PREVIEW: The Bendis Era Concludes in "Uncanny X-Men" #600
A long time ago — say, 1999 — in a galaxy not so far away, the history of interlocking bricks was altered forever when, for the first time, LEGO licensed an intellectual property. X-Wings, TIE Fighter, and AT-ATs had been designed and assembled by hobbyists for years, but now you could put together a design that was blessed by both LEGO Corporation and Lucasfilm! Complete with actual minifigs! The agreement managed to coincide with the rise of several nerdier properties, and the once unthinkable was now possible. What a glorious future we live in to have both a LEGO Gandalf and a LEGO Rocket Raccoon?
But this world isn’t always met with open arms. As Professor Cane on Community once lamented, “What happened with LEGOs? They used to be simple.” Some fear that the focus on licensed merchandise — and the specialty parts that it takes to make, say, the Batwing — places limits on a child’s creativity. The diversity of available parts seem to be a godsend for Internet content creators, however. How It Should Have Ended’s parody of The LEGO Movie looks like it could have come straight off the screen. Meanwhile, some enterprising souls put together a LEGO version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens just one day after the official trailer debuted.
“It feels like the right time to do it. The characters have outgrown the setting, the premise and the format,” he explains on his blog. “I’ve tinkered with the comic for three cases, with mixed results — a whole story of giant pages, then lots of little strips, but I’ve felt like I was in a holding pattern for the last couple of years. I don’t want to stop telling stories with these characters, but I’m not sure I can do much more with them without returning to the drawing board. There’s definitely more to come from Charlotte, Shauna and the rest of them, but you might not see much of them for a little while.”
Emily Carroll, who chilled us with such haunting webcomics as “His Face All Red,” “Margot’s Room,” “Out of Skin” and “The Hole the Fox Did Make,” is back with some Halloween thrills with “When the Darkness Presses.” She explains it as a comic “about being haunted,” so we’ll just leave it at that.
Ahead of New York Comic Con, Action Lab Entertainment has announced it will publish Katie Cook’s popular webcomic Gronk: A Monster’s Story.
Debuting in 2010, Gronk centers on a young monster who turns her back on monster-kind (primarily because she’s too adorable to scare anyone) and moves in with her human friend Dale and her pets Kitty and Harli.
A Harvey Award nominee, Cook is widely known for her work on licensed properties like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and IDW Publishing’s popular My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic comic series.
“I’ve been approached before about taking my self-published books to another publishing ‘level,'” Cook said in a statement, “but it’s ALE that, in the end, I trust to do it. It’s a team that is made up of some of the nicest people I’ve gotten to know in comics and they really are trying to put together something special. I am thrilled to put Gronk (and myself) in their lineup.”
Cook will exhibit as NYCC in Artists Alley (table C-1o), and will sign a limited-edition issue of Gronk Friday and Sunday at the Action Lab Entertainment booth (#3044).
Premiering in August, King Maul centers on a savage warrior (named King Maul, of course) who burst out of a portal in space with ominous narrative boxes dubbing him a conqueror, destroyer and creator of an empire. His first battle, with an unnamed green-skinned alien, is less Conan the Barbarian and more WWE Raw — in a good way. In early episodes, fighting is briefly delayed when Maul is offered to smoke a mysterious substance, only to be renewed with his newly established battle cry of “Baaaaaaaaaaallllllssss.”
“Thank you all for coming this far with me!” the cartoonist wrote on her website. “It’s been amazing journey. You’ve all been truly spectacular. I couldn’t have asked for better readers.”
Long, long ago there was a little movie called Star Wars, and it and its two sequels became the highest-grossing movies of all time. Yet, there was a time the interstellar saga wasn’t quite as mighty a pop culture juggernaut as it is today. Some time between President Reagan’s “Star Wars” SDI initiative and Lucas’ CG retooling of his cinematic babies, Star Wars existed primarily in the books, comics and video games that made up the Expanded Universe. Star Wars was a nerdier pursuit, when the true fans followed the adventures of Mara Jade and Admiral Thrawn.
Since the prequel trilogy, Star Wars has barreled back into the mainstream like a hungry Rancor. Merchandise depicting Darth Vader, Yoda and newcomers named Asajj Ventress and Savage Oppress peek from the shelves of every Toys R Us, Walmart and FYE.
If there’s something Star Wars fans love to do, however, it’s laugh at themselves: For example, Jeffrey Brown has released three books that play around with the idea of Darth Vader as a doting father. Darths & Droids, meanwhile, has turned screenshots of the Star Wars saga into a long role-playing game.
It seems as if most webcomics are designed to run more or less forever. That’s par for the course with comics in general, really: It’s not like we really expect Action Comics or Garfield to reach a logical terminus any time soon. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any great completed narratives in webcomics, however.
Evan Dahm never left his world of Overside. He’s chronicled its history with Order of Tales, and he’s now continuing the story with Vattu. The latter was recently honored at Small Press Expo with the Ignatz Award for Best Online Comic. The first of the Overside stories may still be the best, though.
Rice Boy, like the follow-up stories, follows the outline of a hero’s journey, with the title characgter called away from his mundane life by a wise man (here named The One Electric) to follow a life of adventure. Rice Boy journeys through various strange lands and meets a colorful cast of characters on his way toward an epic battle.
After four years and an Eisner nomination, Ben Towles’ Oyster War is coming to an end. The webomic is based on an obscure chapter in American history, in which oyster pirates and legal fishermen fought over the rights to the harvest in Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. (Apparently, oysters used to be much larger and way cheaper before overfishing devastated the entire industry.) Don’t expect a straight history lesson, however: Towles’ version is visually more cartoon; he also embellishes his story with some fantastical elements, like a witch who turns into a seal, and a sea monster.
The old-school aesthetic of Oyster War recalls a style popular during the early 20th century, and the seaside town of Blood’s Haven, with its narrow corridors and piers that stretch past the shore, resembles Thimble Theatre‘s Sweethaven. While backgrounds are simple and minimalistic, close-ups are lovingly textured. The characters are simple cartoony designs: bulbous noses, brush-like mustaches, block-shaped heads and stocky bodies.
The influence behind Sean Lindsay’s Spinnerette should be pretty obvious — after all, the webcomic is about a young superhero with spider-based superpowers. Another dead giveaway is her original costume, which looks like something nicked from Julia Carpenter’s wardrobe. (In story, it’s because she bought some Venom costumes.) Lindsay has a bit of a laugh about that, as he includes a sequence in which Spinnerette receives a cease-and-desist letter from Marvel.
An accident with an experimental laser gives Heather Brown incredible muscle tone, two extra sets of arms and web-shooting abilities. Inconveniently, the latter is anatomically correct and webbing comes right out of her butt. The extra arms are a bit of a problem, too, as they certainly prove problematic to her secret identity. To hide her arms, she must wear a fat suit.
Superhero webcomics have generally been tongue-in-cheek, following less in the footsteps of Jack Kirby and more in the superhero-parody vein of Ben Edlund. Spinnerette is no exception; it’s unapologetically up to its ears in cheesecake. If male gaze is a sticking point for you, then you’ll probably find a lot to complain about. However, it almost becomes a joke in itself. There is, for example, one supervillain whose main characteristic is being ridiculously stacked (and given that this is Spinnerette we’re talking about, that’s saying something).
Once upon a time, during the imaginatively fertile period known as the Monday Night Wars, my sister described pro wrestling to me as superheroes … except in real life! Truly, she knew where my passions lay.
Yet, I was skeptical. What was the appeal of a sport that everyone already knew was (SPOILER ALERT!) totally fake. I decided to take her up on her ostentatious claim and caught an episode of WCW Thunder. While I can’t say she was 100 percent correct, she got me hooked on wrestling for life. There was a lot of elements that did cross over: the colorful costumes, the larger-than-life gimmicks, and the bombastic hero and villain speeches. Comics may have gravitated away from the era in which every speech bubble ended in an exclamation point, but wrestling never grew up.
Historically, the backstage realities (called “shoots”) and the scripted stories (called “kayfabe”) have been kept separate, with the former only made known through sketchy publications nicknamed “dirtsheets.” You’d think that, with the rise of the Internet and the availability of information, wrestling would become a relic of the past. Instead, it remains popular. It may actually be a better fit in this decade, as almost all of reality television now treads the same blurry line between “fact” and fiction. When Lina approaches the Rana King on NBC’s The Quest, for example, is it a shoot or a kayfabe? Even more insidiously, wrestling has found a way to fake viewer participation, aka the kayfabe of the digital age.
Not too long ago, I became aware of something called “seapunk.” After steampunk and deiselpunk, I had initially thought this was another strange technology-based trend based on the legitimate “cyberpunk” where geeks were far more interested in the aesthetic qualities rather than anything making sense. As it turns out, “seapunk” is far less serious.
Unlike the other variations, seapunk leans far more heavily on the “punk” part. There’s a ton of bright colors — teals, purples and greens — plus mermaids, dolphins and other aquatic life.
There’s also the inherent silliness, which includes ’90s nostalgia. Search “seapunk” on Tumblr (the alleged breeding ground for this microculture) and you run into the sorts of jerky animated GIFs and visual callbacks to Windows 95. While it may not necessarily be aesthetically pleasing, its off-putting, incongruous visuals are part of the charm.
There’s a theory that the American obsession with the apocalypse stems from Manifest Destiny: As settlers pushed west, they encountered things that would strain the threads tying them to civilization. Storms rolling across the flat plains could be seen from man miles away, and they posed a considerable threat to the livelihoods of entire communities. During the pitch-black night, there would be ominous noises — frightening howls, thunderclaps, maybe even the unexpected sound of a human voice.
There would be precious few things you can do in a world where law is stretched thin, except keep a well-stocked cellar and a loaded shotgun.
That may explain why a lot of North American post-apocalyptic fiction tends to look like the Wild West. While we may think we’re too cool for cowboys and Indians, it may have just morphed to satisfy the primal survival instincts of modern thrill-seekers. After all, aren’t armored, nomadic warlords just bandits and desperadoes with a shiny new coat of paint? It’s probably no accident that The Walking Dead‘s Rick Grimes dressed a lot like a frontier sheriff, or why the women in Katniss Everdeen’s district look as if they stepped out of a little house on the prairie.
After years of working on anthologies and as a concept artist, Nicholas Kole is looking to make a name for himself … with jelly.
The Rhode Island artist recently launched Jellybots, a webcomic about a boy named Sam who’s enrolled by his family in a prestigious school called the Frontier Academy. Not much else is known about the series, given that it’s just six pages into its run, but the concept material and pin-up art show Sam interacting with supernatural, whimsical and fluid jellyfish.
(This post contains spoilers for Opplopolis Proceed at your own caution.)
This week, Kit Roebuck’s Opplopolis starts Issue 14 as the entire saga slowly but surely approaching its planned conclusion with Issue 20. It’s been a strange journey thus far, full of odd little left turns. There’s a moment, for example, that seems to be a visual homage to The Shining. Agnes, an artist, is invited to a high-class celebrity party where she’s already a bit out of place; she even needs her clothes ripped to shreds just so she can fit in. Thinking it a public service to the fashion-impaired, manufactured pop celebrity Vesper takes a pair of scissors to the artist’s dowdy outfit to create a new dress that shows a bit more skin.
Agnes decides to cut loose a little on the dance floor, but her way to the bathroom she encounters a slightly disturbing sight: When she peeks in an open door, she sees two men wearing animal masks while playing a card game. Eventually, a third person wearing an upside-down cat mask shuts the door in Agnes’ face (revealing a word that forms the comic’s central mystery).