Friday, December 22, 2006

Alex Ross: Wizard Interview follow up

I was quite happy to see Ross very quickly and very publicly respond to a number of posts, mine included, that suggested his initial comments could and were being perceived as homophobic. I thought that his remarks, which I have linked to, are worth reading in their entirety, which is why I've not exerpted them here.

Ross addresses all the points that have been raised by others, which is nice to see. He was paying attention. Yay.

Geoff Johns has also responded, and while I don't have to link to it, it was nice to see calming words on his side as well.

The problem here, and why I think that this really deserves a follow up is that the internet is pretty much forever. You make a comment that gets mis-interpreted and no matter how many denials its going to float around google and yahoo in cached server pages forever. Ross has certainly addressed all the points that were leveled against him and refuted them well. I would hate to think that people can google "Alex Ross Homophobe" for the next decade and get my first post without getting any of the follow up. Not fair to anyone. Period.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Marvel Trivia Game: A New Universe to explore

So Lis over at Kid Sis in Hollywood sends me a wonderful Chanukah present, the fancy-shmancy tin of the Marvel Trivia Game. I am, of course, delighted by the thoughtfulness of the present, and also quite sure that there are only about 2 or three people in my present universe that I can actually play the game with.

After all, this is not like pulling out Candyland or Scrabble. Likely, no one else but me is going to get a question about the Abomination, even if I can look up "abomination" in the dictionary and make two double letter and a triple word score out of it.

(One could make the case that reading Claremont's X-Men was a lot like playing Chutes and Ladders however. Almost done, almost to the end of a story... oh no, back to square two. You're now in an alternative universe. So sorry.)

However, once i start to look over the cards, I realize that what appeared to be a wonderful gift is, in fact, a curse! how could that be, you ask yourself, its just a harmless trivia game. And you would be right... on the surface.

Lets take a look at card 74 and you'll see what I mean.

The cards progress in difficulty as you read down. Question 1: What is Mr. Fantastic's name? Reed Richards. Fine, we're good there. Question 2 requires that you were reading West Coast Avengers of a particular time period to get the US Agent answer. Question 3 and 4 are pretty old school, but question number 5 puts us into knowing when that first Marvel Spotlight was published.

OK, so far so good. After all, we've had nicknames, secret identities, mistaken identities and publishing dates on one card. I'm 5 for 5. Then we look at another randomly selected card:
Well OK, I'm down with Mystique's adopted daughter, Rogue. Question 1, the easiest one down. Question 2: What team is M on? Huh? Who is M? M exists? How? I mean, I don't even know the character, how the heck am I supposed to know what team he's on?

Maybe this is an abberation, so I'll move to the third question: Tony Stark makes his million how? Well, as the long suffering Iron Man fan, I say Stark International as the answer, or making munitions to go all old skool and SHIELD on you. The card, however, has Stark Industries as the answer.

Now wait, you're going to have to start qualifying eras or I'm never going to get an answer right here.

Question 4: Who is Spider-man 2099's arch nemesis begs the answer: the 25 cent bin, which is not going to be on the back of the card.

I won't even go into the fifth question, which I thought was one of those Area 51s for Marvel: don't ask, they don't officially exist. you mean they actually did a story for the creation of Cap's shield? when? I'm not even sure that I would want to read it. I think that I'd rather there be some mystery in life, like the real origin of Wolverine. Some things Marvel is better off not doing.

The cards go on and on. You can see the problem here: there are just so many issues, so many that I don't recall reading, that I missed that I simply don't know about... its almost too much for my brain. It used to be that you could read the Avengers or the FF and actually keep continuity in your head AND YOU WERE PROUD OF IT DAMN IT! Now there are indestructible shield storylines and reboots and even New Universe questions and it's just too much.

Excuse me, I have some reading to go do....

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Alex Ross and Obsidian: the Wizard interview

Sorry to have been absent, but the holidays have taken so much time away from important things like blogging and comic books. I did run across this almost bizarre Wizard magazine interview by Alex Ross where he goes off on the character Obsidian, who has come out of the closet. The oddity, if you read the interview, is Ross' choice of words when describing how the character has been "handled".

Now, not following the character at all, I would have read the interview and not noticed a thing, but over at superunderwearperverts' blog, we have a gay man who has a real problem with the interview, and once you read his points, I can certainly see why.

I have greatly admired Ross' technique and many of the pieces that he has done. I even own a single page from Marvels, which is a phenomenal piece of work, and it was worth every penny. But I've always had a bit of a problem with him thinking that he's the only one who "gets" a certain character, and that "he's taking the character back to their roots", when, lets face it, there are a lot of roots to follow on the JSA, the JLA, the Wonder Twins.

Now I can see how a gay man might really be offended by Ross' comments to wizard, using odd "code words" that seem to imply the Johns might agree with him (which is even worse, since Johns might not agree at all; we simply don't know) about how Obsidian has been "molested".

I don't know. Does Alex have a problem with a gay character? I wouldn't have thought so, but this is an odd interview. The internet certainly puts a premium on watching what you say.

Amended to add: Please read the follow up post here:

Saturday, December 09, 2006

pistoleras baby!

The opening panel for this page... just finished, the ink still wet on my fingertips if not on the page.

Just had to share with everyone.

Sleep tight! Tomorrow we confront that which all artists fear: waking up and thinking that everything you did the night before was terrible and had to be completely redone.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Are You Hurting Comics?

Over at comic book resources, we've had Jimmy Robinson write a post entitled Are You Helping Comics? that seems to be generating a little bit of controversy partly for the irony of someone who has a What If: Wolverine coming out calling for the health of indie comics, and partly its rather rambling nature.

I'm resigned to the fact that Jimmy is probably muckraking a little bit, or a lot, and not in the good Man-Thing kind of way. Because while Jimmy is preaching to the converted, the national press is reporting that Dave Cockrum died in his Superman pajamas, as opposed to focusing on his being a pivotal force in the genesis of the modern superhero phenomenon known as the X-Men.

Should we be working harder to introduce people to comics and to educate them that comics are not all Archie or Superman but Maus and Jimmy Corrigan and Sandman and Vertigo? I think that the national press has actually done a lot of that over the last 20 years (Despite it "POW ZAP BAM" failings everytime a headline is to be written). Its the fallout from Dark Knight and Watchmen finally hitting ground level. The question really is: now that they have the idea that different works exist, how do we get them to read them? How do we keep them coming back?

The manga books seem to have very little problem with this, and in fact their marketing strategy has been pretty smart from the very beginning. They have outfoxed the American comic publishers at most every turn over the last couple years, which has been both funny and disheartening to watch.

How do we get them to keep coming back? Months ago I put together a post that spotlighted a Paul Levitz interview where he talks about DC's old efforts to break out of the format that constrained comics in the USA for so long. I keep revisiting that in my head, as well as all the variable sizes and printing options that are out there, wanting to see what sort of book would sell to an adult. I'm convinced that it has to be a correct combination of art, story and packaging to get adults to finally break down and buy the work.

Am I helping comics? You bet, I'm trying pretty darn hard.

Jimmy, by writing a What If?, what are YOU doing that is helping?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

JLA: Unintentional Porn

Just go here. One of the comments said it best: this is one of the best moments of unintentional porn I've seen in years!

In Review of: New Frontier by Cooke and Stewart

Is it wallowing in nostalgia to try and update your favorite myths? Is it, for want of a better term, fanwank to try and imagine a complexity to beginnings of the Justice League or Abin Sur’s crash that simply wasn’t there at the beginning? Does the origin of Jon J’onzz really need the Miller-ization that takes place in these beautifully crafted trades?

Such is the beguiling series of questions that plague me in regards to Cooke’s New Frontier.

It almost seems that the work cannot possibly be seen with rose colored glasses as an integral part of the evaluation. Cooke was doing the work with a real love of the material and shows, no question. He’s filled out things, answered questions, given us background motivation that would never have been possible in the late 1950’s. More than anything this is a work of love, one that dovetails fairly well with Robinson and Smith’s Golden Age book. If you have a love of the early Gil Kane Green Lanterns and Atoms, get nostalgic at the goofy ernestness of Sekowsky’s JLA’s, then you’re bound to love this series. It would be hard not to. Unlike a Miller Batman: Year One, this is not a radical re-interpretation of the beloved Silver Age characters, but a reaffirmation of their continued relevance.

It is also a rather nostalgic wankfest that has an almost Roy Thomas-level need to fill in the gaps and motivations of many of these same Silver Age legends. And that may not be a bad thing.

I think that this stands out in stark relief to the dismal handling of the characters that exists right now. Hal Jordan went insane? Not in this universe. He may be flawed, but this Hal longs for the stars and gets his wish. Nothing insane about this man. This Batman has none of the psychotic about him, but he is the true Dark Knight, in classic fashion.

Cooke’s art is lovingly colored, and the coloring is a delicious surprise here. Dave Stewart expands on the palette that would have made sense on the books of the early ‘60’s vintage, without making it appear too modern or not “of the time”. It’s a delicate task, and he performs admirably. I have to say that I’ll be ya that the art looks even better in the Ultimate version of this. Cooke puts in a million great touches: the Flash’s large Infantino head, the real reason Batman adopted his 1950’s look, the ins and outs of the Ferris-Jordan relationship, Lois Lane as a real investigative reporter. Its fun stuff.

My own touchpoint this series is simply not one of nostalgia. I never fell in love with those beloved-to-others Infantino Flashs, I never really dug the early JLAs. I come to this book with all the accumulated continuity without any of the childhood emotion. I reserve that for old Marvels. So in the end, I really enjoyed New Frontier, thought that it was a great ride, but I didn’t have me dancing around the room in childish wonder at seeing my heroes again as they once were: unsullied by years upon years of meaningless continuity and forced relevance.

And don’t we all want to do the Comic Book Happy Dance?!?

Friday, December 01, 2006

RIP Dave Cockrum

I've waited a few days to get the chance to post this, but I wanted to say a few things about Dave Cockrum, and those things do not include any tirades against Marvel for not taking care of him until recently.

Personal story, enter at your own risk: My second or third day in New York, and in the comics industry as a whole, I was working at the Defiant offices on W36th St., when in comes Dave Cockrum, who proceeds to sit at the drawing board next to mine and look over recently inked pages of his Defiant work: Plasm: Home for the Holidays. Dave, wearing splints on both wrists for carpal tunnel, was clearly not in the very best of health, but was jovial, cordial, just plain fun to talk with.

His one complaint on the Plasm pages: that they had taken the tail off of Nightcrawler in the background of a panel. "He's my character, my trademark." Dave explained to Jim Shooter, "I always draw him into my work somewhere." The inker had taken the tail out, worried about copyright violation. Jim agreed with Dave saying, "he won't be colored exactly the same, I'm not worried about it." "Do we have to send this back to the inker?" Dave asked.

"There's an inker sitting there with a brush in his hand,"says Jim, looking at me. I quickly touch up the artwork and put the tail back in. And I'm thinking, HOW GODDAMN COOL IS THIS??

Somewhere out there is the original art for the cover which i had the pleasure of working on, art that eventually was used as the back cover. I really wish that I had gotten that artwork back.

Dave was a huge Star Trek fan, and entertained everyone in the office with his fluent Klingon and i got the chance to sit there and talk to him about Marvel and the different covers that he worked on that i remembered. He was a great guy, and I have a fond memory of that day getting the chance to sit and work and talk with a guy that somehow never quite became the legend that he should have become for his body of work. It was day 3 of being a peer rather than chatting over the table at a convention. It still makes me smile.

So there you go, just a small memory from the long ago year of 1993, but one that I hold on to. Rest in peace Dave, you go well remembered by so many of us.

I will get this out of the way: after getting a picture of just how bad comics were in trouble in '76 and '77 from guys like Chuck Rozanski, we perhaps should note that the All New, All Different X-Men changed the entire industry, and created the last Great Marvel Property. think about it: everything else that we really see as a Marvel Icon comes from Lee/Kirby or Lee/Ditko (and I don't have to go into the listing of any of those names, do I?) except the modern X-Men. For them, get down on your knees and worship Wein, Wolfman, Cockrum, Claremont, Byrne and Austin. The six of them may be the reason that you can continue to buy comics today.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tim's Tirades: Valerie D'Orazio

following up on the Valerie blog, Tim's Tirades has a piece that is the perfect sort of op ed writing that makes me furious. I don't know Tim, he may be a very nice person, but his stand on this needs to be brought out. The original is pretty long, and rambles for a while, so follow the link above when you're done here and read (or skim) the whole thing yourself.

in his thoughts on Occasional Superheroine Tim writes:

There is blood, sweat, and tears (literally and figuratively) all over it and it was a worthy site for Johnston to turn his eye.

And yet…I can’t bring myself to link to it myself.

…Pieces like this always trip me up. Call it my liberal guilt or male guilt or white guilt or whatever. Thrown any label you want on it but the result is the same. I feel lousy for the way things are because, often, I am completely unaware of how bad they are.

Way to get behind Valerie Tim! Way to support a woman who, at the very least, was royally screwed by the corporate politics and messed up medical advice that she was given! Tim then proceeds into a segue over his being fairly sheltered in his life (my paraphrase, but I think a fairly accurate one) to try and justify not actually using his ability as a quasi-news gatherer of things relevent to comic to further support the blog and its efforts to tell a real and courageous story.

Here's a clue Tim: when someone tells you that the world isn't the cozy place that you were brought up to think that it is, don't crawl back into that little shell with a "I'm sorry! I didn't know!". As a human being you have the responsibility to others and not ignore reality, something that comics indsutry has a history of doing.

Don't hide behind the fact that you read and review books that come from the big two and that DC is implicated as her employer. You should be able to detach yourself enough to judge a piece of art or writing without having to encompass all that the company has done since screwing Siegle and Shuster (and actually makeing resitiutions to them and jack kirby in the last 30 years). If you can't, then perhaps reviewing comics isn't a good idea as a career. This industry chews them up and spits them out, and if you can't handle the truth of that, then don't be involved. If you're here, and you have a voice, you have to make a point of praising those who deserve it, and getting on those who don't.

Occasional Superheroine: Valerie D'Orazio

You read superhero comics? You need care about women being as equal human beings? You don't get off thinking about Moulton's Wonder Woman losing her powers when her wrists are bound (wink, wink)? Then you need to read this: Occasional Superheroine

File this under, well, wherever you wish, but horrendous “treatment of a woman” would be suitable key phrase, as would horrible corporate politics, and misogynist as well. Perhaps you could find a hundred different ways to look at this, but should you take the time to read through the posts and see Valerie’s story, it is one of a woman in the comics industry, and it follows the worst possible path that you can think of. It is also, thank god, a survivor’s tale, and brilliantly written, with enough humor to leaven what is almost an unbelievable amount of misfortune, and enough self knowing to acknowledge her own mistakes along the way.

We all are aware that this industry is certainly not bastion of feminism, and, sadly, the Simpson’s comic book guy remains a stereotype that is all too often proven rather than not, but Valerie’s story certainly shows of the inherent sexism in a way that, as a man, I’m aware of but not the victim of.

Valerie uses fake names throughout the piece, but has come public with her own name and so I feel comfortable using it here. She makes many, many salient points on the misogynist origins of many female heroes, and makes a great many points on what the industry could do to improve things. And they’re not all that drastic, but they would involve a rethinking of the "little boys club" mentality that has pervaded the industry for far too long.

Has this had any effect in the offices up at DC? As someone who worked for both Acclaim and DC as a freelancer, I have to imagine that it would be... discussed.

I feel terrible that Valerie had this happen to her, and she deserves our full support as community of readers. That's what I think.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Great Jack Kirby Mystery

Somewhere back in the dawn of time when I started this blog I was deliriously ecstatic by finally being able to get a 2x up Kirby FF page to add to the my collection. I still am ecstatic about it, and have not had the thing put into the frame as I like to pull it out and look at it up close. There is something very visceral about large art of that sort. It takes over the drawing board and is very physical to handle. Inking something that large involves your entire fore arm, not just a wrist. I like to imagine jack working vigoriously away on these pages at night.

But there is something interesting about the piece that has been bugging me. and I thought that I'd put it out to the assembled internet-land:
the liner notes on the page are wrong.

Below is the piece that I picked up: FF #20, page 14. Scanned off of the essential FF book as it's too damn big for my scanner. Now, thanks to the Jack Kirby collector, we've been fortunate enough to see pages and pages of stats of Jack's pencils, and we've been able to see many of Jack's liner notes that he did for Stan. Even more, much of the artwork that exists out in collectorville and dealerland all have the notes still on them. jack typically wrote in a strong, all caps style, examples of which you can see in the first illustation at the top of this post, and below this paragraph:

page 14, on the other had only has two liner notes, both in a tight scribble. Both are scanned here. The first is from just below jack's sig:

and the second to the left of panel 3:

So the question remains: why is the handwriting so different? Why no liner notes on the rest of the page? Any guesses anyone?

I'd love, if anyone has any further information about where this page has been before ending up in my hands, to know about it as well.

Edited to note: I fired off this info to Mark Evanier to ask his opinion and here is what he said:

I don't know who did that Jack Kirby signature but it wasn't Jack Kirby.

The other handwriting you noted on the margins of the F.F. page looks
like Stan's to me but I'd have to see it in person to be sure. Perhaps
he rewrote a Kirby marginal note just as a note to himself. The margins
of pages from that era are full of editorial notes from Stan and from
Sol Brodsky.
I'll follow this up with any more data that I can find on Lee's handwriting or Sol Brodsky's.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Romance Panel Cavalcade & Astro City

That's My Skull has one of those posts that made me laugh so hard that I almost blew beer out of my nose. Yes, the dreaded comic romance panel cavalcade. Its that damn funny. You owe it to yourself to go over and appreciate the time that it took to find all those.

And no Civil War posts out of me today. This latest issue is such a mess that I'm finding my brain doesn't want to think about it.

Did pick up Astro City: The Dark Age and I realize that while I like Astro City a lot, none of the issues over that last year or two have grabbed me as much as the first couple storylines, such as the kree/skrull... er, Confessor and Astro Boy series, or even the short "The Nearness of You" which is one of the best short stories that I've run across in the last several years.

Did Astro City jump the shark for me? I'd like to think that it didn't. Kurt is just off telling a number of different stories, and the overly long one with robert Mitchum as the alloyed criminal simply went on too long, but that doesn't mean that I don't have some affinity with the characters. I think that his attention is a bit diverted, that's all.

One Question?

Is it sad to feel like you're just mnot measuring up when no one that you link to has you in their blog roll? I feel like Matter-Eater Lad missing out in the Legion Roll Call (but at least I had a groovy Mike Grell costume).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Seven Hells, Jim Shooter and David Lapham

Seven hells has a great post on the Conway-ization of the JLA and exactly where Meltzer is pulling some plot threads and ideas from. And not in a bad way. It brings to mind a comment that Jim Shooter once threw at me that I've thought about on and off over the years.

David Lapham was drawing Warriors of Plasm at the time, and Jim had taken him over to meet Neal Adams, expecting that Neal would deliver a tough critique to the rapidly evolving artist just to sort of "give him a nudge." And Neal ended giving David a rather nice critique, letting Jim down. What Jim said that he was after was, and I'm forgetting all the context of the conversation here, so bear with me, to stop David from going whole hog on just doing things "his way". "There is always that point in an artist's development that they start to decide to do their "Iron Man" or their "Spider Man" and you have to control that."

And I found myself thinking, some of the heroes that I remember best were when the artists broke out of the house mold and did their versions. That was when things got fun. Those "non-generic" versions were the ones that burned their way into my brain. And, clearly, when Gerry Conway came over from Marvel in the '70's to DC, he brought as much of the Marvel style as DC's editors would accept, so we got a watered down "Marvel-style" JLA among other books.

Much like when Busiek wrote his "Avengers Forever" mini-series (with the killer Pacheco artwork), he was continuing the great Englehart Celestial Madonna saga as well as following up Thomas' Kree/Skrull war. Nothing wrong with that at all, except that he got caught in the continuity trap for too many issues. But it certainly let us know when little Kurt started reading comics.

I would say that there is nothing wrong with creators bringing their passion and love of their favorite issues to modern comics as long as they don't get so mired in the continuity that they spoil the story. Or if they start bringing back the Freak in Iron Man. Lets just not go there.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Steve Englehart and Celestial Madonna

Brain Freeze has a great post summarizing the beautiful Mantis-Vision-Swordsman luv triangle from the '70's Avengers.

and I do mean LUV. Like LUV with a funky bootsy collins belt and platforms. '70's style

What I like about her post, besides a wonderful summation of all the twists and turns that the relationship between mantis and the swordsman took, is how true it is in terms of using some fairly cardboard stereotypes and making the soap opera aspect have some real legitimacy. Mantis was a very unlikeable character, and her loss of interest in the swordsman carries some weight emotionally since we've never seen a hero in the Avengers completely crack before. Mantis, like some very real and human women, transfers her attention to a completely unavailable man, where she mistakes his emotional coldness as a sign of attraction. Brain Freeze quite correctly notes that very rarely have we seen a major player (Mantis) in a book like the Avengers of that time who is so thoroughly unlikeable. All of this was a major step forward for comics at the time.

Somehow, however, she needs to get a copy of Giant Size Avengers #2, which has the great climax to the Kang/Celestial Madonna storyline. It has some real emotional wallop to it, and some seriously great art. It also carbon fried Kurt Busiek's brain, leading him to trying to continue the story in the Avengers Forever mini-series.

hey, it carbon fried my brain too back then. Where is my deluxe recolored copy, in hardback, of the Avengers/Defenders War? Now that is something I need!

Monday, November 13, 2006

In Review of: The Dark End of the Street by Brubaker & Cooke

Now we're talkin'. Seriously, this was a lot of fun. Isn't that what comics should be about every now and then?

The Slam Bradley back-ups here that comprise the first half of the book really show how well Brubaker can cook up a Private Detective story. Cooke and Hollingsworth combine for some serious noir, and we even get a rather matt Wagner Batman along for the ride.

I haven't followed the character of Catwoman for years, so I'm not sure what the reboot was from, although I suspect that it was the "water balloons stapled to my chest so I'm really unhappy" Jim Balent version of Catwoman. i find it interesting the see where DC is going with a character that certainly predated feminism by 30 years and that has swung back and forth over the criminal line too many times to count. Part of this has to be the rather sketch morality of Selena: she's a thief, and we'd hate to glamorize her, say the editors, but then they make her a cool customer, hot to look at, and give her an outlaws mystique. Hmm, had to have it both ways isn't it? Kids don;t do this, but it sure looks like fun.

As we enter the '00's, haven't we grown up enough to amass a fairly decent history of Selena, especially since we moved from the exploitive '90's finally. How many women really want to fight crime with massive wedgies? No wonder Brubaker has Selena thoroughly confused as to who she is in these first issues. i doubt anyone knows at this point, even the writer. Too often Selena has be thrown to the editorial winds of fate. She deserves better. Here, she gets it.

Cooke inks himself on the first part, the rough large brush strokes echoing Scorchy Smith, Frank Robbins, Caniff in a hurry. I love it. In the second part of the book, Cooke is inked by his polar opposite, Mike Allred, whose control and careful deliniation make for an interesting match. I like it as well, even though it comes across as a bit jarring.

My friend Lis can probably make the best case for Selena as the first true woman 9not just a cypher) in comics, escaping from her brutal husband and making it on her own as an international jewel thief in Batman #1. i'll let her fill in the details later. I'm just enjoying the read.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Big Monkey Comics Asks Big Questions

big monkey comics has this post up, questioning the viability of Moore and Miller titled Gods Among Men?

ut are they still what they once were?

Would anyone see The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as anything more than a JLA peopled with literary characters if pitched by someone else? Would DC have even picked up The Dark Knight Strikes Again if it was proposed by someone less prolific?

I think these men were once big fish in a little pond, a pond which has since become an ocean.

Sadly, the post title and the question present in the post are not the same thing. It is almost a universal question to ask of artists as to whether they still measure up to a prior, loved work. Almost invariably, the work will not hold up, but sometimes it does. sometimes that artist and the artee grow apart, and the themes that drew you to their work are no longer gripping to the artee (see Ray Bradbury and the stunted views on sexuality that exist in some of his early fiction). sometimes the artist stays with the same themes and bores the hell out of his/her audience (woody allen).

Lets be frank (hah hah) on this: Moore, as i catalogued in my prior post on miracleman,is truly the god among men. he has a corner of comics valhalla that, literally, is unassailable. Frank, you could debate, but he's up there.

The question that the post asks puts us in the position having to decide where we sit as critics. Do we judge the new work of an experienced artist in view of their past body of work, or solely by its own merits? Are we even able to do that objectively having already seen the past works and themes that the artist has explored?

These are worthhier questions to be asked. Now go read From Hell, Daredevil: Born Again, Promethea, Batman: Year One, Miracleman, Lost Girls, 300 and go away.

The World of Pistoleras

Working hard on pages to the graphic novel. Here is what might be a cool cover for the book. Thoughts?

It'll Eat You Up and Spit You Out

The comic industry has a reputation of doing just that, with its relentless deadlines and endless soap opera-style stories. I'm reminded of this just finishing up Wally's World, the well written biography of wally wood. I commented on it earlier, in a comparison with Jack Cole, and waited til I had finished it before making further comment.

That Woody was a tremendous talent is understood, but I had to admit that over the years I had forgotten much of the work that he had done, and was certainly reminded of the absolutely stunning breadth of work that Woody put out there. I regret that I never had the opportunity to meet him, even though i started going to conventions in the mid-70's.

As someone who once went on to work two 22 hour days consecutively, followed by a 16 hour day when I first got into the comic biz, I found myself flashing back on the descriptions of how hard Wally would work on his art. Even more significantly, I treasured his maverick approach to creating work: publishing witzend, taking on the creation of the Thunder Agents, writing and drawing the Wizard King. Wally was far ahead of his time, no question, and like many pioneers never had the monetary compensation for their trail blazing originality that would have helped them tremendously.

Starger and Spurlock spend enough time to get you the background on Wally's life, enough that they don't have to push the psychology 101 class to the forefront of their writing and spell it all out. Who was this Wood fellow anyhow? Like the rest of us, he was complex, and you can only get a percentage of who he was by looking at his past. All of us, especially the artists, offer a different window to who we are depending on who is looking in. I don't expect to really know the man, just to get a little of who he was, thats all. The authors do a good job of that, no, an excellent job of that, and I'm glad that they did.

Wood deserved better than he got. But what he gave to us was amazing.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

In Review of: Selina's Big Score by Cooke

Intriguing cover isn't it? What's that you say, its not? No, of course it isn't. In fact, its one of the worst that I've seen in a long time when compared to the stellar work collected inside the covers.

Lets face it, I've never been a Catwoman fanatic, especially compared to my friend Lis who knows way more and has far more opinions about the character. But I've been wanting to spend more time with a Darwyn Cooke project, and found myself flipping through a number of trades.

What's not to like on this one? Besides the fact that we get convincing backstory for Selina and some good secondaries along the way. Slam Bradley even shows up and get some of the best scenes at the end, alond with a glorious rainstorm, the kind that only shows up in the best noir.

Frankly, if you want to sell me on the current version of Catwoman, you're going to have to give me a context taht the character makes sense in. And thats rather had when you consider that I'm finding a tough time getting a handle on the Batman these days, let alone the various permutations of the rogues gallery. I think that I would like a good run of issues on this version of Catwoman as long as they stayed true to the idea: she's a thief, she isn't a psycho or homicidal, her Gotham is dark and occasionally troubling and she isn't always in the right. not a bad premise for a character is it? Just keep her out of the "Infinite Crisis Spanning Multiple Earths" and we should be fine.

But what the hell is up with that cover?

Genshiken #7

Its not out yet. I'm so pissed off. The prior issues said that number 7 would be out Oct 31st, and ITS NOT.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Idle thoughts: Seven Soldiers, Fables and News-o-Rama

RAD has an interesting write up on the seven soldiers series over in Estoreal that, once again, makes me think about the format that we're buying comics in. Clearly Morrison is going for the hat trick with a series more structurally convoluted than Watchmen and trying to make the whole damn thing payoff in the right ways on the right pages.

What is intersting, other than the technical exercise, is wondering what the very best way that you could tell this story? i have to think that, while I have disparaged the pamphlet more than once, that the episodic nature of the monthly comic does, in this case, make for a good timed release (like those old fashioned Contact capsules). I'll be curious to follow the whole thing in the trades, as I realize that its all coming out in a fully sequential form, and see how it reads then. Bravo Grant, for the subtext, and for making the effort.

i've been picking up the Fables trades and enjoying the read. Willingham clearly has plenty to say and lots of fun picking and choosing where he wants to go with the stories. i've just read 1-5, and love seeing a series pick up steam. The first two trades were good, but I really got into the third, and I'm not sure if its a better story, or that I've spent enough time with the characters to care about them more so when it all hits the fan I have some emotional investment. The story sophistication continues with elements of 4 and 5, so I'll settle on the side of seeing a nice continued progression. Good stuff.

Lastly, news-o-rama has quoted and linked out to this very blog with comments on the state of the Marvel universe and, specifically, where things will end up with the important Marvel franchises. Cool. I had no idea that they did that. I only wish I knew how to link to a specific post rather than the general blog area so it was an easier direct link. Ah well, its nice to see that someone out there is paying attention.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Shout Out! Meltdown in Los Angeles

While in the city of the angels a couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to walk into what is literally the best comic shop outside of Midtown Comics in Manhattan: Meltdown at 7522 Sunset Blvd. I was absolutely blown away by the selection of cool stuff there, and the sheer amount. Never mind that they were setting up the gallery show, never mind that they had a cool Wonder woman collectibles through the ages display, they had tons of stuff to read and flip through and to just fall in love with from the touch of the paper and smell of the ink.

Mmmmmm, pretty pictures.

No, they didn't give me any free stuff for this plug, I'm just puttin' it out there that Meltdown totally kicks ass on other comic shops. Do yourself a favor and go by if you're in LA.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Bill Mantlo Experience

David Yurkovich is a big Mantlo fan, and, good for him, he's putting together a tribute book to benefit Bill, who suffered permanent brain damage after his rollerblading accident years ago. It took me about 5 seconds to decide to donate and that only because my browser was moving slowly that day.

Bill made The Micronauts and Rom:SpaceKnight a guilty pleasure for a whole generation of kids and wrote a lot of fun comics and he certainly deserves this. Every little bit helps, and I hope that when this is printed that it will give him some pleasure to see that his writing is remembered.

Go and donate and you'll get a copy of the book with some interviews, some new prose and a new story that David adapted.

The Editor Gets the Last Laugh

Comic Treadmill has a good post, one that goes a step beyond my lament last month about the changing Marvel Universe. They actually try to make a good stab at why Quesada and the others at Marvel have so thoroughly ripped up the status quo that has been in place since Stan and Jack and Steve put it there.

I've written before of my distaste for the current editorial attitude toward readership, which consists of flipping the figurative bird at anyone who doesn't like what is going on by dismissing him or her as an old fogy and proclaiming that Marvel Comics are for the hip younger crowd. To emphasize that Marvel is only for the new, cool kids, current Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada is going to great lengths to soil the appeal of the older generation of characters. The strategy? Today's Marvel heroes are unlikable but tres cool and that's what matters. Or so the thinking goes anyway.

I get it, or rather I'm not supposed to entirely get it, since I'm no longer young and hip, which is ok, but I'm not sure this isn't a scorched earth policy for the characters... er, the properties.

Here is the reality: I'm not sure that what is going to be left over is going to be anything that we're going to want to read. If there has been any constant through the FF over the years, it has been that we will want to know Reed and Sue and Ben and Johnny (hell, I still want Johnny end up with Crystal). I no longer want to know Reed, he isn't a character I know, recall or like. Iron Man was one of my two favorite heroes of all time, and I'm really sure that when Civil War is over that I'm NOT going to want, know or like Tony Stark.

Where does Quesada think that this is going to leave the properties? Somewhere that they can make more million dollar pictures off of? Spider Man is just about done. I'm willing to be that the 2008 Iron Man movie is going to be a lot closer to the Iron Man that I remember, than the one that we'll end up with in Civil War. If they had just made the FF as the Incredibles we'd have another billion dollar franchise to watch. No one is going to make this FF into even a fan film.

How can this be a good idea?

The Last Temptation of Mark Millar

Tamora Pierce has written a fairly scathing critique of Sue Storm from Civil War #4 that, lets be honest, is:

a) right on the money, and
b) no different than a ton of others that have been written out there in cyberspace.

Tamora has has been murdered, absolutely murdered, by people on the internet over this. She's even issued an apology over this, for no good reason than I can assume than she see's the lack of work looming over her from Marvel.

Sad, sad, sad. Since when is calling a spade a spade unprofessional? When it interferes with work politics. And with Marvel's biggest product.

Personally, I've never met Mark Millar, and I've actually liked a ton of his writing over the years. I've loaned my Ultimates trades out to a number of people. I have no vendetta against him at all. Mark will probably never want to work with me after I say that Tamora is absolutely correct in her remarks.

Yes, I know how the system works, how you can never savage someone doing bad work as you might be there sitting next to them in a con trying to make nice and sell your next product, but I also think that this system lets a lot of really shitty comics get created and sent down the pike to us, the readers. And it shouldn't have to happen this way.

I never got into comics to make shitty comics. And, oddly enough, neither did almost anyone I ever met in all my years in the industry. So why so much bad work?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Wally Wood & Jack Cole: A Few Thoughts...

In the discussion of comic's greatest artists, and its a short list really, the usual names crop up: Kirby, Eisner, Raymond, Foster, Miller et al. But when we start to look at the completeness that makes one not just a comic artist, but an all around great illustrator, I think that we move on to two names: Cole and Wood. Jack Cole, who is well served by the Chip Kidd designed book, Plastic Man: Form Strectched to its limits, is shown to have conquered not just the four-color comic book in the superhero form, but also the humor and crime genres, and then moved on to his exquisite single panel humor watercolors for Playboy, something that I cannot begin to imagine Jack Kirby or Alex Raymond doing. Cole was the complete package as an artist.

I don't think that Cole was as good as Woody.

This all comes up because I picked up the book Wally's World by Steve Starger and J. David Spurlock the other day, and got the chance to refresh my appreciation for the breadth of Wally's talent. Superheroes, iconic American humor in his parodies for Mad, premiere science fiction artist for EC, elegant horror, spy stuff in Cannon, porn in Sally Forth, and paintings, whether for advertising (as in an award winning Alka Seltzer ad) or with an eye, I believe, towards the paperback book cover market, in a gorgeous painted western scene. Woody, for all his personal demons, was the real deal.

I'm looking forward to getting deeper into the book, with all the associated sadness of knowing how the story ends. This comic business has drawn its share of troubled, tortured talented souls to it, and Cole and Woody perhaps remain the undisputed kings in both arenas.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

In Review of: Desolation Jones by Ellis and Williams

sorry to have been away for a bit. Was down in LA having a confab with my friend and writer, lis Fies aka Kid Sis in Hollywood, about Pistoleras and taking the kids to Disneyland. I should probably put together a whole blog entry on California Adventure Theme Park.

Founda few things to read however. Desolation Jones, a one off project by Warren Ellis and JH Williams the 3 fresh off his work for Promethea. A curious noir project that i picked up on the stands occassionally but never bought, I grabbed the trade a week or two ago and read it.

And didn't blog the review, because I wasn't sure what I thought of it entirely. Went back to it, read parts of it again, looked over the artwork. Had a sontinuing flirtation with saying something about it. Think that I've finally got it a bit down.

initially picked it up as I love William the 3's artwork. i have a Promethea double page splash on the wall behind me as I type this. Found myself warming to Ellis's characters on the way to the conclusion. Philip Marlowe, er, Jones is drawn into a family squabble that involves beatings, LA porn, shady doctors, ex-agents and 3 sisters of an old bastard of a man. We've seen this before, but Ellis makes it work, which is a huge trick honestly. We've seen this plot so many times, but there is nothing like the oldies but goodies, especially when it's played straight and done well.

William the 3's artwork is graphically inventive, and for all the intense illustrative conventions that he worked over in Alan Moore's service on Promethea, i somehow feel that he's having more fun here than in the other book. There is just a feel of someone with some serious chops being let loose. When he doesn't have to go over the top he doesn't, as in the beautifully understated three panels that I've scanned here. I appreciate that.

I realized that I had a hard time getting a handle on the series, as, in a six issue collection, I somehow thought that first 2 were very different than the last 4. Not sure why, but the depiction of Jones in those first two was almost Williams the 3 finding his feet, and then settling in for a good run on the later issues. Somewhere towards the end of 3 everything clicks and you're go to the end of the run.

Reading reminds me of working on The Grackle with Mike Baron and Paul Gulacy; we knew that we had a stand alone story, but if the damn thing sold than more were to come. the ex-cop (or spy), the odd collection of friends/hanger ons/accomplices, the political intrigue, the familial battles. good stuff. I still find people at conventions who loved the Grackle. It's one of the things that I'm most proud of having worked on. I wish that we had done more.

Push comes to shove, I really like this work, and I wasn't sure that I was going to. but it's forced me to go back and really get more out of it. Sure, I'm a sucker for this stuff, but there's more here than I first thought. And once the creators found their feet, I wish there was more coming, when I know there isn't.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

the Best Damn Batman Cover Ever.

Oh yes. Full of scary foreboding Darknight Detective goodness. Coutesy of Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Bob's pulp collection.

How should i post on my dislike for Bob Kane and what he did to Bill Finger? The Batman should have a "Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane" on every splash page, and somehow the millions of dollars that weren't paid to Bill should be used to fund attorney for all the others who have their one shining moment of creation stolen by a lousy work-for-hire contract.

Again, Not the Best Batman Cover Ever...

... but sooooo damn close. Courtesy of Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin.

Not the Best Batman Cover Ever...

...but damn close. Coutesy of Neal Adams and Dick Giordano.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Sound of Her Wings

These are the things that I remember.

We use art, as a people or as an individual, to speak a collective language, to be moved by a common visual or a remembered turn of phrase. Moreover, we use that bit, the memory of the Mona Lisa's smile, the oft-spoken shakespeare line, so often that it becomes a cultural meme, embodying far more than it originally had. Can we help it that those of us who read comics find ourselves drawn to these stories, and we can call up the covers or individual panels that moved us with tremendous clarity.

A good friend of mine died tonight. I return from sitting shiva by his body in the hospital, and I'm responding by dealing with it the way that I choose to: listening to a slow blues by Led Zeppelin, and hearing bits of dialogue from Neil Gaiman's Death in my head.

"Is that all I get?"

"You get what everybody gets. A lifetime."

Steve never read Sandman, he believed that Pop culture pretty much stopped at 1956. But whan I arrived, there was no question that She had been there, and that the part of him that leaves with Her had already gone.

These are the things that I remember.

Friday, October 13, 2006

In Memory of: Zipatone

JG Jones used to say that he hated the look of the stuff, Dave Sim probably used more of it during his run on Cerebus than any one individual in the entire world, I particularly loved the look of the stuff from the early 70's when inkers would us it to add texture or a special effect to a panel. Terry Austin was great for using it on clothing so that not every person had the same damn suit on in the comics.

RIP Zipatone. RIP Letraset.

In the same way that the early '90's look dated by the early computer color, there is no question that certain inkers overused the stuff to create a quentissential "look" to their work in the '70's and '80's. But, what the hell. Zip was a tool, and like any tool you can overuse it or use it to great effect.

This all came to a head, of course, on the Pistoleras project. Working Manga size, I found myself jealous that much of the manga work that I've been looking at uses the venerable Zip, and I realized that I still love that look. Its fun. Looks like comics to me, not comics trying to be painted. Maybe Zipatone sent all their trademarks overseas and you can still find the stuff in Japan. Who knows. I do know that Akira wouldn't have looked the same without zipatone.

I'll end up mimicing the stuff on computer, but it's not the same as being able to actually touch and cut and scrape the stuff like you used to. Tactility is control more often than not, and I miss that in the computer age, even while loving so much other stuff that I now do in Illustrator and Photoshope that would have been impossible just 10 years ago.

RIP Zipatone. You'll be missed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

In Praise of: MiracleMan #15 by Moore & Totleben

Among the great debates over the last 20 years has been over Alan Moore's signature work: which would be annointed the most moving, most innovative, most influential? Saga of the Swamp Thing, Watchmen, Lost girls, From Hell, 1963, Promethea? just typing those names all in the same line puts Moore in a different space from literally every comic writer ever. A Frank Miller might have two pieces to put on the same level, but I can't think of many other names that might even stay in the same room as the works from that prior sentence.

My catagory tonight: most disturbing, most cathartic, most brutal. Miracleman, which has sadly been moved into the purple realm of gossip due, to non-reprinting and rights issues. The issues, read straight through are uneven in art, which is jarring, as Alan's writing is consistantly innovative and powerful. And by the time john totleben takes over the last chapter, we just know that it will all end in someone's tears, but we never, not for a minute, believe that it will culminate in the most horrific comic ever committed to paper.

"Nemesis" gives us all that we thought we would never see: the true horrible savage tale of what a true superhero battle between supermen would be like: one the noble hero of folklore, the other the bizarro reflection, "hating life, shitting skulls." They destroy half of London and more humans than we can possibly ever begin to dream of, and yet John draws it all, never panning away from the butality of the conflict.

The modern mythology of Moore and Warrior magazine, much to Dez Skinn's eventual chagrin, is pulled together with the Miracle family, Warpsmiths and a Firestarter all together in the pitched combat. In the world of Supermen, Moore correctly concludes, we don't stand a chance. It must take a supreme degree of control to get to write a superman annual and not think that things must always end thusly. The uberman takes over, we are insects to them. Miracleman will always have his doubts, but he notes that there is no god to wish to, since he, alone, is god. In the final moments of the conflict, it is a warpsmith, with,
"...eyes gone somewhere cold, somewhere beyond the pain, faced death like some albino samurai and insolently stared it down for just one vital instant longer."
who saves us by taking care of Kid Miracleman. A creature not of, never having seen, this earth who takes the last final step to win.

It's cost is something that once read, those of us who live a vital life of 4 color fun and escapism never can quite retreat from. Those moments of believing that if our fantasies were to take life and breath of this warm, real planet, that they would unerringly end up on the path to this one horrible place.

My catagory tonight: most disturbing, most cathartic, most brutal.

Friday, October 06, 2006

What do we do when the Universe leaves us behind?

Paged through civil War again at the shop. i refuse to actually spend money on it. and I was struck by how sad I am to see the Marvel Universe so altered into something so completely unrecognizeable. characters acting so far out of character that they cease to have any relevance to me as a long time reader.

Its sad, really. now I know what all those long time silver age fans who adored Green lantern felt when the writers made it necessary to make Hal Jordan go nuts. Makes you just want to walk away and not look back.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In Praise of: Captain Marvel #30 by Starlin & Milgrom

Captain Marvel #30 may not be the issue that most people remember from Starlin's amazing run on this book, the most discussed is most likely #29, where Jim decided to put the good Captain's life on the earliest of all Ret-Cons: he wasn't just a kree soldier that changed sides by going native, he was born to have the chance to become the universal protector. Did I mention that part before? Nope, don't think that I did.

Doesn't matter, for here is the chance to see Marvel kick some ass on a Ret-coned Controller, suddenly massive and powerful. This is Basil Sandhurst as we've never seen him. And the new first battle for the new cosmically aware universal protector.

Starlin is still juggling his sub-plots, Rick Jones' singing career, his girlfriend Lou Ann, while we're embroiled in the middle of the Thanos War. All this is akin to worrying about Wyatt Wingfoot's football career in the middle of the Galactus Trilogy from FF #48-50. Are you kidding me? This issue ends in a brutal fight that demolishes a fourstory building, Mar-Vell bleeding from his nose, having fought the Controller to a small standstill.

Starlin is at the height of his powers here, and Al Milgrom does a beautiful job on the inks. Milgrom's inks had a huge effect on me, and I've yet to run into him at a convention to tell him so. Perhaps one day I'll buy him a few drinks and we can talk shop if I ever get the chance. Starlin also colors the issue, and makes some fascinating decisions to add to the effect on the panels, decisions that I doubt that any outside colorist would make. More than once he pushes the fairly limited printing of 1973 by putting a filter color over the viewers eyes:

The effect is sublime, and adds an unearthly feel to the story.

Starlin only 4 more issues in him on this title before moving over to even more completely redo Warlock. But this is the run that pushed my young brain over the edge to see that there was far more that comics could go after than the latest villian of the week. Don't ever get me started on my proposal for a new version of Captain Marvel, or my plans to remake Jack of Hearts as a universal protector. Just don't.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

NCC 1701 and a Bird of Prey

We'll see if this scene shows up in the final version of the show. What show, you ask? Good question, not one that I can answer right now....

Monday, October 02, 2006

Absolute Sandman Volume 1

DC comics just announced another of the absolute books, this time volume #1 of the Sandman series. now, I have nothing against the "deluxe" treatement of classic series, in fact, I'm all for it. I'm the target audience really.

The question remains, however, of how many times we need the same material. I already have the original series issues, which I never look at because I have the trades, my favorite being The Doll's House, which is just a superb statement of a team of artists finding their voice, all at the same time. I'm starting to feel like the CD strategy is effecting comics. How many "remastered" discs do i need of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti? (Umm, plenty, actually) How many times can you continue to improve the Sandman series for me?

Well, apparently, the major bugaboo that i always had with the series, the coloring is finally being addressed. one need look no further than the "Mid Summer Nights Dream" vs issue #8 the classic "Sound of her Wings" to see the quality of the colors. For those who have never been lucky enough to see Mike Dringenberg's pencils, or the artwork with the late, great Malcolm Jones' inks, there is a delicacy in the work that I don't think was captured well at all by the scans of the time. Like Jimi Hendrix's original masters, the quality wasn't there in the original recordings, so remastering the same crap sounds really isn't the attraction that you might think it is. Having seen much of the original artwork, and been stunned by the quality on those pages, I sincerely pray the black plate is worth the new color work.

Which leads to the next question: why doesn't DC or marvel put the word out to try and get better scans of the originals that survive before the put together a deluxe edition? I was dismayed to see the Life of Captain Marvel trade had horrible 4th generation scans of pages that I own the originals of, and would have happily made beautiful stats for Marvel of those pages. I suspect that many others would dig into their collection and do the same given the chance.

Why did I choose this page to scan? I bought the original from Dringenberg long ago for a girlfriend at the time. It's been over 12 years since I've seen the page. I hope that she still has it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Platinum Comics Buys Drunk Duck

The New York Times as an article, excerpted here that contains some interesting things in it: ideas of how to leverage the digital medium to gain a mass market, how to market your creations to a potentially huge audience, and a few others. I thought that it was worth taking a look, since most of us here are web-savvy comic readers who very likely have both bought and read stuff on the web as well as buying things from the brick and mortar LCS (local comic shop).

The digital impact on previously print-only content reflects similar pressures on other traditional media. Comic books, which have appealed almost exclusively to children and young adult readers — who are more likely to be lured to electronic entertainment than their parents — have been especially hard hit as sales decline and press runs grow more costly.

But the comic-book industry has more than $500 million a year in revenue, and still has many very popular titles. And Mr. Rosenberg has shown that he can produce hits. With his previous company, Malibu Comics, he published “The Men in Black” comic books and was credited with taking the concept to Hollywood, where it became a billion-dollar movie franchise for Sony Pictures, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

First, I would say that the Times is only about 30 years behind in its appreciation for how comics have been marketed and who they have been marketed to. Obviously the writers children havent' been renting the unrated DVD of Daredevil or Electra in all its violent glory. The adults that the comics have been marketed have not always responded the way that the industry would have predicted.

Malibu was certainly not making a sales dent in Marvel and DC's core titles with its copycat approach to comics. Men in Black was a true fluke honestly and owed more to Hollywood than its source material, which is the reverse of, say, Spider Man, where Raimi certainly makes a good call whenever he stays close to Stan and Steve's vision.

But a crucial difference, he said, will be in how Platinum plans to use the site to create a broad mix of revenue streams, “full-circle commercialization,” for the company and its content contributors.

If only all those web companies from the late 1990's were able to "monetize" their community as well, they would still be around.

For example, Mr. Rosenberg said he planned aggressive marketing of the site — which already receives a million unique viewers a month, mostly drawn by word of mouth — coupled with advertising sales. While the advertising revenue would not be shared with the comic creators, artists would share in the revenue from downloadable comics for cellphones and mobile media devices like iPods, comics-related ring tones, wallpaper and items like T-shirts or plastic scale models of comic book characters.

Interesting to note that the advertising would not be shared with the actual content providers. Instead they are given a tiny sliver to the items that people are least likely to pay for. I mean, c'mon, when was the last time that you, yes you, paid for a downloadable wallpaper for your computer?

Product creators, Mr. Rosenberg said, can expect to receive 10 percent of the adjusted gross revenue earned by sales.
Really? A whole 10% when they could be distributing this themselves and getting 100%? Isn't that the whole power of the web?

The Times also fails to mention books like Mom's Cancer, which have also made a successful transition from web comics form to books by energizing an audience that is not normally the one the looks like it would be caught dead with "" in their browser bookmark.

This is another case where I suppose that I should be happy that comics make the popular press, but I'm not. I almost feel they bought some hollywood press release hook line and sinker without examining the profound effect that comics are currently having on popular culture again. They should be taking a longer look at just how superheroes are making waves in our community to the tune of millions of dollars per picture and where else people are getting their superhero fix these days. On line? Perhaps, but no one is quite sure who and how to make money at it right now.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Work in Progress: Carnival Promo 2

Working on this as a break between the Pistoleras work. What do you all think? I'm trying to replicate the ink wash that I used to watch J.G. jones kick out so easily.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In Praise of: Marvel Premiere #13 Dr. Strange by Englehart & Brunner

A culmination of artistic talents brought the somewhat read Dr. strange series to a dramatic head with this last few issues of Marvel Premiere. basically, it was clear after Lee and Ditko were done with the character that no one knew what to do with Stephen Strange. The book was cancelled and Strange languished in character oblivion.

When he was resurrected in Premiere, the art was dire. The early Barry Smith work didn't work, and the writing by Gardner Fox was really wrong. What was needed was a master plan. Lo and behold, Steve Englehart had one. And Frank Brunner took a couple hits and really got to work at his board.

Brunner has one of those epiphany moments that last a good year or two where the artist grows so much over the short period of time that buying a monthly title by them is tantamount to a time lapse movie of a person's life. We voyeuristically watch the artist grow on so many different levels: as a storyteller, as penciller, as an inker and interpreter of their own work, as a draftsman of pages, as someone using the visual medium as a vehicle for personal expression, that the growth can be dizzying. Just in my years as a fan remember watching Brunner, Rogers, Jim Lee, and more than a few others go through this. It may be one of the best things ever about monthly pamphlets despite my arguements against them in other posts).

The inks were by Crusty Bunkers team which was quite the all star inking team. It was basically whoever was around to do the inking, which might have been Neal Adams, or Alan Weiss, or Barry Smith, or Dick Giordano or even Brunner himself. It makes for an interesting mish-mash of looks, but all those hands somehow made a sum that was greater than the whole of it's parts. The talent level was nothing short of amazing. It would be interesting to try to dissect who inked what on those issues. The reality is that, given the limitations of the color printing then, you had the black lines being printed on metal plates, and they had a good chance to pick up the delicacy of a Neal Adams feather, or an Alan Weiss cross-hatch.

Sadly, it was not to last. After Dr. Strange regained his own series, something that I believe had more to do with Marvel's marketing decision to flood the market during that time period than anything else, and the Silver Dagger story arc, Englehart and Brunner left, and the stagnation began again. It took until Stern and Rogers showed up to really make the series interesting again for me.

Of all the golden periods from Marvel's early 70's luminaries (i.e. pre-All New, All Different X-men): Starlin's Captain Marvel, Colan and Wolfman's Dracula, Perez and marcos' Avengers, Moench and Gulacy's Master of Kung Fu, Thom as and Smith's Conan this is the series that I think that has escaped reprinting, that has fallen under the radar. And it's too bad.

Did I miss any great Marvel series runs from the early '70's?

All Hail the Comic Book Rack

This makes me very happy. I finally got this just a few days ago and I've been repopulating it with classic comics, mostly bronze age stuff. It just looks so right to my eyes, seeing old Strange Tales, Astonishing Tales with IT, The Living Colossus (as if a dead colossus had any chance of garnering an audience), old Fantastic Fours, Marvel Team-Ups, Don Heck Daredevils, Tuska Iron Mans, and the new DC Scooby Doos.

My 5-year old daughter came out the next morning and immediately started to spin the rack and check out the comics. Made my heart proud to see it!

Friday, September 22, 2006


i don't think that they have a website, but i'm already happy that I'm trying out the Drawerboxes that were being advertised in San Diego. Yes, I'm tired of stacked boxes of comics meaning that I have little access to any but the top box. Hell, I've given away two whole collections over the last 15 years, so the comics that I've kept i want to read. They mean something to me! It'll be nice to actually get to them without an annoying amount of work. I have no idea if this is one person's invention, but they deserve our money. Buy some now. Your comics will thank you.

Pistoleras Poster Sample

A little something new, working out tones for a sample Pistoleras poster.

You know, I envy artists that can just whip out these pieces, I work and work at them to make sure that I get the tonal quality correct before reaching the final piece. Is is just an illusion, or do others struggle as I do? Is the notion of easy art just an illusion?

Monday, September 18, 2006

In Praise of: Genshiken by Kio Shimoku

I'll put this out there right now: I'm not a huge manga/anime fan. only little bits of it have actively engaged me. The early Yamato movies, for one, Captain Harlock for another. Ghost in the Shell disappointed, although I still need to get a copy of Black Magic M66.

Let me put this out there also: I love Genshiken. Love, love, love.

These characters, while I may not speak their original language, nor do I get all the cultural references, are my friends, are ME. We speak the same language really.

If you've not seen the book, it needs to be picked up and read from volume 1. There are only 6 now out there, with 8 as the final number, so its easy to get in on. Kanji Sasahara decides to join a club in college, and he is reluctant to embrace the Otaku lifestyle: that of comics, anime, games and a life of fanzines and going to comicfests. Its the story of what happens when he joins the Genshiken, the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture. There are 3 DVDs of anime, but they pale in comparison to the books. Get them. Love them. Be them.

Al I know is that when it ends, i'll miss not getting to spend any more time with Ono, Sasha, Madrame and the rest of the gang. If the hallmark of good fiction is that you don't want it to end then Genshiken by Kio Shimoku is essential good comics. Great stuff.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Long Form vs Short Form

As writers and artist we certainly move and change our approach to our work as the format demands, and the biggest change in this, recently, has been the approach of writing from short form to long form "story arcs". Like it or hate it?

We can all blame Chris Claremont. Or Stan Lee.

As someone who has been moving towards the trade version of comics anyway, I have no problem with mvoign on to the long form, as I believe that it gives us a greater level of depth and, hopefully, story sophistication. perhaps i'm wrong, but I can hope for the best.

However, as james meeley commented on my last post about the "pamphlet", whither the beauty of the short and concise story? He has a point. I recall john Byrne's fan level pissy fit over the low sales of Danger unlimited, his FF clone at the time for Dark horse. The problem was so obvious that I can hardly believe that he didn't see it: It took him 3 issues to bring the origin story to a close. Lets go back to FF: in 3 issues they defeated the Mole Man's huge green monster, went under the earth and confronted the mole man himself, had their identities stolen by Skrulls, were captured by the US Army, escaped and then flew to Space impersonating the Skrulls themselves and returned, met and defeated a seriously threatening hypnotist called the Miracle Man. Stan's pacing for those little gems wan't always correct, he really ahdn't gotten the 22 page sotry right yet, but that's OK, it would come.

I keep certian issues in my studio in a rack next to my board, and a number of them are great single issue stories: Gaiman and mcKean's "Hold Me" from Hellblazer, the Jam's super cool color injected turbo adventure from hell by Bernie mireault, conan #2 by Thomas and smith, etc. The question remains how much we need these single issue stories.

The idea that every issue is potentially someone's first one is an idea that has been floating around for so long that I'm not sure whether anyone has actually held it up to the light to see if it has any opacity. it is an idea that was born in the newstack spinner rack culture of the 1960's, long before the internet and readily available back issue market. today's distribution channels usually are comic shops with the potential of having more than a few issues to check out right at your fingertips. usually when i try a new series i'll buy two or three in order so that I can actually get a sense of whether or not I'll like the series. in television, I can expect that if I turn on an episode of lost or west wing, or some other continuing dramatic series, that there will be some level of catch up on the first 3 minutes. should we have to suject the reader to the Stan Lee presents blurb at the top for a 3 line precis version of the character? Or utilize a single page to bring the reader up to date on the story? It's not a bad idea really. it would certainly make it an easy jumping off point for new people.

i like the single issue story just as I like the epic and I think that we should be able to do both well, although some writers are clearly better suited for one than the other. Perhaps we should target the series out there by sophistication and storyline as we do the age appropriateness of the stories. More comics with single issues that would balance out The ultimates long form epic story. it would allow for a better appreciation of the form for newer readers and let them move on to others when they are ready. The pamphlet sdoesn't need to die, but could actually live longer as the a series of stand alones that you don't need to constantly read in sequence. My oldest daughter's Scooby Doo comics are perfect for that. They can be ready in any order, and have a shelf life, from a marketing standpoint, as long as a trade would due to the completeness.

soda; tom Strong did this extrememly well now that I look at the series as a whole. Great fun stories, almmost all a single issue, with a smattering of double issues stories. Good on ya again Alan Moore. Folks, here is your template.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Having a cute model...

is always a help when producing work on a deadline. A local poster, with my youngest daughter as the model. Only in real life she was holding a sharpie pen.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

working away on... well, its a secret...

Ok, been a busy last couple of days with the wife gone on a business trip and me being daddy to my two great daughters, but i've been putting some late hours in the studio as well once my offspring are safely tucked into their beds. I'm sworn to secrecy on what this image might be used for, but I like the way it came out, so I'm sharing it here.

In the creative process mode, its interesting how necessity is truly the mother of invention. I had to work quickly on this and a few other comps, and I ended up creating a new process that allowed me to work up a sketch, create some copies and tone them up with old decidedly low-tech but effective prismacolor markers. And trust me, these are prismacolor markers from the last century. I did the tonal effect that the markers get when layered while they're still wet. Cool.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bendis, Bendis, Bendis, are we sick of him or what?

Finished up reading the other three collections of Alias and I have to admit that I really liked this series. Makes me want to go back and find old reviews on the web and check out how it was preceived by everyone at the time that it was coming out.

Here is the important thing that I've learned from reading Powers from day 1 as a serial, and Alias in collection form: Bendis' writing makes me want to read it in a trade paperback environment. Sorry, just does. He writes to set up the cliffhanger fairly well, sometimes very well, but his strength is the extended storyline, something that I'm sure he'd be the first to admit. These last 4 or five issues of Powers have had the continuing theme of opening and closing with a stand up comedian act, which is a nice monologue into that allows all his femail characters to swear as prolifically as the men in the series, and as a plot device will certainly work well in the trade. Lets face it, it will work better there.

I actually enjoyed Civil War 22 as we get a nice issue with Luke Cage and Jennifer Jones. It should sit on the shelf next to the Alias trades.

There are some people bemoaning the death of the pamphlet and the rise of the trade, and I'm not one of them, as I belive that I've made clear on some of my other posts. What is funny, and has more than a touch of irony, is the medium's hottest writer in pamphlet is better on the long form. The continuing use of collections, and god love him for keeping the Powers trades, the Jinx trades, the Torso trades and all the rest in print for fans, really is putting the nail in the coffin for the monthly series and he's square behind it.

I also like that Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim both have powers and are hiding it from each other. I don't like that he's had to reboot powers as many times as he has. I like Mike Oeming's artwork and have two originals in my collection. They're too violent for me to put up in the house however.

Jinx isn't all that, it reads like another Goldfish story.

More on the Alias collections, #2 - 4 which I've just finished reading.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Master of Kung Fu

Gulacy. Yoakum. Shang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu. In process of being inked. Nuff said.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

New York - Jack Kirby - a small story

Mid 1990's and i'm working for Defiant comics, Jim shooter's company after being outsted at Valiant Comics. We have a fun crew to work with, an interesting collection of folks both neophyte and old school. One of the last Big Apple Con's takes place, and we are all out in force trying to make magic happen for the second time for Shooter: set the world afire with titles like Dark Dominion, Good Guys, Warriors of Plasm, Wardance.

Jack has just died a week or two before I believe, and there was a real sense of the passing of the greatest generation before us, even though at that time Julie Schwartz and Will Eisner would not pass on for many years.

As we all went out to dinner after the con at Arriba Arriba, a mexican on 8th Avenue, Alan Weiss stood up with his glass of scotch and proposed that we all name our favorite Kirby issue. I still remember his, of course: "Mother Delilah" [BOYS' RANCH #3; February, 1951]. My pick was FF #15 "This Man This Monster". Round the table we went, penicllers, inkers, letterers, editors. At the end, Alan again raised his glass, and solemnly said in his best voice of god voice: "To jack."

Not only did our table in the center of the restaurant raise its glasses to echo the toast, but we could hear the murmur of assent from other voices all around us. "To jack." in any other city in the USA we would have been met with silence, but the people of New York knew their trailblazing son, a Jewish child of the lower east side and surely had read the Times obituary, respected for the creative genius he was.

All around us: "To jack." "To jack."

While years have passed since he left us, I see his influence all around us, in ways that would probably confound and delight him.

To Jack.

Friday, September 01, 2006

san diego comic con: artwork musings redux

As a collector of original art, I find myself constantly looking at the field of artwork that gets assembled in San Diego (and I'm sure at Wizard Con even though i've not been there in a few years) and wanting to track it like the stock market. But even the stock has a more predictable nature. Artwork can show up out of the blue to tantalize you and shock you by its very appearance!

Case in point: It has been years since I've seen essentiall any Byrne/Austin X-men from the classic years, and this year yielded the cover to X-men 113 as well as two page spread from a later issue with the new Brotherhood of Evil mutants. Amazing, even Uncanny, to coin a terrible joke. I found it hard to believe that this stuff just showed up out of nowhere.

Then I realized that I've had some key Starlin Captain Marvel pieces off of the market for years, well over a decade, and that the day i decide to let them go, it'll be magic to someone who hasn't seen that piece since the early 90's, fifteen years since I had picked up most of my Starlin pages. By 1993, i couldn't afford a single one that was still on the market.

The scarcity of Kirby pages from the FF was pretty staggering, but doing the math on the number of twice up pages that were produced, and then figuring in a degree of loss over the years yields a staggeringly low number available to collectors. No wonder the prices have continued their steady rise.

What didn't I see? I didn't happen to see a single Perez Avengers piece from the '70's, nor even a single Perez FF piece. Any Bissette/Totleben pages from back in the day on Saga of Swamp Thing? Not a one. Surprisingly, a great Nova splash from the '70's surfaced and made its way into the hands of my buddy Todd. I think that I saw a single Gil Kane page from the '70's. Considering Kane's output, that in its self is remarkable.

More thoughts later.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

carnival promo part 2:

So Here is the piece that I posted a week or two ago, with lots more work done on it. I disliked the city scape background that i originally had intended to put in. The bottom half of it worked ok, but the top half was having problems being interesting so i put it out of it's misery.

Moved on to highlighting the villian of the piece, a drug dealer who deals "chroma", and addictive high for the future city. He figures prominantly in a few of the stories that I want to tell about the city and its people.

I'm working on this inbetween the Pistoleras layouts and a promo poster for a local event in san anselmo calif. I hate alking away from a piece for this long as I tend to change my mind about some of the tonal values that I had previously decided were just right for the art!

Monday, August 28, 2006

a real page turner....

you can see the newest pics from Pistoleras at the pistoleras movie site that I mentioned earlier, but I'm in the middle of laying out the book in thumbnail form and its both exciting and completely nerve-wracking at the same time.

Exciting to see Lis' script play out in pictoral form, to imagine different scenes in my head and play with the camera angles to catch the best possible panel. Nerve-wracking because I have a million different camera angles to work my way though in my head, a million different tricks to make the panels tell the story on more than one level, to convey some of the foreshadowing for the later incidents in the story, to find non-verbal ways to get across the characters "tics" using body language.


The cats are asleep on the chairs across from me, my wife has gone to bed and my brain if going into overdrive when it needs to be settling down so that I can get a proper night's sleep before getting my oldest daughter to school tomorrow morning. Me? I'm deep into spaghetti western land, imaging the southern Sierra Nevada range rising up above the heroine's heads, heat shimmering off of the pitted black top roadway making the ground level of the desert vanish occasionally in a light-bent mirage and I'm trying to my best to imagine this story without the soundtrack that it so richly deserves, and I think that I'm jealous of the moviemakers who can make one scene work so perfectly that I cannot: the simple intoduction by the girls in the front seat of a CD into the car's deck and we have the sound of the road trip. Doesn't matter who it is: X, Chili Peppers, The Killers, Arctic Monkey, Jane's Addiction, early INXS, its the sound that you'll hear in your head for the rest of your life if you have the right soundtrack to a road trip.

Jealous. 'Cause you can't pull that off in a comic book.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Alias by Bendis & Gaydos

Just picked up the first alias trade paperback from Bendis and Gaydos, and enjoyed a good read. Oh sure, Bendis has been working this writing style for so long now that it basically is him almost going through the motions, but I like it on Powers, and i like him involving the peripheral characters from the Marvel Universe (not the current one, the classic one)and, sometimes, the more important ones (like Cap).

Why the hell are you just getting into this now you might ask. And it is a valid question. Umm, i guess that I kept meaning to find the trade in the half price bins at ComicCon and never did, and then I forgot that I was looking for it.

funny how far marvel has come, and how not far at the same time. opening a series with Luke Cage announcing, "I'm the scariest nigga ever was. Who's gonna fuck with me?" and then all the glorious Civil Wars screw ups... well, just kinda funny.