Wednesday, May 27, 2015
In September of 2011 after the Flashpoint event, DC Comics did a somewhat relaunch of all their titles called the new 52. The most popular titles stayed somewhat the same others were changed drastically. I had not been interested in DC’s main superhero stuff at this point. I used this to try to get back into the characters I loved as a kid. What interested me though was a group of titles in the adventure, science fiction, and supernatural genres that were doing something different than the usual superhero comics. These were titles like Animal Man, Swamp Thing, All-Star Western with Jonah Hex, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Justice League Dark, Men of War, G.I. Combat, Dial H, Resurrection Man, Demon Knights, Sword and Sorcery, Phantom Stranger, Trinity of Sin, Trinity of Sin: Pandora, The Movement, Threshold, and Stormwatch. DC Comics also in this new continuity merged some titles and characters from Vertigo and Wildstorm with their main DC universe.
This led to a renaissance with some characters; characters like Jonah Hex, the Flash, Amethyst, Aquaman, Animal Man and Swamp Thing had gained new popularity and audiences. It also was a great jumping point for new readers. There were growing pains. Many titles with minority characters as the title character were cancelled with their first year. The diversity of the creators was called into question. A disabled character was no longer disabled, and that chapped some hides. A few characters that were beloved went on missing for years after the reboot. Many of the diverse genre titles had their titles cancelled as well. This led to a glut of superhero books. DC’s universe had been more diverse and hopefully it shall again.
One example of a questionable reboot was Shazam/ Captain Marvel and his alter Ego Billy Batson. The character known for a youthful and hopeful perspective had become jaded and cynical. This is antithetical to the original concept of the character. For many titles they brought back creators for the 1990’s who no longer had a real following. Many critics of the Comic Book Industry saw this as a failure by DC Comics to see the forest for the trees.
After the Convergence event in April 2015, they are going to reset things to a point again. Many of the titles I found unique and interesting did not last that long. DC Comics kept all their mainstream superhero books. There were a few exceptions, like Constantine and Justice League Dark. Some of their newer titles are going to try to keep a diversity of genres, like Omega Men, Doomed, Section 8, Prez, Bat-Mite and Bizarro. At the end of the Convergence event DC Comics is retiring the New 52 branding, but most of their titles will follow the continuity begun with the New 52.
I am going to give my impressions to the books from the New 52 I have read. I tried the first issue of almost all the First Wave of the New 52 titles. After that I followed the titles, found interesting.
The first story arc was about the first meeting and founding of the Justice League. It featured the team of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman. In the second year it included a Shazam Origin back-up story. The catalyst for it was the first attempts of invasion by Darkseid. The story was well developed and the title is still strong.
This title created a renaissance for Aquaman. It presented what a modern well written Aquaman title could be. The first issue poked fun at many of the stereotypes people have thrust onto the character over the decades.
This was a return to a more mythic group of stories. There were some issues. Wonder Woman seemed to need assistance from male heroes. The writer, Brian Azzarello, seemed to take much of Diana’s independence away. He also made her the child of Zeus. I felt these were a lack of understanding of the character. Mythic parts of these arcs were fun, but the heavy male supporting cast took away much of the message at the character’s core.
This was a great launching point. The creative team gave the rogues inherent powers instead of weapon based. I kept on for two years. It had much of the fun and whimsy that is totally The Flash.
It was decent, but not a character I am a big fan of. I read the first issue only.
DC Universe Presents
This started with Deadman and was followed by the Challengers of the Unknown, Vandal Savage, and Black Lightning and Blue Devil. There were also one-shot issues with Kid Flash, Arsenal, Starfire and they finished the Beowulf story from Sword and Sorcery in the final issue. I enjoyed this anthology series, as I do that kid of title.
The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men
It was a decent story and Firestorm is my favorite of the Nuclear based superheroes; however I stopped at one issue. The reason for stopping was I was no longer familiar with the newest version of this character.
Green Arrow is one of my favorite DC characters and this was very different point of view. It used ideas from the Smallville TV Series and pre-dated the Arrow series. I stayed on for the first year.
Justice League International
A UN sanctioned version of the Justice League made up of Batman, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Rocket Red (Gavril Ivanovich), Green Lantern (Guy Gardner), Vixen, August General in Iron, and Godiva. I only read the first issue. It was OK, but did not speak to me.
This starred the Modern version of Mister Terrific that had been featured in JSA. There is not JSA in this version of the DC Universe so is story is slightly different. I enjoyed it and followed it until its end.
The Savage Hawkman
This is another of my favorite DC characters. This turned out to be the Silver Age version, Thanagarian Katar Hol. I loved it, until Rob Liefeld joined the creative team. I am not a fan of Mr. Liefeld’s. It was passable with Liefeld, it improved when he left. I followed it until the title ended.
Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight, Detective Comics
I am not a big Batman fan I read all the first issues of these titles. They were very good, bit not my preference.
This is the return of Barbara Gordon to the mantle. It was controversial to have her recover from her paralysis. Very well written, but again I am not a Batman Family fan.
This is another well done book. Again I read the first issue. It is another Batman Family book, so I did not continue.
This book sadly was not well done. It was very disappointing.
Red Hood and the Outlaws
Two thirds of this team were characters I loved. That could not help it with it being badly written. I was not a fan of the portrayals of Starfire or Arsenal.
I did not care for the concept of Batman for a whole continent. The comics industry has a bad habit of treating
Africa like one country when it is
Birds of Prey
This was a great launching point for the series. New characters were mixed with older ones. It even had Poison Ivy and the team at one point. I followed for a year or so.
Of all the Batman family characters, I have the longest history with this one. However it had been decades since I followed him. I felt lost, so I only read the first issue. Still it was a good title.
This was a solid series. I did not continue after the first issue with it since my not being much of a Superman fan.
This was a retelling of the Kon-El version of Superboy. It was an interesting take as with the Batman Family I tend not to read the Superman Family books either.
This was a retelling of Kara Zor-El’s origin. Well written based on the first issue. Again I did not continue since it was a Superman Family book.
This was initially about the early years of Superman’s career as written by Grant Morrison. I enjoyed the story and stayed on for 9 months. I left because I am not that big a Superman fan.
This was one of the titles that picked right up where the Pre-New 52 left off. It was the end of Geoff Johns run. It was a great story. It followed Sinestro and Hall
after Hal has been stripped of his ring and it is given to Sinestro. I stayed till Johns left.
Green Lantern Corps
This followed John Stewart and Guy Gardner with the rest of the Green Lantern Corps. It was continuing the story Post Blackest Night. This was a solid title. Later it became just John’s story.
Green Lantern: New Guardians
Originally it was the story of Kyle Rayner and representatives from each of the other Color Spectrum Lantern Corps. Then it was about Kyle becoming the White Lantern and harnessing the power of all the color spectrums.
This was originally the story of Atrocitus, founder and leader of the Red Lantern Corps and how he was trying to lead the Corps in a more productive way. Their emotional lynchpin is Rage. Later it was the story of Guy Gardner becoming a Red Lantern as a mole for the Green Lantern Corps.
This was the Jaime Reyes version of the character. It was after my time. I found it interesting and fun. I really was not interested, since I am a Ted Kord era guy.
This was more based on the Post Young Justice version of the characters. I was there from the introduction of Tim Drake, but he was not my Robin. I passed. It was decently written and drawn.
Hawk and Dove
Rob Liefeld returning to the title he got his big break on. I did not even read this. I am not a fan of Mr. Liefeld’s.
This was about a group of members of the Legion of Super-Heroes stuck in the 21st Century. Again solid title but I was lost with characters they where not the versions I was familiar with.
Legion of Super-Heroes
As like most of the previous Legion of Super-Heroes this was about a group of teenage superheroes living a thousand years from now. This covered the group not lost in time. Again solid title but I was lost with characters they where not the versions I was familiar with.
This was the relaunch of the Milestone Comics character in the DC Universe. I was a fan of the original, but teen oriented titles are not my speed these days. It was solidly written.
This was the return of Jonah Hex to the main DC Universe. He had been in the Vertigo line since the 1990’s like, Swamp Thing and Constantine. It was little less weird than that era, except for the storyline where he was in the present. The first storyline had him in
teamed with the founder of Arkham Asylum.
It even had a storyline where Hex ended up in the 21st
Century. I followed it till 2014. I enjoyed it. Gotham City
This was the re-imagining of the 1940’s heroic fighter squadron as a civilian military contractor. I read the first issue and left soon. It was OK, but did not interest me.
Deathstroke AKA the Terminator AKA Deathstroke the Terminator, he received his own title. I was not really impressed and of the villains that could get their own title, this would not be my choice.
This was the re-imagining of the Wild Storm character in the DC Universe. It was interesting, but he is not a favorite of mine and I loss interest in it.
Men of War
This followed a descendent of the World War II character Sgt. Rock. It was how the military dealt with the devastation of super powered being. I liked it, but it only lasted 8 issues.
This was a modern take on the Jack Kirby character. I was not a fan of the original and not of the reboot.
Stormwatch was a revamp of Stormwatch and Authority. It included Martian Manhunter as a member. Initially I enjoyed it, but the further it went on, the more I grew to be disappointed.
Super Villains and sometime superheroes forced to work as a team for the government on Suicide missions. No matter what version of this there is it works on so many levels. I enjoyed it, but I left after a while. It was not the writing; it was not my kind of stories.
Here is another Wild Storm character put into the DC universe. It was very compelling, I did not have the funds to continue and there were other titles I preferred.
Justice League Dark
This was a collection of mystical character from DC’s catalog. Many that were solely Vertigo characters who now existed or existed again in the DC universe. It was a wonderful ride, as the title suggests a darker super team.
Animal Man was a return of the character seen both in Vertigo and the main DC universe. The character was a champion of the Red, the thing that connects all in the animal kingdom. This was an interesting and intense take on the character.
Demon Knight was a collection of mystical and mythical DC characters from the Middle Ages. It was a good series that did end, sadly enough.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Frankenstein’s Monster is a secret agent living in a microscopic city base. This was an insane trill ride of a book. It included a new version of the Creature Commandos. Ray Palmer (sometimes known as the Silver Age Atom) had designed the technology that allow the city to be microscopic and was the resident scientific advisor of the secret agency known as S.H.A.D.E. I loved it and it lasted little over a year.
This was the return of an old Vampire comic from the early eighties. I was not impressed with this series and only bought those connected to other series after the first issue.
This was about an amnesiatic man who dies and comes back with a new super power after each death. It lasted a year and resolved the main mystery.
Swamp Thing is the Avatar of the Green, the force that connects all plant life. Great series I enjoyed it a good deal.
This was the introduction of the New 52 version of the Huntress. In outwards appearance it seemed to be the same character from the Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe. It turned out to be a variation of the Pre-Crisis character.
This was a continuation of the story of the character from the Starman series. It did not seem connected at all to the New 52. Still great series and story, it explored the origins of the character.
This was the re-inventing of the Golden Age versions of the DC Universe. It also was set in the present instead of the 1930’s and 1940’s. It was a great story.
World’s Finest was a follow up to The Huntress series. It features Power Girl and the Huntress as the titular World’s Finest, which is usually a Batman Family member with a Superman Family member. Both characters are originally from the New 52 version of Earth 2. I enjoyed it.
This series brought back the War that Time Forgot, soldiers on a dinosaur inhabited island. It also brought back the Unknown Soldier and the Haunted Tank. All were set in the modern era. I liked it, but I also have a soft spot for the original stories these were based on.
This was a series of one shots that took minor characters (Kid Eternity, Madame X, Rose and Thorn, and Looker) and tried to do interesting things with them. It used superhero concepts without the overt trappings. I liked them they took the ideas of the characters and turn them on their head.
Human Bomb, The Ray, Phantom Lady and Doll Man
These three series seemed to be leading up to a Freedom Fighters series, but it never coalesced. I enjoyed the modern re-inventing of many of the golden Age characters from Quality Comics.
This was a min-series that brought back a horror/ supernatural comic and tried to present it to modern audiences. It had its original writer and co-creator on the helm of this title. It was very suspenseful and had a Lovecraftian tone to it.
Originally a Wildstorm title, this reboot merged Wildstorm with several DC character all covert or Special Forces characters. One character included was Black Canary; this was used to re-write her origin. It was a good story, but it fell to the way-side due to lack of funds.
Sword and Sorcery
This was a re-boot for Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, Beowulf and Stalker. It lasted only 9 issues. It created fresh well done versions of all three stories.
The Phantom Stranger
Here was another mystical DC character getting the New 52 treatment. This series was very dark and edgy.
Threshold was a re-imagining of various future and space based DC characters including a Green Lantern and the Jaime Reyes version of the Blue Beetle. They even made new versions of Captain Carrot and Pig Iron. I enjoyed it immensely.
Many of the Vertigo character that used to be part of the DC Universe were returned to it in the New 52. John Constantine was one of those. Many think of this version as Constantine Lite. The stories were still well written and they got the essence of the character right.
Justice League of
This was a
government backed version of the Justice League, created in case the main team
went rogue. It had a team of many Pre-New 52 Justice League members. It was well done and it ended after the
Forever Evil event.
Lafleeze, AKA Agent Orange, the only
power ring wielder, received his own title.
He started as a back-up story on Threshold. They book had multiple humor elements,
especially since the orange power ring operates off of Avarice/ Greed.
What if the Occupy movement inspired super powered beings? That is what you have with the Movement. Are they good or are they bad? It depends on which side of the socio-economic divide you find yourself. I enjoyed it and it too was short lived, twelve issues.
Trinity of Sin: Pandora
One of the Trinity of Sin characters, the other two being Phantom Stranger and the new version of the Question. She was pivotal to the Forever Evil event. I followed a handful of issues and enjoyed what I read.
Justice League 3000
Justice League 3000 was a future version of the team set in the 31st century. It was meant to replace the much beloved Legion of Super-Heroes, which were revealed to be form another timeline. It was interesting, but did not really grab me.
Seventh Wave through Ninth Wave
By this time I was not interested in newer titles even though two piqued my interest, I never picked either up. They were Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie and Trinity of Sin.
These were my impressions and descriptions of those books. I find myself drifting away further and further fro Superhero comics, even though they continue to invade popular media. The Post-Convergence DC Universe is set to include some profound changes to iconic characters. I am going to stick to my non-spandex choices of comics. This Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
In my Road to wellness, I have learned that in order to get healthier I need to forego many convenience foods. What that mean is that no more Hamburger Helper, canned chili con carne, canned soups, frozen dinners, frozen burritos, Hot Pockets, corn dogs, and more. There are a handful I will still buy like Zatarain’s rice dishes, Thai Kitchen’s rice noodle brick soups, Carroll Shelby’s chili con carne starter, sandwich fixings, canned vegetables and frozen vegetables. Carroll Shelby’s is basically a spice mix with thickener, masa flour.
The last week of April 2015, I made a roasted turkey and shoyu chicken (chicken with soy sauce, ginger and sugar, I usually use honey instead). The first week of May half of my cooking was prep work. I had to bake my tortillas chips, roast my Poblano chilies and roast my garlic. I also made tzatziki sauces, salsa, hummus, and guacamole. May’s menu included sopa de lima (Yucatan chicken and lime soup ) Filipino pork adobo, Carroll Shelby's chili, pork cooked in Jalapeno jelly tacos, dirty rice, chili Relleno casserole, chorizo and eggs, sandwiches, homemade salsa, oven baked tortilla chips with olive oil, homemade guacamole, homemade hummus, homemade tzatziki sauce, and bratwursts and mashed potatoes.
One of the things I missed about cooking from scratch regularly was being able to play mad scientist with my dishes. I have an innate knack of being able to come up with variations of recipes when a see or eat a dish. In May I had crispy tacos with potato filling. The potatoes were mashed; I figured why not, do that with plantains, a starchier type of banana. I had been wracking my brain to combine Japanese and Mexican foods. Years ago I came up with making ceviche with Japanese flavors, now the new idea is adding wasabi to guacamole. In making my own salsa I got to play with chili peppers I missed using, Poblanos and Aniheims. I get to make my hummus to my particular tastes. I will no longer be happy with what some corporations tells me is tasty. I will be able to make things to my tastes.
Relearning how to cook and having to go back and find recipes is both fun and frustrating at times. I realized that fresh salsa is more like Pico de Gallo, which I am not a big fan of. I also learned I bought too much food in the month of May, the first month I started cooking from scratch. I found out after I purchased can chickpeas/ garbanzo beans that many hummus recipes call for dried chickpeas / garbanzo beans. I learned that one lime is sufficient for a single batch of guacamole.
Re-learning to shop is also a struggle. You shop differently for scratch cooking than you do when eating a lot of convenience foods. I am also going to consult my recipes prior to shopping. By not consulting the recipes I had too many return trips to the grocery store. This is nothing new, in my twenties and early thirties I cooked from scratch 90% to 80% of the time. In my mid-thirties till now, it was less than 10%.
So far the mistakes I have made are the learning kind. In cooking there is another kind of mistake, the glorious kind. This is the kind of mistake that a flub leads to a new discovery in flavor. Like the time I used tomato sauce instead of canned tomatoes for a lamb dish. This led to my turning Armenian lamb shanks into Armenian lamb sauce on spinach pasta with parmesan and feta. This happened over several dishes.
My experimenting with what works and does not is the part of cooking I love. I seriously missed it. Mind you, I did not realize how much I missed it until I started creating my menu. On my book shelf, I moved some books into storage, so I could put my cookbooks up there. With the internet, finding recipes for dishes not found in my cookbooks is a wonderful resource that opens up the possibilities. I find myself doing what I did years ago, modifying recipes to fit my personal tastes. That is what a good cook and/ or chef does. Those modifications represent cumulatively a particular taste and style of the cook.
I have posted my menus for May and June on my Facebook page. They have got good responses. Even though most of my tastes in food are Latin/ Hispanic and East Asian, I will try anything. With in my entrees and snacks there have been Mexican, Cuban, Thai, Filipino, Japanese, Hawaiian, Russian, German, Greek, Middle Eastern, Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex, and American dishes. Those who know me know I come from a Multi-Cultural background both personally and by influence. It is no surprise my food reflects that. I am fairly adventurous with food. The only area I am very picky is sweets.
There are still places I want to explore in food. Once I get my blender I will start making sorbet with no added sweeteners. I am becoming a big proponent of olive oil. It is healthy and known to help with good cholesterol. I am also using organic and/ or Greek yogurt, for probiotics. I need to add some more seafood to my diet, my situation makes that difficult unless it is canned. I am working to reduce gluten, specifically wheat from for diet. Milk is down to cheese and yogurt. I am using reduced sodium products. Some fat free and low fat products are not good. I am relearning to read labels and pay attention. Some dishes are healthier than others, this is still better than the old convenience foods. This is my journey and it changes as I go along, I keep what works and jettison what does not.