Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
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.
Comics | Could the competition to become the 2017 U.K. City of Culture hinge on … Desperate Dan, the pie-eating Wild West strongman from the long-running children’s comic The Dandy? Hull Daily Mail columnist Angus Young thinks the character could give Dundee the edge over fellow finalists Leicester, Swansea Bay and, yes, Hull. Dundee, Scotland, is home to The Dandy and The Beano publisher DC Thomson, and features statues of Desperate Dan and Beano character Minnie the Minx in its city center. “Having your picture taken next to the barrel-chested grizzly-chinned hero is apparently one of the top-ten things to do when visiting Dundee,” Young writes. “[…] This a bloke who thinks nothing of eating several cow pies in one sitting. A cowboy so tough he shaves his chin with a blowtorch and sleeps in a reinforced bed filled with building rubble.” The winner will be announced in November. [Hull Daily Mail, The Evening Telegraph]
If you want to see what the Justice League does next, you can wait for the next issue or you can fast-forward into the future — the far future — in DC Comics’ digital-first series Justice League Beyond.
Launched last year, Justice League Beyond shows the flagship team in the futuristic continuity established by the animated series Batman Beyond (which also has a digital-first comic). Saturday’s installment of Justice League Beyond features the debut of one of the publisher’s most overlooked heroes — Shazam, whom you can see in a Robot 6’s exclusive preview, below.
Introduced in 1939 by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker, Shazam (formerly known as Captain Marvel) is a wholesome superhero from an earlier, more time who doesn’t always work well in a modern setting. Having him show up in the future of Justice League Beyond, even further removed from his Golden Age roots, makes the classic hero seem that much more of a throwback — and that’s something writer Derek Fridolfs is tackling head-on with artist Ben Caldwell.
On the eve of Shazam’s debut, Robot 6 spoke with Fridolfs about the hero’s introduction, and his work on Justice League Beyond.
Illustrator Christina Ung manages to fit in just about everyone on the planet going at it Gangnam Style, including The Caped Crusader. Batman is, of course, no stranger to faddish dance crazes (also by Christina – The Unreliable Superhero). More below, including work by Ron Wimberly, Ben Caldwell, Daniel Krall, Ashley Wood and many other talented human beings. Continue Reading »
This year’s CBLDF Liberty Annual from Image (#5) has this lovely cover from Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson. I’m always a sucker for an image of a girl on a scooter (see also: Adi Granov’s redonkulously-proportioned effort from 2009). Or on a cafe racer. As Ringo once put it, “I’m not a mod or a rocker, I’m a mocker.” Lots more below, from Simon Gane, Becky Cloonan, Chris Weston, Ron Wimberly and others.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our guest this week is writer and letterer Ed Brisson, whose comic Comeback with artist Michael Walsh arrives in November. He’s also the writer of Murder Book and Black River.
To see what Ed and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
I don’t know quite why, considering I’ve been feeling cynical and disinterested in the DC Universe over the past couple of weeks, but I find myself tempted by both Flash Annual #1 and Justice League International Annual #1 (both DC Comics; $4.99) this week; something even more surprising considering I haven’t been following the JLI series past trying out the first issue. And yet, if I had $15 this week, I suspect I’d be using a chunk of it for that. I’d also grab Joe Hill and Gabriel Hernandez’ Locke & Key: Grindhouse (IDW Publishing, $3.99), because, well, Locke & Key is a very, very good comic book.
If I had $30, I may find myself picking up the first collection of Peter Panzerfaust (Vol. 1: The Great Escape; Image Comics; $14.99) because I like the high concept behind it even if I managed to miss the single issues. People who did pick it up in singles: Is it the kind of thing I’d like, do you think?
Should I find the money and ability to splurge, I find myself surprisingly drawn to Dark Horse’s Star Wars Omnibus: Clone Wars Vol. 1 ($24.99); I blame people in my Twitter feed talking about Star Wars Celebration last week, and my thinking, “I haven’t really kept up with Star Wars in ages” in response. Does that count as peer pressure?
Another day, another guest artist on Scotch Corner:Today it’s a massive gallery of work by the underrated Top Cow regular Matt Timson. My favorite is his take on Rom, Space Knight for a Bill Mantlo fund-raiser. As Matt points out, “in the comics, Rom was forever banging on about having given up his humanity to become a Spaceknight, but this was the first time I’d ever thought about what that actually meant – and the horror involved.”
(Plenty more art and links below, not all of which is safe for work.)
Loath as I am to follow up my piece on Joel Meadows’ Tripwire crowd-sourcing with such a similar story, but personal favorite Ben Caldwell has announced a Kickstarter campaign of his own for his full-color sketchbook The Dare Detectives: The Misfits Manual. Announcing it during his stay-over at Comic-Con International in San Diego is either a stroke of genius or utter folly, depending on how reliable the wifi connection is for the punters in West Harbor Drive this weekend.
Here are some previews images — I love the Hewlett-iness of The Pods:
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics.
Wait a minute … “monthly”?
It’s true that we haven’t taken a What Looks Good tour in a few months, but the feature is back with an all-new approach that we hope will be more varied and useful than the old format. Instead of Michael and Graeme just commenting on everything that catches our attention in the catalog, we’ve invited Chrises Mautner and Arrant to join us in each picking the five new comics we’re most looking forward to. What we’ll end up with is a Top 20 (or so; there may be some overlap) of the best new comics coming out each month.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
1) Love and Rockets New Stories #5 by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics) — How do you possibly top the triumphant storytelling feat that was “The Love Bunglers”? I dunno, but Jaime Hernandez is certainly going to give it the old college try, this time shifting the focus onto the vivacious “Frogmouth” character. Gilbert, meanwhile, brings back some of his classic Palomar characters, so yeah, this is pretty much a “must own” for me.
2) Skippy Vol. 1: Complete Dailies 1925-1927 by Percy Crosby (IDW) — Percy Crosby’s Skippy might well be the great forgotten comic strip of the 20th century. Extremely popular in its day, and a huge influence on such luminaries as Charles Schulz, the strip has largely been forgotten and the name conjures up little more than images of peanut butter. IDW’s effort to reacquaint folks with this strip might change that — the few snippets I’ve read suggest this is real lost gem.
3) The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell (Uncivilized Books) — Tom Kaczynski’s small-press publishing company drops its first major, “big book” release with this memoir from the always-excellent Gabrielle Bell. Collecting work from her series Lucky (and, I think, some of her recent minis), the book chronicles a turbulent five year period as she travels around the world. Should be great.
4) Godzilla: The Half Century War by James Stokoe (IDW) — I usually stay as far away from licensed books as possible, but there is one simple reason I’m including this comic in my top five: James Stokoe. Stokoe’s Orc Stain has quickly become one of my favorite serialized comics, and his obsession with detailing every inch of the page combined with his ability to incorporate significant manga storytelling tropes in his work convince me he can do a solid job chronicling the adventures of the big green lizard that spits radioactive fire.
5) Barbara by Osamu Tezuka (Digital Manga) — Speaking of manga, here’s one of the more noteworthy Kickstarter projects of recent years: Digital Manga’s attempt to bring the master’s saga of a famous author and the homeless, beautiful woman he takes in and assumes to be his literal muse. This is well regarded in many Tezuka fan circles as one of the cartoonist’s better adult stories, and I’m glad to see Digital willing to take a chance on bringing more Tezuka to the West. I’ll definitely be buying this. I should also note that Vertical will also be offering some Tezuka this month, namely a new edition of Adolph (originally published by Viz in the ’90s), here titled Message to Adolph but well worth checking out regardless of the title.
The comics literacy non-profit, Reading With Pictures is dedicated to getting comics into classrooms. In addition to cultivating research on the role of comics in education, the mostly volunteer organization seeks to produce its own comics for schools to use and would like your help for their second publication. I say “mostly volunteer,” but that doesn’t include the creators of the new book. They’ll be paid for their contributions and that – plus the large print run – is a major reason Reading With Pictures needs $65,000 to complete the project.
The first Reading With Pictures comic was the Harvey-nominated Reading With Pictures Anthology that featured work by Jill Thompson, Fred Van Lente, Raina Telgemeier, Chris Giarrusso, and others. The new compilation, The Graphic Textbook will include Ben Caldwell, Fred Van Lente, Ryan Dunlavey, Chris Schweizer, Russell Lissau, Marvin Mann, Amy Reeder, Janet Lee, Katie Cook, Roger Langridge, Josh Elder, Dean Trippe, and others.
The collection will contain 12 short stories (both fiction and non-fiction) that are appropriate for grades 3-6 and include a variety of subjects from Social Studies and Math to Language and Science. There will also be a Teacher’s Guide with “lesson plans customized to each story, research-based justifications for using comics in the classroom, a guide to establishing best classroom practices and a comprehensive listing of additional educational resources.”
It’s a great cause with some great creators and some nifty rewards ranging from copies of the book and original art to being drawn into one of the stories.
I’m trying not to post about Ben Caldwell every single day, but he’s making it difficult. Look, I resisted when he posted this picture of George Washington and a cave-girl fighting Zombie Blackbeard, but then he had to go and make an actual comic out of it. I’m not made of cave-stone here. Click the link to see the whole, one-page comic, then join me in begging for more.
I know I link to Ben Caldwell a lot, but that’s only because he’s awesome. When he’s not sharing someone else’s suggestions for creating interesting visuals for stories, he’s sharing his own. And explaining how film noir helps inform his choices. There’s even more in today’s post. Great stuff for process junkies.
Ben Caldwell tested for Dreamworks a few years ago and received some very cool notes about effective character design and visual storytelling techniques. He’s sharing those on his blog in a couple of posts, noting that while the pages were designed to help storyboard artists, “a lot of it is good, commonsense advice for graphic storytelling in general.”
I occurs to me that this isn’t just for artists either. Some of the advice could be helpful for comics writers as well, especially the stuff about “cuts,” which is just another way of talking about using panels to facilitate more exciting pacing.
It’s difficult to type through the tears knowing that this Ben Caldwell drawing is not from a Catwoman comic I can buy with my money. What makes up for it is his promise to post more daily sketches, primarily at his Twitter account, but also – if we’re very good and eat our vegetables – on his blog. So get to following!