Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
One of the real thrills of the U.K.’s graphic novel renaissance of recent years has been the reemergence of Rob Davis as a major talent. Both his short works for various sources (like “My Family And Other Gypsies” and “How I Built My Father”) and the longer-form Nelson, the format-busting anthology he co-steered to the prize for Best Book at the first British Comics Awards in 2012, reveal an artist whose greatest theme might be familial dysfunction. Davis’ next work will be The Motherless Oven, which looks like it’ll also be mining that rich seam of material. It’ll be released by SelfMadeHero, the U.K. imprint that published Davis’s impressive adaptation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote.
Here’s how editor Dan Lockwood describes the book:
The good burghers of 2000AD have sent along a raft of preview images for new thrills they’ll be running in their venerable anthology in 2014:
• Paul Grist’s Demon Nic. Appearing in the creator-owned slot of the Judge Dredd Megazine previously held by critically acclaimed strips as “Numbercruncher” and “Ordinary,” this will be Grist’s first work for the 2000AD stable since 1993.
Canadian purveyor of fine comics Renegade Arts Entertainment has sent along some preview images from its 2014 slate.
I’ve recently spotted Dept. of Monsterology artist Paul “PJ” Holden tweet of his disappointment that the positive buzz and great reviews for the comic haven’t necessarily translated into sales, and that’s a shame. The first three issues were among my favorite comics of 2013, jam-packed with old-school pulp action, with writer Gordon Rennie filling it with Easter eggs to be spotted by fans of classic sci-fi and horror.
I’d heartily recommend it to fans of the Mignola-verse, Doug Moench’s Master of Kung Fu comics, or Moore and O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. 2014 will see the first miniseries end, to be collected as a trade paperback at some later point, and hopefully we’ll also see a second series commissioned soon, too.
Remember last new year, when we published these season’s greetings from ROBOT 6 favorite Edmund Bagwell? Well, he’s sent along this sequel.
It’s been a busy couple of years for Bagwell, who’s become 2000AD‘s go-to guy for projects needing some cosmic-scaled psychedelia, with his recent work on Rob Williams’ ‘The Ten-Seconders’ being a particular treat. Everything I said last year remains true, I’d love to see him take on some of Marvel or DC’s Kirby legacy characters at some point. Hey, Marvel is relaunching Silver Surfer again soon, right? Surely, Mike Allred could do with a fill-in artist sometime?
Veteran U.K. writer Gordon Rennie has been using his Facebook account this week to tease several upcoming projects, including a new edition of the long-out-of-print White Trash, the series that propelled the late, great Martin Emond to stardom. Emond loved rock ‘n’ roll, and rock ‘n’ roll loved him: He was regularly employed by Glenn Danzig at his horror/smut imprint Verotik, and had signed a deal to develop his character Switch Blade into an animated series with Interscope Records just days before he committed suicide in 2004.
White Trash features thinly veiled analogs for Elvis Presley and Axl Rose going together on an anarchic road trip across America. Rennie posted this image when he released the news, a cover from the original Tundra/Atomeka miniseries. I’m presuming this new Titan collection may well include shorts featuring these characters done for other sources, such as Heavy Metal and the U.K. anthology Blast!
Travel Foreman posted these pieces to his blog overnight, explaining that he and Jeff Lemire were agitating for a Doom Patrol reboot around the time the artist left DC Comics’ Animal Man. He fleshes out the proposal’s premise, which was a ground-up reimagining of the concept, owing little to previous iterations of the characters.
“I’ve expressed my interest in doing the book to DC several times,” Foreman writes, noting that 2013 is the team’s 50th anniversary, “but it doesn’t seem to be something that’s ever going to happen.”
He offers a bit of detail about the pitch on his blog — there’s a catastrophe on a space station, with the lone “survivor” a Rover that developed into a sentient robot — and indicates he plans to develop the idea into his own Doom Patrol “simulacrum.”
When I was a kid growing up in the United Kingdom in the mid-’70s, it seemed like all the comics I read had flamboyant and entirely fictional editorial staff. DC Thomson’s Warlord was purportedly edited by Sir Peter Flint, who was also the lead character in the comic. His nephew Fireball (yeah, I know!) similarly “edited” the publisher’s other action anthology Bullet. Looking back, this tradition was something of an affront. Sure, it seemed like innocent fun and games, but given DC Thomson’s longstanding corporate failure to credit creators by name for their work, it begins to seem more sinister.
I’ve since heard the theory that the art assistants at DC Thomson in Dundee, Scotland, were so scrupulous about whiting out the signatures artists tried to sneak onto their pages because of paranoia that IPC in London would poach their best talents. That had happened before, in 1964, when the great Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale changed sides and caused a massive shift in the balance of power between the Big Two of U.K. comics. Hiding your editorial staff behind fictional identities seems more threatening from the position of adulthood and hindsight: The publisher is saying we can replace you and no-one will even notice! How’s that for job security?
I’ve been a fan of Ben Caldwell since coming across his Action! Cartooning tutorial book many moons (OK, nine years) ago. I don’t think he’s yet to produce that one killer piece of work that will win over critics of his Wonder Woman strip in DC’s Wednesday Comics, but I don’t doubt he’ll get there. I really don’t think there’s an artist in comics anywhere that has so successfully synthesized so many influences from so far into such an identifiable style of their own as Caldwell. And now there’s another place to see his work, as alongside his blog and his Twitter feed, he has a Tumblr, too.
He’s been experimenting with a new brush pen lately, and posting the results. Yet another string to his bow. They’re awesome, add a certain heft to his usual line, and are a happy reminder of the guy’s talent.
We featured The Mortal Vintner and its Mike Mignola-designed wine labels last year, and now the Dayton, Washington-based winery are releasing the “Skeleton Head” wine en primeur via its webstore for 10 days only. But you do get a 20-percent discount during that period. I notice buying the magnum gets you a little more Mignola art in the border.
Jamie Hewlett has already produced work concerned with ecological concerns before: His band Gorillaz’s third studio album Plastic Beach often ruminates on imagery inspired by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Now he’s taken part as one of a wealth of artists and designers who’ve created Christmas cards as part of Greenpeace’s “Save Santa’s Home” campaign.
In these last few years, my comics spending habits have changed dramatically. I buy fewer titles from comic shops and more original art and prints directly from artists, without my annual budget changing that much. I’ll blame social media for the shift: Once upon a time, original art sales were the preserve of agencies, and you couldn’t help but wonder where your money was really going. Now savvy artists can market themselves for free using Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., and then sell their own products with minimum fuss through a number of websites, like Redbubble or Society6, or by setting up their own storefronts using BigCartel or Shopify or a similar broker.
There’s a human side to this change, too. First through blogs, and now through Twitter and Facebook, social media means you get to know artists like you couldn’t even a decade ago. Barriers are broken; they invite you into their lives, you read as they fret about the day-to-day stuff. I suppose if I followed a load of farmers on Twitter I’d probably stop eating at McDonalds, but I don’t. I follow British comic artists. Buying art from ethically sourced, free-range creators now makes more sense to me than buying factory-farmed, battery-cage comics.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without mashup king PJ McQuade adding another couple of designs to his growing range of Star Wars-themed greetings cards. Every year I bemuse my elderly relations with such delights as the Tauntaun snow-licking “Hoth-y Holidays!” card. This year they’ll be just as baffled to receive “Jabba All the Way,” ‘Wampa in a Winter Wonderland,” “Hive a Mos Wretched Holiday” or “Merry This Christmas Is.” And, hey, I’ve just noticed that if you stick a white beard on Yoda, he starts to look a little like Alec Guinness.
Rafael Grampá’s art has already featured in one high-profile advertising campaign this year, for Absolut vodka. Now his work is featuring in an promo for Nike that strikes straight to the core of the Brazilian national self-image: soccer. For any sports lovers looking forward to the 2014 World Cup, it’s an amusing piece of film, maybe even the equal of the famous 1998 airport kickabout short.
Brazil is hosting the tournament after a year of civil unrest, which featured protesters calling for the international community to boycott the World Cup amid spiraling costs and accusations of corruption. But soccer is the true national religion of Brazil, and I expect the World Cup to result in a wave of euphoria and national reconciliation, just as the 2012 Olympics caused in the United Kingdom after the riots of 2011. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this joyous advert prompts the start of this process.
Alison Sampson describes the art project “Think of a City” as an “exquisite corpse,” the name of the parlor game played by the surrealists in the cafes of Paris during the 1920s and ’30s. The game involved a piece of folded paper onto which, in turn, each member of a group drew a part of a body, without being able to see what others have drawn. The result was a body or character of composite parts, often quite Frankenstein-looking.
Sampson’s day job is as an architect, and like many in that profession she seems very idealistic about how good design can improve the quality of life. Having followed her blogging over the years, it appears to me she brings that philosophy to everything she does, that she actively believes comic art has the same transformative power to affect us positively. Here’s the project’s mission statement:
I don’t back that many projects on Kickstarter, but The Spider King is a great-looking book, so I’m seriously considering it. I can’t remember which artist acquaintance put me on to the Facebook page of Italian artist Simone D’Armini, but the guy has a very cool style, synthesizing the influence of all kinds of the right folks (I detect hints of Ben Caldwell, Andrew MacLean, WJC and Uli Oesterle; check out his DeviantArt page here). The Spider King is one of that old chestnut, Vikings versus aliens, written by Australian writer Josh Vann, which is why those prices on the Kickstarter page might seem a bit on the high side, as they’re in Australian dollars.
It’s hard to get an idea of a comic from just a few scattered panels on a Kickstarter campaign page, but Vann’s dialog seems as witty as D’Armini’s images are stylish. They’re about halfway there towards their target, with 16 days to go, so take a look and see if you agree that this project deserves to see the light of day.