Kurt Christenson ** Timothy Mucci ** Johnny Gatts ** Brian Bannen ** Rick Lacy ** YOU!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Living With Your Comics Fan

by Stacey Barlow Hills

Are you the loved one of a fanboy/girl? Do you share your home with any number of items representing the multi-verses of DC, Marvel, Image, etc? Are Stan Lee, Alan Moore and Bruce Timm part of everyday conversations? Are you concerned that you possess knowledge enough that the previous three sentences make sense to you?

If so, you’re not alone, and you’re in luck. After nearly 10 years of marriage to a man who is both fan and artist, I’m here to tell you that your relationship can survive AND thrive with comics. It just takes a few simple steps on your part…

• Everything in its place. Action figures, collectibles, lithographs, the library of graphic novels and the dozens of comics boxes all need a home if you are to survive in yours. Give them space, but not everything needs to be visible. In our house for example, graphic novels are on the bookshelves as long as they aren’t too graphic for our five-year-old to flip through. The rest go into the office where she’s not allowed. Living in an apartment? Be creative in your decorating. Frame the lithograph, or put a piece of wood or glass on those comics boxes and throw a big piece of fabric over the entire thing – coffee table. Too much stuff? That’s why self storage exists.

• Choose your battles. If your fan is excited about watching “Crisis on Two Earths” and you are ambivalent about your evening TV plans – defer. If you are convinced that the latest web viewer is not innovative and your loved one swears that it is – let it go (trust me on this one). Save your energy for things that matter, like whether or not to name your child after his/her favorite comic book character and whether the nursery will be decorated with DC or Marvel characters.

• The more you know. Most of us have been learning our entire lives. The square root of 25? How to ride the subway? Parts of speech, directions on a DVD player, we are constantly adding terms to our vocab in order to function in our world. Make this one of those things. It’s like learning a whole new language, and just like learning a language, your horizons expand with new knowledge. Did you know that Aquaman is more than someone who talks to fish? He’s awesome – check it out.

• Find a niche. To be honest, I never thought there was anything in comics that would interest me. Still, the diversity of storytelling, art and character is overwhelming. There is, quite literally, something for everyone. The key is to find just a couple of things that you like. I’m not a fan of fantasy, and I’d rather watch my superheroes or buy the trade paperback than read issue by issue. My husband doesn’t agree, and that’s ok. Comics are art, and art is subjective.

Above all, if you truly care for your fan, just love and respect him/her. If they love it, try to love it too. My husband’s passion for comics makes him who he is, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hang in there everyone!

***

Stacey Barlow Hills is the wife of super talented Doug Hills, who's work you can find at PNH Comics where they have their manga webcomic CHIBI CHEERLEADERS FROM OUTER SPACE.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Brooklyn Comic Events

So you want to break into comics (or maybe just socialize with creators), and the best way to do that is to network, be a friendly face that people recognize, and talk about the medium with them, mention your work casually, make friends with people. The convention scene can be too much mayhem and sensory overload puts most creators into a state of shock and awe, so the best alternative is to attend comic book events.

And if you live in Brooklyn, well you're in luck. There seems to be a new comic book event happening every other week. For instance, Tim, Reilly and I all hit up the release of Demo Vol. 2 at Rocketship Comics on January 31st. We chatted with Becky Cloonan, and although I missed Brian Wood, we made the rounds and chatted up the local talent and fans. You can see some pics from the event here.

The next Saturday at Rocketship had Ms. Raina Telgemeier doing a live visual reading and signing copies of her new coming of age graphic novel 'SMILE', while the Friday after that had Bob Fingerman and friends celebrating the release of 'FROM THE ASHES'.

While I was unable to attend those events I did jam pack one night with two events. The first was an art show for the Fantagraphics Anthology 'HOTWIRE', held at the Scott Eder Gallery in Dumbo. You can see a sampling of the artists' work here. If you like your comics alternative, then you'll love this book. The show will be on display until March 31st. It's a smaller gallery but always a fun time, as I did attend the Jim Mahfood show there about two years back which was great. And there's always free booze.

The second event that night was held at the lovely Bergen Street Comics, by far one of the most inviting and stylish of comic book stores. Ferbuary 12th saw the release of Heads Up Display's awesome puppet music video for their song 'FORMULA VS PERFUME'. The band features artist Kevin Colden and was co-directed by Seth Kushner, the photographer for Graphic NYC and Culture Pop Productions. The pair have also teamed up to create a comic SCHMUCK for webcomic collective Act-I-Vate.

This Friday night at Bergen Street Comics, February 26th at 8PM, you can meet Ben McCool and Ben Templesmith and have a few drinks with them to celebrate the release of their comic CHOKER as part of their US tour to promote the book.

If you're a little closer to Williamsburg, or just like hanging out in hipster-ville, you can swing by one of the best alternative comic book shops Desert Island to celebrate their two year anniversary featuring a 15% off sale, and get a signed copy of WE WILL BURY YOU, the historical zombie book by Brea & Zane Grant from 7-9PM.

And if you're free on Saturday February 27th, why not swing over into Manhattan to attend Mike Carbo's New York Comicbook Marketplace, which has a good selection of creators and is being held at Penn Plaza Pavilion, the former location of the National Big Apple Con, in Midtown.

While I won't be attending these events this weekend, in preparation for moving to Prospect Heights to be closer to the comic scene there, you can probably catch Write Club's favorite artist, Reilly Brown at Bergen tomorrow night, and you can count on seeing me and my cohort Tim Mucci at future events which you can find out about right here at Write Club.

See you around the neighborhood Brooklyn!

K

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Five Choice Books of Small Press Expo Book 2: Food/Fall

By Max Evry

It is fun to imagine the whir of hundreds of printing presses and, yes, Xerox machines working tirelessly in the days and hours before the Small Press Expo kicks off each year. The two-day celebration of independent comics in Bethesda, Maryland attracts the many brave souls who put their hearts, minds, and cold-hard cash into getting their cartoon visions out to attendees.

With so many titles to choose from, it can be difficult to tell the wheat from the chaff. Is it a beautifully drawn title, or merely one with a nice cover? This series will shine the spotlight on five authors who represent the most promising emerging talents on the indie comics scene, including exclusive interviews where they discuss their process, their inspiration, and their joy in creating these works.




“FOOD/FALL” by Joseph Lambert

“Food/Fall” is a charming entry by Lambert with remarkably vivid use of color. In fact, the second of two title stories conceptually revolves around color when a father and son encounter Fall itself, anthropomorphized as a giant mopey guy with a hat made out of a pumpkin. When Fall tries to put some new colors into his seasonal palette he is outdone by Spring, who turns all the trees into gaudy primary colored oddities. The other story, “Food”, features a strange brother-sister pair who steal food from people and then try to escape Earth with their loot in a spherical spaceship, only to be thwarted by a flying tentacled Space Whale straight out of Lovecraft.

As you can probably surmise, whimsy is the name of the game here, but Lambert’s renderings are so rich and lively they become magnetic. The art is pleasing to the eye in a way many indie comics aspire to but often fail to reach, and with as many as 12 to 17 panels per page the creator could almost be a benign twin brother of Chris Ware…the good twin.


You're part of the Sundays online comics collective. How does making your comics available online enable you to build readership and (hopefully) make money off your work?

JOSEPH LAMBERT: I don't know if it helps make any money other than helping build readership. The kinds of strips and stories we do aren't usually immediately marketable or even describable so it's nice to have people familiar with the kind of work we do so that they'll know what we're doing when they see us or our comics at conventions or in shops or whatever.


"Food/Fall" had some of the richest, most vivid colors of any book at SPX. What techniques do you use? Did it make your work stand out for a lot of attendees?

LAMBERT: Thanks. Yeah, I think the size and color make it accessible to most people. It's my most standard size, 7.5" by 10.25", as opposed to the rest of my books, which are all different, smaller sizes. It's also 20 pages of comics with two full stories in there. So hopefully people feel like they're getting a good deal. I color the book in Photoshop. And I really really try to keep my palette limited when coloring in Photoshop, since I can do pretty much whatever I want in there, as opposed to screen-printing or spot coloring where the options are limited to a few.


Where do you want to see yourself going in terms of your future career in this industry?

LAMBERT: I'm working on a biography of Helen Keller for The Center for Cartoon Studies biography series by Hyperion Books. And I'm putting together a collection of my mini-comic and anthology stories for Secret Acres. And after a while I'll have a few strips in Mome, the Fantagraphics anthology series. I would really like to do a few children's books. I feel like the kinds of mini-comics I make would translate just fine to the children's book format. And all the adjustments I would have to make in the areas that don't fit would be fun and excite me.

Check out Joseph Lambert HERE: http://submarinesubmarine.com/

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How I F@$#ed up

By Joshua Jenkins

Last time I talked about what to do when you get an artist, this was a misstep. I should have started with how to get an artist. And speaking of missteps…

Don’t get your sequential artist off Deviantart!

(Ignore above statement if you’re writing a creepy anthro man-beast comic)

I have no problem with deviantart whatsoever. In fact, I kind of love it. I have gotten a shit-ton of commissioned promo art from there and it is all incredible work. However, we’re talking about sequential artist here, and there are way better places to get them. So here’s the best way I’ve found to go about this.

1. Get a new email account. It doesn’t have to be snappy; you’re only going to use it once.

2. Go on digital webbing forums http://www.digitalwebbing.com/forums/

3. Under Creator Community go to Help Wanted/Paid jobs.

4. Check out the page views on the right. You want to find out what gives certain posts more views than others and try to make your post resemble theirs.

5. For a giggle go to the Help Wanted/Collaboration section and check out the diminished page views. Collaboration = “I’m not paying you shit!”

6. Post what your book is about, not too much detail, just a simple solid pitch. Put your new email and the fact that there is payment involved. (Don’t put how much, save that uncomfortable conversation for later.)

7. Sit back and enjoy looking through people’s portfolios. I recommend doing this right before you have a couple days off. When I did this I was averaging about one per hour for about three days. When it starts to slow down repost which will move it back up to the top.

8. Learn Spanish/Portuguese or get a patient girlfriend that speaks Spanish. I’m not kidding; you are going to get a lot of artists that don’t speak English. I have commissioned many artists that don’t speak English very well for promo art and while I love the final product it is never what I asked for.

9. Go through all submissions carefully; look only at the sequential art that’s what you’re buying. Don’t just jump on the first one you like, shoot them an email saying you’re interested but still looking, you may find another one 2 days later. I’ve had to tell an artist, “never mind I found someone else” before. It sucked, very unprofessional.

10. Send the script and see if he/she still wants to do it. Give them a polite out; you don’t want someone you’re collaborating with hating, or not understanding your script.

11. If the artist is still psyched ask for a sample, have them draw up some characters and see how long it takes them to get it back to you. Ask them how long it takes them to do a page. Finally discuss price. If they ask for something out of your price range see if they can meet you half way, if they’ve gone this far, clearly they are interested.

12. Lastly, build a rapport; when you two start collaborating you’re going to butt heads, it’s natural. Also there is a chance you guys may go to cons together and that is a long time to hang out with someone you hate.

With any luck you should have your artist by the weeks end.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Game Club: Bayonetta Blazes!



Bonjour Fellow Write Clubbers! Welcome to the first official entry of “Game Club”, our video game review and discussion group here on the site! Mooch Rex logged in and reporting for duty! I’ll be your guide as we look at some of the white hot games burning up the charts during any given month across any and all viable platforms. In our premiere entry, we’re turning our giant, flame rimmed eye towards Sega’s Wonder Witch “Bayonetta”, which is available on both the Xbox360 and PS3 gaming consoles. Demos for the game can be downloaded for free if you want to experience the madness for yourself.

For those not in the know, here’s a quick story breakdown: Bayonetta is a Witch who has lost her memory. She wields four pistols and casts sick magic spells using her hair as the conduit. She’s got a sassy attitude. She slays Angels. You’ll have to actually play the game to find out why. Having finished it twice I can firmly state that I believe I’ve witnessed a gaming masterpiece.

I know, I know. Lofty praise to heap upon a video game, right? But once you get past all of the hip swaying, half clothed swagger and orgasmic fueled moans of the main character, there’s an action game of unparalleled imagination at work here. I’ll be damned if the game hasn’t had me laughing out loud at all of the ridiculously cool things that have been unfolding on my TV screen. Want to race at breakneck speeds across an impossible stretch of highway, dodging angel bombs, flipped cars and exploding tractor trailers? This game has got it. Want to fight bosses so colossal and utterly strange they make your acid fuelled nightmares look meek by comparison? This game gives it to you. Want to witness unique cut scenes that are full of weird and wonderful character dialogue and interaction? Look no further. It’s got a dance off contest between Bayonetta and her doppelganger for Christ’s sake!! Why are you still reading this?? Why aren’t you experiencing this game on your favorite console already??




A lot of flak has been hurled on both sides regarding the way Bayonetta acts during the game. Personally, I don’t have a big issue with the way Bayonetta is portrayed. Hell, I’m always game for a strong and sexy female lead for any type of original property. At times, I must admit, it can feel like I’m being beaten over the head with a baseball bat covered with lingerie, but I get it. Bayonetta’s sexy, she’s confident and she’s strength personified. Believe me, It’s coming across loud and clear without all of the ass shots ;) I do have to say though, that there’s something refreshing to be able to see a female game character that’s so brazen with her sexuality. She owns it, and flaunts it, and it’s powerful because she’s in complete control, wielding it like another weapon in her insane arsenal. I can’t remember a character quite like Bayonetta in all my years as a gamer, and there’s something rather wonderful about that. Her design doesn’t hurt either. “Modern Witch” was the design tenant given by Hideki Kamiya and I have to give major kudos to Bayonetta’s visual creator, Mari Shimazaki. The subtlety of her design speaks to the talented female hand behind it. It’s nice to see a character that possesses a fair amount of elegance in the way she holds herself, in her height, the length of her legs, etc., instead of just being a brick house with a full “Double-D” cup. Bayonetta is a fashion drawing come to life, in proportion and attitude. Bayonetta, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, is cheesecake personified. And I’m a big fan of cheesecake.



Playing Bayonetta is like experiencing a symphony of strangeness. It’s the id personified. It’s every wonderful thought that’s ever spilled from Hideki Kamiya’s warped mind and tempered into an action game that’s second to nothing. It takes the conventions of action video games, those cookie cutter creations that tend to bore after one play through, and shatters them with the precision of Shuraba itself. It’s what happens when a studio and development team are allowed to run wild and give us something so incredibly different it can’t really be classified. It ramps up the action to a crescendo that threatens to shake the skin right off of your already blistered fingers only to shatter the bone beneath.

We’ve been hungry for this experience ever since we’ve all been old enough to grasp a controller.

Bayonetta is that experience.


WRITE CLUB FUNNIES! a newdirection

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Comic Reviews: Week of Feb. 17th

DC:


Batman #696:


At long last, a memorable issue of Tony Daniel's Batman. So far, the current arc has felt like a lot of complicated plotting all meant to create interest into the identity of the Black Mask. And after four exhausting, sub-standard issues, we're almost to the answer. This issue finds Dick Grayson under the influence of double mind control (you read it right:
Double mind control), thanks to the Penguin, Mad Hatter, and a bit of Black Mask magic. I have to say, this has been my favorite issue so far in Tony Daniel's run on the series. He took some chances with the time line, and instead of confusing me, I ended up paying closer attention to the story, something I don't usually do with Daniel's Batman. Plus, for a character I thought I’d hate (I usually don’t like sidekicks in general), there’s never been a better Robin than Damian Wayne, and that includes Carrie Kelly. Despite this issue being better than average, I still can't wait to be done with this arc. Batman being turned into an assassin is fun and all, but seeing Batman in a False Face mask just brought back memories of better days, namely the final act of Morrison's "Three Batmen" arc.


Batman: Streets of Gotham # 9:


While this wasn’t a horrible issue, it was fairly disposable. Streets of Gotham #9 wraps up a two-part storyline by series stand-in writer Mike Benson, and thankfully we’ll have Paul Dini back soon. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to say about this one. Batman (Dick Grayson) and Commissioner Gordon take-down a John-murdering prostitute stalker, and in the end we all learn that playing with people's lives is a bad thing to do, but hitting other people in the face will solve everything. And though I can understand the need to show stories where Batman is fighting villains cut from a more common cloth, I couldn't get over the fact that the Comish doubtlessly had something better to do with his time than personally help hunt down one guy, going so far as to put himself directly in the line of fire. But whatever; nobody ever accused Gotham of being a normal place.



MARVEL:


Daredevil #505:


I don't know why I'm always surprised when I like an issue of DD. Andy Diggle has yet to disappoint, and the current arc is pretty damn phenomenal. Since taking leadership of the Hand, Matt Murdock has been busily turning the crimson-clad ninjas into an army of mini-DDs. Unfortunately, the Hand doesn't go legit that easily. So Daredevil and White Tiger head to Japan to try and convince the four other Hand bigwigs that having an American superhero in charge will return the hand to it’s former glory and restore their influence over the world. Standing in his way are multiple back room dealings, a secret shadow sect of the Hand, and Bakuto, the hot-headed leader of the Hand’s South American Operations. It’s beginning to look like DD’s tenure as Shogun of the Hand will be short-lived, which is a shame, because seeing Daredevil lead his former enemies has been just as enjoyable as watching him pummel them.


The Incredible Hercules #141:


Say it ain’t so Herc, say it ain’t so! Warning: big spoilers ahead! As if it wasn't obvious when Marvel released the solicitations for "Hercules: Fall of an Avenger," in this issue Herc meets his maker after preventing Typhon from destroying all life in the universe with the Continuum
(tm) machine. We all know that Hercules, like his half-brother Ares (also recently deceased) will return someday, so for now I'm more upset over the loss of Child-aged-Zeus, who also bit the dust in this issue. Apparently, February is not the month to be a Greek deity at Marvel. I can’t help but feel that these deaths are a little cheap, as both Ares and Hercules are two of the most easily resurrected characters. But for the time being, they will be sorely missed. Despite the loss, I’m still excited to see what Greg Pak has planned for Amadeus Cho’s solo series, just so long as he keeps up with the amazing sound effects.


Uncanny X-Men #521:


To be honest, I dropped Uncanny a few months back, right around the time the Utopia crossover wrapped. I mainly bought this issue for the meditating Magneto on the cover. I'm a sucker for a story that features the ol' buckethead, even if he's not talking much. And after I took a sneak peek in the back to see why he was meditating, I figured it was worth the price of admission. This issue is mostly a lead-in to the return of Kitty Pryde, with a little bit of X-men/Fantomex action thrown-in for good measure. Why Magneto would want to return her to Earth is beyond me, but like I said, I haven't been paying attention to this series much lately. Fantomex (like Damian Wayne) is another of those Morrison-created characters that manages to entertain even when he’s being written by somebody else. So the writing here is good, not great, I'd say par for the course for Fraction's run work on the title. One thing that hasn't changed since I left the series, and was one of the primary reasons I dropped the title, is Greg Land's art. Downright laughable at time and frequently inconsistent in the details, how and why Land is still on this title is beyond me. Not that I like to see anybody out of a job, but will somebody please fire this guy until he starts drawing women without resorting to ridiculous porno faces? There’s one page in particular (you’ll know it if you see it), where Wolverine looks to be doing a little more than merely attacking his enemy from behind. I’ve read some reviews and internet commentary that gives Land the benefit of the doubt, although I can't understand why. Regardless of Kitty Pryde and the exciting last panel of this issue, I don’t know if I can suffer through another issue of Land-drawn issue of Uncanny X-Men.


Punisher #14:



It's really hard to write about the current Punisher arc without devolving into a state of enthused gibberish. If the world acted according to reason (which it thankfully does not), this arc would be falling as flat as the Punisher's short-lived tenure as a Demon Slayer. Instead, it has given the series a much-needed breath of revitalized the buzz. I can't help but feel that this story got the green light as a result of the Heroic Age. While the rest of the heroes are set to go bright n' shiny, Marvel's more tortured characters (Punisher and Ghost Rider in particular) are being pushed into darker, more imaginative territory, and I couldn't be happier. Sure, the stories are etched in shadows and violence, but they've taken out the boring, droll "grit" and replaced it with a colorful world of monsters and demons. Everything about this issue, from the bullet hole in the Punisher Skull on the front page to the inclusion of Dracula and Japanese nuclear monsters in Hellsgaard's origin story, filled me with the same joy I felt when I first saw
The Monster Squad as a kid. By the time I got to the letters page, I didn't think my excitement could be any more ravenous...and then I saw the preview for next month's cover. Two words: Undead Nazis. To be honest, I haven't enjoyed a Marvel title this much since the short-lived Captain Britain and MI-13 (R.I.P.)


Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #5:

This, like Punisher, is another one of those occult-leaning supernatural series that should not be as good as it is. Or was (apparently this is the last issue of the series). Between Punisher, F.E.A.R. agent, and the Last Days of American Crime, Remender is quickly establishing himself as one of the best writers of science fiction/supernatural comics. Which is why its such a shame that this will probably be the last issue of Doctor Voodoo. Worry not though; teasers for Secret Avengers have featured a shadowy figure in a long-flowing cape, and there's fairly good odds that Doc Voodoo will make the team. In any case, this issue sees the Doctor Voodoo and Doctor Doom making their final stand against an apocalypse of reality brought on by Nightmare. Like the rest of this series, everything about this book clicked. Latveria as the last bastion of reality? Show me where to sign up.

Comic Reviews: Week of Feb. 17th

MARVEL:

1. Dark Avengers #14:

Bendis and Deodato continuously outdo themselves. This issue has some of the best panel direction I’ve ever seen. Your eyes will glide smoothly across a page littered with panels that are tossed about like debris. There are a few standard nine panel pages, but the ones that require the most tension are masterfully drawn. This has been, and continues to be an amazing series. Bendis has taken the most dysfunctional members of the Marvel Universe and placed them in the unholy hands of Norman Osborn. As I read this, I thought back to Norman’s prior role as a Spider-Man villain. It’s similar to thinking about Laurence Fishburne’s role on Pee Wee’s Playhouse. You can’t really imagine him quitting his job to go back and rehash his mailman character. This is where Norman Osborn belongs -- pulling the strings of one of the darkest teams ever assembled. Credit has to be given to Joe Quesada for allowing Bendis free reign over these characters because he’s a Godddamn phenomenal story teller, and this is one of the best series ever written.

2. Doomwar #1:

I get the feeling this has been building up for a long time. Jonathan Maberry spends the entire issue putting in the exposition. This makes the issue a pretty dense read. Plus, nothing that occurs on the cover occurs in the story. My only hope is that this paves the way for five issues of non stop kick-ass-ery. The plot is pretty flimsy, and mildly echoes Avatar, so you’ll want to be prepared for some eye rolling. I would like to think that Doom’s motivation behind taking over another country is pretty simple -- he’s Doom. And he wants more. But the writing is solid, and it showcases Marvel’s more cult-loved characters, like Black Panther, and it fills in the gaps so you don’t have to go back and read to see how we got here. I’m going to give this one more issue. If there isn’t an awesome battle that relates to an idea of a “Doom-War”, I’m going to drop it. If you’re an X-Men fan, you’d like this. Otherwise, you can read a summary online.

3. Amazing Spider-Man #621:

The writers of Amazing Spider-Man have decided to include Mr. Negative in their “Gauntlet” series. Negative came on the scene during the Brand New Day story arc which completely rewrote the status quo for Peter Parker and Spider-Man. And while most newer comic book characters have the staying power of a puddle on a hot day, Dan Slott has done a good job of making the character work when he needs him to. Instead, Negative is a great addition to the Spider-Man universe. He operates similar to how the mobsters in The Dark Knight do -- he’s a representation of the deeper problems of New York. And, he’s more dangerous than a villain whose got a super powered punch (which he does -- in a brilliantly illustrated three panel sequence, he punches Spidey through the ceiling of one building, through a the wall of another, and he finally exits out of that one and falls five stories to the street). Slott also nicely resolves the problem of Carlie’s dad, and keeps readers going with “Bitch-May” (or the bitch version of Aunt May) that appeared recently. I look forward to this issue every week, and while the end of the issue teases the lizard, an ad in the comic shows who Spidey fights in March: The Vulture. Consistently one of my favorites, Amazing Spider-Man is worth the read.


DC:

1. Blackest: Night Flash #3:

I love that Geoff Johns is re-establishing Barry Allen as the Flash. There’s a great moment where Barry reveals himself to Bart, and it’s pretty damn touching. Because Johns has penned the issues, there’re more hints to the final outcome of Blackest Night, including some odd moments surrounding Eobard Thwane, also known as Professor Zoom (there’s a moment where the Brightest Day symbol displayed in DC solicits appears on his chest -- so what does Thwane have to do with Brightest Day?). In addition to that, we get more of the Flash’s rogues, led by Captain Cold, and a horrifying encounter with Boomerang’s son, Owen Mercer. Johns and Bendis are two of the finest comic writers out there right now. They’re both good at crafting incredible stories with incredible characters. Johns is working on making The Flash relevant again, and he’s got me super excited about Flash: Rebirth, and the continued Flash series beyond that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Johns pen an Aquaman: Rebirth series given his ability to resurrect the silver age heroes of the DCU.

2. Green Lantern Corps #45:

Peter Tomasi solves the problem of Guy Gardner’s red ring, but I can’t help feeling slightly cheated. It was a left field solution, not one that really tested the corps. Instead, it involved Mogo doing something no one knew Mogo could do. There’s still a minor threat to Guy’s body that needs to be fixed by a blue lantern, so we know what to expect from Blackest Night. But I’m not totally satisfied with the ending. I feel that there would be better ways to solve Guy’s dilemma that didn’t involve a secret treatment. It’s like the serials from the 1940’s. At the end of one segment, the hero’s car plummets off a cliff. But at the beginning of the next one, it’s revealed that he was able to climb out in time, roll away from the wreckage, and still defeat the bad guy. It’s a cop-out. And I hate to knock on how great of an issue this was -- because it really was -- but the ending soured it for me. However, Patrick Gleason’s art is superb. With so many different types of characters -- from humans to aliens to parasites to giant planets -- the editors of the Green Lantern universe continue to one-up themselves. I wish I had started reading this series much earlier because Johns and Tomasi have done a great job of connecting their story lines to each other. And this further shows that Blackest Night is the comic event of the year.

3. Green Lantern #51:

What the hell more can I say about this comic? If you’re not reading it, you’re a schmuck! I think Doug Mahnke threw in a few more ink lines because the art here is super gritty. My guess is that if it was intentional, it was done to mirror the grittiness of the story. Hal Jordan, in the body of Parallax, enters the Spectre (who has become a black lantern) and rips the ring out of his body. He also rips off the Spectre’s face, and Atrocitus infects the Spectre with rage to make him the red lantern Spectre. Whew! I wonder what the Green Lantern meetings are like? I see Geoff Johns sitting at a big polished table, spewing the craziest ideas while some assistant types like mad to try and get them down. From the first issue, Geoff Johns knew what he wanted to do. This is very evident. I think Green Lantern’s renewed popularity is due to Geoff Johns. Props to Eddie Berganza for letting Geoff Johns run wild in the Green Lantern universe. They definitely took a chance, and I hope they see how well it’s paid off.


MISC:

1. Incorruptible #3 (Boom!):


The dialogue in this comic was so awful it was hard to concentrate on the rest of it. We moved a bit more on the plot, and it turns out that the only way to escape from the Plutonian is to buy a one billion dollar portal to another dimension. We got a little closer to realizing why Max Damage went bad, but there’s still too much humanity about him when he’s evil. He complains about how he can’t feel anything, and what a terrible way it is to live like this . . . while he burns someone to death in an oven. The most interesting thing about this comic occurs on the last page, but it’s not enough to keep a reader hooked. I’m dropping this series as of this issue. With writing like this, it’s hard to see how anyone would stay interested.

2. The Tick: New Series #2 (NEC):

Not much to say here. If you’ve seen or read The Tick before, you’ll like these. It’s more along the lines of the cartoon where silliness took over for plot, but it has it’s moments. Plus, you get to see the Tick again, so I’m not complaining. It’s fun to read something this light hearted compared to some of the darker comics out there.

3. Joe The Barbarian #2 (Vertigo):

Morrison has planted the seed of doubt in this issue: is Joe sick and dying and just hallucinating? Or is he actually being transferred to an alternate world that uses the world around him but in different ways? I still have no idea what the hell is going on, but it’s a delightful confusion. Sean Murphy’s art shines in this issue. Joe’s rat Jack (or Chakk as he calls himself) is drawn as a great knight whose leading Joe further down the rabbit (rat?) hole. I’m intrigued beyond comprehension here. I just hope that, in the end, everything makes sense. Regardless of the ambiguity, this is a stellar series that you should be reading.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Five Choice Books of Small Press Expo Book 1: Woman King

By Max Evry

It is fun to imagine the whir of hundreds of printing presses and, yes, Xerox machines working tirelessly in the days and hours before the Small Press Expo kicks off each year. The two-day celebration of independent comics in Bethesda, Maryland attracts the many brave souls who put their hearts, minds, and cold-hard cash into getting their cartoon visions out to attendees, often made right under the deadline. Founded in 1994, SPX also provides cartoonists who generally spend much of the calendar year shackled to their drawing boards a chance to socialize with fellow artists and fans. It is not uncommon to see them take much or all of the profits from selling their own books and spend it on other titles.

For those attending it can be an overwhelming experience, with truly gifted creators often sitting at tables directly adjacent to self-publishers whose work, sadly, should only be used as crumpled-up packing material to ship more professional books. With so many titles to choose from, it can be difficult to tell the wheat from the chaff. Is it a beautifully drawn title, or merely one with a nice cover? This series will shine the spotlight on five authors who represent the most promising emerging talents on the indie comics scene, including exclusive interviews where they discuss their process, their inspiration, and their joy in creating these works.

“WOMAN KING” by Colleen Frakes

While it reads like a fable in the Grimm tradition, “Woman King” reaches for far more complex themes of human nature than a mere morality tale. It weaves the story of a young child who is taken in by a clan of bears living in the woods. Determined to keep their land sacred and free of the taint of humans, they train the girl to despise her own people and use her as a leader in their war against mankind.

Even though the premise sounds like a hybrid of Philip Pullman and Robert E. Howard, the tone is far more nuanced, the images more gentle and haunting. This is a rather solemn meditation on nature versus nurture that just happens to be punctuated by moments of violence that leave the reader ambivalent as to which side is in the right.

“Woman King” won the Small Press Expo’s Ignatz Award for Promising New Talent, an award voted on by attendees. The recipient is given a red brick befitting its namesake, and on Sunday Frakes was displaying it proudly at her table.

Congratulations on winning the Ignatz Award! How did it feel and why was your speech so short?

COLLEEN FRAKES: Thanks! It felt...terrifying? Unexpected? Part of the tradition with the Ignatz is making the ceremony as short as possible so we can move on to drink tickets and chocolate fondue. That, and I really didn't have much to say. I'm not good with words, that's why I draw pictures.


What do you plan to do with your Ignatz Brick?

FRAKES: I haven't decided yet. I've seen my neighbor (Alec Longstreth) use his as a doorstop, and James Kochalka uses his to clean up cat puke. People keep telling me I should "put it on the mantle", but my tiny apartment doesn't have one. Right now, it's weighing down a pile of mini comics. That seems right.


What role has the Center for Cartoon Studies had in your development as a comics creator?

FRAKES: Everything about how I approached comics changed in my first year at CCS. They gave me the tools to start my career, and introduced me to a community of mini-comics artists and self-publishers that I would never have otherwise known existed.

"Woman King" deals with nature and gives the reader a real sense of being in the wilderness. Does nature figure prominently in your life or did the setting just come organically as a function of doing a book about bears?

FRAKES: I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, and spent my teen years on an island wildlife sanctuary in the Puget Sound. There was a large deer herd, coyotes, harbor seal breeding grounds, and several active bald eagle nests, but no bears. I'm much more comfortable drawing dense forests than I am buildings or cities or anything with too many right angles.

Were you inspired by fairy tales/fables in literature or comics and if so which ones?

FRAKES: Most of my comics are based in fairy tales or myths. "Woman King" wasn't inspired by any particular story, but it is based on several fairy tale "types", stories of changeling children, people who change into animals or vice-versa, and stories about feral children.

Check out Colleen Frakes HERE: http://tragicrelief.blogspot.com

Friday, February 12, 2010

Comic Reviews: Week of Feb 10th


MARVEL:

Dark Tower: Battle of Jericho Hill #3
: I almost didn’t write a review for this because I’ve already expressed my disdain for it. But after reading it, my “Tower Love” kept gnawing at my conscience, and I felt a need to unload on this. The series is called “Battle of Jericho Hill” and while we’re three issues in, there hasn’t been a damn battle yet, nor the beginnings of one. I understand that Robin Furth is trying to weave her own Tower story using King’s ideas, but this is one moment that is alluded to by Roland in both Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. It’s an important moment in the Tower mythos because it shows how Alain, Jamie, and Roland’s best friend Cuthbert, all die. So far, we’ve been given a convoluted buildup involving slow mutants, a group of Amaco worshipping cultists, and a traitor whose been able to fool the greatest gunslinger ever to come from Gilead since the time of Arthur Eld. I don’t buy it. Roland is too smart and too clever to fall for such a ruse, and while Furth attempts to make Roland into the cold, remorseless leader he becomes in the Dark Tower series, the character holes are too great to ignore. This entire series has been a disappointment. I think Marvel made some poor choices with this series, and you can see it in the way they’ve constructed both The Stand and The Talisman comics -- better art, better writing, closer attention to story.

Ultimate Armor Wars #4:

This is another one that I almost didn’t write about, but man oh man -- from Tony meeting his mechanical grandfather to producing an alternate beheaded Tony Stark, Warren Ellis wrapped up this series with a bang. Plus, there are numerous references to a greater event that is yet to take place in the Ultimate Universe. One of my complaints with comic writers is that when they get into a rut, they rely on writing stories that play off of the character’s powers. When this happens, people forget what made the character so great in the first place. Luckily, Ellis reminds us that Tony Stark is pretty damn smart, and wouldn’t allow himself to played so easily. I was shocked at the ending because the set up had been there the entire time, the clues laid out nicely for the reader, but I still had the rug pulled out from under me. If you like Warren Ellis or Iron Man, pick this series up. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as I did. Plus, Steve Kurth’s art is amazing, and he constructs incredibly detailed panels, and captures a pretty heart-wrenching moment at the end.

Hit-Monkey #1:

This comic is exactly what it says. There’s an assassin that is saved by a tribe of monkeys, one of whom learns to mimic his movements. This is as farcical as one can get, but it’s actually a fun read. DC has it’s own chimp hero in Detective Chimp, so it’s about time Marvel attempted something similar (if they haven’t already). It’s an interesting idea, and what I enjoyed most about it is that the monkey can’t speak, nor does he understand the human language. Instead, he just knows how to fight with his hands and with guns. He’ll be appearing in the pages of Deadpool, so now would be the time to get to know him. Dalibor Talijic does some great pencil work here, specifically during the action sequence at the end. There’s an “Oh shit” moment when the hitmen turn to see the monkey standing before them with two loaded uzis in hand. This has the makings of a silly, yet entertaining series.

Amazing Spider-Man #620:

Spider-Man wraps up his conflict with Mysterio, and the ending is the proverbial bang, not the whisper. Dan Slott does a good job balancing the A plot (Spider-Man vs. Mysterio), with the B plot (Carlie’s realization about her dead father). Plus, it’s revealed that in the end, Mysterio was playing everyone against each other. It’s a shame this character didn’t appear in the movies because under Slott’s guidance, he’s brutal, clever, and funny. Spider-Man’s interactions with Quentin Beck showcase Spidey’s humorous side, and while Slott’s issues with Rhino and Sandman were pretty heavy handed, this is more light-hearted and provides a nice respite for the next arc of “The Gauntlet.” I can’t keep saying this enough: Read Amazing Spider-Man. This is Spider-Man as it should be.


DC:

Batman and Robin #8:


Batman vs. Batman?!? Master vs. Student?!? If you’re not familiar with Final Crisis, you may be a little lost here. During Final Crisis, Darkseid manufactured an army of Batmen to fight his unholy war. Here, the best of the Batmen, all others having been destroyed, is resurrected by Dick Grayson and a spectacular fight ensues. In the end, Psuedo-Bruce returns to Gotham only to encounter a wheel-chair bound Damien. This is definitely worth checking out. I wasn’t sure if DC could pull of a Bruce-less Batman, but they’re giving a good go. What I enjoy most is how Morrison makes Dick slightly different in an attempt to distinguish him from Bruce. The differences are subtle, but they showcase Morrison’s attention to detail. I’m excited to see where this keeps going.

Human Target #1: I took a chance on this hoping that it would show more of the character’s internal thoughts and really give the reader a good insight into how strong/intelligent/awesome Christopher Chance is. But, the comic is loaded with every clich├ęd line, action, and plot piece imaginable. There’s little substance to the comic, from what I can tell immediately, and nothing that would make me interested in reading more. I’ve never seen the show, so I don’t know if it’s as mediocre as the book, but I hope the series develops the characters more than the comic.

Action Comics #886:

In contrast to James Robinson’s Superman, Greg Rucka has penned a tight story that involves Nightwing and Flamebird, as well as a group of Rogue Kryptonians released from the Phantom Zone, and the Kryptonian god, Rao. I was impressed by the way in which Rucka returns to plot threads planted issues before. I’m finding the characters much more interesting than Big Blue, and I hope that when he returns to Earth, Nightwing and Flamebird are tossed to the side because they’ve been given depth and personality, as well as shown to be new heroes who are still developing their powers and who, occasionally, make mistakes. I’d love to see how Rucka writes Superman (even though he cowrites world of New Krypton, I’d like to see him work without Robinson’s influence), if he incorporates Supes into the world of Chris and Thara Ak-Var. I guess I’m just surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed the new take on these old characters. But it seems in the hands of Greg Rucka, they’ve become relevant to the DC Universe, as well as important the Superman mythos.

MISC:

The Anchor #1 (Hester/Churilla -- Boom):


I picked this up on recommendation. The Anchor is an interesting character because he’s God’s warrior. He’s interesting in that he’s not sure where he is or what he’s doing at any point in time, but he’s a brutal beast who gets the crap kicked out him, who wears the scars of his past, and who can continually heal despite the gashes in his thick skin. It took me a while to realize that I’d seen Phil Hester’s art before -- in the pages of Green Arrow (a comic I thoroughly enjoyed). So while there’s not much given to the character yet, the story is set up enough that it leaves A LOT of room for expansion. I think this is a good read for people who are looking for less mainstream comics. Plus, Hester is able to get away with a lot more blood and gore -- cool stuff to see illustrated.

Haunt #1 (Kirkman/Ottley -- Image): I know Kirkman has a plan, so I’m not going to shit-can Haunt yet. My comic guy recommended this too, and while I loved the art, there’s still a lot of explanation that needs to be done for me to buy in. The main character is a priest who appears, as of right now, as a less than stellar example of the clergy. His brother is murdered, and his ghost can communicate with him. The Priest, Daniel Kilgore, is able to bond with his brother’s spirit to become a superhero. I don’t think the first issue is very strong; it feels forced. A non-priest like priest gets mixed up in his brother’s international espionage shenanigans, while a mysterious doctor who does awful experiments on humans is murdered and a secret book of his is taken. Okay. There’s nothing original about this idea, so it’s hard for me to immediately buy in. I can seek Kirkman’s immediate character depth -- we know we’re going to learn more about these characters and what motivates them, but if I had to compare this first issue with The Walking Dead, I’d say this is a step back. The Walking Dead works well because it’s realistic characters in an horrific situation. Kirkman can write great characters, but this time he feels out of his element. I won’t, however, give up on this because I know Kirkman is a big-picture guy and he probably has big plans for this book, so in the end it will make perfect sense. I hope.

Chimichanga #1 (Powell -- Albatross Exploding Funny Books): I’ve never read The Goon, but Eric Powell is never spoken of negatively, so I had high hopes for this comic. And I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a wacky story involving a bearded woman, a failing circus, a strange, egg-regurgitating bird, and a witch who creates a potion of hair and liquid that helps people with excessive gas. Chimichanga is a giant, wooly beast who follows the bearded woman around and whom, it seems, will be the savior of the story. It’s also just pencil work on traditional paper pages. This seems promising, and I recommend people pick up a copy of it if they have or haven’t read any Eric Powell.

Demo #1: (Wood/Cloonan -- Vertigo):

Again, this was another recommendation. It’s a single episode tale, which is nice, but it’s also very predictable. Within the first two pages, I knew who the girl was going to be at the end, and how she would end up in a situation where she’s falling from the ledge of a basilica. Becky Cloonan provides impressive pencil and ink work, however, but the story just doesn’t hold up. I guess there’s an earlier version of this, and maybe that ties in with this, but I don’t think I’ll be picking this up again. However, in a world full of story arcs, it’s nice to get a single story in 22 pages.