Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 
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by David R. Black

This month Scattershot returns to it's regularly scheduled haphazard programming. Let's go!

3X2(9YZ)4A!


About two months ago, I attended both the Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia (Wizard World East) comic conventions. Held only two weeks apart, going to both cons was a strain on the pocketbook (my budget for the month of May looked like a train wreck), but it provided an opportunity to compare the two.

Pittsburgh, the longer running but smaller of the two cons, has plenty of free parking, and the admission price is half that of Philadelphia. Philly's admission price, a whopping $20 for a one day pass, was a lot to stomach, especially for a first year convention. I almost skipped it, not wanting to chance an untested, inaugural event. (It's akin to buyers shunning a new car model: You want to make sure all the kinks are worked out before you invest your money.)

For a first year con, I was impressed by how organized the Philly con was. The panels ran on time, some big name creators attended, all the major comic companies had booths, there was a decent selection of vendors, and it was well attended.

In an odd way, Philly's high attendance was a drawback. Lines to meet creators and get books signed were generally long. Looking through long boxes is tough when other convention-goers are bumping into you or jockeying for position at a dealer's table. I even had my hand stepped on twice while looking through a box of cheap comics underneath a table.

Reading comics is a contact sport.

Pittsburgh, while not having the selection or company attendance of Philly (neither DC, Marvel, nor CrossGen had a booth), provides a more intimate setting. Only in Pittsburgh can you walk right up to a booth and meet with the likes of Julius Schwartz and Carmine Infantino without waiting in any lines. Dealer selection is still fairly good, and there's a lessened chance of getting your hand stepped on.

The Scattershot scoreboard says:

  • Philadelphia: Expensive, crowded, more panels, more selection, all companies attended.
  • Pittsburgh: Less expensive, intimate setting, fewer panels, decent selection, few companies attended

In last month's trivia quiz, Michael Condon and I asked a question about Tiger the Wonder Cat, the unofficial mascot of the Outsiders. Stumped readers clamored to know more about the obscure feline, and Fanzing's mailbox was inundated with letters requesting that we do a feature on Tiger. I'm not going to do a full fledged feature, but here's a short bio:

Tiger first appeared in Batman and the Outisders #11. Deciding that Halo could use a pet to teach her responsibility and to keep her company, Katana gives Halo the white, male kitten as a present. Noticing how spunky and frisky the cat is, an equally exuberant Halo decides to name him Tiger.

In ensuing issues, Tiger appears regularly, doing, well, ordinary cat things. He enjoys playing on the couch (BATO #14), playing with Katana (BATO #19), eating tuna (BATO #20), drinking spilled milk (BATO #25), etc, etc.

Tiger is simply a gentle-natured member of the supporting cast that purrs and likes to have his ears scratched.

Tiger the Wonder Cat

The backup tale in The Outsiders #9 is Tiger's crowning moment. After destroying an expensive pair of Katana's "Swank Tootsies" shoes, Halo takes Tiger to be declawed at "Pet Place," a combination veterinarian/pet shop in Hollywood. (Remember, by this time, the Outsiders had left Gotham and moved to Hollywood.)

While dropping Tiger off, Halo meets Mr. Danziger, a wealthy gentleman who has a cat named Ambrose that looks exactly like Tiger. Coincidentally, Danziger is having Ambrose declawed as well. Overhearing Danziger tell Halo that Ambrose is very "valuable to me. He's the only company I have," The veterinarian's shady assistant Herb decides to catnap Ambrose and hold the poor kitty for ransom.

Unfortunately for Herb, he's unable to tell Ambrose and Tiger apart, so he decides to steal both cats. Bad move, Herb. When Halo finds out, she tracks Herb (and his unwitting accomplice "Terrible Tommy") to a run-down house on the outskirts of town. Flattening Terrible Tommy with a door, Halo chases Herb onto a nearby bridge.

Threatening that "if you don't let me go, I'll shoot these cats!," Herb throws Tiger and Ambrose off the bridge in a desperate attempt to escape. Halo quickly rescues both cats with a well-timed tractor beam, and knocks out Herb with one punch.

Returning Ambrose to Mr. Danziger, Halo is surprised when Mr. Danziger gives her a reward - a new pair of shoes to replace the ones Tiger destroyed. And everybody lived happily ever after, especially Tiger, who never did get declawed.

Tiger's List of Appearances:

Adventures of the Outsiders - #43, 46

Batman and the Outsiders - #11, 14, 19, 20, 21, 25, 28

The Outsiders (1st vol.) - #5, 8, 9, 14, 15


Published in 1999, Strange Adventures was a four issue miniseries by Vertigo that tried to capture the feel of the 1960's silver age title of the same name. But of course, it's done with a Vertigo twist, which means that you still get multiple stories per issue but that all characters swear unnecessarily.

I picked up issue #1 and #4 because I wanted to sample the series, and to be honest, because both issues have great covers. The covers are silver age-ish in both form and function. Namely, they grab your attention and they don't have anything to do with the stories inside. This is especially true for issue #4. I was so psyched for a sea-monster story only to later find out there was no sea-monster story.

Lesson learned: Comic readers are still suckers for cool covers.

Each issue contains three, seven page short stories. The quality of each story varies wildly, and unfortunately, just like it's silver age namesake, about half of the stories either fall flat on their face or rely on a telegraphed twist ending. The stories that escape these two pitfalls, however, are excellent reads.

Issue #1 features contributions by Brain Bolland, Dave Gibbons, and Robert Rodi & Frank Quitely.

Bolland writes and draws "The Kapas," a tale set in China's northwestern-most region, Sinkiang. The story offers a rare chance to see sequential art by Bolland, who primarily draws covers, but the story is hindered by the lack of a plot. A band of Englishman traveling the Silk Road (Marco Polo's old stomping grounds) enter a village and find a man being publicly executed in a fiendish torture device. (Death takes place slowly over the course of a week). An impromptu marketplace springs up around the public execution place, and the English narrators alternate between discussing the market vendor's unusual wares and the status of the slowly dying prisoner. The man dies, and the Englishmen leave. So what happened, really? They came, they saw, they left. Next please.

Continuing the trend of excellent artists trying their hand at both script and art duties, Dave Gibbons spins the sci-fi tale "Riddle of the Random Realities." The story works because Gibbons doesn't take it seriously, and the twist ending is both surprising and funny. In short, a scientist developing a replicator-type machine keeps causing bizarre modifications to his teenaged, comic reading assistant. As the scientist struggles to determine the cause of the modifications, Gibbons pokes fun at technical gobbledygook, comic book culture, and counter culture.

"Immune," written by Robert Rodi and illustrated by Frank Quitely, is the third story in issue #1. Set in the year 2014, a virus has swept across the globe, and before it kills it's victims, it causes large lesions to form on their face. This grotesque "scarlet letter," borne by most of the population, makes identifying the few immune characters easy. The story focuses on a trio of "immunes" - two girls and a guy - and the odd relationship/romance that blooms between them in the midst of worldwide catastrophe. Paranoia permeates the story's atmosphere, and the story's resolution magnificently ties together the three main types of paranoia (fear of contracting the disease, fear of unpredictable infected people, and the regular romantic fears) exhibited by each lead character. Overall, "Immune" is an excellent example of storytelling.

Issue #4 also contains three stories, "Native Tongue," "Latch Key," and "Perfect Stranger."

Strange Adventures #4

Brian Azzarello and Essad Ribic bring us "Native Tongue," a murder mystery in which the lead character is a tabloid reporter trying to uncover the connection between cattle mutilations and a string of gruesome homicides. Could the killings be tied to cult? Could aliens be involved? Or is there no connection? The intrepid reporter eventually learns the truth - the hard way. Azzarello's script feels condensed, as it probably could've filled an entire issue, but Ribic's art is incredible and adds to the mood of the story.

"Latchkey" is a waste of space. The art is cartoony (in a bad way) and the plot is a poorly executed knock-off of "Home Alone." I'm not even going to embarrass the writer-artist of the story by mentioning his name.

Writer John Ney Rieber teams with artist Danijel Zezelj on "Perfect Stranger." (No, it doesn't have anything to do with the 1980's sit-com of a similar name.) Set in a futuristic world, the female protagonist of the story embarks on a mission of vengeance after being raped by a date who slipped a stimulant called MIMI into her drink. The kicker is, she also wants more of the MIMI drug. MIMI apparently brings out the best in a person - all your hopes and dreams seem achievable. I'm not sure what to make of the revelation regarding what MIMI really is, but asides from that, the story is a quirky take on lost dreams and shattered hopes.

Overall, three (out of six) excellent stories and two eye catching covers rates a B- in my book. You'll enjoy Strange Adventures if you're into hit-or-miss stories, looking for something different to read, or trying to find a cheap read in the discount bin.


And now it's quitting time!

Z2 5Y(2AB)6!

David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....

 
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