no cape no mask

who needs a costume when you have words?

Month: April, 2013

Need To Know… 29.4.13

only what you need

only what you need

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, as someone earning a living in comics retail, thank you. Let’s hope this growth in attention, readership, and success will translate into more effort to change those practices which are, shall we say, less than superheroic (does no-one in Big 2 legal ever ask themselves “What would Steve do?”?). And let’s celebrate the good this Saturday: Free Comic Book Day. If you’re in London, or even England, then come say hey at Orbital Comics. There’ll be Eggs Milk Butter cakes, cookies, and coffee waiting to sweeten your day! Also, we’ve just started stocking this free zine on our front counter, and you should totally treat yourself to one. It’s great.

Thanks given, its back to life, and Con season rumbles on, with Tom Spurgeon finally posting his MoCCA write-up, (which reads more like a guided tour of New York’s comics quarters, the only omission being this cool-sounding new store), and C2E2 and Stumptown both happening this week-end just gone. Of the former, other than IDW and Dark Horse’s dominance, Itty Bitty Hellboy is by far my favourite announcement. As for Stumptown, Mr Spurgeon has recommends for you. And if you consoled yourself for your inability to attend by watching Iron Man 3 instead, here’s some news from Warren Ellis: Extremis ain’t that far-fetched. Still not seen the movie? These rules may help you enjoy it more.

If all that has given you an urge to roam (reading Spurgeon’s NY article made me miss that town so bad!), Fatale knows how you feel, as she’s Seattle-bound in this preview. Or if you’re just missing the wet what with all this sunshine, you can read Snyder and Murphy on their upcoming The Wake. In terms of things to look forward to, prepare for incoming Lone Wolf & Cub from Dark Horse, beware the Great Beast’s beastly plans for summer, kneel before Image’s Rat Queens (which may just be what Fearless Defenders should have been), cheer up because Nobrow 8 is still out looking (& smelling!) lovely, rejoice because Alternative Comics are back, ride the white horse (I’m reaching now) as  Dynamite and Dark Horse are teaming up to offer you more, and hear ye, hear ye, for Thrillbent are simply saying “Aw Yeah!”. It’s good to be alive. Of course, you never know when or how you may go. I hope that isn’t how I go.

Eisner nominees are still available to read online for free, so you can play judge-along, and io9 is plugging Oyster War, while hopping over to Study Group… well, It Will All Hurt. It ain’t nominated, but Vorpalizer reckons you should read The Hand of Gold. I agree. You could also take a trip to Trip City and binge on Dean Haspiel and college pals’ Comix, or let BoingBoing show you Real Stuff. If that’s too much indy for a Monday, try the Greatest Bill Sienkewicz Stories Ever Told, provided you can find them. And as long as you’re searching, here are Jim Rugg’s recommendations from Image’s back catalog. Just don’t get jealous of anybody’s Jet Pack.

This graphic novel is beautiful, so let creator Miriam Katin seduce you into reading it, while hopefully this terrific video will get you all nostalgic about (and respectful for) Harvey Kurtzman’s art. If they’ve inspired you to get your work out there (DO IT!), maybe it’ll help if one creator walks you through their Comixology Submit experience.

And now, I leave you with some burning questions.

Why Cheap Art?

Is Age of Ultron the Perfect Event?

Is this the future of comics?

Are little girls better at designing superheroes than you?

The answer to one of those is “YES”.

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Need To Know… 22.4.13

only what you need

only what you need

It’s Eisners Season (Oscars Season for comics)! The nominations have been made, and beg one immediate question: “Are the Eisners over Superheroes?”. It wouldn’t be a comics awards show without some fallout and judge-related controversy, but here’s a collective judge-eye view perspective on the shortlisting process, and the ever-lovin’ Comics Reporter’s commentary on this year’s batch. Curiously, these awards may not do much to boost sales for nominees  (sales are to do with money after all, and this is comics!)… but if you want to try two nominees’ #1’s for free, here are Adventure Time and Bandette!

Last week brought us the last B & B column over at CBR. Will you miss it? Survey says “no”, but the abrupt cancellation and stated/inferred reasons behind it (too many sensitive questions, basically) elicited some strong responses. Coupled with this pretty damning screed on the New 52’s Wonder Woman, DC could have used a strong rebound. Meet The Joker’s Daughter. Time to invoke The Maggott Defence perhaps? Or just cross your fingers for Marvelman.

Kickstarter-side, Greg Pak (he’s BUSY this year, but not as busy as Jack Kirby in the 1960’s) and Jonathan Coulton want to Kickstart Everything, so Code Monkey can Save the World. And Frank Cho has teamed up with Bill Willingham to offer you… dinner? On the back of jumping sharks, perhaps?

In case you missed it, Superman turned 75. Apparently there’s a movie soon? Anyway, the comics web rejoiced in style, with a celebration of his many looks (wisely omitting the Red/Blue period), the 75 Greatest Superman Stories of All-Time, Mark Waid’s Toughest Superman Quiz… Ever, and a few thoughts for his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Plus, the Ultimate Superman story. I got to wondering what Superman’s Facebook timeline would look like, and although DC is lacking imagination of late, they’ve yet to go there, so meantime here’s Mad Men’s!

Worm Trolls are Mean. It’s important you know that. And here’s a lesson in humour from MAD magazine. Which leads us into the elegantly appointed miscellanea section of this week’s post, so grab a drink, smooth your hair, and meet Borb. Then, iFanboy would like to introduce Liz Suburbia, and her awesome webcomic. Speaking of free comics, have you met Off-Life magazine (often found hanging out in the West Wing)? Could they be part of this UK Graphic Novel Renaissance folks are talking about? Or is that more Stephen Collins’ thing (note: this preview and process post comes Karrie Fransman-approved)? Not that a Renaissance makes earning a living from comics any easier, but it’s nice to be associated with fancy words. Besides, Art for Art’s Sake ain’t so bad… BUT I digress, please say hello to Ed Brubaker, Sammy Harkham, Paul Pope, and Matt Kindt (he has wisdom to share!), they’re all dying to meet you! Oh, and Yeti Press wants to show you something (be sure to click on the images).

Maybe this article on Navigating Comics will be what helps your comics-averse friends to take the plunge? Can’t hurt to try. Especially if you compose the email to them on this keyboard. Or just sign them up to Brandon Graham’s blog, I dare them not to fall in love.

Well, until next week, enjoy the sun, your comics, and the anticipation of an ever-nearing Free Comic Book Day, but above all, respect the power of cartoons.

Iron Man 3’s “Least-ness”

salt. the real deal.

salt. the real deal.

Being the fortunate guy I am, last night I found myself in the West End of London watching Iron Man 3 in a preview.

This post contains no spoilers, nor am I really going to discuss the fanboyish elements of the experience, movie, or comic. Fair warning.

This is a movie where a wealthy smart guy takes on another wealthy smart guy. One of the wealthy smart guys has always had charisma and the smoothed path that comes with that, the other hasn’t. One coasted on his inherited status and charm, generating good ideas but lacking the drive to follow them through, while the other sought to advance thought and scientific progress. Both smart guys have sought nothing more than profit from their labours, neither has any demonstrable social conscience. One of them has evolved from transactional to meaningful relationships, the other not so much.

Everything this pair create leads or contributes to destruction, pollution, and loss of life. The people around this pair are tortured, beaten, and violated.

At the end, one of them gets a happy ending, and one of them does not.

Can you guess which of these protagonists is Tony Stark? Sure you can, he’s the one with charisma.

None of this is wrong, or new. Charisma has long been acknowledged as key to entertainment and success. There’s arguably nothing wrong with rooting for the more charismatic of two near-identical people. And certainly, the ability to develop and maintain relationships can indicate a “better” quality of humanity than the creation of a loyal but expendable cadre of followers.

So this guy is a hero, but one who doesn’t clean up his messes. He is proactive in his engineering, because it is a part of his self-love to worship his own ability, and this worship is handy for distracting him from his traumas. But otherwise, he is reactive to consequences a more responsible man might have foreseen. He is reactive in the face of his antagonists’ pro-activity. He partakes in no reconstruction of what he destroys, no clean-up of his spills. He fights no fires, other than those started by his negligence or self-absorption, and noticeably not those started by his “heroics”. But that’s his appeal, he’s just like the slackers/losers/bros of Apatow movies, only smarter, better-dressed, in better shape, and successful despite his dysfunction. Just like them, he is motivated by his own neuroses, focused solely on his own goals, and not cognizant of any responsibility to anything outside his skin, which makes him just the kind of detached, nonchalant kind of guy whose banter you want to hear and whose deeds you want to watch. He’s not one of those boring heroes who are painfully disciplined, thoughtful, conscientious, and considerate, those douches like Captain America who strive constantly to do “the right thing”. He’s a charming screw-up who can be counted on when the shit hits the [or particularly, his] fan, but shouldn’t be asked too much of in the shit-free intervals. And he will always, always need others to pick up the pieces.

So Tony Stark isn’t really a hero. He’s arguably just a narcissist protective enough of his enablers/friends to leap at any threat to them as an opportunity to worship at his own altar. He’s in a position to do immense good, but only does so in targeted, limited ways, and after immense provocation. At best he’s the off-duty doorman who breaks up a fight on the street and says “anybody would have done it”. He’s the baseline for what any of us should be expected to do, Iron Man is quite literally the least Tony Stark could do.

What does the success of this character say about what the audience aspires to, then? What does this celebration of charismatic “least-ness” reveal?

Robert Downey Jr is a great actor, and he’s a great choice for Tony Stark. It’s a shame the Tony Stark written of this trilogy couldn’t have been a greater person.

Need To Know… 15.4.13

only what you need

only what you need

First off, I’m posting this as the Boston Marathon happenings unfold. What a horrible thing. Here’s hoping that the suffering of the victims is minimal, that those responsible are prosecuted, and that this event isn’t co-opted into any greater ideological narratives.

Now, comics.

We all love Saga, right? To the extent that maybe we forget how graphic some of the stuff in it is (I definitely do, who cares about beautifully drawn gang-bangs when if you turn the page you may get to see Lying Cat?). Fortunately, Apple don’t forget. Or wait, is that Comixology? Okay, just what the hell happened with Saga, Comixology and iTunes last week? Your best answers come from Mark Waid, and CSBG’s Greg Burgas. Whatever happened, it was an interesting counter-point to the Big 2’s biggest reveal of the week (unless you count this “Hunger” tease, which we don’t), that a Batgirl supporting cast member is transgender. By way of further related reading, Bob Temuka posted thoughtfully, and entirely unrelatedly, about Gender Issues in comics, and tangentially this Sean Kleefeld post is a great intro to Sinfest and a concise rumination on racist humour in comics. For what its worth, the Saga issue just proves clusterfucks aren’t the exclusive province of the Big 2, and the transgender announcement is a significant event, but in no way makes the comic better. Hell, that character may never feature again.

But WAIT! I promised MoCCA coverage, even if belated, so here’s a solid overview from Publisher’s Weekly, The Beat’s summaries of the Art as a Profession and SelfMadeHero panels (both well worth reading, for creators and fans alike, especially Boulet’s input to the Art as a Profession talk), a review of 10 MoCCA debuts (different to last week’s 10 previews!), and The Comics Reporter’s hub for all the other coverage you could want!

Back to the NOW! and Margaret Thatcher has died, though way more upsetting is the news that Winter Soldier has been cancelled with #19 (a shame, as its the best book you’re not reading). But as one door closes another cliche fairy dies, so as consolation I remind you that Ales Kot’s Suicide Squad is almost in our hands, and Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez may be doing a superhero book soon…? Speaking of future releases, here’s your homework before Sheltered drops from Image (courtesy of Ed Brisson) in July, while iFanboy works double-time to cover your pre-movie Mandarin studies, and offer recommends as the antidote for your spandex overdose!

To save you the effort, someone has used Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #4 as it was intended to be used! Almost makes you wonder… “is it a comic?“. Another benevolent soul has started translating the visual language of comics via the fight scene, using King Kirby’s royal screeds, no less! And here’s some creator advice you should question. Oh, and Tom Spurgeon, Jim Rugg and then Corey Blake got into it about what comics should aim for, so… what do you think, 200,000 or 2 million? Also, Creativity: Do not exceed the recommended dosage.

In the world of crowd-funding, somebody’s finally launching a Lovecraftian Art Zine (we’ve waited so long)! This campaign wants to beautify your Meatspace, but as always, you gotta, gotta, gotta beware of the Video Nasties. They’ll mess you up (but they are free, at least). Noah van Sciver has a new site up with collaborator Joseph Remnant and their free comics, point being if you can’t find something to read this week, well, its you, not them.

I’m not sure whether this is a “WTF” or a “What If?”, but Remender and Albuquerque once had big plans. Elsewhere (Elseworlds?) Paula Andrade draws a whole lot of women. Which can’t leave her much time to practice her Tie Chi.

In signing off, I leave you in the capable & colourful hands, of The Realist.

Need To Know… 8.4.13

only what you need

only what you need

Last week was a sad week for comics. Carmine Infantino’s passing was marked by the New York Times, and I include it as tribute to the efforts made by him and his generation that resulted in institutions like the NYT considering comics creators’ lives worthy of notice. Anyone preferring to celebrate his life will want to see this. There’s little else to say, except Rest In Peace Bob Clarke, George Gladir, Carmine Infantino, and Roger Ebert. You’ll be missed.

Accentuating the positive, this week ComicsAlliance’s Best Art Ever lived up to its billing, and Superheroines got clothes. Also, a late addition from WonderCon saw Terry Moore and Jeff Smith share insight on self-publishing, and Jim Zub continued his deep dive into the fiscal reality of digital and print, which is more heartening than you might anticipate.

But let’s drag ourselves back to the Big Two for a minute. DC continued to slaughter sacred cows this week (Year One Zero, anyone?), announcing a college-age Carrie Kelley for the New 52. However, they also launched an IndieGoGo campaign for a very good cause, so we forgive them (at least until we read the issue!). Truth be told, I found this Josh Simmons Batman strip I’d forgotten, with a great Vorpalizer review, and DC announced more Tom Strong (at Vertigo, no less… sign of a revival?), and after that I didn’t care so much about Carrie Kelley shenanigans any more. Meanwhile, Marvel had a Spidey week, announcing Superior Foes of Spider-Man, “Superior No More”, Superior Spider-Man Team-Up, Superior going to Shadowland (that one makes us really nervous), and Superior Carnage. Hopefully we’ll have recovered from reading all that by the time the new Casanova hits, with Michael Chabon back-ups (and to hear Fraction and Chabon talking, go here). Marvel did not, however, announce any charity initiatives. 1 – 0.

Speaking of giving, maybe you’ll want to lend your support to this Starstruck Kickstarter? Or any of this excellent selection, particularly Bingo Baby, or this project, which will SAVE EARTH THROUGH CARTOONS. You may, of course, be looking for another one of those cool comics subscription arrangements, know what I mean? Yeah, Dude. And if you want the obvious route to good indy comics, just walk into the West Wing at Orbital Comics and indulge in some Decadence, it’s good for you! Speaking of comics collectives, we reckon Partyka have something for everyone.

Of course, its still lean times for many of us, so maybe take a free bite with Sharkmouth, check out some sexy new Dylan Horrocks, visit the refreshed and much improved Thrillbent (my favourite by some way is Clown in The Mirror), or just Throw Your Keys Away. If you’re feeling really lean, maybe dispense with everything but colour? Actually, now we think of it, all you really need is a few good covers.

Looking to learn? How about this stellar list of The Greatest Stories Ever Told over at CBR, voted for by you! I got particularly excited by the What If…? and Brian K Vaughn entries. Maybe this will be the week you “get” Zippy. Or the beginning of an epic Reread. Dennis Hopeless has much to share regarding Avengers Arena and how much crap comics fans can fling, too. Or a slice of history, with the First Parody Account.

Here’s a question: Should these awards exist? Maybe the answer lies through this question: How many of those comics or creators had you heard of?

Baseball’s boring, but this comic book is beautiful!

MOCCA news will have to wait until next week, but here’s a smorgasbord of the tasty comics on offer. No Chinese retro superhero comics unfortunately, but wait, Sonny Liew and Gene Luen Yang gotcha back! And who knows what this will look like, but a Joe Casey tease is always worth a peek.

And forget the Mankankosappo. Its the Vader you need to watch out for.

Need To Know… 01.04.13

only what you need

only what you need

DC just fired their entire writing staff, and has just begun pre-cancelling books. Or is it April Fools?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way and admit that there was a con this week-end, WonderCon of Anaheim to be precise, which is apparently the accepted kick-off for the US con season. So here are CBR’s Friday and Saturday round-ups (Sunday wasn’t available as this post was finalised, sorry!). Last week’s dastardly duo of debate consisted of Valiant’s just announced Quantum and Woody series (Kevin Maguire helpfully articulated the potentially problematic history of the property, and this article on diversity and identity gives the broader context from the creator side); and THAT page from Uncanny Avengers #5, which generated a deluge of commentary, of which David Brothers’s is certainly near the best (though the ultimate best, of course, comes from Cyclops). Oh, and I mentioned it last week, but even Todd McFarlane himself couldn’t muster a care for Marvel’s Angela reveal. I think it was an effort to sabotage DC’s WTF April. Nothing can top the Angela announcement for sheer “huh?”. Whereas hearing Bruce Timm is leaving DCU Animated Original Movies was genuinely saddening… but for the love of comics, Cheer up!

With all of that out of the way… last week was a bumper week for advice, with iFanboy talking you through the decision “Physical Comic or Website?”, Oily Comics’ Chuck Forsman offering Advice to a Young Cartoonist, and Ryan Estrada spilling the truth about chasing your dreams. And if you’re further along with your projects, make sure you’re keeping an eye on Thrillbent, they’re making moves.

Similarly, there was a wealth of creator interviews, beginning with this one, that starts fanboyish and then gets Hickman opening up about the genesis of East of West. Jason Brubaker shares his earned wisdom from Kickstarter, Comixology, and the wider world of self-publishing, and you’ll enjoy browsing his graphic novel reMIND. Minimum Wage’s Bob Fingerman points out the glacial pace of so much comics publishing, and talks re-editing and reviewing. He has some great points. Shaky Kane gave a too-rare glimpse into his wilderness years and the keys to Shaky-ness. And I know I’ve mentioned him before, but Tom Kaczynski’s Trans Terra sounds compelling, as do all of Uncivilized Books’ books, but particularly Dash Shaw’s New Jobs.

How much do you know about Manga? Well, here’s a quick and dirty history to catch you up. Another valuable lesson learned this week, that the best things in Superman comics are outside continuity. And my theory that Archaia is where talented people yet to find the comics inside track go to build worlds gets more confirmation from Moro Roberts, while the Immonens offer a several-page glimpse of their next creator-owned project, Russian Olive to Red King. Lots to look forward to (though holding your breath on that last project isn’t advised).

Few things are as lovely as spending time Ina Garden… Except maybe being introduced to other talented independent creators by Ina’s creator, Roman Muradov. Or breathing The Tragic Air of Miss Chiff at Trip City. Oooorrr when illustrator Kevin Wada makes a fashion piece out of the new X-Men line-up. Or, when iFanboy has another Upstart to introduce, meet George Kambadais, everybody! And check out his Tumblr! But there is one thing that’s particularly lovely, and that’s a boxfresh preview of a favourite creator’s newest foray into creator-owned… that’s Uber-lovely.

Finally, in a comparatively rare interview, Chris Bachalo talks Steampunk, dread of costume design, and love for white space over at Robot 6. The Beat also ran a great feature, which could well have run for 48 or 72 hours, but hey, 24 hours of Women Cartoonists is a pretty good start, and Lucy Knisley doing this week’s daily Cartoonist’s Diary at TCJ is a nice follow-through. And the Longbox Project is your chance to be part of what you might call crowd-sourced curation, but whatever you call it, there’s definitely a whole lot of love for comics here.

Normally, I try not to be fanboyish. But Mashable misappropriated the Hadouken this week, and I can’t resist sharing that mis-step with you all. The question remains though, was this non-Hadouken the Makankosappo, or the Kamehameha? Well? Sound off!

Whatever those Japanese schoolgirls are doing in those photos, follow their lead, and stay away from Negative Emotions.