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

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Comic Reviews

MARVEL:

Amazing Spider-Man #645
:
This issue of Amazing Spider-Man is noteworthy in that Spidey spends almost the entire issue kicking the crap out of his rogues. Most of his attacks are contrived situations -- his villains happen to be in the right places at the wrong times. But still, Mark Waid knows how to write a cool story. My two favorite moments: Spider-Man tears down a dockside warehouse by pulling the beams apart underwater; Spider-Man chases the Chameleon through a mansion, only to pull him through a wall. All of this is because Peter thinks Norman Osborne and Lilly Hollister's baby is dead, and he thinks he's responsible. The truth will out, obviously, but where others have found this series to be growing stale, I still see it as a continuous solid outing.

DC:

Superman #703:
I'm still enjoying Superman's trek across America. This story is a bit more cliched than others, however, and the moral is shoved down readers' throats. But, It's still more interesting than watching Superman try to battle some alien menace in Metropolis while at the same time dealing with his "marital issues." I think what Straczynski really wants to do is retcon Superman's previous fifteen years. Since that's damn near impossible, this is the next best thing.

VERTIGO:

American Vampire #6: Stephen King has stepped aside after completing his five issue run so now Scott Snyder is the primary creative force behind American Vampire. How'd he do? Check below for a further review.

ICON:

Nemesis #3
:
I can't even clearly review this piece of shit. Here are some "highlights:" Nemesis kidnaps Blake Morrow's son and daughter, makes Morrow admit that his son is gay, then he uses Morrow's son's sperm to impregnate Morrow's daughter. Oh, and he "rigged [the daughter's] womb to completely collapse" if they attempt to abort the child. Seriously -- RIGGED A WOMB TO BLOW?!? This is the shittiest piece of shitty shit to ever get shit out.

Superior #1:
Now, while Nemesis may be a steaming pile, I actually enjoyed Superior. Superior is the story of Simon Pooni, a boy with Multiple Sclerosis who is granted a wish by a space monkey. Again, I can't make this shit up. But the difference here is that where Nemesis is all about flash over substance, Superior has heart. There's a lot to like here -- Millar is writing a story that most people can relate to. How many comic book fans wished, at some point, for super powers? Imagine if they were granted, but not to any douchebag on the street. Instead, they're given to a boy who has every reason to own them. What will he do with them? We'll have to wait and see. But Millar admits that Superior is more "family-friendly," despite the book being littered with four letter words. This is a vast improvement from the work he's been doing in his other comics, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Simon does with his abilities. And by the by, Simon Pooni is the name of a guy who won an eBay auction, the proceeds of which went to buy a bus for a school with special needs students. So Millar isn't a complete asshole -- just a guy who shouldn't be given too much "ego space."


Bannen's Book of the Week:

American Vampire #6

My pick this week is Scott Snyder's Vampire/Western/History of America book. We still have the continuous issue of the barons of industry fighting the simple folks of the frontier. This time, we're pushed to 1930's in the middle of the depression, and we're introduced to another character: Cashel McCogan. He's the new chief of police, replacing his father who was killed two months prior. The morals have shifted slightly -- there are undercurrents of the evils of drinking, gambling, prostitution, and much of the issue is devoted to the frustrations small towns faced when big businesses came in and built large structures like dams, bridges, or factories. Snyder writes Cashel as part rancher and part bad ass. He uses bucolic phrases like "You and yours," but still maintains an air of control. The story feels big, and I imagine that Snyder must feel like he can sprawl a bit more, now that he's got a full twenty-two pages to play with. This is a great beginning -- Snyder still uses Skinner Sweet (who is easily one of the coolest comic creations), and Rafael Albuquerque still provides the beautiful images to go with Snyder's story. Where readers may have been interested to see if the story loses any of its "oomph" with the departure of Stephen King, I can assure it doesn't. It still has just as much bite as before.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Club Review: One Hit Wonder by Charlie Carillo

In our celebrity saturated society even those thought long forgotten, idols from our youth who glimmered for just a summer, leaving us with a singular hit song that resonated in the public sending ripples through the pop culture pool, even they become relevant and interesting once more.

In Charlie Carillo's new book One Hit Wonder, we follow Mickey DeFalco, a Queens native who hit it big with his sappy yet melancholy ballad 'Sweet Days' as he returns home an utter failure and total has-been. In his shoes we feel what it's like to be loved and adored for that one contribution to people's lives.

An aging fan hooking up with her teenage fantasy. Bitter former classmates still toiling at menial jobs at home. The girl that was loved and lost, inspiring those epic refrains. These are the people around Mickey that marvel at his achievement and fall from grace. They hold him at a distance, as something other than themselves.

Through flashbacks we're shown even more moments of awkward celebrity. From playing a cruise ship to kids birthday parties, no indignity is spared, and Mickey just casually walks his way through each of them, only passionate and excitable when clinging to his last shreds of dignity.

There's something to Mickey's boy-like demeanor and passive aggressive nature that really shines in the prose. This feels like a real person who could neatly slide into our pop song past. His parents are peppered with sentimental details that make them so true to life. You can see their past as Mickey grew up in their home.

The whole book is littered with truths. About life, love, family. Just lines tossed out here and there that feel like universal truths, spit out by a wiseass Queens kid in a 38 year old's body. The concept of hitting bottom and trying to resurface, flailing about in inconsistency of actions, taking the easy route when available, this is how people behave.

And then there's lost love. Idyllic in memory, which taints all reality about him, making it all a joke, another tragedy heaped upon the pile. How do you react when all you want is the girl, but instead are given fame and fortune? You self-destruct of course. Spiral to the bottom and find yourself again.

The book is very well written and consistent in its tone, with more than a few twists and turns that feel like the randomness of life, rather than the structure of plot. Not to give spoilers, but there is a happy ending there, but it may not exactly come as you'd think it would.

I have yet to read Carillo's other novels, but from this book I imagine he's got more than just this one song to offer.

Check out Charlie Carillo's website or his other book RAISING JAKE.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Free Comic of the Week: Vision Machine by Greg Pak


A new feature I'll be having up here on the blog is to present the best of free comic books available online.

First up is Vision Machine by Greg Pak. You can read the comic on Comixology or download the PDF.

Greg Pak has an exclusive interview up on Comics Alliance where he mentions that not only are you able to download/read the comic for free online, but eventually there will be a free print version available as well.

Which is really interesting, having a book put together by money from the Ford Foundation and put out under Creative Commons license which means anyone can expand on the universe created within the pages or is able to remix or mashup the story however they see fit as long as the original source is credited. Truly free creative information. The article also has a lot of interesting points about digital comics and creator royalties.

Which leads me over to another article discussing ICv2's number crunching of digital sales which is ultimately summed up as:

"While the news for print was less than positive, with manga sales facing an estimated 20% drop in 2010, the news for digital comics was very good indeed, with Griepp projecting that digital comics sales would see a more than ten-fold increase this year over last."

And:

"But while manga and graphic novels decline, the real energy and growth has been in digital, which has expanded from a $500,000 market in 2009 to an estimated $6 to 8 million dollars in 2010, a more than ten-fold increase. Quite simply, digital comics are "the fastest-growing part of the comics business," said Griepp."

It's interesting seeing this comic going out into the public, with its theme of free creative information with a donation based payment setup and the Orwellian Big Brother aspect of controlled information. I'm eager to find out which direction both the story within the comic and the story of the growing digital distribution and the role that this free comic plays in that.

K

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New York Comic Con Mini-Cast: Day 1

Day 1:

This is a short one folks! Kurt, Tim and later Phil, take a walk through the con and are struck with a volley of emotions. The British are killed, and Tim & Kurt ask "What's it all about?"

Luckily they're saved by a girl named Gabby.


Intro: "Four Colored Universe" Metasciences

Outro: "Write Club Theme" Scott St. Pierre

New York Comic Con Mini-Cast: Day 2

Day 2:


Tim is joined by Pete Lenz, who is having fun. Then Tim tries to find the screaming women, and when that doesn't pan out Pete, Tim and Phil head down to the basement to check out Anime Fest. Apples are eaten, smiles are shared, and perhaps the oddest interview I've ever done takes place.

Seeing as how this is a major comic event, I thought I'd check out Marvel's Cup O' Joe panel. That kicks in at about 7 minutes, and therein you'll hear about some of Marvel Comics upcoming plans. This, of course, was a slide show, so you will not be able to see what they're talking about. Here are some bullet points:

  • Marvel to publish at least two CrossGen titles. From the images it looks like they'll be SIGIL and RUSE (penned by Mark Waid).
  • Brian Bendis and Michael Oeming will be putting out a creator owned, all-ages book named TAKIO.
  • Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev team up to reinvent MOON KNIGHT.
  • Marvel + ESPN? I don't know either.
  • A teaser of a web-series about Marvel editor Steve Wacker auditioning for the Broadway play based on SPIDER-MAN. I think it's called SPIDER-MAN: WTF am I doing on Broadway? (JOKES!)


Intro: "Kingdom Come" Jay-Z

Outro: "Write Club Theme" Scott St. Pierre

New York Comic Con Mini-Cast: Day 3

Day 3:



LAST DAY OF COMIC CON NY 2010! We start this off with Phil Gelatt, and you can tell that the con has taken its toll on this strong, strong man. We then chat with Nikki Cook about her upcoming book, MEMOIR, written by Ben McCool.

After that we catch up with Reilly Brown to discuss his con sketches and his new ALPHA FLIGHT project. And, finally, Rick Lacy appears on the scene to detail his plans to take his life down to zero, and then build it back up to 11.

If you understand the plan, please let me know.

We end with a haunting scene at the AnimeFest. In my mind, I'm still there.

Intro: "I Am the Law" Anthrax

Outro: "Write Club Theme" Scott St. Pierre

Monday, October 11, 2010

Comics: the Con

written Sunday night at 7pm.

At Botanica, drinking Happy Hour drinks, the con weekend over before it ever began. Boston is probably back in Massachusetts by now, Reilly on his way back to Hoboken, Doug'll be back in Utah by tomorrow, and Khoi (with Heather & baby Gideon) are probably driving back to Pennsylvania at this moment.

I spent all day at the Comicon on Friday which just wore me out. I spent Saturday napping, then went out to the MTV party, after drinking in the New Yorker with Boston, mocking TV shows and spitballing ideas. The MTV party was surreal watching as comic celebs all drunkenly danced to hip hop.

I left with Boston and his friend to hit up the East Village where we fit in some dancing time at Beauty Bar before being denied entry into Lit and winding up at Remedy Diner. I was well and sober by the time we came downtown so the grumpiness took over.

I had talked it over with Tim for a bit before, about how we're these mid-level professionals who have done some comic work but not anyone with any pull or weight. And we're far from fan boys who're blowing money on show exclusive books and statues and toys, waiting on line for an autograph from so and so. Whatever happened to the fun of comics?

I imagine I would only enjoy a con again if I had a small child that I could walk around in costume. For now, I'm making face time with some cool people who are friendly aquaintances but not quite friends. Just biding my time until my books come out and can really join the gang of creators that I know.

My girlfriend's galley copy of her book came out today and she signed free copies. What must that be like for her? After being the sole creator on an epic 192 page graphic novel and having it put out by Abrams, one of the more legit publishers out there, here it was, her first comic come to life. I'm so proud to be with her.

I tried not to let my melancholy affect her, but it came out. It just frustrated me to not be able to soak up all the con had to offer and feel invigorated. To be able to acknowledge that the industry is growing and so every show gets bigger and bigger. Why can't I look into that crowd and see anything positive?

All I see is sadness, loneliness. Imagination packaged as product and slapped with a price tag. Looking to my future I see long weekends hocking my wares to an inclusive audience jaded by an oversaturated market. Please buy what I helped create. Give me money so you can distract yourself for a moment. Live someone else's adventure for a snippet of time.

Why can't I look at it as enjoyment of entertainment? Maybe because I don't enjoy it anymore. Every comic I read is research. I've dissected the medium to the point where I see all the behind the scenes movements, and so I never let myself be absorbed by the story.

That just sucks. I've loved comics to the point where it became my identity, then I assumed it needed to be my career, because what else would I do? After crafting a graphic novel I know fully what goes into creating every single comic page. Something someone will pass over in a minute or less.

But hopefully the sum of the parts will be more long lasting. I can really only believe that the total story will move someone, inspire someone, at the very least entertain someone. I don't know though, is that enough? Is that what I want? To spend so much time creating something that people will consume like a snack?

I want to make a bigger impression upon the world. To write something of substance that makes a difference. I know that through story and characters you can make a bigger impact rather than straightforwared dry instructional text. But when it comes to making a living, getting paid for your work, you need to think of the market, the audience's money, and giving them what they want.

The fine line between honest artistic expression and formulaic fluff entertainment, that's what I have a problem with. I just can barely afford to feed myself, let alone spend money on something that I'll read once, so any story put out there needs to be epic. Though new stories need to be created all the time to feed the pop culture machine as it reaps the dreams of people, nuturing the dreams of others.

Maybe I'm overthinking it. Okay, I'm definitely overthinking it. But I'm a writer and can not help it. I'm spending so much time crafting ideas into words and putting them down, let alone convincing artists to illustrate those ideas to get them out there. I need to question motives and reasons.

Then comes the idea of validation. Would readers, building an audience, give me something I'm missing? I know you're supposed to just focus on creating and not worry about how it'll be received, but would knowing that people read this make me feel any different?

It actually does. I have heard some mentioning that people have read my blog and it kind of makes me feel like I'm not wasting my time. What's the correlation between needing to express myself and needing it to be read? Where does that leave me? Either as a repressed overthinker or an emotional exhibitionist.

I don't know. I guess I just want my ego to be stroked because my self-esteem as a creator is drastically low. Well, I should explain. I love my work. I think my writing is genius and among the best work I've read. The fact that people rarely proclaim anything about my writing to me makes me doubt that.

But I try and bleed honesty on these pages, tapping out truths with every keystroke. I strive to understand something so fundamental it can only be summed up as "Why?". Why create? Why write? Why put something else out there when so many people are trying so hard to as well? What do I have to offer that's unique?

Do I have anything to offer that's unique?

I guess that's every artist's question at some point. For awhile you do what you do without thinking too much about it, then at some point you want a career and then wonder, how can I get paid for this, should I be paid for this?

I would like to be paid for writing stories.

K

Comic Con: The Purchases

The stuff from Left to Right:

Red Dead Redemption deck of playing cards, Dungeons & Dragons comic (which I actually kind of enjoyed, also it was free), The first two Nikolai Dante books (SIGNED!), Mike Zagari's HUMAN ON THE INSIDE (issues 1 & 2 Signed! I NEED issue 3, hurry Mike!), Issues 2 - 5 of DOGEM LOGIC, Eddie Campbell's ALEC omnibus, PAGE BY PAIGE by Laura Lee Gulledge (SIGNED!), MEGAGOGO mini-comic by Hunter Mahan.

New York ComicCon 2010: PHOTOS!

Dark Night of the Soul: New York ComicCon 2010 Edition!

This year’s New York Comic Con was a time of rough re-evaluation of our lives as creators. Those of us who straddle the line between full blown “made it” comickers and sideline, plugging-your-goods in every conversation aspirants, seem to have hit upon existential hard times at this most recent nerd-fest. While the convention hall was packed, seemingly despite the current recession, many of the writers and artists that I’m acquainted with didn’t sell as many books or sketches as they had hoped they would. Many shared booth space at two or three different booths, and everyone I spoke with—showing good common sense—waited until the last day, day of deals, to purchase anything.

Kurt and I, while wandering the hall at the very start of the con, felt a certain air of un-fulfillment with the rampant flood of imagination and commercialism that flowed around us. We’re two writers who have had mini-successes with doing that thing that we love to do: He with writing and self-publishing his almost finished original graphic novel THE LEGEND OF LIQUID FURY and his upcoming Comixology web-series; and me with the work I’ve done for Dark Horse comics, and Sterling’s ALL-ACTION CLASSICS series, and while we’re both extremely proud of our work, we can’t help but feel a certain sense of longing for more exposure.

That longing is a large part of the reason that this website, and the Write Club Podcast was born. So that we would have a forum with which to discuss our works and our opinions on work currently out there. The comic industry is so small that all one needs to do is to attend a handful of meet-up events, in-store signing, or drinks nights and chances are you’ve been in the presence of a majority of up-and-comers and likely two or three mainstream professionals, not to mention a slew of editors and other behind-the-scenes people, but just having face time isn’t enough. One must be producing work in order to really meet on common ground. One will, more than likely, be producing work just to appease oneself, because the comic industry, as previously mentioned, is a small one. In other words, you may labor for years on a project that is as much a part of you as your own heart, but still never gain mainstream recognition. The two big companies (Marvel & DC) are pretty much the only game in town, and they tend to hire from within, and further, hedge their bets by employing only known and published talent. Therefore, the best way to get published is to already be published, and while this may seem inherently unfair and counter intuitive, it is a system that works for them, and works well. Consider how many years a writer stays loyal to the company of their choice. It stands to reason that if you’re a good writer, and you’re offered the chance to write for the Big 2, and you continue to be a good writer, you’ve got a job for life.

Anyway, this is what weighed on our particular minds. You may be feeling the same, or you may be feeling the opposite or something in-between, but chances are this recent NYCC left an impression on you that previous cons have not. If it did, or did not, I’d love to hear how your con experience played out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Write Club! "MOOREatorium" V. 3, Ep. 4

The big brains behind Write Club tackle the life, work, and reputation of outspoken and ofttimes problematic comic legend Alan Moore. If you haven't listened to the previous episode, where Tim Mucci interviews Moore, you may want to do so; it does come up and you will be tested.

Kurt Christenson, Phil Gelatt, and Tim Mucci discuss Alan Moore.


Intro: "Oh Somba!" Electrelane
Outro: "Write Club Theme" Scott St. Pierre

What do you think of Moore? Let us know in the comments!