Archive for July 31, 2009

Carnival of souls: special San Diego Comic-Con post-mortem edition

July 31, 2009

* Comic-Con criticism I can get behind: Topless Robot’s Rob Bricken calls out some of this year’s most prominent press pitfalls, including bad wireless access, press passes that really don’t do much for those who hold them, and line-control policies that prevent adequate Hall H access for press and public alike.

Last year there was a lot of kvetching from the nerd press about access, a lot of which I thought was a simple failure to take into account the size and scope of the 21st-century Comic-Con experience. And honestly, I was pretty surprised that Rob’s corporate overlords expected him to cover the thing all by himself–that’s exactly the lack of realistic expectations I was talking about. (They could at least have sprung for a guestblogger to keep the home fires burning with links while Rob was out and about at the show.)

But I also pointed out last year that the show’s press pass is pretty much useless as anything but a regular pass that sometimes can get you into the building, though not the exhibit hall or panels, a little early. When you’re handing out 3,000 press passes out of a total attendance of 125,000, why bother? So I agree with Rob and Tom Spurgeon and (I think) Heidi MacDonald and probably plenty of other people that the Con needs to be way more stringent about press credentials, scale back the number of press passes they issue accordingly, but then scale up the rights and privileges afforded to the press they do let in. I appreciate the show’s egalitarianism w/r/t the pass policy currently, but I think the costs outweigh the benefits at this point.

Meanwhile, the way I was able to get done all the coverage I needed to get done last year was by sitting on the floor and posting stories using the convention center’s free wireless whenever I could. When you’re on deadline in the midst of an event the sheer physical size of Comic-Con, being able to post wherever, whenever as opposed to schlepping to the press room or god forbid your hotel can be the difference between success and failure. This year, not only was the wireless completely unreliable, but I’ve also heard that security would prevent people from simply sitting down in the hallways from time to time. Either one of these scenarios would have been a complete dealbreaker for my ability to get my work done last year, and it’s imperative that the show solve these problems next year.

Finally, between the Iron Man 2 debacle Rob describes, in which the room wasn’t cleared beforehand and therefore thousands of people who spent hours waiting in line in the sun to get in couldn’t get in, and Tom Spurgeon’s anecdote about how halfway through cartoonist Richard Thompson’s panel security started letting in people for the next, very different, panel, it seems that the increased number of security personnel/traffic wranglers didn’t translate into an increased quality of security or traffic flow. Now, moving that amount of people around quickly enough to start things on time is a very difficult challenge; and suppose you really want to see two things in a row, you’re not just in the first thing to save yourself a seat for the second thing, but you’re forced to choose because they clear the rooms each time? So maybe they need to make exceptions with obvious crowd magnets like Iron Man 2, I dunno. But it’s a problem, and in that particular case it seems like it was an anticipatable problem. If they can shuffle around panels on the fly to avoid a Twilight/Avatar collision, surely they can put a little thought along similar lines into everything else going on in Hall H at the least.

* Comic-Con criticism I can’t get behind: Avoiding the usual variations on “Twilight is icky,” Chris Butcher deploys a novel line of attack against that franchise’s presence at the show: 6,000 Twilight fans at Comic-Con only for Twilight take 6,000 tickets for potential comics buyers out of circulation. Which I suppose is true, strictly speaking, but only if you buy the many, many assumptions that go into that statement, which I don’t.

First, how do you know that the majority of fans at the Twilight panels didn’t buy comics–or any of the many, many other products on sale at the Con?

Second, how do you know that if they were all magically vaporized, their thousands of tickets would be snapped up by comics fans, as opposed to people who are just there to see James Cameron or Peter Jackson or the Venture Brothers guys or any of the countless other non-comics fandoms at the show?

Third, now that I mention it, why single out Twilight in the first place of all of said countless other non-comics fandoms? I don’t think Chris is at all on the “ewwww Goths/girls/tweens” tip that lots of other Twilight critics are on, but at the same time, how many members of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion do you see at the Fantagraphics booth?

Now, you could easily answer the above questions like so: “First, I don’t care about the non-comics stuff on sale at the show, only comics matter; second, and third, we should try to reduce the presence of all those other fandoms too.” This is what Chris appears to be advocating with his call for an ideological litmus test to be applied to potential Con exhibitors–an Office Space-style mantra of “Is This Good For The Comics?” This is more coherent point of view than simply singling out the Frowned-Upon Fandom of the Year, but it’s not a terribly valid or useful one.

Comic-Con has always been a cross-media extravaganza–it’s just gotten much better at being one in recent years. It never was and will never be Angouleme, or Heroes Con for that matter. You could look at the Hollywood/videogame/assorted-nerdery component as the tail that wags the dog if you want, but at this point the dog is a chihuahua and the tail is like one of those 200-yard-long Batman capes drawn by Todd McFarlane. It doesn’t make sense on a business level, or on an overall customer happiness level, to start asking Robert Pattinson if he read Asterios Polyp before you allow him to attend the show. And it doesn’t make sense to hold Comic-Con to a “for comics, by comics” standard which has little basis in the fact of the show as it’s existed for years, and which would make it an entirely different and less successful show.

That said, there are a lot of things that can be done to preserve and enhance the comics component of Comic-Con within the Con’s current identity and framework. Most of them involve not penalizing the movie fans and gamers and Klingons and whatnot, but boosting cooperation between the Con and the comics industry, or just within the comics industry itself, to make sure that the art form’s anchor presences at the show are respected and perpetuated. Here’s another idea: Nine Inch Nails is releasing tickets to its final concert tour in three waves–first through a members-only presale on the website, second through a password-protected presale on the Ticketmaster website, and third through the usual Ticketmaster/box-office procedure, all staggered by a week or two. Plus, most venues hold back a handful of tickets that they release only on the night of the performance. Couldn’t Comic-Con do the same in order to accommodate different demographics with different levels of advance awareness and interest in the event, thus (ideally) giving casual fans who are more likely to swing by and browse for books rather than camp out overnight for the Lost panel a foot in the door?

The point is, pointing the finger at specific fandoms isn’t the answer any more than pointing the finger at all fandoms is. Comic-Con is what it is; it’s easy to go there and have a tremendous show as a comics reader; it’s harder but still eminently doable to make the comics component of the show stronger and more accessible. Twilight has nothing to do with it.

* Part 3 of Matt Maxwell’s cyclopean Comic-Con report is up. The meat of this one centers on two very different “breaking into comics” panels.

* Experience Comic-Con through the eyes of Ben Morse. I think that was a Faye Dunaway movie, no?

* Alien director Ridley Scott will be directing an Alien prequel. Hm. (Via Jason Adams.)

* For some reason, Entertainment Weekly talks to Neil Gaiman about the vampire craze. Is anyone else surprised that we haven’t seen more people dipping into the ‘Salem’s Lot “Dracula meets George Romero” well recently? (Via Jason Adams again.)

* The Vault of Horror’s B-Sol runs down the horror movies he’s excited to see in the back half of this year.

* As you probably discovered yesterday, which was when I meant to post this, the trailer for the Coen Brothers’ upcoming movie A Serious Man is pretty terrific.

* If you click here you’ll see a stunning image by Renee French.

* Here too.

* If you click here you’ll see a stunning image by Frank Santoro.

* Here too.

* Hey, The Comics Journal #299 features my interview with Skyscrapers of the Midwest author Josh Cotter!

The Prodigy – Poison (Live @ Phoenix Festival 1996)

July 31, 2009

Heroes, just for one day.

Comics Time: Show Off

July 31, 2009


Show Off

Mark Burrier, writer/artist

self-published, 2009

20 pages


Buy it from

This is pretty much exactly what the minicomic was invented for: A lovely little object designed as a showcase for an entertaining idea expressed through formal play. It’s a comic book, not a graphic novel or an anthology, and you get the sense that Mark Burrier, a talented illustrator who’s been serving up gorgeous minis like this for some time, wouldn’t have it any other way. Content-wise, it reads like a stand-up comedy version of Anders Nilsen’s Monologues characters–barely-there stick-figure outlines falling apart, only instead of spouting philosophical snippets in order to show the inadequacy of such frameworks in light of their plight, they’re just being dicks to each other. Various legless characters say things like “You think you’re better than me?” or “I don’t feel like getting up today,” while the more fortunate in the leg department either self-deprecate (“You only love me for my leg”) or condescend (“I’m so embarrassed for you”). My favorite gag, however, is a non sequitur: Standing on his single remaining leg and speaking into a microphone, one figure says “This is such a surprise! I don’t want to forget to thank anyone.” Maybe that’s a statement about how even the elite have their inadequacies, or maybe it’s just a funny thing to do with a one-legged stick figure. Who cares when the cardstock covers have such a killer endpage design? This is a slight thing, but it’s the slightness that makes it feel like your 300 pennies were well spent.

Carnival of souls: special San Diego Comic-Con post-op edition

July 30, 2009

* Nothing has made me regret missing the San Diego Comic-Con this year more than taking a gander at Rickey Purdin’s eye-melting gallery of his Watchmen sketchbook haul for the show. Gabriel Ba, Ross Campbell, Travis Charest, Jordan Crane, Nathan Fox, Matt Furie, Sammy Harkham, Derek Kirk Kim, Fabio Moon, Tom Neely (not pictured for NSFW reasons), Johnny Ryan, Jeff Smith, Mark Todd, Esther Pearl Watson…insane.


* Speaking of insane, Matt Maxwell has posted the first two installments of his epic Comic-Con recap. Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.

* Kiel Phegley recounts his Top 5 Comic-Con Celebrity Sightings. They’re funny.

* CBR’s George A. Tramountanas has posted a report on the Lost panel. It sounds like Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (and Jorge Garcia and Michael Emerson and Josh Holloway and Nestor Carbonell and Dominic Monaghan) primarily designed the panel as a comedy-hour payback for the SDCC faithful^. It’s a smart way to go, given how pretty much anything they could really reveal about the final season of that show would be a spoiler by necessity–the season is short and the dangling plot threads that need to be tied up are so many that it will probably occupy every available second of airtime. Anyway, the panel sounds like a scream, particularly the gratuitous dig at Heroes, which I still resent for its mercifully brief but grossly exploited and ultimately ridiculous and unsustainable eclipse of Lost in the fickle hearts and minds of nerddom circa Lost Season Three and Heroes Season One.^^

* Robot 6’s Kevin Melrose pulls some Neil Gaiman quotes on the Marvel/Marvelman/Mick Anglo deal from a couple of sources. The gist is that they’ve acquired the rights to the character, have not yet acquired the rights to the Gaiman/Buckingham/Eclipse run on the character but both Gaiman and Buckingham are optimistic on that score, and have not yet acquired the rights to the Alan Moore/Eclipse run, about which Gaiman can’t hazard a guess.

* Holy smokes, check out the partial table of contents for The Comics Journal #300. In conversation: Kevin Huizenga and Art Spiegelman, Sammy Harkham and Jean-Christophe Menu, Dave Gibbons and Frank Quitely, David Mazzucchelli and Dash Shaw, Alison Bechdel and Danica Novgorodoff, Ho Che Anderson and Howard Chaykin, Denny O’Neill and Matt Fraction, Zak Sally and Jaime Hernandez, Ted Rall and Matt Bors, Jim Borgman and Keith Knight, Stan Sakai and Chris Schweizer. Seriously, holy smokes.

* Writing for the Onion AV Club’s “Gateway to Geekery” column, devoted to giving newbies starting-point recommendations for various nerd-beloved but daunting series and oeuvres, Leonard Pierce tackles Love & Rockets in what strikes me as an inaccurate and ill-advised fashion. For one thing, the comic hasn’t been “reputedly monthly” in years, so it’s weird to even discuss it in those terms. But more importantly, if you’re trying to give people a starting point, why recommend the gigantic, unwieldy, expensive hardcovers (don’t get me wrong, they’re awesome, but they’re not for beginners) when both Gilbert and Jaime’s work has now been collected in a less expensive, more complete, more welcoming series of softcover digests that can give you a taste without breaking either the bank or your back? Try reading the Palomar or Locas hardcovers on the subway, I double-dog dare you. For pete’s sake, the place to start with Gilbert/Palomar/Luba is Heartbreak Soup, the place to start with Jaime/Maggie/Hopey/Izzy/Locas is Maggie the Mechanic, and the place to start for both brothers’ other stuff is Amor y Cohetes. You’re welcome, world! (Link via Curt Purcell.)

* The AV Club acquits itself more admirably with Scott Tobias’s latest New Cult Canon column, on Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. Pre-Hot-Topic-hackdom^^^, Tim Burton really was a wondrously inventive and funny director–his first Batman film is still the best superhero movie ever made by a comfortable margin–and Beetlejuice was really a doozy. (The Missus and I wonder aloud why Otho isn’t an oft-quoted cult hero on a regular basis.) I was particularly intrigued by Tobias’s linking of Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight to Michael Keaton’s turn as the title character here.

^ Being in the audience for the sneak preview of the show’s pilot episode at Comic-Con 2004 remains one of me and the Missus’s great geek claims-to-fame.

^^ I was in the belly of the nerd beast at that time, running’s weekly roundtable discussions of Lost, and the way some of the company’s, let’s say, “aesthetically challenged” staffers kicked the show to the curb in favor of slobbering all over the Save the Cheerleader nonsense was enough to make you chew your own foot off.

^^^ This is not a slam on Hot Topic, which I love. But you know what I mean.

Carnival of souls: special San Diego Comic-Con follow-up edition

July 29, 2009

* Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds walks back his perceived gloom and doom about the state of Comic-Con and the role of the small press and retailers in it. He notes that Fanta has reduced its SDCC presence in the recent past without noticeable detriment to itself or its consumers, and any future reduction next year or whenever will likely be similarly seamless. He also says that though this year’s sales were a drop-off from last year’s, last year’s were probably their best ever and not plagued by the recession that began in earnest last fall. But he warns that there’s a lot of grumbling in altcomixville.

* Tom Spurgeon follows up on his earlier Con reports with a variety of practical suggestions to solve problems that cropped up this year. Most of them seem quite doable to me.

* The Robot 6 crew runs down 15 SDCC announcements they’re excited about. JK Parkin catches something I’d missed, namely that Kurt Busiek will be taking Astro City monthly following the completion of the loooooong-running Dark Age megastory, and will also be launching a new American-myths series called American Gothic.

* My pal and Comic Book Resources stalwart Kiel Phegley links to everything he’s written on SDCC so far, which is a lot.

* Meanwhile, my pal Chris Ward went to Tim and Eric Awesomecon 2009 and all I got was this awesome gallery of photos and videos. Great job!

* Entertainment Weekly’s portrait gallery of celebs at Comic Con by photographer Michael Muller is a nice idea. I’d love for someone to do something similar with the comics people, at least the guests of honor and panel subjects. (Via Jason Adams.)

* Bryan Lee O’Malley reposts Ubisoft’s official press release about the upcoming movie-based Scott Pilgrim video game and offers some thoughts.

* Related: Chris Sims’s side-by-side comparisons of Scott Pilgrim panels to the videogame screenshots they pay homage to are a lot of fun.

* Curt Purcell reviews Gilbert Hernandez’s Speak of the Devil, an odd jumping-on point for Los Bros indeed.

* Part 2 of Chris Butcher’s July 2009 Previews Liveblogging. Zounds, Crumb’s Genesis will be here before we know it!

* At Comics Comics, Jeet Heer presents cartoonists talking about Vladimir Nabokov, because why not?

Comics Time: Cold Heat Special #9

July 29, 2009


Cold Heat Special #9

Frank Santoro & Lane Milburn, writers/artists

PictureBox, June 2009

20 pages


Sold out at PictureBox

Buy it for the low low price of $12 plus shipping at Copacetic Comics

The most inscrutable of the Cold Heat Specials thus far, which is saying something, this second Santoro/Milburn CHS collaboration in a row is also the least action-oriented thus far. In its 17 story pages (I tend to count minicomic covers for the official page count up top), Cold Heat heroine Castle putters around a castle, appropriately enough. As light from a fireplace, a candle, and eventually dawn illuminates her and her surroundings, she gazes upon a painting and into a mirror, whereupon the figure from the painting appears to come to life…or does he? Whether the sword-wielding horseman is a ghost or just a figment of her imagination is immaterial: The point is to use Castle and her surroundings to evoke the experience we’ve probably all had of being up late at night, alone in the barely staved-off dark, our thoughts running wild in the emptiness.

With each page done in a two-color silkscreen riff on Cold Heat proper’s pink and blue color scheme, the book is a thing of beauty–unsurprising, for comics-makers of Santoro and Milburn’s obvious talents. What is surprising is Milburn’s proficiency for this sort of tone-poem of a story. Most of the Closed Caption Comics veteran’s work that I’ve seen thus far has been geared toward the monstrous, so watching him work off Santoro’s layouts in an experiment to see how best to convey firelight and insomnia is a treat (even if I had to read the thing twice to make sure I understood what was happening–or what wasn’t happening). As is frequently the case with PictureBox products, the price point appears designed to actively punish the casual reader, but to be fair this is about as geared toward someone whose bookshelf’s only graphic novel is Maus as Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink is aimed at someone who bought The Dark Knight off an endcap at Wal-Mart. It’s for we few, we proud, we artcomix aficionados, and lucky for us.

Comics Reporter on Comic-Con

July 28, 2009

Hilariously true to his loveable-curmudgeon rep, Tom Spurgeon offers four reasons why successful comic cons aren’t necessarily good for comics. Going point by point:

1) “A successful convention rarely leads to increased industry success because the infrastructure is damaged in fundamental ways — or has a hitch step — that keeps this from happening.”

Tom’s right that the San Diego Comic-Con offers an ability to put comics-friendly asses in seats, to make mainstream-media waves, and to provide people with an enjoyable experience that runs the gamut of comics as both an art form and a cultural phenomenon, that is not just unequalled but completely unapproached by the comics industry and its organs for the other 51 weeks of the year. This isn’t really a criticism of cons, and actually Tom’s not really phrasing it as such. But there’s not much to disagree with there, either in general or in the specific areas in need of improvement that Tom cites.

That said, this is just one thing I’m focusing on out of many that I totally agree with, but I think Tom curiously downplays the ability of online retail to compensate for the lack of a real, durable, nationwide, catholic comics retail infrastructure. To cite a similar case, it’s a shame that there are entire regions of the country where the only record store around is the odiously censorious Wal-Mart, but assuming people in those regions have an internet connection, or a library card that gives them access to that library’s internet connection, they actually have better access to every piece of music in the world than I did back in 1994 when I could roll into Halo Zero and pick up whatever KMFDM singles they happened to have in stock. By that same token, it’d be nice if everyone had a Jim Hanley’s or a Comix Experience or a Beguiling within biking distance, but everyone does have an Perhaps I lack the nostalgia gene for the ideal comics shop experience–I loved my local shop when I was buying supercomics in high school, and they steered me to things like Sin City which was nice, but I don’t remember seeing much Love & Rockets there. But I think the new generation of potential comics readers is going to be accustomed to shopping online anyway. Are we losing something that could be provided by a vibrant Direct Market rather than the two-publisher tango we have now in all but a handful of stores? Absolutely, the same way we lost a lot when mom-and-pop video stores staffed by knowledgeable movie buffs were destroyed by Blockbuster–only in comics’ case, there’s no Blockbuster either! In terms of developing lifelong consumers of comics, I’d imagine that even Amazon’s best sales and marketing program isn’t worth one Chris Butcher or Brian Hibbs or Vito Delsante. But I wouldn’t simply consign “shopping online” to a list of things people are unfortunately forced to do because of the inadequacy of America’s Android’s Dungeons. Online is a vibrant market of its own. And as digital comics increase in prominence, that market will only grow more robust.

2) “Conventions are growing in popularity not because of their subject matter but because of the intensified nature of social interaction with the advent of on-line communication.”

Well, yeah, but since that social interaction stems from a shared love of comics, isn’t it kind of six one way, half a dozen the other? Also, hasn’t the purpose of cons always been social interaction with your fellow travelers? Perhaps what Tom’s saying is that if you come to Comic-Con with “I can’t wait to hang out with my friends I never get to see anywhere else” as your priority, your dollars are more likely to be spent at Dick’s Last Resort than at Comic Relief, your time more likely to be passed at Jeff Katz’s party than at Lewis Trondheim’s panel. I’m not sure if I’m 100% persuaded of that. Every year I’ve gone, I’ve spent plenty of time and money on both.

I do appreciate Tom’s call for a more curated, festival-style approach to be incorporated into the big shows, however. Obviously there’s an effort made along those lines at the small-press shows, while I think Dustin Harbin’s altcomix outreach at Heroes Con 2008 might well have qualified in terms of the mainstreamy mid-level shows. On the other hand, you can obviously write off all the cons run by the Shamus Brothers and their current and former associates. For all intents and purposes that leaves the shows run by the Comic-Con organization and Reed, and you know what? I think there’s potential for both if someone seizes the initiative and works his or her ass off for a festival component. That’s really worth thinking about.

3) “The more successful a convention becomes, the more it may preach to the choir.”

Last year, pre-Twitter (or at least pre-me-on-Twitter), I would have agreed to this without hesitation. 2008’s five-day sell-out and dire hotel-vacancy situation indicated that in the future, the only people who could rely on even getting into the Con at all were the people who knew enough about it and were sufficiently motivated about it to buy tickets weeks, even months, in advance.

This year, though, clicking on the Comic-Con trend tag on Twitter revealed tons and tons of “civilians” who seem even more interested in Comic-Con now that it’s become a Cannes-style phenomenon. Obviously we’re probably mostly talking about people who are interested in the Hollywood component of the show rather than checking out what Boom or Buenaventura have at their booths, but at the very least the awareness of the show is at an all-time high.

Whether that will translate into non-lifers buying their passes in March or whenever it is they go on sale is another issue. The show, and comics as an entity, probably ought to try to ensure that they will. Perhaps the show could reserve a sizable block of tickets for day-of purchases, or at least for advance purchases that are nevertheless within a reasonable time frame for non-nerd awareness of the show to peak.

To back Spurge up wholeheartedly, though, there’s Eric Reynolds’s sobering con report. Eric explicitly states that the increased attention to the Hollywood component of the con is both keeping people who might be interested in the small press’s wares away from the show altogether, and preventing those who are at the show from using their time to do anything but wait in line for and attend Hollywood panels, thus leading to a surprising and shocking sales drop-off on Saturday–once the busiest sales day of the show by a country mile, it’s now seeing the merchants crushed by competition with the big-ticket studio and network presentations. I know that by “festival component” Tom means an arts-celebrating aspect of the show divorced from mercantile concerns, but I can’t help but feel that the former would help the latter here.

4) A flea market is still an odd way to meet the world.

That’s true. It IS weird going up to heroes like, I dunno, Los Bros Hernandez, people who you just wanna shake hands with and say hello to and stand in awe of, all the while cognizant of the nearby pile of their books and employees (or even the creators themselves!) ready to take your cash in exchange for those books. Then again, with the exception of that country music Fan Fest, is there any other art form in the world that provides this level of access to the giants of the field? I’ve long said that going to a small-press show in particular is a bit like going to a family reunion where every time you end up making smalltalk with a distant cousin, you have to pay him five bucks for his minicomic, but to me that awkwardness is a small price to pay to be able to get a Seth sketch of David Bowie for free.

Still, this is entirely unobjectionable and admirable:

The only thing I might suggest is that the wider culture and industry entire make it a goal at their major shows that the experience be worth having if not a single dime is spent on purchasing anything once within the walls — paying close attention to programming, bringing in more festival aspects, having focused signings that aren’t in a commercial context and may even feature giveaways.

It’s important to remember that Tom isn’t one to pronounce Comic-Con “nerd Altamont,” nor share in Chuck Rozanski’s annual obituaries for the event, nor kvetch about how Comic-Con is a misnomer due to the presence of Twilight or Lost. Just take a look at his regular con report, where he trumpets the various extremely comics-y news stories that broke at the show (from Nancy to Parker to Wilson to Marvelman to Bone) and rightly points out that if you have a mind to do so, you can have an absolutely kickass comics experience with minimal effort. Somewhere between cheerleading and doomsaying lie the posts and policy prescriptions we’d do well to take heed of.

Carnival of souls: special San Diego Comic-Con wrap-up edition

July 27, 2009

* Many of my friends aren’t yet back and/or mobile following Comic-Con, but the consensus seems to be that it was a slow-news con.

* Marvel’s Marvelman announcement, though light on details regarding the character’s most contentiously litigated material, seems to top the comics list. I’d imagine a lot of folks are excited about Fantagraphics’ plans to reprint Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy, and I was pretty struck by Daniel Clowes’s move to Drawn & Quarterly with Wilson. DC’s biggest announcement appeared to be the foregone but welcome conclusion of Geoff Johns writing an ongoing All Flash series.

* On the film and TV end, I don’t think there were any big surprises. Various movies screened fun-sounding footage, and Lost‘s final season will pull as many final-season “look who’s back!”s as you’d expect them to.

* That said, I haven’t heard much grousing at all. The main complaints I’ve heard–aside from the usual aesthetic/philosophical objections about what Comic-Con has become, some of which strike me as reasonable, others like a race to be the first person to stop applauding–seemed to be overzealous security, an overcrowded floor on Preview Night (due to the lack of an aggressive programming track in the panel rooms), dauntingly long lines for even more things than usual, and an organizational clusterfuck at the Iron Man 2 panel. It’s still early, though, and maybe we’ll get a wave of press-access complaints like we did last year, perhaps backed up with more specifics this time.

* The biggest and best news I hadn’t heard in any official capacity is that the great Eric Reynolds has been promoted to Associate Publisher of Fantagraphics. I guess when you promote your PR guy, your PR may momentarily suffer, but now that I’ve heard this, I couldn’t be happier. Is there a person in comics who’s better at his/her job, or more universally beloved, than Eric?

* One of the neater bits of news to come out of the con is Ubisoft’s Scott Pilgrim video game. My pal Kiel Phegley talks to SP creator Bryan Lee O’Malley about the game and the “indie video game” movement.

* Kiel also speaks to Geoff Johns about his All Flash plans. What I’m most curious about is whether he’s going to pull a mythos-expanding rabbit out of his hat for the Flash like he did with Green Lantern.

* A very busy boy indeed, Kiel also spoke with Comic-Con PR maestro David Glanzer about this year’s show. I was interested to hear Glanzer’s response to Kiel’s question about press run-ins with security couched in terms of dramatically increasing the number of personnel to help manage traffic. It does seem to me, however, that press passes probably need to be afforded more privileges, perhaps accompanied with more stringent guidelines as to who can get them.

* I don’t think this qualifies as a Comic-Con announcement, but Jim Rugg has revealed that AdHouse will be publishing a full-color hardcover Afrodisiac book by Rugg this December. Nice.

* Speaking of AdHouse, Tom Spurgeon reports that they’ll be putting out a Rafael Grampa art book…eventually, while Grampa’s Mesmo Delivery is moving from AdHouse to Dark Horse as an expanded edition (via JK Parkin).

* By popular demand, Chris Butcher liveblogs the July 2009 Previews catalogue. It’s very funny and angry as usual, particularly regarding Marvel’s decision to give work to serial robber of freelancers Pat Lee, but sprinkled in there are a couple of genuine news items (at least they’re news to me), namely that Ex Machina is ending with #50 (less than a year from now if it resumes a monthly schedule) and original artist Cory Walker is replacing subsequent mainstay Ryan Ottley on Invincible.

* Tim O’Neil continues his exquisitely nerdy examination of the X-Men, this time comparing the work of Chris Claremont to his successors like Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza.

* Curt Purcell continues his examination of Geoff Johns’s Blackest Night, first by a close reading of the book’s use of horror tropes, and then by sizing it up in terms of the much maligned “superhero decadence” movement. It’s a horror-insider/comics-outsider one-two punch.

* Dave Kiersh is my hero.


Comics Time: Chrome Fetus Comics #7

July 27, 2009


Chrome Fetus Comics #7

Hans Rickheit, writer/artist

self-published, May 2009

36 pages


Maybe you can buy one from Hans Rickheit, I don’t know

With the release of his Fantagraphics graphic novel The Squirrel Machine slated for this fall, perhaps Hans Rickheit’s days with the most lopsided talent-to-recognition ratio in alternative comics are nearing their end. Or perhaps not. “Alternative” certainly describes what he does but does not do it justice; “underground” comes closer, as it does with Josh Simmons, who in recent years has become the closest thing to a comparable figure to Rickheit that exists. Actually, “somewhere between Josh Simmons and Jim Woodring” wouldn’t be a horrible way to describe Rickheit’s work. Like those artist, Rickheit’s comics are often exploratory in narrative, with guileless naifs–Rickheit’s Cochlea and Eustacea, and his anonymous teddy-bear-headed protagonist; Simmons’s Jessica Farm, Cockbone, and the House guests; Woodring’s Frank, obviously–wandering through a wondrous, slightly nauseating, frequently eroticized, even more frequently horrifying environment seemingly constructed with raw shards of the artist’s own unconscious. In place of Simmons’s squalor and Woodring’s psychedelia, Rickheit has fused together a singular amalgam of Victoriana and body-horror, like Videodrome gone steampunk. His elaborate structures and machines are frequently revealed to be of inscrutable purpose and surrounded by vast expanses of nothing in particular, outposts of a forgotten or unknowable civilization. His line is crisp, perfect for the ornate detail of his machinery or the endless desert of rocks that surround them; his character designs, from Cochlea and Eustacea’s revealing tutus to the teddy-bear man’s natty ascot, gloves, and boots, are rock-solid; his environments and action are always easy to parse; and his central images, from a skull-headed rabbit towering about on giant Cloverfield/The Mist legs to a floating bed tethered to a tower to keep it from soaring away to countless instances of tiny worlds hidden within orifices, are dreamlike in the most direct and impactful sense. He’s one of my favorite cartoonists. If you’re curious about The Squirrel Mother and looking for Hans Rickheit 101, buy this minicomic and your search is over.

Carnival of souls: special San Diego Comic-Con Day Three edition

July 25, 2009

* No surprise here, but still nice: Geoff Johns will be writing a Flash ongoing series following Flash: Rebirth and Blackest Night: Flash.

* The Umbrella Academy writer Gerard Way will be doing a series called Killjoys with the great Becky Cloonan and cowriter Shaun Simon. Way says it will be to The Invisibles what The Umbrella Academy is to Doom Patrol.

* Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster is no longer directing the adaptation of World War Z.

Sorry, Sammy Harkham and Alvin Buenaventura

July 25, 2009

Maybe try a little harder next time.

On the other hand, the results in the short story category bode well for the Simpsons Ergot issue. There’s always next year, gang!

Carnival of souls: special San Diego Comic-Con Day Two edition

July 24, 2009

* Marvel has acquired the rights to Marvelman (aka Miracleman) from creator Mick Anglo. This British Captain Marvel (aka Shazam) knockoff became a pioneering revisionist-superhero series at the hands of Alan Moore, Mark Buckingham, Neil Gaiman et al, then got lost in legal limbo for decades now, preventing the well-regarded revisionist stuff from ever being reprinted. The individual issues walked away from the Wizard library years ago, so I’ve never been able to read this, and it was just on the list of five things I’d like to be reprinted I sent to the Comics Reporter for this week’s Five for Friday feature. This is a treat. Marvel EIC Joe Quesada talks to my Comic Book Resources overlord Jonah Weiland about the announcement on CBR’s motherfucking boat.

* Now here’s a heckuva con debut: Drawn & Quarterly is premiering Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions #12 at the show. Looks like it’s getting even darker.

* My favorite announcement in this Geoff Johns Spotlight panel report isn’t Blackest Night: Flash with Scott Kolins, but the fact that Krypto the Super-Dog will be fighting Dek-Starr the Red Landern Cat. RRRRREOW! Johns has a CBR Boat Show interview of his own.

* And speaking of Johns and Blackest Night (this isn’t strictly an SDCC link, but just good timing on Curt Purcell’s part), Curt Purcell of the Groovy Age of Horror continues his series of posts on the horror-tinged DC event. Here he is on Green Lantern Corps #38 and Green Lantern #43; here he is on Tales of the Corps #1 & 2; and here he is on Blackest Night #1 and Green Lantern #44. Curt is not a regular reader of DC comics, so I think his posts are instructive for several reasons.

First, he rightly points out that the quality of the art in this crossover, specifically that of Doug Mahnke and Ivan Reis, is quite strong (though Reis has looked better in the past, IMHO). To the credit of both DC and Marvel, the current cycle of event comics that kicked off with Infinite Crisis and continued with Civil War, World War Hulk, The Sinestro Corps War, Final Crisis, Secret Invasion, and Blackest Night have all featured talented stylists at the helm, although this leaves them frequently plagued by fill-ins, lateness, or both. (I actually think Blackest Night could end up going without either problem; we’ll see.)

Second, he articulates a problem with serialized superhero comics that not even Jim Shooter-style “new-reader friendliness” can overcome, namely that even if a superhero comic uses exposition to provide you with all the information you need to make sense it, it still “presuppose[s] a history of emotional attachment to these characters” to connect with it. And frankly there’s no more of a way around that than there would be to make latecomers to The Sopranos instantly connect with the plight of Christopher Moltisanti. It’s just the nature of long-form serialized storytelling. The key is to avoid plot points that are simply “Hey look, it’s That Guy!” in favor of “Hey, look what that guy is doing!”

Third, I think it’s interesting that he started his read of the event with an issue of Green Lantern Corps because it had the tagline “Prelude to Blackest Night” on the cover. The thing is, every issue of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps has had that tagline on the cover for months–at least two full storyarcs, in Green Lantern‘s case. As a hardcore superhero comics reader, I knew that this was intended a) to goose sales, and b) to establish a tenuous connection to the upcoming event, and not c) to mean that this was actually a prelude to Blackest Night in the literal sense. But of course an outsider would have no way of knowing that. This was something that never would have occurred to me.

* Back to SDCC news proper, here’s something else that never would have occurred to me: the formation of an enormous line to get into the plain-vanilla X-Men comics panel. My first San Diego Comic-Con was 2001, and iirc you could pretty much waltz right into any of the “here’s what’s coming up in this particular superhero franchise” panel. As Tom Spurgeon notes:

I saw at least a half-dozen lines to a few random panels that ten years ago would have had a hard time putting together 40 people that were dauntingly long this time out. One story that three people told me was that one mainstream comic book writer had a signing so stuffed that security was involved in processing the line.

It seems that San Diego is a big con for everything, including comics.

* I don’t think any news or new ground is broken in Graeme McMillan’s interview with Marvel EIC Joe Quesada for io9, but it’s a pretty good encapsulation of how Quesada comes across in every interview I’ve done with him, and what he values/prioritizes about his job. I find it difficult not to respect him on those grounds. (Via Kevin Melrose.)

* Golly, Rafael Grampa can draw.


* Tom Neely has a con-exclusive minicomic called Self-Indulgence at the show for which he will hand-draw each and every cover. Is “others-indulgent” a word? Because that’s what that is.

* Scott Pilgrim videogame coming!

* I was rather smitten with Gerard Way’s Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, so I’m looking forward to plowing through the second volume of the series, Dallas, in time to pick up the freshly-announced third volume, Hotel Oblivion.

* World War Z author Max Brooks is writing a G.I. Joe miniseries for IDW. That’s IDW’s second good get of the con. I’ll check it out.

* The most interesting thing about this O.G. music-blogger roundtable featuring guys like Matthew Perpetua, Sean Michaels, David Gutowski, and Andrew Noz is how few of them read other music blogs. I think if you conducted a similar discussion with comicsblogging godfathers like NeilAlien, Bill Sherman, Dirk Deppey et al, you’d get a very different result.

Quote of the day

July 24, 2009

I tried to divert my mind to a new track and got thinking about how I had wanted to paint Brent Norton yesterday. No, nothing as important as a painting, but…just sit him on a log with my beer in his hand and sketch his sweaty, tired face and the two wings of his carefully processed hair sticking up untidily in the back. It could have been a good picture. It took me twenty years of living with my father to accept the idea that being good could be good enough.

You know what talent is? The curse of expectation. As a kid you have to deal with that, beat it somehow. If you can write, you think God put you on earth to blow Shakespeare away. Or if you can paint, maybe you think–I did–that God put you on earth to blow your father away.

It turned out I wasn’t as good as he was. I kept trying to be for longer than I should have, maybe. I had a show in New York and it did poorly–the art critics beat me over the head with my father. A year later I was supporting myself and Steff with the commercial stuff. She was pregnant and I sat down and talked to myself about it. The result of that conversation was a belief that serious art was always going to be a hobby for me, no more.

I did Golden Girl Shampoo ads–the one where the Girl is standing astride her bike, the one where she’s playing Frisbee on the beach, the one where she’s standing on the balcony of her apartment with a drink in her hand. I’ve done short-story illustrations for most of the big slicks, but I broke into that field doing fast illustrations for the stories in the sleazier men’s magazines. I’ve done some movie posters. The money comes in. We keep our heads nicely above water.

I had one final show in Bridgton, just last summer. I showed nine canvases that I had painted in five years, and I sold six of them. The one I absolutely would not sell showed the Federal market, by some queer coincidence. The perspective was from the far end of the parking lot. In my picture, the parking lot was empty except for a line of Campbell’s Beans and Franks cans, each one larger than the last as they marched toward the viewer’s eye. The last one appeared to be about eight feet tall. The picture was titled Beans and Perspective. A man from California who was a top exec in some company that makes tennis balls and rackets and who knows what other sports equipment seemed to want that picture very badly, and would not take no for an answer in spite of the NFS card tucked into the bottom left-hand corner of the spare wooden frame. He began at six hundred dollars and worked his way up to four thousand. He said he wanted it for his study. I would not let him have it, and he went away sorely puzzled. Even so, he didn’t quite give up; he left his card in case I changed my mind.

I could have used the money–that was the year we put the addition on the house and bought the four-wheel-drive–but I just couldn’t sell it. I couldn’t sell it because I felt it was the best painting I had ever done and I wanted it to look at after someone would ask me, with totally unconscious cruelty, when I was going to do something serious.

Then I happened to show it to Ollie Weeks one day last fall. He asked me if he could photograph it and run it as an ad one week, and that was the end of my own false perspective. Ollie had recognized my painting for what it was, and by doing so, he forced me to recognize it, too. A perfectly good piece of slick commercial art. No more. And, thank God, no less.

I let him do it, and then I called the exec at his home in San Luis Obispo and told him he could have the painting for twenty-five hundred if he still wanted it. He did, and I shipped it UPS to the coast. And since then that voice of disappointed expectation–that cheated child’s voice that can never be satisfied with such a mild superlative as good–has fallen pretty much silent. And except for a few rumbles–like the sounds of those unseen creatures somewhere out in the foggy night–it has been pretty much silent ever since. Maybe you can tell me–why should the silencing of that childish, demanding voice seem so much like dying?

–Stephen King, “The Mist”

Comics Time: Immortal Weapons #1

July 24, 2009


Immortal Weapons #1

Jason Aaron, Duane Swierczynski, writers

Mico Suayan, Stefano Gaudiano, Roberto De La Torre, Khari Evans, Victor Olazaba, Michael Lark, Arturo Lozzi, Travel Foreman, artists

Marvel, July 2009

40 pages


You don’t have to look around the comics blogosphere too hard to find praise for how Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction retooled the mythos of the heretofore largely ignored kung-fu superhero Iron Fist into one of the sturdiest and most expansive in the entire Marvel Universe. Like Geoff Johns did with Green Lantern by introducing a rainbow of multicolored Lantern Corps, Brubaker and Fraction took a key component of Iron Fist’s existing backstory–he’s the warrior champion of a mystical city–and simply multiplied it in a couple of different directions–Danny Rand is just the latest in a long line of such champions, and his mystical city is just one of seven such cities, all with long lines of champions of their own. Suddenly, writers had access to a whole new array of allies and antagonists, mentors and successors, settings and story possibilities. It was veritably the birth of the Iron Fist Universe.

Since Frubaker’s departure for greener, better-selling pastures, the book has continued under the direction of pulp writer Duane Swierczynski in much the same rewarding vein. In addition to keeping up the Frubaker traditions of stand-alone issues spotlighting past (and future) Iron Fists and supporting roles played by the Fist’s former Heroes for Hire chums, he’s continued rolling out natural-seeming expansions of the original Iron Fist mythos: For as long as the Iron Fists have existed, so too has a being whose sole purpose is to kill and devour Iron Fists; the Seven Cities have kept an Eighth City as their secret gulag, ruled by the fallen First Iron Fist. The shock of the new may have subsided, but the ideas and execution mesh rather seamlessly with the relaunch.

The one weak spot has been the art. Frubaker’s run was anchored by the great David Aja, perhaps the best exemplar of the naturalistic New Marvel House Style pioneered by Alex Maleev during Brian Michael Bendis’s wonderful Daredevil run back in the day, and sported any number of strong (and schedule-saving) guest artists. Sweirczynski’s counterpart has been Travel Foreman, a bold and distinctive stylist, but one whose angular, inky figures, frequently adrift amid wide empty backgrounds, run counter to the cinematic-pulp feel of the previous run, and can make the action, an all-important component of a kung-fu superhero comic, difficult to parse. It’s not bad art by any means, particularly considering how easy it would have been to saddle the title with something bland and unremarkable, but without the first-round-knockout quality that Aja brought to the book (I vividly remember how impressed Wizard’s weekly review roundtable was with that first issue), I’d imagine it’s been tough to stop Frubaker fans from jumping ship.

Which is why, it seems, The Immortal Iron Fist has been at least temporarily canceled, replaced with Immortal Weapons. This miniseries focuses on each of the Iron Fist’s mystical-champion counterparts, a terrifically named bunch including the Bride of Nine Spiders, Dog Brother No. 1, the Prince of Orphans, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter, and this issue’s star, Fat Cobra. He’s been the breakout member of the bunch, a sumo-lookin’ dude with a ceaselessly cheery demeanor and insatiable appetite for wine, women, and food. (Not sure about song, though I wouldn’t be surprised.) Guest writer Jason Aaron plays this to the hilt, initially surrounding him with a posse of beautiful masseuses and filling in his backstory with comical imagery: A tubby baby born in a pigsty, the Cobra became an opera singer, then embarked on a decades-long ass-kicking tour of the world and beyond, complete with besting Hercules and Volstagg in a competitive eating contest in Olympus. In one sequence that riffs on a Frubaker trademark and had me laughing out loud as I read it on the train, Cobra and a female sparring partner suddenly switch from exchanging exotically named blows (Elbow of a Thousand Agonies, Giant Squid Spine Squeeze, Hell’s Dentist) to exotically named sexual maneuvers (Tongue of a Thousand Passions, the Peddling Tortoise, the Wheelbarrow of the Gods). But a twist that plays off the Cobra’s womanizing ways, initially for comic effect, suddenly turns deadly serious, complicating our understanding (and that of the amnesiac Cobra himself) of who the Cobra is and what he’s capable of. Aaron is joined on this journey by an array of talented artists, each responsible for a different era in the Cobra’s life: Mico Suyan’s framing sequence gives the Cobra a rounded, lifelike feel, while Daredevil regulars Stefano Gaudiano and Michael Lark each evoke the book’s past artistic glories. There’s even some gorgeous coloring (love those purples!) by the always welcome Matthew Hollingsworth. Compelling one-and-done stories are not easy, but you wouldn’t know it from reading this one.

The book is rounded out by a story from the regular team of Swierczynski and Foreman and starring the Iron Fist himself; this will be continued throughout the miniseries. With ace inker Gaudiano backing him up, Foreman suddenly comes into his own: His art gains in detail and in evocative power, with a memorably bug-eyed, strung-out junkie, an adorable kung-fu urchin, and Danny Rand’s girlfriend and partner Misty Knight looking as real and as beautiful as ever. The action is easy to parse, and the costume choices (from kids in kung-fu training togs to the aforementioned junkie in his tighty whiteys) are memorable. It’s quite an effort, and with any luck, the Immortal Weapons will last, if not forever than for a few more arcs of work of this caliber.

Carnival of souls: special San Diego Comic Con Day One edition

July 23, 2009

* The problem with being on the East Coast during Comic Con is that very few newsworthy things actually happen during your day. Maybe that will change tomorrow and Saturday. But other than the ongoing Twilight war (and I must say I’ve been impressed by how the comics commentariat has largely maintained a policy of shrugged shoulders at the very least and chanted “gabba gabba we accept you” at best rather than screaming “I CAST YOU OUT! THE POWER OF STAN COMPELS YOU!” at them) Thursday has been dullsville.

* That said, there were a few developments of note. For starters, Buenaventura Press is debuting Matt Furie’s Boy’s Club #3. That alone is cause for celebration.

* Speaking of which, holy crap would you get a look at all of Fantagraphics’ many many con debuts?!?

* Daniel Clowes is moving to Drawn & Quarterly for his next book, Wilson. That strikes me as big news.

* So does Bob Schreck’s move to IDW.

* Agents of Atlas lives!

* Curt Purcell ponders Blackest Night‘s “new reader friendliness” and/or lack thereof and some fannish reactions to same. And by “ponders” I mean “shakes his head in disbelief at.”

* Not Coming to a Theater Near You’s Cullen Gallagher reviews my favorite film of 2008, Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo–perhaps the strangest action movie I’ve ever seen.

* At The House Next Door, Dan Callahan pays tribute to Madeline Kahn. She will always be the Empress Nympho to me. “Say, Bob–do I have any openings that this man might fit?”

Carnival of souls

July 22, 2009

* I believe it was Louis Seize who said Apres Preview Night, le deluge. N’est-ce pas?

* The Onion AV Club speaks to Grant Morrison about this and that. He does some more public proclaiming of his desire to work on Wonder Woman, for one thing. But this was the money quote for me:

///I don’t know much about what’s going on in the global comics scene these days, I’m sorry to say. I have to confess I’m not a huge comics fan in the wider sense of comics as an art form. Apart from the absurdist comics like Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed To Thrizzle and Steve Aylett’s The Caterer, I just like superhero stuff. I’ve never paid a great deal of attention to the undergrounds or the indie scene.

Isn’t that depressing? What alternative comics or manga or webcomics or anygoddamnthing that isn’t Marvel or DC would you suggest Grant Morrison read? Tell me in the comments. Let’s find Grant his gateway comic! I’ll start: Acme Novelty Library #19! (Link via Whitney Matheson.)

* Speaking of Morrison, here’s some of his very very early work as a writer-artist. Bee ay en ay en ay ess. (Via Dirk Deppey.)

* Gosh, there’s a sneak preview of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds at Comic Con?

* Here are Tom Spurgeon’s Top 50 Comic Con Panel Picks. I sort of felt like there weren’t a ton of things I was dying to see this year, but ymmv.

* Chris Mautner reviews Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker novel The Hunter from the perspective of a Cooke skeptic, particularly regarding his slickness and tendency toward nostalgia, a perspective I share–thus making me look forward to reading the book myself.

* Vice’s comics issue features interviews with Anders Nilsen, Chip Kidd, Chris Onstad, Gerard Way, Gary Panter, and more. (Via Whitney Matheson again.)

* Anyone else think it’s weird that MGM’s upcoming 3-film Hannibal Lecter Anthology blu-ray doesn’t feature the three movies in which Anthony Hopkins plays Lecter, instead including the Hopkins-less Manhunter rather than its Brett Ratner-directed Hopkinsy remake Red Dragon? I didn’t say “bad,” mind you, just “weird” from a major studio.

* This is interesting: Friend o’ the blog Sean B. notes in the comments that the solicit for James Robinson’s Justice League: Cry for Justice #4 makes it sound like the issue, unlike the series’ debut, will tackle the morality of torture by “the good guys” head-on. Seriously, it makes it sound like this is in fact the whole point of the series. Um, wow? Of course, now the problem is one of potentially overdoing the sociopolitical stuff in the fashion of countless genre works pandering for relevance with critics who use such sociopolitical content as their sole barometer of genre-art quality, but whatevs.

* Last night I had a very detailed and convincing nightmare about working for Wizard magazine. My friend Chris Ward, on the other hand, has actually lived several very detailed and convincing nightmares while working for Wizard magazine. Today he recounts one of them, and it involves interviewing Margot Kidder.

Comics Time: The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite

July 22, 2009


The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite

Gerard Way, writer

Gabriel Ba, artist

Dark Horse, 2008

184 pages


Buy it from

When you think of how many indie superhero titles are abject failures of imagination and innovation, The Umbrella Academy becomes all the more impressive. I’d imagine that as with most creator-owned superbooks it’s the product of a life-long love of Marvel and DC (and by now, ’90s Image). But most creators who are thusly smitten wind up barfing out some dishwater-dull origin story involving types rather than characters and fixated on producing iconic moments for copies of copies of copies of icons. Writer Gerard Way, who as the lead singer of My Chemical Romance can’t even claim that doing comics is all he’s ever wanted to do creatively, is beating such people at their own game. He’s produced a weird, sad comic about superheroes, with sophisticated pacing that trusts in the intelligence of the reader rather than insisting on serving them nothing but what they’ve already seen. Essentially, the seven members of the Umbrella Academy are to their adoptive father Hargreeves what Michael, Janet et al were to Joe Jackson, with similarly dispiriting results in terms of the disconnect between talent, even talent used optimally, and happiness. There’s no happy ending for them, either. It’s superheroing with sharp edges.

He’s done this with the help of Gabriel Ba, whose work here reads like a cross between Mike Mignola (perhaps enhanced by the presence of Mignola’s longtime go-to colorist Dave Stewart) and The Incredibles. He’s produced solid character designs (based on concept sketches by SVA grad Way) that transition well between superhero and soap opera, he frequently draws his panels utilizing zesty, infrequently used angles, and his action is coherent and dynamic. For his part, Stewart is brilliant as always, throwing huge splashes of eye-melting colors (oranges, pinks) into the mix in a way that’s both exciting and slightly alienating–much like the comic itself.

Now, to be sure, the characters themselves are more sketched than fully rendered at this point. And I’ve heard criticism that the thing reads like a Grant Morrison Doom Patrol tribute album, though not having read much early Morrison I can’t comment on that. But from where I’m standing this thoughtful, engaging work all around.

Carnival of souls

July 21, 2009

* Yesterday I put out a call for review requests. If there’s a comic you’d like me to review, let me know in the comments and if I have it I’ll try to review it. (Try not to suggest a million things, though, and please don’t request stuff you worked on. Also, please be patient–I’ve got a backlog!) Thanks to everyone who’s made suggestions so far!

* While I’m talking about my stuff, I want to remind everyone of my various Web 8.0 ventures:

Bowie Loves Beyonce: A blog dedicated to pictures of David Bowie and Beyonce Knowles.

Fuck Yeah, T-Shirts: A blog dedicated to pictures of t-shirts I like.

@theseantcollins: A Twitter account dedicated to whatever it is Twitter accounts are dedicated to.

* Kevin Huizenga previews Ganges #3! Elsewhere, Fantagraphics’ Kim Thompson updates us on the rest of the Ignatz line. (Via Chris Mautner.)

* The new George A. Romero zombie movie will be called Survival of the Dead. Honestly, I’ll be stunned if it’s even watchable…but I like being stunned.

* The Onion AV Club interviews Michael Kupperman! There’s a big shoutout to my pal Alejandro Arbona and the whole altcomix-supporting ex-Wizard crew, and Kupperman’s amazing Twitter account is discussed in detail.

* This is fascinating: Borders is launching Borders Ink, a teens department centering on YA staples like fantasy, Twilight, and graphic novels. Given that Borders seemed just as likely fold as launch a major new initiative this year, and given the chunk of the comics market that relies on a healthy Borders, I’ll be watching this with great interest. (Via Kevin Melrose.)

* Continuing Not Coming to a Theater Near You’s series on action movies, Leo Goldsmith reviews John McTiernan’s Die Hard. I think he makes a little too much of the notion that Bruce Willis’s physique was shockingly relatable–maybe compared to Stallone or Schwarzenegger, okay, but they didn’t throw in the glass-in-the-feet business because Willis wasn’t enough of a physical specimen for people to relate to. Still, good stuff, especially about how likable the bad guys were (not even in a “love to hate ’em” way–they were genuinely likable!).

* In a pair of posts inspired by my own post on the topic, Gene Phillips talks torture and superheroes. In addition to correcting my memory of the “criminal through the window” scene in The Dark Knight Returns (the guy throws himself through the window to get away from Batman). I’m not as sure as Phillips that it’s advisable, or even possible, to divorce the physical torture of criminals by superheroes for information from thinking about what that would mean in real-world terms, but he’s certainly right to argue that this was, in the words of The Wire, “all in the game” for many decades, unexamined by creators and audience alike. I wonder if that’s good or bad.

* Look, Hans Rickheit has a new blog for his upcoming graphic novel The Squirrel Machine! (Via Mike Baehr.)

DJ, please pick up your phone–I’m on the request line

July 20, 2009

I will not have much to do over the next week or so but read and review comics. Which comics would you, the readers of STC’s ADDTF, like me to read and review? Post your requests in the comments (they’re slow as shit, so be patient). If I have it I will try to read and review it. (NOTE: Please do not request a comic you yourself made or edited or published mmkay?)

Carnival of souls

July 20, 2009

* I’ve been waiting for this for a long time: Entertainment Weekly’s Lost correspondent Jeff “Doc” Jensen runs down the 15 mysteries the show must solve, as nominated by the fans. Interestingly, he says only the top three were suggested by more than 5% of the fans, which I guess means there are a shitload of mysteries overall. But I think it’s a very strong list, and though my brain’s a bit fried I didn’t notice any glaring absences. Obviously the creative team pays attention to Jensen in particular and the hardcore fanbase in particular, so it seems safe to assume that they’ll use this as a guide to, at the very least, include at least a throwaway line or two of explanation for each mystery. (In-show explanation of the Numbers’ significance FTW!)

* San Diego Comic Con participants, beware the area’s infestation of carnivorous giant squid. (Via Kevin Melrose.)

* Topless Robot’s Rob Bricken is a great nerd-culture blogger, but his admitted weak spot is American comics. Watching him try to blog about the latest superhero sensation is always a bit like listening to your six-year-old cousin try to explain the plot of The Lord of the Rings or what have you. Still, his remove from the teapot-tempests that we hardcore readers get involved in gives him fresh eyes and a valuable perspective, which is why I enjoyed his review of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis’s Blackest Night #1–he’s able to see the zombification of various superheroes for its in-story ramifications regarding superheroes’ frequently realized hopes of resurrection. Interesting.

* Speaking of Blackest Night, my friend Rickey Purdin made DC’s special sub-site for the event.

* Tom Spurgeon wonders if the Double Deuce that is the comics industry has finally reached a critical mass of Daltons. I thought they’d be bigger.

* Eve Tushnet liked Shaun of the Dead. A lot.

* I’ve long had a soft spot for Rick Trembles’ Motion Picture Purgatory movie-review comic strip, to the point of wondering aloud whether or when it would be collected. But I think someone pointed out to me that this had already happened, and lo and behold, they’re up to Volume 2–and that cover is a doozy.


* Curt Purcell reviews Pixu by Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, Fabio Moon, and Gabriel Ba. I haven’t read the second half of the book so I can’t say if I agree or disagree with Curt’s take, but I really liked his logic here:

Ultimately, though, this doesn’t work for me, because of a problem that I think plagues a lot of “creepy” horror–the creepiness is evoked by piling details on each other in a way that ends up feeling ad hoc, and that never quite coheres into any really substantive sense of menace. One guy seems to have been reduced into obsessive-compulsion and paranoia. Creepy! One girl cuts off her boyfriend’s hair while he sleeps–then eats it. Creepy! [etc.]…Creepy horror works, to my mind, when the details function as a system of symptoms, and the punch comes when we get the big reveal of the underlying illness, so to speak.

I totally get what he’s saying here. I think maybe the best example of this is The Ring 2–lots of lovely creepy imagery in there, but as opposed to the first film, this imagery failed to cohere.

* Did you know that Stephen King was the first writer to print the words “fuckery” and “fucknuts”? In his two best books, The Stand and It, no less. Now I love them even more.

* My pal (and occasional editor) Justin Aclin was on the Fanboy Radio podcast promoting his upcoming superheroes-in-college graphic novel Hero House. He was also interviewed by Robot 6’s JK Parkin for the same purpose.

* Jordan Crane made this gorgeous print of one of Jaime Hernandez’s Love & Rockets #24 cover, and holy smokes, look at the damn thing. Actually, look at all of Jordan’s prints.