From Atlantis To Frewsburg

Atlanteans attack the world, a budding magician gets a re-release and a new pulp hero goes sleuthing for Dark Horse.

Oh, and there’s a toy show coming up in Frewsburg.

That and so much more as we delve into this month’s edition of “Nerding Out,” my monthly column about comic books, comic-related new media and other assorted geekery.

There’s a lot to cover this month, so let’s get to it!


Forget “Death of the Family.”

I mean, Batman versus the Joker? How many times have we done that? Sure, it concludes this month and, sure, it spans the pages of several different DC titles, but for my money, there’s really only one thing worth reading at DC right now – Aquaman!

I’ve written about the character and his place in DC’s “New 52” reboot before, but right now Geoff Johns has a crossover happening in the pages of both “Aquaman” and the “Justice League” comic book.

Do yourself a favor and start at the beginning. The entire “Aquaman” series so far has been one of the most satisfying of DC’s “New 52” reboot. There’s been few issues that don’t feel perfectly plotted and paced to build toward bigger ideas. Some of DC’s new titles meander from issue to issue and change in tone when changed out with new writers. Geoff Johns has been on the “Aquaman” title since the beginning of DC’s reboot though and has so far crafted 16 issues of story on par with what Scott Snyder’s been doing in the pages of “Batman,” all jokes about “Death of the Family” aside.

If you can’t come by the back issues, just download the prelude to “Throne of Atlantis” in “Aquaman” No. 14. The issue sets the stage for what’s to follow in “Justice League” No. 15, which is an all-out assault on Earth by the Atlantean armies of Aquaman’s brother. The series alternates between the two titles and concludes this month with the coming release of “Aquaman” issue 17.

TOY JAM 2013

Last month I briefly mentioned an upcoming event called “Winter Toy Jam.”

This month I intend to shout about it from the rooftops and take its info to the streets!

Scheduled for next Sunday, Feb. 10, Winter Toy Jam is a toy show and model contest happening here in Chautauqua County.

Set to be held in Frewsburg, the first-ever Winter Toy Jam will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with early-bird admission at 9 a.m.

According to organizers Ron Caldwell and Jason Vandevelde, there will be more than 40 vendors with everything from vintage and antique toys from the 1940s all the way on up through the 1980s and today. Think Mego, Tonka, Strutco, Star Wars, Barbie and more. Plus there will be comic books, vintage train sets, sports memorabilia and even vintage video game vendors.

Recently, Caldwell told me that vendors will be coming in from Rochester, Buffalo, Warren and Erie as well as from throughout Chautauqua County to participate in the event. Some of the toys which will be at the show can be seen at the duo’s Facebook page, WinterToyJam.

More than just a toy show, the event will feature a model car contest which will be open to all ages. There will be eight classes with trophies in each class and there will be a Best of Show trophy. And children are welcome to participate!

Buy, sell, trade or just check out the loads and loads of cool vintage toys. Stop in when it opens at 10 a.m. (or 9 a.m.) at the Frewsburg Fire Hall’s Blue Building on Hazzard Street.

Sponsors of the event include Jeremy’s Bel-View, V-Dubs Car Club, Gold Star Treasures, J&B Old Toy Shop, Actiontoy Man Toys & Collectibles, 360 Graphics, The Trophy House, VSK Emporium, Quick Cash, Jim Johnson with Real Estate Advantage and Craft World & Action Hobbies. People interested in the event should visit the duo’s Facebook page at WinterToyJam to keep up with the show.


Timothy Hunter trumps Harry Potter in all regards.

That’s just straight-up truth, a purely undebatable logical finding.

Timothy Hunter is the main protagonist in a series of comics called “The Books of Magic.”

Not only does Hunter pre-date Potter and all J.K. Rowling’s fiction, but he was created by Neil Gaiman. Neil-freaking-Gaiman!

Of course, I don’t need to dwell on this point. Tim Hunter’s “O.M.” status (original magician) isn’t the topic at hand. Plus, it’s self-evident. It speaks for itself. I don’t need to champion the Vertigo series and the fact that it clearly influenced the series of novels which followed.

Sorry. I never can let that pass without remark.

What I intended to write here was that the end of January brought with it a deluxe hardcover edition of Neil Gaiman’s original “Books of Magic” series.

Seeing the news of this new release excited me to no end. I’ve been digging back into my Vertigo roots, and though I’ve got a collection of the later “Books of Magic” comic series – I don’t have a proper edition of Gaiman’s initial run on the title.

Hunter is an everyman character created by Gaiman who is destined to become the world’s greatest magician. In Gaiman’s initial four-issue series, Hunter gets a tour of DC’s magical universe – meeting everyone from the Phantom Stranger and John Constantine to later Doctor Fate and Zatanna.

Backing up a bit to what I wrote at the outset of this section, I know debating the Hunter vs. Potter issue is a moot point. As Gaiman himself even said, he and Rowling were clearly just drinking from the same well. Few things in either series, even the earlier one, can really be credited as amazingly original. Perhaps that’s why they both resonate so deeply with people.

Gaiman himself has even said that he “wasn’t the first writer to create a young magician with potential, nor was Rowling the first to send one to school.”

So whichever your preferred book of choice, comic or novel, take a chance on the other format with either Gaiman or Rowling. I mean, I’ve never read the Potter series or even watched the movies. But, still … I think I’ll be re-reading “The Books of Magic” first, now that it’s been released again.


Two issues in one month!?

That was twice the mind-melting Morrison nonsense in January.

I mean, I love it, but every issue of “Batman, Incorporated” brings a whole new set of “What the what!?”

You know what I mean if you’ve been reading or even half-heartedly following along.

Still, in true Grant Morrison style, so much of the early confusion is starting to become clear as the series continues on.

Part of me loves it, but part of me hates how this second half of the series seem to render early issues as red herrings. Otto Netz!? I thought you were going to amount to so much more. Maybe DC’s “New 52” is to blame. That whole wave seemed to have caught Morrison mid-story and allowed him to almost start over again.

Still, January not only brought issues 6 and 7 of the New 52 “Batman, Incorporated” series, but it also saw the release of the trade paperback collecting the initial eight issues. I’m almost tempted to buy it and re-read the series from its first start all over again. I’m that much of a glutton for confusion when it comes to Morrison’s work.


Each week I write up comic book trivia questions for a friend who runs trivia in downtown Jamestown, the village of Lakewood and elsewhere. So with all that effort, why not spare a little monthly space here for some folks who might actually know the answer to a comic book question!?

Before it was a movie, “Kick-Ass” was an eight-issue comic book series by what Scottish writer? Skip to the “Assorted Etceteras” at the end of this month’s column for not only the answer, but another quick question!


I really should be thinking about “The Walking Dead,” but all I want to say is “Axe Cop, Axe Cop, Axe Cop.”

That’s right, the weird little webcomic created by two brothers – ages 29 and 5 – will soon be an animated series on Fox’s ADHD block of cartoons.

The new show is set for a July 27 debut, during the network’s new Adult Swim-style Saturday night block of animated programming. In terms of premise, the comic and cartoon are pretty straightforward: Axe Cop is a cop with an axe. But the real entertainment comes from the non sequiturs and other tangents thrown in by Malachai Nicolle, who was 5 when the comic strip launched back in 2009.

There’s an authentic quirkiness to the weird and random flow of ideas in each strip (and surely episode of the show). Take a look online to see what I’m talking about. I mean, we’ve got until July before this show debuts. The least we can do is catch up on the antics of flute cop and uni-avocado baby before it hits the airwaves.

In terms of live action adaptations, it’s always a good sign when a comic book project has the blessing of its creator. Back at the beginning of January, the website Spinoff Online reported that Showtime’s planned adaptation of the comic book “Chew” has the approval of artist Rob Guillory. Or maybe “approval” isn’t the right word. I think what was actually quoted was that Guillory said the project has “an awesome script” that’s “shockingly loyal to the comic.”

Sounds like an approval to me!

“All the favorite characters are there, and the tone is dead on,” Guillory’s been quoted as saying. “Stylistically, it’s about as close as you can get to something as weird as ‘Chew.'”

In the comics, “Chew” is the story of special agent Tony Chu, a cibopath who can see the life and eventual death of anything he eats. This special ability puts him into some pretty interesting situations as a detective. The first thing I ever read about the series summed it up as being about “an FDA agent who solves crimes by getting psychic impressions from the things he eats, including people.”

Pretty crazy stuff! And, yeah … he’s an FDA agent. The agency’s a pretty big deal in the comics, what with the world having outlawed poultry following a bird flu pandemic.

But enough telling about the series. Go pick up issue one from Image, or even the first few trades. There’s only 31 issues out, so there’s not a lot to catch up on. Give it a shot now before the series hits Showtime!


That’ll just about do it for me this month. Time to quit blathering and hit the books. First up on my list, “The Black Beetle” by Francesco Francavilla.

New from Dark Horse, this title, “The Black Beetle,” is being billed as “Super Noir” – a stylish blend of traditional superhero fare and vintage pulp detective sleuthing. Batman fans may recognize Francavilla’s name from his work on “The Black Mirror,” a Scott Snyder story which wrapped up just before DC’s “New 52” reboot. Intrigued? Check it out. Francavilla’s Black Beetle draws heavily from the pulp stories of the ’30s and ’40s and plays out more cinematic than most comic books. Though it’s only planned as a four-issue series for now, I could be on board with a longer run of “The Black Beetle” from Dark Horse.

And lastly, in answer to this month’s trivia question, Mark Millar is the name of the Scottish writer who created the “Kick Ass” comic book series. But who’s a more worthwhile read, him or Grant Morrison? Huh, fanboy? Who will you choose?

Chew on that for the coming month, and I’ll catch you back here with another installment of “Nerding Out.”

Nerding Out With Nick Dean is a monthly column about comic books, movies and more. For more, visit Nerding Out With Nick