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Friday, August 15, 2008

Con News and Assorted Tidbits

Wow. Hard to believe it's been over three weeks since my last post. We've been back for almost a week, and I've decided two-week vacations aren't all they're cracked up to be. I'd already grown bored and ready to come home nine or ten days in. That being said, however, let's catch up.


The Con was a blast! 'Course, I may not be the best judge of that, since my last one was 11 years ago. It was a Defcon, as well.

One of the most enlightening experiences I had while there was speaking with the creator of Marvel's Ghost Rider (the guy on the motorcycle, not the horse), Gary Friedrich. He spent a generous amount of time talking with me about his experiences in the Marvel Bullpen, working with the likes of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas. We also talked about the difference between horror writers who create and use mood to creep out readers, and those who ATTEMPT horrific story-telling simply by employing shock and gore. Big difference in there, somewhere. Gary's a great guy, and fun to talk to.

I also received a breathtaking Batman/Deathstroke sketch from Steve Erwin, which is pictured below. Steve is one of the more low-key professionals in comics. Extremely talented, completely approachable, and not a hint of self-awareness, he's one of my favorites in the business. Without going into detail, I'll also say he's one of the more reasonable artists out there, not charging fans an arm and a leg for his work.

Be sure to click that sketch, by the way, to do it real justice.

Probably most memorable, however, was the time I spent speaking with Michael Vance, creator and co-author of the Suspended Animation column. We communicate primarily by email and the occasional phone call, so it's always nice to get to spend a few hours with the guy, talking about family, church, comics..., you know, the important stuff in life. (Michael will be writing his last S.A. column in a few months - more on that further down.) Thanks for letting me hang out at your table, buddy!

Of course, it wouldn't be a proper con report if I didn't brag on at least ONE back issue acquisition. The one I consider the most important is the very first 3-D comic, published in 1953. Three Dimension Comics, which stars Mighty Mouse, can actually boast Joe Kubert as a contributor. I'm not sure even the Overstreet Price Guide makes note of that. And, hey, those are probably Golden Age stains on the cover, too!

Top the Con off with family trips to the Oklahoma Aquarium (an amazing place) and the Tulsa Zoo, and lots of quality time with extended family, and it makes it a vacation to remember.

And, yet, we were THRILLED to be home again. Isn't it funny how that works?

Well, again, in the spirit of catching up, here's the review that should have gone up last weekend.


The Dare Detectives, published by Dark Horse Books, 96 pages, digest-sized, $5.95

“Frantic” is defined, in part, as “done in a hurried and chaotic way.” It is also the first word that comes to my mind when describing the first issue of The Dare Detectives. Understand, I mean that in the very best way.

First of all, “frantic” describes the action, which nearly runs from the first to the last page. It is action that is peppered with good humor throughout. It is almost as if the 100-mile-an-hour doings are more of a set-up for the ha-ha’s than action for action’s sake. And I did, by the way. “Ha-ha” that is.

The humor is something like a cross between Looney Tunes and the late-80's era Justice League by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. With a funny talking rabbit. I bet some of you will “ha-ha” as well.

The subdued sequences come at the right times and serve their purpose of setting up more conflict and action.

The characters themselves show hints of interesting characterization. Though, as of the first issue, they do take a back seat to the star of the show, The Action.

All of this is to say that creator/writer Ben Caldwell did a good job writing his baby. His timing, sense of drama and humor (Have I mentioned humor...?) are to be admired. Before Detectives, I couldn’t tell you the last time a comic book made me laugh.

“Frantic” also describes Caldwell’s art style. It reminds me of the work of Tex Avery and Kyle Baker, but still has it’s own flair and sense of Saturday morning “cartoony” fun. It is so charged with kinetic energy, I can imagine the artist scribbling away at his drawing table, while flailing about wildly, acting the scenes out as he puts a story together, ala Stan Lee.

I discovered Detectives late, as it was published in 2004. Better late than never. MUCH better. Highly recommended for teens and up.

Review by Mark Allen


Finally, Michael Vance will be wrapping up his 20-year tenure on Suspended Animation in a few months. I have to admit, the thought of continuing the column without him is a bit scary. More than anything, however, I am grateful that he "brought me in" eight years ago. Thanks for the confidence in me, Michael. I'll keep cranking out the reviews in the hopes of bringing in new adult readers, the same reason you started Suspended Animation all those years ago.

Anyway, following is Michael's farewell address, which went out Friday in place of the usual weekly review.


I grew up in the 1950s in a small town of about 12,000 to 15,000 people named Seminole in Oklahoma. Among the first things I began to read on my own were comic strips and comic books. I have loved the artform almost all of my life, and it was Alley Oop, Captain Easy, Superman and Herbie, among many other titles, that inspired me to become a writer. That’s why it’s difficult to say goodbye.

In my life, I was blessed with the opportunity to write many columns about comics, publish many interviews with comics writers and artists, write a history book about the artform, and found the Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection inside the Toy and Action Figure Museum in Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma.

I also created this column.

On February of 1989, I wrote: “The truth, however, is that there are comics for adults, and they are capable of looking profoundly into the human condition”, and Suspended Animation was born.

I also wrote: “The purpose of this new weekly column is to review the best and worst in comics. We will review comics written and drawn solely to entertain as well as comics with political, religious, and philosophical slants”.

In February of 2009, I will have gladly done so for twenty years. At that time, I will retire from Suspended Animation.

At the height of its popularity, it was published in dozens of newspapers and magazines, featured on more than one hundred websites, and read by four million folks interested in comics.

It’s been a blast.

Suspended Animation will continue under the capable pen of current co-author and comics fan Mark Allen.

I thank the readers of this column for allowing me to write about a first love, and thank Mark for continuing the weekly column.

See ya in the funny pages.

Michael Vance