Tag Archives: Jill Thompson

A little listmania! part 1: favorite stories

Blogger wwayne got me thinking about my favorites;  Favorite story arcs and favorite single issues.  Putting the definitions as simply as possible ( since us geeks love to argue about the definitions ) we get….

Story arc:  a  story occurring within an ongoing series.  OK, that is not going to work for me, dammit!  Since I am a trade waiter and have been for 2 decades, some of this will have to be at least a little in the self-contained series vein.  But I will try to justify and explain as I go.

Single issue:  Just like it says on the tin, a single issue of an ongoing series.

So, in no particular order except the order if find them on the shelf….

Concrete:  Strange Armor.  (1997)  This is where the definition gave me trouble as Concrete creator Paul Chadwick didn’t really DO an ongoing Concrete series, just connected limited series, the definition became an issue.  Also in the age of trades and collections the actual issues of a particular arc are harder to recall.  This one I did read as the single issues when they came out in late 97 and early 98.  A 5-issue limited in the continuing story of Ron Lithgow, this was the story that finally gave the full and definitive origin of the character, and fleshed out the back story greatly.  The “series” of concrete stories that Chadwick has done are an amazing character study with its roots in the sci-fi and super hero stories he grew up with and have more heart than any other book(s) I have read since.  All but the most recent DHP series have been collected as trades and are still powerful today.

Cerebus #139 to 150 (Melmoth). (1990) The was the story that followed Jaka’s Story and is one of the shorter Cerebus arcs.  A beautifully written and drawn book, it explores the final days of Oscar Wilde as seen in this fictionalized universe.  Taken directly from contemporary accounts of friends of the dying writer, this is a powerful and sad story.  It is available in “phone book” number 6 of the Cerebus run.

Action Comics  #866 to 870. (2008) Geoff Johns and Gary Frank update and redefine the Brainiac character.  One of the most successful updates DC has ever done.  Gary frank’s art is at its very best here.  Available as the Superman Brainiac trade.

Justice League of America#1 to 7  (2006)  Brad Meltzer is a polarizing figure in comics thanks in large part to the love it or hate it Identity Crisis series.  (loved it)  This arc started up the new volume of JL with artist Ed Benes, and is a story that actually made me interested in JL.  What got me into the story in the first place was my affection for Red Tornado, and this story focuses on him and his existence heavily and is a great team book to boot.  Available as The Tornado’s Path trade collection.

Planetary #7 to 12 (2000)  After setting up the world of Elijah Snow and his team in the first arc, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday outdid themselves on this arc (available as Planetary:  The Fourth Man collection).  The jumped into the homages of the comics with both feet here.  They did versions of Transmepolitan, Hellblazer, Doc Savage and touched on the origins of the big three at DC and still managed to keep the main story moving forward without the meanderings that affected some of the later issues.

My Jill Thompson sketch in my Absolute edition

Sandman #41 to 49 (1992)  This was the arc that really made the series sing for me.  After the A Game of You arc cooled me on the series (It took me years to learn to appreciate it) this series just sang with life.  Gaiman was really flying here and this is the run that made me love Jill Thompson’s art.  This is available in the Brief Lives collection or in Absolute Sandman vol 3.

Fantastic Four #242 to 244 (1982)  I still go back and read these every few months.  In fact the whole #240 to 250 part of John Byrne’s run is just crazy fun to read!  This was the first Galactus story I read that I actually liked.  Available in several reprint volumes from FF Visionaries vol 2 to the big-ass omnibus collection of the Byrne run.

Uncanny X-Men #165 to 168 (1982)  Paul Smith’s first issues on this title were the wrap up to Chris Claremont’s Brood story.  ( I include 168 here as the epilogue to that story–because I CAN!) To this day, his art in these issues is amazing to look at.  Collected in too many versions to count.

Mage #1 to 15 (1984)  Technically this was a limited series, but to my mind, when you know that you are just going to do a series of limited series, it is just a series with breaks.  In the case of Mage the break between the first and second series was a little more than just a break.  The same is true with the ongoing wait for the third series.  This story by Matt Wagner was lightning in a bottle.

Avengers #198 to 200 (1980)  This was David Michelinie and George Perez’s last regular issues on the title(in a run anyway) and they rent out with a great story that was a follow-up to the Claremont/Golden story in Avengers Annual #10.  This run is not yet collected.  Hopefully the Marvel Masterworks will continue long enough to get to these.

Well, I stuck to 10.  I omitted runs where there was a single good issue that MADE that run, and I avoided genuine limited series.  Maybe that will be another list.  Next up…

Favorite single issues…

 

 

 

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Free Comic Book Day 2011 and Jill Thompson!

Free Comic Book Day 2011 has come and gone. This was my first actually, despite being the tenth one for the rest of the world.
I never really had an interest untill this year as my LCS was having Jill Thompson for a guest signing to coincide with the event.  But more on that later.

I hope that this event works, in that it brings in new lasting fans of the medium or brings in returning fans, but I don’t think I have ever really seen evidence of that.  Most of the shop owners that I speak to say they rarely see any real lasting bump from the event.  I would imagine that if 5% of the people who come and are new or returning readers actually make more trips after the day to buy more stuff, that would be a good result.  Based on what I have seen and heard from others over the years of speaking to shop owners, the majority of people who come in on FCBD are existing fans looking…

a. To score free books.  My LCS has the 2 book per person rule.  If you wore a comic book flavored shirt, you got five.

b. To get a sample of something they have not read.  Many of the companies that participate, use the occasion to announce new and upcoming titles, while Marvel and DC use the chance to hype an event coming up in many of their established books.  If I had to pick, this would be where I think the main benefit from FCBD is felt.  Expanding the average reader’s pull list and spread the money out.  I have doubts on the helpfulness of this.  Most people only spend so much on books each month, so if they find something new they want to read, the eventual likelihood is that they will drop an existing book from the list.  Not really a bad thing, as it is a great example of fair competition in the free market.  But the industry has made a lifestyle choice for decades now that amounts to the cannibalization of its readership.  They seem content to recycle the same few readers over and over.  New readers enter the industry and then leave at almost the same rate it seems and the overall number of readers never really varies much.

This year there were 37 different titles available to choose from.  My choices, as I was wearing my old Mage shirt (as in Mage by Matt Wagner, also known for Grendel and some amazing work at DC over the years, not least is Trinity) were a pretty mixed bag.  I grabbed Worlds of Aspen from Aspen Comics publishers of the Michael Turner series Fathom.  BOOM Studio’s newest licensed book, Elric, based on the Michael Moorcock character.  This is the one I was most hoping to grab as I have been a fan of the books and the author for years.  Then there was the FCBD edition of The Tick from NEC.  Really, how do you NOT grab The Tick?  This one is a primer for the current series as a jumping on point for new or returning readers.  I was one of the very few that had read the original run long before there was a cartoon and failed TV show.  Used to love it.  We will see if the new book grabs me.  Then I got the FCBD edition of Locke & Key from IDW, a series I have been wanting to try for a while now.  Last was the DC book.  Unfortunately it is just a rehash of Green Lantern:  Secret Origin.  They really missed an opportunity there.  Either they could have hyped the upcoming film (if they wanted to stay with GL) or the new Flashpoint event.

Most of what I saw was not the kind of thing that suited me.  But at the same time, I don’t think there was much that would have been of great interest to a casual or new fan either.

The bright spot for me was Jill Thompson.  I have been a fan for many years, so having here sign books was really a nice treat.  I took my Absolute Sandman vol 3 for her to sign and a copy of the new Lil’ endless book, Delirium’s Party. 

I got the Lil Endless signed and when she grabbed the large Absolute volume she lit up very slightly and said something about making magic and proceeded to do a fantastic sketch inside…

It was done using a white out pen on the black inside paper just before the title page of the book.  It took maybe 3 minutes to do and looks great!

As an extra bonus, I dug out my first Thompson sketch from nearly 20 years ago…

This was from a signing that she did with Neil Gaiman when the Brief Lives arc of Sandman was coming out.  She was not announced as a guest in advance that I had been aware of and was doing sketches on the back of the flyer for the signing.  This year when we spoke briefly while she was creating the sketch in my book, I mentioned that.  It was an event she recalled quite clearly, stating that she had been really sick that day and was on the road with Neil to several shops in a couple of days and had not been able to do much to feel better.  Not that she showed it then though.  She is a pro.  I also was reintroduced to a number of her earlier works at the signing yesterday that I had all but forgotten.  The work she did for Comico on the early Bill Willingham title The Elementals, was something that I had read when it was released and not recalled her part in it. She also told a great story from her early days as a teenager in the industry.

Winding things up was a hardcover book written by Evan Dorkin, of Milk & Cheese fame.  The book is called Beasts of Burden and was released last year.  That is just one of the many things I have grown to enjoy about cons and signings.  No matter how familiar I am with a particular creator’s work, I always manage to find something that I did not know about.

So I will leave you with the cover to the book and look forward to the next thing I feel like blathering on about for 1000 words or so…

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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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My day at C2E2! Part one

OK, the first thing I have to say is, next year I will go for 2 days or maybe the whole 3 day extravaganza!  Last year I didn’t feel rushed, this year I just didn’t manage to see anything like all I wanted to do.  Next year at least 2 days.  The reason I did just the one day this year and last was, I am not a crowds person.  Friday is the least crowded, so there.  Next year I will just have to deal.

The littlest Amazon Princess!

This little powerhouse was the first and one of the best costumes we saw all day.  I should mention at this point my lovely wife Faye took all of these pictures, and they all look great!

It turned out to be a very nice sunny and more or less warm day for mid March.  We took the train into Chicago and walked a few blocks to the Artists Cafe on Michigan Avenue downtown.  After a very good breakfast, we hopped the bus and got to the con way earlier that I had intended.  I like getting there early just not 2 and a half hours early.  But that put us only 30 or 40 people from the front of the line, so that’s OK then.  As always at these kind of things, you can find people you have never met and have a perfectly nice chat while waiting in line.  Never mind they are total strangers and you will never see them again, even at the con.  These are people who are “one of us” so it’s OK.  I did actually see a few of my line buddies through the day.

A stylin Black Adam, Wolverine and Oh my GOD!!

More of the people who give these conventions their flavor.  This was the scene just outside the con floor while people were beginning to mill around.  I didn’t see all that many good costumes on Friday last year.  This year they were everywhere!  Many were very elaborate and most were really very good.  there were a few stupid looking one and there is alway some fool that puts no real thought into it at all and just wears some crappy store-bought plastic mask with a string holding it on.  But for the most part, this was a great and creative bunch.

Then, as the 501st div of Star Wars guys ushered the waiting line of fans in, I failed completely to be a grown up and be nice as the pictures below demonstrate.  In the first one I can just be seen sneaking up on the Stormtrooper, next all you see is me being a bit of a weenie and showing that even an adult can act like a doofus.

Yes, I am an immature nerd!

Then the con silliness and fun really got going with me meeting a giant Uglydoll…

This is the kind of fun that I largely missed out on last year but that I caught this time around.  While seeing more of the color and fun this year was great, it is absolutely why I didn’t manage to get as much of the other stuff into my experience this year.  Last year I was all about Artist’s Alley, and to be fair, that was most of the goal this year.  This year what changed was having the wife along.  I invited her because last year was SO much fun and there were so many things that I knew she would enjoy.  I wanted to even things out a bit this year since I knew deep down that the alley would not be as interesting to her as she really has only a cursory knowledge of comics and the people who make them.  That is why it will be a 2 day adventure next year.  This day was just too rushed.  Next is a friend of ours, Kurt Wood.  He is also my dealer as he provides me

with a large dose of comics at the shop he runs in Milwaukee.  ( see the link for Collector’s Edge Comics on the sidebar of the homepage)  He is also a great and really fun artist.  His stuff can be seen at his homepage on the links section.

I'm not ugly, you ugly!

Then it was deeper into the alley.  Like every year, I have a list of ones that I want to make a point to get to.  I usually manage 3/4 of that list or a little better.  Longer than expected lines, or a change in their schedules causes me to miss some each time, so that is just the way these things are.

One of my favorites for the last 20 years or so is the wonderful Jill Thompson.  Her art has Graced the pages of Sandman (including the fabulous Lil’ Endless Storybook), Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing and

I have the power!

her creator owned Scary Godmother series of books.  I have been to see her 3 or 4 times now and have managed to get stuff signed and have enjoyable and informative chats every time.  She is always very generous with the fans.

Jill Thompson and I.

Meeting different artists and writers has always been fun for me.  It is always exciting to tell people that they improve my day with their life’s work and they almost always are appreciative and grateful that you like what they do.  They sit at these uncomfortable tables for hours and they rarely lose the ability to make each fan feel like they and they alone are the reason they do what they do.  Jill is no exception.

I didn’t get pictures of everyone I saw.  In some cases it was because Cameraperson Faye was distracted elsewhere, but more often it was because I am such a helpless fanboy that I forget.

One I didn’t forget was Stephane Roux.  He is one of the best cover artists in the industry today, most know for the great covers he is doing for DC books like Zatanna.

Stephane Roux

He and Jill were both on their second year at C2E2, and seeing them, like many of the others that returned for the second year of this con gives me great hope for the continued existence of this new show.  Stephane is always eager to meet the fans.  Not every artist is as comfortable as he is.  It takes real skill as an artist and real people skills to work on a commission sketch at the same time you are speaking to and making eye contact with the fans.  Many very experienced and talented people just have never mastered it.  Doug Mahnke is another artist we saw this year.  As talented as they come, he is most recently known for his run on the Green Lantern books.  While Doug is a really fine artist, he is lees comfortable with the fans, I think.  Another favorite of mine that has to specifically and deliberately split things up between time for drawing for fans and time for meeting with them more directly is Adam Hughes.  There are few that seem to attend as many cons as he and his wonderful wife and equally talented artist Alison Sohn.  But it is clear that he wants to work on the commissioned sketches and set aside specific and limited times to sign and devote direct attention to the fans.  To be fair, even the superstar artists like Adam make a sizeable portion of their income from the commissions done at these shows, and while there are fans that begrudge them the lack of attention paid to fans at times, the shows can a big deal to these guys.  Adam does not ignore people when they come up while he is drawing, far from it as he can be very talkative, but when he is working Alison tends to be the one you spend time talking to.  She is a very fun and witty person and she believes passionately in what she says.  this year she was pushing hard to get donations for Japanese earthquake relief.  When the signing times that Adam has set aside arrive, he pays great attention to the fans and clearly enjoys the time spent getting to know them.

Me and Christian Alamy

Next up we take a moment to mention 2 real fun moments for me.

Christian Alamy is another artist on the Green Lantern books with Doug Mahnke.  They were seated next to each other in the alley.  I had a hardcover for him and Doug to sign and then broke out something that he clearly had not seen in a long time, a copy of The Endless Gallery.  That is the floppy open on the table in front of him here.  He was so excited to see it, he interrupted Doug in his meet and greet next to him to show him the page he had done years ago in this pin-up book.  He thanked me very warmly and was a real treat.  The next one was later in the day outside of the alley in the exhibitor’s section.  Specifically at the Dr Who Store booth.  A guest in the booth was the grand and glorious Ian McNiece.  He was there as he made appearances in the 5th series of Doctor Who as Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  Signing and posing for pictures with the fans, he is clearly a fine and likeable man.  While I am a Doctor Who fan of several decades, I was not here to talk about his excellent turn as the PM.  No, I wanted to thank him for one of my favorite films, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but came down a Mountain.  When I mentioned that and another old film of his, A Life Less Ordinary, he leaned back in his chair and howled with laughter and clapped his hands.  He loved being reminded of something that he had done so long ago and we chatted about the films briefly.  As far as I am concerned, both films are better for his presence and The Englishman is funny almost entire because of his performance.  He is fabulous as the much stressed elder surveyor to Hugh Grant’s leading-man character.  It was a highlight of the con for me to so delight 2 people with examples of the far-reaching and lasting effects of their work.

I will end this first part of my experiences at C2E2 2011 with another silly and fun example of the costumes the fans were wearing.  Even the Mighty Skeletor wants to get autographs of his favorite artists!

Taking a break from getting his ass kicked by He Man.

I hope you enjoyed this first look at C2E2 2.0 in Chicago.  I will be back with what will likely be 2 more posts about the day in the next few days as I continue to marshal my thoughts about the day.  See you soon.

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