Tag Archives: comics

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Related Work

Episodes of Prophets of Science Fiction produced and hosted by Ridley Scott and broadcast on the Science Channel are well worth considering. This documentary series looked at the lives and predictions of notable science fiction creators. In 2012, there were good episodes about Robert Heinlein, Jules Verne, and Isaac Asimov.Prophets_of_Science_Fiction_poster

Another suggestion is The Annotated Sandman, Vol. 1 by Leslie S. Klinger (Vertigo), a scholarly look at Neil Gaiman’s classic comic book series.sandman_annotated

Advertisements

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Graphic Story

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 10, 2013. Members (as of January 31, 2013) of Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3, or Loncon 3 are eligible to nominate.

One of the troubles with the Graphic Story category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines sometimes extending over more than a year. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes often don’t represent entire, self-contained stories.

In my opinion, the graphic story category remains the strongest overall category on the Hugo ballot. Choosing five nominees is an almost impossible task because there are so many good choices to pick from. Yet, the Hugo voters consistently nominate the same fanish works year after year. Come on, folks, there is more than Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary. Much more.

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven works made the 5% cutoff last year (nine, if you count two works with 4.94% each). The number of graphic stories that are published is staggering, so I challenge the Hugo voters to think carefully about your choices and to not just fill in your ballots with last year’s nominees because you can’t think of anything else. Don’t be afraid to nominate superhero stories; these are some of the most exciting and relevant science fiction tales being published.

For your consideration:

  • The Abominable Charles Christopher, Karl Kerschl (http://karlkerschl.com)AdventureTime_v1
  • Adventure Time, Vol. 1, Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, Branden Lamb (BOOM! Studios)
  • American Vampire, Vol. 4, Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Vertigo)
  • Aquaman, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado (DC)
  • Batman: Earth One, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank (DC)batman-court-of-owls
  • Batman: The Court of Owls, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo (DC)
  • The Battle of Blood and Ink: A Fable of the Flying City, Jared Axelrod, Steve Walker (Tor)
  • Battlepug, Mike Norton (http://www.battlepug.com)
  • Batwoman, Vol. 1, J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman (DC)
  • Chew, Vol. 6: Space Cakes, John Layman, Rob Guillory (Image)
  • Cinderella: Fables are Forever, Chris Roberson, Shawn McManus (Vertigo)
  • Daredevil, Vol. 1, Mark Waid, Chris Samnee (Marvel)dial-h
  • Dial H, Vol. 1: Into You, China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco (DC)
  • Earth 2, Vol. 1, James Robinson, Nicola Scott (DC)
  • Fables, Vol. 17: Inherit the Wind, Bill Willingham, et al (Vertigo)
  • Frankenstein Alive, Alive!, Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson (IDW)
  • Grandville Bete Noir, Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
  • Hawkeye, Vol. 1, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido (Marvel)irredeemable
  • Irredeemable, Vol. 10, Mark Waid, Diego Barreto (BOOM! Studios)
  • iZombie, Vol. 4: Repossessed, Chris Roberson, Mike Allred (DC)
  • Justice League, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee (DC)
  • Lobster Johnson Vol. 2: The Burning Hand, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Scott Allie, Tonci Zonjic (Dark Horse)
  • Locke & Key: Clockworks, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)manhattan-projects
  • The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitavro (Image)
  • Mind MGMT, Matt Kindt (Dark Horse)20thCenturyBoys22
  • Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 22, Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
  • The New Deadwardians, Dan Abnett, I.N.J. Culbard (Vertigo)
  • Peter Panzerfaust, Vol. 1: The Great Escape, Kurtis Wiebe, Tyler Jenkins (Image)
  • Prophet, Vol. 1: Remission, SImon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milogiannis, Brandon Graham (Image)
  • Punk Rock Jesus, Sean Murphy (Vertigo)saga
  • Saga, Vol. 1, Brian K. Vaughn, Fiona Staples (Image)
  • Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson, Mark Siegel (First Second)
  • Saucer Country, Vol. 1: Run, Paul Cornell, Ryan Kelly (Vertigo)
  • The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, Vol. 1, Tradd Moore, Justin Jordan (Image)
  • Superman: Earth One, Vol. 2, J. Michael Straczynski, Shane Davis (DC)
  • The Underwater Welder, Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)the-unwritten-6
  • The Unwritten, Volume 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, Mike Carey, Peter Gross (Vertigo)
  • The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Allard (Image)
  • Wonder Woman, Vol. 1, Brian Azzarello, Tony Akins (DC)wrinkle-in-time-graphic-novel
  • A Wrinkle in Time, adapted by Hope Larson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Hugo Awards 2012: Best Graphic Story

In 1988, Nolacon II created a one-time special category, “Other Forms,” as a way to honor the graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. In subsequent years fans discussed whether there should be a permanent graphic novel category, but nothing happened until 2008. That year the organizers of Anticipation agreed to include a one-time, special Best Graphic Story category in 2009 in expectation that the 2009 Business Meeting would institute Best Graphic Story as an official category. This did indeed happen, and thus, Best Graphic Story became a new category in 2010. The award was ratified by the 2012 Business Meeting, making it permanent.

Best Graphic Story Nominations (344 ballots cast [compared to 287 ballots cast in 2011])
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

60 Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (17.4%)
36 Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (10.47%)
33 Digger by Ursula Vernon (9.59%)
28 The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (8.14%)
26 Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (7.55%)
———————————-
21 Finder: Voice by Carla Speed McNeil (6.10%)
20 Doorways by George R.R. Martin, illustrated by Stefano Martino (5.57%)
17 Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin and Daniel Abraham, illustrated by Rafa Lopez; (4.94%)
17 Habibi by Craig Thompson (4.94%)
14 Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 3: Reason by Thomas Siddell (4.07%)
12 Freakangels Volume 5 by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield (3.49%)
11 Anya`s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (3.20%)
10 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 by Joss Whedon (2.91%)
10 Knight and Squire by Bill Willingham, illustrated by Joao Ruas (2.91%)
10 Fables Volume 16: Super Team by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (2.91%)

Best Graphic Story Final Ballot Results (1091 ballots [compared to 1263 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking

Title

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5

4

Digger (WINNER)

391

394

416

443

499

3

Fables Vol 15: Rose Red

193

194

222

295

361

6

Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication

181

182

189

208

1

Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom

133

133

165

2

The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan

109

109

5

No Award

84

No Award Tests:
• 685 ballots ranked Digger higher than No Award; 109 ballots ranked No Award higher than Digger – PASS
• ((1091-84)/1922 )*100 = 52% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – Fables Vol 15: Rose Red
3rd Place – Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom
4th Place – Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication
5th Place – The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan
 
Analysis

Phil Foglio withdrew Girl Genius, the winner for the past three years, from consideration. Some griped that this simply meant that the second best graphic novel would be selected. My opinion is that Hugo voters are not particularly sophisticated about graphic novels and are sending essentially the same titles up for consideration again and again. Schlock Mercenary and Fables have been nominated every year, and this is the second year in a row for The Unwritten. Digger, a web-based comic with the same fanish sensibilities as Girl Genius, filled the void left by Girl Genius.

One of the troubles with this category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines often extending over several years. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes don’t often represent entire, self-contained stories. How can one justify recognizing an incomplete story?

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven titles made the 5% cutoff (interestingly, during the Business Meeting discussion about whether to ratify Graphic Story as a permanent category, the Hugo administrator stated that nine titles had made the cutoff—I guess they consider 4.94 to be close enough to 5 to count). It was great to see Carla Speed McNeil’s Eisner and L.A. Times Book Prize winner Finder getting attention (however, the storyline Voice was completed in 2008, so it’s unclear whether the printed volume in 2011 would have been eligible), but where were Atomic Robo, Battlepug, Chew, Daredevil, 20th Century Boys, American Vampire, Joe the Barbarian, The Walking Dead, and Irredeemable? Why weren’t Habibi and Anya’s Ghost ranked higher?

There were noticeably more nominating ballots cast this year than last year, but there was a sharp drop in the number of final ballots cast. Only a little more than half the total voters voted in this category. So, it seems this is not a hugely popular category.

Mini-Reviews

Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)

I have to admit that I only got through about 100 pages of this 700+ page opus. What I did read was pretty good, but somewhat similar to things like Cerebus the Aardvark and Howard the Duck, pitting an anthropomorphic animal (in this case, a wombat) against human antagonists. Even though I am a big comic book fan, I had not heard of Digger before it was nominated. Looking back at Eisner Award records, I saw she was nominated in 2006 in the category Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition, but I am not a connoisseur of web-based comics, so it didn’t register in my memory. Digger certainly had the overwhelming support of the Hugo voters. It has the cute animal/fantasy vibe that Hugo voters seem to gravitate to. In her acceptance speech Ursula Vernon hinted that there was a huge twist ending, so I will make it a point to finish this massive story.

Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)

Fables is one of the few cross-over favorites of the SF and comic book worlds. The first half of this trade edition was very good, chronicling the struggles of Snow White’s sister, Rose Red. The second half of the book was much less effective. It was not clear whether the intent of the voters was to honor just the Rose Red portion, or the entire volume. Nevertheless, the best of Fables is in its early years, and it seems momentum is keeping it on the ballot when perhaps other works are more deserving.

Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

Locke & Key is a marvelous horror story, about a single mother and her children coping with life in a haunted house. The story is chilling without being too graphic. It’s hard to justify voting for a single, open-ended volume, but for me, Locke & Key is too good not to vote for, and I’m not even a big horror fan.

Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)

I just don’t get Schlock Mercenary, a space opera gag strip that’s a clear parody of Star Trek. Its fans are certainly motivated: it garnered significantly more nominations than anything else. It has the cutesy artwork that Hugo voters like, but I think it’s just occasionally amusing and without much substance. What am I missing?

The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

I don’t understand why The Unwritten doesn’t get more Hugo love. It’s all about great literature, with lots of magic and adventure. Perhaps casual readers think it’s too much of a Harry Potter pastiche, but it is far from that. This particular volume did suffer from being a middle chapter in a longer work, with no clear resolution.  I thought the previous volume, Dead Man’s Knock, was a better representation of the series and was more self-contained.

Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Batman

Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Batman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This volume contains four mini-series tie-ins to the Flashpoint event wherein Wonder Woman and Aquaman wage genocidal warfare across Europe in a skewed alternate universe.

The first sequence, Batman: Knight of Vengeance, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, is one of the best Batman stories I’ve read, deserving 5 stars. In this alternate universe, Joe Chill killed young Bruce Wayne, leaving his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, grieving parents. Thomas turned his anger into becoming the Batman. By day, Thomas Wayne runs casinos with the help of his business partner Oswald Cobblepot (in the normal universe, AKA Penguin). By night he rids Gotham City of vile menaces like Hush, Scarecrow, Ivy, and Killer Croc with extreme prejudice. When Judge Harvey Dent’s children are kidnapped by the Joker, Batman must face his greatest nemesis in a way we’ve never seen. This Joker has an origin that is utterly terrifying and completely consistent with this alternate reality. The artwork by Risso beautifully captures the dark insanity of Thomas Wayne’s world.

The second sequence, Deadman and the Flying Graysons, by J. T. Krul and a battery of artists, depicts a circus traveling through war-ravaged Europe, trying to evade the insane conflict all around them. Trapeze artists Boston Brand (AKA Deadman) and the Flying Graysons, featuring young daredevil Dick Grayson (known as Robin in the normal universe), become involved with the Resistance in a deadly way. A mystical artifact must be protected from Wonder Woman’s Amazonian army, which ultimately leads to transformations by Brand and Grayson. Unfortunately, the story ends before we see the full ramifications of these transformations. I give this 3 stars.

The third sequence, Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager, by Jimmy Palmiotti and a slew of artists, tells the story of the pirate Deathstroke who takes advantage of the chaos of war to plunder the high seas for his own gain. When rival pirate Warlord kidnaps his daughter, Deathstroke must face insurmountable odds to try to rescue her. Along the way they cross paths with Aquaman and his ally Ocean Master with disastrous results. This is a fast-paced adventure that really doesn’t have much to do with the main Flashpoint storyline, but is interesting for its depictions of familiar DC characters in unusual circumstances. This deserves about 3-1/2 stars.

The fourth sequence, Secret Seven, by Peter Milligan and a variety of artists, delves into the magical world of Shade the Changing Man and his one-time allies Black Orchid, Amethyst, Abra Kadabra, Raven, Zatanna, and Mindwarp as Shade tries to bring them together to help Cyborg end the metahuman war while trying to evade Sagan Maximus’s attempts to neutralize him and Enchantress’s attempts to kill him. In the end, though, the story is mostly a confusing mess that has no real conclusion. This is the weakest sequence in this compilation, earning no more than 2 stars.

The problem with most of these sequences is that they were only three-issue mini-series. I get the impression that they were originally intended to be much longer, perhaps six issues each, because in almost every case the story ends abruptly and often with the protagonists experiencing turning points that cry out for resolution. Overall, this anthology is well worth checking out for the Batman story, but the remainder is very inconsistent in quality.

WonderCon 2012, Part 2

Arno Axolotl gets skewered in support of HBO's Game of Thrones.

TV

There were a number of panels relating to TV programs. Prime-time series Person of Interest, Alcatraz, Once Upon a Time, and Community all had well attended presentations. Since WonderCon came before the Fall schedule was announced, there were few new shows in evidence. I didn’t see it, but I think there were some teasers from the new Arrow program that is replacing Smallville.

There were several panels devoted to TV animation. I was unable to get into the Adventure Time panel, the only presentation I missed due to the room being full. I did see the DC Nation panel that previewed clips from Green Lantern: The Animated Series and the second season of Young Justice, as well as some of the short-shorts that they are playing on Saturday mornings. Unfortunately, there was no real mention of the new Batman series or any other possible offerings that may be in development.

Alcatraz panel with stars Jorge Garcia, Sarah Jones, Parminder Nagra, Jonny Coyne, and Robert Forster, plus some of the writers and producers.

x
Movies

One of the more fun panels during the convention was a retrospective of the movies from 1982. With such science fiction and fantasy classics as Star Trek II, Blade Runner, E.T., Tron, Poltergeist, Conan, and The Thing, not to mention cult classics like Megaforce, the panelists had a good time reminiscing and joking about their favorites.

Damon Lindelof and Ridley Scott discuss Prometheus

There were a number of previews for this summer’s blockbusters. Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof were there in person to introduce the latest trailer for Prometheus. I still don’t really know what the movie will be like, but I expect an intelligent, thrilling adventure.

One of the highlights was the trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmambetov, this looks to be a wild and exciting movie. Who knew Lincoln was such a bad-ass vampire killer!

Other previews included Battleship, which doesn’t look quite as lame as the first trailer made it look, but think it’s basically Transformers in sheep’s clothing—lots of explosions, but nonsensical. The preview for Snow White and the Huntsman looked interesting—certainly Snow White herself should be a strong female lead.

The weirdest preview was for a film called Sound of My Voice. They showed the first ten minutes of the film that introduced us to a cult based on a charismatic female time traveler (or perhaps a charismatic con artist). After the clip, two supposed members of the cult came on stage in a piece of performance art that I don’t think was well received. Finally, writer/director Zal Batmanglij and writer/lead actor Brit Marling came out to expound on the film a little. It is an ultra low-budget independent film that has been shown on the festival circuit to reasonable success. The film will be widely released in late April. I’m not sure I was wholly convinced to seek it out.

Rounding out the movie previews was a screening of the next DC animated film, Superman vs. The Elite, which comes out in June. I will have a full review later; the snapshot is that this is quite good. DC Animation consistently comes up with good to excellent features, something their live-action counterparts do not. They also teased Batman: The Dark Knight Returns with some short clips. It looked awesome. (Rumors are that the story will be split into two parts, which if true is a good sign that it will not be compromised from the graphic novel by Frank Miller.)

WonderCon 2012, Part 1

Overview

WonderCon 2012 was held at the Anaheim Convention Center, across from Disneyland, on March 16-18. Billed as a one-time venue change from its usual home in San Francisco, the convention was a huge success, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Comic-Con organizers or another group puts on more Anaheim conventions in the future. I estimated that there were probably around 8000 to 10000 attendees at WonderCon, much fewer than Comic-Con, yet large enough to warrant plenty of good programming and a large exhibition hall. There were really never any lines and only a few presentations were “sold out.” The main ballroom was probably about the size of Comic-Con’s Ballroom 20, and there was another very large room for other popular presentations. There were a good number of smaller rooms for everything else. The exhibition space was always bustling, but never overly crowded. The convention center was also hosting a girls’ volleyball tournament, so there is plenty of room to grow if this or another similar convention comes to Anaheim in the future. About the only minor glitch to the weekend was that it rained most of the time, but since I was inside the whole time, it didn’t really affect anything. Parking was also a bit of a nuisance, but there was plenty of parking across the street at Disneyland, and there was also remote parking with a shuttle bus.

Comic Books

IDW Panel, with Mark Waid as the Rocketeer.

WonderCon had a greater emphasis on comic books than Comic-Con. The Small Press and Artists’ Alley areas were quite large, at least in comparison to the Dealers’ area of the exhibition hall. There were a number of presentations by the big publishers. I was most excited about some of IDW’s upcoming titles. In addition to the well received Rocketeer anthology series, they announced that Mark Waid would be writing a new Rocketeer mini-series, and the preliminary artwork for that series looked great.

Speaking of Mark Waid, he announced major plans to start a digital comics publishing endeavor. He is actually selling off his entire, large collection of printed comics to finance this digital start-up venture.

Doctor Who/Star Trek: The Next Generation Crossover from IDW, featuring a team up of the Borg and the Cybermen.

I had more of a chance to wander through the Small Press area than I usually do at Comic-Con. I like to pick up what look like promising books. Usually, small press books aren’t very good, but I did find a couple of titles that were interesting. Vigilante Project: The Guitar Hero by Chris Dickens, Chris Campana, and Nik Poliwko caught my eye as a pretty well written book that explores how a hero might actually act in the real world. The protagonist might win his fights, but he will look like a bloody mess afterwards. Another small press book that I liked was The Dinosaurs Are Dead: The Truth Behind the Extinction by Stephen Linquist, Travis Linquist, and Miguel Cervantes. From the outside this looks like a children’s book, but it is definitely not. It is a graphically violent look at the zombie infestation that killed the dinosaurs.

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers (2011)
Written by Robert Rodi; art by Esad Ribic; directed by Mark Cowart and Joel Gibbs.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers is a four episode motion comic from Marvel Knights Animation that is based on the 2004 miniseries Loki. It is essentially a character study of Loki (David Blair); Thor (Daniel Thorn) spends the vast majority of the running time as a mute prisoner, with only a few brief flashbacks.

The story opens as Loki is celebrating his takeover of Asgard, with Thor, Odin (Joe Teiger), Sif (Elizabeth Diennet), and Baldar (James Hampshire) in chains. Loki soon learns that ruling an empire is not all it’s cracked up to be. He must mediate in what seems like every petty squabble in the land, and his allies in the rebellion begin to demand payment on his promises used to secure their cooperation.

All of this comes off as a cheap Shakespearian tragedy, with Loki brooding and plotting but not really doing anything. As such, it is aimed at adults more interested in political machinations than teenagers more interested in action.

The artwork is the best part of the production. There is a real sense of dimensionality, and the character designs are quite detailed. Loki is portrayed as an old man with missing teeth and lined face. The Asgard warriors are musclebound and the females are full-figured, to say the least. The superb backgrounds fill the screen with beauty. However, the limited animation detracts from the overall effect with its jerky movements and static compositions.

Each episode is about 20 minutes of story, so I’m not sure why the producers opted to break it into four parts. It would flow better as an uninterrupted movie.

The ending is unsatisfactory. Completely unsurprising spoiler–Thor escapes and wreaks retribution on Loki. We don’t see what happens to several principal characters or the fallout of Loki’s villainy.

Thor fans will undoubtedly want to see this production because it adds some interesting layers to Loki’s personality and his relationship with Thor, but I can’t recommend it for anyone else. The limited animation, lack of action, and lack of a satisfactory payoff makes this a dull morality play.

Justice League: Doom

Justice League: Doom (2012)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie, based on “Tower of Babel” by Mark Waid; directed by Lauren Montgomery

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Snapshot: An exciting adventure reuniting most of the creative talent from the Justice League animated TV series that is almost derailed by major plot holes at the end.

Major spoilers ahead!

The story opens with Batman (Kevin Conroy), Superman (Tim Daly), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly), and the Flash (Michael Rosenbaum) thwarting a jewel heist by a gang of thieves who seem to have a little more high-tech than expected. It turns out that they were supplied by the immortal Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) as part of his plot to destroy the Justice League and take over the world.

It turns out Savage is focused on the big picture. Little things like Batman’s secret identity don’t interest him (and anyway, he already knows it). Savage uses his “Legion of Doom” to discover and carry out the Dark Knight’s “contingency plans” for stopping any rogue Justice League member. This leads to a second act filled with nonstop action and suspense as the Justice Leaguers are knocked off, one by one by their rivals: Bane (Carlos Alazraqui), Cheetah (Claudia Black), Metallo (Paul Blackthorne), Star Sapphire (Olivia d’Abo), Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof), and Ma’alefa’ak (Carl Lumbly).

The third act is also filled with exciting action as the League regroups and fights to stave off Savage’s ultimate end game: the literal destruction of half the world’s population along with all technology utilizing electricity so that he can become the undisputed ruler of what’s left. Here’s where, for me, the plot goes off the rails. I realize that movies like this have to up the ante, especially with superheroes as powerful as the Justice League, but really, what kind of crazy does a super-villain have to be to think that ruling a decimated Earth would be any way fulfilling?

And the way Savage plans to wreak this havoc is mind-boggling, even for a comic book story. OK, he demonstrated that he has super-advanced technology earlier in the story, so I can kind of give it a pass that he can launch a rocket from the Earth that will crash into the Sun causing massive solar flares that will destroy anything in their path. But come one, it’s the fracking Sun! There’s nothing manmade that could possibly cause the Sun to explode this way.

If this were the only plot hole, I could forgive it. But the bigger plot hole is that the rocket takes only about a minute to reach the Sun. Even at the speed of light, it would take eight minutes, a fact that they repeat several times in relation to how long it will take the solar flares to reach Earth. A rocket would take months, if not years (it took the MESSENGER probe almost four years to arrive at Mercury) to reach the Sun. This could have been easily explained away in the movie if Savage had simply stated that he launched the rocket months ago in preparation. The climax could still have been as exciting, with the heroes attempting to activate the rocket’s fail-safe rather than attempting to cancel its launch.

Nevertheless, Justice League: Doom is well worth seeing. The chemistry between the returning voice actors is fun, as the they have grown into their roles over the years. Bumper Robinson as Cyborg is a welcome addition to the ensemble, and I hope we get to see more of him in future installments. (This movie just reinforces my desire to see a resurrected Justice League TV series.) There are many nice character interactions between the heroes and their villainous counterparts, as well as some pointed humor between Batman and Alfred (“You’re dripping blood on my clean floor.”) There is also some wonderful poignancy in the second act when it looks like our heroes are done for, especially when Green Lantern thinks he’s killed a civilian and momentarily loses his nerve.

Justice League: Doom is an exciting yet bittersweet end to Dwayne McDuffie’s prolific career as a writer for the DC animated universe (he died unexpectedly a year ago). I wish that the live-action movies were even close to the quality of the animated movies.

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Graphic Story

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 11, 2012. Members (as of January 31, 2012) of Renovation, Chicon 7, or LoneStarCon 3 are eligible to nominate. For the Graphic Story category, I have compiled a list of works that could be considered.

It is clear that Hugo readers are not avid comic book readers. There is little overlap of the Hugo nominees and any of the comics-related best-of lists and awards. The Hugo voters are going for fanish titles such as Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary, along with obscure titles by fan-favorite writers such as Paul Cornell and Joss Whedon, and ignoring outstanding mainstream titles such as The Walking Dead, Locke & Key, Chew, 20th Century Boys, Return of the Dapper Men, and Irredeemable, to name a few. Yes, Y: The Last Man, Fables, and The Unwritten have been nominated, but there’s so much more good stuff not being recognized.

One of the troubles with this category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines sometimes extending over more than a year. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes don’t often represent entire, self-contained stories. How can one justify recognizing an incomplete story?

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven works made the 5% cutoff last year. Moreover, the Hugo voters have given the award to Girl Genius three years in a row. To his credit, Phil Foglio announced that he would not accept a nomination this year for Girl Genius. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to convince this year’s Business Meeting to permanently ratify the Graphic Story category. As much of a comics fan as I am, if there is no greater diversity of nominees, I may have to support ending the category. Although the Hugo Award is a popularity contest, it should ideally represent a broad representation of the best of science fiction and fantasy.

The number of graphic stories that are published is staggering. I’ve tried to narrow down my list to titles that I’ve seen favorably reviewed. Nevertheless, I suspect I’ve missed worthy books. Most of the entries on the list are printed. I’m not a connoisseur of web comics, but I know there are some good ones being published. Even so, for a lot of web comics it’s hard to tell where stories start and stop and therefore what is eligible in a calendar year. Check with a site like Top Web Comics for a list of possibilities.

I’ve highlighted a few titles that have appeared on multiple best-of lists or that I have personal knowledge of being excellent. I challenge the Hugo nominators to think carefully about their choices and to not just fill in their ballots with last year’s nominees because you can’t think of anything else.

For your consideration:

Abominable Charles Christopher, Book One by Karl Kerschl

Amulet #4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi

Angel: After the Fall, Vol. 4 by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch

Anita Blake: Circus of the Damned: The Ingenue by Laurell K. Hamilton, Jessica Booth, and Ron Lim

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

B.P.R.D.: Being Human by Mike Mignola, et al.

Batman & Robin, Vol. 2: Batman vs. Robin by Grant Morrison, et al.

Batman: Eye of the Beholder by Tony Daniel

Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo

Batman: The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla

The Bean, Vol. 1: Riddles & Shrooms by Travis Hanson

The Boys, Vol. 9: The Big Ride by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson

Blood Work by Kim Harrison, Pedro Maia and Gemma Magno

Brightest Day by Geoff Johns, et al.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Vol. 8: Last Gleaming by Joss Whedon, Scott Allie, and Georges Jeanty

Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid and Jorge Molina

Captain Swing, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis and Raulo Caceres

Casanova, Vol. 1: Luxuria by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá

Chew, Vol. 4: Flambe by John Layman and Rob Guillory

The Clockwork Girl by Sean O’Reilly

Cowboys and Aliens by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg

The Dark-Hunters, Vol. 4 by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Daybreak by Brian Ralph

Daytripper by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon

Deadpool MAX : Involuntary Armageddon by David Lapham, Kyle Baker, and Shawn Crystal

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Vol. 6 by Philip K. Dick and Tony Parker

Echo, Vol. 6: The Last Day by Terry Moore

Fables, Vol. 16: Super Team by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

xx

Fantastic Four, Vol. 4 by Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, Nick Dragotta, and Mark Brooks

5 Ronin by Peter Milligan, et al.

Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert

Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay

Freeway by Mark Kalesniko

Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 27 by Hiromu Arakawa

George R. R. Martin’s Doorways by Stefano Martino and George R. R. Martin

Green Lantern: War of the Green Lanterns by Geoff Johns, et al.

Green Woman by Peter Straub, Michael Easton, and John Bolton

The Griff: A Graphic Novel by Christopher Moore and Ian Corson

The Gunslinger – The Battle of Tull by Stephen King, Peter David, and Michael Lark

The Gunslinger – The Little Sisters of Eluria by Stephen King, Peter David, Robin Furth, Luke Ross, and Richard Isanove

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Harbor Moon by Ryan Colucci, Dikran Ornekian, and Pawel Sambor

Hellboy: House of the Living Dead by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben

I Will Bite You! by Joseph Lambert

Irredeemable, Vol. 7 by Mark Waid and Peter Krause

iZombie, Vol. 2: uVampire by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred

Jericho Season 3 by Alejandro F. Giraldo

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Fool Moon by Chase Conley, Jim Butcher, and Mark Powers

Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy

Kill Shakespeare, Vol. 2 by Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, and Andy Belanger

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay

Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Mangaman by Barry Lyga and Colleen Doran

Marineman: A Matter of Life & Depth by Ian Churchill

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 18 by Naoki Urasawa

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Ant by Philip K. Dick, David Mack, and Pascal Alixe

Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison and Alan Robinson

Pinocchio by Winshluss

RASL: Romance at the Speed of Light by Jeff Smith

Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes adapted by Ron Wimberly

7 Billion Needles, Vol. 4 by Nobuaki Tadano

Super Dinosaur, Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman

Superboy, Vol. 1: Smallville Attacks by Jeff Lemire, Pier Gallo, and Marco Rudy

Superman: Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

True Blood, Vol. 2: Tainted Love by Joe Corroney

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 2 by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim

Uncanny X-Force: The Dark Angel Saga, Book 1 by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, Billy Tan, and Mark Brooks

The Unwritten, Vol. 4: Leviathan by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

xx

Vampire Academy by Leigh Dragoon and Emma Vieceli

The Walking Dead, Vol. 14, No Way Out by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead, Vol. 15, We Find Ourselves by Robert Kirkman

Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris, Vol. 1: The Colossus of Mars by Arvid Nelson and Carlos Rafael

Wonder Struck by Brian Selznick

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young

Xombi by John Rozum and Fraser Irving

Before Watchmen

Yesterday’s announcement from DC that they are going to reboot the Watchmen franchise with a series of prequels was met with the predictable outcries from fans. Alan Moore is understandably upset because as far as he is concerned, Watchmen was a self-contained story with a definite beginning and a definite end. What possible minutiae could any writer bring to this world that would expand our enjoyment or understanding of the characters and message Moore created?

As has been pointed out, this new project will span 35 individual issues in seven different series (eight, if you count the Crimson Corsair backup feature that will eventually be collected separately), which is almost three times longer than the original Watchmen maxi-series in 1986. Is there really that much more to tell about these characters? I guess the same thing could be asked about any comic book character–how many times can Batman fight the Joker, after all, and remain fresh and interesting? Probably my biggest concern about the scope of Before Watchmen is whether I will have to buy all the issues to understand what’s going on. At today’s cover prices, it will cost almost $150 for the entire collection. Even if I wait for the trade collection(s), I’m sure it will cost a tidy sum.

I’m not worried that Before Watchmen will confuse readers. The original Watchmen will always be there and anything else can be cheerfully ignored, if so desired.

Original artist Dave Gibbons has given a fairly tepid endorsement of the new project, and has declined to participate. Len Wein, the editor on Watchmen, is eagerly participating, and original colorist John Higgins is also participating.

Alan Moore’s reaction is somewhat puzzling. I understand his disdain for other people using what he considers his work, but the fact is he does not own the Watchmen characters. In fact, the Watchmen characters are themselves thinly disguised versions of Charlton characters that DC had recently acquired in the 1980s. Moore had begun work on Watchmen with those characters, and only when DC found out how he was going to use some of them did they balk and make him revamp them. DC simply wanted the option to use the Charlton characters in other stories. Moreover, Moore has made quite a career out of mangling established public domain characters (and thinly disguised copyrighted characters) in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls. Oh, I’m sure J.M. Barrie, L. Frank Baum, and Lewis Carroll  would just love the way their characters are treated in Lost Girls!

One of the gripes Moore and others have made is that these are 25-year-old characters and well, couldn’t top-tier talent be used to create new characters for our times? Of course, Superman and Batman are 75 years old and that doesn’t stop anyone from updating them for today’s audiences. Part of the appeal of iconic characters is that  different creators can use them in a variety of ways and yet still be recognizable and relevant. In fact, Alan Moore has done this himself: taking Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s Swamp Thing to a whole new level of significance.

I think the most powerful argument in favor of Before Watchmen was made by writer J. Michael Straczynski. You can read his interview about his plans for Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl here.

In the comic book world, no character ever stays dead and no story ever ends. I’ll take a wait and see approach to the final product. But given the A-List talent associated with Before Watchmen, I expect we will see some truly worthwhile stories, even if they don’t match up to the undisputed greatness of Watchmen.