Archive for September, 2008

ReadComics Podcast #018 – Book Club #3 – Phantom Jack: The Collected Edition

September 30th, 2008 by Martin

This podcast, featuring Florence, Marty, Jason and Mike, was recorded for our third ReadComics Book Club. We talked (for about the first two thirds) about Phantom Jack: The Collected Edition. Just in case you care, there are spoilers.

We also talked about our future picks for Comic Book Book Club (the next book club will discuss the most recent two arcs of Buffy, issues 12-19), House of M: Avengers, DC and Marvel action figures including this Marvel Legends Spiral build-a-figure (via Captain Toy), and the Wizard People voice over thing for the first Harry Potter movie.

Listen to Podcast Episode #018 (30.1 MB, 65 minutes)

Comic Book Club Tonight!

September 30th, 2008 by florence

Just a reminder that we are having this month’s Comic Book Club tonight at Florence & Marty’s apartment at 7PM.

If anyone is tempted to come to a Comic Book Club but doesn’t know us personally, let us know and we can choose a neutral location next time.

’80s relaunches

September 29th, 2008 by jason

Because my library has them in trade, I started reading the 1980s relaunches of Superman and Wonder Woman.  The Superman trades collect John Byrne’s Man of Steel mini-series in Volume 1, and in subsequent volumes include his ongoing Superman and Action comics, along with Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway’s Adventures of Superman, along with some cross-overs with Legion of Super-Heroes and Booster Gold along the way.  The Wonder Woman collections are from the George Perez and Len Wein reintroduction of Diana to Man’s World.  Our heroes re-meet their iconic villains for the first time in these post-Crisis on Infinite Earth stories, which is a little weird, particularly now when you have continuity being turned end over end, and three different sets of Legions meeting each other.  But they’re so much fun to read, and particularly fun to look at how Byrne, Ordway and Perez are drawing everything.  Their clothes, their hair, their computers, everything is so very ’80s.  Is that Lois Lane or a slimmer version of Brigitte Nielson?

The stories seem a little quaint after so many years of darkness that we’ve been seeing recently.  There seems to be less risk, even though these take place before death’s revolving door.  Byrne even makes a point of telling everyone that all these super-villain attacks in downtown Metropolis are taking place on Sunday when no one is any of the office buildings being smashed.  How considerate of the bad guys.  There are some casualties, in the form of the recently introduced minor characters.  But you really don’t feel anything really bad is going to happen to our heroes any time soon.

There is something about these relaunches that makes me wonder, though:  Superman and Wonder Woman got restarted, but what about the third member of the Trinity?  Why didn’t Batman get reset at the time?  Were his books just selling that much more?  Was there some reset that I’m just not remembering?

Mighty Avengers #9

September 28th, 2008 by jason

I have the second Mighty Avengers collection checked out from the library, and I finished it this morning.  Of particular interest to me is issue 9, where the team invades Latveria to arrest Doom for turning most of Manhattan into Venom symbiotes.

What I found somewhat fascinating about this issue is that out of 24 pages (counting the cover), half of the pages consist of little more than a single large drawing.  Six of the pages are double-spreads of the Avengers battling Doombots.  A few others have small ancillary panels, but again, the primary art is one large drawing.  The drawings are quite detailed.  Lots of action is occuring in them.  But without a doubt, this is the “blockbuster action flick” of comics recently.  It’s like the last hour of Transformers.  Talk about your decompressed storytelling!  Six pages in a row of just enormous battle scenes.  It’s like a pin-up magazine rather than a comic.  I really wonder what people who plopped down three bucks for this thought, especially knowing that they would then have to wait another month to get the next issue.  Having got it from the library, I feel like I got the better end of the deal.

I haven’t looked up any other reviews of the comic yet, or any kind of response from Bendis on the message boards, but just looking at this comic as a single entity, you get the feeling that he may have been a little overworked at the time, and told Bagley to fill up some pages with fighting.

I am enjoying what I’m reading of Mighty Avengers so far, except I keep waiting for someone to say “Bwah ha ha!”  Iron Man’s repartee with Doom in the next issue is hugely reminiscent of the dialogue from the ’80s Justice League series, which is not a bad thing.  Super-hero comics could definitely use a bit more humour these days, in my opinion.

All Small

September 25th, 2008 by jason

Random minicomic from Lutefisk Sushi Volume C (2008)

Okay, this one wasn’t all that random.  The first comic I pulled out had risen flesh-eating dead in it, so clearly I couldn’t review that one.  The second one, I just wasn’t feeling.  So this was the third pull.  Or maybe fourth.  Anyway, I loved it.  It appears to reprint webcomics from David Steinlicht’s All Small website, most of which are one or two page commentaries on life called “On My High Horse”.  The balding, bespectacled narrator of these wry observations covers topics like logo design and ironic packaging.  I particularly liked his dissection of the Superman symbol.

Steinlicht self-compares his art to Chris Ware, among others, what with it’s simple geometry and clean lines.  I have to admit, though, that I’m often left cold by Ware’s work, whereas I felt a much stronger attachment to our High Horse commentator.

Steinlicht currently works for the Pioneer Press doing a comic called “In This Corner”, along with other art chores for the daily (I found a link on the paper’s website about golf courses, for which he drew hole diagrams).  The comic looks to be a similar commentary style, but a little on the softer side than his webcomic, much as you’d expect to find in the Sunday supplement.  He also maintains a blog, in which I really like this entry.

Shadowline webcomics

September 24th, 2008 by jason

I was perusing various comics fora tonight, and saw a post about Shadowline getting into digital comics, and after a bit of searching discovered that they have a series of webcomics linked through their website now.  There’s a press release on the main page which lists the various creators and titles signed with them, but it makes it sound a bit like some of the comics have been online for awhile, they’re just now moving over to the Shadowline website.  I know I heard about Chicago 1968 at Wizard World Chicago this year, and it’s being appearing weekly since then.  And oddly, aside from a non-clickable URL in the press release, the only link to the webcomics section is a tiny link at the bottom right-hand side of the page.

I like the interface more than either Zuda or Marvel Digital Comics.  They’ve eschewed a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles that some of the others have for easier navigation, and really high quality images.  Some of the comics have only a few pages up so far, like Action Ohio with six, and Hannibal Goes to Rome with eight, while a couple of others give you a bit more to read.  Brat-halla is up to sixty so far.  Of course, a good webcomics junky is going to plow through all of them in an afternoon, but it looks like they plan to add some more titles regularly.

Fox Bunny Funny

September 23rd, 2008 by jason

I checked out this black and white graphic novel by Andy Hartzel from my local library.  I’ve had it out for a bit, and I don’t remember what about it caught my eye, probably the colourful geometric cover art, and maybe that it was published by Top Shelf.  Finding it in the teen section, I was expecting a cute funny animal comic good for a chuckle.  I didn’t read the inside flap, didn’t know anything about it going in.  I was quite happily surprised when I found out what it was truly about.

The fox in the title of Fox Bunny Funny could be described as funny.  As in, “You know, that guy is a little funny….you know what I mean?”  A synonym for funny used in this manner is queer, and compared to his fox friends, our hero is definitely a little queer.  Without any words, this graphic novel steps us through the young fox’s life from when he’s discovering who he really is, the tragedy of being discovered by a family that just doesn’t understand, the horrors of supressing one’s inner self, and finally a true awakening.

The art is black and white, which could definitely represent the world in which fox is growing up.  Elegantly simple in design, the characters could’ve stepped out of a Nickelodeon cartoon.  A number of times, the comic style shifts, according to the state of mind of the character.  First six square panels with white gutters, then later the same six square panels on black pages instead.  Then a dream sequence of a decidedly religious nature.  And in the final chapter we have some pages with a single panel, some full page art, even some full bleeds of some really great, very detailed scenes.

Andy has a blog on his website, with some good art, but it appears he hasn’t updated it in quite awhile.


September 22nd, 2008 by jason

Random minicomic from Lutefisk Sushi Volume B (2006).  

I opened the box, and pulled out a comic.  Much like Jack Horner’s plum, this minicomic from galideous (aka Gail Catheryn) is full of nutritional fiber, in the form of Brainy Broc, and his henchmen, the celery stalk and the carrot stick.  The villainous veggies are thwarted by the Tatorvengers!  In this episode, the Starchy Stalwarts make short work of Brainy’s plan to freeze all of kitchendom.

A fun little story, with very nice line art, clean yet detailed (check out Brainy Broc’s fingertips, and the tator tots are all nice and crinkly).  I love the female Tatorvenger with her Supergirl skirt.  I tried to find a comics website for galideous, but only found her design company.

ReadComics Podcast #017

September 21st, 2008 by Martin

Join us tonight for the seventeenth ReadComics podcast. We talked about the Emmys, Neil Patrick Harris and his boyfriend, Prism Comics, Fallcon, Gaylaxicon, Windy City Comic-con, Echo, Sword, Runaways, The Goon, Spider Man Reign, PS238, Secret Invasion, and Final Crisis. Of course there was other stuff in there. Enjoy.

Listen to Podcast Episode #017 (30 MB, 66 minutes)

4 October is Midwest Comic Book Association Day

September 20th, 2008 by jason

Chris Coleman, Mayor of St. Paul, issued a proclamation declaring 4 October to be Midwest Comic Book Association Day this year, to honor the 20th anniversary of FallCon.  I’ve been trying to find a link to the proclamation on either the MCBA’s site or St. Paul’s site, but it’s not up there.  I received the news via MCBA’s mailing list, which included an image of the official proclamation with the city seal and the mayor’s signature.  It’s actually pretty cool to read, with lots of information about all the good things the MCBA has done over the years, like donating food and money to organizations, and how the Twin Cities has a more than average number of comic creators here.

I’ll keep trying to find a link to the proclamation, and update this when I find one.

Neal & Neil

September 20th, 2008 by florence

Carrie alerted me to this Goodreads interview with Neil Gaiman.

GR: Let’s talk about your new book. What inspired the story for The Graveyard Book?

NG: Twenty-three years ago, we lived in a little Sussex town in a tall house across the lane from a graveyard. We didn’t have a garden, and our 18-month-old son loved riding a tricycle. If he tried riding in the house he would have died because there were stairs everywhere, so every day I would take him down our precipitous stairs, and he would ride his little tricycle round and round the gravestones. As I watched him happily toddling I would think about how incredibly at home he looked. I thought that I could do something like The Jungle Book with that same equation of boy, orphaned, growing up somewhere else, but I could do it in a graveyard. I had that idea when I was 24 years old. I sat down and tried writing it and thought, “This is a really good idea, and this isn’t very good writing. I’m not good enough for this yet, and I will put it off until I’m better.”

And I’m glad I waited. I think it’s a better book than I set out to write 23 years ago, and I feel like the gods smiled on me, and I got very lucky. Normally, in anything I do, I’m fairly miserable. I do it, and I get grumpy because there is a huge, vast gulf, this aching disparity, between the platonic ideal of the project that was living in my head, and the small, sad, wizened, shaking, squeaking thing that I actually produce. And then there is The Graveyard Book, which is, I think, the first time I’ve felt really satisfied.

GR: Let’s go back a few years to The Sandman comic series, which took 2,000 pages and almost a decade of your career to date. Do you have any plans or aspirations to take on a project of this scope in the future?

NG: No! I’m so proud of Sandman. It really did take about 10 years of my life to do. It’s collected in The Absolute Sandmans, which together weigh about 30 pounds, and if you drop them on somebody you will do serious damage. It definitely didn’t leave me thinking, “I need to write more giant things.” Depending on how long I get to live, I will probably get to do another two, maybe even three, more American Gods books, and they are all great, big things, 500 to 600-page books, so it will probably be that length. But I can’t imagine doing anything that takes up my life and my headspace in the same way that Sandman did. There were times when what was going on in Sandman was much more real to me than anything that was going on in the world outside, just because I was spending more time with these characters.

The same site also posted an interview with Neal Stephenson.

UPDATE: Neil Stephenson will be at the Edina Galleria Barnes & Noble next Friday.

DM of the Ring

September 19th, 2008 by Martin

Today marks the anniversary of the last issue of DM of the Ring, a webcomic built from screenshots taken from the epic Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies. If you haven’t seen this, you really should check it out.

I heard a rumor last night that the same guy had started a new comic doing all the Star Wars movies, but I can’t seem to find it. I’ll post again if he gets back to me with the link.

Sticks and Stones, and more programmer comics

September 19th, 2008 by Martin

I work with a bunch of computer geeks, and someone recently sent around the relatively new Sticks and Stones, which admittedly is pretty much an xkcd knockoff, (but I think there’s room for more in this genre, since I love it SO much).

Bonus link, there are a TON of people’s favorite programmer comics in this thread over at That should keep me busy for a while.

UPDATE: Note that this is the 200th post! W00-H00!

New Mutants #21

September 18th, 2008 by jason

This isn’t really a review of a 24 year old comic, it’s more of a reminiscence. New Mutants #21 was the first issue of New Mutants I ever read, and possibly the first Marvel comic that got added to my collection. I was 13, and living in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Prior to that, I was mostly a DC reader, and really didn’t know anything about Marvel other than random Spider-Man comics that I’d read at the barber shop. It was the cover that drew me in for this issue of New Mutants. I didn’t know who the characters were, and I didn’t even really know the X-Men at that point. Not even Wolverine.

I bought the comic and started reading it. There were all these new characters who were about my age, and they had powers. The girls were having a slumber party, and the boys had been to a ball game. It was set at some boarding school, and there were a bunch of other characters who I also didn’t know. There were references to past events that I had no idea about, like Dani being in a wheelchair.  And then the weird stuff really started happening.  Some really strange looking black and white alien robot shows up and starts acting like a vampire, draining the life from organic things.  The blond girl materializes a sword and armor and pops in and out of holes that appear in the air.  One of the girls turns into lava and another turns into a wolf.  And there was a dragon!  And I loved it.  I couldn’t wait to read the next issue and then go back and find the back issues.  I think I ended up getting a package containing the first 20 issues for Christmas that year.  I had no idea who these people were or what was going on, but that just excited me to find out more.  It was expected that I would catch on by jumping into the deep end of this book, even though I was only 13.

There is no way this comic could make it out the door today. There is no synopsis page telling the “story so far”.  It’s not a “jumping on point.”  I guess my point is this: give people, and specifically kids more credit and don’t worry so much about comics being accessible to new readers.  If the stories are good, if they’re well-written, if they’re compelling, if the characters are intriguing, readers will yearn to learn more.  You don’t have to give it all to them on the first page.  When I bought New Mutants #21, there were no trade paperbacks collecting the issues virtually as fast as they came out.  There was no wikipedia to look things up on.  I suppose you could argue that there were message boards in the form of a BBS, but not the way there is today.  There was virtually no way for me to find out who these characters were aside from learning more about them each month, and seeing if I could find the back issues someplace.  But I didn’t care!  I loved learning about them bit by bit, and filling in the missing puzzle pieces where I could.

At some point, the comics industry lost sight of this, and it seems like they now feel that the only way to sell people on comics is to make sure no one ever gets lost, no one feels like they won’t know what’s going on from the beginning.  I constantly hear people complain about continuity, and how it’s impossible to know what’s going on unless you’ve read 20 years of this or that comic.  I’d say that’s only true if the writer isn’t doing their job, and by that, I don’t mean filling the reader in on 20 years of continuity.  I mean the writer isn’t telling a good story in that issue which makes the reader more interested in finding out more about who all these characters are and their histories.  It’s so easy to find that out today, too.  It’s practically impossible to find a comic character that doesn’t have their own page someplace on the Internet.  A friend recently linked me to a website devoted to international super-heroes (he loves the Phillipino ones).  Everything you need to know to follow along with Final Crisis, or Secret Invasion, or even the latest happenings in Duckburg is all there.  Maybe along the way, we as readers got a bit lazy too, after having everything spoonfed to us.

If anything comes of this mild rant, I hope that people will go and find a random comic on the shelf, doesn’t matter what issue number and give it a chance.  Find one where you like the cover, where something speaks to you, and pick it up and read it.  Even though you’ve never heard of these characters, even though you don’t know everything that’s happened to them.  Read it.  And hopefully you’ll feel what I felt reading New Mutants #21 when I was 13.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

September 17th, 2008 by Patrick

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (when cicadas cry) is an excellent horror anime/manga. It is based on a Japanese sound novel, a type of mystery game, and the goal is to figure out just what is going on before the end. The story centers around a village, and each episode/book contains a different set of events. It is a very interesting concept, and will be entertaining to all fans of the horror genre! One hard thing to wrap your brain around is that it is completely non-linear, Which makes it very difficult to guess the outcome of the story.  It’s convoluted twists and turns keep kept me at the edge of my seat the whole way through. Now, I personally recommend downloading the anime online and watching the subtitled version, because the voices seem to fit the parts very well. not only that, but the sound track is amazing, perfectly tuned to how the watcher is supposed to be feeling. All in all, a thoroughly worthwhile venture.

Caution: despite the cover’s cutsey look, this is not for the faint of heart. seriously. it scared the shit out of me.

Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.

September 16th, 2008 by jason

I’m reading the recently published first trade paperback from the Geoff Johns series, his first comic work, according to the introduction. Collecting the first 8 issues from 1999 and 2000, it introduces the character of Courtney Whitmore, the new Star-Spangled Kid, who went on to be a member of the Justice Society, in the relaunch of JSA, also written by Johns.

My introduction to the character was in trades of JSA, and I didn’t know too much about the character, or her stepfather, the man in a tin can, Pat Dugan. DC really likes their legacy characters, at least within the last 10 to 15 years, and really likes pairing them up with younger, newer versions of their legacy characters. Pat used to be Stripesy, the sidekick to the original Star-Spangled Kid back in the Golden Age. In this series, he plays the begrudging mentor to young Courtney as she develops her super-hero persona and skills, thanks to the cosmic converter belt formerly owned by the original Kid. I say begrudgingly because he claims to not want her adventuring and that he’s doing his best to prevent it. If that’s his best, I’m surprised she didn’t start going to JSA meetings right off the bat.

I’ve only read the first few issues in the trade so far, but they’re fun. You can tell that Johns is hitting his stride, and setting things up for some wacky happening ahead. So far this is written very much in what I remember Young Justice to be like, and in fact they appear in a one-page cameo, where Robin discusses possibly recruiting her to be on the team. This, along with Young Justice and Impulse, seems to be courting a teen comic reader, and most probably teen girls. It was launched when Buffy was in full stride, and Veronica Mars was still a few years off. It’s very light-hearted, and Lee Moder and Dan Davis’s art is cartoony without seeming childish. Along with fighting super-villains, she’s dealing with being the new girl at school, getting braces, and handling her mother marrying her step-father (the latter, handling poorly).

When I started reading comics seriously at age 12 or 13, I remember my favourites being Power Pack, New Mutants and New Teen Titans, and I think that might’ve been because the characters were closer to my age. I like that Marvel and DC are trying to find younger readers with their Marvel Adventures and Johnny DC lines, but I didn’t feel like the three comics I mentioned were written for me because I was a kid. They were part of the same universes, they interconnected with big named characters, were part of crossovers, and fit into the bigger picture. I think Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. is a great comic to get younger readers, probably of the middle school age introduced to comics. It’s fun, the writing so far is great, the art is accessible, and there are cameos by other characters, without it feeling like you have to know right away who they are. It’s a taste of other corners of the DCU, kind of a sign at the amusement park telling you there are more rides in Adventureland over this way. All fourteen issues have been collected in two trades, which I found at my local library.

The John Philip Borger Comic Book Collection at the University of Minnesota Libraries

September 12th, 2008 by Martin

Some of you may remember that Jason and I attended a reading/presentation by David Hajdu last July at the Anderon Library on the west bank of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. The event was to celebrate John Borger’s gift of almost 40,000 comic books to the Children’s Literature Research Collections department, a gift that was given a bit of press back when it happened.

David Hajdu’s presentation was interesting. He seemed a bit nervous that both Gordon Purcell and Dan Jurgens were in attendance. And while I really had attended the event just to see David Hajdu, I found myself more and more interested in comic book donation, and the implications it had for the University having, suddenly, at its disposal such a glut of comic books.

I had the good fortune, after the event, of finding out I have mutual friends in common with Marie J. Harvat, who is the Library Supervisor in charge of the Borger collection. I soon corresponded with her, and she was happy to answer the following questions I had about dealing with such a large collection, including the process of keeping track of the comics, and her knowledge of implications for the University.

1. Would you be willing to describe the method being used to catalog and keep track of the comic books in the collection? Was there existing database software used for this project, or was a custom database created? Are the comics being scanned with a barcode reader? How many
people are taking part in this endeavor?

Marie: The Borger Collection came to us with a copy of Mr. Borger’s personal ComicBase database listing. The CLRC purchased a copy of this software to be able to manipulate the data. While there are some very nice features in ComicBase, its is not something that the Libraries are able to use for patron searching.

It was decided that we would use Encoded Archival Description (EAD), a form of XML, to list the comics in the collection. Rather than type all the information desired (title, illustrator, publisher, character appearances, etc), I have been able to export data from ComicBase into a tab delimited file and into Excel. The staff discussed which “fields” to include and I compared these to established EAD elements to create a template for XML coding. This drove the massaging of the Excel spreadsheet to facilitate using another software to convert from spreadsheet columns into a page of code, thereby eliminating the need to hand code all 36,000 comic issues!

At present, I am the lead staff person on this project. We have one temporary part time assistant who is inputting additional information into a spreadsheet and placing the comics into new acid free boxes (smaller than those donated by Mr. Borger as to be more manageable and fit on the storage shelves better. Each comic is going in an acid free mylar sleeve and has an acid free “tag” slipped in the bag as to indicate its Box #, Folder #, Title, Date, and Issue #. In time we will have a second assistant to help push the project along more rapidly.

2. What is the timeline for making the comic books available to the public?

Selected comics are already available to the public. If you visit:, and click on the left hand “Finding Aid” the list of processed comics appears. This is being updated at least on a weekly basis, and you can probably quickly tell that I have not finished tweaking the display. This project has been a great way for me to learn XML and XSL — but as I’m teaching myself while working this, some things will be a little messy for a while in the name of getting the title and issue numbers for processed comics out to the public.

We hope to have processing completed by the end of 2008.

3. I know some Comic Books are already available, what does a person need to do to have access to these comics?

We are suggesting that interested patrons consult the finding aid. Any item listed there is currently available to be read in our reading room — 6 issues may be had on the table at one time; patrons may only have a laptop and a few sheets of paper with a pencil on the table while comics are in use. At the librarian’s discretion (read: if I can make it happen), other titles might be available and users are encouraged to inquire at if they would like to see something that isn’t yet processed. In general, we strongly suggest making an appointment in advance notice for use of the Borger Collection. Again email A picture ID will be requested upon registration with the collection (a simple form), so don’t forget a wallet!

4. Does the library have any plans for accepting additional comic book donations? What if another donor came forward?

J. Randolph Cox has been donating comic books for a couple of years and will continue to move his collection to the CLRC in smaller batches. These titles do not often overlap with those collected by Mr. Borger thus the collections shall compliment each other well. Collection decisions are made by the curator of the collection in consultation with other Libraries administration based on issues of condition, collection development policies, funds for processing, and space for storage, among other criteria and usually on a case by case basis.

5. Has there been academic interest in the using the collection? I’m especially curious about what departments are interested… cultural studies? english lit?

One of the U of MN philosophy instructors has been in touch with the CLRC about a freshman seminar he will be leading in the spring term. We will be more actively reaching out to other departments as more and more titles are processed and ready for use.

Special thanks to Marie for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions.

Comics on the iPhone

September 11th, 2008 by Martin

Both Florence and I have iPhones, so it seems natural to want to view comics on them… however, Florence has said she doesn’t think it makes sense for anything other than strip comics, because the screen is too small. But a couple of applications are trying to get people to read comic books on the iPhone, and while I have yet to install the 2.0 upgrade that allows you to add 3rd party applications to your iPhone, (so I haven’t tried either of these out), I thought I’d mention them here anyway.

The first is perhaps the most interesting because there is quite some controversy. Infurious Comics has created an app for the iPhone that allows you to view their comic Murderdrome. They tried to have it added to the iPhone application store (app store), and were denied, because it’s not suitable for all audiences (via Hypergeek). Here’s the video of the comic in action:

But Infurious didn’t let the Apple’s denial (some are calling it censorship!) stop them. They were, after all, developing a comic book application. So now sometime soon they’re releasing a new comic called Eye Candy. You can watch one of the developers demo that comic on youtube or the Infurious Blog. They added some new features to the app itself, including the ability to color the comic pages. They’ve also said they have more comics in development. Oh, and Eye Candy is going to cost $.99 in the app store.

There is another comic book application on the iPhone called ClickWheel that’s trying to be more of a comic book platform rather than just single issue comics. Check out their online demo (which is pretty amusing, but took me a few minutes to realize you could click and drag the comic to get to the later panels). Or you can watch this (not so flattering) demo off youtube:

I’ll probably try both of these out at some point in the near future, and I’ll report back if I find anything else interesting about them.

Neil Gaiman grab bag

September 10th, 2008 by Martin

Yesterday, while reading Neil Gaiman’s blog (which is often written in the 3rd person, and probably not by Neil himself), I stumbled onto several interesting links, not the least of which is this song/poem titled “I Google You“. Follow the link for both a youtube video of someone performing the song, and also (in the comments) Neil himself has posted the lyrics.

In case you were wondering where this image came from, Neil has a new book coming out soon called The Graveyard Book. It’s another full length young adult novel, and is about a boy who grows up in a cemetery, raised by ghosts. Click the title for a lengthier description.

Bonus links: Neil answers questions at the Mouse Circus FAQ. The latest issue of ImageTexT, (“a web journal dedicated to furthering comics scholarship in a variety of disciplines and theoretical perspectives”) features “The Comics Works of Neil Gaiman”, which basically means a bunch of scholarly essays about Gaiman’s comic books. I find this sort of academic BS hard to read, but maybe there’s some interesting stuff buried in there.

Phantom Jack: The Collected Edition

September 9th, 2008 by Martin

Mike has selected the book for the next Comic Book Book Club! We’re going to read Phantom Jack: The Collected Edition. This can be found on Amazon for cheap, and you can read a bit about the series on the Phantom Jack page at wikipedia. There is more art on the mini-series homepage.

We plan to meet at Marty & Florence’s place, around 7pm on Tuesday, September 23rd 30th. That only gives you two three weeks to read the entire TPB!

UPDATE: The date didn’t work for Florence, so we’re pushing back a week to the last day of September, Tuesday the 30th.

Rising Stars: Born In Fire

September 8th, 2008 by Martin

Florence was a fan of Babylon 5 and had also read other comics by J. Michael Straczynski, so when she saw this TPB at Wizard World she decided to pick it up. Little did we know that Mike had most of the rest of the series collected from the original run sitting in a long box at home.

From the big pile of things we bought in Chicago this summer, this was very near the top for Florence, and from exactly page 14, she knew she had to read the rest of the series. Essentially, this first TPB is about the origins of 113 people known as “The Specials”, who were all in utero in the same region in the US when a meteorite flew overhead and gave them the potential for superpowers. Because of some plausible paranoia by the U.S. government, these kids are eventually all rounded up and raised together under close supervision. Page 14 depicts 5 of the main characters in three stages of their lives: ages 6, 16, and 30+. Seeing this transition, along with the knowledge that Straczynski tends to plan for the long haul with his stories, promised to be a satisfying read.

I’ve only just finished this first TPB, (containing Issues #1-8) but Florence is about to read the final Issue of the series, #24. Coming at it from the beginning as I am, I think there is definitely a lot to find compelling about the series, but that it’s not all that original, from a superhero graphic novel kind of perspective. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by stuff like New Universal and the Authority/Planetary universe (where a bunch of powerful folks were born in 1900). Florence tells me the Authority parallels do continue, but that it still feels like its own story to her.

Rising Stars is really about how The Specials’ powers and their upbringing and social roles amongst each other really combine to form the path they choose in life. Neither Florence nor I found the government’s imagined reaction to these superpowers to be terribly far fetched, and by the end of this first TPB, things are set into motion that really liven up the playing field. Florence warns that there is a very wordy setup for the next arc, but if I can get past that, things will start moving fast again. (There were a few pages in the middle of this TPB too, that were mostly words, and felt a bit out of place in this otherwise standard comic book.)

From Florence’s perspective, nearing the end of the series, she says there are definitely distinct arcs within the larger story, and that it feels like it is going to come to a definitive end. When we looked it up, there was evidence of splinter arcs (not written by Straczynski, and thus less compelling to Florence). She really likes the character-driven nature of the comic, and is looking forward to the closure, allowed by the arrival of the second to last issue in our mailbox today. We already had the last issue sitting on the shelf, and Florence is going to go read it now.

Farscape’s Chiana writes comics!

September 7th, 2008 by florence

Those of us who watched Farscape when it was on (1999-2003) know that it was a beautifully shot science fiction show with a staggeringly hot cast of complex female characters spanning many alien species.  The hottest was Chiana, a gray alien exiled from her native culture for her rebellious ways and added to the crew in the middle of the first season, becoming one of the main characters and staying on through the final episode and miniseries.  Spazzy fangirl that I am, when I met the actress who played Chiana, Gigi Edgley, at a wedding/ unicycle competition in Minnesota yesterday, I gawked and grinned, texted Susie, and basked in her stardom.  The rest of the crowd got word that she was a famous actress, but no one else seemed to have a clue about the specifics.

A mutual friend introduced us to Gigi at the wedding, and she was incredibly nice and gracious about fan attention.  She is still doing a lot of appearances at conventions, and has also been branching out into projects of her own.  She is launching a comic titled Blue Shift.  Here is more info from her press release:

What’s Blue Shift?
BLUE SHIFT is a brand new Science Fiction Adventure comic series by Gigi Edgley, an Australian actress best known for her role as “Chiana” on the hit TV series FARSCAPE, and Brian Meredith, a comic book writer of such titles as Sprecken and Lucifer Fawkes and Co-Founder of the Emerald City ComiCon. The artwork for this series is by Sidney Lima, the artist for Zorro by Papercutz.

What’s It About?
BLUE SHIFT is the tale of a young woman named Pepper Jones [pictured above], who is abducted and experimented upon by an alien race that capture and sell humans (and other less advanced races) as slave labor for other aliens.

However, before these malevolent aliens can finish modifying her for hard labor and blind obedience, the unthinkable happens: Pepper fights back! With the help of another captive, she manages to escape their vile clutches, something that has never happened before.

Now, with her new companion at her side, Pepper finds herself traveling among the stars as she makes a new life for herself.

When Is It Coming Out?
BLUE SHIFT is scheduled to be released as a 3-issue miniseries in the summer of 2008. It is currently being produced by Rorschach Entertainment, which has put together a Blue Shift Preview Ashcan that contains the original 10-page story that started it all. This book is available for purchase online.

Buy The Blue Shift Preview Ashcan Here!! [currently out of stock]

More info can be found at the Blue Shift website.

ReadComics Podcast #016

September 5th, 2008 by Martin

Listen to us!

The sixteen-thousandth podcast was recorded by Jason, Florence, Marty and Susie (via Skype). Marty bored everyone by talking about monetizing websites, but there is actual discussion of comic books… after Jason, Susie and Florence bore Marty by talking about which male character was the hottest in the “buffyverse” (and whether Andrew is/was gay). Other topics included Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, Superman and Brainiac in the latest Action Comics, James Marsters in Torchwood, Sky Doll, Wonder Woman, Runaways, Animal Man, Final Crisis, 52, Lobo and Wolverine.

Listen to Podcast Episode #016 (30 MB, 64 minutes)

Board Game Webcomics

September 3rd, 2008 by Martin

I fully admit that it just hadn’t occurred to me until today to google for webcomics and board games together. (Two of my favorite things.) Here are a couple of the ones that I’ve stumbled onto so far. I’ll probably list any others that I find in the comments. (You can feel free to do the same!)

It all started today when I stumbled onto this comic called Ko Fight Club. There’s lots of other topics, but the author Russ Williams created a nice archive page with just the go comics on it. Unfortunately, the last entry is from Oct. 15, 2002.

Making Life hasn’t been updated since Feb. 2006, but it’s worth a read, even if there are only 14 comics up there.

Another go comic called Stones is written/drawn by Andreas Fecke (in dutch?). Apparently there also used to be another go webcomic called Almost Sente, but the site is down.

Chess comics seemed harder to find for some reason, but I did find this one called The Chess Comic that is all about teaching chess to beginners. Pretty cool idea, really. And it’s being actively updated!

Google explains the features of their new open source web browser with… a comic book!

September 2nd, 2008 by Martin

Google has announced they are launching themselves into the web browser development business this week with an open source browser they call Google Chrome.

The funny (and relevant) thing about this is that they’ve created a comic book that explains why and what they’re doing, drawn by none other than Scott McCloud.

It reads like a textbook, or maybe like a complex user manual, but the illustrations are clear and overall it does a good job of explaining some difficult ideas and concepts. It feelt a bit simplistic to me, but I’m a web developer, and these concepts are part of my job. I’m probably not the target audience. Also, I sort of wished there were links at various parts of the comic. I’d have liked to read more about some of the things they’re claiming this browser will do for us. But probably those links aren’t public yet anyway. The beta (for windows first) is supposed to be released sometime today.

UPDATE: Scott McCloud has a page on his website about this project. (Via Blogoscoped, where you can view some additional screenshots of Google Chrome in action.)

Narcopolis, Issues #1-4

September 1st, 2008 by Martin

Narcopolis was absolutely phenomenal.

This four-part miniseries was essentially about a future in which one city, (or citystate, we don’t really know how big it is), has colonized the world. This is meant in the historical “exploiting the indigenous cultures” sort of way, except that, as far as we can tell, the entire rest of the world is part of the exploited culture. But all we really see of it are a few African tribes getting blown to smithereens, so I guess that part isn’t especially explicit.

Anyway, you don’t really know whether the main character, named Gray Neighbor, is a freedom fighter, or just one lucky bastard who manages to escape the fascist state a few times, and ends up ultimately in training for the police force.

The first thing that really stood out for me about Narcopolis was the dialog. Anyone who has read George Orwell’s 1984 will probably be reminded of newspeak. As with reading 1984 for the first time, I felt the language really set the book apart from standard fiction (in this case comic book fiction), and really just sounded and felt totally different from what I’d consider to be every day conversational English. You could also tell that writer Jamie Delano really put a lot of thought and effort into the dialog, mostly because it never felt forced or unrealistic.

The parallels to 1984 don’t stop at the dialogue. There are all kinds of elements of the police state at play here, but I don’t want to say too much about plot, because the sense of discovery is part of the attraction of this comic, or it was for me anyway.

The art in Narcopolis is also pretty spectacular. Jeremy Rock appears to have a pretty publishing limited history, (especially when compared to Jamie Delano), but he more than holds his own by giving us a vivid glimpse into this distopia. I should probably mention that there is quite a bit of nudity in this comic, and it’s not for children both visually and thematically.

In short, Narcopolis absolutely blew me away. I am so far behind in reading stuff that the first three issues of this had sat unread on my shelves until this week when issue #4 came out and I resolved to read them all forthwith. Mostly I just wanted to make sure I’d read them before any more issues came out and I would then have had to decide whether to buy another issue of something I hadn’t yet read. Turns out, issue #4 was actually the last in the series, so I needn’t have worried. But I’m glad I did, because it gave me the push I needed to finally read these, and damn was it worth it!