DC Comics' July Highlights: "Batgirl," "Nightwing" and a "New Super-Man"
You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a horror comic in this post-30 Days of Night, post-The Walking Dead age. Meanwhile, there’s a bustling alt-horror … well, “scene” and “movement” probably aren’t the right words, but there are plenty of those comics and cartoonists out there.
But are any of them, y’know, actually scary?
Blogger Curt Purcell of The Groovy Age of Horror has endeavored to answer that question — long a topic of debate among comics readers, many of whom are skeptical that comics really can hang with movies or prose for their sheer power to frighten — by rounding up thoughts on the topic from a variety of horror and comics creators and commentators. These include cartoonists Richard Sala (Peculia) and Josh Simmons (House); CRwM of the provocative horror blog And Now the Screaming Starts; Kimberly Lindbergs of the movie-focused Cinebeats; Karswell of the pre-Comics Code horror-comics blog The Horrors of It All; and (ahem) yours truly. The roundtable was inspired by a post from Richard Cook at The Hooded Utilitarian, so be sure to check that out, too.
Where do you stand on scarybooks?
I’d say “better late than never,” but in my experience, like Gandalf, The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon is never late, nor is he early — he posts his Best Comics of 2009 list precisely when he means to. And it’s a good one, divided into sections on reprints, overlooked gems, books about comics, and your basic best books of the year. Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza, R. Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated, and Al Columbia’s Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days comprise his top three.
I come away from the list thinking two things. First, from about his #7 choice up to Number One, that’s a pretty brain-crushing line-up of major works; it’s not difficult to picture a stretch of five years not yielding that kind of harvest. I mean, Josh Cotter’s astonishing Driven by Lemons ranks only at #15 — I ranked that book a lot higher on my own list, but that you can make reasonable arguments for that kind of placement given what else is out there speaks to the richness of the field right now.
Second and relatedly, Spurge wraps things up with a few paragraphs on books that didn’t make the cut for whatever reason, one of them being simply not remembering them all. “It’s a fantastic time for an art form when you can just forget about some of its quality works,” he says, and I would agree.
Yesterday the eighth and final issue of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis’s hit event comic Blackest Night came out, and DC has been celebrating its successful conclusion (how about that fold-out spread, huh???) in grand fashion. On Tuesday, DC’s official blog, The Source, hosted an open thread for fans to share their favorite Blackest Night moments and memories. Source blogger and PR guru Alex Segura posted a heartfelt encomium to the series, its spinoffs, and its creators once it wrapped on Wednesday. Today, editor Eddie Berganza contributed a eulogy of his own.
All well-deserved, as far as I’m concerned: Blackest Night clearly worked for its intended audience, myself included. A hook everyone could understand, a huge (and fun!) expansion of the Green Lantern mythos that convincingly roped in characters from the Flash to Lex Luthor to Hawk and Dove, rock-solid art from Ivan Reis, perhaps the most t-shirt-friendly concept in comics history…I had a hoot with this book and its parallel Green Lantern tie-ins as well, and judging from the uniformly positive fan feedback in the comments for Segura’s tribute, I’m far from alone.
Attention, aspiring comics writers and weary comics artists: Sara Ryan and friends are about to make your lives much easier. On her blog, Ryan and a few of her comics-making chums are offering advice for writers on what not to do when writing comics scripts for others to draw.
Ryan — who’s currently wrapping up the script for her upcoming DC/Vertigo graphic novel Bad Houses — kicked things off by reminding us that it’s awfully hard to have a character do more than one thing per panel, even though it comes naturally to us to rattle off several actions in the course of a sentence.
Next up is Supergirl artist Ron Randall, who among other things notes that telling an artist to “impress me” with a particularly memorable scene or sequence is a roundabout way of insinuating that he or she otherwise isn’t all that impressive. And finally (for now), Family Man‘s Dylan Meconis offers seven tips, warning against everything from the overuse of film jargon to telling rather than showing to the dreaded words “Have fun with this!”
(Via Hope Larson)
The recently revived Project: Rooftop has kicked off a new feature called “All-Ages All-Stars,” where artists redesign comic characters into kid-friendly concepts.
Up first is Mike Maihack, who gives the Scarlet Witch and her family a bit of a Saturday Morning Cartoon makeover. Could Wanda be the next Disney princess? Stranger things have happened …
But seriously, this is a cool idea, and I hope to see more of this feature soon.
Congrats to one of our favorite blogs, Super Punch, on their third anniversary. To celebrate, Super Punch blogger John Struan has enlisted several of his favorite artists to create an official Super Punch tarot deck.
“So, about this project. I wanted to do something special for the third anniversary of Super Punch, and three weeks or so ago, the idea popped into my head of inviting my favorite artists to create tarot cards. Other than reading Promethea, I knew very little about tarot cards, so I got up to speed courtesy of Wikipedia. I then went about contacting artists and matching them to cards,” Struan writes.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What about when those pictures are juxtaposed with words — specifically the words of Incarnate creator Nick Simmons? And what if those words are denying that the pictures, which pretty clearly show that he plagiarized Tite Kubo’s hit manga Bleach, do any such thing? That’s worth an awful lot, as far as I’m concerned. At Topless Robot, Rob Bricken mashes up Simmons’ non-apology apology with the pictorial evidence to absolutely brutal effect. In a controversy that’s generated more than its fair share of memorable online commentary, this McCloudian approach has generated my favorite yet.
One of my pet theories about superhero comics is that the best of them don’t hesitate to tap into what I call “inner-eight-year-old gold” — those simple, magical ideas that made playing with your Secret Wars or Super Friends action figures so much fun. (I, for one, made Iron Man and Magneto arch-enemies. I mean, c’mon, it’s right there!)
One of my favorite such goldmines is the opposite-number villain, those baddies who share a hero’s basic look and power set but change the color scheme and otherwise stand as a mean-spirited mirror image. That’s why I’ve loved Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern run ever since he introduced the Sinestro Corps, and why that love has only gotten stronger as a whole rainbow of Lanterns has been introduced for Blackest Night and beyond. And like a kid playing with his toys, I can’t help but daydream about which other characters it’d be cool to draft into the War of Light.
Looks like I’m not the only one. Over at his blog The Cool Kids Table, Ben Morse has selected a rainbow of Marvel characters he thinks are fit to wield the various multi-hued Power Rings floating around the DCU right now. If he had his way, you’d have a very different Red Hulk on your hands from the one Jeph Loeb concocted, while Clint Barton would look more like Green Arrow than ever and Storm would be making Love rain o’er everyone. This isn’t the first time he’s done a Lantern Draft, either: Like any DC fan worth his salt, he came up with his own personal picks for the roles currently filled in Blackest Night by Mera, Lex Luthor, Scarecrow, Ganthet, the Flash, the Atom, and Wonder Woman. Click the links to see his full rosters.
Tablets | Jim Shelley talks to various digital comics folks, including Rantz Hoseley from LongBox Digital, Micah Baldwin from Graphic.ly and David Steinberger from comiXology, about the rumored Apple tablet. Check out part one, part two and part three.
Speaking of which, HarperCollins is talking to Apple about the tablet, according to the Wall Street Journal, and I thought this article on how Apple does controlled leaks was kind of interesting, in light of all the attention a device that doesn’t officially exist yet is getting.
Twitter | Congratulations to everyone behind the Twitter feed Fake AP Stylebook, who have landed a book deal with Three Rivers Press. Their line-up includes several former and current comics bloggers, including former Robot 6 contributor Lisa Fortuner, former Meanwhile… columnist Shane Bailey, retailer/blogger Mike Sterling, CBR reviewer/artist Benjamin Birdie and many more.
Did the year we just left behind fail comics fans? That’s been arguably the hottest topic among comics bloggers and critics over the past month or so. Faced with the task of assembling their thoughts about the best and worst the medium brought us in the final year of the millennium’s first decade, a great many writers say that something just wasn’t right with what they read. Others, however, say the fault may not lie with comics overall, but just with the comics the first group was reading. And ground zero for the debate is the Savage Critic(s) group blog (to which I am an all too occasional contributor).
Perhaps the strongest — and certainly the strangest — articulation of the “something went wrong in ’09” point of view was made by the inimitable critic Abhay Khosla. In a piece titled “So, Why Do Nerdy Things Work?”, Khosla took an essay ostensibly concluding a series on the pros and cons of John Rogers’s <i>Blue Beetle</i> run and used it as a springboard for discussing the year of his discontent. He kicked it off by assembling a round-up of similar skepticism:
I wasn’t very happy in 2009 anyways.
Apparently, I’m not completely alone: Messrs. Tim Callahan (“something’s missing”), Chad Nevett (“I think people are just tired… I can’t really defend things.”), David Brothers (“I’m bored to death”), Dr. Geoff Klock(“It’s diminishing returns… it is time to stop showing up on Wednesdays…”), Alan David Doane (“I have to admit that I have not been reading a lot of comic books lately”), and well… me in my last essay, according to some of you (“I’m pretty sure whoever wrote this comic is the Green River Killer, guys. I’ve been spending time in the crime lab, and I think I just cracked this mother wide open.”).
Nominees have been announced for the 2009 edition of the Cybils, the literary awards presented annually by bloggers who write about children’s and young-adult books.
The finalists in the graphic-novel category are:
• Joey Fly, Private Eye in Creepy Crawly Crime, by Aaron Reynolds and Neil Numberman (Henry Holt and Company)
• Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics, by James Sturm (First Second Books)
• Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse, by Kazu Kibuishi (Graphix)
• The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook, by Eleanor Davis (Bloomsbury USA)
• Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom, by Eric Wight (Simon & Schuster)
• The Dreamer: The Consequences of Nathan Hale, Part 1, by Lora Innes (IDW Publishing)
• Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 1: Orientation, by Tom Siddell (Archaia)
• Crogan’s Vengeance, by Chris Schweizer (Oni Press)
• Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Death and Dementia, by Edgar Allan Poe and Gris Grimly (Atheneum)
• Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood, by Tony Lee, Sam Hart and Artur Fujita (Candlewick Press)
The full list of finalists in all 10 categories can be found here. The winners will be announced in February (I think).
As 2009 draws to a close we’re practically awash in Best Comics of the Year and/or Decade lists. But when it comes to breaking down the books that made a difference this decade, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and a pair of sites have developed novel approaches to the traditional decade-ender.
First up is Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter. This year he’s aiming his annual Holiday Interview Series squarely at “emblematic” books from 2000-2009 — “by which we mean favorite, representative or just plain great” — by hosting discussions with a series of critics, each one focusing on one particular book. So far he’s tackled Mat Brinkman’s monster-mash Multiforce with writer/artist/critic/bon vivant Frank Santoro, and Craig Thompson’s rapturous romance ‘n’ religion memoir Blankets with me. Further installments will roll out on (I believe) a daily basis until the New Year. If you’re the sort of person who loves to really dig into what makes a great graphic novel tick, these are for you.
Next we have Marvel’s Ben Morse, DC’s Rickey Purdin, and CBR’s own Kiel Phegley, who collectively park their online presence at The Cool Kids Table. In their ongoing look back entitled “Our Comics Decade,” the trio take a look at one comic per year that impacted their view of the medium. So far they’ve covered 2000, 2001, and 2002, and recounted their experiences with books ranging from Scott Lobdell’s Uncanny X-Men to Jeffrey Brown’s Clumsy. Personal and aesthetic history have a tendency to mix and match in unexpected and interesting ways, and it’s fascinating to watch these guys spill the beans on how it happened in their lives in such a methodical way.
So go, click the links and curl up with (a good post on) a good book…
Are you like LL Cool J in that you can’t live without your radio — but nor can you live without your comics? I know the feeling. That’s why I was so excited to be a part of the annual best-of episode of Inkstuds, the venerable comics podcast hosted by Robin McConnell. My fellow Robot 6-er Chris Mautner and I were joined by Comics Comics’ Tim Hodler to discuss Asterios Polyp, George Sprott, 20th Century Boys, Pluto, You Are There, You’ll Never Know, Multiforce, and The Photographer, and we even found the time to debate whether or not we’re in a comics Golden Age. Give it a listen!
As you can see in the comments section for my original post, there’s been a mixed reaction to the project, particularly because of its title. You can also find even more commentary on it over in The Beat’s comment section, where they story broke.
So where exactly did that title come from? Well, as Douglas Wolk pointed out in the Beat comments section, it seems to stem from an old Atlas comic that was published from 1949-1952 (before its name was changed to the even more unfortunate Girl Confessions). Atlas, of course, is the company that eventually evolved into Marvel Comics and also published Strange Tales — which you may recognize as the name of another recent Marvel anthology. So there’s some symmetry there, and you have to wonder if they’ll be using any other old Atlas titles in the future (I vote for Bible Tales for Young Folk; you can find a complete list of titles Atlas published on Wikipedia).