Tag Archives: matt wagner

Listmania part 2: Favorite individual issues

Daredevil #181 “Last Hand” April 1982: Frank Miller was just hitting his stride and the character of Elektra was becoming hugely popular.  I remember picking this one up at the local newsstand and thinking it was just going to be cover hype.  I was already a jaded fan at that point.  By the time I was done reading this I had a new interest in comics.

Justice League of America #0 “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” September 2006: This was more like favorite single page.  Each of the short scenes in this story are interesting, but the single page that references Batman’s reaction after Superman was killed by Doomsday redefined the character for me and put a lump in my throat.  You don’t often think of Batman as human and this changed that for me.

The stunning wraparound cover to Mage #14

Mage #14 “…Or Not to be” August 1986:  This was the issue after the series lost the character that was the emotional center of the book and set out the direction for the lead Kevin Matchstick.  Drawing the parallels to King Arthur seemed odd on the first page, but by the last page I could not imagine a time when I couldn’t see them.

Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children #21 “Dances with Cows” February 1991:  There was never a point I didn’t love this forgotten series from Piranha Press (a DC precursor to Vertigo), but this issue was funny and sad and odd all at once.  I really wish they would collect this anthology series in bookshelf volumes.  There is a large amount of creator owned and fringe material that is all but lost to readers now unless they search out the original back-issues.  This series was uneven at times, but so different from what was out there then, and still very readable now, that it could not help but find a new audience today.

Miracleman #22 “Carnival” August 1991:  It is very hard to pick a single issue from this amazing series, and picking a Gaiman issue over a Moore one might be considered a bad choice, but this issue had an emotional core that would resonate with anyone, even people who had not read the preceding 21 issues.  It touched on much of what had come before without ever relying on it and made this a stand-alone issue that really packed an emotional punch.  Now all we need is for these to be reprinted.

Avengers Annual #10 “By Friends — Betrayed!” 1981:  An uninspired Al Milgrom cover (nothing against Al, the cover just didn’t work for the book) covered up the first appearance of Rouge, and began a run of X-Men stories that would see the book rise in sales to be Marvel’s biggest book for many years to come.  The fact that it was in an Avengers book, and that the X-Men are only in a few pages of it messed with my head a bit, but this really is more of an X-book than an Avengers one.  Art by the amazing Michael Golden with inks by Armando Gil gave this book a look that no other book at the time had.  This is collected (finally) in Marvel Masterworks X-Men vol 7 and the Claremont omnibus.  It had been reprinted before, but never in an edition where it really worked, and certainly not as nicely as it is here.

Lord Julius and a “like-a-look”. Cerebus #137

Cerebus #137 (& 138–sort of) “Epilogue” August 1990:  This was a single story that Sim used an issue and a half for, but the first part is the best.  It has never been collected in the phone books since it was a fun filler issue that really does not fit in either the book before it (Jaka’s Story) or the one that followed it (Melmoth), but gives a silly look at Lord Julius and his “like-a-looks”, explaining a lot about the character in a funny way.  It is available ONLY as the original issue(s) or in Cerebus #0 which collected the other in-between issues that are not included in any of the phone books.

Toad Men!?!?

Sensational She-Hulk #2 “Attack of the Terrible Toad Men” June 1989:  The first issue seemed like a fluke or a one-off, but when they did this one I was left in awe of how funny this book really was.  Byrne left the book after issue 8 over a flap with editorial and the book never quite recovered, until his return in issue #31 that is!  Then he left at issue 50 and the decline started all over.  Dan Slott did some fun stuff with Shulkie later, but this series is still the best there has been.

Alpha Flight #12 “… And One Shall Surely Die” July 1984:  I freely admit I was one of the zombies that jumped on this Byrne book when it arrived, and I loved it for the first years’ worth of stories.  Byrne himself has said he never really saw the point of having an AF book, but it didn’t show for most of his time on the book.  This issue was a surprise in every way.  Yes, they advertised that a major character was going to die for weeks in advance, but how often had we heard that before only to see some turd third stringer die?  Yes, death in comics has since become a revolving door plot hammer.  Never in a million years did I think Byrne would GUT the heart out of the team and kill someone as important as that!  Naive of me?  Maybe, but I had not become so jaded at that point and just didn’t see it coming.  This book gave me chills, and still does when I read it.

Uncanny X-Men #186 “Lifedeath” October 1984:  The single most beautifully drawn mainstream issue of the 1980s.  Barry Windsor Smith as inked by Terry Austin was too much for many at the time. It was a challenging story that made me expect more (too much) from my comics after that.

Superman #712 (had to sneak this one in) “Lost Boy: A Tale of Krypto the Superdog” August 2011:  I was never a huge fan of big blue and have only occasionally read his adventures.  What I AM is a dog person.  This was an inventory story used to fill time while the Grounded arc needed to get caught up.  This issue was better than ANY of those.  I defy any dog person out there to not be an emotional wreck after reading this book.

This was a REALLY hard list. To just come up with ten (OK, eleven) was really tough, and if asked in a month I would think that there would be changes.

Feel free to start throwing chair and arguing, but I would really rather see some other people’s lists.

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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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Fish Schticks—Aquaman vol 1 The Trench review

Aquaman vol 1 The Trench (Hardcover)

DC Comics 2012

144 pages $22

I will be the first to admit that I have never been an Aquaman fan.  The bulk of my experience with the character comes from Super Friends, and I have had little desire to get more acquainted.  Even with that caveat, I have to say that thinking of the character ever having humor in his book was not something that came to mind easily.  Any time I have checked in on him by flipping through one of the 6 previous volumes of his adventures, dour is the only word I would have chosen to describe what I saw.  The only story I have read completely that used him at all was Brightest Day, and even there, he was not a happy camper.  So when I heard that the first few issues of the New 52 version of the character’s eponymous book had a fair bit of humor, I was intrigued.  I did notget these when they came out, but went back and grabbed the first 2 issues.  I liked them enough to get the HC (collecting the first 6 issues) and I can say that this is a pretty fun, and funny book.

Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado have put out quite a book and it stands out as one of the best of the New 52.  Johns affection for the character comes through in his writing.  While there is action the real treat here is the tongue in cheek humor.  He gently pokes fun at the clichés that everyone thought were part and parcel of the King of Atlantis.  From the moment he sits down in a seafood restaurant and orders the fish-n-chips you know this will not be a book to play it safe with the character.  The constant references to his girlfriend and partner Mera as Aquawoman are giggle inducing at times, and make her interesting, where before she was nothing but a plot hammer.  This book does have the same problem as most of the other New 52 collections in that it reads like the first arc and a half rather than something complete.  From a story point, the first arc by itself in most of these books would have been a letdown.  Adding the first part of the next arc (as an intro, interlude or teaser), feels as much like bonus material as the “same bat-time, same bat-channel” tease intended to get the reader to come back for the next book.  It is not a great tactic in my mind, but it seems to be working for DC.  The real test will be how well volume 2 of all these do.

Reis and Prado team up here to make a VERY nice looking book.  The production value in the line and color is particularly stunning.  There are the hero shots of the 2 main characters that are simply dazzling to look at.  The color, leaping off the page at times, creates a powerful fantasy feel that cannot be understated.  My only complaint here is there is sometimes too much going on.  You cannot always make out what each panel contains.  Part of this is art style and part is storytelling experience.  It takes the master storytellers in this medium years, even decades to become masters.  Only then is the storytelling sense developed enough to create truly great panel to panel storytelling.  Eisner, Miller, Byrne, Sim, Wagner ,Kurtzman, Adams, Kirby and Ditko are examples of the greats.  Nothing against the art team on this book, but they are not there yet.  They are also victims of the current attitude in comics that more is better.  Jim Lee and the Image style popularized this and it has been a huge influence on comics for two decades.  Cramming a panel with piles of needless and sometimes distracting detail to make the book look more complex or intense is just how you sell books these days.  Don’t get me wrong, this can make for some very pretty comics.  This style is very well suited to digital where you are best only viewing a panel at a time, but as a page at a time read in print, it does not work as well.  It can be too much for the eye to sort through easily.  This changes the flow of the book and can really lessen the dramatic impact.  The masters at controlling pace (Neal Adams and Dave Sim are good examples) can force you to speed up or slow down according to the demands of the story.  There is only one pace here and in most other modern comics, and the art is not always going to mesh with those same story demands.

All else being equal (and the above is a relatively minor quibble that separates the good books from the great ones), this is a fun and interesting read.  Aquaman, not so much rebooted as re-energized.  Aquaman is easily in the top 5 of the New 52 and well worth a look.

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Why not these comics as movies & TV…?

With all the effort and money being spent on movies and TV shows based on comic book properties, I was thinking about some of the untapped potential out there to convert comic properties into either movies or TV series.

The first one that seems to get the most regular fan service is Sandman.  Personally, I think this would make an awful movie, or at least need to be so changed to translate, that it would offend every fan of the book out there.  Make no mistake, I am a fan of this book, but this is just not going to make a good film.  It would make a great TV series though.  I know they are working on American Gods and I hope that it translates well giving Gaiman and the producers the desire to try it with Sandman

Another book I would really like to see done for TV is Mage by Matt Wagner.  The style of this story would lend itself well to the format and be a very fun series.  Despite the need for some serious special effects in the story, they are manageable; the cast would be a relatively small one.  To be honest though, I would just be happy if the final book of the 3 book series would show up before I die.  Wagner’s other property; Grendel would also make for a pretty decent ongoing TV series.

Something that might make a fun all ages film is Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy.  It could be done as light or as dark depending on what the film makers want.  The story is something that could be very malleable without wholesale changes and is a touching and involving story that can reach any audience.  Another good potential source for another all ages film is I Kill GiantsThis is still one of my favorite books and I cannot imagine this one failing if it were done by someone good.  Hey, Pixar, jump at it!

Why Strangers in Paradise has not been done as a TV show is beyond me.  Terry Moore’s masterpiece has it all.  Drama, complex relationships, sex, violence and plenty of room for melodrama of the prime time soap variety.  It crosses most of the adult target demographics and still manages a very powerful and intense story.  This would most certainly need to be on a network like HBO, as the content would need to be fairly adult, but this show just screams “must watch”.

Paul Chadwick’s Concrete might translate well to either medium, really.  It is such a well told story that just about any way you decided to tell it, could work.  There is the sci-fi/fantasy element and the dramatic aspects that could really set a show based on this one of the coolest offerings in either medium.

Am I the only one out there that would love to see another Rocketeer movie?  Slap Zac Effron or Taylor Lautner in the helmet and that is a movie that makes a pile of cash. (The wife unit agrees strongly on this one)

Since Hollywood is doing so much rebooting, it would be nice to see some of the books that were ruined back in the day, be given a proper treatment.  Dr Strange could be super cool now and Marvel is said to be working on it.  The 1978 made-for-TV movie starring Peter Hooten was so cheaply done that it is actually a little trippy and cool, but with all the play sparkly vampires and young monster hunters get these days, just make him a 20 something (or a very youthful and cool 30) and this film sells itself.

I would like to see another try at Isis too.  The Saturday morning Shazam/Isis Power Hour was fun for the mid 70’s and could probably be well done today.  But that is just me wishing. 

A failed attempt to bring Wonder Woman back last year shows that the mainstream is not ready for this one yet.  Either David E Kelly tanked it or a Linda Carter-less show is just not going to fly .  Speaking of failed tries, Global Frequency had lots of potential but Warner Brothers soured on it when they failed to grasp the viral quality of fans on the internet. At least the pilot is out the to be downloaded.

These and all the great series that have made good cartoons series like FF, Justice League etc; there are piles of worthy material waiting to be tapped.

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The Perils of Tradewaiting

My preferred reading method is waiting for the trade, or as some call it, ruining the industry.  These people are short sighted and fail to see that the main body of the money spent in comics now is and will continue to move away from the old economic model.  That model was all about single issues, or “floppys”.  But since the rise (and fall) and rise of the direct market, that all but killed off newsstand distribution, and the emergence of large book retailers and the digital marketplace, comics are not what they once were.  Not even close. 

Back in the halcyon newsstand days, the lowest price I recall for comics was 25 cents.  Amazingly, there was still profit for the retailer even at that price.  The returnable nature of the books made then just like regular magazines and were very low risk for the newsstand operators.  When the price began to rise and the profit started to fall off, retailers went with more standard magazines, where the profit was still maintained.  The direct market came in as a result of Phil Seuling.  He saw a system that would save the industry and more directly target the audience.  So that created a proliferation of comic shops.  There had been some prior to that of course, but when they could get more comics and not have to compete with a guy that sold gas too, they exploded in number.

The direct market was never intended to be the long term solution, just a stop gap measure.  Unfortunately, the industry was shortsighted enough to think that this was it, the big thing they had been waiting for.  It was not.  The direct market did create, or at least make viable, many things that have helped the industry survive and prosper beyond the comic shop though.  Most significantly, the Trade collection.  Collections of reprints and original material had been around for a long time, but really took off in the late 70’s to the early 80’s.  I started buying trade in earnest as an adult after dabbling for years.  I got rid of 90% of my floppys as they became available in trade and never looked back.  The Cerebus “phone books” as they were called then sealed the deal.  25 or more issues at a shot, for around half what the cover price of the issues was.  Never mind the fact that the early issues of Cerebus were FAR from cover price.

The problem with the format is that I tend not to bother with floppys at all.  I wait for a collection of interest and get it.  most of the time, I am making an informed enough choice to not get a dud, b but occasionally you don’t know that a particular arc is going to be weak until you get in to it.  Even the best creators have weak stories.  Quality creative teams are the main criteria for my choice of a trade.  Generally, I have had great fortune with the ones that I have chosen.  The fantastic run of Secret Six is an example of a series that was both outstanding and that reads better collected.  Another run that I was very excited about was the Matt Wagner Madame Xanadu books from DC.  This last volume, Extra Sensory however, was a disappointment.  I am a huge Wagner fan and have enjoyed this group of trades a great deal, so when the cancellation of the series was announced, I was bummed.  One of the great strengths of Wagner’s books is character.  He is a master of developing people you want to read about.  This last book is a series of one shot issues, each detailing another person and their brush with the supernatural and with the title character, Madame Xanadu, wonderfully envisioned in this series.  The problem with the one shot is that you never really get to know the people.  They exist only as plot devices, and while that is very often the case in fiction, you never get the chance to make any kind of personal connection or find something to identify with in this disparate group, a hallmark of the series to date.  In previous issues of the series, even the Phantom Stranger becomes interesting, a hard trick to pull off.  Another issue may be the cancellation.  These last few issues feels shoehorned in.  The final couple of issues of Secret Six, while still very good, felt like a bit of a sudden turn to wrap things up before the last issue and the New 52 replaced that title with Suicide Squad.  That may be the issue with this trade, maybe not.  It is very possible the failure is mine.  I can’t like everything I read, and this may just be one of those books.

One of the advantages of the emerging digital comics market is that I will now be able to sample the first issue of many books at less than the regular cover price.  DC drops its price when the issue is no longer current, Dark Horse has an even better set up for many books.  Digital is less, on the day of release.  So by the time I am looking at the solicit for the trade, I can see the first issue cheaper than I otherwise would have, the publisher gets a little more of my money, no tree is killed for my issue and I get a little more informed in my choice.

Lately, there have only been a couple of disappointments, always a risk.  But things have improved some, thanks to the new marketplace and changing economic model.

 

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Wizard World Chicago 2011

I convinced myself to go.  This is the first time I have been to this con since before it was Wizard.

This con IS NOT C2E2!  There are a lot of similarities like all cons, but there were many differences, not all of them good ones.

August 11th through 14th in Chicago, I chose to do just one day as I really had only a couple of things on the list that interested me.  And that is where my issues with this con start.  The site is awful.  There is a list of guests and really not much else.  The site fails to give any other info, at least that I could find.  True there is a very thorough FAQ page and info on the actual nuts and bolts of the show, ( what, when, where, how type stuff ) but nothing on who the vendors were or specific locations for most of the guests.  I don’t have any interest in the celebrities that were going to be there.  I like Gil Gerard as Buck Rogers very much and I still think Mimi Rogers is one of the most stunning women in the world, but I have little need to meet them and get an autograph.  For the casual fan like me, this part of the show was very well set up.  The above mentioned Gerard and Rogers, as well as most of the other guests were easy to see and approach.  There were no long lines designed to discourage, like at some of these shows.  I got good looks at Ms Rogers, as lovely as ever, and most of the others there.  They were all very pleased to see their fans and I imagine the experience was great fun for the people there to see them.  The only person on my list in this section of the show was Mike Grell (Jon Sable Freelance, Green Arrow the Longbow Hunters).  He was running a little late ( a common hazard for anyone wanting to go right as these shows open for the day) but it was no big deal.  There were 4 of us waiting when he arrived and he was very nice to speak with.  I try to be brief when I am meeting someone like this.  I know there are other people waiting to see the person I am speaking to, and for some of them, this is a valuable source of income, and my yammering on would only impede that.  Mr Grell was charging to sign books.  The first one was free and each additional book was $1.  A very reasonable fee really.  I had only one thing to be signed.  It should be said that I do not pay for autographs.  I do not begrudge these people a living or feel that they are being in some way crass.  I just do not want to pay to be able to appreciate someone or take away a memory of meeting them.  Had I had more than one thing for Mr Grell to sign, I simply would have stopped at one thing.  No biggie, no harm, no foul.  Now if some of these celebs were not charging, I may have had more interest, in meeting them up close, but not a lot.  TV and movie celebrities hold little fanboy interest for me.  While I might pay for, say Linda Carter, or someone I was really interested in as a kid, that list is very short and I have never had need to get in line when I have had the opportunities.  All in all, this section of the show was well put together.  I was able to move around and see the guests to whatever degree I would choose.  A quick walk-by, or something more direct and personal.  This is what the Wizard shows seem to be focusing on more and more in recent years, and it is the prime reason that C2E2 and other comic-centric shows are more my speed.

As I said, my list was short for this show.  Just a handful of creators.  My other issue with this con is that I had to cover the entire hall just to scope them out.  This was partly my fault and partly the show’s.  The maps given as you enter the line after getting the wristband (the ONLY swag you get without paying extra for VIP tickets) have VERY small type.  The names and locations of the guests on one side and the labeled map on the other.  Without my reading glasses, I had no hope of being able to use it.  Had this info been available before hand like it was for C2E2, then this would not have been an issue.  I started right as the doors opened and went right to the Artist Alley section that this con calls “fan tables”.  Two of my targets were not yet seated, so I knew I would be making several trips.  Franchesco! was there, drawing away and chatting with a fan.  I have met him now a few times at these shows and he is always, without fail, one of the nicest people to meet and speak with.  His art brings me back to my youth spent reading comics, and his style so much fun that I always look forward to seeing the con sketchbooks at the table.  His style always reminds me of Rick Leonardi, and when I mentioned this, he seemed to appreciate the comparison.

Cover to The Art of Franchesco! 2011 sketchbook

Next was a quicky with The Crow creator James O’Barr.  Brief and a little awkward would describe this one.  I would guess he is just not all that at ease talking to the fans.

Micheal Golden and Bill Sienkiewicz were there and very nice to see, as were artist Bill Rinehold and writer Peter S. Beagle.  Mr Beagle and I ( a signature for the wife, who is a fan of The Last Unicorn and could not attend the show) spent a few minutes discussing movies that always get to us.  His is the Chaplin film City Lights.  I can completely agree, as the last scene always gets me too.

I made sure to stop by the mighty Kurt Wood’s booth and get a couple of sketches from him.  Don’t worry Kurt, I will be sure to post for all to see once I get a chance.  See the link to his site to the right on this page.

Among the things I saw that I had not been specifically looking for was a booth for “Bachelor Pad” Magazine.  The is a great quarterly that is a throwback to the early days of the pin up girl in printed periodicals.  As much like the old peek a boo type mags as you could ever want, with fun stories and articles from fiction and instruction to stunning good girl style photos.  And no, there is no porn here, just a fun take on a style that is now sadly more a part of our past than our present day.  I plan to support this magazine and see if I can’t get more people into it and maybe we can bring this cool retro sexiness back into the mainstream again.  I am including a scan of the cover to issue #11 here so you can see.  It is done without permission and if they want I will take it down.  This cover is as racy as it gets and it is all good clean-ish fun.  If you think you might like it, go to www.bachelorpadmagazine.com for more info and subscriptions. (see link on the right)

The main focus of this trip for me was Matt Wagner, creator of Mage, Grendel and writer/artist of books like Trinity.  I was going to get some things signed.  I got something FAR better.  He had several copies of some of the recent hardcovers and was doing original painting in them to benefit The Hero Initiative a charity that helps comic creators in need.  (see link at right)  They were very expensive and very beautiful.  I thought long and hard and, in the end, gave in to my desire to have a piece of original Matt Wagner art.  Had it not been for a cause I support, the price may well have been more than I would have been willing to pay, but for this stunner I couldn’t say no.  It was done on the inside end paper, just inside the cover and is included here so you can enjoy it too.  And with this image I will leave you until next time…

All mine!

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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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