Thursday, March 02, 2006


How could I not get this book? Look at that cover - it's as if Batman & The Monster Men writer/artist Matt Wagner has reached into my mind and pulled out my idea of the perfect Batman cover, and then drew it. Great cover, but stay the hell out of my head, Wagner! I'll get a psychic restraining order if he ever draws a cover with Chewbacca fighting Bigfoot.*
Batman & The Monster Men is the first of two Batman mini-series that legendary kick-ass comic creator Matt "Grendel" Wagner is doing for DC that take place at the beginning of Batman's career - sort of a Batman: Year 1.5.
I know what you're thinking, "Umm, haven't they done a million stories about Batman's early adventures?" Yes, but did Matt Fucking Wagner write and draw them? No. This particular six-part story chronicles Batman's first encounter with a full-on supervillain, a foe beyond the thugs and mobsters he normally pounds the hell out of.
The villain in this case is Professor Hugo Strange, who is doing crazy genetic experiments on Arkham Asylum patients that turn them into hulking, flesh-eating beasts: monster men. Throw some mobsters and street crime into the mix, add subplots about Bruce Wayne dating a gorgeous law student, her industrialist father and his mob ties, and a young Captain Jim Gordon -- shake well, and you have a recipe for Comics Goodness.
I think I'll save my fanboy gushing for the upcoming Matt Wagner Week, but suffice to say I am a huge fan. He's the real deal, a master storyteller, and on Monster Men he's re-united with his Trinity colorist Dave Stewart, who enhances and adds to Wagner's artwork. Together they create some incredible, moody scenes that really feel like Gotham. Behold:

I love Batman stories that have all the "classic" elements: grisly crime, detective work, Gordon, Alfred, interesting supporting characters, Bruce Wayne acting all charming and shit, a doomed love interest, and a pervasive pulp-noir feel.
Plus, ass-kicking. I'm not happy unless Batman kicks some criminal ass at least once an issue. Fortunately, Matt Wagner seems to share my fondness for foot-to-head action, and few people can match him when it comes to creating comic book action.
Here's a scene where Batman stops some heavily armed crooks who are trying to get away from the Gotham PD:

Take that, criminal scum! As Billy Jack would say: "I'm going to take this right foot and I'm gonna whup you on that side of your face... and there's not a damn thing you're gonna be able to do about it."

In a field with more than a few artists whose talent seems to begin and end with drawing overly rendered characters striking pin-up poses, we need more people who can draw clean, well-composed comics with art that serves the story. We need more Matt Wagners! Give me a hundred Matt Wagners and I'll bring you Osama bin Laden, reverse global warming, feed the children, and rebuild New Orleans.

Unfortunately, 100 Matt Wagners would exceed the planet's Radness Quota and Earth would explode, so I guess it's good that there's only one. Thank god he's using his powers for good.

*Who ya got? Chewbacca or Bigfoot?


Anonymous said...

Who'd win in a fight: Chewbacca or Bigfoot?

Gotta go with Chewbacca. He's got that wicked cool bowcaster smartly accessorized with the bandolier. And even if he lost, he'd just rip Bigfoot's arms out of their sockets, so he'd win anyway.

joncormier said...

Man I was so disappointed when the last Star Wars movie didn't explain why Wookies eschewed pants.

Anonymous said...

I was going to go with Chewbacca but we never actually get to see him kicking ass some I'm putting my money on Bigfoot on the basis that he's been ripping people apart and eating them for years.

Anonymous said...

Obviously Chewbacca, Big Foot is just a myth.

gorjus said...

CHEWBACCA!! Bigfoot is just a sad, fuzzy pre-human.

As much as I really dig Matt Wagner's hero work, "Trinity" missed the mark so badly for me I can't hardly talk to the fellow no more. And, by "talk," I mean, "buy his comics."

Edward Liu said...

Dave, you must go run out and buy In Me Own Words: the Autobiography of Bigfoot. Everybody who reads Dave's Long Box should run out and buy it, too. My wife pulled it off the counter while I was waiting in line at Forbidden Planet in NYC and started laughing uproariously. I got back in line to buy a copy because we decided it was 13-bucks funny (as in, "Yeah, it's funny, but is it 13-bucks funny?"). The excerpt on Amazon deals with the Bigfoot vs. Chewbacca thing, if you need more convincing.

You must.

Oh, right. Matt Wagner. I'm a Buddhist and I believe that violence is never a permanent solution for anything, but holy crap Matt Wagner does some thoroughly satisfying, bone-crunching, bad guy ass-kicking scenes in his Batman comics. The bit in B&tMM #1 when Batman beats 31 goddamn flavors out of a crowd of thugs was a F#@% YEAH! moment if ever I saw one.

Hell, look at the acronym for the mini-series. B&tMM. That's the sound that Batman's foot makes when he smacks it into some bad guy's face. This comic is so tough that its ACRONYM will kick your ass.

Matt Wagner is also a hell of a nice guy in real life, too. Met him at a Big Apple Con and got him to sign my old Starblaze Graphics Mage TPB while he was giving the Sin City movie a rave review to me, a guy he didn't know from nobody. Also bought a sketchbook from him, which he was cool enough to personalize and do a Grendel headsketch for free because it was a slow con and he didn't have a line.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on Wagner being a mensch. Can I say that if I'm Catholic? (Which, by the way, makes me really appreciate violence as a solution.) Met him ever so briefly at the Emerald City Con a couple of years ago. He was signing, sketching, and showing off his portfolio all at once and making us all feel like he gave a damn about us. I really dig his Grendel books and his Batman stuff is consistently hot. When G met B, it was pure fanboy bliss.

Oh, Chewbacca (assuming it's pre-crushed-by-a-planet Chewbacca)

Ray said...

Dave, you should find the story Wagner did with Harvey Kurtzman for the Topps Ray Bradbury series. Turned out to be the last story Harvey ever did. Highly recommended.

And Chewbacca would win. Why? Because HAN SHOT FIRST!

Dweeze said...

Matt Wagner shows off his portfolio? In public? Ewww. Unless you are into that sort of thing. Me, I'm content that he writes and draws the comics. Mage is simply one of the best comic series ever, along with Zot and Nexus.

And Chewbacca would win, but only because he has access to and knows how to use a blaster. Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.

Angry Android said...

Wagner is the man, and I'm going Bigfoot over Chewie. Why? Because Bigfoot is a sasquatch, and Chewbacca doesn't have a named after him (which is happening up in your neck of the woods too, Dave).

Steven Taylor said...

Which Bigfoot? The one from Harry and the Hendersons? The bionic Sasquatch from The Six Million Dollar Man? The one from the grainy 8mm films (or was that the Boggy Creek Monster?).

Dude, you've gotta be more specific.

David Campbell said...

Edward - I have read and loved that Bigfoot book! Glad somebody else has read it.

As for which Bigfoot? The Andre the Giant version from Six Million Dollar Man, naturally. Chewie and him could fight in the spinning snow tunnel.

Anonymous said...

Review some Grendel next!

Anonymous said...

Matt Wagner = GREAT Comicky Goodness!
(That's the ONLY CGC endorse)

Matt's ("Uh...may I call you Matt, Mr. Wagner?" "Sure. Go ahead." "ThanX, sir.")....ahem...Matt's ORIGINAL MAGE series was phenomenal!
(the sequel ...not so much, but it didn't seem like his heart was there anymore).

Also, anyone ever read his arc in Batman (Legends of the Dark Knight???) with Two-Face; "FACES"?

THAT was good stuff right there!

Also his BATMAN/GRENDEL was VERY sweet.

I'll confess to not picking up BM&TMM due to a desire to cut down on the mortgage-crushing, funds-bleed that is my monthly comic-nut.

But...I WANTED to order it.

Not a huge BATMAN fan anymore, but Mr. Wagner ("I said it's ok to call me 'MATT'".) is one of the few variables to pull me into that arena.

He is someone I'd entrust to handle a mini of my favorite character(s):

Dr. Strange and/or Defenders.

Imagine the twisted plots he'd conceive, the moody atmospherics he'd render in heavy blacks, the Hulk/Namor head-bashing FUN that would be.

Oh...and a civil tea with DOC and Wong. He'd do that.
'Cuz Matt's classy that way!

Now onto the main-event:
BIGFOOT in the 1st round.
Wookie. fah!

verification word is sound Chewie makes when TORN. IN. HALF!


D said...

I got $10 in Chewy.

Anonymous said...

You know what- I was just reading the 'Batman Chronicles' vol. 1 tpb the other night. I think he's based this on one of the original stories from the 1930s. Wow- I have to pick this bastard up the next time I hit the overpriced pamphlet shop.

Anonymous said...

RJ: right you are, son. Wagner's basing it on the original stories. Originally part of a 12 issue project, this will be followed by a six issue mini called Batman and The Mad Monk.

Man, what's with all these writers and their "Batman year 1.5" series?

Anonymous said...

Actually there was an issue of one of the star wars comics, within the last 2 years, that did one of those alternate timeline stories. Han and Chewie were stranded on a planet with no way off. Han was killed and Chewie went on to wander the wilderness. Years later he became what the locals called Bigfoot. And at the end, a certain Dr. Jones went looking for the legend.

Anonymous said...

MIkey, who's forgotten his password, says: Leaving walking carpets aside for just a second, that Batman title looks sweet. I am so going to buy that when it's a TPB. I can't buy the individual comics because I'm too old.

I got that big far Alex Ross Peace/War/Justice collection the other day. Now THAT's a comic for a man in his forties!

Anonymous said...

and the batman had a sensei and he was...CHUCK NORRIS!

Health Incognito said...

Chewbacca or Bigfoot? Pfff. No contest. The winner would clearly be....

Your mother!


Marc Burkhardt said...

Although I get tired of modern creators "updating" Golden, Silver and Bronze age stories, Wagner's Monster Men has been the rare exception. Until the Robinson-penned Batman came out this week, Wagner was producing the only book to feature the REAL Dark Knight.

P.S. As much as I love Andre...I mean Bigfoot, Chewbacca could kick his and the Six Million Dollar Man's ass from here to Tatooine.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to see you guys talking about the book, I was starting to think I was one of about ten people in the world reading it and enjoying it. Even amongst these comments, there seems to be a lot of waiting for the trade going on (which I do for most everything else, so whatever).
To me, it's a brilliant read because it gives you real, honest-to-god BatMAN, a truly decent and optimistic person who still believes he can win his war, while still being very noir-y. It actually feels a lot like the animated series, while still remaining very, very comic-booky. Oh, and I've read the story he's based it on... It's really great, but Wagner's taking it to a whole other level, while taking a few liberties with the continuity of those early stories. I assume this book is set outside of continuity, and it's all the better for it.

Anonymous said...

Let me hear you testify, Brother Dave! Batman & The Monster Men has so far renewed my faith that Batman can be a well-written, exciting, multi-dimensional character. A great series.

Anonymous said...

As others have noted, Wagner's "Monster Men" is everything I wished All-Star Batman would have been.

Oh, and Chewbacca.

Johnny Bacardi said...

Chewy. He's got laser cannons. All Bigfoot has is strength and powerful bad BO.

Anonymous said...

Chewbacca, of course. He's the co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, after all. What? You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon?

Oh, and we should all definitely be concerned with not exceeding the planet's radness quota.

Anonymous said...

Okay, not to sound like I'm dissing the artwork on that batman comic, because it does look nice and moody an' all that; but by Krom, Batman has the biggest hands ever. He could palm a novelty oversized basketball with those mitts. Those giant, ham fists should have 'NOW 25% MORE' stickers stuck on the top.
Also, Bigfoot would probably win. He's much bigger, in my mind, has jungle cunning, and is a crack shot with a .45.

Anonymous said...

This continues to be the finest blog in the world.

Mister Sinister said...

Chewbacca landed on Earth (ie a long, long time ago...)

& hired Johnny Cochran to defend him from Bigfoot poachers, spawning the Chewbacca defense.


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