Tag Archives: Comics

Where do you buy YOUR comics?

There is and always has been a fair bit of debate about where to buy comics. Should you always get your fix only from your LCS (local comics shop) to support a market sector that could always use the help, or should you spread it around and help the entire industry as evenly as possible? Realistically, I don’t think there is much of a debate on this topic, at least not one worth the time. Any comic purchase is a good one. Any way that you can support the industry is better than nothing. The original way of getting your books is all but gone. Newsstand delivery has gone the way of the vinyl record and the telegraph. Up until the rise of the direct market, the huge majority of readers got their fix from the local newsstand/gas station/convenience store. These retailers got their product on a returnable basis, like most monthly mass market magazines. Anything that didn’t sell, they would rip off the cover and return for credit and throw away the rest of the book. This was an awful business model for most of its history. Publishers would just base print runs of a book on sales of earlier/similar titles and hope. It would not be until months later that they would discover the actual sales of a book. Seems laughable now, given the almost instantaneous info flow now, but this was the way of things back in the day. In the Golden Age the sales were so high on some books and the profit so great, that this was actually the most viable model. As soon as the sales started to drop and the profit margins began to shrink things started to get dicey. The retailers were confronted with a product that was not selling very well and was a lower profit per each square inch of rack space compared to regular magazines.  Publishers realized that the model was bleeding cash. They began to push home delivery subscriptions and for a while, that really helped. I recall getting my Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Avengers in the mail covered in those stupid brown paper bag covers for a couple of years as my local newsstand was not bothering to carry them any longer. But that really only served to show more flaws in the model. A “good” selling book by the 1980’s would be in the range of 150 to 200 THOUSAND copies a month. This at the time was not taking into account the returnable books, but they really couldn’t at this point. A book on the bubble of cancellation was, at least at Marvel, selling 100k or lower. For most of the Claremont/Byrne run of X-Men, the book was always skirting that edge. That was one of the reasons they were allowed to get away with what they were doing. It was not until after Byrne left that the sales were up high enough to call the book a real hit. Hard to imagine now, but it’s true. Today if you include every form of distribution available, a book selling 40k plus is likely to be considered a reasonable hit.

The cancellation point for most books now is 20k or lower and some creator owned books, because of the payment structure to the folks doing them, manage to survive at around the 10 thousand copy mark. Once the publishers shifted to the Direct Market things looked bright, for a while. Then the flaw in that model started to show up. Comics were no longer available everywhere, and as a result, long term sales continued to slide as the casual reader either became a serious one or got out of the market entirely. Publishers were now able to print more accurate numbers of the titles thanks to a pre order system, but at the cost of total revenue. This showed they were really not doing very well as a business and things started to get worse.

Now with the Direct Market, Bookstores, comic shops and digital distribution, comics are limping along. 100k+ books like the DC relaunch are the exception rather than the rule. Digital books are higher profit for the publishers once they are able to amortize the infrastructure costs out, much like any other cost of doing business, and the retailers pay a higher percentage for what they buy. The books are also not returnable now, for the most part. Comic shops feel the pain and some are rebelling against digital distribution, but really they need to embrace it. Comics are a medium that is on the verge of failing if digital does not save it. The print model is expensive and wasteful. Any way you buy your books is good. You are making it viable for publishers to continue making the product we love (or love to hate).

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The continuity dustbin…

The new, if not improved Power Girl with Huntress

I find myself very surprised that there are still some negative reactions to the New 52. As expected, there were fans that left the books, using the newly coined phrase “52 jumping off points!”, but there are still people out on the web that are complaining 6 months on.
First of all, to those of you that complain for the “fun” of complaining: get over it. They are comics, and throughout the history of the medium, change has been constant. Not always consistent or in any way meaningful, but constant. More on that in a minute…
Next, find other books. If you are complaining and not reading, shut up until you know what you are talking about. Uninformed bitching is what the internet is all about, but this got old a while ago. If you don’t want to read them, don’t. Vote with your dollars. There are piles of worthy books out there. To those people that maybe were not all that thrilled, but gave the books a chance anyway, good for you. Even if you have since dropped all of them in disgust, you tried and that is all anyone can ask.
The people that have really gotten my goat are the ones with no memory, or at least very short memories. This is far from the first time a company has thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and it will not be the last.
The biggie is of course, the original Crisis. This was not popular in its day with the long time fans, but once it was over, things really took off. Once the plan to clean up the continuity was made, nothing from the old era, mostly Golden Age stuff was safe. They gutted the mess that was DC history, getting rid of complete areas of the universe. Without the first crisis, many of the best things in the DCU would not work or just not exist. Batman: Year One, the Superman reboot by John Byrne and much of what is now very popular in Green Lantern would be gone. Many characters were given the boot, mostly Earth-2, but major Earth-1 one heroes like the Barry Allen Flash and Wonder Woman were killed off. Some of the origins were made worse and more of a mess, but for the most part, it made the books more believable. DC has done several of these since to correct, clean up or otherwise hammer things into shape for stories they wanted to tell or stories they wanted to simply go away. Victims of this include the Legion of Superheroes, rebooted a few times since then, and much of Superman’s back-story and supporting cast.
Many small events have lead to merging continuities such as Captain Marvel and the Charlton characters like Blue Beetle and Captain Atom becoming part of the DCU. Some characters have had to vanish for other reasons…
ROM and the Micronauts at Marvel disappeared when Marvel lost the licensing rights. Despite the decent popularity of both at the time, these once in canon books are mostly gone. They are only hinted at for the most part, although the Miconaut Bug managed to exist beyond the death of the series and has shown up in the Marvel cosmic books by DnA recently.
What changes like this boil down to is that they will continue to happen. The New 52 cleared up some sticky issues that have been hampering DC for a while. The biggie for most fans is Lois Lane. She is no longer married to Superman. Done. Bam. HA! Suck it! Never really liked that marriage. Then there is all the history. The result of doing the “everyone has been around 5 years” that most of the books have done, is that you can keep the stuff you want to keep, without nailing down exactly what those things are. Barbara Gordon’s time as Oracle is still there, and that makes officially canon, The Killing Joke. All of the Robins are still around and can still be explored (it appears that Jason will have a very different origin though). Identity crisis appears to have been voided, which is a bummer as I quite liked it. This has all given the writers a chance to tell better stories, and isn’t that the whole point?
With the announcement that Power Girl and the Justice Society are coming back in some form with the release of World’s Finest and Earth-2, things are really shaping up and may eventually click together.
You should stick with them too. Or give books and characters you were less than thrilled with before a try. Maybe even the most cynical fan will find something to like.

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A Quick Format Update…

Just for those who might be interested in the reviews of the books and films without slogging through every last post, the Review Page has been updated with a list of and links to every complete review I have done.

Some of them make me cringe a little given that I was not always as diligent about proof reading as I should be, but I’m not changing them now, so deal.

Anyway, there they are.

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Übermensch

Probably the best alternate Superman

Having just finished the JMS Supreme Power books, I had been thinking about the many and varied Superman analogs out there in comics.  Of course, I will skip over the countless DC versions of this.

Hyperion from Supreme Power is foremost in my mind since I just read it.  As originally portrayed, I never really felt he was supposed to be Marvel’s Superman.  Just never occurred to me at the time.  With JMS revamping the character, the connection is clear.  In fact Marvel has never really had a Superman of their own.  A character that is the clear leader, someone who is the ideal in power and attitude.  Mostly that is a result of the modern company’s genesis.  The first Marvel heroes as we think of them today were the Fantastic Four, and even those that have come later, have never really filled the spot.  With the purchase of the Marvelman rights, I had hoped that he could be retconned in and become that person for Marvel.  There is a lot that could be done with him, despite Marvelman actually being a Captain Marvel rip off rather than a Superman one.  But alas, that appears dead in the water since Marvel has yet to get everything ironed out legally, and has made no new use of the character.

Also among the modern versions is Mark Waid’s Plutonian from Irredeemable.  This version is the nightmare.  The “what if Superman were bad?” vision that plays out in a mostly believable fashion.  Like Hyperion (JMS version only), he is dark and imposing and not really a friend to humanity.  the Plutonian is what Superman would be if DC could get away with a story like that, which they can’t.  While Irredeemable is a very good book, the fact that most of the characters are Captain Erzats version of more recognizable ones makes this never seem quite real.  Basically, all of the Übermensch archetypes in comics are compared to Superman, and often seem hollow by comparison.  As much as I like Irredeemable, that is always in the back of my mind.Here, all the characters were created ONLY for the purposes of this story.  With no emotional investment from prior knowledge, the book cannot help but suffer at times.  Not the fault of Mr Waid, just one of the pitfalls of playing in this particular sandbox.

Invincible by Robert Kirkman is another.  Cant say I have even been able to enjoy this book, but I can clearly see the similarities.

Marvel made another attempt, this time very obvious, with the Sentry.  This was a good try, but once multiple writers and editors got a chance to use the character, things got very muddled and the focus was lost.  There was huge potential here and they completely missed the chance.

The closest of the “sun-god” analogs (and, yes, all the Samson and other bible parallels aside, Superman is a modern sun God) is Apollo from the Wildstorm end of the DCU.  Another missed opportunity here, I feel.  The various writers have, for the most part focused on just one aspect of the guy, and missed other, more compelling aspects in the relationship between him and the Batman analog he is involved with, Midnighter.  Most gays and lesbian people will tell you, that while their sexuality is an important component in who they are, it is not the sole defining one.  Any person that is completely one thing to the exclusion of all else, is not much of a person.  Comics still fall back on the shallowest possible traits to define individuals much of the time.  This is very evident when the character in question COULD be interesting and complex.  Instead of  really giving a full multi-layered relationship between these two, they are just portrayed as the new gay stereotype, and that is no better than the OLD gay stereotypes. But, in mainstream comics, I may be asking too much.  For that kind of depth, there are lots of good indi books.  While under Wildstorm, nothing really improved, they were token gays.  I am hopeful, but not very, that DC can improve on this.

Still other Captain Erzats versions of Superman include Dr Manhattan from Watchmen, the Sameritan from Astro City, Captain Marvel of course, Alpha one from the Mighty, Gladiator of the Shi’ar over at Marvel,  Supreme, Atoman from  Top 10 and even the Saint from The Pro.

anyone have some others I may have not mentioned?

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Regailia by Eliza Frye

A few months ago I mentioned a book on Kickstarter by a young woman who I met briefly at Wizard World Chicago.  Regalia was a collection of her best work to date including her Eisner Award nominated short story called The Lady’s Murder.  I backed the project and was thrilled to see that it had been funded!  Well, I just received the book in the mail and have finished reading.  Wow.  Just wow.

The book feels intensely personal.  It is a tricky needle to thread with stories like these.  All too easily they can become very much like the ramblings found scribbled in the notebook or diary of a teenage girl.  Personal, but trite and self-indulgent.  That is not the case here.  While personal stories can often feel trite, these all have a polish about them that really captures the powerful level of craft on display in these pages.  She has a set of skills unlike anything I have seen in many years, and there is never a point that the craft overwhelms the work.  I easily put this up with works like Craig Thompson’s Blankets or I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura.  Deeply emotional and resonant, and still very entertaining.  I would be lying if I said that all of the stories had an effect on me.  Realistically, only about half were going to be of the type that would speak to me, and I think that is all most of us could hope for, people are too different to be touched by everything we read.  But for every person that reads this book, there will be people who think that stories like The Lady’s Murder are amazing, and others that wont even finish it.  This kind of work is like that.  Personally, I prefer it when some of the stories are there for someone else to enjoy.  If I like every story in a collection, the chances are that the book is not very deep or strongly written.  The fact that there are stories I didn’t feel strongly about means that there are bits of this book that WILL strike a chord across a wider spectrum or readers.

The design and presentation of this book deserves some mention too.  This does not feel at all like some crappy small-press first collection from someone you have probably never heard of.  While it is likely that Ms Frye’s name and work will be new to the majority of readers, I would wager that a lot of the people who pick up this collection will wonder why they have not heard of her.  The style of the collection, as much as the selections in it, are first-rate.  This package feels like the result of having done this before.  From the binding to the books overall design, this is a nice book to hold and look at.  Visually, this book is amazing.  The varied approaches to the art and design of the stories is really something to look at.  A fine mix of medium used and a very different eye feel to each selection.  Color selection and even line weight add to each story to give them a feel and look completely independent of each other even while some of the themes explored carry over from one to the other.

The rewards I got by being a kickstarter backer were also very nice.  A simple elegant personal inscription and original sketchplate in the book, as well as a few other extras for the backers mean this book was a real treat to get.

This book is available at Amazon, or better yet, directly from Ms Frye at this link.  I believe that most will find this a good read, or at the very least, a beautiful work of creativity, and real eye candy for the visually minded.

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OMF-ing G!! Detective Comics #1-review

Detective Comics #1

September 7th 2011

$2.99

Like many, I was not going to pick this up.  My experience with Tony Daniel’s Batman work has been a bit average.  I have never found the stories all that interesting and certainly not as compelling as Grant Morrison or even the classics by Denny O’Neil.  They never really lacked for atmosphere, but the actual story was usually two dimensional, even by modern comic standards.   Not that they were ever bad, just that they never stood out and really made you remember them.  What made me decide to pick this one up was a spoiler I saw online.  I’m not going to say where, as it will affect the overall enjoyment of the story.  But the spoiler was enough to get my hopes up that this might be more than just another average Batman story.  It was.  In a BIG way!

The basic plot is conventional enough, the Batman is trying to hunt down the Joker.  From there, the reboot takes over.  Batman has only been doing this for a few years and the Joker has been around even less.  He is a unpredicatble serial killer that no one can seem to catch.  Batman is once again working without the aid of the police.  Only Jim Gordon is on his side, and even that alliance seems a bit shaky.  The storytelling device of the internal monologue is ever-present, much more than it has been in recent years.  The Batman that I have grown tired of is gone though.  The attitude in the last few years has been “Batman knows all”, and to be honest, it has gotten old.  He should not be perfect and while he probably IS the smartest guy in the room most of the time, does he have to be such a prick about it?  Not here, it would seem.  While I would not call him humble, he is certainly not the Bruce Wayne we have gotten used to lately.  I have liked the idea that he is, and will always be the most experienced in the DCU, but I also would really like to see a human in that suit.  That is definitely something that was not there in Justice League #1.  Score one for the New 52!

The spoiler that grabbed me was the last page, and it is a doozy.  It is my hope that this signals the start of the “something really different” I have hoped for from the reboot.  I don’t want, and I think many people out there might feel the same, the same tired old stories with a new number.  Now that they have thrown the baby and the bath water out, make it worth something.  Take chances.  Shake up the franchises.  With the exception of Batman and Green Lantern, what have they really got to lose?  And even there, not much.  This change, assuming it is real, substantive and far-reaching, could make all the difference in both saving DC and the industry as a whole.  The tried and true trademarks of the big 3 will always be there, but the month to month storytelling in the comics needs help, and if DC get it right, every other company out there could well be playing catch up for a while.

Visually, this is a great book.  Lots of instances where Daniel is borrowing from Frank Miller and Neal Adams and many other artist, but unlike so many cheap homages, this works very well.  Large, dramatic splash pages and small, tight extreme close-ups.  There are pages that feel like everything else is shut out.  You are very much pulled into this book in a way that I have not felt in many years.  As I was reading this, the world around me really did fade into the background.  I don’t mean to say the story and art were that much of a revelation, just that the way it was put together was that effectively done.  The book was that well structured.  The art was clean, crisp and consistent through the whole thing.  It has been a gripe of mine in the last few years as far as the art has been concerned.  Some pages in a book may well be great, while others either look rushed or are done by a fill in artist, both of which can pull you right out of a story if there is no narrative reason for the change.

I grade on a pretty tough scale when I think of these things, so I wont be that specific here.  But this book is probably sitting at #2 of the current bunch from the New 52.  I have several others to review, including the one at the top of that list for me, all of which I will get to in the next few days.   Stay tuned…

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Holy Terror! and the “new” realism in comics.

With the official announcement of Holy Terror by Frank Miller coming in September from Legendary Comics, I was wondering if this isn’t a little creepy now.

First off, for anybody not in the loop on this one, Holy Terror started out as Holy Terror, Batman!, a response to what Miller was experiencing in the aftermath of 9/11 from his perspective as a New Yorker living in the middle of it all.  I think just about everyone that heard about it was immediately creeped out by the idea.  The way it was talked about it would be a Batman more like the 60’s TV show than what we have come to expect from Miller.  That against the backdrop of very real terror, seemed to make us all a little uncomfortable.  It seemed, and still seems, that this is Miller’s own personal catharsis.  Well DC never officially signed off on it and it has morphed into an independent creature free of any interference from an editor or a corporation, it is now a hero of Miller’s own creation and done in his own unique style.  Speaking of that style, things are looking very loose.  I know this is the way his stuff has been for a while, but this is really hard to look at…

I'm not even sure what I am looking at here. I see a couple of faces...

 

Don’t get me wrong, I will most likely buy this when it comes out, I alway give Miller the benefit of the doubt.  I don’t always like the stuff (DK2 and most of the Sin City stuff) but for every one of those, there is a Dark Knight Returns or a Daredevil, so it is always worth the look.  I just find this newest step in his art style hard on the eyes.  It is not easy to look at, and that may well be the point.  He has prided himself on fully creating the world his characters live in, and the feel of the book goes a long way toward that.  Maybe that is just another part of the feeling of discomfort he is trying for.  Result!

The preview image, presumably the cover.

 The creepy factor comes in here for me at least, with the idea of costumed heroes combatting realistic terrorism.  I am having trouble putting my finger on exactly what it is…

Maybe the fact that I, like many out there, look at comics as escapism?  Or that the idea of something so brash and colorful fits correctly in that kind of world?  Comics have been trying to grow up now for nearly 3 decades, and I have been watching it happen all that time.  It has failed in as many ways as it has succeeded.  The problem is that the medium still views itself as juvenile entertainment in many ways.  You can only grow up so much when you are still aiming for the teenage audience.  And what change you get is likely to be superficial.  Growth has more often than not taken the form of sex, violence and harsh language.  For examples of this, see most of the Mark Millar Ultimates work.  While not bad comics, some of them are quite good, it is only mature in that it is louder in its approach and more graphic in its depiction of the same subjects.  It is true there is piles of genuinely mature comics and OGNs out there, but Frank Miller has not been associated with it like, say Daniel Clowes or Los Bros. Hernandez and the like.  Maybe that is what I’m afraid of, that he will not have the touch needed to make this more than just another violent comic?  This is a book that COULD be something very special.  It COULD be something akin to Maus or In the Shadow of No Towers.  Something that elevates the level of play and the quality of the discourse on the subject.  He certainly has the skills as a storyteller to pull it off.  Miller has managed to surprise me in the past with unexpected subtlety and a willingness to go places that many would not have attempted.

That is what I hope will be the case here.  Otherwise, it will be just another superficial stab at maturity in comics, and we have far too much of that now.

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Web comics!

In the last several months I have been expanding my reading into the world of web comics.  Now I imagine there are still people out there that poo poo web comics in much the same way there are still people who look down on comics in general, but frankly I don’t really see why.  There is some really creative work being done out there, and I have really only scratched the surface.  In my browsing I have definitely found more that are not for me than ones that I have continued to keep up with, but that’s ok.  It is that variety that keeps any genre alive and healthy. I find it interesting that the comics culture has shifted so radically in the last 80 years or so.  At the beginning of the comic strip’s history at the start of the 20th century, artists like R.F. Outcault (The Yellow Kid & Buster Brown) and Winsor McCay (Little Nemo & The Dream of the Rarebit Fiend) were high paid celebrities with prestige and fame comparable to todays movie stars, welcome in any walk of society.  Today most people regard comics creators as a little dirty and creepy (unless you actually know what you are talking about) and web comics as even less attractive.  The reverse is actually more correct.  A succesful creator in any area of the medium can do very well and many web comics creators list that as their “day job”.

Most of what I have found and enjoyed has been fairly light.  The episodic format of these strips does not work for me with a heavy dramatic content, but the more humorous and fun strips have been a real treat.  I’m going to fill the page with lots of fun examples in the hope that you will find something that you enjoy.

Gutters is a great topical parody of comics in general and the industry in particular.  Lar Desouza writes the book working with a host of great artists from all parts of the industry.  It is a strip not the least bit afraid to bite the hand that feeds it.  Generally G to PG rated, it is accessible to anyone that reads comics but will be of particular interest to anyone that has spent the same three decades following the industry that I have.

The strip, which updates Monday, Wednesday and Friday also touches on the topical items on the edges of the industry like this one.  Grim humor is always fun for me, but this one got me giggling out loud at work.

This one struck me funny because this was not the direction that it would really go in the comics.  If the code was really going to be bent over, they would get Garth Ennis to write Superman and things would get REALLY ugly!

Next up is Questionable Content (see the link on the home page).  Created by Jeph Jacques the series has had a long and successful run with humor and heart that explores the lives of its central characters, mostly normal people and one small perverted little robot.  One of the real treats of this series for me has been watching the art style evolve over time.  Things started out quite crudely drawn, but as Jeph’s confidence and skill grew, and the technical equipment being used got to be a better quality, things became a very good-looking product.  The story found its legs very quickly and has become a fairly complex and clever read.

This one is an example of some of the deeply risqué humor that makes this series so much fun.

Another strip I enjoy is Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto.  I would post some of them here, but all of the best ones are a bit much for a family show.  Maybe I’m a prude, but I don’t want to  spread the naughty.  Go look at the strip for yourself.  Super funny stuff.

And lastly we have Wondermark by David Malki!.  I discovered this one at C2E2 in 2010 and found it to be right up my street.  He takes the old Victorian era style public domain art from any source imaginable and makes this deeply twisted and funny stuff.

All of these strips and more are available as close as your local internet connection.  If none of these spark your interest, there are hundreds more.  The supply is nearly endless and the genres are every bit as varied as the comics medium we all know from the printed page.

I will leave you with a last Wondermark and will see you soon…

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Not really a review of The Fish Police

I really was going to do a review of The Fish Police TPB just released by IDW.  Really.  And I Will Talk briefly about it, but as I was going through the new volume, it dawned on me what an amazing year 1986 was for comics.  By 1986 I really mean an area of about 18 months between late 85 and early 87, but deal with it.

The greatest of the 1980s was beginning to fade at Marvel.  While still very good comics, X-Men having just hit #200 (and only really having the 1 main team book and a few so-so spin offs) had started to go off the rails for a little while.  Soon to recover for the home stretch of Claremont’s last few years, the book was getting a little bogged down in its own continuity.  Mostly from the editorial mandates of the new cool idea that was the crossover event.

Uncanny X-Men #213-Alan Davis and Paul Neary art

Uncanny X-Men #198-Barry Windsor-Smith art

Uncanny X-Men #210-John Romita Jr. and Dan Green art

 

The 3 covers here are huge issues in the myth.  They set up all the great ideas that Claremont had before they were ruined by other writers.  Storm’s character development just kept getting more and more interesting.  The beginnings of the Mutant Massacre storyline.  The start of the meat behind the Wolverine/Sabertooth rivalry, not to mention the first sustained appearance of eventual fan-favorite Psylocke.

Then there is John Byrne’s Fantastic Four.  Not quite what it had been, and coming to and end, but well worth the outrageous cover price of 75 cents!

And the run of Walt Simonson on Thor.

 

Thor #337- Walt Simonson art

 

This is arguably the best cover of 1986 and maybe the entire decade.

At DC The New Teen Titans were on a roll and the Crisis was about to reshape the DCU for the next decade.

But The Fish Police was one of the new crop of “independent” books.  Mostly creator owned and published by smaller upstart companies.  The black & while explosion was done and the implosion was about to begin.  Cerebus, by Dave Sim was about to hit issue #100, and Scott McLeod was about to DESTROY!!! New York City in one of the silliest, most enjoyable master classes on how to do a comic ever!

DESTROY!! 1986- Scott McLeod art

 

The Hairballs TPB. Reprinting the first 4 issues

Cerebus #83 Sept 1986-Dave Sim & Gerhard art

 

 

Among the very best was Mage, by Matt Wagner.  Published by Comico and running 15 amazing issue (with a second series to follow over a decade later and another one on the way before I die, I hope), Mage introduced us to Kevin Matchstick, Mirth and Edsel.  An allegorical tale of heroism in the modern world of the 1980s.  It also introduced us to the early work of the fabulous Sam Kieth inking the last 2/3s of the series.

Also available to readers of the great anthology series Epic Illustrated was The Sacred and the Profane by Dean Motter and Ken Stacy.  Collected in early 87, this was a powerful story set in a future where the Catholic Church sets off to colonize space in the name of God.  Also by Motter in 86 was Mister X, another favorite on a lot of top 10 lists.

And then there is a little indie book that no one ever heard of called Watchmen.

Mage #5 wraparound cover-art by Matt Wagner

I know this cover is from 85, but it is just too gorgeous not to put here.

Then there is Miracleman.  Originally called Marvelman, then Miracleman and now Marvelman again.  Probably the one book more messed about by lawyers than any other of the modern era.  Originally a knock-off of Captain Marvel (SHAZAM to you young uns), then revived by Alan Moore as a post modern and kinda moody hero, later done as a re shaper of the world by Neil Gaiman.  This is a book that is in limbo of the legal kind and has been since Eclipse comics went away.  Currently owned by Marvel, they have yet to do anything worthwhile with the character  (like reprinting the Moore and Gaiman run) and I begin to doubt we will ever see this book come back.  Some of the most beautiful art in this series was by John Totleben, who worked with Moore on Swamp Thing also out in 86!

 

Miracleman #15 art by John Totleben

 

J.M. DeMatties and Jon J Muth gave us Moonshadow.  This one was something of a Damascus moment for me as I had never seen anything quite like it before.  The story was as much fun fairytale as dark nightmare.  The counterpoint created by the watercolor art made this at the same time very unsettling and remarkably endearing.

 

Moonshadow #12 Jon J Muth art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then it all came to a head with Dark Knight Returns.  To reinvent Batman would be tried several times before and since, but nobody has ever managed to capture the pop culture zeitgeist like Frank Miller did with this 4 issue series.

There are just piles of other books, all equally deserving of attention…GrimjackAmerican Flagg! , Nexus and Badger from First comics.  The original run of Love and Rockets and Alan Moore’s Halo Jones.

Just too much fun!

 

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My Day at C2E2 part three

OK, this is the last of the posts for the C2E2 2011.  It was a fabulous con and I’m still buzzing slightly.  I have gone over most of the people and costumes, now I will touch briefly on the stuff I brought back.

There were lots of “events” at the show.  None of which were of any interest to me.  Virtually all of them are things that can be seen on-line and I have seen most of them already since the show.  What interests me is the people and sights and of course, the stuff!  I have become big on the con sketchbooks.  They are not really all that collectible as anyone that wants them, has them.  There are a couple of older ones that are harder to find, but value is not the goal.  I like the glimpses into the process for some of the artists and just to have more of the material of some of the others.

I will start with someone I was not looking for.  I stumbled across the artist Franchesco! while looking for someone else in the Artist’s Alley.  He was friendly and outgoing, and really liked talking about his process.  That is a difficult thing for some artists to do.  They don’t discuss what they do, they just want the end product to speak for itself.  Franchesco! is a little different.  As I understand it, he is reluctant to sell most of his work, so anything you get is done as specific commissions.  I was so impressed by the work I saw at his table and so enjoyed talking to him I made sure to pick up his con sketchbook without seeing anything other than this amazing cover…

Scarlet Witch by Franchesco! from the cover to The Art of Franchesco! 2

 

 

 

This full color book is fantastic and I think what struck me about his work is the similarity to an old favorite of mine, Rick Leonardi.  They have a very similar stylistic approach and much of the end result has the same feel.  There is a very elaborate design to even the simplest pieces which creates a huge amount of energy in each drawing.  His pencils are so tight and detailed that there would be little need for inks at all.  We discussed that for a bit.  His is a style and technique that, once inked, causes a fair deal of detail to be lost in fact.  The inadequacies of most printing processes save those of higher end art portfolios and prints, make it necessary to simplify and lose a lot of the detail.  Which is a shame as his work at the pencil stage is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen.  In person it is even more remarkable.

 

 

 

This is not the best example in the world to illustrate my point, but it will serve for this format.  Also, these two pieces are in the sketchbook in question.

 

Pencils only.

Full inks and color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much of what he does at the pencil stage is obviously intended to later be replaced by color, but to be honest I have always been of the opinion that color is overrated.  While often needed to convey certain things, it can just as easily cover subtlety and a delicate beauty that only exists at the pencil stage.

Another artist I was looking forward to see this year, I had seen last year for the first time.  Stephane Roux is relatively new to the industry, but has quickly established himself as a great and very fun cover artist.  I picked up this year’s book as well as an older one from 2008.  Imagine my surprise when I opened it and discovered an original sketch on the inside front cover!

Scarlet Witch

Next on my list was Terry Moore of Strangers in Paradise, Echo and the soon to be published How to Draw Women and Rachel Rising.  He is one that I saw last year and at that time he seemed a bit out of sorts.  No foul really, it happens.  So this year I made sure to be as upbeat and friendly as I could.  It was not needed as he seemed very relaxed this year and very excited to discuss the two new projects.  His enthusiasm got me even more interested than I had been.  He signed a couple of trades that I had brought with me and the 2010 sketchbook too.  It has the neat wraparound cover with the characters from SiP, Echo etc.  This book like most, is B&W.

 

 

Terry Moore 2010 sketchbook cover

Another find that I had not expected was Lisa Lubera, a local artist from the Chicago area whose con sketchbook is light and fun.  Her color book is much nicer than some of the less known artists at these shows.  There is a difference between spending time and spending money on a project.  She did not spend piles of money but the effort put into this book to make it look good is evident on every page.  Here is the cover…

Fun stuff!

Jill Thompson had a book this year, so I was excited to see how nice a package she put together.  Full color was a must given that her style is mostly watercolors for these sketches.

Another one I had been wanting was from my friend Kurt Wood.  I grabbed all three he had available and he did a free sketch in the space set aside on the cover of the 2009 book.  I said I wanted Power Girl, or more specifically PG’s you-know-whats.  These two books are below.  I’m all about contrast.

There was also this year’s Adam Hughes book.  I must confess to not liking it as much as last year’s.  Sorry Adam.  I still love you.  His book too is B&W and features con sketches from the previous year’s con season.  They are usually fully rendered and very nice and the Playboy parody cover is a nice touch.

We “discovered” another really fun artist this year.  Serena Guerra’s books (we grabbed the 2010 & 2011 books ) are an oddity.  They are spiral bound at the top instead of stapled at the center or glued.  She also has a blank page in the back for sketches.  The wife requested Death in hers and I asked for Harley Quinn in mine.  She did both quite nicely.  As they are pencil sketches, they will not show up here all that well so here are the covers…

There were lots of art prints to be bought this year as well.  Unfortunately they are too large to scan here easily.  So there.

The last of the sketchbooks I grabbed were from a pair of guys sitting next to each other in the alley.  Bald Guy Studios is the name of one (I’m sorry Bald Guy, I forgot your name.  But people can find you at http://www.baldguystudios.com/BALD_GUY_STUDIOS/HOME.html ) and the other is Chad Spilker.  Both are true pin-up style art with the emphasis on classic cheesecake.  Unlike another favorite of mine, Dave Stevens, these guys are a bit more sexually charged.  I don’t normally go quite this far into the erotica, but they are both talented and have a real sense of fun in their work, particularly Spilker.  These are not the kind of art that everyone can enjoy.  Some of it is very racy and some just one step shy of pornography.  On balance, they are fun and sexy and the very few that I personally think step over my personal line, are still quite nice, even beautiful.  They lack the grace and gentle poise of the classics like Gil Elvgren or Alberto Vargas, and even at times the stylistic choices that make Stevens or Hughes stand out among the piles of other cheesecake artists out there, but there is no denying that these guys have something.  An unidentifiable quality that makes them fun and alluring.  These are large, glue bound books in B&W and were a very good price for what you get.

Well, it's the law. Says so right here!

That one is from Bald Guy, these last two are from Spilker.  One is the cover and the other from inside the book.  I have endeavored to find one that is a good example of the style he employs for these drawings without showing too much as some are pretty racy.

Size matters in this very thick book. Really, it's a big book!

 

Zowie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that is my coverage of C2E2, or at least my thoughts etc on my day there.  As I review these posts, I notice about 5000 words between the three of them!  Wow.  Just wow.

I have a few books still left from my last trip to my LCS so the I will get back on the horse and do the reviews for them.  Hope you will join me for them…

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