Friday, February 01, 2008

MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #26 (February 2008)
The Corpse (Dark Horse Comics)
Hellboy: The Corpse and the Iron Shoes When: January 1996 Why: Mike Mignola How: Mike Mignola

Quick Fix...
Well, it's been four months since we've opened the month with a Quick Fix [Punch-Up #22], but this is what happens when the first of the month falls on a famous Friday! In case you're wondering, we'll be doing it again in August, so maybe we could consider this a warm up, eh?

This actually works out kinda well.
Even though we've had the opportunity to right a few wrongs in terms of content in our feature reviews, things have gotten a little too hectic to maintain a heavy load. Starting the month of with a Quick Fix, albeit of great significance, is a nice opportunity to begin a month of slowing things down, and refocusing on the fisticuffs found in comics canon!

Diversity has never been a real strong point of the Infinite Wars, but this is a review that's been a long time coming. A bit like our website, outsiders might cast misconceived aspersions about the content found within a Hellboy comic, but make no mistake reader, these are some of the most culturally significant reads to come from mainstream comics in the modern era.

There's a very simple model to a Hellboy tale, and I think some of the best do as we do, leading with a big fight around which you find the complexities of the story wrapped. Sometimes those complexities are little more than staples of the serialized genre, dabbling in interesting stand-alone concepts, or the over-arcing mystery of Hellboy's origin and purpose in this world.

We've got a lot of people coming through here for a lot of different reasons, so I won't dwell on my life story. I just want to mention a childhood fascination with mythology and legend which no doubt connects with the same parts of the brain that lapped up the history of comic book superheroes. Nevermind the fact that mainstream comics regularly dabble in the stuff, but look at the mythology created unique to the superhero universes of Marvel and DC. Whether you know it or not, you're already as interested in this stuff as I was as a kid!

Hellboy brings together many of the great traditions of comic books.
Like Batman, Fantastic Four, and a good many other well known characters; Hellboy has one hoof firmly planted in the pulp genre that birthed the comic.
Generally speaking, the adventures of the BPRD agent [Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense] err more on the side of monster adventure, than detective or sci-fi pulp, but even those influences are clearly evident.

That says nothing of the superhero style arc and continuation of the Hellboy mythology, which over the years has managed to remain unintrusive as stories are broken apart into individualized sagas. For the continuity junky, recurring themes and facts are all there; but for the potentially intimidated new reader, all remains accessible as references to past stories meld with the surrounding reality of the world these characters live in.

Hellboy is strong in it's character, but given enough of a chance, an inviting world of mysterious creatures, and an even more mysterious hero. Mysterious, and instantly likeable, as Hellboy lugs the burden of his right hand of doom from battle to battle, beating up demons, nazis and monsters that could just as easily have been his ally, had he not found his way to the Allies of World War II.

In the classic tale, The Corpse; Hellboy is in 1959 Ireland where he's the stranger who wanders in from the dark to aid an isolated couple in need. It seems some rascal faeries have kidnapped little baby Alice to raise as their own, but fortunately for the Monaghans, Hellboy has come equipped with the necessary occult minerals to expose the impostor that sits in the baby's crib.

Hellboy travels to the crossroads under the Corpse Tree, where he engages in the faeries game of honor, exchanging his burly services for the freedom of the child. All he has to do is take old Tam O'Clannie, who appears hanging from the Corpse Tree at midnight, to a final resting place before daybreak. Easier said than done, as Hellboy and the clinging corpse soon find there's little room for burial, confronted by many a spirit in the congested yards.

With HB on the verge of completing his task, the burned imp who posed as Alice seeks revenge for his agonizing exposure to iron. Little Gruagach takes a key to the lake, where an ancient box holds a terrible monster prisoner: 'Grom, champion of Queen Medb, who fought Cu Chulainn in the Valley of the Deaf!'

The behemoth makes a snack of Gruagach, before setting his sights on the blood red BPRD agent. Hellboy and the corpse find themselves swatted mercilessly by the rampaging pig-monster, prompting HB to reach for his belt, where he pulls Cornelius Agrippa's charm against Demonic Animals, "Sort of 'on loan' from the Vatican library." The spiritual properties of the amulet take a moment, but soon do their job, mystically complimenting the hefty slog of the Right Hand of Doom.


Hellboy wins the fight, leaving Grom to flee, and even though ol' Tam lost an arm, Hellboy does some more fighting to get it back, and still manages to have him in the ground before sun-up. Not a bad introduction to the Infinite Wars!
Not only that, but assuming the major format shift doesn't throw a cosmic monkey wrench in proceedings, it's also that special time where the blogosphere unites in battle to appease the hunger of Bahlactus, devourer of blogs!

After you've had your fill of Infinite Wars, head over to the big man's feast of Friday Night Fights, where you'll find plenty more knockout blows from around the blogoverse!

ARTWORK: John Romita JrThe Fix: 5 The Story: 6
Winner: Hellboy

The Corpse, The Iron Shoes, and several other classic Hellboy tales have been collected for your convenience in "The Chained Coffin and Others", making it the perfect buy for the novice fan! That, and many other volumes are available from Amazon, where all purchase links followed lead to delicious kick-backs for us! Hussah!

Top Artists
#1 Paul Ryan
#2 John Byrne
#3 Alvin Lee
#4 Jim Lee
#5 John Romita Jr
#6 Rob Liefeld
#7 Keith Giffen
#8 Frank Miller
#9 Claudio Castellini
#10 Tim Sale
Top Writers
#1 Geoff Johns
#2 Jeph Loeb
#3 Judd Winick
#4 Ken Siu-Chong
#5 Brian Bendis
#6 Tom DeFalco
#7 Mark Millar
#8 Grant Morrison
#9 Ron Marz
#10 Ed Brubaker
Creative Differences...
Alright, so here we are, moving things along.
Honestly, I don't know if you can expect to since this on a regular basis, but given the constant interest in writers and pencillers, it seems like a nice enough idea to continue on where the 2007 Annual left off.

The top ten lists speak for themselves, and are based on the results of every issue reviewed on the Infinite Wars in the past two-plus years.

If there's a creator worth talking about right now, it's probably Steve McNiven, who's creating all kinds of ruckus with work, present and future.
The artist behind Civil War will reunite with (Top 10) writer Mark Millar, as the Scot returns to Wolverine for a tale that places the berzerk mutant in a post-apocalyptic future where the heroes are dead, and a Clint Eastwood/Man Without a Name-esque Wolvie tries to deal with his part in the future, and his internal nature. The story also features inbred descendents of the Hulk, a blind Hawkeye, and a roguish successor to the Spider-man mantle, Spider-Bitch.

McNiven has also been part of the sales topping Brand New Day, joining Dan Slott on a three-times-weekly schedule for the controversial new era in publication for Amazing Spider-man. Work on these projects seems only to make a bigger superstar of a man who has commanded triple digit sales figures off the back of the hyper-realistic renderings that have made him a Marvel icon!

Spider-Boycott: 2008 Status Update...
Twenty-seven days without Spider-man...

Civil War tapped promotional gold when it asked fans to weigh in on the fictional division between sides, choosing Captain America, or Iron Man. This time the split has been far less contrived; fanboys deciding whether or not they will continue to read a title that made a dramatic change to the established landscape by eliminating Peter Parker's marriage to Mary-Jane Watson.

Inevitably One More Day, the story responsible, has become the measuring stick for discussion about what is and isn't admirable about certian comics. In our first month we've already observed the strength of books like World War Hulk, or Green Lantern, which manage to embrace the history starring characters, whilst still pushing them into brand new directions.

It may be months, or even years, before fans reach a consensus on what One More Day/Brand New Day has meant to the history of Spider-man, but at this point, two things seem certain. One; Amazing Spider-man sales have been through the roof, quashing any fear that negative reactions and boycotts would effect the success of the maneuver. Two; Amazing Spider-man, for it's positives, is yet to feature anything that could not have been achieved with Mary-Jane; or in anyway required the intervention of Mephisto in a tale so sloppy, it has eclipsed even the reviled Clone Saga.

Without risk taking, the House of Ideas might have missed out on some of it's greatest achievements of the last decade. Alas, for all the creative balls they've shown, Marvel is a consumate corporate entity, and the all mighty dollar is ultimately the measure by which Brand New Day will be recognised. So, how is Amazing Spider-man faring through it all? We turn to for answers.

Pre-One More Day
AUG2007 #7 Amazing Spider-man #543 [106,485]
AUG2007 #43 Sensational Spider-man #40 [52,180]
AUG2007 #61 Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man #21 [44,661]

One More Day
SEP2007 #2 Amazing Spider-man #544 OMD [146,215]
OCT2007 #2 Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man #22 OMD [110,405]
NOV2007 #7 Sensational Spider-man #41 OMD [100,300]
DEC2007 #2 Amazing Spider-man #545 OMD [124,481]

We are, of course, on the negative, instigating something of a boycott, at least from featuring the character who dominated our character rankings through 2007. It was a result of that performance that, despite the boycott, saw Spider-man appear at the beginning of the month [Marvel Knights: Spider-man #1], which hopefully puts our negative sentiments into some sort of perspective.

All too often it's the rabid quotient of the fanbase that screams boycott the second creative powers instigate change, or shift something the vocal minority have a particular affinity for. As the subject becomes increasingly complicated, and the philosophies of the consumer become hotly debated, it's almost difficult to make any kind of satisfying statement that isn't tainted by someone else's folly, or yet another persons outrage.

It was on a recent episode of the talkshow/podcast, Fanboy Radio, where BND writer Dan Slott played a game of avoidance and polite disagreement with host Scott Hinze. Hinze, well known for his softballs and tied tongue, makes an attempt post-show to verbalize the creative concerns of a readership. Concerns which, in a way, really don't concern Slott, but are none the less attached to him.

It's an interesting listen that I specifically wanted to recommend to all of you with an invested interest, either way, in the Spider-Boycott situation.
Ultimately, Hinze can't be criticized too harshly. Like anyone else trying to maintain a fruitful relationship, he ultimately backs down from a Slott who seems otherwise unconvincing in his justifications for OMD. Chances are we might even get to hear another Dan Slott episode as a result of that; not to mention the many other major guests FBR has engendered, including serious heavyweights like Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, Zack Snyder, and many more.

I know from my own recent attempts to branch out into the interview process, you can't expect results if you're going in with anything but a promotional spot. Sure, you might find someone willing to engage you, but it's unlikely, and from their perspective, pretty reasonable.

That said, to bring it back to the subject, I'd love to hear from any of you who give/gave the Dan Slott episode a listen, and get your thoughts. I know at the time it provoked a lot of poignant thoughts that I've since forgotten, and don't have time to recall. Maybe next month. In the mean time, I'd love to hear your opinions, because the only certainty right now is that nothing's going to change as long as Marvel makes these kinds of numbers. Which might even be okay!

The 2008 Top Five...
Alright, leave your shame at the door, fanboy.
You know you love it you slags, and you cannot wait to see how we've opened up the account in 2008. Yes, that's right, the Infinite Wars top five rankings.

A new year brings with it a whole realm of possibilities, and honestly, at this early stage I cannot even begin to imagine who the break out favourites are going to be. Obviously this is a year where Iron Man, Batman, and Joker all headline major motion pictures, the former two already commanding major presences over the course of the cumulative rankings. Hey, isn't Hellboy supposed to factor in somewhere there, too? If 2007 proved anything, it's that the movies control more than Spidey's web-shooters! [which are mechanical again, FYI]

This year we were smart enough to give our year-end top five the first bite at the cherry, but as these things go, you're going to see some surprise entrants into the top five. Try your best not to recoil, and remember, we don't contrive the results, and inevitably come year end only the worthy will endure. Yeah, you're worried, aren't you? Well, if you've scrolled down far enough, you already know the first nasty shock that awaits...

ARTWORK: John Romita Jr#1 The Gorgon (new) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Wolverine]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: [1]
2006: [NR] 2007: [NR] Cumulative: [#85]

Okay, so this isn't exactly an auspicious start to the year's rankings, but unlike 2007's patchwork start, I like to think these characters earned their brief stay at the top. And brief it will be, because, I hope not I'm not spoiling anything here, but, The Gorgon died at the end of a twelve issue storyline. The tally of those appearances just doesn't cut it.

He was actually turned to stone by his own mutant powers whilst fighting Wolverine in a Medusa finish, but now I'm spoiling the specifics of what will inevitably make for a future entry. The point I'm building to is that there isn't even a question mark over this guy, who had deep ties to the Hand, because I'm pretty sure they can resurrect dust. Well, I guess I don't know that for sure...

Elektra took control of the Hand at the conclusion of that story, which suggested the Hand might be a subversive force for good, but when we next saw them, Elektra was leading the charge against the vigilante Ronin in Japan, with very few questions asked by fans. That sinister turn was revealed to be the machinations of a Skrull impostor, which now leaves us wondering exactly how long Elektra was replaced, and what her true fate was. Could the similarly "resurrected" Ronin in fact be a Skrull plant within the New Avengers team? We're led to believe no.

But anyway, regardless of his Kevin Bacon ties to the Marvel Universe, the Gorgon may manage a stay in the top five for another month or two, but this Mark Millar creation has a finite lifespan. In a few months things should be righting themselves in the top five.

ARTWORK: Andrea Divito#2 Drax (new) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Thanos]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: [1]
2006: [NR] 2007: [NR] Cumulative: [#99]

Okay, another abberation, but at least this time it's a character with miniscule, but lasting chances to sustain a top five position.

I guess because we try to maintain some sort of throughline that touches on core movements at the major two superhero houses, the future of a C-list cosmic character is limited. Then again, Marvel remains commited to the Annihilation corner of the Marvel Universe that we've been so late in recognising [on site].

A gathering of characters from the two Annihilation events will make up a new version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. At this point Drax isn't among them, but an on-going series is the perfect platform for the man who killed Thanos to bob up in. Because really, even in death, Thanos isn't out of the picture, y'know!

ARTWORK: Erik Larsen#3 Spider-man (-2) (18) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Green Goblin]
Win Percentage: [69.46%] Features: [35]
2006: [#2] 2007: [#1] Cumulative: [#1]

Spider-Boycott: 2008 may be in full swing, but commitment to format means the web-slinger adds another month to his stay in the top five. In our first year Spidey didn't show up until April, so really, this is far less intrusive in affairs than you might think.

With a cartoon and some buzz around the revamped comic, it's hard to say whether the boycott will come to an end because of an acknowledgment of one of the worst stories of the decade, or because of peer pressure to represent the zeitgeist of 2008. Either way, Spidey's getting a little vacation time for the foresseable future, and after dominating 2007, I don't think that's so terrible!

ARTWORK: Steve Epting#4 Crossbones (new) (Marvel)
Class: [Champion] Last Opponent: [Captain America]
Win Percentage: [50%] Features: [2]
2006: [#NR] 2007: [#252] Cumulative: [#184]

I have to admit, there's something just a little pleasing about two villains making the top five. Sure, this is kind of the cheat round where anybody's elligable, but that doesn't make it any less fun.

By their nature, villains very rarely have the win/loss record to compete with their honorable adversaries. Crossbones played a crucial part in scoring one of the biggest wins for villain history, aiding in the assassination of Captain America [the now legendary, Captain America #25].

If we eventually get a chance to play catch up, Bucky's assumption of the Cap mantle is probably going to make for a suitable switcheroo, but for now we'll bask in the success of villainy. Then a shiney red, white, and blue ass kicking can sort things out later.

ARTWORK: Alan Davis#5 Mr. Fantastic (-1) (7) (Marvel)
Class: [Champion] Last Opponent: [Mole Man]
Win Percentage: [62.5%] Features: [16]
2006: [#14] 2007: [#4] Cumulative: [#7]

In fiction it's a little bit cheesy, but in the Infinite Wars it can be down right frustrating. The Fantastic Four, love them as I may, are a package deal, as seen at the conclusion of Season 07 when the entire team shoehorned their way into the annual top ten.

A vote for diversity would see a break from their cosmic adventures, but with Dwayne McDuffie wrapping up a solid run for a change of hands to Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch? Yeah, that's going to be a tough sell!

No boycotts here folks, as Reed Richards clocks an unlikely stay in the top five at the year's turnover. Solidarity is going to make Richards and the gang the team to beat, and with an active year ahead of us, they might just give hot favourites Iron Man and Batman a run for their money!

Cumulative Super Stock...

Crossbones shoots up the chart
with an unlikely victory over an
arch-rival! [Captain America #4]
1. Spider-man (-) (M)
2. Batman (-) (DC)
3. Wolverine (-) (M)
4. Iron Man (-) (M)
5. Hulk (+1) (M)
6. Captain America (-1) (M)
7. Mr. Fantastic (-) (M)
8. Superman (-) (DC)
9. Thing (+1) (M)
10. Human Torch (+1) (M)
11. Invisible Woman (+1) (M)
12. Daredevil (-3) (M)
15. Ryu (-) (C)
27. Dhalsim (-) (C)
28. Green Lantern (+23) (DC)
49. Guile (-1) (C)
50. The Spectre (-1) (DC)
52. Ken Masters (-) (C)
53. Green Lantern (+91) (DC)
62. Wonder Woman (-1) (DC)
86. The Gorgon (new) (M)
99. Drax (new) (M)
100. Phantom Stranger (-1) (DC)
145. Superman-Prime (new) (DC)
150. Blade (-4) (M)

Massive spinal injury drops current Thunderbolts
director, Green Goblin, to the bottom of the
ranks! [Marvel Knights: Spiderman #1]
151. Thanos (-79) (M)
161. Sinestro (-71) (DC)
184. Crossbones (+157) (M)
185. Lex Luthor (+140) (DC)
200. She-Hulk (-8) (M)
250. Arc (-8)(M)
268. Robot (new) (DC)
300. Nimrod (-7) (M)
350. Giganto (-5) (M)
400. Saviour (-5) (DC)
426. Kryptonite Man (new) (DC)
427. The Sentry (new) (M)
428. Moondragon (new) (M)
434. Green Goblin (-171) (M)
435. Moleman (-171) (M)
447. Lizard (-10) (M)
448. Taskmaster (-10) (M)
449. Dan Hibiki (-10) (C)
450. Zangief (-10) (C)
451. Magneto (-10) (M)

At least WOLVERINE understands the perils of running a comics blog!The Hammer...
Well, there you have it folks!
It's been another big month of the Infinite Wars, and as fantastic as it would be to keep that up, we're going to deliberately scale things back a fraction in February.

It dawned on me, as masses of traffic from various avenues streamed through, that the many alternative entries were overshadowing what the site is really about: Fights, reviews, and discussion. These things were being lost amidst the other stuff, and that, plus time and energy calls for a cut back!

That said, there's no reason you can't expect the same brand of glory that you've come to expect from Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. Actually, I'm always hovering around different ideas to try to improve things, and I may just finally bite the bullet and finally get around to making an even bigger task for myself by attempting to write and draw some sort of fisticuff-filled web strip to feature here, on the Infinite Earths.

I guess the hard thing about a decision like that is, not only time and energy, but also the fact that I don't draw. You've seen my crude little napkin sketches in the occasional Comik-Politik doodle, and let's be honest, I'm no Mike Mignola!
As a writer keen to break into the comics writing industry, there's also always that concern about how things are going to reflect on you. I don't doubt some of the dialogues we engage in here sass the wrong people. In fact, simply by referring right now as a good many in the industry as maladjusted and fickle, is going to be hurting my chances. That's the frustrating thing about this industry -- you never quite know how, when, or why people are going to take something.

So, by engaging in an attempt to supercede the great frustration of the collaborator, am I going to do more harm than good? It's a conundrum wrapped in a pickle friends, and it's something that will have to be sorted out.

In thinking about what would be appropriate for such a project, I've come constantly back to the notion that it has to be an action strip. This is a site about fisticuffs, and therefore there should logically be some kind of combat model built into the strip. It doesn't have to be nothing but action - because lord knows I can't draw that - but that has to be the foundation.

ZANGIEF gets a little cheeky with RAINBOW MIKA: As seen in STREET FIGHTER LEGENDS #2!It was with some pleasure that I noticed the Infinite Wars popping up in a blog entry on mainstream gaming site,
Our coverage of the Street Fighter franchise has been paying in dividends amidst the hype for the upcoming Street Fighter IV, and I couldn't be more delighted. As a site that connects with a good many fringe investors, I hope we can tap more into that SF/Gamers readership, making more entries as popular as Street Fighter Legends #2.

I don't know how much authority I have as an SF commentator, but Noe V's 1up article refers to the Infinite Wars to give me more credit than I probably deserve. Reticent reviews of UDON's SF licensing never quite went as far, as confidently, as Noe V, to say that they are lacking in written substance, instead focusing on visual trinkets and references to the games.

Noe V's article is part of a series designed to discuss some of the manga work UDON are now translating for American audiences, but his point is where I may just take inspiration for a webstrip. There's a tendency to discount a video game property for it's capacity to exist in a story driven medium, be that film, television, or even comics. We've seen in the Infinite Wars the deviations taken by Tokuma Shoten, who recast Shadaloo as a lawless man-made island [Street Fighter II #1].

I, maybe out of naivity or arrogance as a little known writer, that kind of "conventional wisdom" is absolute bunk, and maybe this is an opportunity to try to prove that. Noe V goes on to discuss Final Ryu, a manga centered around the trials of Street Fighter III, and describes it as the ultimate take on Street Fighter in print. I haven't yet had the chance to read it, and will relish the chance to match that in my own, lawsuit avoiding way. Martial arts comics have died down, this is a chance to take a look at how that might change.

Aaaaaand hopefully, if this even works, I'll be able to do it with all of you.
I've got to say, despite having another record breaking month of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, I was a little disappointed. I wasn't disappointed in "turtle", who did his/her part by linking to the Infinite Wars review of Nextwave #2.
I haven't been disappointed in Bahlactus, because he regularly sponsors our fisticufery and antics despite my repeated drunken threats to destroy him with the Uncanny Fantastic Ultimate Ultimate Nullifier.

Over January our Technorati authority dropped to a staggering twelve.
This is unacceptable, and the only people who can change it is you, the readers! If you have a blog, know of a blog, or want to get a blog, it's your duty to help purvey the message of the Infinite Wars. Spread the word, use the character tags, throw bricks with reviews wrapped around them. Do whatever it takes to boost that Technorati rating to what it rightfully should be!

There's a big fat no-prize in it for you!
And hey, if you're on message boards, they're another great place to use the Infinite Wars as thorned shuriken of review-factoid-justice, should the opportunity present itself. Good day to you, my War Mongers!

- Mike Haseloff; Commanding Officer
Mike Haseloff is a little known comics writer with the fantastic ability to ramble at great length about very little. Given the opportunity, he will literally chew your ear off, if only to add it to his necklace. Mike Haseloff never spent time in Vietnam but regularly has flashbacks to scenes of 1950s Vietnam where there's a greaser party and everyone's rocking around the clock. He also appears remorseless and unmoved by Apollo's death, "If he dies, he dies."

January Hit Count: [9870/65474] (+2586)


Krod said...

Yes! I love Hellboy and hope we see more from his comics here. I forget the name of the story... I have all the TPBs but am not going to look it up... but in it Abe Sapien gets shot by an evil monkey. That's a memorable fight! Then there's Hellboy vs. witches at the bottom of the ocean... Oh! And the one where Hellboy fights a giant made out of melted fat! And that one...

I need to catch my breath.

Mike, do you think you could make your next post a little longer?

Mike Haseloff said...

Haha! I have to admit, I'm one of those mugs with a shamelessly small personal collection of Hellboy. That said, I'll probably try to pull something out again sometime in the future.

A subtle something I've been trying to do the last couple of months is just right the ship. Bringing in characters that have been under represented (like Green Lantern), and refocusing on my preferred of the big two [DC] have been high on the list.

Hah! I have to admit, I'm always a little bit disappointed if the side menu goes further than the post. Next time I'll try harder!!!

Cheers, Krod!