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The Ten Percent: ‘American Gods’

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

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Greetings and welcome to another installment of The Ten Percent! Every two weeks (well, roughly), Ensley F. Guffey and I use this space to take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the small portion of everything which is not crud. Viewed as a whole, Sturgeon was, sadly, right – the vast majority of movies, television, writing, art, and so on really is crud – but there has always been that slim slice of sublime. The Ten Percent isn’t limited by genre – I think our previous columns have proven that point – and that’s because these rare gems are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception.

I have, on occasion, discussed an entry that makes the cut on The Ten Percent in more than one category, such as a book and the movie made from the book. It’s hard enough to create ONE fantastic thing; to create a Ten-Percent-worthy work in more than a single medium is truly catching lightning in a bottle.

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31 Days Of Horror 2016 Ticks Down To “Neil Gaiman’s Midnight Days” On The Wednesday Run

neil-gaimans-midnight-days-coverThe clock is ticking down and the midnight hour is close at hand! Well, the only midnight hour worth mentioning, really…and that’s the midnight of All Hallows Eve.

As Presidential candidate Donald Trump might say: “It’s a fantastic midnight hour, the best midnight hour, believe me.” And for once, he might be right in his horrific exuberance.

We here at Biff Bam Pop! would certainly agree, and as we continue with our daily 31 Days of Horror series of articles, a tribute to all things spooky this Halloween season, this weekly Wednesday Run column gets in on the act one last time – with another sampling of comic book storytelling you need to get your hands on.

Prepare yourselves, then, for the grandest of grand midnight hour tales! Prepare yourself with a collection of some of the best horror, fantasy and strangeness you’ll ever come across, in any season, with today’s release of Neil Gaiman’s Midnight Days!

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Trailer Time: Lucifer

The trailer for FOX’s Lucifer, based on the Vertigo series is here and it is excellent. Take a look and let us know if you agree.

Hell Finally Freezes Over In Hellblazer #300 On The Wednesday Run – February 20, 2013

If you’re a regular to Biff Bam Pop!, John Constantine, everyone’s favourite mystical hellblazer, needs no introduction. We’ve written about the character a number of times here, most recently with the news of the cancellation of his long-running Vertigo Comics series called, appropriately enough, John Constantine: Hellblazer. You can read that article here.

I don’t need to reiterate my disappointment, which actually verges on anger, over that particular decision. The monthly Hellblazer title is the longest standing comic book that I have continuously read. I was there when Constantine first appeared within the pages of Saga of the Swamp Thing (issue #37) in June 1985 under the pen of writer Alan Moore. And I was there when the popular character received his own series in 1988, written by the great Jamie Delano and foundationally illustrated by John Ridgeway.

That was twenty-five years ago, the series continuing each month, uninterrupted. Until now.

Hell has finally frozen over for our trench coat-wearing, silk-cut smoking, demon-slaying hellblazer.

Dammit.

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The Wednesday Run – November 2, 2011 – Absolute Sandman Volume 5

Halloween is over, alas.

That means that as of 12:00:01 AM, November 1st, stores have already stocked their shelves with upcoming “holiday” goods. Actually, I’m hearing stories from shoppers that the seasonal winter stuff was readily available right after the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday in early October. It all sounds a little too neurotic for me. The world needs to take a collective chill pill.

That said, the comic book industry is no different than what goes on at your local retail mall.

Throughout November and early December, all the big gift-giving sort of books get published – and make no mistake, this week starts it all off! There’s lots of stuff available, all at different price points. If you’re looking for a quick read, I’d suggest Uncanny X-Men #1, a new, monthly series from Marvel Comics featuring the always amazing artwork of Carlos Pacheco. It’s only a few bucks. If you want to sit down with something for a while, pick up the deluxe hardcover collection of Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy’s Joe the Barbarian mini series. It’s a bit steeper at $30 for 224 pages, but it’s well worth your money and, more importantly, your time. Stunning stuff.

Or, if you’re like me, you’ll go to the top of snowy Mount Everest:

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A Biff Bam Pop! Exclusive Interview: JW Ward talks with The Unwritten’s Mike Carey Part Two

If you missed part one of the Biff Bam Pop! exclusive interview with Mike Carey, writer of the Felix Castor novels, X-Men: Legacy and Vertigo’s Lucifer, you missed quite a treat.  To catch up, click here.

In part two, Mike Carey describes the evolution of his latest Vertigo series The Unwritten, his creative process and what else is coming from him in the very near future.

Oh, and spoilers on.  Better safe than sorry…

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A Biff Bam Pop! Exclusive Interview: JW Ward talks with The Unwritten’s Mike Carey

If you ever passed Mike Carey on the street, you probably wouldn’t even notice him.

The 52-year-old man stands at an average height and is of average build, with a full head of greying hair.  He smiles easily, but not too much or too little.  To those that greet him, he offers a handshake of reasonable strength; not aggressive, but not soft or loose either.

Even his name, remarkably unremarkable, can slip from the mind with ease.

If you’ve read X-Men: Legacy from Marvel Comics, Vertigo’s The Unwritten or the Eisner Award-nominated Sandman spinoff series Lucifer from 2000 to 2006 however, Mike Carey is impossible to forget.

Originally from Liverpool, England, Carey has enjoyed a career writing comic books that spans over three decades and over 40 titles that also include Vertigo’s Hellblazer, Dynamite Entertainment’s Red Sonja: She-Devil with a Sword and Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Fantastic Four, in addition to publishing a series of novels about an exorcist-for-hire named Felix Castor.

In Toronto recently for a signing at local comic book store The Beguiling and as the guest of honour at the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium, Carey sat down with Biff Bam Pop! for a half-hour chat on his many works and his approach to the art of storytelling.

In part one of our interview, Mike discusses how he became a writer, working on Vertigo Comics’ Sandman spinoff Lucifer, and how he landed his recently-ended gig writing Marvel’s not-so merry band of mutants in X-Men: Legacy.

If you’re not a fan of spoilers, beware.

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The Wednesday Run – June 29, 2011

Every Wednesday, JP makes the after-work run to his local downtown comic book shop. Comics arrive on Wednesdays you see and JP, fearful that the latest issue will sell out, rushes out to purchase his copy. This regular, weekly column will highlight a particularly interesting release, written in short order, of course, because JP has to get his – before someone else does!

Ultimate Six
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by: Trevor Hairsine, Joe Quesada and Mark Bagley
Published by: Marvel Comics Comics

Once in a while a comic book is released that will make you stand up and say: “Interesting…very interesting!” Ultimate Six from Marvel Comics is one of those books. And it’s interesting for a number of reasons.

I missed this title when it was first published as a seven issue mini series back in 2003-2004. I’m not the biggest Marvel follower and I usually get my reads from the “House of Ideas” borrowed off of BBP’s Editor-in-Chief, Andy B. A few years back, he lent me Ultimate Avengers, written by Brian Michael Bendis and I really liked it. The Ultimates line of comics was not beholden or encumbered by history and Avengers felt really fresh in this new world. Of course, there was an Ultimate Spider-Man series as well and with that came the original monthly run of Ultimate Six.

Who are the Ultimate Six?

Well, any self-respecting Marvel Comics fan, specifically a Spider-Man fan, knows about the Sinister Six, the web-head’s most dastardly villains: Doctor Octopus, the Vulture, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio and the Sandman.

Then again, maybe not.

Those names have changed through the years and there was even a “Sinister Seven” and a “Sinister Twelve” at one point. But with the Ultimate version of things, those names changed again. In Ultimate Six, the characters of Mysterio and Vulture get dropped in favour of the Green Goblin and…Spider-Man himself! Yeah, the bad guys try to recruit our hero!

“Very interesting!” you say? Brothers and sisters, that’s just half of it.

This series has been collected twice before, in the various Ultimate Spiderman collections, so if you have either of those, then you’ve got this. And now we get this new hardcover compilation. That’s four publications and counting! Sinister cash grab, indeed! But I trust Spider-Man in the hands of writer Bendis. He’s got a way with this character that is true to the long-establish persona of Peter Parker but with a 21st century take that breaths new life into old ideas.

I’ll tell you something else that’s interesting: if you look at the Marvel Comics solicits for this book, you’ll see that Mark Bagley’s name is front and centre. In fact, Trevor Hairsine illustrated the vast majority of this book but Bagley is a big name in comics and big names move books. That’s probably good news for Hairsine as he probably gets a cut of units sold – but I still find the billing mildly curious.

Ultimate Six should prove to be an old-fashioned, rip-roaring good time as far as comic books are concerned. And if you’re new to Spider-Man or the Marvel Universe in general, don’t worry. In the Ultimate’s world, you don’t need to know any history. Just dive in!

So make the run this Wednesday and give Ultimate Six a sinister glance if not a sinister go.

The Wednesday Run – May 4, 2011

Every Wednesday, JP makes the after-work run to his local downtown comic book shop. Comics arrive on Wednesdays you see and JP, fearful that the latest issue will sell out, rushes out to purchase his copy. This regular, weekly column will highlight a particularly interesting release, written in short order, of course, because JP has to get his – before someone else does!


Delirium’s Party: A Little Endless Storybook
Written and Illustrated by: Jill Thompson
Published by: Vertigo Comics

There’s a comic shop in the city of Toronto that Biff Bam Pop’s Editor-In-Chief, Andy B, and I like to visit. In that store is a tall, rectangular, glass display case that holds a number of different comic, anime, sci-fi and fantasy figurines and statues of all different sizes and shapes. Every time I walk into that store, my eyes are immediately drawn to the middle shelf and the tiny, squat, two-inch high Japanese manga versions of the seven brothers and sisters of the Endless family from the Sandman series of comic books. One of these days, I’m gonna leave that store with the set. It’s a bit of a dream, if you catch my meaning.

Who here remembers the Sandman? Ok, ok! Put your hands down!

For that one person in the back of the interweb that doesn’t know what the rest of us are talking about, The Sandman was a fantasy series of comic books written by author (before he was a “book” author) Neil Gaiman and illustrated by a host of fine artists back in the late 1980’s and through the 1990’s. To the point: it was an amazing, much-loved series, redefining the comic book genre and winning a World Fantasy Award among many others, while it was at it. Go look it up. There are trades, hardcovers and beautiful over-sized Absolute Editions that reprint the entire series.

A few years back, Jill Thompson, one of those fine artists on the Sandman series, wrote and illustrated a sort of “kids” version of the Endless family (which was the Sandman’s extended family), affectionately called “The Little Endless Storybook.” The 64-page softcover publication was very well received by fans and critics alike and now Thompson and her water-colour illustrations of Dream (who was the Sandman, of course), his sister Delirium, sister Death, twin sisters Despair and Desire, brothers Destruction and Destiny (as well as everyone’s favourite canine pal, Barnabus) return with the “Delirium’s Party” hardcover.

If you ever loved – or plan to love – the Sandman comic, or, 20 years after it’s first publication, would like to see a young son or daughter enter the lives of the Endless family at an early age, “Delirium’s Party” is a wonderful fantasy world where you and your own family could happily adventure.

Make the Wednesday Run this week and let your child (and your own inner child) have some fun reading stunning, visual storytelling. And while you’re at it, pick up the brand new hardcover reprint of the original “The Little Endless Storybook,” released today as well!

Two dreams to share on the same Wednesday. What’s better than that?

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