Project Wonderful

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Guest Review of Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul with Shannon O'Neal

Because you don’t know me the first thing I should tell you is that I’m a nerd. I don’t know very many people who read philosophy books for fun, well I do. When I first saw the philosophy and pop culture series several years ago, I was intrigued. Mostly because the book I picked up was about one of my favorite movies, The Matrix, but also because I saw there were others like it. You like “The Family Guy”? There’s a book for that. What about Metallica? There’s one for that, too. The Office, 30 Rock, The Daily Show, Lord of the Rings, The Legend of Zelda, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Baseball, Bob Dylan, Monty Python...I bet you didn’t expect that, kinda like the Spanish Inquisition, all have books in this series. Each book is broken down into a series of essays written by a philosopher, normally a professor, who uses examples from the topic of the book to make his or her argument. The essays are written in a fairly simple way, so that one does not need a huge knowledge of philosophy to understand the concepts, just the desire to learn something new.

Now, let’s get to my review. Of the 6 books in the series that I’ve read, to me this one is the best. The articles are more cohesive with some of the issues the Dark Knight faces and it seems that the writers are not just people who know that Batman wears a cape and cowl, but actually think about what he goes through while fighting some of Gotham’s worst. The articles cover topics ranging from if it is right to make a “Robin” to whether or not the Joker is morally culpable for what he does, there’s even an article about Alfred.

While the writers do seem to show a good bit of Bat-knowledge, the focus of the essays are on just a few of the stories in the Batman collection. Batman: Year One, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and The Killing Joke get most of the references, with the movies and comics and television shows sprinkled throughout. Some of the philosophical arguments reach quite a bit for the point they’re trying to make, but as you learn in philosophy making that reach is part of the fun. One essay I found to be quite poignant compared the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to Gotham City throughout the “No Man’s Land” crossover comic from 1999.

The only issue I had with the book is the only villain the book was ultimately concerned with was the Joker. As Kevin will tell you, I’m pretty much obsessed with the man myself, but there are other villains in the Batman world that I feel could have been used to write articles, such the relationship between Batman and Catwoman or how duality of human existence is really portrayed through Harvey Dent.

All in all, the book was good and can be picked up by anyone and as I said earlier, understood easily without any formal philosophy training. I would also suggest the other books of the series, while I haven’t read all the books there are (probably over 50) I’m sure there would be something to interest anyone. I’m going to give this book 3 Harley Quinn’s.

- Shannon O'Neal
Copyright © 2010 Shannon O'Neal

Batman & Philosophy: The Dark Night Of The Soul image copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons Inc. and is used as Fair Use Review image only. Image will be removed upon the request of John Wiley & Sons Inc. Batman & Harley Quinn images copyright © 2010 DC Comics and is used as Fair Use Review image only. Image will be removed upon the request of DC Comics.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Make Mine Marvel

I love comic books . . . all kinds of comic books . . . I even create comic books (see my link below) but when I think of comics my first thought has always been and will always be Marvel Comics. There is something about the characters that Marvel has created over the years that just feels like home . . . like family. Spider-Man is the guy like most relates to comic book readers, Kittie Pryde is that first girl you ever thought of as not having cooties, Johnny Storm the Human Torch is like your cool older brother and Wolverine is that uncle that would show you awesome things as long as you didn't tell your Mom. Marvel Comics has thousands of characters heroes, villains, supporting cast and for some reason when something happens to any one of them it hits hard and that doesn't happen very often outside of Marvel for me (except for in my own comics).  Every character no matter how outlandish they may be has the characteristics of someone that you probably know in your real everyday life (or at least you might have seen someone like them on TV) and that brings a certain humanity into the fictional universe Marvel brings us every week. The Marvel Universe has its ups and downs but there are always the stories where our friends grow up, fall in love, defeat an unspeakable evil, sometimes they die, sometimes they get married or even have everyone forget that a certain marraige ever existed. All of these things stick with you and they touch you, if you tried to explain it people might think that you were being silly but still you know the pain of Gwen Stacy and her tragic death, you remember as if it were yesterday when Captain America was shot, you understand that the X-Men are a symbol of the fight for equal rights for everyone, you know that Peter Parker and Mary Jane did get married (even if Joe Quesada doesn't want it that way) all of these things may be fictional but they happen to our friends and for that I will always MAKE MINE MARVEL!

- Kevin P. Johnson
Copyright © 2010 Kevin P. JohnsonThe MARVEL logo is copyright © 2010 Marvel Comics and is used as Fair Use Review image only. Image will be removed upon the request of Marvel Comics.



Thursday, March 25, 2010

Catching Up With The X-Men

Since the very beginning of my comic book collecting days there were the X-Men and I loved them. The 80's were awesome I think most people love that era I missed most of the 90's because I was not collecting but around 1999 I got back into comics and the first thing I bought was a stack of X-Men comics and I loved them again.

For some reason in aound 2005 I think right after hurricane Katrina I just stopped reading the X-Men comics without any real reason I didn't hate them I wasn't upset about anything I just stopped reading but I didn't stop buying.

A few weeks ago I decided that I would catch up on all of the comic books I had in the "To Read Box" which is really two long boxes and does not include the other boxes of stuff that are in the  "To Read Whenever Boxes" but anyway there are several years of Uncanny X-Men (Issues #469 - 521), X-Factor (#33 - 50 & 200-202 - returned to original numbering) & X-Men (Issues #177 - 207) which become X-Men Legacy (Issues #208-232) plus a few Annuals and a few specials.

I started with X-Factor and blew through that and I highly recommend it, its super-hero stuff but it has a real life feel to it and the characters are all in that not too popular to steal the show vein. The book focuses on Jamie Maddrox The Multiple Man and all the good and bad that being able to make duplicates of yourself with different parts of your personality can bring. And then there is Lala Miller and "She knows stuff." I am completely caught up with this series except for the Endangered Species & Messiah Complex crossover issues because I have not got there yet with the other X-Men Books.

Now I kinda look at Uncanny X-Men and X-Men/X-Men Legacy as pretty much the same books I know they are not but they have crossed over so many times and I just always feel like they are just one comic in two books. Jumping back into what I had not remembered what was going on wasn't so bad and the teams has a few of my favorite characters still running around Havok, Rogue, Polaris, Emma Frost (The White Queen), Ice Man and a few others. I have just reached the Endangered Species crossovers which is about half way though the catching up process. These comics are good and but not the most amazing things I have ever read it sofar is just keepin in touch with old friends (wondering if I will ever really like Cyclops) and watching them grow a little along with some characters I don't know much about. A lot of people do not like the X-Men anymore and I don't really get why because these comics are as good as anything else out there just not blow you away amazing every issue.

If you are looking for old school X-Men and can only have it that way then I think you may just want to pass on the X-Men titles but check out the modern X-Factor series it is really an excellent comic book series.

-Kevin P. Johnson
Copyright © 2010 Kevin P. Johnson

Unless otherwise noted all images are copyright © 2010 Marvel Comics and are used as Fair Use Review images only. Images will be removed upon request of Marvel Comics.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's not supposed to be the way you want it to be

Did you ever hear someone say "the X-Men suck they aren't the way they are supposed to be anymore" or "George Lucas screwed up Star Wars by making those prequils"? Well I say thats a load of crap and I'll tell you why.

When you are introduced to something weather it be comic books or movies or even music what you get in the beginning from whatever point you start enjoying it is what you at that time decide to either love or hate. If you love it you will claim it as your own and don't believe that your new love should ever change and if it does it should only change in the course that you see fit. I think that we all have a tendency of doing this and we will even go as far as saying I like "old Metallica" but that "new Metallica" sucks.

Is it our right to want to control what is not ours? I say no. We love these little worlds because someone else created them and we didn't know what there vision was when they started creating it but we loved it and we just had to know where it was going. Sometimes things would end the way we wanted and sometimes they did not.

 Surely it is ok that we can agree or not agree to take the ride but we should never ever say it should have been a certain way that we have in our own minds. What would be the point of having writer's, artist, or musicians? What if Joe Quesada came to you and said ok (your name here) you are writing Spider-Man for the next year. What would you do? And when you do it, do you think that everyone will agree that that is the way its supposed to be?

I'm not saying that any of us should agree with everything that happens and should surely say hey I don't like that if you don't like it but you should never say that's not how it is supposed to be because its not supposed to be the way you want it to be it is supposed to be the way whomever is creating it see's fit . . . unless someone gives you the keys to the castle and lets you write the story for a while.

- Kevin P. Johnson
Copyright © 2010 Kevin P. Johnson

Monday, March 22, 2010

An Interview with Comic Book fan Ashley Oglesby

So I have chosen for my first interview to go with a fan of Comic Books my good friend Ashley Oglesby from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I READ COMIC BOOKS: Ashley is there anything that we should know about you before we start?

ASHLEY: Nothing all that fascinating. I'm a man of many hobbies (pro wrestling and comics being the primary ones) and as you may soon discover, when I'm into a hobby I'm into it pretty hardcore. I'm lucky enough to be married to a woman that can put up with my little obsessions.

IRCB: We should note that Ashley's wife carries a gun for work and can end his hobbies whenever she wants to do so.

IRCB:So Ashley you have a pretty unique way of reading comics that I don't think most of us would attempt to do. Tell us your process and where you are starting from.

A: HAHA that is true but she's a cool chick and just goes along with it.

A: Yeah I started a comic reading project almost three years ago. I've always loved comics but previously couldn't really afford to keep up with it regularly. But as of three years ago I could and started thinking about how I wanted to proceed. The mutant universe has always fascinated me but by 2007, if you've never really followed the X-Men and other mutant groups, the sheer volume of history involved with those titles can be overwhelming to try to get into. It was around the same time that I discovered that Marvel had released DVD ROMs of every single issue of their main titles up to about 2006. So it got me to thinking: All the major titles are one continuous story that started in the 60s. And to me, there's only one way to read a story and that is from the beginning. So I headed to the local comic shop and picked up the Amazing Spiderman and Uncanny X-Men DVD ROMs. I was a bit surprised at how well the stories held up from way back then (especially Spidey) so I decided what I would do is read EVERY Spiderman and Mutant title form the very beginning on. The way I approach it is I pretend I'm a comic fan from whichever month I happen to be in and am going to pick up that month's titles and read them. I read everything in cover date order, so say whichever Spiderman and mutant related titles were cover dated April of 1982 I read, then move on to May of 1983, and so on.
IRCB: So you didn't go back to the 1960's your timeline starts in 1982?

A: No I started in the 60s and have worked my way through. I'm currently in April of 1983 so I'm just now starting to get into the New Mutants. Alpha Flight is right around the corner. I should note that I'm getting EVERY title so that would include Marvel Team Up and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spiderman (when's the last time you heard THAT full title) as far as Spidey titles. My focus is on the Spiderman and Mutant titles.

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider Man is a great title and I love a lot of the cover images appeared in that comic.

Spider-Man and the X-Men are also my favorite comics of all-time and Uncanny X-Men #170 is really what got me into comic books.

IRCB: Now you read each comic month by month as if you went to the comic book store to buy them every month. In the 80's you will start to find out what the Major Crossover is will you be buying all the tie-in comics that go along with Secret Wars and all of the many cross-over’s to come in the 1990's and beyond? Do you think that these crossovers make peak your interest in other titles such as The Avengers or The Incredible Hulk?

A: Wow that's a great question. I am fascinated by many of the characters in the Marvel U (Marvel Team Up was a great way to get introduced to them). I do plan to get every issue of every crossover so long as the event takes place in one of the core titles I'm reading (or if one of the characters are in a big crossover mini-series ala Secret Wars). As far as branching off into other characters' titles, I doubt it. This project is so massive in scope that you do have to set some limits. Now that's not to say that I won't pick up the occasional TPB of some characters that intrigue me along the way to read on the side. But as far as this project goes, my focus is on Spiderman and all mutant titles.

IRCB: You gotta respect a man with a plan.

IRCB: Now to some serious business. Who killed Gwen Stacy? And if you had to choose Gwen or Mary Jane?

A: Ooooooh I love this question. This is my theory on the death of Gwen: The Goblin already killed her before they got to the bridge. She was completely motionless the whole time she was up there. Of course Spidey didn't know she was dead so he had to fight to save her. Goblin knocks her off the bridge, Spidey slings a web line to save her and does indeed snap her neck in the process. Spidey thereby thinks he was responsible for her death. The fact that she was dead before Spidey even got there but him blaming himself for her death makes it all the more tragic.

This leads me to a side note. The death of Gwen is arguably one of the biggest events in comics history. Anybody can go and read those couple of issues. However, having read everything from her first appearance and all the different phases of her relationship with Peter makes reading her death all the more impactful. I seriously had to brace myself before reading her death because I really didn't want her to die even though I knew exactly what was going to happen because it's such a famous story.

As for your second question, Gwen all the way. Peter was saving up money to buy her an engagement ring right before she died and she was really good for him Now, to be fair, I'm only in 1983 right now so haven't yet gotten to the good stuff of Peter and MJ's romance.

IRCB: Hmmmmmmmm you know that your theory is fightin' words for a large portion of the comic book geek society.

A: All I can say is the good ole' Spidey can't really go wrong in his choice of women he's always got the hotness surrounding him.

A: Yeah I know that's not the most popular theory, but reading the issues allows for some variance of interpretation.
IRCB: So we know you are a big Spider-Man fan but who are your favorite characters so far in your reading? Feel free to include superheroes, villains, and supporting cast.

A: Favorite characters. Wow, that could be quite the list. Here we go:

Spidey supporting characters: Robbie Robertson - constantly the voice of calm and reason in the midst of all the chaos.

Favorite X-Man: Nightcrawler - I'm a man of the faith and so is he. I'll never forget this one issue where the X-Men were fighting Dracula. One of the X-Men (I believe Wolverine) held up some sticks to make a cross at Dracula and nothing happened. Dracula says "My friend, that trick only works for those who believe". He turns around and Nightcrawler's right there with a cross and yells "I BELIEVE!!!!" and down goes Dracula. Classic. The other appeal to Nightcrawler is he doesn't need to be the center of attention, is a true friend to his cohorts, and ya gotta love the smell of brimstone and BAMF!

A-Grade villains: Dr. Doom is always fun and Magneto is of course awesome because he truly believes his causes are altruistic. That makes for the best kind of evil.

B-Grade villain: Arcade. Give this guy his own book because I will follow him to the ends of the Earth. Murderworld is sooo much fun.

Other Heroes: Ben Grimm is a favorite of mine, mainly because sometimes he doesn't always wanna play the superhero bit, he just wants to lay on the couch, eat some chips, and watch some tee vee. That's how I roll!

IRCB: Those are some nice choices I do love Robbie Robertson he keeps it real all the time and Nightcrawler has been one of my favorite X-Men for a long time. You may be the only person on the planet that has serious love for Arcade but I can't hate on a man in a white suit.

IRCB: I noticed that you didn't take the bait with my last question possibly because your wife may read this but let’s talk about your one true love that I have known about for a while now the beautiful vixen Alison Blaire the DAZZLER. What is your fascination with the lovely lady?

A: Haha yeah I knew we'd get to this. It started out as kind of a joke. Dazzler was officially the first X-Men spinoff series (even before Wolverine's first limited series). From a lot of what I'd heard from people was that the series wasn't very good. So I was hyping about how excited I was to read the series in a tongue in cheek sort of way. But when I got to the series, I really didn't think it was bad at all. Now I'm not saying its Comic Book Shakespeare, but I do think it gets a bad rap that it doesn't deserve. First of all, she has powers but really doesn't want to be a hero at all. Now Spiderman sometimes falls into this way of thinking but Dazzler really means it. She just wants to be a singer but trouble keeps finding her. Plus she took on some real heavyweights in the series. In one of the first issues she talks some sense into Galactus. That took some real guts from a 20-something year old woman. The title also was not your typical comic book fare as many times the focal point is on her personal life instead of battles with the baddies. So kids, if anybody tries to tell you that Dazzler is lame, don't you fall for it, check it out for yourself!

IRCB: So you are alright with DAZZLER being the comic book ABBA and self lighting mirror ball? And have you found the 1984 Marvel Graphic Novel: Dazzler The Movie?

A: Well considering her first appearance was in 1980 and her series started in 1981, the country was in full on disco mode. Comics have always reflected the signs of the times and as embarrassing as the disco era might be to some, it only makes sense that Marvel created a character that reflected that subculture. Plus she did sing a Ramones song at one of her concerts, so she's A-OK with me. There was also some really good artwork on the covers of some of her later issues that hadn't been seen much at that time. And yes I do have Dazzler the Movie and will cherish it forever. If only they could make that movie a reality and put Gwen Stefani in the lead role. You know you'd go see it!

IRCB: Oh I'd go see it for sure. I'm a casual Dazzler fan myself and really just like giving people a hard time about her. This may or may not be a sin against all that is wonderful about Dazzler but check out this little website and think of all your dreams coming true.

IRCB: So now to some serious business before we rap this up. DC Comics, you have any love for them or any other comic book publishers?

A: Those jokers got nuttin on the lovely Ms. Blaire.

A: As far as DC goes, about all I can stand is Batman and even that in limited doses. I find the storylines of the greater DC Universe to be needlessly convoluted to where I seriously think you may need some herbs to get what the hell is going on. I even read All Star Superman which is supposed to be one of the best freshest representations of the Man of Steel. I thought it wasn't bad, but they did start to go into things such as the Phantom Zone and Underverse and it made me want to hurt myself. With that being said, DC does own the Vertigo imprint and thus they are forgiven. Y The Last Man is the GREATNESS.

IRCB: HA HA HA . . . Vertigo does have some greatness. I enjoy DMZ and Fables is quite awesome also.

IRCB: Any other Independent comics on your radar?

A: I've read some Image (mainly Sam and Twitch) and Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows. Those were both a lot of fun. I would like to get more involved with some indys because it looks like there's a lot of quality out there.

IRCB: There are plenty of good Indy comics out there that will take you in all kinds of directions.

IRCB: Ok to wrap this all up tell us what you are currently reading and where you are (Issue numbers) so that we can check back in with you later and see where you are and when do you expect to be caught up so that you can go to the comic book store and buy what came out that week?

A: Well I'm currently in April 1983 so that puts me at Amazing 239, Marvel Team Up 128, New Mutants 2, Spectacular Spiderman 77 and on tap for tonight is Uncanny X-Men 168. Can't wait to see Kitty's response to Professor X demoting her to the New Mutants. Methinks she won't go down fighting. As far as getting caught up, I'm not really concerned about that. I read one book a day, so assuming I live to be at least 73 I'll get there. The important thing to me is getting every piece of the story one layer at a time. It's a long process but I have been having a blast with it and don't regret the journey for a minute.

IRCB: Thanks for the interview Ashley and for keepin' it real one comic at a time. I'll be checking in with you from time to time to see where you are and you can tell us what we missed . . . or forgot.

A: Not a problem. And remember kids: If you take everything you've accomplished in your life and condense it to one day, it looks decent.

IRCB: And knowing is half the battle!

- Kevin P. Johnson
Copyright © 2010 Kevin P. Johnson

Unless otherwise noted all images are copyright © 2010 Marvel Comics and are used as Fair Use Review images only. Images will be removed upon request of Marvel Comics.


Ok gang its been quite a while since I've posted and I think that all that life that got in the way is done now and I can get on a better schedule with this. When I say schedule I mean that I will be posting regularly but not on any particular day of the week. I hope to bring new post to you at least twice a week and hopefully more.

- Kevin P. Johnson