Boutique home video distributor Criterion commissioned Samuel Hiti (Los Tiempos Finales, Death-Day) and a list of other great comics artists to create artwork for the individual films in the company’s box set for the long-running Zatoichi series starring Shintaro Katsu as a blind, but incredibly quick and accurate swordsman. Hiti designed the cover for Zatoichi the Fugitive, the fourth in the series.
Twenty-five Zatoichi films were produced between 1962 and 1973, making it the longest-running action series in Japanese history. There was also a four-season TV series in the late ’70s. The Criterion box set collects those first 25 feature films in one package for the first time, but doesn’t include 1989′s Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, written and directed by Shintaro Katsu himself.
It’s time once again to take a look at those comics that were unfairly ignored. With more graphic novels and comic books coming out in stores than ever before, it’s perhaps inevitable that some titles slip through the cracks, not due to a lack of quality, but simply because they got lost in the Wednesday shuffle. The books listed here aren’t necessarily my personal favorite books of 2012. Rather, they’re good — even great — books that, for whatever reason, didn’t get the sort of praise — either online or in print — that they deserved.
Another Small Press Expo has come and gone, and I have the empty wallet to prove it. My official SPX report appears at Comic Book Resources. You can also hear me blathering on about the show with Joe McCulloch and Matt Seneca over here. Short recap: It was a great show, arguably the best SPX I’ve been to in a long while.
Despite my self-induced reputation as a horrible photographer, I opted to take photos at the show anyway.
AdHouse Books publisher Chris Pitzer announced on the company’s blog that he’s shutting down AdDistro, his distribution effort to make comics from small publishers and self-publishers available for purchase through AdHouse proper. Pitzer kicked off AdDistro two years ago.
“Basically, I started AdDistro with the thought that I was bringing hard-to-find bibliogoodness to the people,” Pitzer said in his post. “Times have a-changed, and now the once hard-to-find beautiful things are a little easier to obtain.”
Through AdDistro, Pitzer has distributed comics from Nobrow Press, Bernie Mireault, Thomas Herpich, Koyama Press, Revival House Press, Malachi Ward and Benjamin Marra.” While there was once a pond that kept Nobrow from us, now you can get their stuff from Consortium. While I was once the go-to place for Koyamaness, I am proud to point you Secret Acres way. Others have joined forces with others, and honestly, it was a lot of work, at least for lil’ ol’ AdCasa,” Pitzer said. “Adding Thomas Herpich and Bernie Mireault at the end was the proverbial icings on the cake.”
AdHouse still has several of the AdDistro books available on their site, so if you’d like to get your hands on them in one big swoop, head on over there and stock up.
It’s a little something different on Your Wednesday Sequence this week, folks. For weeks now I’ve been wanting to dig into the rock-solid action storytelling of Benjamin Marra, who draws comics like Jack Kirby given a dose of Giotto DNA and filled to the bursting point with speed metal and grindhouse movies. Ben’s work on Night Business and Gangsta Rap Posse (a bracing new issue of which was just released) is about as close to flawlessly constructed as comics get: deceptively simple strings of phenomenal drawings that flow like a waterfall. Luckily enough for me, Ben was willing to answer a few of my questions on composition, layout, pacing, and a bunch of other comic book-making inside dope. And luckily enough for you, I’m posting our Q and A right here. Get ready to learn from a master, kids…
MATT SENECA: Your comics have always emphasized gridded layouts, but in your latest comic, Gangsta Rap Posse #2, you stick almost exclusively to a basic six-panel grid, with each of the frames the exact same size as all the others. What makes that layout so appealing to you?
BENJAMIN MARRA: There are several reasons. Firstly, I think it’s the most efficient system for constructing and reading comic book pages. Many masters of comic book art and storytelling have worked off of it, like Kirby, Alan Moore (to an extent), Kyle Baker and Gary Panter. If the six-panel grid was good enough for Kirby, it’s good enough for me. It’s also a matter of time. If my page layout is pre-determined I’ve spared myself from having to solve many additional problems and can spend time focusing exclusively on what the panels contain. Additionally, I think it’s a more accessible format for new readers. A lot of comics these days focus too much on doing unnecessarily crazy page layouts (I guess stemming from Neal Adams’ response to Steranko?) with panels, instead of focusing on what’s within the panels, which is what’s really crucial. Wild panel layouts just confuse readers who aren’t already versed in comics as a language.
You know, I briefly debated whether to slap the gloriously offensive cover for Gangsta Rap Posse #2, the latest installment in Benjamin Marra’s fictionalized/sensationalized homage to the likes of N.W.A. and other Tipper Gore–terrifying rap acts of the Bush-Clinton era, here on Robot 6. But then I realized: Is it really any worse than any given superhero comic image the Internet kicks around every week?
Marra’s series is a knowingly nasty-looking thought experiment, imagining what it would be like if hardcore hip-hop really were as Rambo-level violent as its practitioners sometimes made themselves out to be. This issue, which Marra unveiled on Thursday, sees the title characters square off against the LAPD, skinheads, record labels, and an ersatz George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, out for blood over uncleared samples. It’s coming straight outta Traditional Comics, Marra’s pulpy publishing imprint. Parental Advisory: Explicit Content.
Over at ComicsAlliance, Laura Hudson has a real treat for those of you who like your superhero comics with an alternative twist: 50-plus pages of sketches, thumbnails, pencils, inks, color studies and more from the Strange Tales II hardcover, which debuted this week. Click on over and get a glimpse at the creative process behind contributions from Kate Beaton, Jeffrey Brown, Ivan Brunetti, Farel Dalrymple, Rafael Grampa, Dean Haspiel, Jaime Hernandez, Paul Hornschemeier, Benjamin Marra, Edu Medeiros, Harvey Pekar, Frank Santoro, and Paul Vella. That’s hella Strange!
Welcome to a long holiday weekend (at least here in the United States) edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Doug Zawisza, who writes reviews and the occasional article for Comic Book Resources.
To see what Doug and the Robot 6 gang are reading, click below.
Give this man his Pulitzer already: Benjamin Marra’s The Incredibly Fantastic Adventures of Maureen Dowd
She specializes in zeitgeisty op-ed columns featuring schoolyard-taunt nicknames for the most powerful people in politics…and in MAYHEM! She’s New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, and she’s kicking ass and uncovering the crime of the century in The Incredibly Fantastic Adventures of Maureen Dowd, “A Work of Satire and Fiction” from Night Business and Gangsta Rap Posse author Benjamin Marra.
Told in Marra’s inimitable, po-faced ’80s-trash throwback style, TIFAoMD‘s preview pages show Dowd — winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary and recently named the eighth-biggest hack in journalism by Salon’s Alex Pareene — lounging in lingerie, battling burglars, flirting with fellow Times columnist Tom Friedman, and trying to blow the lid off the Valerie Plame scandal before her big date with George Clooney. And for a political junkie like me, it’s basically heaven. (Ordering info and preview page after the jump.)
Sex! Violence! Rockin’ guitars! Bearded dudes in Iron Maiden t-shirts gazing thoughtfully into the distance! Pretty much anything you’d want in a commercial for a comic book company you get in this ad for Traditional Comics, the self-publishing outfit of trashmeister Benjamin Marra. If you’ve ever read Night Business or Gangsta Rap Posse, the throwback jewels in the Traditional Comics crown, you know what to expect. If not, you’re in for a treat.
Over at the blog for his self-publishing outfit Traditional Comics, writer-artist Benjamin Marra — a real favorite ’round these parts — has posted a preview of the third issue of his gritty slashers ‘n’ strippers saga Night Business. The issue just went on sale on his site. Stepping into the NB world is like visiting a city built solely from straight-to-VHS action flicks, Skinemax movies, Italian giallo horror films, arcade-console art, and early ’80s indie comics — one of the most unique and gruesomely entertaining comics experiences around. You can get all three crazy issues for the low low price of $7. Do it. You won’t be disappointed.
Origin story time: Back when I worked at Wizard, I was introduced to the concept of a themed sketchbook by coworkers like Ben Morse and David Paggi, whose Nova and Lockjaw sketchbooks celebrated their favorite obscure superheroes through the generous contributions of comics artists. My problem? I don’t have a favorite obscure superhero. The only hero I really love is Batman, and the problem there is that I’m sure most superhero artists doing sketches at cons are sick of drawing him, while most alternative artists doing sketches at cons are sick of thinking about him. Who could I choose that would fit the bill?
Then it came to me: David Bowie. He’s my favorite musician, and it’s fair to say his outlook and approach to art literally changed my life. Plus, with all those alter egos and ch-ch-ch-changes, he’s like a superhero anyway, right? And thus, at MoCCA 2007, the David Bowie Sketchbook was born.
I’ve since collected sketches of Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane, the Goblin King, Major Tom, or whatever else you care to call the former David Jones from 80 artists and illustrators. Below are the latest batches, from this year’s Small Press Expo in September and Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival last weekend. How must the others see the faker?
Before Halloween I posted a list of “Six Deeply Creepy Alt-Horror Cartoonists” as part of Robot 666′s week-long reign of terror. Well, these avatars of alternative comics’ dark side have been up to some interesting things lately. Feast your eyes on the latest enterprises of our strange sextet:
The Squirrel Machine‘s Hans Rickheit is selling original pages from his darkly erotic, Xeric-winning graphic novel Chloe. If you’re in the original art market you can buy them straight from the artist himself here; if you’d just like to take a gander at the book itself, you can buy it here. (And I recommend you do so.)
What do you think of when you think of horror comics? Vintage EC shockers, black-clad Vertigo occult titles, weird and wild manga, modern-day success stories like 30 Days of Night and Hack/Slash, or the mother of all zombie comics The Walking Dead? For my money, the most reliably disturbing and disquieting work in the genre over recent years has come from artists who produce what you’d consider to be “alternative comics.” These alt-horror cartoonists may not even think of themselves as horror-comics creators at all, eschewing as most of them do the rhythms and staples of conventional horror fiction. But by deploying altcomix’ usual emphasis on tone and emotional effect in service of dark and macabre imagery, their comics haunt me all the more.
So for my contribution to Robot 666′s daily horror-centric lists this week, I’m singing the praises of six talented alt-horror cartoonists. I could have listed quite a few more, mind you–some real giants of the field, including Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Charles Burns, Jim Woodring, and Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell have done tremendous work in this area. But for me right now, these were the six who demanded the spotlight.