Last weekend I was supposed to speak at the Kidlit Blogger conference in New York, but I had to bow out shortly beforehand because of scheduling problems. However, in preparing for the panel, I pulled together some notes on reviewing graphic novels that I thought might be of interest to writers, and maybe to readers as well. And because a good writer wastes nothing, here you go!
Types of reviews: Most of my reviews are written for the mildly interested reader, a group that could include casual readers, fans of any genre and librarians, and the aim of the review is to help that reader determine whether he or she would like that book. That’s different from me liking the book. There’s always a large measure of taste involved in any review, and if a book is solid but somehow done in a style or genre I don’t care for, that doesn’t mean someone else won’t like it. Having had the experience of totally trashing a book that other people love, and loving a book most people hated, I don’t even try to believe that my taste is universal.
So, in this type of review I give an indication of what the story is about, who the characters are, what the art is like, and how the story is told, then discuss what worked particularly well or don’t work at all. If I have a physical copy of the book, I might note the presentation, particularly if the production values are especially good (or especially bad). I seldom do an entirely positive or entirely negative review of a book, because most books have flaws and high points. I generally avoid spoilers in those types of reviews.
Occasionally a book is so bad I just pull out the sledgehammer and trash it. The book has to be spectacularly, offensively bad for me to do that—if it’s merely boring, the muse won’t come. So that doesn’t happen too often. Actually, my favorite kind of review is the one where I think a book is going go to be awful and I am pleasantly surprised when it turns out to be good.
Designer/photographer David A. Reeves has been posting some great paper cutouts on his Tumblr, including a couple of Batman pieces like the one above. You can see his take on The Dark Knight Returns and The Walking Dead below, then head to his blog to see how he made them as well as cutouts featuring samurai, cowboys, and stuff from the video game Limbo.
Like a lot of kids who grew up reading Savage Sword of Conan, I knew I liked the art, but wasn’t aware of how much true greatness Marvel’s black-and-white magazine packed into its pages. It wasn’t until later that I started paying attention to artists’ names and learned about people like Neal Adams, John Buscema and Walt Simonson. And it wasn’t until this week that I learned Alex Toth was one of the Savage Sword artists as well. The legendary cartoonist and animation designer drew ten pin-ups for the magazine, nine of which have turned up on the Michael Sporn Animation blog. See some highlights after the break (including a Justice Society piece too nice not to share) and the whole awesome gallery in the link.
There have been other steampunk Avengers, but with the Hulk in suspenders and a bowler? I’d read a comic just about him.
Anyway, Brian Kesinger is awesome and you should check out his blog and DeviantArt page. He also does steampunk other things, like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Star Wars. But if steampunk’s not your thing, his Hip Hop Boba Fett and Pooh vs. Voldemort are cool, too. I posted bunch of my favorites below.
I love these alternative designs that Fabio Castro came up with for four Batman graphic novels. Seriously, I want to trade in my current editions of Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns for these. And I’d buy The Killing Joke and Under the Red Hood just to complete the set.
But it got me wondering; especially Under the Red Hood, which doesn’t seem to belong in the same collection as those others. I suspect that Castro included it simply because he wanted something to fit a red cover. I’m not picking on him. Maybe I’m wrong and Under the Red Hood is absolutely a classic, but even if it’s not, I still love Castro’s cover. It just got me thinking about what the truly great Batman stories are. Year One and The Dark Knight Returns are no-brainers, and while I don’t especially care for The Killing Joke, I understand how its writer and the effect it had on Barbara Gordon make it “important.” But what other Batman stories deserve to go next to those? Hush? A Death in the Family? Knightfall?
I’m genuinely asking. What’s the Batman canon? Sound off in the comments.
I know nothing about The Sword, other than that the Austin, Texas-based heavy-metal band has great taste in choosing comic artists to provide album art: Batwoman artist/co-writer J.H. Williams III has revealed a host of design work for the group’s new release Apocryphon on his blog. More art from the project can be found below.
And not just any Dungeons & Dragons, but the ’80s cartoon version, which never looked this good.
Monster Brains has a whole gallery of Sienkiewicz featuring Judge Dredd, Conan and a ton of art from his out-of-print 1985 Vampyres portfolio.
It’s all there in the headline. Artist Melissa Smith has taken a Pollock-like approach with these superhero paintings and the result is amazing. I’ve posted Black Widow, Spider-Man and Pikachu below, but visit Smith’s DeviantArt page to see other Avengers, Batman villains and video game characters.
So you’re in a low-budget play and the script requires a treasure map. If you’re like me, your best bet is to hit Long John Silvers and pray that they have a placemat or something that you can make do with. If you’re Mattias Adolfsson‘s daughter, on the other hand … oh, wow, are you in luck.
I was trying to decide which of these robot drawings to share and decided that I couldn’t decide. So here they both are.
Film and animation artist Sam Filstrup was commissioned to create an awesome drawing of Atomic Robo about to have a dino-bomb dropped on his head; artist Gavin Spence (Hero Happy Hour) came up with an equally groovy robot in much more joyful circumstances. I don’t know which I like better, but I sure know which I’d rather be.
As the comics community continues to process the news of Joe Kubert’s death, everything else feels very secondary. One way of honoring the legendary artist and teacher is by appreciating his art, and the art of his peers. Steve Niles discovered this series of art jams featuring a Kubert Hawkman alongside Wendy Pini’s Elfquest characters, Neal Adams’ Conan, Dave Cockrum’s Human Torch, and others. The rest of the jams include characters drawn by C.C. Beck, John Romita, John Byrne, George Perez, Gray Morrow, Dave Sim, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Curt Swan, Jim Aparo, Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Al Williamson, Chester Gould, and the list goes on and on.
I don’t know the history behind these pieces, but it occurs to me that many of these comics legends are still with us. In addition to saying our good-byes to Mr. Kubert and offering appreciations of his work, another great way to honor his legacy might be to reach out and express similar appreciation to living creators whose work we love.
Except for you, of course, because you’d have this very funny print hanging on your wall (see the full image below). The artist is DnaPna and you can buy his “Bat Temptation” piece in a variety of formats at society6.
Not too long ago, Denis Medri received some attention for drawing rockabilly versions of Batman characters and an epic fantasy take on the Avengers. Most recently though, he’s completed a series of designs for steampunk Spider-Man, his rogue’s gallery, and a couple of allies to help Spidey out. You can see many of them below, but I highly recommend also checking out Medri’s DeviantArt site to see his current project in progress: Western Justice League.
Les McClaine (Middleman, The Tick, that incredibly awesome Batman poster) has a webcomic called Jonny Crossbones about the adventures of a skeleton-suited mechanic and the niece of a wealthy adventurer. They hunt pirate treasure in the first story and you should read it, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about these outstanding Tintin-esque covers that McClaine created to go on the wall of one of the characters in his comic. The character is Father Muzzey, companion to the aforementioned wealthy adventurer, and the covers depict the duo fighting Egyptian sewer-monsters, hunting Nosferatu and having their own version of a Nancy Drew adventure … with sledgehammers.
I’d read any of these, but the fact of the matter is that Johnny Crossbones is already very Hergé-like itself. Okay, maybe this post is about how you should go read that.
By way of explaining why the second issue of his and Bernie Wrigtson’s Frankenstein Alive, Alive! is running late, Steve Niles offered up Page 9 on Twitter with the comment, “You just can’t rush work like this.”
Yep. I’ll wait for that.