"Where do dreams end and nightmares begin?"

With these ominous words, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez begin their preview and teaser of the New Teen Titans.  And the world was never the same...

You'll notice on this image a couple uses of the word free; this cover was not itself an exterior cover to a comic book, but was instead an interior "free" story within another comic called DC Comics Presents #26 which has the cover date of October 1980.  In their efforts to raise interest for the new series, DC Comics was seeking to get word out that this would be a different Titans team than the recently failed reboot.  You'll note the word "New" is even highlighted in a bright green.  "Trust us, it is new and different. Please give us a chance."  According to Wolfman, in the financial straights that DC was currently facing, they tended to cancel every new series after 6 issues.  Thus, no new series was surviving and ultimately the company was trending downwards.  Pérez especially seemed certain that this series would not last, but he figured it would at least get his DC work underway.

And under this cloud of impending doom, the first appearance of the team which would ultimately take over DC's sales hits the shelves.  The company was obviously attempting to give it a more than fair chance, showing some support of the quality herein. I have no idea if this preview was a key means of their eventual success or not, but herein, I will discuss this 15-page preview along with the characters presented, new and old.

Dreams of Things to Come:

Opening up with a sentence mentioning dreams and nightmares probably gives the reader of this little story a fake impression of what is to come.  It will end with the line "Where do nightmares end and reality begin?"  Yet if this little adventure of foretelling was supposed to induce Philip K Dickesque questions of truth and perception, it fell well short.

Wolfman frames his introductory story as a piggyback ride for the audience on the shoulders of Robin the Boy Wonder (the most recognizable character of the bunch) as he experiences a bizarre step into his future to witness a new team of Teen Titans, three of which both he and the reader have never met.  Robin is utilized as the Alice of normalcy in a little Looking-Glass adventure, Robin's questions being shared by the uncertain reader.

Throughout the story you feel the page limit: this thing is fast.  No time to spare, so we have your traditional wonky dialogue explain-aways of what they cannot fit onto the panel.  The initial police blockade scene is rather silly if you sit back and think about it, but it is familiar and the reader should throw out the disbelief as soon as we show them shiny new characters.

But really, the purpose here is to create questions.  How did this team come together?  Who are these new people?  Why is this mysterious Raven lady bringing Robin to witness his future (I am afraid this is a question we are not supposed to ask, and they are just never going to answer it, because the reason really is because it was the necessary plot mechanic of our preview; we shall see)?  The ultimate gauge of a successful work by Wolfman and Pérez is if the reader wants to return to this world, these colorful characters.

Did they succeed?  Well... I feel like more is still dependent on connection one might already have with the returning characters, though they do stir up my interest in the characters of both Raven and Cyborg.

I am finding myself overwhelmed with things I would want to communicate, and am realizing that it would be best to space some of the material out, so I think I am going to round out the post with a super brief team roster, some brief notes, an ongoing character ranking, and a final numeric review.  I will hopefully establish a better system of this all as I move forward, but especially on the front end it is a bit of an overload.

The Team We See:

I hope to do more detailed bits on each of these characters as we move on, but I need to move on...

Robin, the Boy Wonder.  Sidekick, acrobat, college drop-out (apparently), aversion to pants.  Founding Titans member.  Real name: Richard "Dick" Grayson.

Kid Flash, fanboy of the silver age Flash; so fanboy he recreated the accident that made Barry Allen the Flash and gave himself speed powers.  He is also Barry's nephew by marriage.  Seems to have a thing for Raven.  Founding Titans member. Real name: Wallace "Wally" West.

Wonder Girl, orphan rescued by the Amazons of Themyscira, given Amazon powers by a purple ray... her origin will get rewritten as many times as the DC Universe resets.  Former Titans member.  Real Name: Donna Troy.

Changeling (formerly: Beast Boy), as a child he was cured by medicine from a green monkey... Ever since he has been able to change his shape into any animal.  Former Doom Patrol Member.  Former Titans West member.  Real name: Gar Logan.

Newly introduced characters:

Cyborg, tells the reader that he is half-man, half-robot.  Of the newbie's you learn more about him than any other, which is simply that his father saved his life by building him his robot parts.  He appears to be super strong, can project sound as a weapon.  The extent of his name revealed, last name: Stone.

Starfire, extraterrestrial, flies, shoots energy, absorbs energy, seems to have a liking for Robin, needs more clothes.  Real name: not revealed.

Raven, mysterious, can project her astral image which apparently is also her soul, teleports, travels in time, mysterious, convenient plot mover.  Real name: not revealed.


Possibly my favorite panel is immediately after seeing all the dynamic and exciting ways his teammates are scaling a tall building to fight Mr. Protoplasm (not the menace's name), the panel eye cuts to Robin running up a flight of stairs...  That's just pretty fantastic.

• Robin's position of being carried by the female alien Starfire seems to be an intentional gender role reversal here as well.  Maybe if you put on pants people would treat you like an adult, Robin.

• I feel like the greatest mystery you get left with is who is Raven and what are her powers.  Probably the biggest hook for me.

• That and the reveal that Cyborg would rather he was dead than made alive through the machine provides some draw to the character.  Perhaps he isn't fond of his father's design.  I wouldn't call it exactly flattering.

•  Doctor Stone, who brings about the onset of the extra-universal proto-plasmic menace, follows a rather similar to Babel/Pandora event that creates the Anti-Matter universe in DC Comics, an event Wolfman and Pérez would revisit with far grander designs for the sake of the Multiverse shattering event Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Foreshadow...

•  The wrap-up of the police siege story in 'present' time is full of holes... but they ran out of pages.

•  Comics usually have a penciller and an inker and often these are two different people.  For this preview issue of Teen Titans Pérez is the penciller and Dick Giordano is the inker, and his inking really stands out to me.  Pérez is best inked with really tight precise lines, and at least for this issue Giordano's inking is fat and imprecise.  It really does not complement Pérez's strengths.  Thankfully, a quick flip through the beginning of the series proper brings Romeo Tanghal into the inking duties and he far better compliments Pérez's style.  I do not know if Giordano was rushed for this job; I do know he is a longtime and accomplished comic book artist, but at least in this book, the combination of Pérez and him do not make for a good product, knowing what can and will be later produced.  (more on Pérez to come, I hope)

Character Ranking:

I will attempt this continually update ranking based off just what I am seeing in these comics, but it will be impossible not to bring in outside experience with these characters even if they are from other mediums.

1. Raven - she is the most intriguing to this point.

2. Cyborg - his wanting to be dead seems a bit overly dramatic, but he seems competent and capable.

3. Robin - even having no clue where he is, he steps in to lead.  And all of this without wearing pants.

4. Kid Flash - he doesn't get much work here, Wolfman is probably banking on what people already know.  But I have liked Wally.  Oh, wait, that isn't supposed to count.

5. Wonder Girl - Another one who doesn't get too much spotlight due to her pre-existence.  She appears to be an important part of the team.

6. Starfire - She seems a powerhouse but her costume...

7. Changeling - I want to like him, but so far his jokes are flat.

I suspect this will move more early on in the series.

Final Rating:

Let me quickly introduce my rating system: it is a -5/+5 rating scale.  -5 is the lowest, 0 means it is a generally neutral affair or the positives are washed away by the negatives, and a +5 is as near to perfect as I can imagine.  In my mind most things should average to around a 0.  A 0 is not a bad story.

Rating of DC Comics Presents #26: Teen Titans Preview:  0

It is not a bad comic, it successful introduces characters without actually telling their coming together.  Why this all happens may never be resolved, but the purpose is to sell The New Teen Titans #1, not as much to make sense.

+ Doesn't ruin the beginning, but incites some curiosity of what is to come.

There is so much lacking in this, for example I have yet to speak of Pérez's art, but I am beginning to see the scope of what I have proposed to undertake.  I will hopefully begin to round these things out, and polish my presentation (hopefully with more images as I find availability) but this whole thing is intended to be a growing endeavor.  It is your own dang fault if you read it.


Perhaps in an unconscious effort to legitimize my blog it has been sorely lacking some quality geek posts.  Then again, for the past year it has just been lacking in posts altogether.  In order to fix these failings, I am conceiving of a process of posts that I hope would be an easy outlet of some of my stopped-up comicky ponderings as well as a good medium for examining storytelling in its sequential art form and perhaps leading a few interested souls down some of its winding colorful corridors.  Feel free to check-in or check-out at whatever point seems convenient.

The first choice after this idea blossomed in my head, was to decide on a comic book series that would be enjoyable to dissect with more intent.  It would have probably been wise to go with something a bit more high brow (well, wise if I was myself high brow), but my thoughts went first towards items of a little less... loft.  Ultimately my mind landed on three ideas for comic series (or more precisely, creative runs on a comic series (more on what constitutes a run later)), two of which I have read some parts of, and one of which is near the top of my all-time favorites but very much deserves a reread.  After some considering, and research, and asking a few people for their choices, I have a rough map for a scheme in my head that would perhaps take me through the three series one at a time if I actually stay diligent at this thing.  And thus, with no further unnecessary words, I introduce to you the series I have landed upon to begin this most certainly ill-fated trek:

The New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez.  

If you ask someone who was a fan of DC Comics in the 80's what their favorite superhero team or book is to this day, there is probably a better chance than not their answer will in some way mention The New Teen Titans.  Many call it, DC's answer to the X-Men which was beginning its stranglehold on the comic industry during this decade.  This revamp of the 60's "sidekick" team was released in the November of 1980 complete with (fan-protested) new characters alongside some old, written and drawn by two fellows who had recently left headlining work at their competition across the street, Marvel Comics.  Wolfman in fact had not so long ago been the editor-in-chief of Marvel (meaning the guy making basically all the final creative decisions and directions for their comic line).  Pérez had really come into his own as an artist most especially on The Avengers.

Some Publishing History:

In coming over to DC, Wolfman had to again make a place for himself, and his initial duties of working on teamup books proved trying.  So he set about pitching books, and there was this now twice-defunct series called Teen Titans which was made up of the superhero juniors of the DC Universe.  Originally, in 1965, it was Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash (sidekicks of The Batman, Aquaman, and The Flash respectively) who comprised the team, and on their very next appearance they added Wonder Girl, Wonder Woman's gloriously confusingly-origined youthful analog.  Occasionally joined by Speedy, the trick arrow-shooting ward of Green Arrow (with an unfortunate codename for one who would prove to be a junkie), they did the silly wacky derring-dos and all was right.  Except it was never really popular and got canned.  They attempted a revival in '76 but it lasted a mere 10 issues before also being cancelled. Yet during the first series, Wolfman had both enjoyed and even penned some tales of the Junior Justice League and still carried a soft spot for the band.  He asked for a chance to revive them, and without even a pitch he was awarded a title.  He enlisted Pérez, who was pulling for a Justice League deal but decided to relent, and they set about putting the "new" into the title.  Developing new heroes, new villains, and old fun.  

By the account of many, they succeeded.  From a strikingly similar publishing origin to the X-Men (both being mostly forgotten failed series from yesteryear) Teen Titans would go on to overtake The Legion of the Super-Heroes as DC's best selling title (if that title means nothing to you... hold on, I may get to it...)  Some even accuse Titans of copying the X-Men, and while I am sure they took some tips from their success, I suspect both have a lot of credit to throw the Legion's way, but that is personal conjecture.  More then anything it was two guys telling stories that they wanted to tell with characters old and new.  This is considered a hallowed title and I have long desired to do a complete reading.

Personal History with the Titans:

For all their fame and glory, my mostly Marvel-tinted lenses had never seen anything Teen Titan until the Glen Murakami cartoon show was released in 2003.  And even then, I first assumed it was a cartoon creation.  Then the history started filtering in... this series was big.  Or used to be.  It had not held out like the X-Men to become an overweight franchise in and of itself.  In fact, after George Pérez left, the title reportedly wandered a bit, and then Wolfman left, and it sputtered, and finally died out once more.  It has been reincarnated since, there now existing some well-regarded runs, some not so well-regarded runs, but it has never been the thing that steered the DC boat ever again.  So I began to learn various things of the team in the backwards patchwork way of history.  A little internet here, a little cartoon there, some oral tradition of the graybeards who had actually witnessed the good ol' days.  And my fascination grew, yet my access still lacked.  

A great deal of my Marvel-tending ways is due to access.  Especially access to continuity.  When I returned to comics in college, I found Marvel's Essentials line, black and white prints of large vats of continuity.  And I began to eat them up.  I feast upon continuity.  It is actually a sad thing at times how quickly I will sprint through continuity if it is there ready for me.  I could never find quite the same access to DC.  Some is the fault of their legacy printing, some is just my already established knowledge of Marvel; regardless, I never found an easy means to read the classic Teen Titans material.  A few years ago, I would finally grab a bargain bin collection of the most famous Titans story, The Judas Contract, and I would compliment it with the lead-up which they collected in Terra Incognita and that would make up my experience of the Wolfman/Pérez creative run.  And while these stories were enjoyed, I think it is very similar to The Dark Phoenix Saga of the X-Men world, if you didn't read the 40+plus issues that Claremont and friends put in building up to that battle in the blue area of the moon, it comes across as just another story of people in weird looking costumes.  (Have I mentioned how I like to read large vats of continuity)  I am almost sad to have my first experience to The Judas Contract be a so much lesser thing than it probably should be.

The Plan:

So, I am gonna try to finally work out a means to explore this worldbuilding, charactermaking, tightswearing, shortshortsing monument of a series.  It may be significant to only me... but aren't blogs for making unimportant things public punishment?  My goal is to read what is considered the original New Teen Titans of Wolfman and Pérez.  I will bow out along with Pérez.  I presently don't plan to rejoin them for the little 5-issue sequence they did in 1988.  Okay, I keep saying "run".  People often ask what that means.  And then they ask it again.  I do not believe I explain it well, but here is another attempt.  A run of comics is generally connected with a creator or creative team.  Comic books are usually a cooperative creation.  Their are many jobs: writer, penciller, inker, colorist, letter, and editor, to name the most common.  Sometimes a number of these jobs are shared.  In some cases a single person fulfills all of these roles.  Most often, the fans-that-be note especially the writer and secondly the penciller (sometimes people will exchange the title the penciller with the artist even if it is entirely unfair to the inker and colorist (and heck, even the letterer can be a significant player in the visual presentation) when they consider what makes up a creative run.  So, for example Chris Claremont wrote from Uncanny X-Men #94 to #279, and yet people will often break up his run depending on what artist was the main artist at the time, for example John Byrne's time as an artist is generally considered the best era of X-Men comics.  So a run can be based on a writer.  It could be based off a penciller.  Or it could be a combination of the two.  Really it could have to do with any of the creative team.  Editor's have runs too.

So what does that mean for Andrew and The New Teen Titans?

I am going to attempt to read The New Teen Titans (1980) #1-39 plus Annual #1-3 after which it gets renamed into Tales of the New Teen Titans(1984) #40-50 and then they made a second series called once more The New Teen Titans (1984) #1-5.  I am also hoping to find access to an earlier series which focuses on the new characters which is also called Tales of the New Teen Titans (1982) #1-4, but presently this is the thing I am struggling to find access to, though I think some reprints come out in September.  There's also an Anti-drug special from '83 that would be fun to find...  Oh and if all of those titles confused the dickens out of you, you may know a little of why it has always been so hard for me to go back and try to figure out the order of these things...

As for what posts will expressly look like... who knows?  Some may cover 1 issue.  Some may cover 10.  Some may be me bickering about a panel.  Some may be me exploding into mostly non-communicative jargon of wonderment.  We shall see.  I hope to make one more post prior to being covering the key characters leading into the title's rebirth.


In the night of my wick, I wander, woolen and cowled.  Chant and charity, to drown the noisome silence of the day past.  The lives lived and lost in the scope of hours I have walked.  When none speak, I hear the widow and the orphan calling my guilt.  This black does not cover crimson. In the faces of the smiling sisters, I hear the judge's verdict.  With my heart I crushed nations. I summoned the doom of this day by my careless eye.  And because I loved too much, I lost all I love.

In morning I was as the sunfed flower, reaching, thirsty.  And the sun loved me well.  It crowned me and gave me colors resplendent.  The Song ran through the wind. Granting us sight to see the promise every sunrise displays. It feasted my thirst and youth reigned. 

And youth reigned, and in my joy I see I desired more.  A moon there was and his beauty made you dance.  It promised beauty purer still. A beauty that strove against the silence. A beauty that broke me remade. Promised me wholeness, solidity, a joy quenched.  Yet the moon reflects: it needs another. The forgotten. And in the day, I forgot my sun to seek the knight. 

In seeking, I lost.  In thirsting, I drowned.  My love brought hate. And evening came with crows and carrion to rest upon the gallows. Friend against friend. Father against son. I am a curse upon my people. Casting them all into my perdition.  Why do you not consume me? Why do I still have eyes to see?

Do not mourn the fallow queen. If the sun shall rise again as is told, pray he choose a truer flow'r.


Why set a reading goal; why make it public?

First of all, we are creatures of complacency and comfort: at least I surely am.  And while I love to read great works (and that can be firmly within the realm of comfort), to both begin and finish a great work can easily fall into the category of "not quite yet." Having a set plan to read this now and read this then, can help to spur me on and to read the things I very much want to climb.  Yet there are still problems I encounter by setting reading goals: I can overvalue books of shorter length for the purpose of reading "more"; I can easily sabotage the quality of my reading by the emphasis on quantity; I can let myself not digest a work because I am already on to the next.  These and many other reasons are problematic, and usually cause a shift in my following year's reading goal.

This past year my reading goal has been intentionally unset beyond reading fifty or so books.  Under the criteria I have set as to what constitutes a book, it would appear I am going to fail this year's goal.  However, I always held this lightly as I wanted to have the freedom to read some longer books, reread some works, etc.  But I am again feeling the desire to have a set plan as to what I read for 2015.

So what has been my lack in previous years?  How about long books.  I can fall so firmly into the many that seeing one of the larger tomes on my shelf seems daunting as to the dent it will make in my quantity goal.  I have made exceptions, but some works of massivity have been stacking up for a bit, and I think it is due time to read them.  So, long works be the goal!

As for the second question, why make it public, goals are a funny thing: if we leave them inside our own head, it proves very easy to wander, and skew, and ultimately abolish.  It is therefore necessary to create some form of objective ruling before which you place yourself.  It is why you set the law in stone tablets; now there is no realm for weak and temperamental memory.  All that being said, I have thus far failed every one of these yearly goals of the past few years. And yet felt victorious at the same time.  And this year's goal I will assuredly fail: it is just way too grandiose.  This is part of why I am building in a priority system that can allow me to focus on some works over others in case I fall behind, it doesn't cripple the entire endeavor.

More on the public question, I also seek to encourage others to read.  Fahrenheit 451 presents a culture which has not been censored by government but instead has chosen to censor itself out of the fear of ideas (foreign, complex, of various ilk), and we unfortunately are a culture very much on this path.  I don't foresee us burning our books (unless it be for warmth), but I see literature quickly becoming a language we cannot comprehend.  Books used to change the world, cause revolt, create peace.  I have been trying to think of what medium does that today and well, let's see, we've got Twitter... But seriously, we have come to a place where we have more access to great literature than any time in the world (possibly part of the problem) and yet out of fear of feeling stupid, or boredom, or not having time, or because [choice-genre] is far more palatable than those others, we throw out the things that people in the past would die to obtain.  We need to read.  I need to read.  I need to challenge myself to confront thoughts not my own, learn to interpret and translate the language of literature.  And if I at times feel ignorant or unable to communicate my thoughts of a work, well all the more reason to run firmly into the fear than away.

What is more, I also can enjoy the company.  People asking me how the reading is going, what the books are like, heck, even joining in on one of the reads (so far no one has done such).  For so long for me reading was a private and personal thing, but I have grown to realize that that has impaired my ability to communicate and thus interpret a work.  It is something I want to work on, though it scares me to no end, as my tongue has always failed me. This lends itself to something I want to continue to grow in my reading goal plans and that is more forms of response to the works I read.  So, challenge me.  And don't let me off easily, as I can often intentionally cap off conversation about a work because I feel ill-prepared to translate the thing to another (yeesh, this is scary to write).

Of course, I do also have to battle pride in this task.  "Hey, look at what I am reading. [does that weird lean back/thumbs in the suspenders thing that is supposed to show pride]"  Even my Bradburian rant earlier, is of course like a mathematician arguing for the merit of math.  Well, he reads a lot, of course he is going to over-value reading and speak down to those who don't.  I would be a liar if I were to say these things don't factor into this all, but I attempt to quell such uprisings and also not to allow action to stem from this usurper.  I am attempting to curb that some with both my choices for April's and June's readings.  So if you wanna knock me down a peg, look for those monthly goal.

And now for the monthly goals:


Les Miserables
Victor Hugo
page count: 1488
priority read

Back in my college years, I was reading this alongside all the class assignments on my plate.  Which of course caused difficulty in the whole process, and I unfortunately got stopped about halfway through.  I think the fact that I made it halfway always halted a firm attempt at reread, knowing I would need to restart the read to best encounter the work.  I place this read in January because it is the month I generally have the greatest head of steam and this work will have the most pages out of any of these works (not counting the different mediums in April and June). It should not be hard reading minus perhaps a few of Hugo's tangents and thus I think overall should make for a successful month.

Response: I feel like I had one in mind that I have forgotten.  I need good ideas.  All I can say now is some form of written review.

Supplemental material: I have been trying to find good access to historical accounts of the French Revolution and Napoleon for some time now but have failed beyond a presently ongoing podcast on the French Revolution.  So, if you know good historical accounts of this period that are probably of another medium than literature, throw them my way.  A documentary, even a movie that gives good context, etc.  (for the record, I know this book doesn't take place in those points of history but after; I read the portion that was the 100 pages on the Battle of Waterloo, remember, heh)

Victory: Perhaps watching the recent movie of the musical, as I haven't seen it.


Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Suzanna Clark
page count: 1024

For a while I had given up on contemporary fantasy, until I learned I just needed to look beyond what is often held up in the genre.  Although this books seems to have had some crossover into popular success beyond its critical acclaim.  I have intentionally avoided learning a lot about this work.  It was only recently when I saw an article on the BBC TV show they are creating to adapt this work that I learned it took place during the Napoleonic Wars.  I knew England, and I knew magic, and that there would probably be two people named Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, as well as that it was supposed to be good. Sold. (actually I had heard both Dickens and Austin as exemplars of the writing style: that was a sell too)

Response: I don't feel I know enough of the work to properly detail a good response.  Written review is gonna be my common response to this section....

Supplemental material: I suppose the same as above, only that might emphasize England's role.  It was actually accidental that these two works ended up together while they involve similar histories.

Victory: Well I suppose I could watch that BBC show when it comes out...


James Joyce
page count: 816
priority read

This will be the shortest page count of any the goals and yet I fully expect it to be the hardest to swim in.  Yet this is probably the work I most want to have complete when the year is out.  But more, I want to complete it well, and that is the challenge.  I cower in fear, and can't wait.  Crazy Irishman...

Response: I would love to creatively respond to each chapter in either like form or somehow responsive form to Joyce's own.  Yeah, like that's gonna happen...

Supplemental material: I've read Dubliners and Portrait though I do not remember them well enough to greatly effect my reading of Ulysses.  Perhaps I could drum up some history of Ireland...

Victory: go insane?


Avengers vol. 1 #1-402
page count: way too many

So here is where I "relax" and read some comics.  Only this involves reading way more comics than should ever be fit into a month.  This is reading from the Avengers inception in 1963 to the Onslaught event in '96.  400+ comics at 20+ pages each.  Still, I look forward to this; reading some of the classic stories (Under Siege, Kree/Skrull War, Korvac), reading up on some of the more obscure characters, reading some of those classic writers that I know so much less.  Can't wait.

Response: Lists are fun.  Favorite characters, favorite stories, favorite writers, artists, villains.  I can do one of my crazy grids that no one else can interpret, heh.  Should be fun.

Supplemental material: I guess the first thing I might hit if I have the time (which I won't) is some West Coast Avengers, as I would love to read all of those too.  I will probably also have a strong urge to play VS System with Avenger themed decks, just to warn my common victims of such ailments.

Victory: have the ability to properly curmudgeon the new Avengers movie coming out in May. Actually, I really wanna read Avengers Forever.


David Copperfield
Charles Dickens
page count: 1024
priority read

My reading goal for this year was very nearly read every Dickens work.  Once it became the present plan however, I knew Copperfield would be the chosen work to represent Dickens.  So I quickly went (okay, no, I still hesitated because they are so large) to reading the preceding works to Copperfield which I own (still in the midst of Nicholas Nickelby which I unfortunately don't foresee getting done prior to the new year).  Thankfully, these reads have made me excited for getting into Copperfield. Next year, I will hopefully get in Bleak House, as those two works are usually cited as his greatest.

Response: Best names?  Dickens is so great with names.  Counting coincidences?  Don't know the work well enough.  Feel free to give ideas.

Supplemental material: Nickelby...

Victory: Bleak House!


Fantastic Four vol. 1 #1-416
Page count: 1000s...

And here is the next comic binge.  Why this early you ask?  Because Marvel is canceling Fantastic Four so I considered how best to protest my outrage than to read them all.  Wait, that doesn't make sense?  Oh, well it is all I have.  I have read a great deal of the first 300 issues before, but I want to go through the whole thing. I wanna finish the second half of Byrne's run, to figure out why people often select it as the best over Lee/Kirby, to finally read the Simonson run, and to just enjoy Marvel's First Family before they get cancelled, and then butchered in movie form later in the year...  

Response: Could be similar to The Avengers.  Maybe some sort of tracking game with all the temps that join the team...  Ooo, a drawing response!

Supplemental material: I could watch the best Fantastic Four movie ever made... The Incredibles.  VS System will come up again...  Yell, "Flame on!" and jump off tall buildings to get some empirical material.

Victory: I doubt watching that new movie will feel like any kind of victory.  Hmm, a VS System party? I would want to reread the Waid/Weiringo run, but that'll probably be hard to fit in.


From Dawn to Decadence
Jacques Barzun
page count: 912
Priority read

I should probably have this book sooner, to give me some frameworks of the movements of though.  Oh well.  This is a book as supplemental material to an Ethics class way back in the day and always had the intention to read fully, but have always failed.  I think I have read the first chapter on the Reformation two to three times.  One difficulty is even in that first chapter I read something that was clearly wrong about Luther.  Yet that is something to keep in mind with all historical works.  Still, this will help to give a good framework of the movements of the modern Western world.

Response: Intelligent written review?  I feel like there should be something more.  Still thinking...

Supplemental material: Well, I have already been intentionally delving back into more history than I have been doing in the past few years.  I suppose in this case I would want to focus on Modernity, Enlightenment, etc.

Victory: Hmm, some historical epic.... I will wait to discover which I feel like after reading it.


Faerie Queene
Edmund Spenser
Page Count: 1248

I lied.  This may be the hardest for me to digest.  If my mind is in the right state of mind, epic poetry is not a problem.  When I read the first Canto of this work, I don't know if my mind was just not in the right state of mind, or if Spenser is just especially difficult for me.  Here goes try 2...  This could be hard for the length that it goes.

Response:  Write an Arthurian romance of my own?  Something like that.

Supplemental material: background on Spenser; actually read the notes in my copy.  I am actually not sure what else.  Maybe some work on understanding poetry movements of the time.

Victory: Watch Ladyhawke, hah.  It is funny that came to mind.  But I actually think I may try that.


Life and Fate:
Vasily Grossman
Page count: 896
Priority read

This is the one work I am choosing which I did not before know about.  And one of two that I did not previously own.  I was looking into some epics and discovered this work.  It had a few things going for it: it was Russian and you have to have a Russian novel to make an epic reading list legitimate and the others I knew of I had already read; it sounds like it is intentionally crafted to be the War and Peace of World War II.  I am interested in the era, the people, and the influence.  Can't wait.

Response: This is again hard without knowing more of what I will encounter.  Since it is Russian, perhaps tracking names might be important.

Supplemental material: I need to find some material on the Soviet revolution and have for some time now.  Solzhenitsyn might be a fun addition, but that requires more reading...

Victory:  There's an old War and Peace movie... I don't expect it to be good, but I should check it out.


Team of Rivals
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Page count: 944

This was almost either Gravity's Rainbow or Infinite Jest.  Either of which would have likely exploded my head.  But it seems they will be for later years.  I have a copy of this book and it goes well with my desire to read more history.  It is intense how large this book is for its particular historical focus on Lincoln's cabinet.  The Civil War is such an intriguing time for a still very young country.  It definitely deserves more study on my part.

Response: Maps.  I should do maps.  Yup.  Maps.

Supplemental material: I could finally finish Burns's Civil War documentary.  I have the end of the Shaara trilogy of Civil War books, but again, that requires more reading...

Victory: Watch Lincoln.  I now own a copy, but am holding off on watching it.


Le Morte D'Arthur
Sir Thomas Malory
page count: 1088

I generally refer to myself as having read Malory, but if you mean having read every page of Le Morte it as a matter of fact, isn't true.  I have read most of it.  Both through personal reading and an Arthurian Literature class I have read the vast majority of the book, including the end, the Grail, etc. However, there are portions that our class and my personal reading have just not encountered.   I both want to remedy that fact, as well as go through this work again, but I would always hit that issue of, "but it is too long to read right now."  Fixed it.

Response: Ranking knights, heh.  I think I've wanted to do this project since the first time I read an Arthur book back in 5th or 6th grade.  Ranking them by might and valor as well as just personal favor.  And also count them.  It'll be fun.

Victory: Hmm, rewatch The Sword in the Stone?  Excalibur is definitely the most Maloryesque movie, but... well, that doesn't necessarily make me want to watch it again.  Maybe...


The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexander Dumas
page count: 1276
Priority read

When I first started the project of accumulating options for my reading goal, Three Musketeers kept coming to mind, and I could not figure out why.  It is both not long enough and I have read it before.  And then a friend mentioned The Count.  I slapped my forehead in response.  This is a work that I chose to pick up, as I have attempted to many times, only to find it abridged... Who reads abridged?  You don't know what you missed?  Hah, so I felt fine adding this at the expense of works of which I do have a copy.

Response: Hmm, not sure.  I need more drawing projects.

Supplemental material: I guess just looking for historical context and Dumas's personal context.

Victory: You know, I actually did not like that recentish movie that so many people I know loved.  I don't think I would enjoy that as a victory condition.  I have time.


A year is years and we sleep.
In a tidal dance we lose
The steps of time beneath
The swell and fall through
Dusty waves and whisper

And wake we upon a shore.
Alien and sundered far
From home and friendly
Star. Yet kin surround 
But all abound in stranger

And we know not father.
Mother lost and brother 
Hides. We feast on fell
And deadly deed bound
In anguish we fall in

And what light recast
Can lead us hence
To homeward lands
Not recompense 
For our stark sin.

And yet lost we sing
To the unknown one
We dream can find us
Name us and unite
With recast family newly

To lands of mystery and
Home we row and starve
And feast upon the one
Who lives and dies and 
Breathes the life and


Under the crack of the enduring Silence
the clay boy

As a hammer the windless echo descends
in yellow night

And the storm ends and the rain quits
and there is naught
but desert

He waits in fear for the scarring blow
long forever years
It comes

This silent era of prowling wolves
the boy stalked

The wordless prayer brings Silence more
the deliverance

Hunching broken lost and fearful
child of mud

Before the foretold stroke is wrought
the hurt already

The air between is weapon fierce enough
to break fearful
a heart

Scatters the crafted dirt by feeted trample
passing sojourners

Clinging to clothes and hands the broken
travels the world

His name forgotten his time relinquished
as should be
should be


And what are these paper scraps that fall from your hand?  Does your skin fall from duress, the affliction of air? Your look is wonder.  Horror? Question?  Why, oh lady, does the snow fall?

And what inks your papyri skin, lady white?  Whose name do you bear? And whose do you shed? Mark of honor, mark of shame, what notes do they play?  Sing a song with these stories of tattoo.  Lend a page, a hand, a cheek, a writ.  Tell me a story from your head's crown.  Is your own Name to be found on your fair hide?

Beware the foul Wind.  Sail it not, dear one.  It would blow you to terra's end and then a world more.  Far from the shores of your day, into the pass of Night.  Pay heed to the howl.  Hesitate not.  Run to the rocks, a shelter.  Give the Wind no hold.  He loves you not.

Do you waste? What are these flakes?  How do we save the tattered and lost?  Walls?  Can I build you a fortress?  A pasting adherent?  A paint to make you anew?  How do I save and protect you?

Or is this the beauty of your form?  The torn edge, the transparent arm?  That a blade could cut and never kill?  White lady, does your paper form hide the strength of thunder?  Loud and cracking, wild freedom.  Is your strength your weakness?

And what are these paper scraps that fall from your hand?