"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
Dark Horse will celebrate the 200th issue of Dark Horse Presents in February with an 80-page installment that includes the first U.S. publication of “Masks,” a short story by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn and veteran artist Dave Gibbons.
The story, about a mother turned masked vigilante, originally appeared in April as part of The Guardian’s celebration of the opening of the “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.” exhibition at the British Museum. “Masks” marks Flynn’s comics debut.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that, on the heels of September’s successful release of The Best of Milligan & McCarthy, there might be new work from Brendan McCarthy published by Dark Horse: On Wednesday, the four-part story The Deleted begins in Dark Horse Presents #32, dealing with the possibility of uploading the consciousness into a virtual world.
It’s rare that I interview a creator who can provide answers that open with the phrase, “Myself and Brett Ewins, Bryan Talbot and Alan Moore were the first people to start off the new era of comics in the U.K.,” so while I had the chance, we discussed more than his new story, thanks to McCarthy’s willingness to give his time (and samples of his myriad works, past and present).
Political cartoonists | Michael Cavna looks into a report by the Cartoonists Rights Network International that Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan was executed in July. Raslan was arrested last year by Syrian security forces and, together with a group of journalists, artists and other “intellectuals,” sentenced to life imprisonment. “Somehow, along the way to prison young 28-year-old Akram Raslan (and possibly others) was peeled off, taken out and executed,” the post said. “He is reported to be in a mass grave somewhere near Damascus.” However, CRNI’s Robert Russell told Cavna they have been unable to confirm the report, which came from a “reliable source” close to Raslan’s family. [Comic Riffs]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid file a comprehensive con report on New York Comic Con, including a conversation with ReedPOP Global Vice President Lance Fensterman and a look at the panels and booths. [Publishers Weekly Comics World]
Today sees the release of The Best of Milligan & McCarthy, a bumper hardcover from Dark Horse Books collecting almost every page produced by the team of Pete Milligan and Brendan McCarthy. Their collaboration stretches from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, and encompasses strips for music weeklies and national Sunday newspapers, the dawn of the American indie-publishing boom, 2000AD and its creator-owned spinoff Revolver, an Eisner-nominated graphic novel, and ended at the birth of DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint.
It’s fair to say these were my favorite comics during my formative years, so I was both honored and surprised to be asked to provide the introduction in the book. I protested, saying there’s bound to be someone better qualified for the task, but McCarthy insisted he wanted it by someone who had felt the impact of these comics at the time. Hence my nostalgic waffling at the start of the book; ignore that, and skip straight to the book’s meat, some of the funniest, angriest, saddest, smartest, dumbest, most transcendent work the medium has ever seen. To quote my own essay, “a secret history of the comics that followed them, the most influential comics you never see credited as such.”
I abused my access to these two men to ask them some questions, while trying not to gush too badly. I probably failed.
Badgers, those humble burrowing mammals, are big news right now here in the United Kingdom, where there’s a controversial cull going on in the southwest of England in an attempt to curb bovine tuberculosis in cattle herds. While other areas like Wales and Northern Ireland trial expensive attempts at vaccinating badgers, England is employing teams of marksmen to shoot the cute little buggers. I’m from a rural area where the local economy depends on dairy and beef production, so I know exactly where I stand on this subject. Not wanting to sound too heartless here, but it costs £600 to vaccinate a badger, while a bullet costs a few pence. And I do like a nice rib-eye steak washed down with a glass of milk.
Oddly enough, badgers seem to be having something of a moment in comics and pop culture these days, too: There’s Brock Blueheart in Fables, and Archie LeBrock in Bryan Talbot’s ongoing Grandville series, for starters. Depending on who you ask, the badger in book two of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was either Bill from the (90-plus years old, and still ongoing) newspaper strip Rupert the Bear or Mr. Badger from Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s novel The Wind in the Willows. Grahame’s Mr. Badger is being reimagined in Dave Elliot and Barnaby Bagenda’s “Weirding Willows” in A1 as Victor Stoker. The gossip service Popbitch has its ongoing Baboon vs Badger debate (and recently posed the question to Bryan Talbot, with obvious results).
There’s always a steady flow of new art to be seen at Chris Ryall’s Tumblr. The editor-in-chief of IDW Publishing recently saw a Jack Kirby tribute by Brendan McCarthy accompanying a ROBOT 6 story about soaring sales of the Dredd DVD, and contacted the legednary 2000AD artist to secure the use of that image, and to commission a series of covers in the style of other Silver Age greats. These will run as cover images — variants, I’d guess — for issues 13 to 16 of IDW’s ongoing Judge Dredd series:
Dark Horse’s Catalyst Comix, a title I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced in October at New York Comic Con, at last debuts today. Joe Casey is a writer who starts every project with a manifesto, and this one is no different: Relaunching a relatively unmourned line of comics in his own image, he’s seeking to create a superhero book that’s an antidote to “the overly conservative nature of Marvel and DC.” I can appreciate that ambition, but what really sold me is the sheer depth of the pool of artistic talent assembled to bring Casey’s scripts to life: Dan McDaid, Ulises Farinas and Paul Maybury drawing the three strips that make up each issue. Rafael Grampa, Paul Pope and Brendan McCarthy are rotating as cover artists.
I spoke to Dan McDaid on the eve of the book’s launch to discuss working within this all-star team of creators, and he shared his process on creating a typically powerful, apocalyptic-looking sequence of his strip, starring Frank Wells, the hero formerly known as Titan, from Will to Power.
Here at ROBOT 6, we’re hardened hacks who generally don’t get too excited about any old rumor that’s doing the rounds, or report it as a news story, but seeing how I really want this one to be true, I’ll make an exception. Also, some great art vaguely relating to the story turned up recently, and its too good not to share.
The Facebook group Make a DREDD Sequel posted this over the weekend:
From an UNCONFIRMED SOURCE, it has come to this page’s attention that DNA Films will be reviewing the blu-ray/DVD sales of DREDD in the coming weeks and will be deciding whether or not to make a sequel. If this is true, let’s show them how much we want that sequel! If you haven’t already, please buy the DVD or blu-ray! More news soon!
Of course, this is one anonymous source claiming to have another shadowy even-more-anonymous source, and as such should be taken with a double-sized pinch of salt. Who knows what vested interests are at work here, seeking to further their own agendas. Or then again, this could be completely true. Anyway, this has been enough to spark something of a spike in sales of the Dredd DVD. This was posted the next day:
Brendan McCarthy has taken to Facebook to plug the upcoming Dark Horse collection The Best of Milligan and McCarthy. He’s been using it to spread rather fetching memetic images from the classic strips in the book: so far, “Freakwave,” “Paradax” and “Skin” have gone up, presumably with similar designs for “Sooner or Later” and “Rogan Gosh” to follow.
I have to admit, I have a horse running in this race, because Brendan and Pete asked me to write an essay for the book, and it proved damned hard getting the reasons of why and how much I love this material down to less than a thousand words. Anyway, I feel jealous of anyone getting to experience this (inspirational, influential) material for the first time. It’s been downright criminal that its been out of print for so long. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll fall in love, you’ll walk funny for a week.
To quote our very own Michael May, “wish this was real”: Brendan McCarthy plugs the release today of IDW Publishing’s The Complete Zaucer of Zilk by slipping this sketch out into the ether, of the three magic-wielding characters he’s drawn over the years: the Zaucer, Doctor Strange, and Mirkin the Mystic, of the all-too short-lived Paradax! comic from 1987 (two issues, and one was all-reprint).
It comes with a companion piece: this sketch, of Paradax himself meeting Doctor Strange. As I never tire of pointing out, Pete Milligan and McCarthy’s Paradax (in Eclipse comics’ Strange Days) pretty much invented the whole “superhero as an unlikeable wannabe celebrity” subgenre, three years before Morrison’s Zenith in 2000AD, and 15 years before Warren Ellis’ The Authority made that trope de rigueur for mainstream comics for an extended period. And also in passing invented that whole “leather jacket over your superhero costume” thing that ruled the 1990s.
The great Brendan McCarthy has sent along this image, “Evanescent Everything,” to remind us all that “The Complete Zaucer is out on March 27th, in an ’80 page giant’ format. Lots of extras and a new afterword by me truly.” What a cool promo; it’d make a great black light poster. Kinda makes me want to put some Blue Cheer on the turntable and smoke a great big, uh, kipper. That’s right. A kipper, officer.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
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.
Crater XV HC (Top Shelf, $19.95): I’ve been following (and loving) the serialization of Kevin Cannon’s follow-up to Far Arden in the digital pages of Double Barrel, but I know that I’ll be picking up this hardcover collection of the further adventures of sea dog Rusty Shanks nonetheless. The Canadian space program deserves no less.
In The Days of the Mob HC (DC Comics, $39.99): To say that Kirby’s 1970s take on the organized-crime world of the 1930s is something I’ve been longing to read since I first discovered its existence would be an understatement, so I’m definitely looking forward to this deluxe reprint, complete with material that wasn’t in the original edition.
Indigo Prime: Anthropocalypse TP (Rebellion/2000AD, $24.99): John Smith’s cosmic authorities are one of comics’ most secret treasures, I think, especially when he’s paired with an artist like Edmund Bagwell, who brings a wonderful Euro-Kirby influence to the stories in this collection. Really looking forward to this one.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen GN (First Second, $17.99): As a sucker for good autobiographical comics and also good food writing, the idea of Lucy Knisley creating a food-centric memoir — complete with recipes! — is far too good to ignore. I love that publishers like First Second are publishing work like this.
Solo Deluxe Edition HC (DC Comics, $49.99): Even though I own most of these issues from their original appearance, the oversized hardcover format is waaaay too tempting when you consider some of the material this book has up its 500+ page sleeve: Paul Pope covering Kirby! Brendan McCarthy channeling Ditko as only he could! The amazing Darwyn Cooke issue! The only thing that could make this better would be if it included work completed on follow-up issues before the plug had been pulled … But maybe that can appear in a second volume, one day…
The second issue of IDW Publishing’s Judge Dredd doesn’t just feature the continuation of Duane Swierczynski and Nelson Daniel’s look at the early days of Mega-City One’s toughest lawman, it also contains a treat for longtime fans of the character (and British comics in general): a back-up story illustrated by none other than Brendan McCarthy!
IDW has provided ROBOT 6 with a preview of the main story, as well as an exclusive look at two pages from the Swierczynski/McCarthy strip. Judge Dredd #2 arrives later this month.
Last week, IDW Publishing released the second and final part of The Zaucer of Zilk, a heady psychedelic brew of a type all-too-seldom seen on the shelves of comic stores. Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall is both a confirmed Anglophile and a fan of Brendan McCarthy, so it was no real surprise the first non-Judge Dredd publication to come out of his company’s agreement with 2000AD was a quick-turnaround reprint of the comic, deemed an instant classic by many longtime readers of the venerable U.K. anthology.
2000AD doesn’t do superhero stories too often (I could count them all on one hand, and half of them had The Zaucer of Zilk‘s Al Ewing attached as writer), and this one is so genre-bending that it barely qualifies. The Zaucer may well gadabout in a form-fitting costume of primary colors, but as McCarthy wrote on the pitch sketches for the series, it’s also “Elric meets Time Bandits meets Yellow Submarine meets The Wizard of Oz.”
Robot 6 spoke to Brendan about the series’ inception, its conclusion, and its potential future. And as usual for McCarthy, the interview came with a side order of strong opinions, controversy, and some good news for fans of the legendary work he produced in the 1980s with Pete Milligan.
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’m filling in this week for Michael May, who is off in Florida spending his splurge money on mouse ears and giant turkey legs.
If I had $15, I’d start of the week with Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga #7 (Image, $2.99). Saga has become a real bright spot in comics for me being sci-fi without being “sci-fi,” being romance without being “romance,” and being great at being great. It gives me the same excitement the way Bone, Strangers In Paradise and A Distant Soil did back in the early 90s. Next up would be Punk Rock Jesus #5 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) by Sean Murphy. Murphy’s really exceeded my expectations here, creating a nuanced and elaborate world that has great art as a bonus. You can really tell Murphy’s been thinking about this story for awhile now. After that I’d get Invincible #97 (Image, $2.99), to finally get the truth behind the new Invincible, Zandale. I’ve been enticed by what’s been teased so far, and I hope the inevitable return of Mark Grayson doesn’t prevent me from seeing more of Zandale in the future. Last up with my $15 budget would be my call for the best superhero book on the stands today, Wolverine & The X-Men #20 (Marvel, $3.99). I feel like the title isn’t getting the attention it deserves with Marvel NOW! upon us, but Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw are absolutely delivering it here.
If I had $30, I’d double back and double up on Brian Wood with Conan The Barbarian #10 (Dark Horse, $3.50) and The Massive #6 (Dark Horse, $3.50). The Massive has survived the monumental loss of artist Kristian Donaldson, forging on in Wood’s story of one ship trying to survive in an ecological destitute Earth. Over at Conan The Barbarian, Declan Shalvey looks to be bringing the goods and showing he’s more than a Marvel superhero artist. After that I’d get the second series debut of Where Is Jake Ellis? (Image, $3.50) by Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic. This is a mighty pairing, and seeing them peel back the layers on Jake Ellis has been fun.