Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
As we noted a week ago, Sam Humphries and Steven Sanders self-published a science fiction comic called Our Love Is Real, which subsequently sold out in print in nine hours. A second print is on the way (that’s the cover you see to the right) and it’s still available digitally through their website or comiXology.
Humphries, a former Robot 6 guest contributor and my fellow panel member in San Diego next week, agreed to share a list of what he considers to be some of the great science fiction comics. Note that he chose not to use the words “best” or “favorite” to describe the list. “‘Favorite’ or ‘best’ implies more commitment than I’m ready to give,” he said.
So without further ado …
Six great science fiction comics, by Sam Humphries
1. AKIRA by Katsuhiro Otomo
A giant of science fiction, often imitated, never surpassed. At its heart is a tale of a bromance gone wrong, two best friends who carve their years of brotherhood and resentment across Tokyo, Japan, and the Moon. The anime adaptation is superlative, but the manga, sprawled across six thick volumes of meticulously drawn, hi-octane pages, is a true monumental achievement. I’ll be gunning for this No. 1 spot ’til I die. G.O.A.T.
Watchmen #7 (1986), page 16. Dave Gibbons.
Dream sequences are always a lot of fun. The comics medium nails dream states on a regular basis better than any other medium, in my opinion. Something about it is perfectly pitched to depicting that particular mental activity. Maybe it’s because we dream “in comics” a lot of the time — science tells us that the amount of actual moving images we see in dreams is relatively small compared to the number of still images that flash one after another through our minds, linked into continuity by the imagination. The narratives we create while dreaming exercise the same thought processes we use to read comics, so perhaps it’s no wonder that seeing dreams drawn into comics form feels so right, so familiar.
Dream comics so often means formalist comics — the call to produce a convincingly different state of consciousness gets inside the layouts at least as often as the boxes themselves, the actual mode of working altered to reflect it. The dream sequence is a chance to push boundaries and try things, to cut loose or bring a little something extra. The Dave Gibbons page above is one of the all-time great dream scenes, up there with Jim Steranko’s psychedelic muraling in Captain America and Winsor McCay’s all-time champion fantasies on Little Nemo.
There’s a weird little sequence in the middle of DC Universe: Legacies #3 when the narration’s timeline goes all hazy and oblique, in order to move the story from sometime in the Eisenhower/Kennedy years right into the “X years ago” of modern continuity. Because Legacies tracks some sixty-five years of costumed crimefighting, this sequence bridges the gap between the Justice Society’s retirement and Superman’s debut.
“Hazy and oblique” are also good words for describing DC’s approach to long-term continuity. The history of the DC Universe is well-settled up to the early 1950s, but past then it becomes elastic. This is something we’ve come to expect: fudging the calendar keeps our heroes both as experienced and as youthful as they need to be. However, each passing year also widens the gap between the end of the Golden Age (early ‘50s) and the beginning of the Silver (thought to be 12-15 years ago). Through reader-identification character Paul Lincoln,* DCUL’s writer (and longtime DC favorite) Len Wein aims to put a human face on all those four-color adventures.
That sounds like the premise of 1994’s Marvels and its spiritual descendant Astro City. Really, though, any halfway-entertaining super-survey needs a narrator with a recognizable point of view. Even 1986’s History of the DC Universe, which was basically a series of George Pérez pinups arranged in chronological order, took its florid prose ostensibly from Harbinger’s meditations on the nature of heroism.
No, seriously! Those are Scalped and Ultimate Captain America writer Jason Aaron’s exact words to the legendary Watchmen and From Hell scribe (and fellow beard enthusiast) in Aaron’s latest “Where the Hell Am I” column for CBR: “Go fuck yourself, Alan Moore.” Apparently the writer took Moore’s spate of angry and dismissive comments about the comics industry — spurred most recently, in straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back fashion, by unpleasant dealings Moore had with former collaborator Dave Gibbons over DC’s potential publication of Watchmen sequels — very personally:
The great cartoonist and critic Frank Santoro is once again tackling grid-pattern panel layouts, and this time he’s talking about arguably the most famous nine-panel grids of all: Those used by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in their stone-classic superhero dissection Watchmen. Here’s a sample that includes an insight about the art in that book that had never occurred to me before:
Alan Moore, whose tumultuous relationship with DC Comics is legendary, claims the publisher offered this week to return the rights to his most famous creation — in exchange for a concession.
“They offered me the rights to Watchmen back, if I would agree to some dopey prequels and sequels,” Moore told Underwire today. “So I just told them that if they said that 10 years ago, when I asked them for that, then yeah it might have worked. But these days I don’t want Watchmen back. Certainly, I don’t want it back under those kinds of terms.”
Rumors circulated earlier this year that the departure of Paul Levitz as president and publisher of DC cleared any in-house obstacles to further use of the Watchmen characters. However, Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee tell Underwire the company “would only revisit these iconic characters if the creative vision of any proposed new stories matched the quality set by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons nearly 25 years ago, and our first discussion on any of this would naturally be with the creators themselves.”
Moore, who created the groundbreaking 1986 miniseries with Gibbons, stopped working for DC in 1989 following disputes about Watchmen royalties and a proposed age-rating system. When WildStorm, which published Moore’s America’s Best Comics line, was sold to DC in 1998, the writer was assured of an editorial firewall protecting him from the parent company’s interference. However, there were still conflicts, most infamously the pulping of The Legion of Extraordinary Gentlemen #5, which contained an authentic vintage advertisement for the Marvel-brand douche.
Moore, who has refused royalties from film adaptations of his work, says he no longer even has a copy of Watchmen in his house. “The comics world has lots of unpleasant connections,” he tells Underwire, “when I think back over it, many of them to do with Watchmen.”
• Apple is getting in on the Comic-Con pre-show hype by highlighting all their comic book applications within iTunes. In their “App Spotlight” newsletter, they wrote: “We’re dusting off our Klingon costumes — it’s time for Comic-Con. From Marvel Comics favorites to more recent releases such as Twilight: The Graphic Novel, you can now enjoy comics and graphic novels from past and present right on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.”
• The Comic-Con International site this year introduced a scheduling feature that allows you to pick and choose the panels, films, etc. you’d like to attend, and then export them to your mobile device of choice. In addition, it also shows you how many people have indicated which panels they plan to attend, which is a fun way to see how popular certain panels are.
My wife used it over the weekend; it took her about half an hour to set up, browse the extensive schedule, make her selections and subscribe to it so she gets updates directly on her iPhone calendar (the bulk of that time was going through the schedule and deciding what she wanted to attend). At the time, it looked the Glee and Joss Whedon panels were the most popular.
Leading up to today’s DC editorial panel at WonderCon, Alex Segura shares some news that editor Ian Sattler will talk about — that J.H. Williams III, Dave Gibbons, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Rags Morales and Dan Jurgens will all contribute to the DCU: Legacies title.
Announced back in December, Legacies is a ten-issue miniseries written by Len Wein that, according to DC’s co-publisher Dan DiDio, ” breaks down, over its chapters, the five generations of the DCU. They’re very concise generations, each with a beginning and end, and what you see is the various incarnations of our characters evolve, change and grow as the generations pass on.” Each issue is being drawn by a different artist.
Andy Kubert and Joe Kubert were announced as the art team for the first issue, and we’d heard before that Williams would be working on the title as well — his issue will feature the Silver Age Seven Soldiers. That’s Gibbons’ cover to issue #3 above.
Today: At 2 p.m. PST Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, The Originals) will host a free webinar on Manga Studio, teaching aspiring and professional artists how to create illustrations using the software. Space is limited to the first 500 people who register here. More details can be found here. (Manga Studio is a sponsor of Robot 6.)
Friday: The third annual Comicpalooza opens at noon at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Comics guests include Phil Foglia, Rob Liefeld, David Mack, Jim Mahfood, David Malki, Humberto Ramos, Ben Templesmith, Ethan Van Sciver, J.H. Williams III and Bernie Wrightston. The event continues through Sunday.
Friday: Toronto Comic Con Wizard World kicks off at noon at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto. Comics guests include J. Bone, Adi Granov, Phil Jimenez, Dale Keown, Leonard Kirk, Yanick Paquette, Gail Simone, Cameron Stewart, Ty Templeton and J. Torres. The event continues through Sunday.
Pamela Mullin over at Vertigo’s Graphic Content blog posted a teaser today for an upcoming project with a very impressive line-up of talent involved with it. That line-up includes Jim Lee, Rebekah Isaacs, Fabio Moon, Ryan Kelly, John Paul Leon, Lee Bermejo, Philip Bond, Eduardo Risso and Dave Gibbons.
So what is this mysterious project? Well, Pamela’s staying quiet on the details, but my own investigations* have turned up the fact that it’s related to Brian Wood’s DMZ. No doubt Pamela will have more details soon.
Robot 6 confirmed this morning that writer Mark Millar and Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons are looking to join forces on a possible creator-owned series, as reported by Rich Johnston on his new blog.
However, Millar says the details of the project are off the mark.
“Rich [is] totally wrong,” Millar told Robot 6. “This series I’m announcing in summer is someone else, though Dave and I [are] talking about doing SOMETHING in about a year. No idea what or where it is yet.”
Asked if the project he’s announcing at Comic-Con International is his long-rumored project with Civil War and “Old Man Logan” collaborator Steve McNiven, Millar said: “No, that’s already semi-official. Have another one we’ll announce, too, which might be even bigger. Should be a big summer.”
For more from Millar himself, visit his forum.
In the video below, Dave Gibbons shows you how he made a digital image of Rorschach using his computer, Manga Studio and a Wacom Cintiq tablet. Now let’s see you try this at home. (via)
Let it be known that I did not care much for the Watchmen movie. While it had some already much-discussed merits (the opening credits sequence, some of the performances), I felt the Zach Snyder’s adaptation focused too much on getting the tiny details correct and missed the comic’s grander themes in place of adopting a “kewl” bone-crunching aesthetic — a clear case of not seeing the forest for the blood-smeared smiley buttons if you will. (The possibility that Snyder was being tongue-in-cheek, as some claim, doesn’t make the juxtaposition between the content and the visuals any less jarring.)
So it was with some trepidation that I popped the new Tales from the Black Freighter DVD into my Xbox. For those who don’t know, this is a supplemental animated version of the “Black Freighter” story that runs co-currently in Watchmen alongside the central plot. Rather than excise the sequence completely, the filmmakers decided to create a separate cartoon that supposedly will be incorporated into the final, four-hour (or whatever) version of the film.
Having been so disappointed with the screen adaptation, I expected this to be a dreary more of the same.
I’m in full roundup mode, apparently, as I’ve decided to gather a bunch of Watchmen-related links that don’t involve movie reviews or Alan Moore shaking his fist at Hollywood. I imagine most of us have read the miniseries, or at least read enough about it, that nothing here will spoil anything for you. But just in case: Some of these links may contain spoilers.
• New Scientist examines the science of Watchmen.
There may not be a giant squid in Zack Snyder’s $130-million Watchmen adaptation, but we’ve long known one detail that stays true to the source material: Doctor Manhattan parades around in his full-frontal glory.
Heck, we even caught a glimpse of his outer burroughs in one of the early trailers.
But now a Defamer tipster adds a new wrinkle to the debate over the movie’s faithfulness. It seems the big-screen Manhattan has undergone some significant male enhancement.
“There is indeed shitloads of blue wang,” the tipster writes. “And it’s huge. In the comic book, it’s very average, and uncut, but the film is completely the opposite. Massive and circumcised. Given that it’s digital, was it Crudup or his agent that insisted on the impressive cut cock?”
As Vulture points out, Doctor Manhattan’s blue meanie in the comic book is “modest and understated … symbolizing the character’s impotence in the face of human evil.” Artist Dave Gibbons has said he “was was careful to give him understated genitals, like a piece of classical sculpture.”
So, have Snyder & Co. (further) undercut the intent of Gibbons and Alan Moore by digitally transforming Doctor Manhattan’s uncircumcised, “understated” weenie into a cut tower of power? Or is this just making a (blue) mountain out of a molehill?