no cape no mask

who needs a costume when you have words?

Need To Know… #31.3.14

only what you need

only what you need

Have you ever wondered, dear readers, who made Kung Fu cool? Wonder no longer, it was Hammer McGee. You might reasonably be wondering what makes Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) so cool, too. Well, Rob Salkowitz has a rundown, these two previews showcase art from Monsters and Dames, a book published annually by ECCC to benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital (which is pretty cool, right?), and if you need more reasons, as people make their way home and digest the weekend’s goings on, all the best coverage will be linked to here. For what its worth, this was one of the most intriguing announcements there this year, Pires + Copland x Pop = Awesome?

In terms of news, its great to hear solid plans from Eric Powell for more Goon, more often going forward! Spidey 2099 is going to be a thing, too, and however you feel about that, its a great excuse to dive into Peter David’s extensive back catalogue of really creative superhero comics. And September feels far from now, but this Oni Press book looks worth waiting for.

If you like TV, movies, comics, or music, every link on this page will offer you something cool. Sean T Collins don’t play. And here’s a Top 10 list that’s well worth reading, of biographical comics.

Batman is 75, apparently. No biggie, right? Well, to start your celebrations, check out his best/most interesting coverage over the years, courtesy of Comics Alliance, while CBR can offer you his 75 best covers of all time, though for me, there’s nowhere near enough Breyfogle in that list. Hellboy may be a Spring Chicken at only 20, but Multiversity’s crew of contributing artists shows how high-impact he’s been in that time (I kind of like this one in particular).

Do you like Crime Comics? Check out Recoil.

Had you heard of the critical term, “groundlevels”, before? Worth reading, especially if you’re a Sex Criminals fan or someone who likes Image’s output. Liz Greenfield makes great comics, but she also gives an interesting perspective on self-publishing, artistic visions, and professionalism. So, y’know, read the article on FPI. Hey, here’s a good question: When were DC last innovative? Well, we know they were in 1972… (and for those of you who click through on that and go *groan* “more Kirby worship? really?”, it’s way bigger and more relevant than that). In the interests of equality, Marvel haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory recently either. Andrew Wheeler can tell you why, via a Mandarin short and the dubious humour of prison rape.

Study Group have a Kickstarter going for their Spring season line-up. If you’re still reading and haven’t already clicked through, try this new strip they have up, and then tell me you don’t want to support them. I dare you.

Nic Klein makes pretty pages. A lot of the ones featured here are very superhero-y, but scroll down to the black and white Silver Surfer image, and behold the cosmic glory.

See you in 7!

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Need To Know… 24.3.14

only what you need

only what you need

Is it Kickstarter season? Because the crowdfunding projects are blooming, be they for Schmucks, Girls’ nights out, or a House Party. That’s a lot of crowd to fund, though, so to set you up in the giving vein, have a free tale of Yeezus.

Comics continue to crush culture, with Marvel Editor Sana Amanat giving a great TED talk on “Myths, Misfits, and Masks”; more MOOCS, on making this time; and that Grampa animated movie we were teased with going live on the interwebs. Of course, comics don’t always make positive headlines for their cultural sensitivity, and last week Valiant snatched the dunce’s cap away from Dan DiDio with their somewhat insensitive Rai relaunch. And there’s the ongoing issue of superhero diversity, rendered team by team in comic graph form over at Comics Alliance.

Time for some #longreads, and where better to start than with the excellent Past, Present & Future posts on Hellboy’s history over at Multiversity; they’re in depth, impassioned, and easy to follow. The Mercurial Blonde is at it again, owning comics journalism with some thoughts on love or art, an interview regarding a comic we’re very excited for: Genesis, and a little piece on actually interviewing artists. Then there’s Kate Beaton talking comics history and drawing Nelson, and your latest state-of-comics Mayo Report, which you might want to compare and contrast with The Beat‘s coverage. Of for the ultimate #longread… new solicitations are up, for June!

If, like me, you’re intrigued to see what the Prophet crew do after that title ends, here’s the first sign from Simon Roy, with Jan’s Atomic Heart. There’s more Shaky Kane on the way in 2014, too, and another Blacksad volume to come! Oh, and somebody loves Chris Samnee. Aaw!

In other news, there is only one True Detective, Stan Lee is old, and for those of you tired of speculation, try meta-speculation (or maybe its more like Comics Publishers Top Trumps?).

“I can’t really picture the average person going to the trouble of curating his own little comic section, much less reading a new and unfamiliar strip for months to build up a relationship with it. There’s so much other content available—instantly and all for free—that there’s no reason to stick around if you’re not immediately enthralled. We consume everything like potato chips now. In this environment, I suspect the cartoonist’s connection with readers is likely to be superficial and fleeting, unless he taps into some fervent special interest niche. And that audience, almost by definition, will be tiny. It’s a very different world from the days when everyone in America knew who Popeye, Dick Tracy or Charlie Brown was.” So says Bill Watterson. Thoughts?

Finally, do you like to feel the fur?

Need To Know… 10.3.14

only what you need

only what you need

Diversity is good, right? Comics are good, right? Sooo, how about checking out CBR’s recently concluded (and therefore easily searchable) Month of African-American Comics, starting with Kill Godz? If that sets you looking for a March theme, look no further than Multiversity, who are celebrating 20 years of Hellboy in their usual stunning fashion. And in April its somebody’s birthday, but how come he’s still around?

The weekend was SXSW, which means Marvel had news (sounds for your digital comics! isn’t that amaz… wait, what? oh, no sweat, there’s freebies too), while Comixology has a terrific deal on its Submit catalogue, BUT you only have until this evening to take advantage! GO! For some context on the creator perspective of the Submit program, go here, or if you’d prefer to celebrate the amazing comicking being done online today, it’s awards time for Emily Carroll and Taiyo Matsumoto! Ooh, and there’s a new webcomic started which features Emma Vieceli’s art, so things online are looking swell.

Sticking with my glorious compatriots, the upcoming British Library Comics Exhibition has a competition with a pretty sweet prize, for all you makers out there; GB’s best comics blogger (Zainab Akhtar) wants to show you something, and you’ll be glad you looked into it: Orbital Comics’s very own Ryan Jenkyns has a Kickstarter going for his creation, Whiskers McFadden, and it is shaping up to be pretty fricking sweet! And I got to live a dream this week, writing half a nice review of a Moon Knight #1 with good buddy Keith Silva. Dreams CAN come true.

Of course, good criticism is good to find, and bears criticism, so don’t just be a critic, yeah? Sorted. If you do feel compelled to critique, at least do it intelligently, and use phrases like “aesthetic hybridity” to let people know how you’re rollin’. Alternatively, you could just wait for Zack Snyder to step in and save you from any repercussions, just like he “saved us” from Terry Gilliams’s vision for Watchmen. Phew, close shave, eh?

Pick a mask, any mask.

Got a few cool treats online for you this week, like a download of Milo Milonogiannis’s art book tome (did you enjoy Prophet? then download it); a seriously Creepy old Simon/Kirby joint; or a slew of awesome blog updates from James Stokoe, Ryan Kelly, and the Mercurial Blonde herself! Best of all, you could take a wander round the Digital Comic Museum

Hands up if you didn’t know Archie Comics are the coolest publisher? Well done everyone, have some pretty art, its like cookies for your eyeballs. Ooh, and just because you’re lovely, have a gander at First Second‘s and Fantagraphics‘ Fall Release catalogues.

We are all Tigers.

Oh hey, almost forgot, this happened. COPRA’s back, baby!

Need To Know… 03.03.14

only what you need

only what you need

If I went by numbers, this would be NTK #52. I’ve retired that number for obvious reasons. Like this.

Big week for Image this week, as they step up to the education plate, make a teeny tiny boo boo, but mainly for Eric Stephenson’s speech at the ComicsPRO event, focusing on “new creativity” and the future of comics. Before you drink his Kool-Aid, though, I’d urge you to consider Ulises Farinas’s overview of the state of comics, based off his experiences of reviewing them recently, and an interesting piece on comics, digital, and disposability over at PopMatters. Or try this: “The American comic book is a zombie” – Discuss.

Still, $600m a year from cons can’t be all bad. Some of that even comes from events that are just about comics, like this one.

A cornucopia of small press and independent goodness awaits you this week, starting with Cody Pickrodt’s excellent Ray Ray Books, proceeding via the terribly good Lauren Monger, taking in just a Glimpse at the Secret Knots, building to an epic climax with FPI’s uber-preview of UK comics to come in 2014! For a global perspective, check out the brand new and growing Tiny Report, your Yellow Pages for all things indy in comics.

We’ve got regretful fantasies of what a GI Joe by Michel Fiffe would have looked like (clue: excellent), but there’s consolation in the ongoing revival of our childhoods through Miami Vice and Big Trouble in Little China comics. Soon, we will all be Peter Pan.

In new news, this week sees Moon Knight return and an Evil Empire begin, news of Skottie Raccoon and Simonson Ragnarok, and if you’re in the mood to prepare for the imminent Guardians of the Galaxy movie, here’s your homework.

Speaking of homework, The Comics Reporter has a great round-up of all the artists whose work should be studied first, The Comics Journal wants to clue you in on Rube Goldberg, Comics Alliance can explain the importance of just one punch, the Mindless Ones talk Miller, Cooke, and art, Robot 6 gets scatological with Ryan and DeForge, and to top it all off, somebody found a trove of Alex Toth abstractions. Stick around.

And now for some dessert, specifically Pancakes. Or maybe Sochi Superheroes are sweeter to your tastes?

Take it to the river.

Need To Know… 24.2.14

only what you need

only what you need

Sorry about last week, everyone. What can I say, hitting 50 of these NTK’s triggered a rapid, super-condensed midlife crisis, but now I’ve bought hairplugs and a convertible, so I’m good. What makes missing a week worse is that I couldn’t tell you about these three awesome Multiversity pieces: about the diminishing role of artists (what?), a roundtable on Marvel Knights, and a cheat sheet for readers and reviewers, basically enabling us to all talk about the art in comics without just saying “it’s so pretty” over and over. Although, this is pretty. Yeah, they had a great week, they even had a Declan Shalvey process post!

I also neglected to direct you toward this interview with Liz Prince, after which you might just want a bookplate edition of her latest…. and Orbital Comics can help! They can also help with comics guidance generally, but if you prefer to hear from other, less biased sources, try Comics Alliance’s Reader Survey. Or just go here and dive straight into some abstract comics. They rock.

I have a new hero this week, Josette Frank. San Francisco will soon have a new hero too, as DD is moving, but while you’re waiting for his flight to land, check out this Fraction-al analysis of some DD pages. Or if you prefer your heroes military or robotic, be patient. They’re coming. Speaking of heroes, though, you are aware they’re not your bitches, right? Just checking, and while we’re checking, have you shown Kevin Nowlan some love recently? That whole Year of the Artist CBR feature is great, if a little obvious, but Nowlan deserves every credit possible. Same could be said for Steve Lieber, especially when he’s sharing how to build worlds on a budget. And hell, while we’re praising, its always nice to see Stokoe’s Godzilla getting some intelligent coverage. Oh, and remember that time Jaime Hernandez did an Alan Moore strip? Wow Cool!

You may remember I linked to Jed McGowan once before, and his golden silences. Here’s more coming your way. While it’s quiet, listen out for the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. Didja hear them? That’s the question.

A crowdfunding update for you all, have you heard of Patreon? Get to know. Then get on over to Kickstarter and back Pinoy! Or if you’re in the knowledge-soaking mood, go listen to Bill Boichel. He’s Copacetic, y’all, and will drop a big load of knowledge (and opinion) on you, so if you’re in the mood for big news to match, let’s go big with Becky, bigger with Attack on Titan, and colossal with Witzend. Oh yeah.

That, uh, Guardians of the Universe movie thing is out soon. So Talking Raccoons one, Wonder Woman nil (and falling). Also, have you been wondering whether to see Guardians? Check this out.

Finally: this. This explains a lot.

Need To Know… 10.2.14

only what you need

only what you need

Hey, Need To Know… is 50. Wow, that’s… ah, who cares. Age ain’t nuthin’ but a number, right?

Let’s begin with the campaigns that could use your support, shall we? This week, a Sequart documentary on the history of female creators in comics, which will almost certainly be more interesting and less sought after than the “Image Revolution” documentary with its fanboyish tack. Oh, wait, its by the same people. Well, anyway, a better topic! And then there’s the subscription you owe it to yourself to take out, with Yeah Dude! Comics. Honestly, look at that creator list. You needs it.

Since it looks like Matt Fraction comics may be a little way away, maybe you’d best content yourself with this beyond in-depth interview series over at Paste. Something briefer, but equally welcome, is a new entry on James Stokoe’s blog (sadly, it ain’t more Orc Stain). Stylistically in the same ballpark, have you checked out The Stamm? While we’re perving on art, does anyone doubt that Jerome Opena is the real deal? Anybody? Good. Ooh, and nice posters, Mister X.

Have you started planning for The Lakes yet, because Scott McCloud has? And that’s just one event, this year’s launch calendar is looking epic, as Zainab Akhtar will tell you. You should be able to pick up all those books from Bergen Street in New York, but you won’t be able to pick up any Marvel or DC floppies. Interesting, and admirably progressive, decision though it is, you can’t help but wonder if it’s a reaction against this kind of brokeback nonsense. Seriously.

We mentioned that last week marked an anniversary of Jack Kirby’s demise, and this seems like a fitting tribute. Similarly, Comics Alliance did a stellar job of elucidating Bill Finger’s Batman legacy, making last week a good one for remembering.

It was a good week for awards, too, as Slate Book Review and CCS announced the nominees for their Cartoonist Studio Prizes for Best Graphic Novel and Best Webcomic. If that doesn’t offer you enough further reading, check out this site that lets you pick webcomics to explore from just the first frame. And if it’s further comix reading you’re seeking, Comics Reporter and crew have some hot leads on cool reads for you. If making is more your line than reading, this may well be the best inker interview for you, but just don’t be uncivilized about it.

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s. I’m too old for all that stuff.

Need To Know… 03.02.14

only what you need

only what you need

You know, it feels like it’s been a while since we talked about DC. So this week let’s begin by noticing that the Bat-books editor, Mike Marts, has returned to Marvel. Not a great sign, so let’s counterbalance by celebrating the sales success of Harley Quinn, and looking at whether Harley might be the Renaissance Lady of Fun Comics. Did you know there’s a War on Fun? Over on the cinema side of the street, the Jesse Eisenberg Luthor casting was received with… confusion, though it’s surely no dumber than any attempt at a Gambit movie, (or the new Quicksilver costume) right? Ah, Gambit. Remember the first time? Also, dilemma of the week: what excites you more: Michael Bay’s TMNT movie images, or TMNT Lego?

Lego FTW.

There’s a bevy of notable crowdfunding campaigns around, too, with a Kim Deitch miscellany, a new subscription offering from the awesomely named King Bone Press, another from Maple Key Comics, and an IndieGoGo from Negative Pleasure Publications with a stellar list of indy creators. You might be saving up for Valentine’s, though, and not want to splash out on any cool comics stuff for a while. In that case, master the Valentine’s Day Whale, and you’re good to spend on yourself! In that same DIY vein, have you checked out Comics For Beginners?

When American libraries do comics awards, they go all the way. Thorough doesn’t begin to cover it. Fortunately, when old creators pass away, The Comics Reporter is there to be library-thorough in collating obituaries, remembrances, and context. Rest In Peace, Morrie Turner. And since this week will mark Jack Kirby’s passing, this link seems fitting. This comic doesn’t strictly fit here, but it’s so beautiful, and it is about loss, so, just read it.

Wow, that was a sad paragraph. How about some things to look forward to? Like new editions of James Stokoe’s Wonton Soup! Chinese pulp heroes! A new Brandon Graham anthology title! Better? Evan Shaner will tickle the funny bones of the musically inclined, too, with this CBR Sunday interview that sees him casting comics characters as orchestral instruments. And digging through CSBG’s 31 Days of Comics is definitely going to be fun, we’ve been waiting until they’re all indexed so we can binge!

As if you needed reminding, Stumptown was amazing, not that it did anything to address the problem of comics’ lack of breakout characters. But as long as there are great comics, do we really need great characters? Probably worth thinking about what Cameron Stewart’s tweets say about the correlation of social media noise to sales signal. Abner Dean definitely warrants closer examination. Oh, and with Frank Santoro, Brandon Graham, AND David Brothers all on the show together, this 500th Inkstuds podcast is as close to compulsory as comics podcasts get!

This past weekend, a couple of things happened. The Superbowl. Didja miss it? No worries. And a li’l thing called Angouleme. Wonder if My Boy was on sale there.

Do you ever feel like you’re the last man on Earth? You’re almost certainly not. Not sure if that’s a good thing, though…

Need To Know… 27.1.14

only what you need

only what you need

Alright, let’s get this out of the way right up front; Deadly Class won the racks last week, so here are a few related articles, where Remender talks sci-fi and Fear Agent on Bleeding Cool, Wes Craig gets the full treatment at Multiversity (be sure to check out his BlackHand Comics), and since Lee Loughridge’s colours were so much a part of that first issue, here’s two Colorist Appreciation Day links explaining why you should appreciate, and who you might. Technically, Undertow‘s a sci-fi book, right? So this really intelligent and thoughtful Steve Orlando interview is kind of relevant, and while we may have already mentioned Genesis (sorry), it can’t hurt to turn your eyes that way again with more detail from FPI (not sorry).

Transformers. GI Joe. Tom Scioli research. Nuff said. And if you’re enjoying geeking out on creator research, this Frank Santoro post on some big titles’ humble beginnings is a treat. Talking beginnings, imagine Batman’s beginnings without Bill Finger, and prepare to marvel at a new beginning for Jack Kirby’s Captain Victory with a crazy hot creator list, in what actually is, for a change, a Dynamite announcement. If none of that does it for you, maybe you’re just the wrong kind of nerd?

In great news, the British Library has realised that comics exist, and are good. Well done, chaps. In other news, Rafael Grampa is indeed still a rock star (wanna help him make an animated movie?), previews are here for Nina Bunjevac’s next project, London-based Breakdown Press continue to rock comics hard, and John Porcellino offers his thoughts on 2013’s best and brightest.

Did you ever buy any of these? Come on, own up. Or do you secretly wish comics would splash out more? You’re among friends here.

If you like your novels with pictures by kick-ass artists, then this (story)killer Kickstarter looks pretty sweet, but before you go there it’s very very important that you learn the truth behind all the recent NSA/GCHQ spying revelations. Also, did you know just how fully NSFW (but fun!) Brandon Graham’s sex comics are? Careful before you click, these images just might ruin you.

My new favourite superheroes.

Finally, are any of your dreams in here? Because you may find yourself adopting a few of those. See you in 7!

Need To Know… 20.1.14

only what you need

only what you need

Hey Everybody, you can come out now, Ribic is back on Thor! And that isn’t even the best anticipatory link we’ve got this week, as Kirkman/Azaceta project Outcast gets previewed, the Lobster gets got, BOOM! Box are introducing the Lumberjanes (courtesy of Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Shannon Watters), and Vertigo are teasing a quarterly anthology that’s going to be … colourful? Yeah, hard to know what to make of that one. Harder still to know what to make of DC & Vertigo’s marketing efforts all round. Still, at least they let us know Wally’s coming back.

In less predictable news, the estimable Lucy Knisley is bringing two books to Fantagraphics, Brandon Graham is continuing to play den mother to a host of indie talent over at Image, and even if you’ve never heard of Takeshi Obata or his manga (Deathnote, Bakuman), this preview art and the title All You Need is Kill are alluring, right? Still, he’s got nothing on those Southern Bastards.

Barry Windsor-Smith sure could draw, couldn’t he? No context for that one, just fact.

Some people are still reviewing 2013, and this post seems like the most comprehensive comics-biased pop culture retrospect around, but for a more contentious rearward survey, check this collection of Doc Ock’s defining moments of Spidey superiority. Could he actually be a better wall-crawler? If you’re really spoiling for a fight, how about debating the merits of 90’s comics, though a Good, Better, Best character redesign series?

There’s a bunch of stuff for you to do in London, coming up. First and foremost, this very Wednesday at Orbital Comics there’s Live Action Painting from The Battle Of The Eyes! Rock’n Roll Art Making! If your tastes run a little cleaner and tighter, this Sunday sees a one day masterclass in creating a graphic novel, while in February Paul Pope will be in London for a Comica conversation. To the diaries!

By the way, Retrofit comics have now gone digital as well as print, and not reading any of their stuff has been outlawed. Officially. Unless you’re working really hard. Like, as hard as a manga master works. Then you’re excused.

Alright, we’re almost at the free comics part, but first, some insight for you. Over at The Hooded Utilitarian, they have a great article on interpreting Mind MGMT, a book that may read better if you know your angle of attack. Over at The Beat, the question of what exactly happened to Marvel Knights get addressed. If you’re interested in a sensible take on diversity and the affirmative action style efforts visible in the comics industry, check out the mercurial blonde’s blog. If you just want Chris Burnham to talk gross, horror nightmare research for upcoming Morrison project Nameless, or Remender to go high concept (in a great way) about his soon-to-rock Low, well, that can happen too. Or you might just want some half-assed cosplay ideas.

Alright, alright, free comics. Enter The Tunnel (if you dare, those vulnerable to existential horror should not click through), be there when the Saints go Marchin’ in, sample Dash Shaw’s latest on Study Group, or best of all, spend some time with Julia Wertz as she explains why the Fart Party really stinks. It’s a very honest memoir of cartooning and alcoholism, that’s about much more than either topic.

Important question: how do you defeat someone who gets stronger as you hit them? Science knows!

Almost finally, isn’t it sad that covers like these are rarities, rather than the general approach? Remember Wagner’s Batman #631 cover? Why aren’t there more like this?

Especially for the Gosh Darned Batman.

Need To Know… 13.1.2014

only what you need

only what you need

Last week proved that you just can’t keep a good man down. Whether I’m referring to Dan Slott’s predictable reveal that, yes, Peter Parker is returning, or Alan Moore’s typically understated, intelligent interview following some Morrisonian bile, I’ll leave up to you. Of course, I could just be remarking the return of Kaare Andrews to comics, what with his new Iron Fist series being announced, and all.

That Alan Moore interview is billed as his last, so where oh where will you go for good interviews? The Comics Reporter, of course! There are few people better at intelligent interviewing than that guy, and while you’re on the site, you might as well check out the 2014 Angouleme Grand Prix short list. Then, once you’ve perused the list of names familiar and unknown, maybe read Andrew White’s post on Tumblr about whether we really all need a shared canon of comics to draw from, or whether we should make our own canon, drawing from as many sources as we can.

That’s all a bit thinky, so let’s cut to the popcorn. Image Expo was last week, which means there are tons of announcements to catch up on, all neatly listed here, on CBR. There’s only one really important question to be answered, though: whose previews are hotter, Ward, or Tocchini?

Not to be outdone, Marvel announced a new Doop series (Doop!), & a new lease of life for the Ultimate Universe (really?), this time with added Michel Fiffe (oooh). Oni upped the stakes with news of fresh Stumptown comics to come, an ongoing, even! There’s another brand new, cool-looking small press fest coming up in NYC, called Paper Jam. ELCAF stole the show, however, with their announcement that Chris Ware will be at this year’s event! He’s probably going to be mobbed, though, so if you’re hoping for any nuggets of wisdom or advice, maybe you’re better off peeping this interview with chimeric comics craftsman Ben Templesmith, who explains it all. Or, if you feel you need help figuring out how to read a graphic novel (and let’s face it, every day’s a school day), try this TED talk.

Argh, we’re back thinking again! Sorry! Look, Toby Cypress makes intricate kinetic imagery (watch out for The White Suits, soon from Dark Horse), Sloane Leong is more than a colorist, Poohdickery is here documented for your edification, or there’s this list of superhero webcomics you might enjoy, if, you know, you dig the digital spandexers.

Question: you likely know who created Superman, but who discovered him? And if the X-Men were always designed as a comic concerned with prejudice and diversity issues, then why so many white dudes?

If all else fails, you can retreat into 365 days of Kirby tech. Though none of that is as impressive as this vision for the future of drones. Mmmmm!