Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Closing time!

While all good things must come to an end, all lame things must end as well, so it is with a heavy heart that I am closing the doors on Dave’s Long Box.

As many of you know, I’m busy with my full-time job blogging for my corporate masters at Live From L.A. on The demands of my regular job, family, and my career as a nude model for macramé classes has really cut into my ability to update Dave’s Long Box as much as I’d like. Heck, even before I got the ABC gig things were starting to get slack around here. So instead of keeping this blog on life support and pain medication, I’ve decided to end things now before things get more pathetic than they already are. I have plans for another blog that I will unveil at the end of this post after making you read through all the people I want to thank.

It’s been a hell of a lot of fun and I have a lot of people to thank – so let’s get to it.

I first started blogging because of the example set forth by three guys: Graeme MacMillan of the dearly departed Fanboy Rampage, Mike Sterling of Mike Sterling’s Progressive Ruin, and the enigmatic Neilalien of, well… Neilalien. Their blogs couldn’t have been more different, but they were always well-written and thought provoking and offered up an example of how blogs could be a uniquely personal reflection of one’s passions. I want to thank you guys for inspiring Dave’s Long Box and for being so flat-out awesome. At the risk of sounding corny, your work has really made a positive impact on my life and I salute you, Ric Flair-style. Woo!

I also want to thank Kevin Church of – where is that Norm Breyfoggle original art that you promised me, Church? Much thanks to “Bitter” Andrew of Armagideon Time, Dorian from Postmodernbarney, Bully the little stuffed bull, and the Legomancer himself Dave Lartigue – all masters of their craft. I also want to thank Ragnell from The Written World, Dr. Scott from Polite Dissent, Ken Lowery from Ringwood and, and Metrokitty for being their rad selves. As far as group blogs go, big love for The Savage Critics, When Fangirls Attack, Blogzarro, Superfrankenstein, and the late Listen to Us, We’re Right, who usually were. Thanks and praise go to Scipio over at The Absorbascon and Big Monkey Comics for being such a swell guy and for keeping the Vibe love alive. Treacher, Jim: madman. I also want to thank Brian Cronin and Augie De Blieck – Jesus, this is like signing somebody’s high school yearbook, isn’t it? Also thanks go to Harvey B.R. Jerkwater and his lovely wife. I have lots of respect for Gorjus and the Prof over at Pretty Fakes, Greg Burgas at Delenda Est Carthago, the maniacs at The Indian Chief Blowers, creators of Laser Force, The League of Melbotis, Bahlactus for hosting Friday Night Fights, Yet Another Comics Blog, Marc Singer, Tom Foss over at The Fortress of Soliloquy, Dial B for Blog, Seven Hells! and Howling Curmudgeons. I would be remiss if I didn’t publicly declare my admiration for the work of Alan David Doane, Johnny Bacardi, Tom Spurgeon, David Fiore, Jog, Tim O’Neil, Tom the Dog, Shane Bailey, and Ian Brill. Big shout outs to Ed Cunard, Mark Hale over at Chaosmonkey, Jim McGrath, Dr. K, Benjamin Birdie of The Rack fame, and any other Dead Gopher that I have neglected to mention. Crap, can I even mention the Dead Gophers? I think I just broke a bylaw. Shit, I almost forgot! Thanks to the people who used to run the Comics Weblog Update-a-tron thing, whoever you are.

I’m kicking myself because I’ve probably forgotten some blogger that I really really like, and they’re going to be pissed at me forever. Let’s see, am I missing anybody…? Oh. Right.


One of the most enjoyable parts of running Dave's Long Box, aside from all the chicks, was my rivalry with Chris Sims of The Invincible Super-Blog. I hand over my sword and concede the field to Chris, who is a tremendous talent and a funny guy, but is a total cockhead. Kidding! Ha ha! Look for mighty things from Chris Sims in the future - he is going to be a fucking TITAN! Mark my words well.

Aside from blogging folk, I want to thank Dusty Abell and Robert Kirkman for the Invincible Handbook gig, which was fun. Thanks also to Gene Ha, who does a hilarious Alan Moore impression, Larry Young of AiT/Planetlar, who is a mensch, Jay Pinkerton, and Jeff Parker, who totally likes me better than Chris Sims so eat it Sims. Many thanks to Ernie Cline, the man who created Airwolf: the adjective. I also want to thank Josh Elder for the advice and the GCPD badge and Kevin Church for making me a hot reporter in Cover Girl. Many thanks to Craig Brasfield, Dave Guttierez, the fine folks at, Ted “Thunderbolt” Bramble, Mad Michael Moran over at the Times Online, and Kent Goodrich, my boss who let me present the SHIELD Career Power Seminar at work.

Finally I want to thank everybody who has ever read my humble blog and a double-thanks to anyone who has ever commented. A double-thanks with handshake to anyone who has commented 2-7 times, a hug for anyone who has commented 8-13 times, a 10-second French kiss to anyone who has commented 14-20 times… OK, you see where I’m going with this. FYI, at 40 comments you get maced in the face and at 50 you get a restraining order.

Anyway, thanks also to friends of Dave’s Long Box, including but not limited to my mom, Dan Coyle, Olav the Hairy, Chris Arndt, James Remar, Mike Hasselhoff, Summer & Virgil, Bill, Woody!,Drake Hogestyn, Konstantinos Stamoulis, Edward Liu, Gayest Neil, Dara, Kelvin Green, P-Tor, Mike Loughlin, Winterteeth, Cove West, Tom Bondurant, Roel Torres, MGK, Anonymous, McGone, Ric Flair, Rachelle, Koala Mentalla, Sallyp, Todd Fucking Kaneko, Chad Sexington, Oldsmoblogger, Ghostman, Martin Wisse, Haole, Beta Ray Steve, John the IG, Nimbus, Peter, Patrick, Bill Reed, Spencer Carnage, Benari, Woody, The Real Rick Jones, Jeff Easton, Dougbot, Sleestak, your mom, Sallyp, Greg, Brad Curran, Ted Nugent, Nshumate, Ted, Ian, RTO Trainer, Matt Murray, Gbob, and Mister Sinister.

Manly thanks also to Ken Christiansen of Bad Flip Productions and Rocket Bob Lindenmayer who helped me fight off a bear attack. I also want to thank Chava and Mimsy and my wife, who is Big Barda and Mary Jane all rolled into one package.

I'll be launching a new site shortly - I'll post the address as soon as it's up and running. My new site will be a little more expansive in terms of scope... meaning it will be an unfocused rambling mess. But we'll talk about that later. I hope you swing by and say hi once I'm open for business.

So, to wrap it up, thank you. Thanks for stopping by and digging through the ol' long box with me for the past few years. It's been a hell of a lot of fun.

--Dave Campbell

Stuff you should buy

Occasionally I like to plug current comic book offerings, particularly when it might mean a royalty check for yours truly, so here is some stuff you should totally buy this week.

BATMAN STRIKES #44 by my homeboy Josh Elder. This is a good ol' fashioned all-ages team-up between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel as they hunt a maniac who is carving up trans-gender hookers on the streets of Metropolis.

KIDDING!!! I kid. There isn't even one dead hooker in the comic, I swear. Buy two copies and give one to your nephew, it's good old fashioned comic book fun in the mighty DC manner, with solid art by Chris Jones. You might remember Josh Elder from his hilarious Mail Order Ninja comic - he's the Real Deal and is one of those writers who hasn't lost sight of the whole "comics can be fun" thing. Go check it out.

THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE INVINCIBLE UNIVERSE has now been collected in a slick trade paperback and is available for sale at Amazon. I highly recommend this as well because I wrote a lot of the entries and I think it's a neat homage to the old Mark Gruenwald era Marvel Handbooks. Plus, haven't you always wanted to know about Shrinking Ray's backstory? Sure you have.

If you didn't pick it up in the stores when it originally came out, you owe it to your country to buy the trade paperback today! Yes, regardless of what country you live in - unless it's I Hate Comics Land. If that's the case, %&*@ you, pal!

Next up: a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT that you won't like.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Super Skrull Place Holder!

I didn't want anybody thinking I had really dedicated this site to James Remar, so I had to put up some comic related post. Since I'm totally lazy, err, I mean, totally busy, I'm opting for a picture of a Super Skrull statuette thingy.

What do you call these things anyway? Statues? Maquettes? 3-D Imaginings? Girl Repellant? I never know. All I know is that it's Super Skrull and I loves me the Super Skrull. Plus with Marvel's Secret Invasion upon us, many folks have Skrulls on their mind, so it seemed appropriate.

Hey, here's a little insider tip for ya: Super Skrull is really a Skrull. No shit.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Welcome to Dave's Shrine of Remar

James Remar - Warriors, come out and plaaayyy...

Certain films are so potent andcaptivating that they fuck up an entire generation of kids.

The Warriors is one of those movies for me. During the early years of cable TV my friends would stay up late and watch violent movies like The Warriors and then, full of adrenaline and unreleased agression, we'd sneak out and vandalize a golf course or something. Along with movies like Enter the Dragon, Escape from New York, Excalibur, Mad Max, and Death Race 2000, The Warriors is one of those movies that launched my lifelong love of genre entertainment.

It is also directly responsible for Young Dave and his friends getting their asses kicked by mean older kids - but that's a story for another day.

One of the things that made The Warriors so damn cool was Ajax, the brash gang member played by a young James Remar. Ajax is all bravado and bad attitude - he's sort of the Han Solo of the group, and Remar plays him with a perpetual scowl. Ajax would suck if he was just a blowhard, but as he repeatedly demonstrates, his mouth writes the checks and his fists cash 'em. Ajax is a total bad ass.

He gets to prove how awesome he is when The Warriors (fourof them anyway) get attacked by the Baseball Furies, a gang of creepy silent guys in baseball uniforms and KISS makeup. They're outnumbered, so The Warriors queue up the John Carpenter synth soundtrack and make a run for it. Ultimately it comes time to stop running and start kicking the living bejeesus out of the Baseball Furies, which Ajax does with verve and elan.

Hey kids! Dave's favorite James Remar line is at the 3:32 mark!

Truly The Warriors represents a bigone age of cinema, when you could build a movie around a slightly subversive central idea and a couple of decent analog fight scenes. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for The Warriors and its ilk, even if it was a bad influence and got me beat up. I don't blame James Remar, though. If anything, my relationship to The Warriors showed me that everyone takes a hit now and then. Sometimes you're the guy with the baseball bat, and sometimes you're the popsicle.

Thank you for that wisdom, Warriors. And thank you, James Remar.

My favorite James Remar quote

It's a tough call, but I'm going to have to go with the obvious choice for Best James Remar Line Ever. It's from the 1979 film The Warriors, where James plays a gang member named Ajax who utters this witty bon mot to a baseball bat wielding foe:

"I'll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle."

I'm not certain, but that may be my favorite line from any movie ever. The only problem with it is that it's very context-specific; it's not a line that you can quote in public with a reasonable chance of a) it being appropriate, and b) anyone knowing that you are indeed quoting James Remar in the first place. It's not like saying "Say hello to my little friend!" when you pick up a chicken skewer at a buffet table or "May the force be with you" before somebody does karaoke. These are movie quotes that people might actually know and that could be situationally appropriate.

But unless you're at a Little League game, there are very few scenarios in which you could say "I'll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle" and have it make sense. Come to think of it, while it might make sense to say that at a Little League baseball game, it should probably be avoided.

Anyway, it's still the greatest James Remar line of all time, even if it's not that handy.

James Remar - Guest Star

So the other day I was watching Eli Stone, a fine ABC television program that I enjoy viewing for my job, and lo and behold, there's James Remar. He played a ruthless real estate developer that was trying to evict a bunch of low-income people from their historic neighborhood. Did he succeed? Fuck yes he did! He's James Remar! Those poor people were thrown out on their asses. Nobody can go head-to-head with The Remar.

A quick look at James Remar's vast body of work will reveal the extent of TV work the man has done. The breadth and range of his work is impressive - you'd think that he would just be cast as cops or psychos, but no. Let's take a look at some highlights from James Remar's career.

Remar's most notable recent TV appearance was a recurring role as Harry Morgan on the Showtime series Dexter. His character recently died (ooops, SPOILER) but I'll bet you can still feel the lingering smell of awesome clinging to the Dexter soundstage.

Tough guy Remar has appeared on 7th Heaven, Walker Texas Ranger, and was a recurring guest star on Sex in the City, where he did not shoot or punch anybody even once.

For fans of genre TV shows, James Remar is representin'. He had a recurring role on the late, lamented Jericho, and he played opposite Richard Hatch on several episodes of Battlestar Galactica (the new series). Remar was also in the X-Files episode "Daemonicus."

So you see, James Remar has a little bit to offer everyone in the family. Watch a James Remar TV show today! Or so help me, he will totally shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle.

James Remar - Expository Cop

Sometimes you need a cop in your movie who will deliver big chunks of expository dialog to the main character in order to keep the plot going. Folks often think of James Remar when it comes to casting that cop. Occasionally he might play a military guy, but the purpose of the role is always the same: human info dump.

Here's James Remar mocking Blade with another officer in Blade: Trinity. And you thought Ryan Reynolds was the best part of that movie? THINK AGAIN.

And here's James Remar as Uptight Agent giving a briefing in the fine film 2 Fast 2 Furious. "Use extreme caution, this man has been known to use rats and blow torches to torture people. Yes, rats and blow torches at the same time."

Here's James Remar playing Expository Cop on CSI: Miami. Sometimes your episode gets so fucked up that you have to bring in somebody to help explain the plot to the main characters. James Remar is that somebody.

James Remar - His greatest role?

Among James Remar fans like myself a never-ending debate rages: what is James Remar's greatest role?

It usually boils down to two choices:

Albert Ganz, the maniacal escaped convict from 48 Hours...?

Or Rayden, the unnaturally pink martial arts wise man from Mortal Kombat: Annhilation...?

You make the call. What is James Remar's ultimate performance, his greatest role?

James Remar - Gesundheit!

Hey, even James Remar has to sneeze now and then. Or have a stroke - it's hard to tell from this picture.

James Remar - voiceover master

Like a lot of actors, James Remar picks up the occasional voice acting gig for animated projects. Remar enjoys the variety and change of pace that voice acting offers, but has been somewhat dismissive of animated programs in the past.

"They're basically for kids and stoners," Remar told Wizard magazine. "I mean, who watches cartoons? Little fuckin' kids and dopers, that's who. What magazine did you say you were from again?"*

James Remar has played Black Mask in the animated series The Batman.

James Remar also did the voice of Larousse in the Pixar film Ratatouille. Yeah, I don't remember which guy he was, either. I'll have to watch that movie again with a new Remarcentric mindset.

James Remar also did the voice of Carter Hall/Hawkman on the Justice League animated series. Suddenly Hawkman's looking a little bit cooler, isn't he? It's the Remar Touch - it's like Coolness Pixie Dust, Remar just sprinkles it around wherever he goes, making the world a little cooler.

*Oh, and I'm totally lying about that Wizard quote. James Remar loves cartoons. Really.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


This rukes. It rules + it rocks = rukes.

(Thanks to Mike Sterling for sharing this with me. Mike also shared that he found the video while searching for hot thor video leather.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Kung Food

Check this out. My pal Ed Liu sent in these pictures of a fast-food chain in China called "Zhen Gongfu" or "Real Kung-fu" - with Bruce Lee in Game of Death as its mascot. That beats Ronald McDonald hands down.

I want these to come to the States so I too can enjoy real Kung Food.

"Don't think - eat."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

EL CAZADOR Crossgen Comics

I loves me the pirates, although I'm not 100% sure why.

Pirates - both historical and contemporary - are not really nice people. They're seafaring thieves, rapist, and murderers. I don't particularly dig that kind of person on land, so I'm not sure why a thieving rapist suddenly becomes cool when they get on a boat. It's the romance of the sea, I suppose.

That's what it comes down to, isn't it? People like me enjoy tales from the Golden Age of Piracy because we're insulated from the brutal truth by several centuries and a firewall of fanciful books and movies. The romance and glamour of piracy has superimposed itself over reality, until we're left with a collective image of the pirate in pop culture that is utterly divorced from historical accuracy. Kids dress up as pirates for Halloween, we have National Talk Like a Pirate Day, and the Pirates of The Carribean films were blockbuster hits.

It's inconvenient to contemplate what piracy really means, because that gets in the way of the iconography. Little kids who play pirates never say, "Avast, I'm going to rape all the women onboard this ship and torture this priest until you tell me where you've hidden the valuables!" Well, I hope they don't anyway. The Pirates movies embrace all the trappings and brand identity of 18th century pirates but coyly steer clear of the grim truth. For movies that are supposedly about pirates there are precious few instances of actual full-on piracy in them. I don't want to overthink this, but there's something a teensy bit dishonest about those movies.

Remember in the third movie, At World's End, when Keira Knightly's character tries to rally the pirates to fight with a rousing speech about freedom? If you stayed awake long enough to get to that point in the movie, you might have though, like me, "Yeah, freedom to rape, steal, and kill." Because that's really the core value of those movies - their freedom is dependant on someone else's misfortune.

When people think about pirates they just focus on the window dressing, the iconic trappings of piracy rather than actual act of piracy. The Jolly Roger, walking the plank, buried treasure, cutlasses, frigates bristling with cannon, peg legs, squawking parrots, eye patches, violent diarrhea brought on by poor nutrition, treasure maps, etc. Pirates are a glamorous remnant of a time when the world was vast and governments were small.

But make no mistake - pirates are still out there, glamour or not. The US Navy regularly skirmishes with brazen Somali pirates who raid shipping in fast boats, then retreat back to the African coast before they can get caught. Pirates routinely attack shipping in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Nigeria, and ships in port at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The big game in modern piracy is in the target-rich Straits of Malacca. This narrow waterway near Malaysia is a superhighway for ships heading to East Asia or India, and it's surrounded by thousands of inlets and creeks that make perfect hiding places for pirates. In 2004, a full 40% of all reported pirate attacks took place in these waters, and despite increased patrols, the problem is still out of hand. Freighters and tankers who travel through the Straits at night do so at great peril - many of them rake the darkness with deck mounted spotlights and high powered firehoses in an attempt to keep raiders at bay.

Check out the International Chamber of Commerce's Piracy Reporting Center if you want a glimpse of the scope of the international piracy problem - they have piracy alerts and a weekly report on global pirate activity that will convince any skeptics that piracy isn't just a thing of the past. Plus, it makes for interesting reading.

So why aren't these modern pirates popular? They're practicing essentially the same craft that the buccaneers of the Carribean practiced centuries ago. Nobody romanticizes modern pirates, because they don't have the benefit of the brand identity their forefathers had - they're just violent thugs with AKs and RPGs in small watercraft. Nothing glamorous there.

Jeez, where am I going with all this? I don't know, I guess I just wanted to talk about pirates. Oh! Right: I'm here to talk about El Cazador, a now dead pirate comic from now dead Crossgen Comics.

El Cazador was a slickly produced swashbuckler by writer Chuck Dixon, master of he-man action, and artist Steve Epting, who I like to think of as a modern Gene Colan. It follows the adventures of Donessa Cinzia Elena Marie Esperanza Diego-Luis Hidalgo - or just "Becky" for short - as she makes the huge leap from being a victim of a pirate attack to a formidable, revenge-driven huntress of the high seas who kicks ass in her ship, ElCazador ("The Hunter").

They only put out six issues and a one-shot before the series and the company were cancelled, which is a pity. They just don't make pirate comics anymore, and El Cazador was a good one. Dixon tread the line between familiar romantic pirate elements and a grimmer, harsher, scuzzier reality. The pirates in this book looked and acted like they haven't washed or gone to church in decades.

Epting's art is fantastic and perfectly suited for this project. I compare him to Gene Colan because of his liberal use of deep shadows and black ink, and his deft brush work. At least, I think he uses a brush a lot of the time. Regardless of the technique, Epting's art really raises the quality of El Cazador and makes it a visually stunning comic packed full of salty atmosphere.

I believe El Cazador is collected in trade format. It's worth checking out, although the storyline ends prematurely and abruptly - just like many pirates.

One last thing. Here's a pirate map thingy I drew a little while back. Regular Dave's Long Box readers may know of my fondness for creating little cartoony maps, and it was only a matter of time before I did a pirate map. Click for a larger picture:

I'm not crazy about the coloring job I did on this one - those red parchment signs are hideous, and in the lower right hand corner? Those white things under the tree are supposed to be fireflies. Instead they look like Christmas lights. Oh, well. That's what I get for stealing my daughter's art supplies.

Wha--? Stealing markers from a little girl? That sounds positively... piratey.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Because I am easily amused...

I thought THIS was the funniest thing I've seen all week, and I watched Penn Jilette on Dancing with the Stars this week. I recommend turning up your speakers to maximum volume before visiting this site - particularly if you're at work!

Oh, YTMND, what pleasure you have given me over the years. I only hope I can pull you from a flaming car accident to return the favor.

Thanks to King Superbad himself, Dusty Abell, for the heads-up.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dave Stevens - RIP

Man, say it ain't so! Artist Dave Stevens died yesterday, which totally sucks. This has been a bad month for geeks: Steve Gerber died, then Gary Gygax, and now Dave Stevens.
Stevens died on March 10 of leukemia.

I have been and am still a big fan of Dave's pinup work and his most famous creation, the neo-pulp hero The Rocketeer. I remember picking up the first Eclipse Rocketeer issue back in the day and being a little baffled. Was this some pulp hero that I had just never heard of? Was he a contemporary of The Shadow and Doc Savage that never reached the level of fame that his fictional peers did? The answer of course, was no. The Rocketeer was created by Stevens in the 80's as an homage to the rocket-pack wearing adventurers of serial fiction like Commando Cody. Stevens' Rocketeer is a beautifully drawn Valentine to a gee-whiz age of purehearted adventure. In lesser hands this material might have seemed the work of somebody who couldn't let go of his childhood fantasies, but Dave Stevens made it work, and his love for the source material was infectious. I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who took a second look at those old Republic serials because of Dave Stevens, which is kind of a nice legacy.

I only wished that Stevens had created more Rocketeer comics; he only drew a handful of them. And now that he's passed away, that handful of comics is going to have to be enough.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Lame-ass villain #19: Metalhead

Metalhead was a Batman villain that first appeared in Batman #486, where Batman beat the living crap out of him. A completely forgettable villain with a dumb gimmick, Metalhead has long since faded into the mists of comic book obscurity, and rightly so. Because he is lame.

First off, the guy's name is Metalhead. I think we can all agree that is stupid.

Second, Metalhead is called Metalhead because he wears a ski mask with nails sticking out of it. I gotta hand it to the guy, at least he's budget conscious. His whole outfit probably cost less than Slipknot's, and that is saying something.

Third, he has a spiky pony tail attached to his black ski mask that he whips people with. For some reason, that would seem cool in an old Shaw Bros kung fu movie, yet here it just seems lame.

Batman #486 features several scenes where Metalhead goes into sleazy underworld bars and whips people with his pony tail. That will teach them from playing Kylie Monogue on the jukebox when Metalhead is around.

Do none of the crooks in Gotham City carry handguns? Because you know who could easily beat Metalhead? The rarely seen villain Man With Gun.

Friday, February 29, 2008

...and we're back.

Okay, after nearly a month of total radio silence I am going to attempt to blog once again here at the mighty but dormant Dave's Long Box.

My schedule has been quite mad recently and the new blogging gig at is playing havoc with my circadian rhythm, but I'm getting used to it. I'm trying to set realistic expectations of myself, so I'm hoping to do at least three posts per week. I miss talking about comics and while having a blog can be kind of stressful and demanding, it's still fun - or at least it should be.

So let's begin again, shall we? Let's look into one another's eyes and renew our sacred blog vows and put the past behind us and look forward to a shining future together, you and I.

Hey, look! Bird poop! That's always good for a laugh.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Live from L.A. is now, um... live

OK, so my new blog "Live from L.A." over at is up and running. Come stop by and take a look, won't you? You should feel right at home - in my first week I managed to reference Thunderdome, Gary Busey, and Ted Nugent. And they haven't fired me yet!

Plus, come on: haven't you always really wondered what I thought of Supernanny and Cashmere Mafia? Hop over and have a cocktail power-up with Lucy Liu and the girls!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Redundant Dialogue Files: "Attacking me!"

OK, so maybe my first installment of The Redundant Dialogue Files wasn't the best example. Dave's Long Box reader Paul rightly pointed out that the dialogue in the first entry actually served a legitimate disambiguating purpose. Way to bring reason into the whole thing and spoil my fun, Paul!

So we'll try again - here's a panel from Wonder Woman (vol 1) #276, which I have discussed previously here. Yes, I know I'm kinda cheating by posting a panel I have previously featured, but that's the kind of guy I am - a big goddamn cheater.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Redundant Dialogue Files: "Yeow! I slipped on the floor!"

The wise Bill Reed reminded me of an amusing panel from The Mighty Thor #432 that I just had to scan.

This seems like a perfect time to start off a new recurring feature here at Dave's Long Box: The Redundant Dialogue Files, a celebration of comic book dialogue that needlessly explains what is made painfully obvious in the comic art itself.

During a battle with monstrous living statues, one of the stalwart cops from NYPD's Code: Blue anti-supervillain team slips on the floor. Perhaps the creative team felt that the art in the panel was ambiguous and needed further explanation - we may never know. But for whatever reason, the fallen trooper says: "Yeow! I slipped on the floor!" Thanks for the update, guy. Good thing he's wearing a helmet.

I'm not sure why, but I find this hilarious.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

THE MIGHTY THOR #432 Marvel Comics, 1991

The Mighty Thor #432 is, as the cover informs us, the 350th appearance of Thor, one of the greatest comic book characters ever made. EVER.

It's sort of a strange milestone, because it's not technically the 350th appearance of the character in print, it's the 350th comic book published by Marvel starring Thor. They're not counting the Thunder God's appearances in The Avengers or What If? or Godzilla or even in Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe, so it's probably more like the 1,213th appearance of Thor. But really, who wants to tally all those comics up? Not I.

As you might imagine, an "anniversary" issue like this one has a certain musky nostalgic odor, a quality present in all the comics of the DeFalco/Frenz/Milgrom run on The Mighty Thor. These guys tried - and usually succeeded - to capture the pomp and majesty and epic scope of those early Thor issues they clearly loved. This particular creative team didn't just drink from the creative wellspring of the first Lee/Kirby Thor comics, they chugged it greedily from a beer bong. One could fault them for not taking the character in new directions, but I prefer to be gracious and think of this era of the comic as Thor Done Right. But then, I am old. Old and bald.

To be fair, writer Tom DeFalco, a Marvel Bullpen veteran, did have a slightly different take on the Thor paradigm. Instead of using Thor's traditional human alter-ego Dr. Donald Blake, DeFalco introduced Erik Masterson as the new human host of Asgardian godliness. In this issue, Masterson's scrappy little son Kevin is held hostage by Thor's evil half-brother Loki, the Norse god of mischief (I named one of my dogs Loki, BTW), which really pisses Thor off. The two mortal, er, immortal enemies face off in a New York skyscraper in a final duel that only one god is walking or flying away from. At least until Marvel brought Loki back, that is.

The big brother vs brother fight that takes up the entire issue is suitably operatic and grandiose. Loki and Thor are evenly matched, and both are experts at Shakespearian trash-talking. Loki relies on cunning, magic, and a total lack of scruples, while Thor relies on his ability to hit things really hard, including Loki's face (see greatest panel ever, right).

But Thor's no idiot, regardless of what people say. In the sequence below he exploits his bro's greed and power lust by tossing him mjolnir, his enchanted mallet. Of course, only the truly worthy can wield mjolnir, a fact that Loki forgets. He catches the hammer - and promptly plunges through thirty-odd stories of skyscraper.


Thrown into the mix is Code: Blue, the NYPD's special anti-supervillain SWAT team who were regular supporting characters in the DeFalco/Frenz era. I loved these guys and have always been disappointed that they never caught on and became permanent fixtures of the Marvel Universe. Led by the stoic Lt. Marcus Stone, Code: Blue was a team of bad-ass misfits with names like Fireworks, Mad Dog, and Rigger. Maybe they were a little corny, but I'd pit Code: Blue against Hardcase and the Harriers any day of the week.

Here's the team leaping into action. Now either their SWAT van has a custom siren or they are all yelling "YA-HOO!!" as they bail out the back - I can't tell which. And look out, Lt. Stone! You're about to step on that very small woman and her very small car!

Incidentally, my wife and I often refer to toddler potty and poo incidents as Code: Yellow and Code: Brown. I don't even want to think what Code: Blue would denote.

Anyway, the happy-go-lucky cops remove young Kevin Masterson from harm's way so Thor can kick the shit out of his rival without stressing about the lil' youngster getting hit by a stray blast of Asgardian voodoo. The Code: Blue guys also attempt to arrest Loki, which doesn't go so well. I'm not sure what kind of procedures NYPD has for detaining evil Norse gods, but I imagine flexi-cuffs and a paddy wagon wouldn't be adequate.

Thor finally gets to cut loose, verbally and physically:

"I'd like to dedicate this act of violence to innocents everywhere - to children all around the world." Thor is a class act, I'm telling ya.

Long story short: Loki zaps one of the more expendable supporting characters, which is just one evil act too many for Thor. In defiance of some stupid Asgardian law, Thor sucks all the life energy out of Loki with mjolnir, killing him (for now.) For some reason, this upsets both Lt. Stone and Thor's dad Odin, although I can't imagine why. You'd think slaying the God of Evil would get him a pat on the back at least, but no.

After the dust clears, Thor and Stone have a heart-to-heart over some coffee outside the battle zone. "You did wrong, Thor!" Stone tells him. "No one should take the law into his own hands! Not even a thunder god!"

That's some bullshit right there. What charges would the District Attorney's office file against Thor, exactly? "Your honor, the accused um, he sucked the victim's soul into his magic hammer and the victim, um, exploded we believe. What kind of world do we live in if we allow people to blow up evil gods? The accused is a flight risk, literally, and we ask that bail be set at two million gold pieces."

In the end, Thor faces the justice of the gods and gets his own soul sucked out of him, or something. Because if there's one thing ancient Viking gods cannot condone, it's killing. Yeah, it doesn't make sense to me, either.

However! That doesn't diminish the awesomeness of Thor #432. Well, maybe a little. But as an added bonus, they reprint Journey into Mystery #83, by Stan and Jack, the first appearance of Thor. In this story, Stan Lee establishes the time-honored tradition of smack-talking that continues to this day in Thor comics:

"I have proven the power of the hammer and the might of the thunder god are invincible! Nothing can conquer Thor! Nothing!! "

Aye, verily.

Monday, January 28, 2008

My new gig

Next week I begin working for my new Corporate Overlords, ABC television, and let me tell you, I'm pretty darn excited about the whole thing. I will be the resident blogger at, commenting on ABC's prime-time programming on a little blog-within-a-huge-website called "Live from L.A." I'll post a link on the sidebar when the blog formally launches next week.

FAQ time!

Q: "Why is it called 'Live from L.A.', Dave? Don't you live in Seattle?"
A: Yes, but the servers are located in L.A. Okay, the servers are located in Burbank. Actually, I have no clue where the servers are located - they won't tell me. Besides, I could get fired at a moment's notice and be replaced by somebody from Nova Scotia, so ABC is playing it safe. Nobody wants to read a blog called "Live from Bainbridge Island" anyway.

Q: "Have you sold out, Dave?"
A: Yes, happily. Next question.

Q: "They're going to fire you, aren't they?"
A: After reading this, probably.

Q: "Are you shutting down Dave's Long Box?"
A: No, I'll still be updating Dave's Long Box every two months or so just like I'm doing now. Ha! My Corporate Masters have agreed to let me keep blogging, but since Disney owns ABC, I have to go back and retroactively edit all profanity and references to Power Girl. Ha ha! I kid. I can write whatever the heck I want, darn it. I have agreed not to appear nude on DLB, however.

Q: "Will they let you write whatever you want, or are you just a P.R. shill for The Man?"
A: I'm pretty much just a P.R. shill for The Man, yes. Actually, they've given me a free hand to write whatever I want pretty much, which includes being a smart ass. However, I unconditionally love every show on ABC already, so I see no problems. Why yes, I AM a huge Desperate Housewives fan - thank you for asking.

Q: "How did you get the job?"
A: I'm not sure, I think they have me confused with somebody else. They keep asking me to sing "Mack the Knife" so they may think I am this guy.

Q: "Who is going to win Dance War?"
A: Please. Bruno all the way.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Batman vs Deacon Blackfire

The mighty Bahlactus has spoken, and the word is: FIGHT!

For too long Dave's Long Box has sat out the fisticuffs of Bahlactus' Friday Night Fights, but no longer!

Images from Batman: The Cult #4 by Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lost in Translation: From Script to Page

Mainstream comic books are rarely the product of one fertile imagination and talent. They are, to one degree or another, created by a team of motley individuals who band together for a common cause - much like the A-Team, but often much fatter.

Sure, you got your Matt Wagners and Erik Larsens out there* who have often single-handedly created entire comic books, doing all the writing, penciling, inking, coloring, and lettering themselves, but for the most part comics from the big publishers are produced by a team of creators who may never even meet each other face-to-face. A writer turns in his script, which is then passed on to a series of artists who pencil, ink, color, and letter the book, all under the all-knowing guidance of The Editor. (Editors have such important positions that their job title is capitalized, much like Realtors.)

The most crucial, fragile, and often dysfunctional relationship in this whole matrix is the creative bond between the writer and the penciler. These are the cats who are responsible for telling the actual story in the comic book, and if the two are not in simpatico, your comic book can get fucked up real bad.

A brief and likely unnecessary word on the process: These days, comic book writers create a detailed script for artists to illustrate. The script is broken down page by page and panel by panel, with dialogue and scene directions that describe the action. A good example of a standard format can be found here on the Dark Horse Comics website, but there is no real industry standard format.

The artist responsible for the pencils and layouts gets this script and then interprets it visually. If he or she is lucky, the writer doesn't get crazy with "camera directions" in the script and allows enough room for the artist to do what he or she theoretically does best, telling a story with pictures. Sometimes the writer and artist have a great relationship and work really well together, and sometimes they don't. And sometimes the artist just does whatever the hell they want regardless of what the damn script says.

I first noticed this disconnect in Batman: Year Two, a four-part series by writer Mike Barr that chronicles a young Batman's encounter with The Reaper, a spooky masked vigilante with no qualms about using his big-ass scythes on bad guys. The Reaper happens to be the father of a woman that Bruce Wayne has fallen in love with - how's that for shitty luck? Oh, umm, SPOILER! Sorry. Anyway, the first issue was drawn by Alan Davis, a modern legend and master of comic book art. For whatever reason, the rest of the series was drawn by this up-and-coming artist named Todd McFarlane. This pissed Young Dave off.

Despite being disappointed in the lack of Alan Davis Goodness for the rest of the storyline, it was interesting to see two different artists interpret different parts of the same script. Clearly Davis was the more accomplished sequential artist. Few living comic book artists could follow Alan Davis on a book and not suffer by comparison, and that was definitely the case with Year Two.

In the last chapter, drawn by McFarlane, Batman and The Reaper duel in a construction site under the moonlight, as superheroes often do. The climax of the story comes when Batman unmasks his foe and holy shit, it's his future father-in-law! But the big reveal is crammed into a few tiny panels at the bottom of a page. (see scan on left) A throw-away shot of Jim Gordon gets more page space than the climactic panel! Young Dave scratched his head, confused. How weird. Why would they jam this major story component into a few panels, almost as an afterthought.

The answer comes a few pages later, in a big full-page shot of Batman swinging over Gotham (see scan on right). Now here's my theory (and I could be totally wrong): McFarlane really wanted to end with a full-page shot of Batman, but it wasn't in Mike Barr's script. He's only got 22 pages to work with, so in order to make space for his pin-up shot he decides to move some other panels around. Maybe he draws the pages out of order, I don't know. But he gets in trouble and has to cram two pages worth of script into one page - and that one page just happens to be the most important page in the whole book. I could be totally off-base, but I would lay money that Barr's Year Two script didn't call for a pin-up page at the end and it was all McFarlane's doing. And as a result, what could have been a classic Batman comic is... not.

If anybody has insight into the making of Year Two, email me and let me know - if I'm mistaken I'll gladly eat my invisible hat and post a retraction of these slanderous lies.

Sure, there's got to be some give and take, some room for the artist to play around with the script. But it seems like the farther an artist deviates from the script, the more the story suffers.

Captain America and The Falcon is a good example. The kick-off storyline of this ill-fated title was written by Christopher Priest with Bart Sears on art. For whatever reason, Sears decided to get a little experimental and injected these huge pin-ups of Cap and Falcon as framing devices for the story panels. The result is an odd and unsatisfying read.

Take a look at a typical page:

Priest himself was baffled and kind of pissed about the end product, as he explains on his website:

"...Bart chose a page layout design that utterly confused even the most basic storytelling ... Ignoring instructions and warnings abut how important it was to keep the lines straight and clear, Bart chose to insert—for no apparent reason—poster-shot images of Captain America and the Falcon on most every page. Accommodating these required the other panels to be modified, reduced or eliminated altogether, making the pages very hard to follow. I wrote the thing and didn’t have an earthly clue what was going on."

Me either, Christopher.

Sometimes language differences between writer and artist(s) leads to disastrous and hilarious results, as in the case of Thor #499, The Worst Comic Book Ever Made Ever (which I discussed here and here.) The script, by one of my favorite writers Bill Messner-Loebs, is not great - and that's a nice way of saying it sucks. However, matters were made worse because the art chores were handled by an unknown number of Brazilian artists from Deodato Studios who didn't follow the not-great script very closely at all. Aside from the rushed art and hideous coloring, the costumes of certain characters change from panel to panel and a character who is supposed to get kidnapped in the beginning of the comic keeps popping up in the background of panels.

Here's a good example of what happens when a script truly gets lost in translation:

How exactly does Heimdall or whoever he is utter those lines when his mouth is gagged? Magic.

Sometimes even the most faithful interpretation of the writer's script can have unintended consequences, as in the case of New Avengers #35 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Leinl Yu. This is the moderately infamous issue where superhero Tigra gets ambushed in her apartment and beaten by the demonic Hood while one of his cronies videotapes the attack. Some readers (and non-readers) were upset because they felt the scene had a creepy, sexualized subtext and many accused Bendis of misogyny. In response to some of the criticism, Bendis did an interview with Newsarama and posted a portion of his script so people could read how the scene was described. Check it out, it's interesting reading.

One of the things that made the scene particularly unpalatable for some was the panel above, where one of Tigra's breasts is popping out of her blouse as she's pistol-whipped. The juxtaposition of sex and violence in this panel in particular is a little creepy. But as you can read for yourself, Bendis' script doesn't call for breast-poppage or describe the beating in titillating terms - that's all a decision made by Yu, who interpreted the script.

I think it's fair to find the scene upsetting because Tigra's beating is videotaped and later shown to The Hood's crew as a morale booster - that alone is loaded with enough connotations to make it extra-creepy. Bendis wrote that scene. But you can't really blame Bendis if the art seems disturbingly lascivious - he didn't draw the thing and didn't ask that it be drawn that way.

Augie over at Comic Book Resources is running an excellent feature, a "commentary track" from comic book creators that offers a behind the scenes look at the creation of a particular issue. I particularly enjoyed this commentary track from writer Peter David about the first issue of his new Dark Horse comic The Scream.

In the piece, David details with a sort of bemused resignation the frustrating and inevitable changes to the story as defined in his script. It's pretty funny and very illuminating, because you get the impression from David's commentary that shit like this happens all the time in comics.

The artist who interpreted David's script happens to be Bart Sears, who I swear I'm not trying to pick on. Take a look at this page from The Scream:

Here's Peter David's SPOILERY explanation of how just a little change to one panel can completely derail the entire story:

"Here's the thing--the reader is supposed to believe that Danny has transformed into the Scream. Except he hasn't, because the Scream is actually an illusion that everyone else is seeing but actually isn't there. Unfortunately the effect is undercut by the fact that Danny is visibly lying there in the lower left. He shouldn't be, nor is there anything in the script that indicates he should be. If this series is collected in trade, I'd really like it if Dark Horse could go back in and remove Danny from the art in that page."

Let's face it: Comic books often suck or just make no damn sense. But the reason why a book sucks ass is not always obvious. Sometimes the art is horrible, or the script is hackneyed and unoriginal. But sometimes, through circumstances beyond the control of the writer, the comic that reaches the shelves is not quite what he or she had in mind - something just gets lost in translation.

*I know that a huge number of small press comics are the creations of a single dedicated individual, and I tip my invisible hat to them, but I'm limiting the discussion to mainstream spandex fly/hit/explode comics.