Thursday, November 18, 2010

Marvel VS DC

Ok, this isn't really a Marvel VS DC situation at all. I had a Marvel related thing and a DC related thing that I didn't want to do separate posts for. Is that so wrong? Yes, it probably is.

Marvel Digital - I have subscribed to Marvel's Digital service for the past 2 years. A day or so ago I subscribed to the paid Pandora 'Radio' service, and canceled the marvel so it won't renew. Pandora is nearly half of the cost of Marvel, and while it doesn't provide me with conics, it does give me commercial free music that perfectly matches whatever my tastes might be on any given day, and It is easier to use it at work and not get fired than if I am reading comics online all day, which I wasn't.

I think the fact that I wasn't sitting around reading comics online all day is a sign that I wasn't really loving the service. It was never fun to read comics online through Marvel's interface, and the variety and the way comics were updated, and even the available back catalog were not really what I was craving. I want a pay service more like Rhapsody. I used to subscribe to that off and on, and on a whim I could pick a pretty wide variety of artists and listen to a pretty wide variety of their stuff in it's entirety. Yes it was also limited, but there was still the ability to listen to a majority of artists I might have heard about from friends, etc. or read about, whatever. Marvel's digital comics service never gave me that feeling, and in a lot of cases it seemed to withhold the issue I most wanted to read in a series or storyline. Also, I want to read newer stuff consistently if I am paying monthly. Don't give me anything to keep unless I pay extra for it, but do let me read current stuff on a larger scale. It wasn't terrible, but for me it didn't add up to value. If I were rolling in dough I would probably continue it anyway.

DC 75th Anniversary - DC Comics Year by Year
I borrowed this from the library, and it was a joy. It is a big beautiful book, and absolutely fun to read. It is just what it says it is. The book goes year by year since the early beginnings of DC comics, working its way to the present, giving us representative titles with cover shots and news about what characters and storylines were featured, and who the various artists were, and the high points of the era for the company, etc. It was cool to just soak up a lot of little historical details, and get a better feel for the artists and writers involved in the various time periods.

The other cool thing was that throughout the book there were issues featured that I have in my collection (a few from the sixties, and a TON from the seventies.) My copies are generally yard sale finds from when I was little, but that makes it no less cool. I would love to own this book, but probably won't buy it. I would far rather spend my money on trades for things I haven't read. This is an exceptionally fun read, and I recommend giving it a spin if your library has it, or you can borrow it from someone. Once you read it a few times it doesn't feel like something that I would feel a need to have, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't love it as a gift if my family reads this...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pug - Derek McCulloch and Greg Espinoza

Not long ago I got a an email from Derek McCulloch with a link to a number of pages from his and Greg Espinoza's graphic novel Pug, published by Image Comics. He also gave me an option of getting a review copy if I was interested. I read and enjoyed the pages, and let him know that I appreciated the offer would be interested in reading the whole thing. I knew I recognized his name, and he had mentioned that he has had entries in all 4 Issues of Popgun, which I have done cover to cover reviews of for the first 3 volumes. I went back and read how I had reviewed his work previously, and then it came to me that this was the guy who wrote the Stagger Lee graphic novel that I had liked so well. That made it even more exciting for me since I had really enjoyed that. It turns out I had nothing bad to say about any of his works that I had commented on previously.

I had commented on one of his pieces in Popgun that I thought it was evocative of Brubaker's Criminal. I had said that because I felt that even in an anthology piece we saw solid charicterization and a humanization of the characters that is part of what stands up so well in Brubaker's series, and something that he is recognized for, as an industry standard for crime writing in comics that has real depth and quality. I think that was a good call, and I think it holds up. I think that McCulloch doesn't need me comparing his work to anyone else, as it obviously is his talent, and it stands on its own.

Pug is a good story, and not an unfamiliar one. It has at its core a fairly standard concept. Variations on the theme of a boxer just outside of his prime who has something in his past that casts some doubt on him, and finds himself a bit damaged physically or mentally, and or emotionally have been done. Stories of a boxer approached by the mob to throw a fight have been done. We've seen the woman in a boxer's life unable to stand by and watch her guy let himself be destroyed punch by punch. We have seen the knee breaker with a conscience, but it is a disservice to the quality of the story to suggest that it is really just a collection of things we have seen.

The thing about Pug, is the number of levels it has working within it. Espinoza's art is great. It is clean black and white with good faces and expressions. It doesn't get in the way of a fairly simple story of a fairly simple man who has a lot of decisions to make, but doesn't say a whole lot about them to anyone. The art is used consciously to tell the two parts of the story that are being laid out simultaneously as the book progresses. Slightly different styles are used to set them apart as well as to convey a sense of remembering the past, and even the single page pictures between the many small sections add greatly to the story telling.

The book uses a great mechanic to get everything across. On the cover, before you even open the thing up you have a picture of the main character taking a punch that you have to imagine most people not even being able to get up afterward. There are two stories that are being told simultaneously in the book. One of the stories takes place prior to that punch, and the other one takes place several years after it in the 'present' of 1962. Each piece of the present, starts with a ring girl holding up a round card. Each piece of the past, leading up to a fight that the mob told our protagonist Jake to throw, in which that punch on the cover is thrown, is marked by a page of Jake in his corner, and the designation of Rest Period. Getting these two pieces of his story delivered in that fashion, absolutely make this story in my opinion. It builds everything up, and lets us see who he is and how he got there at the same time.

Jake is a quiet man. This is another thing that has been done. I tend to love 'quiet man' characters. For as big and powerful as he is, and for as many punches as he has taken, he is a good and caring man. He is a man with feelings and concerns, and a strong self consciousness about his own shortcomings, failings, and past mistakes and regrets.

Jake has a girl who is a good woman who wants only for the two of them to have the life together that is within their reach. She isn't judgmental, and she loves him. He has a son. He has a first wife that left him, but not because she didn't love him. There is a lot of character and story squeezed into this 86 or so pages of comics.

I don't want to give the story away. If you want a fuller synopsis of this, they are out there, but that is never what I want to do in my write ups.

I really enjoyed this book, as I think it takes a lot of things that are familiar (which can be a good thing in story telling. We revisit things because they resonate. common themes become a type of shorthand, and it allows you to get into them faster, and it also makes the variations stand out stronger. It gives more impact to the things that aren't the same. Characters are consistent and believable. The end isn't my favorite, and maybe comes a little heavy handed, but it isn't bad. I think for being a picture of a bloody punch, the cover is pretty and really grabbed me. The book is the size of a current comic turned sideways. I don't love that configuration as it makes the book a bit floppy for my taste, and a little hard to keep a handle on. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it was a thought I had a few times while handling the book, reading it.

This book is well worth checking out. I am a sucker for this sort of story, and Pug does it right.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SPX 2010 aftermath - where my money went.

Here is a list of what we picked up at #SPX Small Press Expo this year. My 11 year old daughter Tyler and I have both started our reading, and will have more in depth thoughts on everything, but for right now, this is it:

Tyler's Purchases:
  • Red Moon (and Red Moon "The Rising") - David McAdoo
  • Louis: Night Salad (hardback) - Metaphrog
  • Sugary Serials - free comic - Jerzy Drozd / Mark Rudolph
  • Owly - Tiny Tales, Flying Lassons, Just a Little Blue - Andy Runton *
  • *Tyler was a bit disappointed that Andy wasn't able to make the show, but the deals were really good. For 30 bucks she got all 3 books and an Owly Plushy. a copy of the first Johnny Boo by James Kochalka was given to her for free also)She went away happy anyway.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club 4: Claudia and Mean Janine - Raina Telgemeier
  • Winters in Lavelle - Kasey Van Hise
  • Mermin (Issues 1,2,3) - Joey Weiser
  • Sudden Valley - Get a Job - Jamie Baldwin
  • In addition to this she picked up a good number of buttons, singles and sets. Button hunting was another thing she enjoyed. She also loved putting them on her bag she was carrying
  • Red Moon T-Shirt
  • SPX T-Shirt for volunteering
Rob's Haul

So that's our list. I will post something about everything when I had time to read everything. If you have a specific take or opinion on any of these, let me know. Having written this all out, I notice some really glaring omissions. There were a number of people I wanted to buy from, and just didn't get back to them, or ran out of movey before I could get to them. I will try to make that up at some point.

Monday, September 13, 2010

SPX 2010 This time with more 11 year old

This is my third year going to the Small Press Expo #spx in Bethesda, Md. It's my second year volunteering, and my first year to have one of my daughters with me. I talked about the show with her and she was well prepared for it. She knew we would be working as volunteers, and that I had some panels I wanted to sit in on. She had her gameboy, a sketch pad, and a phone(just in case we got separated). When we got there she bought a babysitter's club book from Raina Telgemeir, and another book that had caught her eye (Red Moon), at another booth. Also, she had a very strong desire to really experience the show. She had saved up a good bit of money on her own, and had some ideas as to the sort of things she wanted. She loves comics of all sorts. She's a fan of Manga as well as superheroes, she loved Smile and Scott Pilgrim almost equally, as well as Tiny Titans, Sonic the Hedgehog and Pokemon comics, Owly, etc. I love SPX, I think my daughter is pretty awesome, but I still wasn't certain how she would like the show.

I will jump forward a bit and say right now that she loved it. We were there six or seven hours on Saturday, and we went back on Sunday almost exclusively because she requested it. She met and talked to a good number of creators, and spent nearly as much as I did on comics. Her comics purchases will be detailed in another post, just as mine will. I'm hoping I will be able to get her to write down or dictate her take on the things she purchased, but we'll have to see.

From my perspective (and everyone else's I have read) It was a great show. There are so many genuinely cool people at that show, of all styles and levels. The demographic of the show from what I could see was pretty diverse in about any way you can judge diversity. The exhibitors tend to skew a certain age range for the most part, but that's to be expected I think. One thing I think you see at SPX that you don't always see at more mainstream focused cons is a pretty great concentration of female fans and creators. I can't pretend to guess the ratio, but it is something that more people should take notice of. I can't be certain, but I also swear that of the decent number of kids that were at the show, the majority I saw were girls, and I didn't see any of them looking miserable (I am certain there were some kids there that weren't loving it, but I didn't see them.)

I also feel that there were more people there with Comics that might appeal to an all ages, or especially a Young Adult audience. Comics Bakery, Make Like a Tree, Top Shelf, Red Moon, Hey Pais, Metaphrog, a2alien, and more were there with some top notch stuff, and they are just some I am pulling off the top of my head (some of those are the name of the business, and some are the comic I think.) In addition to that, there were a lot of other comics (trades and minis) that if they weren't specifically made with kids in mind were perfectly fine for kids or young adults. The cool part for me was when Tyler (that's my 11 year old daughter's name) Chatted up people at one booth while I was at another, and they had pointed out to her things she might like that would be age apropriate. There were also tons and tons of comics way over her head, or wildly inapropriate for her. Even so, with a moderate application of parenting, she already understood that, and most exhibitors made a point to let me know, or had no issue answering my questions, etc.

Tyler and I got to talk with Raina Telgemeier, which is always nice. She had just read my copy of Smile, and had previously read Raina's first three Baby Sitters Club graphic adaptations. We spent a good bit of time with Jerzy Drozd who is a pretty awesome guy. We had a discussion (all three of us on equal footing) about how cool Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends was, as he drew a great picture of Edwardo from that show for her in her sketch book. I got to meet Jaime Hernandez again, and get the third volume of Love and Rockets new stories before it was on the shelves anywhere. We both got to have a really nice time chatting with the talented creators of Beyond the Canopy(Jonathan Griffiths) and Winters in Lavelle (Kasey Van Hise) (whose tables were next to each other). I'm leaving a lot out, I'm sure, but I am sure I will cover things in other posts.

I am going to end this post now, or I will never get anything posted again, ever. Sorry for running out of steam on this.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Better Bloggers than I - talkin Small Press Expo (SPX)

I am going to the Small Press Expo (SPX) in Bethesda this weekend. My 11 year old daughter will be with me. I will definitely be there on Saturday. I work a 10am - 2pm shift as a volunteer, but plan to stick it out for as much of the show as I can, and depending on how my daughter handles it (she is a Heroes con veteran) We may go back on Sunday. I plan to attend the Jaime Hernandez spotlight session, because... well because being there and missing that opportunity is just crazy. There are a ton of people I adore that will be there, but I am going to post some links by some bloggers I highly respect:

Rob at Panel Patter has done a week of SPX themed posts. I have put the general link there, so you may have to scroll down if he subsequently posts other stuff, but he has mini comic reviews as well as recommendations of publishers and creators to watch out for.

Eden at Comicsgirl has a series of posts to make your time in the area even more enjoyable (places to visit, restaurants in the area, etc.), but I am linking to her SPX Survival Guide, which offers some great insight into getting the most of of SPX.

Shannon Smith's File Under Other is a great blog for comics outside of the mainstream. He isn't able to go this year, but his post on what he would look for at SPX is a pretty great source of info and suggestions on people and comics to look for while you (the lucky one) get to be there.

Each of these blogs is a favorite of mine. Go for the SPX info, and stay for everything else that's there. Also, for my take on past SPX purchases, etc. check out items with the label spx that are posted here. My twitter is @talkinboutcomx , and I plan to post using a hashtag (#spx), so feel free to look for me, or for my 'day of' tweets. Hope to see everyone in the world there.

EDIT - The twitter tag #spxpo is also gaining steam so I will probably use that as well

Thursday, September 2, 2010

the Thursday morning post

I picked up Birds of Prey #1 yesterday. I know that most anyone else probably picked this up long ago. I have wanted to read some Gail Simone for a while. I am sure I have read plenty of her writing, but I have recently had an urge to specifically pick up something of hers, as well as a desire to check out Birds of Prey. Issue 1 has had a couple of printings as far as I can tell, and although the Brightest Day tag is plastered at the top of this issue, I didn't let that discourage me. I thought this was a pretty great comic. I like the team, I like the action and the distinct characters. I think I will start getting this on a regular basis for a while and fill in what I have missed.

Young Allies #4 - I really love Arana and Nomad. I am a big fan of their appearances prior to this series, and had it on my pull list prior to its start. I love the 'teen team' conventions, and the fact that their first arc deals with an evil 'teen team' all based around adult villains, etc. I don't love that the 'bad guy' team is called the Bastards of Evil, that bugs me a little, but not too much. I think this title seems a lot closer to the Old Teen Titans, and the Perez era 'New' Teen Titans than most books labeled with the word Titans on them have in many years. I will keep picking it up and hope that it stays good. I see this as the sort of book that could draw some younger people in, like Teen Titans drew me in when I was a kid. Not sure if that is even possible any more, but here's hoping.

The Tick New Series #5 - Of all the times to post a new comic thoughts post, I had to do it now. I love the premise and set up. I think there is a lot of funny stuff in this book. I think it is probably better than most other comics released yesterday... (Here comes the big BUT) ...but... I don't think this issue is even close to the level of humor and awesome that the first 4 issues were. I can't fully explain that out, and maybe on re-reading a few times I won't feel that way, but it just didn't hit me the same way. I am hoping this two-parter just kicks my butt in its conclusion, and with the creative team on this, I suspect it will. I still recommend this highly, and if you aren't reading it yet, you are missing out. The setup on this is a good one, Tick and Golden Age Tick switch places, and it ends with past and future Tick associates facing off, and it features the Terror of course. All of these things are awesome, but I just don't think it packs the punch that some of the prior issues have.

Ultimate Mystery #2 - I am not really reading Ultimate books right now, but I have this strange love of the Ultimate Captain Marvel that has made me pick up the first two issues of this. I am really enjoying it, even though it is one of the most Bendis-y comics I have seen in a while. I guess if I had to pick a joke I would say that this comic contains more talking heads than the Once in a Lifetime Box Set. However, it contains some pretty good action scenes as well, and frankly... I love Bendises dialog heavy stuff. I only said what I did because that's what all the cool kids say. I love the interaction between Spider-Man and Jessica Drew, his ultimate style lady-clone. I think this is the only case of me liking anything related to Spider-Man that has the word clone in it.

So that's it really... um... yay comics!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sometimes I remember to mention Previews.

There were a number of things that I wanted to comment about from this month's Previews. I always flip through it, but I usually don't say anything. Here are some things of note in my opinion:

Sinfest: Viva La Resistance - I was attracted by the cover for this, and since it is a webcomic collection I looked it up and read a good number of strips. It is adorable and funny. If you haven't read it, here's the site . Tatsuya Ishida is the writer/artist. The art and the humor are both great. It seems to have a lot of varied characters and situations, and is better than almost everything currently on a printed comics page these days. (p45)

Axe Cop Volume 1 - I probably don't need to explain anything at all about this one to anyone, but I will probably pick this 120 page trade up at some point, if not immediately. (p44)

Batman Inc. - I think I will put this on my pull list. I hate 4 dollar comics on principle, but I'm no square, right? The idea is multiple batmen and bat-friends. That merits at least picking up a few issues in my opinion. (p62)

Batwoman #0 - I have hopefully impressed upon my LCS that I want anything Batwoman related. Art by J.H. Williams III and Amy Reeder is really all the incentive I need to want it. Hopefully it will maintain the pretty great setup and character that have already been established for this character. (p64)

Adventures Into Mindless Self Indulgence One Shot - MSI is a band. I have only ever heard their song Stupid MF, and I have only really thought about them in relation to their Limber and awesome bassist Lyn-Z . Cool women with guitars are always awesome, and bassists specifically are a sort of thing for me, but none of that is why I am going to have this ordered for me. The art and cover are done by Jess Fink! Her art and humor are both pretty great. Check out her site and blog and comics, etc Definitely check out her blog for the best comic ever to feature both Scott Pilgrim references and cartoon cat buttholes. (p176)

Battle Chasers - I am not making any sort of forecast on this, or any recommendation, etc. It may be the greatest thing, or it may not. The cover art looks decent, but I have not read or even heard of this title. It was apparently a 10 issue series. This preview is for a 100 dollar edition of the 10 issues. I don't have an issue with any of that. The solicitation refers to it as one of the most beloved comic book series of all time. that's all, for a comic I have not heard of or seen or read anything about ever, I am skeptical of that claim without some sort of qualifier. (p177)

Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #1 (Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener) I cannot recommend Atomic Robo enough. I am always excited to see more Atomic Robo, and always thrilled to get my hands on the next issue when it comes out. If they have established anything with regard to Atomic Robo, it is that you can expect quality from them, as well as variety. I have not ever been anything less than delighted by anything related to This character. Plus Robo in prohibition era Chicago!!?? (p301)

The Tick New Series #7 - Speaking of never being disappointed... Benito Cereno and Les McClaine have out done themselves each issue on this excellent series, providing their own voice, while staying perfectly true to the characters and tone and humor that people should expect from The Tick. Can you believe we are already that close to another Christmas with The Tick? Excellent stuff. Give this series a chance if you have any sense of humor at all. (p291)

Plenty of other decent stuff in previews this month, but as I said, those were the things that leapt out at me.

Sometimes I buy stuff

I have gone a good while without making any 'major' comic purchases. I go to my Local Comic Shop more or less weekly, and I usually have a very few comics waiting waiting for me, and then I make one or two impulse buys. If there is nothing at all for me from my very slight pull list, I may buy a trade.

Recently, probably in a fit of depression, because we all know that if you can't fix your mood with food, you can always fix it by spending money you don't have, I put in a fairly large order with Amazon. It was nice. There is a certain joy in laboring for hours over the best combination of books to get. I always add stuff to my cart, then take it out, about a dozen times. I like to get trades of series that I am reading, but I also like to broaden my experience and my collection whenever I can. I have a good deal of noticeable gaps, and I have filled a couple this week. I have not read any of these yet, but I am looking forward to doing so.

Jimmy Corrigan - The Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware: I have not really read anything at all by Ware, but I have seen his work, obviously, and have read plenty about him. I have long wanted to see what his work is about, other than looking cool and architectural on the page.

City of Glass - I wanted to read this after getting Karasik's first Fletcher Hanks book, and subsequently meeting him at SPX a few years ago. The fact that this adaptation is also a product of David Mazzuchelli made this an eventual must for me. I have never read Auster's work, so have have no real idea what to expect.

Collected Essex County - Jeff Lemire - This was recommended to me a while back, possibly after I mentioned picking up the early issues of Sweet Tooth, but I can't recall. I have heard really good things about this.

Love and Rockets, New Stories #2 - Hernandez Brothers. There is just no way I will not eventually have a copy of everything Jaime and Gilbert do... you know...Eventually any way.

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For - Alison Bechdel - I read Fun Home a while back and it just knocked me over. Since that time I have been planning to get a DTWOF collection, but it was a matter of which to get. I finally just went for essential, rather than going a more completist route. I am excited to read more of her work (I have read some of her strips, but not many)

I am not certain which I will start with, but I am sure it will be a good read.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cat Burglar Black

I recently borrowed the book Cat Burglar Black by Richard Sala from the library. I don't think they've had a copy of it for very long, and I try pick up anything that doesn't look like crap, and that I haven't previously read. I haven't seen anything put out by First Second yet that didn't look good, and I really liked Sala's art, even at first glance.

Cat Burglar Black is a story about K, a teenage girl who was raised in an orphanage by the awful Mother Claude who trained her charges to be pickpockets and thieves using heavy handed threats. The story opens with K at a new place, a school with no classes and only three other students. It doesn't take long to get to the real reason the girls have been gathered, and a series of thefts are planned for the group, for the benefit of a group that somehow has ties to K's parents.

The art is different and charming. It has a feeling of being from out of the past, without really pinning itself to a specific time. The girls are lovely and graceful, and the adults are all something akin to grotesques. It seems to evoke a lot of great young adult stories, and made me think of Raold Dahl in particular. Not sure everyone would agree with that, but that is what it made me think of.. There is mystery and some action and such, and it was a fairly quick enjoyable read. I should think that anyone who enjoys Dahl, or stories like a Series of Unfortunate Events, should like this. K is a convincing and self sufficient heroine put into situations beyond her control. She can't succeed without some help, but that doesn't diminish her in any way, and she is anything but helpless.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs the World (may contain spoilers)

My daughters and I went to see Scott Pilgrim on Saturday. My girls are 11 and 16, and all three of us have read all six books of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series from Oni Press. All three of us have been anxiously waiting for the movie to come out since it was first announced, and rabidly waiting since the trailers started coming out. Within the first five minutes of the movie I turned to my oldest to let her know I already thought it was the greatest movie ever made. This was prior to the credits even being over. Even if that was mostly a statement for comic effect, all three of us loved it completely, and were drawn in from start to finish.

There are a lot of potential pitfalls with any movie based off of a beloved work from any medium. Scott Pilgrim was very smartly done. Things that could have been problems or weak-points were turned into strengths that made the movie distinct and different from the books, while still keeping major themes pretty faithfully, and allowing the books to not fully be spoiled and retain their unique and special separateness from the movie.

The movie has sequences that are almost panel for panel from the comics, but also has graphic enhancements, and entirely new gags and setups worked into it that make the movies into a sort of value added experience. On the other hand, they also cut the ever important to the books, Envy Adams character almost completely out. The movie sacrifice a lot of depth and meaning and real character development, and has a very compressed feel to it. It does this for the sake of remaining a pretty straightforward fast paced comedy with a reasonable run-time that never gives you any time to check your watch or get bored.

The movie feels complete, and left us pretty happy and satisfied with no complaints, but it leaves the books with some really great, powerful stuff all of its own that should be a great revelation for anyone drawn to the books from the movies. Book Six of the series absolutely floored me with its emotional significance. It remains pretty fully untouched and unsullied by any attempt to tack that sort of weight onto a movie that was designed to be fast and funny.

The movie is not superior to the books. The books are a must read for anyone that even smiled at any part of the trailers for the movie in my opinion, but the movie is one of the best movies ever that draws its inspiration from a comic property, and one of my absolute favorite movies of any type based on a single viewing.

I thought the casting was brilliant. There are a lot of people that don't like Michael Cera, and really hate the idea of him as Scott. I think what people imagine about Scott based on how he is drawn in the comics does not translate into the sort of person in real life that they think it would. I think anyone playing Scott more hyper or loud or heavy handed would become one of the jokes and weaken the over all feeling of the movie. Scott isn't really a loud snappy hyper guy, he is a fully self centered jerk that goes through life imposing on people and having little regard for others' feelings. He's not a bad guy, he just never developed out of that phase probably from middle school. The book portrays his growth one way, and the movie does it in a slightly different way.

I would like the movie to do well, but its financial success or 'failure' is of no great interest to me. What is of interest to me is that it was a brilliant movie I now adore, made out of an even more brilliant series of comics that I adore, by a director I think was pretty great, based on an artist who is pretty great, with a cast that is really great, etc. Shitty movie, financial success is not something I would wish on this. We can't make the mass audience suddenly have our taste and like things they aren't inclined too. I assume this will pick up in video, and is only just out of its first weekend. I hate when people write things off like that.

There have been a lot of really interesting and varied opinions that have been written about the movie already, and about the comic, etc. I may cover some of them at some point in depth, but until that time, I will leave you with two very insightful takes on the thing. Here is ComicsGirl's take on it, as well as Joe McCulloch's review. Both of them were helpful to me when trying to get my thoughts together and think of the big picture and different ways to think about it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I win at Smile!

Back in July, I won a copy of the hardcover of the Original Graphic Novel Memoir: Smile by Raina Telgemeier. If you aren't familiar with the story, it is an account of how Raina knocked out her front teeth when she was 11, and the resulting 4 year ordeal that followed that event to get the situation resolved. During the course of the story, you file her life and her budding interest in boys and how she fits in with her friends, etc. It isn't just a story of dental procedure, but really of all the life that goes on around that central event. The book is 213 pages and is full color. It is published under the graphix imprint of Scholastic.

I follow Raina on Twitter @goraina. In July I guess I saw a tweet about a giveaway that art&story was doing It required all the effort of doing a tweet pointing people to Raina's website. That was the sort of difficulty/effort level I was born for, and I happily tweeted, and was absolutely thrilled and stunned when I won. I am sure I have said this sort of thing many times, but I met Raina at SPX last year and bought two small things she had done. She seemed really nice, and her style of cartooning is fun and expressive, and really terrific. I have wanted to pick up Smile, and have heard nothing but good stuff about it, so this was ideal for me.

Teeth are a tough issue for a lot of people. Adolescence is a tough time. Self Image, self worth, self respect, are all important things. Between the ages of eleven and fifteen a lot of things can happen and change, and most people aren't super prepared for all of those things when they are young. So many things are changing, so much is happening as people are figuring out the type of person they will be, and how they fit in, etc. This is a really good story to tell because it is set in the midst of all of that, and is real. I would recommend it across the board, but really, I think you are doing a pretty great thing if you get this into the hands of a young girl you know.

There is a bit of triumph in the story that I think would be beneficial to anyone staring down the barrel of puberty, and going into middle school, etc. People change, friends change, be true to yourself, don't accept people treating you with less respect than you deserve, ultimately you will get through hard times, and sometimes hard times last longer than we want them too. There are probably other good things to take away from Smile, but those are the ones I was most struck by.

The best part is that the story is told in a way that feels real, but also has humor in it. I look forward to letting my daughters read this when they are back at home for more than a few days(thanks summer) I suspect they will enjoy it. Hopefully Smile is something that will find a place in school and public libraries everywhere.

*The link I put for Art & Story has a link for a podcast interview they did with Raina regarding memoir comics and Smile. It is a great conversation for anyone interested in the craft and process of making comics. Here's the same link again

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Fistfull of SPX 2009 part 2

It's SPX (Small Press Expo) in July!! I have been meaning to post more of these to finish up the haul I got at SPX last year, but the road to hell is personally paved by ME and MY good intentions specifically. I imagine that other people's good intentions are paving other major thoroughfares. So with no further introduction here we go.

SPQR Blues -by klio (Carol Burrell) is a 'Generally Quite Serious Sword and Sandals Epic Under The Shadow Of Mt. Vesuvius' The table for this comic was one of my favorite tables to visit at SPX. Everyone there was friendly and fun and enthusiastic for their product, etc. It was a real pleasure to pop by periodically and chat, say hello again, and also tell them which exit to use etc. (remember, I was working as a volunteer). I bought the first three chapters in print form, and am glad I did. I like having the print, I like buying things to support creators that are talented and nice and especially who put out a good product. The printing is ok, but does not do justice to the quality and the crispness of the art. klio is a very talented cartoonist and her skills have definitely continued to develop and improve. Follow the link and check it out. Online is definitely the best way to view this. The comic has humor and drama, and looks to hold some mystery and intrigue as well. It takes place in Herculanium, and has a pretty sizable cast of characters, but focuses on Felix, a soldier returning from the legion, and Mus, a younger man that Felix once cared for when he was younger. Mus passes himself casually off as perhaps being younger than he is. I am only through the first chapter, but there is already a connection with the characters and a desire to know more, which si a great thing for a story to elicit in a reader. I look forward to reading more. I like the print, but there is so much going on that it is a bit tight on the page. Online it is even prettier (I felt obligated to add that, as I am not really ragging on the print version)

It may also be a fine thing to point out that while the comic had a brief hiatus, it started back up and is rolling along.

Pinstriped Bloodbath - This comic was my personally selected winner for coolest cover design / packaging. I imagine that every year I will have one of these. My first time I went the honor belonged to one of Falynn Koch's pieces that was cooler than the average fare. In 2009 it was this one. Pinstriped Bloodbath had a cover that was a double breasted pinstriped Suit jacket with a blood spatter as an outer cover. The inner cover that is visible under the jacket is a white shirt and red tie. There is a paper band that is illustrated and touts the book as an Anthology of Gangland Violence by Chicago Cartoonists. There are 8 different stories in the volume, which is edited by Jeff Zwirek, and has small art pieces by Ivan Brunetti and Josh Cotter for the contents and contributors pages. The stories themselves run the gamut from really abrupt short pieces, to longer ones on a variety of subjects. My favorite both in art and subject matter is a several page piece by the editor that focuses on the historical facts around the use of the Thompson Sub Machine Gun in Chicago crime. The art is great, it is an interesting story, and the footnotes are really informative. I like this collection a lot. There are only a few items in it I don't like, and the total package certainly makes up for that. It's a good idea executed pretty well.

Girl Ninja Presents Corporate Ninja Saga - Rebecca Simms, Story by Patrick Lewis - I thought Girl Ninja was pretty funny when I picked it up at a previous SPX. I also liked the vibe at the table at the time. There was a group of people selling their various projects and everyone was friendly and talky. It was enough good will to make pick up this comic when I saw it this time. In this we get Girl Ninja vs Corporate Mind control... ninja style. Once again it is fairly rough. This time it is just one side of the page, stapled 8.5 x 11. The art is a slightly rough manga influenced style, and it is cute and funny and works fine. I go to SPX to get a fuller range of variety in production and styles, etc. I continue to enjoy this. There is almost a hint of the sort of cuteness you get in the comic Empowered, without otherwise being related to that... It's a feeling I get from it that is a positive one.

Style and Grace #1 - Mike Jasorka - Mike was also one of the highlights of the show for me. He was exceptionally nice, and very willing to talk about his work. Chatty and fun work well for me. The comic is pretty funny. Las Vegas, 1982 Jimmy finds out that his Mom is getting married to a pimp. The pimp wants Jimmy to take over the business for him. It's all so bright and clean. It is sort of like the South Park where Butters becomes a pimp. This pre-dates that, but the humor is similar which isn't a bad thing at all. Mike also has work published in Rinksider magazine and has a roller girl related project in the works if I recall correctly.

Mix Tape and Piece Meal - Nate Beaty - I picked up two mini's from Nate Beaty. He was also responsible for one of the short but very good entries in Pinstriped Bloodbath as well. Piece Meal has two stories in it. One is called Blanks and is about awkward sexual and interpersonal dynamics among teens, played out in one evening. Yasek Loop is a sort of lush and ethereal dream sequence, or maybe not a dream sequence that starts with a fall from a very tall platform in the woods, and works in seemingly spectral animals and the noncorporeal. Mix Tape is about a sequence in his life involving the making of a mix tape and that sort of awkwardness involved when you put yourself out there like that. It's a well done cartoon. It shows a lot in the art and rings true.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Alcoholic

I can't recall when I purchased this lovely hardcover graphic novel, but I do know that it took me more than a year to get around to reading it. In the time between buying it and reading it, I picked it up a number of times, I even carried it with me on a few trips where I thought I might have free time to spend with the 136 page story of Jonathan A., the titular alcoholic, but I never got past the first few pages. This is a thing for me sometimes. I assume there are plenty of others who love reading, and are attracted to a specific book or story for whatever reason, and then can't get into it enough to get through it right off. For me the process goes that sometime in the future I will generally notice the item on the shelf, pick it up, and then be unable to put it down until I am done. That happens more often than I care for, and certainly was the case with this as well.

Jonathan Ames wrote the Alcoholic, and Dean Haspiel provided the art, including the cover. I wasn't kidding about the volume being lovely. it has a cover that is well designed and interesting, and underneath the cover is the title etched into the book inside the outline of a bottle. I never thought I would feel this way, but I really like hardcovers. I love them. I don't have that same feeling about slip covers though. I think that slip covers seem a bet excessive, and just get in the way of getting to the comics. Hardcovers themselves though are kind of classy. I am getting away from the focus of this post now, so I will pull myself back to it now.

As someone whose life has been impacted by alcoholism in one way or another, I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, which follows the life of Jonathan A. from High School, where he first got drunk, on into his forties where he may or may not have learned enough to overcome his basic nature. It takes a wholly unapologetic look at his life, and just presents the events. The narrator is aware that he is narrating. He is telling you the story initially of everything in his life that lead him up to a specific point. Eventually the narrative catches up with the timeline and proceeds from there.

I find that I particularly like the approach taken with the story. There are several main things that are carried through most of the book. One is his attraction to and love for his best friend. They act on the attraction, and then find themselves moving away from each other. Another is a relationship that turns into an on again off again thing that he can't free himself from. His writing and professional / creative career is another, and finally his addiction to alcohol and drugs, and the inevitable detox that he puts himself through. Everything is really just plainly presented. There is humor, but no attempt to explain away anything really. That's not to say there isn't any insight, there is just nothing approaching an attempt to rationalize the destructive behavior.

I found this story really resonated with me. It echoes an awful lot of things that I worry about with myself, and behaviors that no matter how much I understand the negatives, and know better, I still find myself always gravitating back to. I think that's the beauty of this, and where some of its real value lies. Just like the story offers no resolution for the issues, I found no great insight into my own condition, but seeing that reflection there is a pretty useful and thought provoking thing.

The writing is well done. Fairly horrible episodes are presented with some sense of humor. The art is very good. I like that it is a light style without being too cartoonish. It doesn't make anything less ugly than it is, but it resists being grotesque. It also allows the places where there is beauty to show through nicely. I'm glad I picked this up when I did, even happier that I finally read it. I think it deserves the good reviews it has gotten.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Talkin' 'bout floppies

The Tick New Series #4 - Benito Cereno and Les McClaine need to be nominated for stuff... Go on comics community... get off your butts and nominate them for stuff. The Tic New Series has been nothing but top notch writing and art for 4 issues now. I don't think it matters where you originally jumped on with the Tick, this comic handles the character in a way that should make everyone happy (including critics and people who have never heard of the character before. This issue takes place on Patrol Night, which has been rescheduled as Board Game Night due to the intense rain that is flooding the city (unbeknownst to seemingly everyone except the Tick and the legions of water based heroes and Villains that have gathered for the most epic undersea battle the world has ever known!) If you like funny, or have ever liked the Tick, give this a try.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #3 - Batman meets Blackbeard and the Black Pirate. This is a perfect setup for a tv show. It's like Voyagers and Quantum Leap all mixed together with Batman. I have loved all three of the issues so far. I really don't care where this fits into anything or even what the setup really is. Batman is lost in time. He pops into a new time when there is an eclipse. Somewhere in the future heroes are trying to find him, and are unearthing clues that he is leaving, or that are left by others from the times he visits. That would kill as a tv show, and it is pretty awesome as a comic. I don't buy everything that is Batman. I buy very little Batman, even though I love Batman. I think this series is a fun homage to the character.

iZombie #2 - This isn't on my pull list, and will probably stay an impulse buy for me. I like the idea, it seems a little slow getting into part of the main thrust of the series, but in two issues, it can't be faulted for establishing things. I like the characters, Gwen, the titular Zombie is a good character. The idea of being a zombie that eats brains so as to not devolve, and who gets the psychic baggage of the brains previous owner, is a great idea. Having her best friend be a ghost only makes things better. There is a lot of interesting stuff here, and I really like Allred's art for this. It works perfectly. This may move to a trade wait for me, but we'll see.

Heralds #4 & 5 - These got their own post

The Last Unicorn#2 - Absolutely beautiful. Regardless of having watched the movie a good number of times, I am still hooked on this.

Invincible#73 - I have read a good bit of early Invincible (maybe the first three hard cover collections), but I haven't read it in a long time. When I heard about the Viltrumite War, it was because of the upcoming Guarding the Globe mini that will focus on what happens on earth when some of its top protectors are away. I figured if I was going to read that, I should also keep up with the front lines of the conflict as well. I am not disappointed. So far the arc is really good. Invincible is a neat title with a bit of a different sensibility than most. It looks bright and colorful and fun sometimes, but then it is also about the bloodiest thing I have read. It's Super Hero stuff, but there is a lot of intimate character development, and sometimes a character just has to lay on a planet healing for a few months. No criticism on this, I am really loving it. It makes me want to go back and fill in what I missed.

Avengers #2 - I hate WonderMan in this. I guess I don't know if there is something from his recent past that really justifies how he is portrayed in this, but although I never liked the guy much, and feel he should stay locked in a vault in the 80's, I didn't hate him. I like the lineup in this a lot, and love Marvel Boy, but we'll have to see where this goes. Oh Know what villain I detest more than any other except maybe Carnage and Mr. Sinister... That's right Apocalypse. Man I hate that guy. Not that I am mentioning him for any particular reason...

Atomic Robo v4 #4 - Another great volume of Atomic Robo. My loyalty to this series and this creative team are theirs to lose. That said, I think I like the volumes that are a more cohesive storyline better than this, but I enjoyed each individual issue a great deal. This series ends on what seems like a setup for something else, which sort of gives it that feeling you got at the end of Back to the Future 2, like it was a commercial for the next thing. I have no idea if that will be the case, and we certainly got to see and have fun with a lot of the supporting characters Robo works with. Good writing, funny stuff and great consistent art. I am looking forward to more already.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Heralds

I'll start with the comparison right off the bat. I liked Marvel Divas a lot. There were some aspects I didn't love, like a sort of dumb name, and sort of misleading cheesecake covers on a book with sensibly drawn ladies done in a light, slightly quirky style. The story was centered around sort of soap opera standard plot points, but that wasn't a negative to me. I liked Divas because it was humanizing. I thought it presented at least a somewhat 'realistic' take on a group of likable female heroes that came across as having a more or less genuine sort of friendship and personal interaction with one another.

Divas was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and drawn by Tonci Zonjic. Heralds is written by Kathryn Immonen with art by Tonci Zonjic and several others. One huge difference, and I appreciate it a lot, is that Heralds has absolutely beautiful cover work by Jelena Djurdjevic. These are very nice covers and none of them is in the realm of cheesecake. Women are shown with the figures they have in the comics, but none of them are relegated to sex kitten poses.

I already mentioned the second major piece of this. It's written by Kathryn Immonen. Nothing off of Aguirre-Sacasa, but this is an excellent comics writer paired with an excellent cover artist, and what's this... they're both women. I love the writing in this. I think the characters come across as real, and it isn't bogged down on any one emotion or mood. There is a great deal of playfulness and humor in this as well as action and emotion. That to me is a formula anyone should be able to appreciate.

The story starts with a group of Marvel ladies in vegas to help Emma Frost celebrate her birthday (This was orchestrated by Scott for her). It isn't long before the crew is fighting clones released from a S.W.O.R.D. facility and the story gets rolling from there. It isn't my intention to give away much here, other than what a cool thing this series was. I don't really care where it fits into the grand scheme of things, but I would love to see more like this. It has gotten me thinking a lot about how super heroes act in comics vs how real people act, with regard to their interactions and motivations, etc. I don't have a lot to say about it yet, but it does have me thinking.

I love the art in this, but it is a bit inconsistent. I am not sure exactly what role each of the artists had, or if the number of artists had anything to do with this feeling for me. There are also some places where it becomes difficult to tell some of the characters apart. It wasn't major, but I did get a little turned around a few times. I am also not sure if all of these people would be hanging around, but it works, and I think it's justified well enough.

If you haven't checked this out, and aren't put off by good comics, or books that feature women as strong and diverse characters, I recommend it.

The pants are a LIE...The truth is out...

Clearly, the evil masterminds at DC comics have executed this entire 'Wonder Woman finds pants in her drawer and decides to wear them for a change' scandal as a way of keeping us from seeing what is really going on. They are shutting Zuda down. I am a big fan of Zuda, but I guess I am not surprised by this. I love the creators that they had, and the sense of community and accessibility that they brought with them, but I will love those creators wherever they go.

The thing I didn't love, and the thing that seemed to be the beginning of the end, was the ugly and awful gamesmanship played by some of the competitors in the competitions and/or their supporters. It was pretty ugly stuff. I was sorry to see that go. I don't really care what DC does now. I will support any good project that gives access to new and different and exciting creators and their creations, but that fact is independent of any specific publisher.

I wish every individual affiliated with Zuda the best of luck in the future, with whatever comic endeavors they pursue. I have no idea how specifically this news impacts anyone, but like I said. A lot of pretty great talent, and pretty stand-up folks flowed through there, no matter what you thought of the site or the competition, etc.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A conversation worth reading

Hey Everybody! Joe McCulloch has posted a transcript of his really cool Conversation With Bryan Lee O'Malley from SPX-2008. This is exciting because I am featured prominently in it!!*

*sort of, but not really

It is actually exciting because it was my first SPX that I attended, and I was very excited about this program specifically since O'Malley is awesome for any number of reasons.

So... Read this piece, and don't skip the questions. I am AUDIENCE #7. I make fun of something that someone else said and then I ask a question about Working with Hope Larson on Bear Creek Apartments, which I was pretty high on at the time. Mostly I wanted to say out loud how awesome I thought it was. My words are captured in all my sputtering half finished sentences glory.

It's a neat conversation, and O'Malley is fun to listen to. It is certainly worth giving it a read.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection

A friend of mine went to the book signing event for the Trickster Anthology of Native American 'trickster' stories. He surprised me with a copy of the beautiful paperback volume signed by a good number of people involved in the collection. I will start with my only complaint about this book before I say anything else. The cover, which is great, and is the image I am including with this, is printed with a good portion of it matte black. It is a finish that provides a great contrast to the image and slightly raised text. Sounds good so far, right? My only issue is every time I touch this thing I feel like I must be the oiliest guy on the planet. Despite my best efforts, I add new fingerprints each time I open it. Honestly, that's it as far as complaints go.

The project itself is a great idea. It pairs Native American story-tellers with artists and presents 21 tales which range from pure myth to How the elephant got it's trunk style tales, to more classic trickster stories. I like the loose interpretation on the theme as it allows for pretty decent variety. I have only read the stories once, but really there are only two that stood out to me as being particularly similar in theme. The art, and the styles of telling the stories are all visually very different as well. Some are cartoonish and some are very much written as children's stories, but not all of them are that way.
The book is $22.95, and is worth having if you are a fan of comics or mythology and folk tales, or both. I didn't love every entry, but there are surprisingly few instances for an anthology of this size where I didn't like both the art and the story, and a healthy majority where I was taken by both. I also enjoyed reading the blurbs about all of the participants. It is a nice feature, and there is something about each of the artists and storytellers.

Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne

This is an important post, so everyone will want to read it. It's not like you've heard this from 50 better blogs than mine already.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne from Grant Morrison and Chris Sprouse(issue 1) and Frazer Irving(issue 2) is a mini series that is well worth picking up. I don't buy a lot of Batman these days. I get Batman and Robin, and only picked up Detective Comics for Batwoman. I was not able to get myself worked up for Final Crisis, but I can't say too much negative about it if it resulted in this.

So far in this series we get to see Batman as a caveman and Batman as a pilgrim. Those stories are made out of love for the character. Both issues contain more or less self contained stories that also tie in to a larger thing, and support what has been going on in Batman and Robin with the recent scrutiny of Wayne Manor, and exploration of the grounds, etc. The real concept here is that Batman is made of survival. Also, no matter what you do to him or where you put him, etc. He is the World's Greatest Detective, and maybe the most determined and driven character in the DC universe.

The art in both of these is great. Sprouse and Irving each do an amazing job. I guess if I have to pick I prefer Irving's art which is in Issue #2 as there are opportunities in the story that take great advantage of his style and are just beautiful. Beautiful tentacle monster no less.

I wasn't going to pick this up because, among other things, it is $3.99 an issue, and I really try to limit the number of 4 dollar and up comics that I get. This is worth it, and if you are inclined to like Batman, but haven't been picking much up lately, this promises to be awesome.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Four for All

Recently I have bought and or borrowed several items that just leap out as being things both kids (young adults) and adults(old adults) can enjoy equally. I will keep it fairly brief.

The Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper's Curse , Kazu Kibuishi - Get volume 1: The Stonekeeper, if you haven't read it already. I was very excited to see this book in the library. I had been waiting for it, and new it had come out, and it was finally on the shelf the last time I went. This continues the story of a girl and her younger brother who inherit a powerful magic stone from their grandfather, and find themselves on a quest in a land of magic to save their mother from a deadly poison. The art is beautiful and brilliant, the story and characters are varied and fun, each with personality and depth. The story combines elements that make it reminiscent of other works like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Howl's Moving Castle,Narnia, and many others. A young girl with a good heart and a strong sense of duty to her family is the main character. She is strong willed and resourceful, and although she has some doubts and fears, she does not succumb to the great temptation of the powerful and sentient artifact she possesses. Her brother is separated from her in this book, and put into the role of commander of his own army of strange volunteers from the world they are in. A new character steps forward in the form of a fox who is sort of their Aragorn, a creature they are suspicious of at first, but who later shows himself to be beyond reproach. This is epic fantasy with robots and walking mecha-like houses and evil elves and animal-people and magic stones, talking trees, good versus evil, the works. It is something that could be read to a child, or by a child, or fully enjoyed by adult fans of the genre.

The Good Neighbors, Book 2: Kith - Another volume 2 here. Holly Black is the author and Ted Naifeh is the artist. I love Naifeh's art and this has very much the same sort of feel and similar subject matter of his Courtney Crumrin books, while not being his creation in this case. A teenage girl begins seeing strange things that no-one else seems to see. A world of Fairy and magical folk is suddenly unveiled to her and she doesn't know why. The first book takes us through that, and some mysteries regarding her mother and her creepy grandfather, and uncertainty about her father's actions, etc. The second book continues the story and continues to set her at odds with her grandfather and his plot against the town she lives in, and humans in general. There is a good cast of characters, and I would think that this is a book that Teen fans of supernatural fiction would enjoy. My 16 year old daughter liked it.

The Last Unicorn #1 - My daughters and I love the movie the last unicorn. I loved it long before I ever thought I would be married or have any kids. This comic is a stunningly beautiful adaptation. Not a great deal happens in the first issue(of 6), but the scene is set, and we learn a good bit about the Unicorn, and the world it is in. Honestly, the art sells this one as much as my love of the subject. I set it down then bought it the next time I was in the shop, and both my 10 and 16 year old daughters have read it already and raved about it.

Mercury - Hope Larson. Another fantastic book from Hope Larson. I love this trend of female creators making graphic novels that feature realistic settings and real personalities, with very real seeming young female leads in them, and a touch of the fantastic that does not seem to alarm or surprise anyone all that much. I am calling it a trend, even though in this case I am really just referring to Faith Erin Hicks' War at Ellsmere(also excellent), although not actually comparing the two. Mercury ties together two stories of two different girls across centuries. They share a bloodline, and a common location, and a mysterious piece of jewelry. Both face difficult situations in their own ways, and both encounter strange occurrences without thinking them to be particularly alarming. This is a sweet story with a bit of creepiness to it, and what I would interpret as a fairly happy ending. It is a good size and a great price at 9.99

All of these would be great recommendations for young readers, perhaps female teen readers in particular. I am neither of those things and enjoyed each of these completely. I recommend them in the following order of awesome:(1 being the highest)
1.Amulet
2.Mercury
3.Last Unicorn
4.Good Neighbors

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Free Comic Book Day, The Holiday Made for Me

I believe that the Friday before FCBD should be a national holiday. I also think it is bad form for anyone to schedule non-FCBD events on FCBD. I should tell that to my 10 year old daughter I guess. She was hosting an event today for her Bronze Award for Girl Scouts. She was teaching a decent sized group of Girl Scouts and their Mothers to make knit hats so that by winter time they can donate them to a local shelter. It is hard for me to argue with that, but I did make sure my oldest and I got to slip out for an hour after it started so that we could hit up my LCS for the festivities. Unfortunately the festivities were just some free comics (three per person), and nothing else. Not even a sale to coincide with the day, or even, say some concerted effort to showcase comics for kids, or the wide variety of comics available, etc.

I think it's a shame to miss an opportunity like this. My LCS tends to be pretty conservative as I have said before in their ordering, etc., but as I have hopefully pointed out equally, it is owned and staffed by some pretty great guys. Regardless of what the shop was doing, everyone had their kids there as far as customers were concerned. As I was walking up to the shop, a dad was pushing a stroller with a toddler in it reading a comic. When I went in, there were two little girls with their dad (I would say both were 6 or under) and they were looking at heroclix naming and discussing all the heroes and villains. The dad was just as proud of his girls as I was of mine when they were little and did similar things. It was heartening to see so many kids excited and feeling welcome in a shop.

I asked to make sure it was ok, and my friends there let me pick up freebies for my youngest as well. I also tried to tell as many people at my daughters event about fcbd. Hopefully at least a few went and checked it out.

Here is what we picked up, although I don't have opinions about them yet:
Atomic Robo (they set this one aside for me)
Iron Man / Nova
Doctor Solar / Magnus
War of the Supermen
Looney Tunes (not labeled fcbd)
Mouse Guard / Fraggle Rock
Shrek / Penguins of Madagascar
Archie
Toy Story
Fractured Fables

So what did I miss out on that was awesome?

Hope everyone had a great day

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Underground - Jeff Parker & Steve Lieber

On Valentines day I received an email from Steve Lieber. Last week I actually got off my figurative butt and read the comics he had sent a link for. I understand that this was probably not exclusively for me, and that perhaps everyone else in the world with a blog may have received the same thing, but guess what doesn't matter one bit to me...

Underground, a graphic novel in 5 issues, is written by Jeff Parker, and illustrated by Steve Lieber. If that alone doesn't get your interest up then you are reading comics wrong in my opinion. The really good news is that this comic is very good, and really pretty different as well. You would expect solid writing, good characterization and an underlying sense of humor to be found, given that Parker is a master of that. You would expect the art to be solid, with a good deal of comic realism without seeming heavy or stiff or overly photo referenced, etc., because Lieber is pretty great at that. You would expect those things, and you would not be disappointed. Where there is different for me, is that this is a very small, self-contained story set in a park in Kentucky, and it is, for lack of a better word, a thriller.

I use the word small here, but only to describe the relative scope and timeline of the story. It takes place within a day, and is mostly limited to a relatively closed environment. It has a solid beginning, middle, and end, and shows us for the most part, rather than just telling us, but pretty much everything is explained and resolved within the five issues.

This is a cinematic sort of work, and could make for an excellent movie. The sort of surprising thing is that as a comic that features two park rangers in a mostly unexplored cave system, running from a group of men that need to stop them from getting out of the caves, it works brilliantly as a comic.

I really don't want to spoil one bit of this thing, so I won't give away much more than what I have said already. This title does something that is really difficult in my opinion to do in comics. I have said before that horror is something that is difficult to pull off in this medium, but another thing that I think is equally difficult, perhaps more so, is suspense. This series, manages to create edge or your seat, uncomfortable suspense expertly as it draws toward the climax. As uncomfortable as it was, is a testament to the quality and abilities of the creators on this.

It accomplishes this in a story that contains no particularly extraordinary people or situations. There are people with specialized skills, and the awesome wonder and unpredictability of nature is present, but this is all real world stuff in the claustrophobic confines of a real world setting.

This is a title well worth picking up. The base concept is not really a new one, but this isn't exactly 'Die Hard in a Cave" either.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Release The... Robot 13 !!

R13 - Colossus (Thomas Hall, Daniel Bradford) Blacklist Studios: I received an email in late February from Thomas Hall. I had received one from him some time earlier and stupidly had not given it the attention I should have. I had access to a digital version of Robot 13 #1 since June of last year, and I had looked at it, but not really tried to read it. By the time I got the second email, There were three issues available to me, the entire first story arc, and I decided I really needed to read it.

A bit of my issue, I guess, was probably that it looked absolutely beautiful, but absolutely looked like something Mike Mignola had done. This is not a bad thing, as I am not sure i have met anything Mignola has done that didn't range from 'very good' to 'brilliant' in my opinion. Whatever my feeble reason was (probably laziness), it was a dumb one, and my loss for not having dived into it sooner.
Issue 1 starts with a fishing boat off the coast of Spain. They pull a metal, man-shaped object out of the water, It turns out to be a robot of sorts with a skull inside of a glass dome for a head. This is also something that we have seen before more or less, but that doesn't preclude this from being original or good, in the same way that it doesn't guarantee it will be as cool as that concept sounds. (This comic is every bit as cool as the concept of a 'being with a skull floating in a glass dome for a head' sounds.) 13 Doesn't remember anything or know where he is at first, but it doesn't take long for him to figure out he is pretty adept at the fighting of giant monsters. He is also immediately sympathetic. His interactions with people are all done in such a way that you know that despite the evil looking floating skull thing, this is a hero of some sort, and a decent sort of character that you are dealing with. Fortunately he is not exclusively met with fear, and in the course of these three issues you learn a good bit about his history while still leaving vast amounts that can be filled in, and limitless questions that can be answered.
In reading interviews and things that are available out there, it is a fact that the story changed somewhere between the character design and actually getting things on paper. I think the direction that Hall and Bradford took with this is really perfect. There is a heavy Greek mythology tie in, with big monsters of greek mythology tie-ing in to the story as the villains (at least so far), and I thought it worked really well. I am a big fan of mythology and the creatures and characters that figure into the myths of various cultures, etc. and I like it when things are put together that use those things in a neat way.
The art as I said is beautiful. It really is perfectly done within the style it is done in. Like the cover to issue 1 that I have posted, there are pages from the first issue of tentacles that are absolutely stunning. I am not necessarily a big tentacle fan or anything, but the color and design and layout are really just perfect.
It is extremely fortunate that this project has an artist as capable as Bradford on it, as Hall's writing is excellent graphic narrative writing. This series does not shy away from dialog when it is needed, but it uses it efficiently, and the story is successfully told in the panels more than in the balloons and boxes. There are plenty of pages that are nearly wordless, and even if you don't read the dialog, and focus just on the images presented, you can have a good sense of what is going on, and a strong feel for the emotion and pacing, etc.
I almost passed up reading this, and certainly didn't go into it predisposed to like it, but I am very glad that I did read it, and it certainly ranks among the best comics I have read this year.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Champions Online

I have said this before, but the idea of a really good superhero role playing game for the computer is really the perfect thing for me. It's a dream I had long before I realized it. When City of Heroes first came out, it felt like my salvation was at hand. It was exciting and wonderful, and honestly, aside from someone to make babies with (which I surprisingly achieved, no seriously, I am the last person who ever thought that would happen), the only thing I really wanted in life (there may be some hyperbole here). I liked the game, I enjoyed playing it, I found some nice people to play with in game, and had a good time with it before burning out on it. The game wasn't actually perfect, but it did give me a lot of stuff that I really wanted in a game, in a way that other games just hadn't.

I have been a fan and player of Role Playing Games since middle school. I played D&D mostly, but collected and obsessed over a lot of other titles. If I could, I would have a giant wall of role playing games and books and materials. A friend of mine picked up a game called V&V (Villains and Vigilantes) it was a slim volume and had pretty straight forward rules that covered just enough mechanics to let me fill in everything else and make a perfect comic book superhero role playing experience. You have to have a GM(game master) that you trust with your leisure time, but I am a big fan of playing games with good storytelling and plot, regardless of whether everything is really random or not.

That aside, the game I owned, and was most impressed by, but never played, was the game Champions. If you are not familiar with the roleplaying game Champions, it is a level of Math beyond Calculus and Trig. It is a law degree in one book. It is awesome and allows such craxzy customization that there is no way you won't end up with a truly unique and specialized character of your own if you want it. For me, it was also unplayable. I made a lot of characters, but in my gaming group, no-one really ever wanted to spend a whole session just trying to work up a character at the expense of play. It also seemed super bulky and confusing. This is all wrong of course as it is an awesome game that my friends and I are too dumb to play... that's clearly on us.

Champions online has the feeling of customization akin to that of the pen and paper game. Not the same, but there really is a lot of space to create characters in a way that suits you, and to play them however you'd like as well. It doesn't seem perfect, but it's pretty decent. It suffers from some of the same things that City of Heroes did, which is sort of depth of play experience in a superhero setting, and a lot of powers and things seeming very similar, but the customization is strong and the character design options are pretty vast. The play is pretty good, even on my crappy computers, but not perfect. A lot of that is probably due to my hardware, so I am not ragging on them.

Missions seem to be almost interchangeable, and almost none of the story and plot and descriptions need to be read at all. I pretty much just read the mission requirements when they pop up on my screen in shorthand after I accept them. It's a lot of fun, though, and just like Champions back in the day, creating characters may be the most fun for me. I still get a kick out of being a good guy and running around saving people and fighting bad guys. I am not sure that I will decide to keep baying the steep 15 bucks a month subscription cost once it kicks in, but we'll see.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Specials

This movie wasn't based on a comic, I don't think it was even based on a desire to make any money. Ok, I'm kidding there, but it is a strange mix of spoof, homage, super hero deconstruction, and... inaction to be a movie that anyone thought would go anywhere in 2000 in my opinion, plus I have seen more than a few reviews and comments (as I was preparing to write this) that share my experience of never having heard of the movie before seeing it on Netflix. I had seen images of Jamie Kennedy in the blue makeup he wears in this movie, but I never knew what it was from.

The Specials focuses on a slow day in the life of the 6th or 7th best super-hero team. There is no fighting in the movie, no villains, and only really one display of powers for the most part, and it comes at the end, when the group is getting ready to go fight some giant ants (that we only hear about). None of these absences are an issue, because the film isn't about those things. It's about super-heroes and fame and expectations vs reality and about how people interact and regard each other, and about how 'families' are formed and interact, etc. I applaud it for being exactly what it is, and not trying to be more, or even less, in order to be more commercial.

Rob Lowe plays the most popular and charismatic of his group. He is the Weevil, a second generation hero, and a giant douchebag. Rob Lowe's super power is his douchebag ability, so this fits him perfectly. He plays it very well, when his character has sex with a teammate who is married to another teammate, and when he cheers up the 'new girl' only to sell her out and cruelly make fun of her on television. Jamie Kennedy plays the blue skinned Amok, who looks a lot like nightcrawler, and cusses like the reformed bad guy he is. Thomas Haden Church is The Strobe, the teams leader with a highly inflated sense of self, regardless of his good intentions.

I think the casting was done well for this, and everyone plays their roles. The team contains a good mix of types that borrow from comic book standards, and is shown with its strengths and weaknesses right out in the open. This is a comedy, so I am not trying to act like it is too deep, but it isn't the shallowest thing either. There are some neat concepts in it, like a hero called 8 who has 8 bodies but shares one interconnected mind, a being they call Doug, who's official name is Alien Orphan, and acts as a sort of remedial Martian Manhunter. There is a funny and tragic commentary on 'stretchy powers', and a good theme about the toy business being a primary measure of super hero stature.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Map In The Dirt - Jess Smart Smiley

I recently received my second email from Jess Smiley. The first came at the beginning of this month, and included a digital review copy of his 15 page comic: A Map In The Dirt. I read it right away. When I first saw it I wasn't sure what it was, and when I first read it I was no less confused. There were aspects of it that I thought were pretty great, but there were a lot of questions that were generated by it. I have read it again more than once and I have read some other reviews of it, and I have watched a video by the creator that I will talk about later, and I am more comfortable reviewing it now.

The comic is about a group of animals fleeing a common threat. In this regard there is a bit of simplicity and heavy handedness in the use of man as a sort of menacing soulless killer of animals. In this, Man seems to be hunting all of the animals equally. There is a bear and a fox and a bird and a snake and a deer, and the men seem to be doing a sort of Sherman's march to the sea of animal killing. That could be viewed as a major thing, but in this work it is just incidental, and almost excusable.

The style is pretty clean and simple. It is brush and ink on Bristol board and has a sort of 'wilderness' feel to it. The illustration style would be at home in an old scout manual or field guide in my opinion and it is very good, and builds up what is the real strength of this story. There is a real sense of a folk tale in this. It read to me like a sort of Native American myth. I could almost hear Joseph Campbell reciting it. The animals are all a sort of kin to each other. Some, but not all of them are portrayed as human forms wearing animal masks. This made the sense of allegory even stronger to me. The real gem of this story is the theme of the story teller, in the form of the deer that narrates it. The idea is put across that the story teller may die, but the stories are in its body and its body returns to the earth and water and air, and therefore so do the stories.

The ultimate take away from this after my second reading of it is that I really enjoyed it. There are aspects of brilliance in here. It is different enough, and interesting enough, while at the same time feeling timeless and familiar, that I think it works and merits a read.

The other thing of interest to me, and something I think that is worth pointing out, is the use of Kickstarter dot com as a way of raising money to get the story published as a book. The site is an interesting way to go, and allows the creator to set up a place that people can pledge various amounts of money toward the project as sponsors. There is a video there that is pretty funny, and neat. It is like a PBS pledge drive, but it is informative about the project as well as some of the benefits of KickStarter as a way of getting your work out there.

Jess seems to be really putting some effort into getting his project out there, and into getting support and funding for it. DIgital reading copies are definitely a way to go.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Talkin Bout Talkin Bout

Lately I have been extremely motivated to type something here, but sadly not motivated to say anything. Contrary to what this very blog indicates, Axe Cop is not the last comics related thing I have thought about.

Since my last post here I have watched two comics based movie trailers about a dozen times each. The Hit Girl specific trailer for Kick-Ass and the Scott Pilgrim trailer are both amazing looking. I was unsure about Scott Pilgrim to some degree prior to seeing this. I love the series like crazy, but wasn't sure how it would translate. I also love Edgar Wright's work, and am a big fan of Michael Cera. Scott Pilgrim plus those guys should be a guaranteed hit for me, but I hate to get my hopes up too high. Everything that was shown in the trailer looks perfect. Look, feel, characters, settings. It is a little tough when you go from a comic with the style of SP to a movie with real people in it, but I think a good job was done making the characters feel like you expect them too.

The Hit Girl Kick-Ass trailer is fast and awesome and features the Banana Splits theme. Unlike with Scott Pilgrim, you know exactly what everyone is supposed to look like and it is recreated perfectly. I liked Kick-Ass. I especially liked how it ended. If the movie is able to stay true to the comic, I think it will be pretty good. I don't think it counts as literature, or that the movie will be fine cinema, but I think I will like it.

The semi abusive comic store I visit when I am at my parents house does a few things to keep me coming back. One thing is that they stock Chew and Cowboy Ninja Viking, and titles like that to a greater degree than my almost exclusively mainstream only LCS. The other is that their front counter is usually overflowing with Marvel Essentials for 5 bucks each, and sometimes a few graphic novels for the same price. I have picked up a handful of titles that I think will work just fine in that format, and look forward to reading them soon. I am most excited about the Power Man v2 and the Power Man and Iron Fist v1 that I picked up, as well as Marvel Monsters v1. When I was a kid, our library had a big bin of comics that were in various degrees of being shredded, but Power Man and Iron Fist, as well as Dracula, Batman and Daredevel were well represented there. I have a deep seated love for those characters as a result I think.

I have a lot of individual issues that I will work on reading and commenting on soon, but I have also done fairly well recently with my local used book store. I have picked up a number of interesting volumes in the past few weeks, including a SCAD anthology, a book by Rick Geary, and a collection of Fairy Tales. I used inter-Branch loan at my local Library to get a copy of Asterios Polyp, and have just started on that as well.

Recently I made a comment on a post by a big named blogger that writes a sort of biting comedy/stinging satire/amazing comics criticism blog who referred to Atomic Robo as being basically just a ripoff of Mignola. If you have read Robo and BPRD or Hellboy, you will know that Robo only sounds somewhat similar in theory when you are giving a brief synopsis, but in practice is just not even similar. I commented as such and had another commenter look at this site and post that of course I like Robo if I love Tiny Titans... I imagine that was meant as some sort of swipe at me, but my real response is.. of course! They are both awesome! The latest Tiny Titans is no exception to the awesomeness. It isn't mindless pap for small children. It is a very well written and extremely well drawn cute and nice take on a lot of characters that don't get to be cute and nice very often. It is a sincere comic for kids, but there is also satire and sly jokes that be enjoyed by older folks as well. There is nothing wrong with cute and fun and nice.

Friday, February 26, 2010

AXE COP - podcast Interview with Ethan Nicolle

Sarcastic Voyage podcast #51 features a great guest spot by Axe Cop's Ethan Nicolle, the artist and big brother responsible for turning play time with his little brother into an overnight sensation Web Comic with a real, dedicated, and rapidly growing following.

It's a neat conversation with a truly talented artist who caught on to a brilliant idea from the mind of a pretty awesome but not so atypical 5 year old boy, and really made something great out of it. The joy of Axe Cop is the serious presentation of absurd and frenetic stories and ideas. When you read it, you really get the feel of the thought processes that go on in little kids heads.

It's a very funny webcomic, and the website also features Ask Axe Cop, which takes questions from readers and turns each answer into a page of comics. It's well worth giving a look if you haven't already.

Sarcastic Voyage podcast, which I have mentioned recently in regard to Michael Kupperman's guest spot in episode 49, is available on ITunes, and through their website. It's well worth listening to. Of note, in addition to the comic creators that have recently been on as guests, is episode 50, a fun romp presented as a sort of 'Behind the Podcast'. It's a good time, go listen!