Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week looks at the latest cover variants from Marvel and DC, and examines Ultraman X.

There are things about the comic book industry even I don’t get as either a reader or retailer, things that I’ve just got to take on faith.  For instance, variant covers.  Having always been more of a reader than a collector I’m naturally more interested in a comic’s contents than its covers.  And while as a retailer I must admit catering to completists can provide some shops a short-term revenue stream, they remain strictly (in my opinion anyway) minor league stuff, ultimately unimportant.

Though having been a lifetime fan of the Looney Tunes characters, as well as someone who always wants to see more of them in comic form, I’ve got to admit I was at least vaguely intrigued when DC announced in November they were doing a month of variant covers where the gang interacts with the DC heroes.  There are 25 covers in all and they are legitimately lovely; the portions featuring the cartoon characters were provided by (according to the press release) "unnamed artists from Warner Bros. Animation."  Which is a shame because they’re much too good to go uncredited.

This, of course, is just another bit of corporate cross-promotion, something to help buttress the sagging Looney Tunes brand, but being a fan it’s hard to take offense.  It’s actually hard for me to pick a favorite cover but intensely nerdy as I am I’ve really got to go with the one for Teen Titans featuring some of the most obscure Looney Tunes characters, like dreamy Ralph Phillips, Babyface Finster, and Egghead Jr. (the son of Miss Prissy, not the humanoid hunter with the big red nose who faced off against Daffy Duck).  The art is so wonderfully on model that it’s a pity the contents don’t match the covers; I for one would have loved to have seen Yosemite Sam really throw down against Deathstroke.

I’d like to think we’ll see some comics featuring the Looney Tunes gang once Wabbit--A Looney Tunes Production starts airing this Fall on Cartoon Network Apparently The Looney Tunes Show, the suburban Seinfeld-like sitcom interpretation of the characters, is no more and is being replaced with the (again, according to the press release) "hilarious, heroic and mischievous" Bugs.  It’s hard not to see this as an obvious imitation of the new (and wonderful) Mickey Mouse shorts currently running on the Disney Channel.  The same way that it’s hard to complain about Time Warner attempting to recapture the rabbit’s true essence.

If DC does something, Marvel naturally has to do the same, and vice-versa, and this time Marvel will beat DC to the punch by releasing its own variant cover featuring cosplayers on 21 different covers.  Now cosplay is something I get, and while I know there are retailers and creators who might grumble about this it’s hard to find any fault in this kind of appreciation, though I’ll do my best.  Actually, I just have a question; in all of the online pieces I’ve read about this I’ve seen words like "honor" and "celebrate" being bandied about, but never once "recompense."  By which I mean are the cosplayers going to be in any way compensated for their time and efforts in any way other than exposure--and I don’t mean in free comics.

Previously I mentioned that there was a new version of Ultraman, Ultraman X (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--All New, All Different, As Always").  I’m a longtime fan of the show (my credentials speak for themselves; I used to watch episodes of the original series in black and white on a UHF channel back in my youth).  Kind of like Doctor Who, the show would regularly reinvent itself with each new incarnation of Ultraman, but you could always rely on the fact that ultimately the series would remain the same; giant hero battles giant monsters.

Over the years, I've seen episodes of most versions of the show and have been more or less satisfied with them.  However, when I was finally able to watch a couple of dubbed episodes of Ultraman X on the Crunchyroll site I was saddened to discover how things had changed.  While these show has always primarily been for kids, it (the original iteration especially) could feature could some serious and dramatic plotlines.  And Ultraman himself was a somber, silent figure, both watching over and literally looking down on humanity from on high.

Now the show is overwhelmingly kid-oriented, existing primarily to sell toys.  There are lots of multi-colored vehicles that snap together to make bigger ones and Ultraman can be modularly upgraded through the use of action figures ("spark dolls") and trading cards.  It’s heresy to see Ultraman, formerly as sleek as a ballet dancer, slathered in snap-on armor and wielding Wolverine-style claws.

It also doesn’t help that Ultraman is now quite chatty and has taken up residence in the electronic card reader of our hero Daichi Oozora, a Tim Burton-style agonized adolescent, skinny, moody and sporting a haircut which is either seriously dorky or so goofy it must be the latest thing in Japan.  The breaking point for me, though, came with the introduction of a comic relief creature, resident alien scientist Dr. Gourman.  Ultraman monsters are supposed to be on the cheap and cheesy side but Gourman appears more like a poorly constructed pool toy than a guy in a rubber suit.  He looks like a badly mutated Jar Jar Binks who’s had Peter Griffin from Family Guy’s disturbingly anatomical chin grafted on.  You really can’t go home again.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of