Much in the way Marc Maron’s WTF podcast provides a more personal, and sometimes profound, look at comedians as they’re interviewed by a fellow comedian, comic artist and Savannah College of Art and Design professor Shawn Crystal has turned the spotlight on comic-book creators.
Earlier this year Crystal launched the podcast InkPulp Audio (available on iTunes here), and it’s already generating buzz among his fellow creators. The artist who introduced me to it said, tongue in cheek, that he’s “hoping Crystal will soon be the Oprah of comics.” While that remains to be seen (keep checking under your chairs for that new car), the podcast finds him talking shop with such artists as Sean Murphy, Eric Canete, Ryan Stegman and Rick Remender.
The idea for the podcast came to Crystal as he found himself at a crossroads.
Nick Fury was and always will be the face of S.H.I.E.L.D., but writer Brian Michael Bendis just revealed a new and surprising member to Marvel’s spy outfit: Dazzler. As revealed in today’s Uncanny X-Men #6, Dazzler has been recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D. by Maria Hill in an attempt to counter-balance Cyclops rebellious talk of a mutant revolution.
“That’s why she’s a perfect candidate. She’s on nobody’s side,” Bendis told IGN. “She is looking at this with eyes wide open. Even though her relationship with Cyclops has been very good in the past she doesn’t know how she feels about what he has turned into. Dazzler’s previous relationship [with] Scott Summers is part of the reason Maria Hill recruited her.”
It’s not the fact that she’s a mutant that makes her a surprising choice; fellow X-Men alums Kitty Pryde and Danielle Moonstar have been agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at one point or another. What’s surprising is the prominent position the former pop star has moved into. Most recently seen in the pages of X-Treme X-Men bouncing around to alternate realities, the singer-turned-X-Man Alison Blaire has never been that much of a major player in Marvel Comics — but for a time, she was planned to be.
Often when comic creators are asked about their dream job, most expect them to respond with a specific character they want to tackle, some fondly remembered superhero on which they hope to leave their mark. Of course, not all comic creators think that way.
Writer and artist Sean Murphy has made a name for himself working on almost everything but superheroes. Instead, he’s made readers take notice with the likes of Punk Rock Jesus and Joe the Barbarian. When he’s done work-for-hire, he’s mostly stayed clear of the usual suspects, with stints on former Vertigo stalwart Hellblazer and a spinoff book for Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s American Vampire. His actual superhero output is few and far between, but well worth looking out for — from his Batman/Scarecrow: Year One miniseries to the delayed-but-finally released Teen Titans one-shot.
It’s always a great feeling when you find good comics in a place you weren’t suspecting. But as a reader, fan and journalist, I was surprised at how good the DC Comics digital titles are. But why? DC has put out great books, and continues to do so now with some of its New 52 line-up; I was also a big fan of the publisher’s previous digital-first endeavors with Zuda. Why then is it so surprising that the current crop of DC Digital is good? Then I figured it out.
First, a primer: Launched in early 2012, the DC Digital titles premiere online with weekly installments and are later collected in print. Originally consisting of just two series, Batman Beyond Unlimited and Smallville: Season 11 (both coincidentally continuations of canceled television shows), the line expanded in the fall with the anthology-style Legends of the Dark Knight, companions to the TV drama Arrow and the video game Injustice: Gods Amongst Us, and Batman: Li’l Gotham. The imprint’s most recent addition is an anthology called Adventures of Superman.
We’re still waiting on find out how Phil Coulson came back from that fatal impalement in The Avengers movie to star in the upcoming Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series, but hisseemingly inability to die is being played up by an up-and-coming indie artist.
Samir Barrett has put the Coulson character side by side with Die Hard‘s John McClane in a fully rendered pin-up that should get your fanboy (or fangirl) heart pumping:
A great artist can make readers stand up at attention, while a fast artist can make editors’ lives a lot easier. Luckily for fans and publishers alike, Declan Shalvey is both.
Taking the artistic reins on Deadpool in August, Shalvey is in the middle of an epic upward-bound trajectory in comics, drawing books for Marvel and Dark Horse. His career began with a 28 Days Later comic for BOOM! Studios, but fans didn’t really take notice of his work until he began alternating arcs of Thunderbolts with Kev Walker.
Despite its frantic biweekly shipping schedule, Thunderbolts was an ideal showcase for Shalvey’s gritty, textured illustrations (with a bounce reminiscent of emotive newspaper cartoonists). After working on that title, and its successor Dark Avengers, for two years, the Irish artist was tapped to follow after Tony Moore on Venom. But stand back: Shalvey isn’t just a superhero artist. While tackling those comics for Marvel, he also illustrated graphic novel adaptations of Frankenstein and Sweeney Todd for European publishers, and arcs of Vertigo’s Northlanders and Dark Horse’s Conan the Barbarian.
Last month on our sister blog Comics Should Be Good, columnist Kelly Thompson wrote a piece titled “6 Sublime Superheroine Redesigns” that profiled several recent costume makeovers she thought effective and true to the characters. In the post and the ensuing comments, talk abounded about the subject of superheroines often being saddled with revealing costumes that lean more toward fan service than suitable crime-fighting gear. Some posters argued there’s a current trend toward female characters having less-revealing costumes than in the past — Psylocke’s recent wardrobe redesign by Kris Anka was cited as an example — and that it’s an overreaction by publishers and designers that panders to feminists.
Anka took umbrage with some of the comments, and it opened the floor to an interesting debate about the look of superheroes. On the surface it questions the near-universal portrayal of female superheroes in more sexualized garb, but also attempts to draw a line between drawing a superhero as sexy without necessarily being sexist.
Real heroes know when to call for back-up. And popular webcomics artist Dean Trippe has done just that in a stunning cross-company pin-up featuring Batman and a young child meeting an ginormous assemblage of heroes from comics, television and movies. The illustration, titled “You’ll Be Safe Here,” is part of a larger project Trippe has been working on after his Oni Press graphic novel Power Lunch with J. Torres. (Full disclosure: I’m a friend of Trippe’s, and we work together on Project: Rooftop, but he didn’t solicit me to write about this.)
The pin-up is startling in the sheer number of familiar faces you see, but also in terms of the wardrobe each wears: The Fantastic Four are there, but in their white Future Foundation garb, alongside the 2099 variation of Spider-Man and the classic ’80s rendition of Transformers‘ Optimus Prime. Trippe thoughtfully documented the process in a short video presentation. And for those at a loss to name every character in the pin-up, Trippe he also provided a guide.
Chris Roberson has been thinking what comic writers are supposed to do in comics. While many creators follow the usual trajectory of creator-owned projects to Marvel or DC, the Portland, Oregon-based writer went from the Big Two and found his true calling, making his own comics and helping others to do the same.
A science fiction author, Roberson was ushered into comics as a colleague and co-writer of Fables creator Bill Willingham. However, Roberson quickly branched out, first with the Vertigo series iZombie, and then as the writer of Superman, putting him in the unenviable position of picking up the pieces after J. Michael Straczynski left midway through his much-heralded run. Although he turned in some great work in his short run on Superman/Batman, Roberson ultimately found DC not the kind of place he wanted to continue working.
With Captain America leading Marvel’s charge into comic stores and movie houses, it’s no surprise that other countries want their own patriotic hero to represent them. British comics writer Chris Bunting and the digital publisher Eco Comics is stepping forward with what it contends is England’s first proper patriotic hero: the Englishman.
What about Captain Britain, you say? Well, according to the press release, Captain Britain “cannot be classed as patriotic: there is, of course, no such country as ‘Britain.’” Britain, or “Great Britain,” refers to the name of the island England sits on, so semantically speaking Eco Comics says a true patriotic hero must have its proper county in his name. Under this definition, Captain Britain falls short … but so would Captain America. America’s a general name for two continents, right?
Semantics aside, the impeding debut of the Englishman sees Bunting and artist Valentin Ramon doing a hero the writer calls “ambitious, dark and controversial.” In addition to the titular star, other English-themed heroes such as Greenbelt and Dry Stone Wall are said to appear.
“I often feel quite envious of the patriotism that so many other countries display, but ‘England’ has almost become a forgotten, even a dirty, word. To paraphrase the historian David Starkey, we should celebrate, and not be ashamed of, England,” Bunting said in a statement. “To help address this, just as the U.S. has its Captain America, I realized that England needed its own patriotic super hero: enter Englishman.”
The release date for The Englishman #1 hasn’t been announced by Eco at presstime, but news of this patriotic hero has already been picked up by mainstream UK TV outlets like Channel 4′s 10 O’Clock Live and The Guardian.
Some people wear their influences on their sleeve, while others absorb it into their own style and, from time to time, shout it from the rooftops.
Jim Rugg is doing the latter in a stunning pin-up he created for the recent Extreme Comics fanzine Rub The Blood. Extreme is the brainchild of Rob Liefeld, whose divisive style earned him legions of fans, including it seems Rugg.
Rugg’s choices for which characters to display from Liefeld’s ouvre runs the gamut from his Marvel co-creation Cable to his creator-owned work like Youngblood‘s Chapel (done in a style reminiscent of Jae Lee’s take on the character) and solo stars Prophet, Bloodstrike: Assassin and Bloodwulf.
To the average comics reader, Joe Casey is the writer behind idiosyncratic creator-owned books like Gødland and Sex and the stellar re-imaginings of corporate-owned superheroes like Wildcats, Superman and the X-Men. But to the pre-teen set, he’s the co-creator of one of the hit kid-friendly animated series Ben 10 and a co-writer of Ultimate Spider-Man and the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers Assemble. With two radically different profiles, the question becomes this: Which is the real Joe Casey? I’d argue it’s both, and more.
Casey got his start in the shifting sands that was Marvel in the late 1990s in the years, filling in on a Wolverine miniseries before quickly stepping in to take over Cable. Much in the same way that character moves back and forth in the time stream, Casey has hopped among titles, genres and companies.
DC Comics has hired a slew of writers and artists in the wake of the New 52; someone has to do all those new books, right? But as you would expect, there are a lot of proposed pairings of creators and projects that were nixed before they saw print.
Earlier this week, Powers artist Michael Avon Oeming revealed artwork he had done for DC when he was in line to illustrate the recently launched Katana. Although DC ultimately went down a more realistic route with artist Alex Sanchez, these two pieces by Oeming are a bittersweet taste of what could’ve been.
Or, “Betty & Veronica & Brandon & Emily.”
Cartoonist Brandon Graham is well known for thinking about the mechanics of comics. Recently, he and fellow cartoonist Emily Carroll went about examining a throw-off five-page Betty & Veronica comic be redoing it in their own styles. The results? Marvelous.
Here’s the first page from each. If you’re enticed, click over to Graham’s blog post containing both full comics as well as the original Betty & Veronica comic they are based on.
We’ve seen all manner of creature and creation in the Star Wars universe, but this is something else.
Subversive woodblock print artist Sean Starwars is showing off a series of Star Wars woodblock prints at the Los Angeles art gallery Coagula Curatorial on May 4, which is both Free Comic Book Day and the unofficial Star Wars fan day “May the Fourth Be With You.” The artist, who legally changed his last name to “Starwars,” is a member of a group called the Outlaw Printmakers, and has taken his passion for George Lucas’ seminal creation and put it down on wood. He will be doing screen-printing live at the event. In addition to Starwars’ work, Coagula Curatorial will also be having Star Wars costume contests, games, screen-printing, puppets and even a comedy show.
Here’s more examples of Starwars’ woodblock prints: