Archive for March, 2008

Big Brain Comics hosts local creators’ releases

March 31st, 2008 by jason

Saturday afternoon, I went to Big Brain Comics, the last comic shop standing in downtown Minneapolis, to attend a release event for a couple of local comic creators. Lars Martinson and Tim Sievert were both on hand, chatting with customers and signing copies of their new graphic novels. Lars had copies of his hardcover, Tonoharu: Part One, while Tim’s softcover, That Salty Air was also available.

As a release event, there wasn’t really all that much going on, no reading, no presentation, but both Lars and Tim were very approachable. I got a chance to talk to both of them, nothing really in depth, just conversational. Lars talked about the Star Tribune article, where the story the reporter recounted about the girl he met was the last thing that Lars wished he had put in there. We talked about how the Strib also screwed up the title of his book in its typesetting, both in print and on the web, and how, unfortunately neither Lars or Tim will be attending Microcon. Lars will be traveling back to Japan to study calligraphy, and Tim will be at the Stumptown Comics Fest in Oregon. I bought both of their books, and wandered about the store a bit while they signed and sketched in my books. Coming back a few minutes later, Tim handed me his book and apologized to me, saying that he was sorry, this was the first book he’d ever signed. I handed it back to him and said “Write that down in there!” Lars joked about how I could now sell it on eBay for a lot of money.

I was only there for about half an hour, and they admitted that the release was kind of thrown together somewhat spontaneously. I suppose for many graphic novels, a reading without the use of an overhead projector is a little awkward. I’ll be reading both books this week and will post reviews afterwards.

Strange Girl Vol. 2, Heaven Knows I’m Misserable Now

March 29th, 2008 by Martin

Strange Girl, Trade #2I picked up the first strange girl TPB on a whim. I just liked the art, and the premise was interesting: the rapture has come, and a spunky girl tries to find her way to heaven. Oh, and a blue demon sidekick is irreverent and funny.

Basically, in that first trade, I was totally surprised about how much else there was to like about the comic. The story was actually quite tragic, and the art was consistently pretty spectacular. I really dug the dialog, which was funny and at times philosophical, without ever getting preachy, or even seeming to take sides.

This book was more of the same, but somehow slightly less spectacular. I think it was mostly due to the inclusion of the final issue, a stand-alone x-mas/origin story. It was told a little bit quickly, I thought, and while the art was good, it was a bit more cartoon-ish than other issues within this trade (different artists).

This is a pretty secular series, for such a biblical premise. The post-rapture earth is shown to be a very bleak place, and comments like “Lord have mercy…” are followed up with “No, I don’t think he does.” This book featured a two or three page scene where the main character yells at a stained glass window of the virgin mary, asking where she was when a girl was being repeatedly raped. This is in the middle of a whole plot line where a group of human survivors (military types, who basically fought off the demons, and took refuge in a fort of some kind) are super right-wing religious because they think that God is supposed to judge them again in the near future. But seven years pass, and that was when he was supposed to pass some more judgment, so they’re all going a bit stir crazy. Of course, everyone is not as good as they’re supposed to be.

All in all, this is a very worthy read. Of course, read the first one first.

Off Kilter Comics — show at MCAD next week

March 28th, 2008 by Martin

Off Kilter show postcardI picked up this postcard at The Source when I was there yesterday. I think the show sounds really interesting. Lots more information, including artist bios and location/time info is on MCAD’s site. I already have plans next Friday, but Jason, this is within blocks of your house, so you should go!

Fortunately, the show is being curated by Onsmith, who will also be signing comics and stuff at big brain the next day. Who wants to go with me?

Acclaimed comic artists Ivan Brunetti, John Hankiewicz, Onsmith and Zak Sally will deliver a gallery talk at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) for the opening of “Off-Kilter Comics” at MCAD Gallery on Friday, April 4, 2008.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel

March 27th, 2008 by Martin

Fun Home, Alison BechdelWith all the awards this book has won, you’d think I would have been more excited to read it. When Florence brought home her signed copy from the reading that she went to with Jason, I gave her a list of excuses about why I didn’t think it was “my kind” of comic. First of all, it didn’t appear to be funny, or have any science fiction or fantasy in it. Secondly, it was more or less in black and white. Finally, it was supposed to be non-fiction for crying out loud! I basically didn’t even think I’d get past the first few pages.

But I did, and boy am I glad I did. (There are a few mild spoilers in the rest of this post.)

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Watch the Tick on Hulu.com

March 27th, 2008 by Martin

The TickThe entirety of The Tick (the live action series) is now available on Hulu.com. When I first saw this version of the tick, it was at a thanksgiving family reunion, and we literally watched all nine episodes at least two or maybe three times that weekend. Hysterical stuff.

My only previous exposure to The Tick had been in my Latin courses at college. The professor was absolutely nuts for The Tick, and would quote it regularly. I think he even went so far as to bring in some clips from the animated series for us to watch. Then about two years ago I got into the Tick comics, and had to collect them all in Trade Paperback.

So… just to add some links to this post, and spruce things up a bit, I started googling for the Tick, hoping to find a cool weblog by the creator or something. Instead, I found out that Ben Edlund, the creator/artist for the comics, was also a writer/producer for Firefly and Angel, and furthermore has written episodes of The Venture Brothers! He also wrote Titan A.E., which I didn’t think was nearly as bad as everyone said it was). His latest writing/producing credits are on a show called Supernatural, which I haven’t heard of, (or if I had, I didn’t care at the time), and which I will now gleefully Tivo!

Here is a choice quote from an interview with Edlund that I found on slashdot:

The Tick is a work in stupid. Just as others may choose clay or stone or paint, I and my compatriots have chosen stupidity as our medium. But stupid must be worked and mastered like any other material; during this experimental stage, the viewer of the work may feel he or she is observing “perceptiveness” or “art.” This is simply an illusion.

Long Distance Web Comic Collaboration

March 26th, 2008 by Martin

So… I’ve mentioned to a few people that I might have some interest in creating my own web comic. But now I’ve got a better idea… if we all collaborate, then it’s less work for me!

One of the problems is that none of us can draw… so this way when it sucks, it’s nobody’s fault in particular!

My only real plot idea is that it’d be a bunch of robots standing around talking about how much humans suck.

I’m picturing some really simple line drawings of robots at first. I think it’d be really cool if everybody did their own, and then we unveiled them all to each other at the same time. Maybe everyone does one robot to start out with, in say… three different poses? That should give us plenty of art work to do our first three panel webcomic. We can always write the captions after we choose the art. I (for some no doubt baseless reason) think that’ll be the easy part.

So who’s in?

Wolverine = comic book creator???

March 25th, 2008 by Michael

I was checking out ew.com and saw the interesting headline:

Hugh Jackman Developing Comicbook Series

And I respond with a big, “meh.” Here’s the press release:

“(FROM VARIETY) – Hugh Jackman and Eli Stone co-creator Marc Guggenheim are teaming with Virgin Comics to develop a new comicbook series that can eventually be adapted into a movie starring Jackman. The comic, Nowhere Man, is focused on a character, similar to Will Smith’s role in I Am Legend, living in a futuristic world where mankind has traded privacy for safety. ”This is our first comic, and we feel the concept is transferable to other arenas, perhaps first as a videogame, and then a movie,” John Palermo, Jackman’s Seed Productions partner, told Variety. Guggenheim has previously written installments of Amazing Spider-man and Wolverine for Marvel Comics. Jackman is currently shooting X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the spinoff movie set to release in May 2009. (Variety)”

I have a few reservations about this. First of all, the idea, while intriguing, is about as original as last week’s toast. Perhaps they got the idea from the Bush administration. The very title, Nowhere Man, has been used countless times (ok, perhaps not countless, but at least six times on film alone according to IMDB). Then they admit that they’re borrowing from I Am Legend. Even worse, they want it to be a launching pad for other platforms…film, video games, lingerie, etc. Which would be fine if the comic were already a hit, but here they’re looking to capitalize on the popularity of comic adapted materials. In other words, the comic is being created to be marketable. And before anyone yells at me about being hypocritical about spinoffs and being a Marvel fan, I’m not really excited about the aforementioned X-Men Origins: Wolverine either. Finally, how much do you want to bet that Hugh Jackman’s name is attached only for marketability? Meaning Marc Guggenheim does all the work and Jackman gets the big paycheck. Especially if this makes it to film like they want to.

Now, I’m not very familiar with Guggenheim’s work. I know he’s done stuff for Marvel and DC and will shortly be writing Young X-Men (even writing the title makes me gag…call them what you want, they’ll always be the New Mutants). He’s one of those writers pulled from the world of TV and cinema, having written for Brothers and Sisters, Law and Order, and The Practice. He recently developed Eli Stone, of which I saw some and found witty and kinda funny but it got tired pretty quick. Despite the negative tone of this post, I do reserve complete judgement until the comic comes out, but I have a feeling I’ll be passing this one by.

Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales… #5: i Robot

March 24th, 2008 by Martin

Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now - 5I have to admit that there is something about this series that has felt a bit “off” to me. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Each of the stories feels a bit rushed, a bit light, a bit simplistic, and my working assumption is that it’s somehow the medium, because I’ve read many of these stories before, in short story form, and they were great!

I didn’t think it was the art. I’ve, overall, really liked the art, and that goes for this issue too. At least, I liked it well enough while I was reading the comic… but now that I page back through it, I do think there were more than a few awkward drawings. And, worse than that, it felt like there was a sort of disconnect between the art and the writing. For instance, the story is very much about these robots… but we don’t see them as much as it would seem to make sense for us to see them. It’s almost like the artist takes pains to avoid drawing them in the beginning of the comic.

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Links and Sidebar Stuff

March 24th, 2008 by Martin

Astute readers will notice that I’ve spruced up our sidebar a little bit. I’d like to add a few more links, but I don’t really have a vision yet for which ones should go on there. Same goes for what categories of links we should use.

Anyone have any good ideas? Know of any absolute MUST LINK sites? Just about the only thing I know I don’t want to do is start listing stuff just for the sake of putting it on there. I’m thinking right now that I don’t want to list webcomics, or artists, because we’d just end up with a massive list that would be near-impossible to maintain.

Another question I had was whether we should create an “about” page. We could use it to post brief bios that link to our personal sites (for those of us who have them), and move those links off the sidebar of the main pages. Ideas, thoughts, links?

Birth, by michael s bracco

March 23rd, 2008 by Martin

Birth coverAnyone familiar with my taste in comics will tell you that it is unusual for me to pick up a black and white comic book. What got me to make Birth an exception was the awesome alien artwork I witnessed while paging through it at the comic shop. Few books transcend what I consider to the be sort of modern popular “comic book art” style, and still manage to remain comic books, that is, books that tell a story with pictures.

Birth tells a very compelling story of two races of intelligent life, not all that different from one another, at war. One lives on land, and one lives in the sea. One whose fathers die in the act of procreation, and one whose mothers die in childbirth. There are very few words.

The author and artist, Michael S Bracco, also maintains spaghettikiss.com (with his wife), where they sell interesting looking apparel, ceramics and comics. You can read a relatively interesting interview with him over at ComicNews.info. You can also find a bunch more of his artwork at http://michaelbracco.websiteanimal.com/.

Birth is a prequel for the Novo series, which I have yet to read. (I will be very interested in picking up the forthcoming Novo Vol.1 TPB when it gets released.) Bracco has a very long arc planned out for Novo, so I for one hope it does well, and that it is as interesting as I found Birth to be.

Invincible #49

March 22nd, 2008 by florence

Invincible #49Poor kid.

Mark, aka Invincible, is taking us through the process of growing out of adolescence and into an adult. That involves pain, confusion, and most of all, disillusionment. Mark is a good kid at heart; a year ago he unabashedly loved his mom, idolized his superhero dad, and was thrilled to experiment with his nascent inherited powers. The beginning of his story involved the crushing discovery that his dad, the most powerful and beloved superhero on the planet, was actually a bad guy, an alien sent to spy on and ultimately conquer the weak human race. Mark was rocked by this his betrayal, and knew that he was hopelessly outmatched, but he did what he believed to be right; he fought his dad. The fight left Mark very hurt, but not quite dead. His father had left the planet and he found himself having to explain to his mom and to the world his reasons for driving off their protector. When everyone learned the truth, he was supported as a new hero by the public, but his mom was devastated, sinking into depression and drinking. Mark lost the care and protection of both parents, and gained the weight of the world’s protection. He didn’t quite lose his faith in humanity, he clung to his black and white notions of right and wrong.

Since then, Mark has realized that he has a lot to learn about girls, and about living with a higher purpose/ obsession without being a jerk to those close to him.

He hasn’t been entirely on his own. He has been working for Cecil, a man in charge of a secret government organization. Cecil swooped in to protect Mark’s identity and public image as well as his mom’s safety, when his dad’s true motives were revealed. Cecil gave Mark a focus for his powers and a renewed belief that he was doing good things. He would call Mark away from his regular life at all hours and give a specific location, enabling Mark to show up in the nick of time to serve and protect innocent people around the world.

Spoiler warning:

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Mojo the Sock Monkey: Curriculum Vitae

March 21st, 2008 by Martin

Mojo the Sock Monkey: Curriculum VitaeMy co-worker Sharyn saw my previous entry on Kevin Cornell, and loaned to me this, the second collection of Mojo the Sock Monkey.

Mojo is more a comic strip comic than a comic book comic. Each page contains its own mini Mojo story, each about Mojo performing a different job (that he then promptly loses). The sock monkey has a strange sense of humor, a strange sense of decency, and basically no sense of duty. The art is great, clearly hand-drawn, with a “look” that seems watercolor, but is more likely computer-applied.

The stories are mostly funny, some more so than others, but many are interesting more than they are humorous. Like when Mojo sleeps with a giant bird that he lets into the hotel while working as a doorman. That is one of the few stories that continues onto more than one page.

A bunch of Mojo comics can be found on Brear Skin Rug by searching for mojo. If you like those, you’ll definitely like Curriculum Vitae.

Upcoming Comic Book movies

March 21st, 2008 by Rurik

There are quite a few movies coming out in the next year that have been produced from our beloved comics. Some will rock; some will suck. But here’s a list of the upcoming releases that I’m looking forward to:

Battlestar Galactica: April 4
Iron Man: May 2
Indiana Jones: May 22
Incredible Hulk: June 13
Wanted: June 27
Hellboy 2: July 11
Batman: The Dark Knight: July 18
The Punisher: September 12
Star Trek: December 25 (this may have been pushed back to 2009)
The Spirit: January 16, 2009
Watchmen: March 5, 2009
Wolverine: May 1, 2009

Unknown dates 2009:
Green Hornet
Superman

The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine

March 20th, 2008 by Rurik

Fantastic Four #554With issue #554, the ‘World’s Greatest Comic Magazine,’ aka, Marvel’s Fantastic Four, has had yet another creative team relaunch. Normally, 66.6% of these relaunches are Ho-Hum at best (as in “the return of J. Scott Campbell”who ended up only doing covers) or idiotic (let’s erase thirty years of Spider-Man continuity) at worst. But the remaining third are often a worthy change. The new creative team on The FF is one such worthy change, as it consists of megalomaniac, Mark Millar (writing), detail-freak, Bryan Hitch (drawing) and tracer extraordinaire, Paul Neary (inking). This is the same team who brought us The Ultimates, which was, in my opinion, a very interesting and well crafted comic.

Now, having been through my share of FF reboots over the years, I wasn’t overly hyped for this version. And to be honest, I’m not in awe of this team of artists and writer. But I’ve always had a fondness for the FF when they’re done well, which, for me, constitutes that family feeling of familiarity, communication, bickering and, of course, solving galactic problems that threaten the Earth, if not the Universe. The Civil War arc that Marvel ran last year had it’s Good, Bad and Ugly moments, but I was thoroughly disappointed with the way that they wrote Reed Richards, the (allegedly) ‘smartest man on earth’ as a blind-sided fool. (Personal aside: I honestly believe that Dr. Doom is smarter, but he’s never grown past his high school emotional jealousy that he keeps getting his ass whupped. C’mon, Doom could use his magic to send the FF to hell any old time and probably get away with it. Doom works at it; Reed kinda takes it for granted.)

I gave the ‘new’ FF creative team two issues (#554-555) to see what they can do and I can say that I’m impressed. In #554, Ben cannily guilts Reed into going with him to visit his old school by saying, “Any chance of doin’ a solid for the guy ya disfigured in that cosmic ray accident?” This gets followed up later with Reed giving a lecture to the school kids on his ‘anti-Galactus suit,’ and boring them to the point of near-fatal nose-picking, which is broken only by Ben interrupting, “Anybody wanna play in the Fantasti-Car?” sending the kids into a frenzy. No, these scenes aren’t terribly pertinent to the main story, but they’re the type of characterization that I’ve always felt was successful for the FF. Reed is too smart to see that everybody isn’t as excited by nano-particles as he is and Ben is the ice breaker.

I like the addition, or rather, return, of Alyssa Moy, the character Sue describes as “Mrs. Fantastic.” Alyssa is an ex of Reed’s from college. She’s cute, sassy and equally as smart as he is, even though she’s now married as well. Although the chemistry between the two is still pretty tame at this point, I can see the seeds of angst being planted by Millar. Flashbacks of flirting from their college days, as well as observations from Alyssa’s husband regarding her feelings towards Reed are tell-tale signs that the pot’s going to be boiling over soon. No, I don’t think that Sue & Reed will split (again….), but I’m going to enjoy the miscommunication, the innuendo, the assumptions, and the ensuing chaos presented by “Mrs. Fantastic.” (Yes, I just enjoy the name…).

Fantastic Four #555As for Johnny Storm…. let’s see… it’s been about 45 years since FF #1 came out and he’s still called Johnny, aka, the boy who never grew up. Well, I can’t say much complementary about him in this reboot. He decides that he wants to put together a band through a reality show and ends up making out with some hot babe/diamond robber in a sexy leather suit while trying to bust her for the crime. Hasn’t this guy learned ANYTHING in 45 years!?! Ok, ok, comic continuity being maybe one year for every ten that we, mere mortal comic readers live, maybe it’s only been four or five years for Johnny. But, Geez! The guy’s been involved with Skrulls, Heralds of Galactus, Inhumans, models, bimbos, witches, and anything in a skirt. If he doesn’t have a majority of the social diseases out there, he should at least have enough dating knowledge to not act like a drunken frat boy 24/7. (Hmmm, maybe that’s why the FF are rich: Reed invented cures for all the STD’s Johnny brought home over the years…?)

And Sue… stalwart Sue. She’s easily proven herself to be the most powerful member of the team on numerous occasions. She’s taken Doom down single-handed. She looks good in leather, even after giving birth. She’s smart, funny, and makes sure the bills get paid. She’s the one constant in a group. Here, she’s trying to create a charity group, working with She-Hulk and the Wasp. The scene where they’re discussing issues, while being served tea and pumpkin pie by modified Doom-bots is a treasure. Sue explains it by saying, “Oh, you know what Reed’s like… Always building stuff while we’re watching TV. I don’t even ask.” Again, this is the characterization that I’ve come to know and love with a well done FF.

Oh, did I mention the plot? Here comes the spoiler info, for those of you who care… The plot revolves around Alyssa’s husband, in conjunction with several other bazillionaires who’ve learned that Earth will only be habitable for another 10 years and have decided to pour their riches into creating ‘Nu-World,’ an exact replica of Earth, minus the guns, war and troubles (though keeping the graffitti, for ‘arts sake’), for all six billion humans. Things begin to go awry in issue #555, but I eagerly await the next installment to see how far the pot boils over. The art is solid the writing is spot-on and the plotting is the usual slow burn I’ve come to expect from Millar before he pours the molten liquid over my brain. The only thing that I can say that I really don’t like is the drawing of the Thing. Hitch seems to be taking a leaf from Kurt Busiek’s “Astro City” character from the First Family (who was, of course, drawn from Marvel’s FF). Ben is drawn somewhere between a human, a lizard and the orange rock we’ve come to know. It just doesn’t work for me… but considering that I’m enjoying the rest, I guess I can make allowances.

My rating: Go buy it.

The Nightly News, by Jonathan Hickman

March 19th, 2008 by Martin

Nightly News TPBLast week, or perhaps the week before, I brought home the first two issues of Pax Romana. Mostly because I liked the art in the second issue (which had just been released). Within a day or two, a co-worker brought to my desk the trade paperback of The Nightly News, saying he’d just read it on a plane, and thought I might like it. I flipped through it, and briefly thought the art was reminiscent of Pax Romana, which I hadn’t yet cracked.

The night before last I finished The Nightly News. I didn’t know yet how I felt about it. I had to think about it the whole way to work the next morning, and then again a few times yesterday, and then have a conversation about it with a co-worker before I really felt like I’d solidified my opinion.

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Legend of BLAR!

March 17th, 2008 by Martin

I quite enjoyed The Legend of BLAR!, which I believe to be one third of a book that is temporarily unavailable from Little House Comics. Interesting stuff.

UPDATE: Jason is forcing me to write more about this. I guess I thought the comic was interesting for several reasons. First, it is slightly self-referential, as in, it could be a “strange loop” We get to the end, and it could start all over again. Not only that, but BLAR’s “worst enemy” is himself, (which he doesn’t hesitate to dispatch, nonetheless). Secondly, I found it interesting because of how representative the last panel is of a particular moment that all gamers know. The moment when you know you should stop, and you want to stop, but you also really want to keep going. Of course, this is probably the very reason that BLAR is his own worst enemy. He cannot stop adventuring. He cannot stop killing. (Perhaps BLAR is a psychopath, just like all the rest of you role playing adventurers!)

Confessions of a Superhero

March 16th, 2008 by Martin

Confessions of a Superhero promo photoI just watched Confessions of a Superhero, a documentary about four LA actors (one actress), who work on Hollywood boulevard dressed up as Superman, Batman, the Hulk and Wonder Woman. In some respects, they are little more than glorified pan-handlers, making money from “tips” solicited after posing for photos with tourists.

The documentary actually had superb photography, which may have been its greatest asset. The lives of the actors were mostly rather sad. We ended up wondering whether Batman and Superman were pathological liars. Superman claimed to be the son of a famous dead actress (a claim her sister refutes), and Batman had all kinds of stories about when he used to work for the mob back in Texas.

Throughout the film, there were recurring scenes from interviews taken in this very strange and possibly abandoned house. The photo above was taken in it, and Wonder Woman’s interview was primarily set in a bedroom while she sat on a bare mattress. Florence and I discussed whether this was intentionally done to highlight the similarities between her posing as Wonder Woman and prostitution. There were other scenes that may have also been in the movie primarily to emphasize that comparison.

I would recommend this to anyone who particularly likes documentaries about interesting characters. It will obviously hold some appeal to Comic Book fans, but aside from an apartment full of Superman memorabilia, a glimpse at the Superman Days celebration in Metropolis IL, and some DVD extra scenes set at Comic Con in San Diego, there isn’t really much here that’s comic related.

Urban Monsters #1

March 16th, 2008 by Martin

Urban Monsters #1Light and entertaining, the first Urban Monsters caught my attention because it was a premise I hadn’t seen explored before in comics. Not to say it’s a unique idea, but just one I hadn’t seen before. What if monsters were real, and had feelings like everyone else? And what if they were trying to integrate in today’s modern society?

Basically, monsters are treated a bit like an underclass here. There are many types of them, so some are treated differently than others, and of course, everyone’s prejudice is personal, so there is infinite room for variation. Perhaps the funniest bit, and this is intended to be a humorous comic, is when the zombie character is working at his office job, and gets yelled at because he doesn’t notice when his phone headset falls to the desk, ear attached. He then tries to staple his ear back on, and when that’s noticed, plays off that he thought the stapler was the phone.

I did think it was “interesting” that the comic is called Urban Monsters, and yet this particular (first) issue ends with the main characters driving across country. (Hardly urban anymore!) Nothing was startlingly good here, but it was a fun quick read, so I’m looking forward to the next one, to see where they take it.

Groo: Hell on Earth, Vol 3

March 13th, 2008 by Martin

Groo: Hell on Earth, Vol 3I’m a big Groo fan. I think it’s generally a clever parody of the swashbuckling hero genre, and just silly enough without resorting to elephant sized chickens that it often has me chuckling to myself when I read it. (Not to be confused with clucking to myself, which I would undoubtedly do, if I were an elephant sized chicken.)

Of course, much of the appeal comes from Sergio Aragonés’ signature style, perhaps taking me back to the days of my youth, when I coveted owning my own issues of Mad Magazine, rather than reading snippets of friend’s copies over their shoulders or in the bookstore when I thought I could get away with it. I think Aragonés art is best when it’s super-detailed scenes with lots of people and stuff happening. I love when he draws lots of faces at once, as in scenes of village folk and cityscapes, or armies and big battles. The variation he achieves in expression with so few lines is definitely an art worth studying.

This latest arc, Hell on Earth, is an obvious parody of our political climate. Issues of the environment coupled with an unfriendly war-mongering ruler draw easy parallels to situations here in the US and the rest of the world. Truth be told, I thought it was all a little heavy handed in the first two issues of this arc, but with this issue I’m warming up to it. I’ll reserve final judgment for the forthcoming fourth and final issue.

The letters pages have been particularly amusing in this Groo itteration, and this issue’s was especially so. I felt like it really managed to build toward a suitably silly conclusion, and unlike other letter columns wasn’t filled with endless praise and meaningless back-patting prattle.

If you have a bone for the funny, Groo is well worth a gander. Not an elephant sized gander, mind you, but perhaps one human sized or slightly larger. But if you started reading Groo with this series, and then went back to read some of the old Groo series, you might find the gander grew on you, if you catch my meaning. (Yes, I did just write that. Cluck.)

It’s all in the costume

March 13th, 2008 by jason

The New Yorker has an interesting essay by Michael Chabon, the author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. He talks about superhero costumes and what they signify, but what really got me in the essay is how many names of super-heroes he drops. This man knows his comics, which I suspected after reading Kavalier & Clay, but this goes beyond that. This tells me he can hold his own at any comic book convention he might attend. He is one of us.

Absolute Sandman Vol. 2, Echo 1, Ookla the Mok, new issues

March 12th, 2008 by Susie

Lot’s of stuff to write about! 1)Last christmas Florence, and Marty got me the first volume of Absolute Sandman.  It was awesome, the second volume is even better.  The Absolute line (yes the name does make it sound like a promotion for Vodka) from DC is basically a repackaging of some of their most acclaimed series, in oversized, beutifully designed hard covered books.  Usually the art is recolored, and the back of the book is jammed with extra content.  I usually don’t think it is worth buying a second copy of something if the story has not changed, and other Sandman I don’t think I will (although Kingdom Come is tempting).  With Sandman they have reprinted three tpbs, per volume.  Volume 2 contains the Seasons of Mists, a Game of You arcs, and most of the short stories from the Fables and Reflections collection.  Though volume 1 had some really great issues, this is the period in Sandman in my opinion where it came into it’s stride both with the story and the art.  SoM, is an epic that feels like an ancient myth that no one had transcribed yet.  Lucifer decides to quit being the adversary, kicks everyone out of Hell, leaves locking the door behind him.  He gives the key to Dream, whom he had previously vowed to destroy but now just hopes it will make his life a little difficult.  Which it does, as figures from many different pantheons (religious as well as comic book) arrive in the Dreaming seeking the deed to Hell.  Reading it again now, it is amazing how a few small interactions in these early issues set in motion the conclusion of the whole series.   At one time Season of Mists was my favorite arc, but now I feel a Game of You surpasses it.  It is a much smaller scale story than most of the other large arcs, and though Morpheus id in it, he is mostly periphery.  The main character is Barbie, who was a periphery character in the Dollhouse (collected in volume 1).  She had at one time had a very vivid dream life, in which she was a princess in a magic world of talking animals called the Land.  She has however stopped dreaming, and no longer remembers the Land.  In her absence the Land has started to die and is under the thrall of a monster called the Cuckoo.  Barbie does eventually return to the land and the it causes serous damage to the waking world.   The story could just be another “magic land ” like Oz, or Wonderland, but the conclusion id entirely originally.  The supporting cast Barbie’s neighbors: sweet transvestite, Wanda, lesbians Hazel and Foxglove, and the witch Thessaly (the only one to have any importance to the bigger story of Sandman), as well as the Land’s animals, giant dog creature Martin Tenbones, and Wilkinson a cynical rat wearing a trench-coat, are some of the most memorable in the whole series.  These are the stories that where the art  finally moves away from the typical horror comic style (overly lined faces, and colored in sickly purples and greens) .  Despite having some of the most horrific  scenes in the whole series, a man chained to rock in Hell having his chest repeatedly torn open, a pile of decapitated heads singing, the face torn from corpse nailed to wall happily chatting away with it’s wagging tongue.  It was well worth spending seventy dollars for this excellent new printing. 2) I also read echo number 1.  It is Terry Moore’s new creator owned comic.  It appears to be his take on super heroes.  Of course the heroine is one of his beautiful girls.  the first issue is a simple origin story.  Girl taking pictures in the dessert, inadvertently finds herself in the path of a explosion, gain a super powered suit.  That is all that has happened so far.  Except that we know that the owners of the suit seriously nasty, killing the previous wearer of the suit (hence the explosion) just to test it’s durability.  I know in few issues this is going to have completely sucked me in, and the story will be any thing but simple.  This is from the creator of Strangers in Paradise after all. 3) I have totally fallen in Love the album Super Secret from the band Ookla the Mok.  They are by far the geekiest band I have every encountered.  Nearly every high energy song song is a packed with references to comic books, old school science fiction, or alien abductions.  A sample of one of there lyrics from the song Theme from Super Skrull “He can turn one leg invisible, which is not all that practical. Unless you are quite gullible, you won’t get fooled by Super Skrull!”  My favorite song on  the album is called Stop Talking About Comic Books or I will Kill You, but the one I can not stop humming is Guggenheim Love.  The songs are not only catchy, they are hilarious. 4)  In a couple of hours i will head over to my local comic shop and pick up a months a worht of issues.  Including issues of, Buffy, Angel, Runaways, Fables,  Astro City, and the first issue of Serenity: Better Days!  Woo hoo!That is all. 

Gary Gygax Memorial Webcomics

March 11th, 2008 by Martin

Gary Gygax, one of the creators of D&D died a week ago. Here are all of the webcomic tributes I could find:

Ultimate Game — XKCD
Order of the Stick
Dork Tower
Dueling Analogs
Achewood
“The Journey’s End” GU Comics
Full Frontal Nerdity
Penny Arcade
No Parking
WereGeek
Exiern
Ben Towle

(These are in no particular order, except that XKCD is one of my favorite comics, and was the inspiration for this post.) Please comment if you find more.

Why the Skrulls are going to save the Marvel Universe

March 10th, 2008 by Michael

skrullsThere’s an invasion going on in the Marvel Universe. Alien shape changers have infiltrated our super teams and taken over the persona of some of the most mighty heroes. Their intent: to take over our planet, which they see as rightfully theirs.

Go Skrulls!

I’m really looking forward to this spring and summer’s Mega Event. It just feels exciting. According to interviews from Marvel Mastermind Brian Michael Bendis, this storyline has been brewing for years. According to him, after this story is done we’ll be able to look at recent events such as Avengers Disassembled, House of M, Secret War, Civil War, and Captain America’s Death, and be able to see a Skrully hand manipulating all of it. This doesn’t feel like a simple retcon to me…this apparently has been sneaky ol’ Bendis’ plan from the very start. And I think that’s why I’m enjoying it so much. It’s creative, it’s well planned, and it feels like there are real consequences. Who knows who could be a Skrull? We’ve already seen Elektra and Blackbolt revealed as Skrulls…could we see Spider Man as one? Thor? Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy? Since they did the unthinkable and killed Captain America – and kept him dead for a year now – you have to wonder if Marvel is willing to take chances on some of their other major characters.

When Marvel announced Civil War a couple of years ago, they said the intent was to bring a level of distrust back to our heroes. It used to be that when Spider-man crossed paths with the FF, there would be some doubt about the other hero’s motives. The FF saw all the negative reporting in the newspaper about Spidey and wondered if he could be a criminal, and Spidey distrusted anyone that might be inclined to try to have him arrested. The Skrull storyline succeeds where Civil War fails. Civil War seemed like a good idea with a lot of potential that ended up rushed, written by committee, and edited to pieces. On the other hand, Secret Invasion seems well crafted, paced correctly, and genuine. The threat seems real, the implications seem dire, and the distrust between the heroes seems at an all time high. Not only does each character have to wonder if their teammates are aliens, but they also have to wonder who has known what, and for how long. It’s a fun story line and I fully hope that Marvel is finally able to fulfill the potential of the story. Most importantly, this is a story that deserves to be an event.

So who is a Skrull? Of course, I have some ideas. Here, I present my top 5 Skrull Choices:

1. Cyclops. The leader of the X-Men has gone all hard assed of late. Apparently the mutant decimation and loss of Professor X has gotten to him. Or maybe a Skrull has.

2a. Ms. Marvel. You can bet that the Skrulls have landed in SHIELD. Who better than a SHIELD agent who also leads the Avengers, and can keep close tabs on Tony Stark? If not her, look for….

2b. Maria Hill. Stark’s #2 at SHIELD led the organization from Secret War to Civil War, and her arrival coincided with with Nick Fury’s disappearance. Speaking of which…he’s due for a return. What role will he have in Secret Invasion?

3. Wolverine, but only the New Avengers Wolvie. The X-Men’s is the real one. It would go a long way to explaining how he can be in every comic at the same time!

4. The Scarlet Witch. A Skrull with Wanda’s powers could have intentionally caused House of M (a perfect opportunity for Skrulls to move in?). Plus doing so allows Marvel to bring her back, all heroic-like and not at all crazy.

5. Hawkeye. Hey, weren’t you dead? Oh yeah, that’s because you’re a Skrull.

What do you think? Who’s a Skrull? Who do YOU trust?

Batman: City of Crime

March 10th, 2008 by jason

City of CrimeWritten and laid out by David Lapham, pencils by Ramon Bachs, inks by Nathan Massengill, colours by Jason Wright, letters by Jared K Fletcher

Collecting Detective Comics 800-808, 811-814, this 287 page tome is something to really sink your teeth into. I read this not too long after reading the War Games epic which ran across all the Bat Universe titles, and found a world of difference between the two. Lapham’s thriller is much more cohesive than the sprawling chaos of War Games, perhaps rightly so, considering it’s coming from a single writer of a single comic. While appearing in the issues shortly after Ed Brubaker’s epic, the chronological time for this story is unknown. There are no cues saying whether it took place before or after, but the previous event is never mentioned that I could find. Robin is definitely Tim Drake, Akins is the police commissioner. Beyond that, it could really take place any time.

The title is apt: this is as much a story about Gotham as it is about Batman, maybe moreso. A beautiful gothic Gotham, beautiful like the wings of insect seen close up, a stinging, poisonous insect. Ever since Tim Burton’s film, Gotham has been almost universially represented like something out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, ironically enough, whereas Ramon Bachs give his Gotham a warmer feel. It’s the warmth of fresh blood, however, oozing from a slit throat. The first issue in the collection sets this tone, taking you on a journey through Gotham at night, a madman’s tour, pointing out the garishly painted masterpiece of a city. The price of admission is just a small bit of your soul. This is very much a prelude to the rest of the collection, lasting only 8 pages. This was originally a back up story, with the bulk of the issue having a War Games epilogue, but this collection only reprints this one.

Lapham has set the stage, and issue 811 contains the overture. Batman is seen sparingly, more hinted at, while Gotham’s residents go about their violent, unpleasant lives. Even the routine takes on a sinister cast when it occurs in Gotham. And the passing shadow in the gloom, preventing a domestic altercation with a thrown batarang, shows that Batman is there, even when not seen. He is an offspring of this city, but this parent does its best to reject its child, in much the same way as creatures in the wild attempt to consume their young. The characters start coming into play as the issue continues, lining up like a length of fuse, waiting for the spark to set them off, consuming each in turn just before the explosion that you know is coming.

The successive issues extend the plot, bringing in a few classic Batman villains, and hinting at a mastermind. There is much that is gruesome in this arc, and Lapham doesn’t shy away from the adult themes. Batman’s prime motivation in this story stems from an encounter with a Lolita-esque girl and his rejection of her advances. A run-of-the-mill tragedy in Gotham explodes into an atrocity to shake the city apart. We have an interlude in the action in issue 807 as a new act begins, and we focus on a specific neighbourhood. A magnifying glass is held up to a map of Gotham and we see this stretch of streets in detail, from the decaying dog in the gutter to the decaying crones gossiping on the stoop. Bachs’s art is glorious in its grotesquery, where we literally see all the warts. We also get to see Batman in a role that he seems so rarely used for anymore: being a detective. We see him almost as much out of costume as in it. The action ramps back up again for the rest of the arc, until the concluding battle royale.

This story worked in so many ways, compelling to me to keep reading far after I should’ve put it down for the night. It was nearly a compulsion to see what happened next, something that I haven’t found in comics as much lately. I can see where some might be frustrated with some of the convolutions that the story goes through, but it kept me riveted. I want to seek out Lapham’s other works to compare, see what he does with his own stories. The detail of the art kept me looking at panels over and over, picking up new things and little easter eggs with each new look. The muted colour palette fit in well with the noir revival setting, although it may have appeared differently in the single issues, as the trade used newsprint. I assume the single issues used the standard glossier paper, but the pulpiness of this story almost cries out for newsprint. The panels are on a black background, but a yellowing of aged newsprint wouldn’t feel out of place with these comics.

As I said, the chronology of this story isn’t pinned down, but in a real world context, Infinite Crisis is in swing, Jason Todd has reappeared as the Red Hood in the Batman comics, and One Year Later will start in just a few issues. The self-contained aspect of this story lets it exist on its own, outside of all of the continuity laden events going on in the rest of the DC Universe. No special knowledge, no real history lessons are needed here.

Fun Homes to Watch Out For

March 9th, 2008 by jason

Alison Bechdel spoke Thursday night at the University of Minnesota campus, and fortunately I found out early enough to attend, along with a nearly full auditorium of fans. Also, fortunately, I got to go with a good friend who had an awesome appreciation for her and her work. I’ve read Dykes to Watch Out For for years, while it was published in our various gay publications in Minneapolis. I don’t remember the last time it was running here, but I know that, sadly, it hasn’t run for a few years. More the pity us, who even hosted Alison for a few years in the ’80s. She spoke about how much she loved it here, working for Equal Time, and that she misses it, but that she’s very happy in Vermont. Again, the Twin Cities are that much poorer for her absence.

She started her presentation talking about her comic strip, which she’s worked on for over twenty years now. She spoke a bit about the evolution of the strip, and how when she started, it was part of an effort to change the world. That the characters weren’t part of the mainstream, and were never meant to be. Funny thing was, the mainstream changed around the characters. She talked about how gay books weren’t carried in mainstream bookstores, gay news wasn’t carried in the mainstream press, and gay characters weren’t shown realistically on television. Well, two out off three ain’t bad. She included a presentation featuring characters from the strip and how they’ve changed over the years. Projected onto a large screen, we got to see just how good her line art is. The detail that she puts in every strip amazes me. From her characters, each of whom is distinctive, to the objects and backgrounds, her panels are interesting but not cluttered. I particularly love the way she draws hair, swirling around like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Seeing the art blown up with a hi-def projector spoils you for seeing it in any other way.

She followed this with readings from Fun Home, her graphic autobiography (as opposed to novel). I haven’t read the whole book yet, but I took the opportunity to buy a copy and get it signed. (Amazon Bookstore was there selling copies) Between the two readings, Alison showed us a video of her techniques for working on the book. She uses herself for most of the photo-reference for all of her characters, including her mother and father. Her technique starts with rough sketches, which she then places on a lightbox and uses tracing paper to get continuously more detailed, until her final inking. For Fun Home, she decided to change her normal technique of shading. In the strip, she uses crosshatching, but for the book, she took a last piece of tracing paper and used watered down ink to do her colouring. She scans in both images and combines them for the final pages.

She hosted a final Q&A at the end, where she fielded questions from her artistic influences (Norman Rockwell, Mad Magazine, Edward Gorey, and Herge) to why she left the Twin Cities (the oldest of reasons–for a girl) to how she’s getting by with the diminishing number of papers carrying gay strips (she’s still exploring that issue–but she does have a paypal button on her website). All in all, she was extremely well-spoken and entertaining. And I’m glad I read about the event in the City Pages before it was too late.

Mike’s New Header

March 9th, 2008 by Martin

Mike hasn’t even written any articles yet, but he made us this great header instead of sleeping last night. Yay Mike!

Buffy #12 made me laugh out loud

March 9th, 2008 by florence

Buffy Issue 12I’m not sure what I can say about Buffy #12. For those who are not initiated in the Buffyverse, you probably don’t know how well-developed and emotionally engaging the characters on that that show were, and how much there is to build on or lose in any follow-up effort. We fans can be a hungry band of wolves, always wanting more, but willing to turn and attack if characters are misused. There have been Buffy comics for years with decent writers living outside of canon, but Joss launched the latest title as a true extension of the show, Season 8, and everything counts.

For those who do know what I’m talking about, but haven’t read the comic, or at least this issue, yet, I don’t want to spoil a single moment! Suffice it to say that it all felt incredibly true, while opening up new doors. And it was really funny! I first became aware of Drew Goddard as a tv writer on Buffy, and he went on to write for Angel, Lost, Alias, and most recently the film Cloverfield. It is wonderful to see his return to Buffy via the latest comic arc. He is clearly a fan of the medium, and like Joss, knows how to use panel layout to add comic and dramatic timing to his words.

#12 begins a new 4 issue arc, and the current plan includes 50 issues total to represent a long Season 8 of the show. I can’t wait for more.

Alison Bechdel is hot

March 8th, 2008 by florence

Alison BechdelThanks to a last-minute email from a friend (fellow poster Jason), I got to see Alison Bechdel when she gave a reading at the U of Minn on Thursday evening. Alison is famous in some circles for her enduring comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. I discovered collections of this comic in my university’s Women’s Center library. A green-haired girl at a mostly-male engineering school, I often retreated to the Women’s Center to feel a sense of belonging. There weren’t many of us there, but we managed to generate our fair share of glamorous drag parties, heated discussions about the gay boys leaving our toilet seat up during their meetings, and drama amongst the many cute baby dykes and bi-curious flirts who danced and drooled over one another.

Hot Throbbing Dykes to Watch Out For coverDykes to Watch Out For showed me a mirror of my own little experience and a vision of a much bigger and more diverse queer community out there in the world. A chosen family of socialist radicals, lawyers working on the system from the inside, independent bookstore-owners struggling to compete, and kinky girls just looking to get laid. Actually, they were all getting laid, and it was a heady vision of what grown-up life could be like for me one day. The idea that so many options could lead to love, professional success, undermining the dumbass status quo, and even when all of the above seemed lost, a group of friends who would always be there with support and validation. Needless to say, at 17 this vision was all still a distant dream for me, and I am grateful that her books were there to give me hope.

(more…)

Gravel #0-1 by Warren Ellis

March 8th, 2008 by Martin

Gravel #1 - wrap I read Gravel #0 and Gravel #1 just now, without any prior knowledge of the character or universe. Each issue gives you a complete story, while still tying in with a larger story arc about “The Sigsand Manuscript”. The tone of these comics is dark, featuring regular killings and gore, so if that’s the kind of thing you actively dislike, stay away, but otherwise the story seems to be fairly well written and compelling.

What I didn’t know, until I read through Issue #1 and found an ad at the back, was that Ellis has written about William Gravel before! Apparently the character was created for Strange Kiss, a three issue b&w miniseries that went on to inspire another three issue b&w series called Stranger Kisses. I am now tempted to find copies of these to read (hopefully from the library).

Gravel #0The character William Gravel is a “battle mage”, which, aside from making it sound like Ellis made up him up while playing D&D, actually makes for a pretty interesting premise. He’s basically in some special arm of the British armed forces, one that has no qualms whatsoever assassinating terrorists in Issue #0. Gravel does this in the first few pages without being seen, and then we get to the beginning of the real plot which loosely revolves around the “rediscovery” of the aforementioned Sigsand Manuscript.

The Avatar Press website page about the new Gravel series invites you to google for “The Sigsand Manuscript”, Thomas Carnacki and William Hope Hodgson. A good summary can be found over at the wikipedia page on Carnacki, who was author Hodgson’s creation. It’s all sounds very Lovecraftian, and maybe (since I finally read The Call of Cthulhu last month) this is the year for that. I’m tempted to also find a copy of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder when I make that trip to the library.

Thunderbolts Faith in Monsters (110-115)

March 5th, 2008 by Martin

Thunderbolts 110 CoverLet me just re-iterate that I am a huge Warren Ellis fan. I have liked and/or loved almost everything I’ve read of his. That having been said, this is way down on the liked/loved scale for me (maybe actually below “liked” and into “could care less about” territory).

Part of the problem is that I’m just not sure I can ever be a fan of these “bad guy perspective” comic books. I don’t feel like there’s anyone for me to empathize with, no protagonist, at least not in the traditional sense. And therefore they’re usually just lost on me.

I do think Ellis is doing a good job of trying to get us to empathize with some of the recurring characters in spite of their evil-ness. But then of course they just go and kill an innocent bystander or in some other way show their lack of moral fiber, and it’s like all of that care he’s carefully built up is gone in one quick fell stroke.

Oh yeah, and conclusion? I thought this was a complete arc! The next issue has a different subtitle entirely, yet this arc has about as much conclusion as a single issue of some other comics out there.

The art is good, and the characters are fun, so I think it’s really only the story that I disliked. I’d say read it if you’re into it, but don’t go out of your way.