no cape no mask

who needs a costume when you have words?

Month: May, 2013

status quo

Yes, I have heard it

courtesy of (who said “Copying is an act of love”)

Superheroes tend to aim at the preservation of the status quo, and secondarily at its improvement.

But in the real world, the preservation of the status quo is the core mission of tax dodging corporations, pollutant multinationals, and overpaid lobbyists. Change is aimed at by many, achieved by few, fought for by fewer.

We change our world, not special individuals demarcated by superhuman abilities and costumes. Us. Or we don’t.

So can comics escape being metaphors for our dreams of impact? Can they be compelling and escapist, but anchored to a continuity like our own? Would that work?

Its been tried, but inevitably anything too tangible gets backgrounded, palmed off to the supporting cast. Stark Resilient is left to Pepper while Tony fights stuff and goes galactic. Batman Inc is backpedalled and replaced with Bruce fighting for his son’s life, then to avenge his death. Reed Richards joins the council of Reeds and builds a nu-Earth for us to escape to, then drops the idea, and takes a family trip (to try to figure out why they’re all disintegrating). Every grounded, proactive effort beyond punching the baddie is eventually ditched.

There are two ways of reading this.

Superheroes are valiantly defending us from a worse status quo, acting as a necessarily reactive countermeasure to the disruptive.

Superheroes are victims of their own special status.

The former is pretty sound. It lacks romance or excitement, but its not negative, putting superheroes on a par with peacekeeping forces and emergency services.

But the latter… Isn’t it the false premise on which our culture’s inflated self-esteem is built? That if it weren’t for all the villains holding us down we’d be make everything better? That we’re special, but unable to exercise our special-dom fully because of pesky other people who’ll screw everything up if we aren’t there to sort it?

Are superheroes unwittingly complicit in our ever-worsening dooshbaggery?


Need To Know… 28.5.13

only what you need

only what you need

A day late. If I apologise, does that mean I can’t make any “fashionably late” jokes? Probably, right? Yeah. On to the post…

Bye Geoff. *sigh*. Hi Rob. Speaking of Rob, does he deserve to be taken more seriously? Just to clarify, everyone deserves to be taken seriously.

It is still con season (particularly in North America) despite the lack of a con report this week, and London even had its own London Comic Con just this weekend, featuring a surprisingly vibrant comics village filled with talented small pressers, valiantly holding their ground amidst the cosplayers and video games stalls. If you want something a little more transtlantic, the Society of Illustrators has posted a bunch of panel videos from this year’s MoCCA. Its one way to get that con goodness without having to actually, you know, interact with folks, though Self Made Heroes among you will want to step out for this session in June. And in that celebratory spirit here’s an interview with the astonishing Kate Brown (she’s drawing your next Young Avengers), and a great write-up for Blood Blokes #3, proving you needn’t fear the Great Beast!

Sometimes tech news is comics news, and sometimes tech news which is comics news makes these links easier to write because I can just lump stuff together and go “Its all on Tumblr you guys, which Yahoo bought so there’s the link WOO!”. So go riot with Jake Wyatt, worship at the Cave Shrine, taste the Milligan/McCarthy magic, and get fit like Brian Wood. Now lets hope Yahoo doesn’t fuck Tumblr up for comics. Of course, if they do, you can always fall back on this excellent 24 hours of webcomics from The Beat, a few of which may be familiar to NTK regulars… (and while I toot my horn, Orbital still have copies of this, and after reading this review I’m wondering: Why?)

Announced last week were more Cow Boy (I’m so happy about this, I could skip and click my heels like Astaire), new (and heart-breaking) Anders Nilsen, and a new Becky Cloonan comic (through her own store) that’s already generating buzz! Busy week, people, busy busy week. Couple that with a pair of exceptional new Boulet comics (on visiting NYC and attending MoCCA) and a Michael DeForge-recommended Kickstarter, and I was grateful for the long weekend. Until Birdsong Shattered the Still.

Kitty Pryde offended science, seeming to violate the Pauli Exclusion Principle (poor Pauli), while Kieron Gillen decompressed colourfully with Breitweiser and Wilson (reading material provided), and speaking of colour, comics are diverse, right? I try not to make this post preachy, but when you click through that link, just ask yourself what it says that you’d heard of none of those books. Or comment below and tell me what an ignorant prick I am. That would actually be a relief. Also, following last week’s post, here’s a great article about Bill Finger: Sad story, beautiful art. Cheer yourself up with this positive post on how comics don’t need movies to save them, then plunge downward again with these lessons you might not have realised movies were teaching you, before resurfacing with 3 awesome looking comics to hunt down!

However, if all of this seems a bit much, forget the rest, and check out this Blutch interview that all the cool kids are talking about.

Then grab yourself a bronze deer.

Need To Know… 20.5.13

only what you need

only what you need

Before we get into anything else, Fabulous Killjoys preview pages are loose. If that isn’t your thing (i.e. if you’re me), then the FPI blog has thoughtfully provided this Art for Art’s Sake to please you (and this one from Multiversity is pretty great, too: Klaw, Hobbes, and Archer all in the same post?!) though The Comics Journal’s Cartoonist’s Diary (Faith Erin Hicks rocks out with her locks out) is the discerning choice. Alternatively, out in meatspace Brown, Vieceli & Duffield prettied up the London Tower, ever-lovin’ Nate Cosby has all you Sandman novices covered, and best of all (pause for effect) Head Lopper goes on sale this week. I’ve been waiting for that one. Lop on!

I lead with the treats this week because the Big 2 news ain’t great. Particularly for Legion, Dial H, Threshold, and Demon Knights readers, but arguably for non-superhero fans in general? Unless summer’s wave of Trinity War crossovers can provide the genre-transcendent progressive comics they’re hankering for… but the smart money ain’t on it. Not wanting DC to be all alone in Cancellation Land, Marvel terminated She-Hulk, but that couldn’t hide their growing Hunger for the comics market. And James Robinson left DC, which is sad, but nothing compared to Tom Scioli leaving comics (noooooo!). The upshot is that despite ComicsAlliance not being around to comment, Multiversity had a good old think about where DC is going wrong, and where they’re going right. Oh, and this is what Infinity looks like. Nice work, but after this preview I’m holding out for the Vamps.

Its not comics, but the full trailer for ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D. series is up! Wired gets forensic on it, while I’m thinking the ADHD Axe Cop cartoon (voiced by Parks & Rec’s Nick Offerman, no less!) is the real tantaliser.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an award solely aimed at recognising “the contributions of writers that have yet to receive their proper due”? There is! On the topic of recognising and supporting creators, please check out Pioneers Press, they’re an inspiring outfit who make great stuff, and they could do with your support. Alternatively, you could back this Kickstarter by Jarrett Melendez, which has no redeeming social value at all, an accusation often levelled at Dennis the Sullen Menace, but never, nay NEVER, at Comics-as-Poetry. I’ll be buying this sci-fi anthology, Suspect Device (great name, right?).

Spend some time with royalty this week, or if your prefer, with the court Wizard as he waxes lyrical about comics’ long-running soap operas (well, he would, wouldn’t he?). More usefully, the guy whose art stole last week’s dreams has a walkthrough and process post on When Worlds Collide, and Steve Lieber disavows us writers of all that “comics has an unlimited budget” guff. Eric Stephenson is always worth spending some time with (especially as this interview reminded me I still have DeConnick & Rios’s Pretty Deadly to look forward to this year), and Fraction’s teasing Satellite Sam pages…  whaddayathink? Chaykin fans wanna sound off?

I love a Good Dog, almost as much as I love these cool Music/Comic mash-ups. But what I really love is finding out other people take even longer than me to put a blog post together! Worth the wait? That’s up to you, but I know you’ll like this introduction to Mike Del Mundo, who must be one of the most versatile artists in comics right now.

I leave you, as I often do, with a question: Is “Batman” Dumb?

And that isn’t even the most disturbing question to be asked about the Caped Crusader this week. Beware the Orange Hand.

Need To Know… 13.5.13

only what you need

only what you need

Last week became a week of lists, as Paste Magazine posted their top 10 comics currently being published by Marvel, DC, and Image. Food for thought, but Multiversity responded with their own top 10’s for Marvel, DC, and Image, and a compare and contrast is pretty interesting (but too derivative for any other site to actually conduct and post!). It always pays to see what different sites recommend within the same parameters, so hopefully those links will affirm and inspire. I certainly felt both validated and outraged, which is quite the spicy mix!

Sticking with DC and Marvel for a minute, Marvel unveiled the new-look Angela to great fanfare/big yawns, while DC announced an all-star American Vampire anthology, an all-star Batman Incorporated anthology, and somebody shared a first look at Grant Morrison’s Wonder Woman project… and Multiversity. Which makes this seem harsh, but I’m sure DC will resume normal service before long. Oh yeah, apparently there’ll totally be a SHIELD show soon. And did you know GI Joe played a key role in the evolution of the viral video? So much for the Big Dogs…

This week looks set to go Kaboom! (geddit?) with Regular Show #1 hitting stands, in the spirit of which here’s a Wired preview of the first Adventure Time Original Graphic Novel. And please take this opportunity to buy your tickets to the gun show. KC Green’s Gun Show, that is.

The ever-tighter bonding of digital with independent comics publishers continues, with Alternative Press inking a deal with Comixology. You may not know much of Alternative Press (I keep buying the last copies on the shelf at Orbital), but they’re well worth a look. Meanwhile, happy couple Comics and Music invite Digital over to spice things up on the iPad while Dean Haspiel makes sexy pictures. And is this a glimpse of the future?

TCAF has just ended, were you there? If not, let these cool publishers tell you why TCAF rocks; then meet Ryan Sands, the man behind Youth in Decline (you’ll want to read this); check out news of a new Farel Dalrymple hardcover; prepare for a Drawn & Quarterly bonanza; and check out the Doug Wright Awards winners! Speaking of awards, did you spot any of these promising newcomers? Of course, if you were at TCAF, you can just ignore all of that and feel smug.

Last week also brought this incredible comic/blog post about Depression, which shows how a deliberately crude visual style can sometimes be highly effective. Its an affecting read. On a similar note, autobiography is terrifying (even when it’s refreshingly non-judgmental).

Matt Kindt stole last week, and was caught red-handed, but made up for it by penning this inspiring essay on creators, joy, and how fans connect the two. As if on (tenuous) cue, Multiversity posted this thoughtful essay on professional fan fiction, and so we ask you: is Rat Queens the answer?

Quote of the week: “Anyone can design any costume for any gender as long as they approach it with with respect and understanding.” Those who disagree get a kick in the crotch. For a month.

You’re going to this, right? Okay, maybe not, but you must be coming to this, its at Orbital and everyone’s very excited about it! Or maybe you’ll be too busy freeing comics in chains, reading Paul Pope’s awesome reviews-as-comics, or just working to be a Stand Up Man. Whatever you’re doing, don’t fall into the trap of reading this rejected comic which is much better than many accepted ones aud if you do, then definitely avoid the creator’s webcomic, its terrific. And if you’ve fallen for those traps, then you may as well check out this enlightening Declan Shalvey interview. Rarely is an artist as savvy and charming as he is talented, but Declan pulls it off.

Kickstarter offers you (and us) a choice: Hinges or Rocket Girl. There is a third way: both. They look promising.

Whatever you do or don’t click through in this post, be careful. For fear has a new name. Extinction Buzzard.

Need To Know… 8.5.13

only what you need

only what you need

Better late than never, right? Apologies for the delay in posting this NTK, I’ll try to make the wait worthwhile!

A little bit of catch up regarding con season, as the record-busting C2E2 offered a glimpse of the future with their Graphic Storytelling panel, Stumptown Comics Fest revealed their award-winners, and Tom Spurgeon provided another one of his so-real-you-can-smell-the-air reports, which will pretty much make you feel like you were at Stumptown with him. Since the next major con is TCAF (in Toronto), lets spread some Canadian comics goodness with an Inkstuds panel video featuring Brandon Graham and Emily Carroll; all the colouring inspiration you need to get started (as a podcast and accompanying samples) courtesy of Sloane Leong, Patrick Bergin, and Inkstuds again; nominee interviews from the Doug Wright Awards (winners to be announced at TCAF this weekend), and a funny guide to what questions not to ask if you find yourself attending a panel.

Comics Alliance was shuttered (in typically abrupt corporate fashion) by AOL, and I’ll miss their thoughtful and entertaining coverage. On the positive side, they earned some interesting tributes from folk at The Comics Journal, The Beat… and Hitler. (apparently those videos are a thing, but this was my first, and I loved it!)

This week-end was Free Comic Book Day (the UK’s most successful one yet, so thank you to everyone who showed up at a comic store and made it the biggest yet!), but Saturday was also Star Wars Day, and vorpalizer brought the force with hourly updates (be sure to scroll to the bottom and hit “next post”). Cosplayers abounded over the week-end, but I’m kind of bummed that this Thor fan didn’t show up.

The Iron Man 3 review by Jim Rugg and Laura Hudson is undoubtedly more fun than the movie, while the first glance of Wood/Coipel’s X-Men is (shock! gasp!) beautiful. Gabriel Hardman is going to Monkeybrain with his latest project, and talks you through the concept here, as The Beat covers a new UK digital comics venture which looks pretty interesting. Eponymous, on my reading, was spare, efficient storytelling that made a potentially derivative comic surprisingly enjoyable. Or you can play it safe with this master list of all Comics Should Be Good’s Greatest Stories Ever Told. Speaking of the greatest ever, The Comics Journal reran this very 90’s Todd McFarlane interview. Greatest Ever? Or does this epic 5 part David Mack interview fit that bill better? No, wait, its definitely this Terry Moore 2-parter. Ah forget it, with so many giants around, maybe its better to just learn the art of the fill-in from John Ostrander. Most usefully of all, Simon Moreton has posted a history of his evolution into a small press creator, which shows you how long it takes, and how many steps there are along the way.

Over in the land of crowd-funding, Andy Ristaino has a crazy colourful project that looks like a whole lot of Vidiotic fun, while Nix Comics are locked-on to that record store/comics store nexus with their IndieGoGo project. And Greg Rucka, who remains under-appreciated (by the Big 2, anyway) for his excellent Batwoman run and even better Punisher work, wants you to meet Lady Sabre. Its risk-free, already funded, and a whole lot of fun, so here’s hoping he gets all the recognition he deserves for something that’s his.

All of which brings us to this week’s kooky misfits, those picked last. Here are Ridley Scott’s comics, or Ridleygrams. Meet Prisoner of None and jump on board early with this compelling new webcomic. Everybody loves to pit the Big 2 against each other, but how do their events stack up? (I’d love a year without an event, but I wonder whether the marketeers could sell good stories to casual readers.) This is the Ayn Rand biography comic you will enjoy reading (because its Darryl Cunningham, y’all!). When life gives you lemons, paint them red and make good art.

And never, never, disrespect Krypto. It ain’t smart.