here's my list of heroes and villains for NHL franchises:

Boston Bruins -- Ursa Major
Buffalo Sabres -- Sabre
Montreal Canadiens -- Satannish (okay, maybe that's just me)
Ottawa Senators -- Senator Harrington Byrd (I looked this one up)
Toronto Maple Leafs -- Major Mapleleaf (yes, this is a real character)

New Jersey Devils -- The Death-Defying Devil
New York Islanders -- Wonder Woman (think about it...)
New York Rangers -- Space Ranger
Philadelphia Flyers -- Night Flyer (I refuse to give them someone cooler)
Pittsburgh Penguins -- The Penguin, obviously

Atlanta Thrashers -- Night Thrasher
Carolina Hurricane -- Hurricane
Florida Panthers -- Black Panther
Tampa Bay Lightning -- Lightning Lad
Washington Capitols -- Estes Kefauver (meta commentary!)

Calgary Flames -- Human Torch
Colorado Avalanche -- Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers -- The Duke of Oil (maybe the dumbest villain ever?)
Minnesota Wild -- Wildfire
Vancouver Canucks -- Captain Canuck

Chicago Blackhawks -- Blackhawk
Columbus Blue Jackets -- Yellowjacket (only funny to me, maybe)
Detroit Red Wings -- Redwing
Nashville Predators -- Predator
St. Louis Blues -- Chat Noir (look it up, I'll wait)

Anaheim Ducks -- Howard the Duck
Dallas Stars -- Starman
Los Angeles Kings -- King of the Hoboes
Phoenix Coyotes -- Coyote
San Jose Sharks -- Tiger Shark

Come to think of it... maybe I am Stan Lee after all!

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ask the Vault!

We haven't done this for awhile, so why not? Yes, it's time for the latest edition of the mind-expanding sensation that is sweeping the world, Ask the Vault! As always, the rules are pretty simple: you ask me any question you want, anything at all (though preferably about comics), and I provide the most comprehensive and intelligent answer you've ever heard in your whole damn life.

Of course, some questions have already been asked and answered, so before you submit your query, check out this list to see what kind of knowledge has already been dropped. But otherwise, the door is now open, so get your thinking caps and step through it metaphorically. Once I have accumulate enough questions, I'll answer them all with my usual flurry of timely activity.

Ready? Okay, ask away.

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Week in Geek: September 25 - October 2

And we're back, folks, with another jam-packed week in geek. What kind of jam, you ask? Grape jam, baby, grape jam. Because here at The Vault, we use only the finest ingredients when we whip up our patented recipe of pure, unadulterated awesome.

But enough chit chat, let's get right to this week's highlights:

September 27 -- Mark Ruffalo: My CGI Hulk Will Be Best CGI Hulk Ever Talk about setting the bar low.

September 28 -- ‘True Grit’ Trailer: Truer, Grittier Than Ever: This has the potential to be the awesomest movie of the year, not to mention the rare remake that is better than the original.

September 29 -- ‘Sherlock Holmes 2′ Gets a Mad Man, Er, Villain: I won't feel safe until they announce Rachel McAdams won't be returning, but this sounds fine for what it is.

September 29 -- ‘Lost’ Star Josh Holloway Accepting Impossible Mission: I still think he should have been Hawkeye, but I'm happy to see him in anything. Maybe he can kick Tom Cruise's ass.

September 30 -- Hallelujah, It’s Raining Ninjas in ‘The Warrior’s Way’ Trailer: Oh look, a serious, live action version of Ninja Scroll, combined somehow with both Wild Wild West and Lone Wolf and Cub. In other words, this looks pathetically terribad.

October 1 -- San Diego Defeats Dastardly Plot to Kidnap Comic-Con: Comic-Con is staying in San Diego, which is good. Not that I have a horse in this race, I just loathe L.A. and the Inland Empire. No offense.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Breaking News: Bob Harras Named DC EiC

DC announced yet another stunning bit of news today, this time taking pretty much everyone off guard with their out-of-nowhere announcement that former Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras has been named DC's new Editor-in-Chief.

Exactly what this means, mind you, is a bit unclear; DC hasn't actually had an Editor-in-Chief for years. But with the recent restructuring of the company, with Dan DiDio and Jim Lee named co-publishers, the elimination of Wildstorm from the face of the Earth and the move of everything non-comics to Los Angeles, it's clear that DC has some sort of game plan they are finally implementing.

The fact that that plan leans heavily on Bob Harras, however, is still a shocker on some levels. For the past several years, after all, Harras (who was once also writer on Avengers) has been toiling in near-obscurity as the editor in charge of DC's collections department -- collections as in trades and reprints, not as in billing. That position is about as far as you could get from Harras's glory days when he presided over Marvel Comics from 1995-2000.

Just how fans are going to react the news is almost as unclear as just what Harras's role will be in relation to DiDio and Lee. Many fans remember Harras as editor most for the whole Heroes Reborn fiasco (and I use the word fiasco in terms of fan reaction, not in terms of sales, as by all accounts the event did what it was intended to do). Harras is also somewhat unfairly held responsible by many fans for the many troubles Marvel had during this time period, when the company went bankrupt. That really stemmed from things way over his head, but the trickle down effect -- and the poor quality of many of the titles he inherited during the whole 90's Image/speculation era -- have led many fans to forget all the highlights of Harras's tenure in favor of the lowlights.

Among those highlights, of course, are not just the Heroes Return relaunches, which led to such fan favorite teams as Kurt Busiek and George Perez on Avengers, but also the greenlighting of Busiek's Thunderbolts series, the creation of the Ultimate universe and the launching of Marvel Knights, which eventually ushered in the era of his successor, Marvel Knights honcho Joe Quesada.

On balance, then, Harras's hits probably outweigh his misses as he helped return Marvel to a firm creative foundation after the near disaster of their bankruptcy. How his style or experience will effect DC, with their increasingly elaborate editorial structure -- in addition to DiDio and Lee, DC also has Geoff Johns on board in the official capacity of Chief Creative Officer, whatever the hell that is -- is a big question mark.

One thing is for sure though: DC is definitely shaking things up. And judging by their sales and the vocal complaints of the internet minority, anyway, that can't be anything but a good thing. Here's hoping Harras can straighten things out.

For more on the promotion of Harras, here's Newsarama with the press release and CBR with industry reaction.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two Weeks in Geek: September 12-25

Yes, it's a special Double-Sized, 80 Page Giant version of Week in Geek. Unfortunately, last week's geekery was eaten by the technical problems I was having with the website, but now that everything is up and running again I've combined those entries with the all-new batch from last week to bring you a massive data dump of geekdom sure to blow your face off like a pocket atom bomb. Which, in this specific case only, is a good thing.

Here it is, your Two Weeks in Geek:

September 13 -- Noomi Rapace to Play Girl With the Houndstooth Cap in ‘Sherlock Holmes 2′: Yes, the lady from those Swedish thriller movies is going to be in Sherlock Holmes 2. She'll have to be better cast than Rachel McAdams, who was ridiculous.

September 13 -- ‘Resident Evil’ Shows No Signs of Moving Out Any Time Soon: Yes, there is going to be a fifth Resident Evil movie. No, I don't know why.

September 15 -- Ryan Reynolds: Green Lantern Costume Like Wearing Alec Baldwin: A bit of fluff about superhero movies from the man with two trillion abs.

September 16 -- Jon Hamm Tells Kelly Ripa ‘I Could Be Your Man of Steel’: The rumor going around is that Jon Hamm is going to play Superman. He's probably 5-10 years too old, but they might be able to make it work if it's an Earth 2 story. Oh, we could only be so lucky.

September 20 -- Renner Talks ‘Avengers’ Fashion: Is Purple the New Black?: What's wrong with purple, exactly? For some reason Renner doesn't want Hawkeye to wear purple. That's nuts.

September 21 -- True Story: Winona Ryder Joins Tim Burton on ‘Frankenweenie’: Somewhere, The Cure is weeping a single blood tear into their goblet.

September 21 -- Owls, Srsly? Ya, Rly: A 3D animated movie about Nazi owls and the few feathered heroes who oppose them? Say... WTF?

September 21 -- An ‘Inception’ Video Game? We Must Be Dreaming!: I hope to god this is an MMO, because that would just be the tits.

September 22 -- Godzilla’s Climbing in Your City, He’s Snatching Your People Up: The producers of the new Hollywood version of Godzilla swear that they will be faithful to the original. Yeah, sure.

September 22 -- ‘X-Men: First Class’ Threatens to Drain World’s Dwindling Mutant Supply: Unless Caliban is in this, I'm not going to go see it. Or unless I am bored when it comes out.

September 22 -- Scarlett Johansson Spins a Solo Web For ‘Black Widow’: Yes, Marvel is in talks to do a solo Black Widow movie. This could be... okay... maybe. But only if they figure out how to have both Ivan and Winter Soldier in it.

September 24 -- Emma Stone as Black Cat in ‘Spider-Man?’ Sounds Purr-fect: Okay, this Black Cat rumor is mostly one I myself made up, but it sort of fits with what the studio is saying, so I'm going to remain hopeful.

September 24 -- Kate Beckinsale Is Going To Suck in ‘Underworld 4…’ Blood, That Is: No. Just... no.

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Breaking News: DC Shuts Down Wildstorm, Zuda

DC Comics announced in a press release earlier today that they are shutting down Jim Lee's Wildstorm imprint and absorbing the characters into DC. The move was one of several major changes announced, including the end of Zuda Comics as well as the relocation of numerous jobs from DC's New York headquarters to Los Angeles.

Wildstorm, of course, has been one of the premiere imprints in comics since it debuted nearly 20 years ago as part of the Image launch in 1991. Under Lee's guidance, Wildstorm published acclaimed and groundbreaking titles by creators such as Warren Ellis and Alan Moore, including influential series such as Gen13, WildCATS, Planetary, The Authority, Tom Strong, DV8, Ex Machina and Top Ten. For the last few years it has also been the publisher for Kurt Busiek's Astro City.

Considering Lee is now a co-publisher of DC itself, the move isn't necessarily a complete shock, but it's still a bit of a surprise that leaves many questions unanswered, particularly the future of the many Wildstorm characters. Will they now be folded into the DCU itself? Will some of them be DCU characters and others go to Vertigo to maintain their feel? And what will happen to creator owned works like Astro City (Busiek has said on his facebook page that he hasn't heard anything from DC yet)?

The decision to dump Wildstorm came at the same time as DC's decision to dump Zuda Comics, which as you know (thanks to my reviews last year) was a digital comics experiment that for a while provided a unique platform for new creators. That's gone and in it's place is... a nebulous something that DC is working on instead; their press release indicated that Lee will now be heading the new digital initiative, but what form that's going to take is unclear.

Also unclear is how the decision to move a number of jobs from New York to Los Angeles will affect DC. One has to assume that this is a result of last year's move by parent company Time/Warner to consolidate the management of DC under the Warner Bros. entertainment banner.

In short, pretty much nothing is certain as a result of these moves other than the fact that Wildstorm and Zuda no longer exist. It appears on first blush, though, that these moves all are part of a larger plan to focus on and leverage DC's core properties -- which unfortunately may come at the expense of their more innovative and creative smaller branches.

We'll see.

p.s. The DC website where they posted the press release seems to have crashed but I'll try to get a link to it when I can. Here's an interview with DC's head honcho Diane Nelson, though, where she sort of talks about the changes.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

New Comic Cavalcade: Thor, Avengers and More

Hey kids, welcome back to another edition of New Comic Cavalcade. It's been quite a while since I reviewed new issues, so as you can imagine, I now have a metric ton of comics to read. So this time around we're going to go back to the ultra short, two-sentence reviews for all the new comics. Ready? Okay, here we go:

Astro City Special: Silver Agent #2
A surprisingly satisfying ending to the story we've been waiting for for more than a decade. If it is an ending -- I'm not what those final panels mean, exactly, but they sure were interesting. My Grade: A-.

Thor #613 and 614
I was very skeptical of this storyline when it started, but it ended up being a lot better than it had any right to be. I still don't have any idea why this Kelda characters exists, though, despite the writer's attempts to justify her. My Grade: A-.

Thor: For Asgard #1 and 2
At this point Thor is basically appearing in five series at once; this six-issue story may seem limited, but since another limited series or one shot will replace it when it ends, they might as just make a second ongoing called "Tales of Asgard" or "Journey Into Mystery." It's kind of annoying, but this story -- though I can't figure out if it's even in continuity or an imaginary tale -- has some great art, so I'll probably stick with it. My Grades: B+.

Hawkeye and Mockingbird #4
I appreciate the return of the once-heroic Phantom Rider at the end of this issue and I hope the storyline ends with the character finally being redeemed after 20 years in the dead rapist doghouse. But I still find the return of Mockingbird to be both contrived and unnecessary, as is the presence of whoever this new Dominic Fortune is. My Grade: B-.

Avengers: The Children's Crusade #2
Yet again, Alan Heinberg's version of the Young Avengers turns out to be, inexplicably, the best Avengers series Marvel is putting out. I'm actually enjoying the search for Scarlet Witch despite the fact that I hate the character -- and enjoying this series despite things like the totally unnecessary Wolverine cover. My Grade: A.

Avengers #4
Could be worse; the art is good and Bendis is doing a great job of writing the future Avengers kids as a bunch of complete shits, so if they die at the end of this story I'll enjoy that at least. But let's get one thing straight right now: Kang isn't afraid of Hulk in any part, future or alternate reality. Period. My Grade: B-.

Secret Avengers #4
The first arc ends solidly, but overall this story was a little bit of a letdown, particularly Brubaker's somewhat weird version of Valkyrie and the apparently pointless inclusion of Nova. I am very intrigued by the Nick Fury stuff, though, and Brubaker has earned my trust, so I'll be sticking with it. My Grade: B-.

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #3
Not sure what the point of this series is, really, but for me it's Brubaker's weakest Captain America work ever. The Cap-reverts-to-a-weakling plot didn't help, as it pointed out how much Eaglesham's artwork looks like Al Milgrom's from the dreadful Gruenwald storyline with the same plot, which, by the way, is not a compliment. My Grade: C-.

Captain America #609
Now this is more like it, as Brubaker is still hitting on all cylinders with his return of evil Zemo storyline. I even am kinda/sorta enjoying the Nomad backup. My Grade: A.

Jonah Hex #59
Another solid story, but one of the very few in the series that seems to suffer from being a single issue story instead of an extended or multi-part arc. The big setup introducing the Grey Ghost is interesting but doesn't have any room to develop before it's forced to suddenly end amidst a different, random plot. My Grade: B.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Technical Difficulties

As you can see, the design for the site has changed. This is a temporary fix caused by technical difficulties that completed exploded my old design. Once I can get everything figured out I hope to premiere an all-new, all-awesome design, but this should work for a little bit at least well enough to make the site readable.

Sorry for any difficulties this may have caused.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In-House Ad Showcase

Hey guys. You know, reprints are kind of cool in that they allow you to get access to stories that you may otherwise never be able to find or afford and with today's trade market driving the industry, the time has never been better to pick up collections of material you've been curious about. But there are things lost when you get a collection or a reprint; the lettercolumn, the advertising, really the whole flavor of the comic itself. And maybe the biggest casualty for comics fans is In-House Ads.

These, of course, are the advertisements that companies would put in their comics promoting over titles or characters in their line. Often these are little more than just a small shot of a cover with maybe a few lines of text. But just as frequently companies would whip up promotional art, graphics and other weirdness that in some cases is better or more interesting than the comics themselves. And sadly, few of these house ads have been given nearly as much attention over the years as they deserve, because really, some of these are real gems.

With that in mind, today we kick off another semi-irregular feature here at The Vault, In-House Ad Showcase, where we'll dig up some of the more interesting in-house ads from the last 75+ years of comics so that fans can get another (or often first) look at some of these rarities and gems.

And what better way to start than with the ad that inspired this feature, a beautiful full-page splash from Jack Kirby advertising Avengers #3? I found this gem in the pages of Sgt. Fury #4, and it's a masterpiece. It's also a bit of a historical curiosity due to the fact that it features Iron Man in his all-gold armor, despite the fact that he actually was wearing his new red-and-gold armor in Avengers #3. Obivously the ad was done before the armor was redesigned. Anyway, here it is:

Next up is an early gem from another classic artist, Barry Windsor-Smith, who made a name for himself in the industry with his gorgeously detailed work on Conan the Barbarian and its related titles. Check out this great in-house ad that I found somewhere on the internet (sorry, I forget where, so my apologies to the hapless dupe I stole it from):

And we'll end with a more traditional style in-house ad, this time from DC. It's got the basic in-house ad style of presenting an entire cover along with some hype text, but what's unusual here is, well, just how awesome the cover and overall effect are. This ad is from 1973, but it's so effective that I just had to guy buy this comic as soon as I saw it -- over 35 years later. And I'm betting that you'll be on ebay with five minutes of seeing this ad yourself. Here you go:

Yes, it's a romance comic about a nun! And the guy hitting on her is a tortured Vietnam Vet trying to deal with PTSD. Don't worry, though, if you can't find your own copy (which I strongly recommend getting), some kind soul has uploaded it to the internet so you can read the whole thing here.

Next time: More Kirby! More early Marvel! More of everything you love about comics!

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